You want to go for a hike on a beautiful Spring day after being cooped up all Winter; but you don’t want to get up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday to secure a coveted parking spot. Thankfully, in NJ we have lots of other options. Fortunately, I am blessed with a hiking partner who has become a master of All Trails filtering and he selects the best locations for those beautiful views and serene streams despite the fact it seems that everyone is hitting the trails these days. Nature Preserves are abundant in NJ and they offer a wide variety of locations and terrains for the adventurous hiker.
The Bernadette Morales Nature Trails are located in Flemington on a 52-acre tract that was donated in 1972 by Mary & Edwin Large Jr. and named for Bernadette (“Bunny”) Morales, a popular local teacher in the district.
We began our hike along the Main Trail. A nice cedar chipped path currently lined with daffodils leads you into the park. Make a left on the Flower Trail and cross over the bridge. Proceed up the staircase and stay on the Main Trail. You will slowly descend up the hill. At the top of the hill take the Blue Trail, also known as the Meditation Trail. The flat rocks along the trail at this point are helpful, as it can get muddy. Keep to the right to stay on the Meditation Trail.
You’ll soon encounter an old paved road. Stay on this road to the top of the hill. At the top look to your right for the first ruins in this forest. There are old foundation walls, brick walls and beautiful rock walls scattered along the forest floor. There’s even the remains of an old cast iron stove peeking out from the rubble. As you continue down the trail more mysterious rock walls appear. Since the Dvoor Farm, originally owned by William Penn and now an historical landmark, is located next door to the park we can only speculate if we are looking at the old foundations of previous dairy farms from centuries past.
Full disclosure, at the beginning of the hike you’re a little closer to the highway than I normally like. However, once you descend the hill you soon get away from the highway and neighboring homes as you enter the secluded private world of the Upland Reserve. The slopes go as high as 500 feet and it’s easy to get lost in the beauty of your surroundings.
As you descend you enter a cedar forest. Make a right on the Eagle Trail. This is perhaps the best part of the trail, the walk along the stream. We went after a heavy rain so the water was rushing and there were lots of small waterfalls. Make a right after the descent and follow back down the steps. A short walk along the riverbed and you’re back at the start.
Yes, we all want to climb Stairway to Heaven; and someday we will. But for now, sleep late on Saturday if you need to. Remember, it’s not the destination but the journey that really makes it all worthwhile.