Everyone has their own personal reason as to why they take to the woods for a hike. For me, it is the joy of discovery. What’s around that bend, over that rise, behind that tree? The thrill of coming upon the unexpected, the unusual or just the strikingly beautiful brings an adrenaline rush and a flashback to childhood that fills my soul with joy.
The 7,500 acre Glades Wildlife Refuge is the largest preserve in the portfolio of the Natural Lands Trust — perfect for the inquisitive soul. It contains tidal marshes, wooded uplands and lovely old growth forests that include 450-year-old sourgum trees. The majority of this refuge is wild, but there are a few designated trails where one can get a feel for the flora and fauna that thrive in this vast wetland.
The Natural Lands Trust manages thousands of acres of land in the Philadelphia area and in Southern New Jersey. Check out their website for more places to explore.
GO FOR A HIKE
We began on the Maple Street Trail, off Turkey Point Road. This is a 1.4 mi. in and out trail with a loop at the end. This trail leads through the marshes to the remains of the foundation of an old farmhouse. The most striking feature of this structure is the old well. It’s hard not to stand in awe of the trees reclaiming the land and growing out of the old home’s foundation.
Next, the Bald Eagle Trail; another in and out with a loop on this 1.5- miler. Here we strolled along next to salt hay grass, which can tolerate tidal water, and along the trail through sour gum and swamp chestnut trees.
The final trail we drove to was the Warfle Farm Trail. This ½ mi. trail was the wettest of the three. We felt it must have vernal pools; these are seasonal wetlands which are shallow water in Winter and Spring and dry in Summer and Fall. We found a few empty box turtle shells along the way. This definitely felt like a place birds of prey would have good hunting in season. All three of the trails in the park are great spots for mycology friends due to the abundance of moisture.
VISIT THE ICONIC TURKEY POINT BRIDGE
Our final stop in The Glades was at the Turkey Point Viewing Area. There’s a beautiful bridge and it’s a perfect place for viewing herons, egrets, glossy ibis, snow geese and bald eagles in season across this vast salt marsh.
You may have seen a few (hundreds) of shots of this bridge on Instagram with the Milky Way as a backdrop — and that’s because it’s sooooo dark here! If you need a refresher on Milky Way photography, we have a guide for you.
I need to give a shout out to my hiking partner at this point. I call him my “Production Manager.” He’s responsible for researching and plotting our hikes in addition to driving, and supplying refreshments (coffee) on these expeditions. He also has an “eagle eye” when it comes to spotting wildlife.
Before we headed home, we decided to head down to Fortescue. It was along Route 637 that he spotted the most cooperative bald eagle I have ever seen. Perched in a nesting box, I was able to take multiple shots of this beautiful bird as it comfortably sat and observed the late afternoon sky.
The Glades is a rough, unspoiled slice of nature that we are fortunate to have in our state. It provides a safe, necessary haven for so many shorebirds and migratory birds.
One small note of caution to visitors- biting flies and ticks are very active mid-April to mid-Sept. so plan your visit accordingly, and you won’t be disappointed.
All photos courtesy of the author. Follow her on Instagram.