If you ran around Rosedale Park or the nearby surrounding area about a year or two ago, you undoubtedly have seen signs announcing the new Lawrenceville-Hopewell Trail. Like so:
You probably got excited. As runners, the idea of a new, unexplored local place to run naturally sends tingles down our spines. Uncharted territory! A rare phenomenon for those of us who have been running in these parts for quite a few years. The Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corporation has been hard at work planning this trail network for recreational use since 2001, when it existed as a small walking and running path for employees at nearby Bristol-Meyers Squibb and ETS (Educational Testing Service). Now, it encompasses over 20 miles and counting. Yesterday, I headed to Lawrenceville to check out the improvements to the trail since I had last ran in one of the intersecting parks (in March 2011).
I parked in a lot off of Blackwell Road, an easy drive from Princeton with no traffic (Rosedale –> Carter –> Cold Soil –> Blackwell). I first headed across the street, as there was a trailhead straight ahead. The trail, which was made of packed cinder here, led me through open fields and into a section of woods. These trails had existed before, but they’re now noticeably improved, with lengthy boardwalks covering swampy areas, signs at intersections pointing to landmarks, and informational “podiums” educating passerbys about local plant and animal life. In the middle of an open field, there is a “watch tower,” but unfortunately it was still under construction so I played by the rules (lame, I know…) and didn’t hop any railings to see the view from the top. Next time, hopefully!
This section of the LHT, categorized by trails bisecting open plains, is known as Mercer Meadows (formerly Northwest Mercer County Park, for those of you who might have ran through here a few years back). From 1928 to 1998, the 1000+ acre tract was owned by AT&T. In the mid-1900s, the telephone poles in Mercer Meadows were the means by which international calls were placed, making the site a gateway for modern telecommunication. The Lawrence pole farm was unique to others at the time, because it used short wave radio technology to place multiple overseas calls simultaneously. At its peak in 1963, 16,000 calls were being made a day. One pole remains standing as a way to remember the area’s history, and a sign is placed on the trail nearby that reads: “Last Pole Standing.” For further reading about the pole farm, check out MercerSpace’s February 2013 article here.
Continuing on, you can take the trail across Keefe Rd. toward downtown and residential Lawrenceville, or across Federal City to the Twin Pines recreation fields. I ended up doing the latter, which I wouldn’t recommend, since the trail pretty much dead-ends here and it is paved. The good thing about the LHT (among many) is, dead-ending is just an opportunity to go back to that intersection you passed a few minutes ago and take the tributary heading in another direction.
I’m familiar with the trails in Rosedale Park and Curlis Lake Woods, because we did distance runs there as a team in college. Therefore, I didn’t spend much time in there when I went yesterday. However, I will warn you that if it has rained recently, these trails will be pretty swampy. Bring an extra pair of shoes with you if you plan on checking those sections out. Those trails are not actually part of the LHT, but can be easily combined with the official LHT for a run of significant length. On the trail’s website is a very comprehensive map that shows all the trails in the area, and differentiates the surfaces by which each is characterized. The LHT also has portions to the east of the Rosedale/Mercer Meadows area, in Carson Road Woods and behind ETS and BMS, as aforementioned. Clearly, there is a lot more left to explore, but that isn’t a bad thing!
The Lawrenceville-Hopewell Trail:
Have you run or cycled on the LHT? What is your favorite section?
Useful links when planning your adventure on the LHT:
LHT website: http://lhtrail.org/
Mercer County Park Commission website: http://www.mercercountyparks.org/
Mercer County Park Commission Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MercerCountyParkCommission
Mercer County Parks Twitter page: https://twitter.com/MercerCoParks
by Meghan Bruce