Trail Running Memories in the Watchung Reservation

Somewhere along the Sierra Trail in the Watchung Reservation

Somewhere along the Sierra Trail in the Watchung Reservation

What did you learn in 6th grade social studies? Well, I can tell you one thing that I learned then: New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the United States of America. It also has twenty one counties(you knew that right?!) Slicing through Union County are the Watchung Mountains. More than 1950acres of which are preserved for all to enjoy an escape from our crowded world here in North Jersey! You can go and learn all about it at the Trailside Nature and Science Center!  And surely, there are trails that you can run on!

The longest trail is the Sierra trail, marked by a white blaze is a 10.8 mile loop and wanders through the majority of the space of the res’. I enjoy the res’ for it’s variety of terrain, plenty of hilly sections but also some flatter areas to catch a breather. Some of the trees you will find include American Beech, Sugar Maple, White Pine, Black Birch, Spice Bush, and Posion Ivy(yea, watch out).  Also, there is a wonderful variety of wildlife to be seen and heard. I don’t always run when I go to the res’. Now and then I prefer to just hike and take my time, to take in the sights and sounds more deeply.

Trail running has it’s own set of risks and challenges, but I prefer them to dealing with careless operators of motor vehicles on the roads.  Really, it beats spotting(dodging) the newest Hondas, Toyotas, and Hyundais.
It bears great benefits too.  It teaches you to slow down, lift your knees and feet by dorsiflexing and driving the hip flexors upward more. Improving upon overall leg strength by running on uneven terrain will reduce future risk to injury.   Also, you will tend to land more on the mid/forefoot and less on the heel.
I recently did a Sunday Long Run there with an old friend, Walter Biner, and a coworker in our Summit Store, Chris Croff.  Walter and Mike Dixon were teammates in at SPFHS, Dixon and I were teammates at Ramapo College. Roughly eight(hundred) years ago, we frequently did training runs together, and usually left me exhausted for chasing them.  So, on this particular recent Sunday morning, as we were catching up on current life, having not seen one another in maybe 2yrs; Walter begins to tell Chris the story of the first time he ever went for a run in the Res’.

On a hot summer evening, Walter, Dixon and I piled into my 1996 Saturn SL1(gone now but it served me well) and took ride over to Surprise Lake. We worked our way through a series of different trails, all the while I hung on by a thread to keep up with them. While we still had a few miles to go on that run a downpour started, the heaviest we had ever experienced.  While this storm lasted for only 10-15mins at most, it left us covered in mud from the waste down.  I wasn’t about to let them back into the car like this. There was only one solution…get in the Lake! I began to wade into the shallows of Surprise Lake and insisted,

“You’re not getting in my car covered in mud, get in the lake!” 

They looked at each other in disbelief but then they followed suit.  Mud removed,  and no more drenched than before, we hopped back into the car and returned to Fanwood, laughing about our “Surprise” swim.
I’ve had a lot of good runs with good friends at the Watchung Reservation! So get out there! It’s not that far away, go and make some memories of your own!

Share a trail running memory with us, leave a comment!
-Mike A

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