NJ Day Trip: Hacklebarney State Park

Hiking in Hacklebarney State Park

Hiking was Hubby’s Father’s Day request, so we packed a picnic, harnessed Lucy and drove to Hacklebarney State Park in Long Valley. We thoroughly enjoyed hiking one of the shaded trails that follow the Black River. Next time, I want take advantage of the boulders adjacent to the river by rock scrambling. I’d also bring my “good camera” because the mini waterfalls, towering trees, and foliage are a nature photographer’s dream.

Info from the website:

The freshwater Black River briskly cuts its way through rocky Hacklebarney State Park, cascading around boulders in the hemlock-lined ravine. Two tributaries, Rinehart and Trout Brooks, also course their way through this glacial valley, feeding the Black River. Even in the heat of midsummer, the temperature of Black River gorge is cool and refreshing.

Today Hacklebarney is a favorite place for avid anglers, hikers and picnickers, yet in the 19th century the park was a mined iron ore site. The gushing river against the grey boulders and dark green hemlocks creates a majestic beauty in any season.

Three rare and endangered plant species exist within the park: American ginseng, leatherwood and Virginia pennywort. Over a hundred bird species and wildlife such as black bear, woodchuck, deer and fox live in the park.

Chalk Walk!

Do extraordinary things with ordinary love.

In a recent post,  Road Quotes, I shared pics of the beautiful chalk art popping up on my street. Care of the Instagram account @millburnchalklove and some other artistic neighbors, there’s more outdoor art to add to the collection. It truly lifts my “quarantine family’s” spirits to see creativity emerge from the asphalt.

“Quarantine Family” (Taken on a winter-cold day in May!):  Eli, Hannah, Darcy, me, Hubby and Teddy.

Road Quotes!

The art may be fleeting, but the sentiment remains.

One of the bright spots in a sea of uncertainty is the chalk art in my neighborhood. When we walk our sweet-angel-aka-barking-maniac Lucy, we look forward to seeing the new creations of some very talented people. Check out the Instagram account @millburnchalklove.

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Coywolf Country?!

Wolf, Coyote, or a Combination?

Three of us thought we saw a wolf in our backyard, but according to Endangered New Jersey, “There are no wolves in the wild in NJ.” Here’s what the site says:

Wolves can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia. Expanding development, farming, and ranching activity has drastically reduced the wolf’s range and population. Suitable habitat now restricts wolves to remote areas of their traditional range.

But conservation and education efforts will hopefully protect and preserve wolves throughout the world. There are no wolves in the wild in NJ, but you can visit them in captivity.

Reintroduction programs are being implemented and captive wolves in zoos, and wolf research centers are being maintained to insure that the genetic purity of wolf species is preserved. Turtle Back Zoo’s wolves come from Wolf Park Research Center in Battle Ground, Indiana.

In the urban wilderness of Essex County, you can visit wolves at the Turtleback Zoo which has a Wolf Woods habitat. You can see timber wolves close up but safely through glass panels that let you feel like a member of the pack. Several viewing stations let you see the wolves from different angles. You will wolves see crossing a stream, resting on logs and rocky outcroppings and nose-close right at the window.

If you want to hear the howling of wolves in NJ, you can also head to the mountains of the Delaware Water Gap in Warren County, NJ. At the Lakota Wolf Preserve, (Pics above are wolves I photographed at the Lakota Wolf Preserve.) there are great photo opportunities with packs of Tundra, Timber, and Arctic wolves in a natural surrounding. There are also bobcats and foxes at the reserve. The preserve is at at 89 Mt. Pleasant Road, Columbia, NJ.

If it wasn’t a wolf, what was it?!

Animal spotted at about 10am Thursday, February 13, 2020.

Could it be a Coywolf?! What is a Coywolf?

Shout out to my critique partner, Kathy, for introducing me to New Jersey’s “apex predator!”

In an article by by

Coywolves are said to be Eastern coyotes, “the latest cool-sounding hybrid animal that researchers say now can be found by the millions throughout the Northeast.”

The coywolf is actually a cross between a coyote and a wolf, and it’s pretty common in the Northeast U.S., including N.J., according to several reports.

What used to be considered an eastern coyote is more accurately called a coywolf, according to Smithsonian Magazine, since eastern wolves interbred with western coyotes when deforestation and hunting threatened their population.

Researchers have learned that the coywolf is about twice the size of a coyote, with larger jaws and bigger muscles that allow it to kill deer, the UK Independent reports. The animals were dubbed the new “superpredators” by Field and Stream.

The extensive coywolf studies of Pepperdine University biology professor Javier MonzA3n concluded that coyote DNA dominates, but the animal is also 10 percent dog and 25 percent wolf, the Economist reported.

A 2014 PBS special on the coywolf observed that the coywolf may be taking over the region but its appearance only began within the last 90 years.

Coyotes now exist in at least 400 towns across the state, according to the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, NJ Advance Media has reported.

One eastern Coyote/coywolf research site says that the animal is found from New Jersey to Maine, weighs 30 to 45 pounds on average, and ranges in color from “blonde to darker black and brown, but is usually tawny brown.” While the animal may be stronger than the coyote, coywolf attacks are extremely rare, and there’s no reason for “wolf hysteria,” the Coywolf Association says.

Photo of a coywolf courtesy of WMHT.
So cool!

Wolf Sighting In My Backyard!

Three Women and a Wolf

You’re not going to believe what me, my daughter and a friend witnessed this week…a wolf walking alongside our fence!

We couldn’t believe what we were seeing and as I was shouting, “It’s a coyote!” my daughter and friend disagreed and were yelling, “No, it’s a wolf!” Hon, you may remember my post about living in New Jersey, Animal Kingdom in the Suburbs, but I’ve never seen–or even heard–of a Grey Wolf sighting in the area! The only wolves I’ve seen in the Garden State are the ones I photographed at the Lakota Wolf Preserve in  Columbia, NJ. They were gorgeous, interesting, and on the other side of a chain link fence. The wolf in my backyard looked lost, like how the heck did I end up here and how can I get back up to the South Mountain Reservation? He wasn’t hunting and, though he was larger and taller than a full breed German Shepherd, didn’t look scary. I wasn’t quick enough to get a good photo–in the one I snapped, he’s hunkering down.

So cool!

Grey Wolf seen in my backyard.


Clay Creations, Ceramics for Sale!

Tonight is my second Ceramics sale!

I’m hoping to have as much fun tonight as I did last year manning a table of my ceramics at Oheb Shalom is South Orange, NJ’s One Stop Shop Fall Shopping Event from 6 – 9pm. I’ve made textured dishes, great for jewelry, watches, candy, soap, candles, soy sauce, olive oil, salts or anything else that needs a pretty place to rest. I’m also selling bowls, small vases and trivets. New this year–adorable jars.

Wish me luck, hon!

Operation Raccoon Rescue

Hon, remember how I found two orphaned raccoon kits the other day? Well, guess what? I found two more! (see Coon Mama Jama Take 2)

Later that same night, I went outside and heard squeaks. I followed the noise and discovered two more baby raccoons hiding behind a trash can. I picked one up without much fuss and deposited it in the bathroom with the first two.

When I tried to retrieve the smallest, it was clinging to the bottom of the trash can. Poor thing! I pried it off, holding it at arms length since it was snapping and shrieking an ear-splitting shriek!

I rushed the screaming, writhing, biting kit to the bathroom. It was disturbing the peace.  When I tried placing it next to a sibling, it was rejected. Awww. 

The runt of the litter.

You won’t believe what happened next.

I swaddled the terrified kit, talked quietly and sang “This Little Light of Mine.” Sound crazy?  Maybe, but the kit calmed down, actually falling asleep in my hands! Whew. (Deja vu to triplet babies and calming down our smallest.)

Two of the four babies were comfortable (or tired) enough to fall asleep, breathing heavily. The third, who’d been trembling, looked at me as if to say, “I guess this giant isn’t going to hurt me.” I transferred the fourth, still swaddled in a towel, into a cat carrier and shut the lights. You know what? They slept the whole night. Not a peep!

The next morning, four kits were cuddling. No one complained when I told them it was just me. One night inside, and their wet fur had dried and turned fluffy again.

I spoke with our town’s Animal Control guy who assured me that he works with the Animal Clinic of Morris Plains. “I got into this business because I like animals,” said Joe. When he came by to pick them up, I handed him each kit saying, “I’m in the wrong line of work.”

His response? “I don’t know what you do, but you are!”

Ceramics for Sale!

Tonight is my first-ever Ceramics sale!

I’m selling my work tonight, Thursday, November 29 at Oheb Shalom is South Orange, NJ’s One Stop Shop Fall Shopping Event from 7 – 9pm. I’ve made textured dishes, great for jewelry, watches, candy, soap, candles, soy sauce, olive oil, salts or anything else that needs a pretty place to rest. I’m also selling bowls, small vases and trivets. A variety of vendors will also be there so, hon, I might come home with more than I make!