John T. Cunningham Trail

Patriot's Path: John T. Cunningham Trail (3/30/2013)

Spring has sprung! Finally! With temperatures in the 50s, with flowers beginning to bloom, and with bull frogs croaking loudly after a long hard winter, we can safely reach this conclusion!

Today we returned to the same spot as last week, the parking lot on CR 510 across from Sunrise Lake. But instead of crossing the road into Lewis Morris Park, we headed west on the old railroad grade of the Rockaway Valley Railroad (aka, the Rockabye Baby Railroad). We walked this railroad grade east from this spot in February and July of 2010, first to Washington Valley Road, and then from that road to Speedwell Lake in Morristown.

Today we took the grade west all the way to Cold Hill Road in Mendham. This entire length is now called the John T. Cunningham Trail to commemorate the great NJ historian who died in 2012. The first stretch (heading west from the parking lot) comingles with Patriot's Path before branching off on its own south of Dismal Harmony Natural Area. We continued north on PP when the JTC trail branches off, visting the remains of the Smith-Connet Gristmill on East Main Street and heading into Dismal Harmony just for a small stretch (we did a 3.5-mile hike in here in September, 2011).

Returning to the now blue-blazed JTC Trail, we continued west all the way to Cold Hill Road before turning and retracing our steps back to the car. Before heading back home, though, we ate lunch at Sunrise Lake, watching a crawfish beneath the water. Total distance hiked today was 6 miles in 2.5 hours.

(Click on the thumbnail to bring up a bigger image in a pop-up window)

Trail head for the Cunningham

Liberty Gap trail kiosk

Whippany River view west

Whippany River view east

Beautiful sycamore bark



RR sign at Tingley Road

Downy woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Giant old growth ...

... with a wreath

Another Red-bellied

RR grade is straight here

Parallels the river

Woodpecker work!

On Patriot's Path ...

... heading to ...

... gristmill ruins

Attentive robin

Dismal Harmony entrance

Cat tail

Creek crossing


PP & Cunningham intersection

Damn auto-focus

Cunningham climbs


Estate on a hill

Path follows fence

Cherry Lane crossing

Following creek west

School lane crossing

Path between houses ...

... and stream


Stream below

Chickadee's home!

Chickadee with a mouthful!

Straight path heading west

Lots of green!

View east

Cunningham west trail head

View of RR grade east

Huge drainage pipe

House off trail



Grassy path


Creek crossing

Back in the woods

PP blaze

Boardwalk over Whippany River

Cleared blow-downs


Original RR ties still in place!

The only obstacle


Sunrise Lake

Our lunch spot shared with ...

... a tiny spider ...

... a crawfish

Photographs and content copyright © Dan Balogh
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