Russia Brook Sanctuary

Russia Brook Sanctuary & Sparta Mountain WMA (10/5/2013)

This is the third time we visited this rugged, beautiful area of the Kittatinies in Northern New Jersey, each time starting at Ryker Lake. Today we decided to explore the woods roads through a relatively small piece of land labeled "Russia Brook Sanctuary" on the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference's Jersey Highlands Trail Map #126, in addition to a large stretch of the Highlands trail that we had never done. The day was amazing! We started in a fog so thick over Ryker Lake that you could hardly see it. Entering the forest we were astounded at the fall foliage, earlier than we expected. And the leaf carpet in places was amazing!

Starting at the parking lot at Ryker Lake we headed along the eastern bank to the Highlands Trail which we took for a short stretch east before heading northeast on the woods road through Russia Brook Sanctuary. This road ends at a T-intersection: going right takes you into private property owned by a nudist colony! Turning left eventually gets you back to the Highlands trail, which we took west, then south along the northern bank of Ryker Lake, now shining beautifully in the afternoon sun. We had lunch on a gorgeous rock outcrop watching dragonflies mate and enjoying the fall foliage, before heading back to the car.

Total distance hiked today was 4.7 miles in about 3 hours and 15 minutes.

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Leaf carpet ...

... in parking lot


Trail head

Old hearth

Misty Ryker Lake

Crossing over dam

Spider web on bridge


Ryker Lake

View back to bridge

Look at that ...

... leaf drop!

Highlands trail

Crossing a dry ...

... Russia Brook

Shagbark Hickory

Tiny frog

And another

Large boulders ...

... and gorgeous leaf carpet ...

... on woods road

[Photo by Laura]

A car jack?

Climbing north


Sun comes out

Gorgeous inviting path

View above

They fell early this year!


Woods road

Sun behind us

Beautiful trunk

Back in Russia Brook Sanctuary

Back on Highlands trail

Cleared blow-down

Puddle frog


Amazing leaf carpet ...

... on Highlands trail

Tiny autumn toad

Huge spider

Another tiny toad

Tree girdling ...

... and the results

Tiny little eft

Leafy Highlands trail

Gets more rugged here



Rock formations north of Ryker Lake

Rock outcrop over lake

Burst of red

Ryker Lake

Beaver lodge

What a view!

Our lunch spot!

Tiny wildflowers

Me taking previous pic [photo by Laura]

Views from ...

... northern bank

Dragonflies mating


Bursts of yellow


Back to the bridge

No longer in fog

Autumn foliage in the hills


Photographs and content copyright © Dan Balogh
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