I found a new Open Space trail in my town that is a great place to relax while listing to the wind in the trees and watch fish swim.
I was clearing out my email when I stopped to read one from the Sourland Conservancy. I learned that a new member of their staff, Carolyn Klaube, had a website detailing her hikes along the Sourland Mountain range trails. Carolyn has been hiking the trails - alone or with assistance from her two young boys - through the seasons, photographing items of interest, and sharing random facts and links to learn more.
Carolyn wrote about her discovery of a new mini-park, Zion Crossing, along Hollow Road on the border with Skillman and Hillsborough. Carolyn’s blog is called Sourland Niche, and I spent almost an hour reading it before I came upon the post that prompted this blog post.
According to the Montgomery Township website, this land borders 300 acres of open space owned by Montgomery, Hillsborough, and Somerset County. These acquisitions will expand the Township's "Rock Brook Greenway" project area (link). Rock Brook, originating in the Sourlands, is Montgomery's highest-quality stream with trout-stocked waters. Preserving these properties and others in the Sourlands safeguards water quality and ensures a continuous forest canopy. Clearing woodland for development creates gaps in the tree canopy, affecting susceptible species, especially migratory birds in the Sourlands, which require contiguous forests for foraging, breeding, and nesting success.
I was excited to visit Zion Crossing. The day before reading Carolyn’s post, Bhavna and I had visited my favourite spot along Hollow Road. A small patch of gravel on the northern side of the road allows access to a clearing in the trees, and a path leads down to the Rock Brook. I told Bhavna about Carolyn’s post and the new park, and we agreed to find it the next weekend.
It was easy to find. Carolyn provided a Google Map link to the location. We almost drove past the entrance. There is a very small sign to the unpaved roadway to the parking area.
Getting out of the car we could immediately hear running water. A trail leads down from the parking area to the Rock Brook. We saw a picnic table with an umbrella. I made a mental note to return with a picnic basket when the weather is cooler.
Bhavna walked down to the water the area while I looked around taking in the scene and thinking through what photographs I might capture. I set up high on the bank just above the rocks but struggled with the camera settings. I eventually gave up and walked down to where Bhavana was. We could see a small waterfall pouring into a rocky beach. I set up there.
I spent most of my time listening to the water, the wind in the leaves, and taking photos. I head Bhavna exclaim in joy at seeing fish in the water. She sat on a rock and waited for me to finish taking my photos. I watched her relaxing.
On Saturday I was supposed to participate take a field trip to lower Manhattan. I feel like a broken record, but my Nikon broke over the winter, and a friend loaned me her father’s Canon camera and 70-200mm lens. It’s a good camera and lens but not ideal for cityscape photography. For that, I needed a wider lens. I rented a Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS. I was excited for the opportunity to capture some city scenes that I had on my list and play around with night time photography.
Unfortunately, the weather turned sour, and the field trip was postponed to next weekend. I tried to make the best of it, but it rained on Saturday morning. The rain stopped later in the afternoon for a few hours. My wife saw my disappointment and encouraged me to go out to one of my favourite spots along the Rock Brook. I’ve visited and photographed this location multiple times. I thought it might be boring, but I do enjoy walking along the rocks and listening to the wind in the trees.
However, when we arrived, the water level was shallow. I guess we’ve had very little rainfall this summer, but I hadn’t noticed. There was very little water flowing, but I was able to access areas of the Rock Brook that I had never accessed before.
Bhavna encouraged me to play around with what I had. I moved around, setting up the tripod in different locations. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the Canon menus and struggled to get the camera set up for long exposure photography. I played around on various menus trying to get the camera to do what I wanted.
Unlike my broken baby Nikon DSLR, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III has no flip screen. I think a flip screen is something that is a must for landscape photography. Well …. maybe not a must. But it definitely makes things easier when the camera is mounted low on the tripod. To get the compositions I wanted, I had to contort my body to see down to the level of the viewfinder.
I didn’t get much time at Rock Brook. About thirty minutes after we arrived, Bhavna felt rains drops and gave me a verbal warning. I snapped a few more shots, and we returned to the car just as a drizzle started.