Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

Cheesequake State Park Guided Hike
by Monica Orso

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Cheesequake State Park’s Naturalist Jim “Nature Man” Faczak met in the morning with 18 HRCKC members and 2 guests for a guided hike through the many different habitats of the Park. The skies were bright and the temps just right for hiking.

After meeting up at the main Trailhead Parking Lot, we headed out past the “Talking Tree” into the woods where Jim began his informative (and at times quite animated) tour. The network of trails we followed were gentle inclines and declines, at times assisted with boardwalks. Jim pointed out not only the flora we saw presently, but also talked about plant-life that has now almost disappeared from the park, along with plant-life not visible now but would be in the spring. He explained the importance of each distinct habitat and the roles they play in the ecosystem.

Although this was not the prettiest autumn I’ve seen, there was still good color in many areas, and Jim even explained the science behind leaf color changing. The unique location of the park enables it to showcase northern hardwood forest, white cedar swampland, coastal pine barrrens, protected salt water and fresh water marshes. All offered their own palette of colors and interpretation of beauty.

Aside from all the discussion on the local flora, we also discussed such interesting things as the eels that reside in the park waters from their early transformative stages of life only to later wind up migrating to the Sargasso Sea where they spawn and die. All things must pass...

We didn’t see many birds this time of year, but we saw an osprey nest, a Northern Harrier in flight, and the skeletal remains of a small rodent that was dinner for an owl not too long ago. Apparently there are a lot of owls in this one spot and our guides knew right where to look for their dinner table!

Also on the hike we passed through areas that were historically significant such as stoneware potteries of the 18th century and industrial waste sites that have since been decontaminated and re-forested.

It was an excellent and informative hike, I even got to taste a wild persimmon and found a “Cheesequake marble” with the help of some additional eyes...apparently a mystery person has been hiding glass marbles throughout the park for years. We found 4 total on the hike.

Comments from members on the hike:

“I thought Nature Man Jim was fantastic. We learned so much on such a variety of topics related to the hike…. It was a great walk.” - Jeri C.

“...it was fun and informative. I’ve wanted to hike there but never had the opportunity. And I’m excited about being able to kayak there.” - Linda L.

"Great day with nice people and a great guide or two actually. Lots of fun." - Barbara P.

“Enjoyed a Great hike with everyone and looking forward to the paddle tour.” - George G.

“...a beautiful location and great guide. He was so knowledgeable and entertaining!” - Alex T.

Post-hike a few of us ordered pizzas and drove to Old Bridge Waterfront Park to eat lunch overlooking Raritan Bay (Someone thought they spotted Jim More in his kayak circumnavigating Staten Island on his 2nd pass...heh heh..). It was clear enough to see Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Verrazzano. But the skies soon darkened and we made a hasty exit as the last piece of pie was consumed. I think many saw hail on their drive back home! All in all a great day, although today I am paying the price for hiking with a broken toe. I look forward to booking a club paddling tour with “Nature Man Jim” next year. Stay tuned…

> Photos https://photos.app.goo.gl/Mi9NN73Z7ey61KPW6

> Cheesequake State Park websites FYI: