Saturday Routine and Bike Ride in Paulinskill Valley

I'm almost back to my normal Saturday routine. Early in the morning, a good workout at the Y and then fresh Croissants at Bovella's and this time I actually had to wait to get them fresh from the oven. And I was not the only one who had to wait. Because of the Holiday the Music School in Scotch Plains was closed so this means another week without Piano lessons.
Westfield has a lot to offer, but one thing it does not have is mountain bike trails, or any type of decent long enough bike trails for that matter. Therefore, for of my passions I have to look somewhere else in NJ.
There is a book a book by Christopher Mac Kinnon, called "Mountain Biking in New Jersey" that lists 50 off-road bike rides in the state, a significant amount of them in central and northern Jersey, i.e. fairly easy to reach from Westfield. I have done a few of them last year and are planing to explore the rest of the state this year. The description and the maps are pretty accurate, detailed enough and easy to use. For the interested mountain biker, I would certainly recommend this book.
BTW, in addition to buying the whole book you can read intros to the individual rides at the site and then download the full description and the map for a fee. This is actually not a bad idea for people that are not frequent bicyclist.
I decided to do the Paulinskill Valley Trail, to be precise a part of the eastern section of the trail starting in Stillwater New Jersey. A detailed trail description is at the book's web site.
The Paulinskill Valley Trail Committee has a somewhat basic site with limited information and no trail maps. Come on... How can you be the "Paulinskill Valley Trail Committee" and don't have a map of your trail? For me this is almost too obvious, if you want to use a trail the key thing you need is a map. TrailLink has some photos and reviews but no map either. NJ Skylands has a good article and a very basic map, good for an overview but too basic for actual usage when biking on the trail. Not even the NJ State Park System has a map on their site. But there must a map, I have seen it: along the trail there are several information boards that do contain a fairly decent trail map.
For me, the map that came with the book was good enough. This trail is the on the right of way (ROW) of a former rail line of the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad (NYS&W), a.k.a. "Susi Q". This railroad still exists (even in New Jersey) and is thriving, but they abandoned this particular line in the 1960s.
I don't have enough stamina to do the whole eastern section of the trail through to the end at Sparta Junction. So after about 10 miles or so I turn around and head back.
Overall, a fairly easy track, except for a few places where the bridges over roads have been removed and you have to do a detour, often meaning to walk your bike. You can also see a few railroad remnants: the foundation of a water tower, a section of track in the woods in middle of nowhere, the ruins of a telegraph office. And if you are very observant you can actually reconstruct Swartswood Junction in your mind. About midway on the eastern section this was where railroad line of the Lehigh and New England Railroad branched off heading further North towards toward Sussex and then into New York State whereas the trail follows the NYS&W towards Sparta and then on to New York. If you compare the photo against today you start to appreciate Nature's ability to take back what we have taken from her.
Although this not true mountain biking as it is technically very easy, I stilled enjoyed the trip quite a bit. This a very beautiful part of New Jersey that one rarely sees. Even if your are only an occasional bicyclist the Paulinskill Valley Trail is definitely worth a visit.
After returning to trailhead I decided to explore the area a bit before driving back home. I was also in search for a nice restaurant to get some early dinner. Fortunately, I found the "The Boat House" restaurant and bar in Swartswood on road 521 right at the shore of Swartswood Lake. It looks like it has been recently renovated with a very nice deck for waterfront dining being added. (The google map satellite doesn't show the deck, yet, so it must be fairly recent).
Good service, the menu has refined but typical bar and grille type food. I vote for the burger. Nice portion, well made and seasoned, good toppings and excellent french fries. All of that for a very reasonable price and you can sit outside and enjoy the view of the lake. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have a web site.

I'm sure to visit again when I come back to the area to do the rest of the Paulinskill Valley trail.

Signing Off - Westfield Blogger


Anonymous said...

Currently a Westfield resident; liked the area so much, bought property in Hardwick. Beautiful unspoiled part of NJ!!


Ronda said...

Well written article.