Funny thing about this park: I’ve been here once before, but the way the gates are laid out made me think it was much smaller than it actually is. Parks in Middlesex County are a completely different creature than those in Monmouth County. They have this habit of doing odd things like crossing major roads, or being utilized as Rutgers satellites, or both, so you can look at a gate and think if you pass it you’re going to end up in someone’s yard, but it’s actually still the park. I’m not quite used to that. The parks nearest home all have houses skirting them, but the only one I know of that crosses a road is Holmdel, and that’s more of a “satellite” than the park just happening to have a road running through it. Holmdel and it’s satellite, Ramanessin, are two entirely different beasts.
But, up in the vicinity of the office, the Parks system is entirely different and these sort of stops and starts are common. Thompson Park in Monroe Twp. has so many entrances it took me ages to even figure out how to get to ANY of the trail heads, of which there are several. Davidson Mill Park, it turns out, is a bit like that. When you pull into the park, what you see is a big empty field and a pond, then an open gate that says ‘drive slowly, pedestrian traffic’ and just looking that way, it honestly looks like someone’s farm at a glance. The first time I was there, I was killing just a tiny chunk of time, so I didn’t wander beyond that point, which made me think there were no trails in which to wander.
But, I have the internet, and with the internet comes an important navigation tool: printable park maps. I learned long ago that you can’t count on the parks system to have maps at the park. They might. They refill them periodically. But, people take them and they run out. It happens. So, I decided to check. And, sure enough, Davidson Mill Pond Park DOES have trails. I just had to park and find the damn things, so I made it my mission on Wednesday evening to do just that. I had to pop by my dad’s house that evening for dog duty (let her out and feed her), and I happen to have to pass that park on the way home from his place, so the opportunity was there and I took it. It was a misty, damp day. The sky was gray. The ground was damp after two straight days of serious rain, but I have sneakers in the car and a camera, gosh darn it. So, I read my map and learned the park stretches in two different directions – one leads along the side of the pond and around near a Rutgers Nature Center of some sort that they’ve labeled the “Earth Center”, the other (which I have not ventured toward yet), crosses Davidson Mill Road and wanders in the direction of Farrington Lake. If I map this, I find there are several other parks labeled that I’ve never heard of before, like “Bicentennial Park”, and “Tamarack Hollow Preserve”, and “Ireland Brook Conservation Area” – which are all in the fairly immediate vicinity and worthy of some research on their own (I may usually end up at Holmdel Park because it’s convenient for me, but variety is the spice of life, as they say) – I will have to put them on my ‘to investigate’ list.
In the meanwhile, here are a few of the shots of my severely overcast evening at Davidson Mill Pond Park (more on the instagram, as usual). I took the short trail that runs along the side of the pond and looped around back toward the Earth Center as my first exploration, but there are still several trails to explore here.