|Boardwalk through the Cedar Swamp - White Cedar and Holly line its edge while Wild Calla grows in the mosses below|
The Cedar Swamp Trail is about 2 miles long and shaped like a lollipop, in other words, the hiker is not forced to go "out and back" but rather, walk the trail to a large loop so that your steps are only retraced at the end of the hike. It is level and well- marked and contains some of the first miles of the Shawangunk Ridge Trail (read: http://thebotanicalhiker.blogspot.com/2016/11/shawangunk-ridge-trail.html for more info). This is also an excellent time to hike the trail given that the entire park at High Point State Park is presently free of charge (no charge after Labor Day)
The history of this trail sets the botanical stage for a fascinating walk through time. The Cedar Swamp is better defined as a glacial bog. About 15,000 years a retreating glacier left in its wake a 30-acre pond. Life naturally began to form, firstly with lichen, then mosses, and eventually herbaceous and woody plants. As the vegetation sprouted, flourished, and died, decomposing matter gradually filled in the pond, creating a deeply layered bed of soft acidic soil and the bog we know today. More recently, well on a relative scale, about 300 years ago, a random White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) seed, likely carried on the wings of a bird or traveling haplessly on a wind current from the Atlantic coast, landed here in the bog. It germinated, sprouted and eventually created the dense stand of White Cedar that remains here today.
However the ecosystem continues to change here. The seeds of Eastern Hemlock, Birches and hardwood trees, which are what surround this bog, continued to be carried to this site by wildlife, wind, run-off water, and even our boot-clad feet. These trees do not require the same amount of sunlight to flourish and are more naturally suited to this mountaintop environment, therefore the sun-loving Cedars are gradually being crowded out. How incredible to walk through this bog and see Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), Black Birch (Betula lenta), and White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) with boughs interlaced. The bog is also strewn with boulders rolled and tumbled like pebbles by the glacier thousands of years ago.
|Smooth leaf Holly (Ilex)|
|Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) - the smallest member of the Dogwood Family - develops edible berries in early autumn that can be somewhat tasteless but contain abundant pectin and therefore excellent for use in jam|
|American Chestnut (Castanaea dentata) - the nuts at one time were the most delicious to be found in all the North American woods.|
|The inedible and toxic, although wonderfully lemony smelling, berries of Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)|
|Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus)- edible and very tasty when cooked.|