Walk This Way.

Almost the entire nation is now several weeks into a period of mandatory self-isolation, and I hope you are doing well. Despite living through an international health crisis the likes of which the world has not seen in over a hundred years, life for my wife and I has remained mercifully quiet. Our trips have mostly been to the grocery store, the pharmacy, and the occasional stop at a local restaurant for takeout. During all of this, exercise remains important. However, with gyms closed and fitness classes cancelled, how is one to remain in shape? Fortunately, most public parks remain open to the public, and New Jersey has an excellent state and county park system.

This trip, then, is to a series of parks throughout Middlesex County, to explore a little bit of history, to enjoy some fresh air, and to learn a little bit more about some cool locations in my own backyard. What follows then, is a series of trips by foot instead of by car, explorations along the truly low road. So sit back, relax, and let me bring the great outdoors to you:

Middlesex County Parks

Map of Middlesex County with numbers indicating locations of parks throughout the map.
Middlesex County, NJ, is home to over 30 public parks. You can learn more on the Middlesex County Park System website.

Johnson Park

Entrance to Johnson Park. A green and white sign says JOHNSON PARK MIDDLESEX COUNTY NJ
Our first destination was Johnson Park (#4 on the map above). Named after the Johnson family who founded pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, this 473-acre park includes East Jersey Olde Town Village, a small zoo, and many hiking paths.
Esplanade along banks of Raritan River in Johnson Park.
Johnson Park runs along the Raritan River in Piscataway, New Jersey. The ponds (pictured) were constructed in the 1930s as part of a Works Progress Administration project, and sit between the Raritan River and the park.
Bench in Johnson Park along side of pond, with lowered fence to allow visibility for a wheelchair rider.
I appreciate the attention to detail in the park, including accessible fencing so that a wheelchair rider has an unobstructed view of the pond. The fountains in the pond (in the distance) are designed to keep water flowing throughout the pond, decreasing the amount of algae that can form.
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Along the walking paths through Johnson Park are several exercise stations. The signs include directions for various exercises you can do. It’s a pretty interesting way to encourage people to work out for free!

The East Coast Greenway

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We returned again to Johnson Park to hike along the river on a very special section of pathway: the East Coast Greenway. A 3,000-mile path that runs from Calais, Maine to Key West, Florida, the Greenway runs through fifteen states. It is a path for hiking, bicycling, and any other type of non-motorized travel (via Wikipedia).
View of Raritan River, with Johnson Park on right river bank and the East Coast Greenway on the left.
To access the Greenway, we parked in Johnson Park and crossed the Raritan River over the Landing Lane Bridge to the southern banks of the river. Fun fact: the current Landing Lane Bridge was built in 1895. The original bridge was burned down at the orders of George Washington as his soldiers retreated from advancing British forces. There is history everywhere in New Jersey!
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This small pathway is part of the East Coast Greenway. Currently, only 32% of the Greenway is off-road. The eventual goal is for all 3,000 miles to be free of vehicle traffic. We hiked 2 miles of the path… only 2,998 miles to go!

Middlesex Greenway

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Our next hiking stop was the Middlesex Greenway in the town of Metuchen (#18 on the map). This 3.5-mile long path was originally a railroad bed that was redeveloped into a hiking path after the freight train route ceased operation in 1991 (via Wikipedia).
Greenway path running beneath a highway. A runner is ahead in the distance.
In 1875, the Easton & Amboy Railroad began transporting coal along this route. Now known as a “rail trail” (a hiking path that was once a railroad track), the long, flat route is easy accessible. Another fun fact: the Middlesex Greenway is also part of the East Coast Greenway, so my wife and I managed to knock another two miles off that 3,000-mile route. 2,996 miles to go!

Donaldson Park

Park entrance with sign that says DONALDSON PARK. An American flag and a Middlesex County flag are flying above the sign.
On a gorgeous early spring day, we stopped by Donaldson Park in the borough of Highland Park (#1 on the map). Located on the banks of the Raritan River, the park is also a launch site for recreational boating.
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Besides hiking paths and a boat launch, what stood out to me were the numerous well-tended baseball and softball fields, along with nice basketball courts, tennis courts, and playgrounds. Even in these days of social distancing, it is a nice spot to wander around.
Small plot of ground with sign beside it indicating exercise directions.
Donaldson Park also had several exercise stations, just like at Johnson Park. As we walked along the river, we came across this station and took a few moments to try it out. Fun fact: I actually couldn’t figure out the directions until my wife demonstrated the exercise. Good times.
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Having spent much of the past several weeks indoors, I completely missed the transition to springtime. Despite nature beginning to bloom, my internal clock still thinks it is winter.

Roosevelt Park

View of lake and park on sunny day.
Our most recent hike was through Roosevelt Park in the town of Edison (#8 on the map). Established in 1933 as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the 217-acre park is the oldest park in Middlesex County (via Wikipedia).
View of blossoming tree beside lake.
An 8-acre manmade lake is the centerpiece of the park. In addition to the lake, there are also several playgrounds, an ice-skating rink, baseball and soccer fields, and adapted sports facilities for individuals with disabilities. There are also several miles of trails for hiking, including another stretch of the East Coast Greenway!
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In 2001, this war memorial was established honor the nation’s veterans, as well as the branches of the armed services.
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Something that should look familiar to readers of this blog… Light Dispelling Darkness, the fountain and sculpture that details humanity’s progress and struggle against the evils of war, pestilence, famine, death greed, and materialism. I visited this fountain several months ago when I attempted the Middlesex Scavenger Hunt. Since we were in the park, my wife and I detoured to check it out, as she had never seen it in person.
Section of fountain with sculpture of learning and scholars near globe at top of fountain.
Completed as a Works Progress Administration program during the Great Depression, this fountain remains an impressive work, a hidden gem of art and history tucked away in a corner of the park. Having exercised and checked out some cool sites, we headed home.

Updates

While much of the past several weeks has been spent working from home, doing small projects around the house, reading, and binge watching murder mysteries such as Midsomer Murders, I do have a few more updates to share!

First, some high mileage vehicle notes. Tyson Hugie, whose blog Drive to Five helped to inspire the start of The Open Road Ahead, recently celebrated the 17th anniversary of ownership of his 1994 Acura Legend coupe. Now with 572,000 miles on its odometer, that car is a road trip legend (pardon the pun). He wrote a post and created a video in its honor. He also took several questions I had asked him about the car and created a Q&A session in the article. If you’re looking for some fun automotive reading material, do check it out.

On the topic of high mileage, the automotive review website The Fast Lane Car has a testimonial from a Honda CR-V owner who has driven his 2014 model over 300,000 miles. Long a favorite of Consumer Reports for its reliability and economy, it is cool to see such big mileage from Honda’s original crossover utility vehicle. In the words of the vehicle’s owner: “Everything on the vehicle is operational and there are no warning lights on the dash.” Is it just me, or does that read like poetry?

Onto some updates closer to home:

iPad at top of staircase displaying photo of cows in a field.
To amuse my family and friends, I created a photo essay of my “new” work commute from my bedroom to my living room. I used pictures of things I would see during my drive to the office, such as the large dairy farm I would pass every day.
iPad on staircase, displaying a Starbucks coffee shop.
I made sure to include a picture of the Starbucks where I would often stop on the way to work. Yes, in case you are wondering… the cabin fever is getting pretty bad.
Black EVH Wolfgang guitar in case.
While road trips and photography are two of my favorite hobbies, the extended time at home has allowed me to reconnect with my other pastime – music. I don’t think I’ve played the guitar this much since I was 16.
Odometer of Jeep Grand Cherokee reading 50800
My wife’s Jeep Grand Cherokee is doing well, although aside from some grocery store runs, it is not accumulating much in the way of mileage.
2012 Honda Accord in front of blooming trees.
I took the Accord out this weekend to run some errands. One benefit of keeping it in the garage almost every day? No pollen, tree sap, or other dirt to need to wash.
View of New Jersey Turnpike during a cloudy day.
I did run down to southern New Jersey to drop some items off to my parents. I have never seen the New Jersey Turnpike this… empty.
Car odometer reading 151860 TRIP A 212.4
Only a month ago, my Accord had passed 150,000 miles and was well on the way toward the 200k barrier. After several weeks of social distancing, well… 152,000 miles is going to feel like an achievement. That said, the car continues to run like a sewing machine, and it handled Sunday’s  180-mile round trip drive to South Jersey with ease. It felt great to get the Accord back on the highway, however briefly!

I hope you enjoyed this little trip through the parks of Middlesex County. I feel fortunate to live in an area where we have so many public spaces in which to safely exercise in nature, while also practicing good social distancing. I have plans to do another post like this in a few weeks, so please stay tuned.

Thank you for stopping by once again to read about adventures on the open road ahead… be they adventures behind the wheel or adventures on foot. I hope that this health crisis recedes quickly and we can all return to our regularly scheduled lives. Until then, please be well and stay safe.

‘Til next time.

 

 

8 thoughts on “Walk This Way.

  1. Hey thanks for the shout-out! And I got a kick out of the Starbucks and the dairy farm that you pass on your way to work, haha! Making the most of your quarantine time. Stay safe & healthy out there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oregon State Parks are fully closed and our specific city park lots (a suburb of Portland) are closed to cars–but we live in a area where there are pathways all through the wooded acreage so we either go there–great cardio in the hilly landscape–or to the river, which we can still enjoy with distancing. Glad you also can get out to indulge in a love of nature!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Less than a day after posting this, all of NJ’s state and county parks were closed, as too many people were using the parks without social distancing (ruining it for the rest of us who were following the rules). Oh well. Sounds like you’ve found a good way to remain connected to nature while still staying safe! And thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Gl;ad to support your blog Sorry you now have so many less trails to enjoy. I feel fortunate. I hope you can find at least some other country (or city?) pathways to traverse. Even standing outdoors and breath in the breezes helps–we have a balcony on our townhouse so spending more time out there as it warms. And plating potted flowers and lettuce soon!

        Liked by 1 person

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