The Rahway Fairy Trail is located in Locust Grove section of the South Mountain
Reservation, a 2,110-acre nature reserve near Milburn, a suburban townwhip in Essex County, New Jersey, about 20 miles west of Manhattan.
Millburn resident and Special Education teacher Therese Ojibway, a short, elfin-like
senior citizen, is the creator and maintainer of the little fairy dwellings that are strewn along a half-mile stretch of the Rahway Trail starting at the Locust Grove picnic area.
Ojibway began to populate the trail with her whimsical fairy homes about five years ago. She took to the woods years ago as a “place of refuge” for Clinton, her three-year-old autistic son.
Her fairy houses are made from twigs, tree bark, rocks, acorns, even mushrooms —
collected from the reserve. They are inspired by fairy-tale stories like “Thumbelina” by Hans Christian Andersen, “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton and the Flower Fairies, illustrations by Cicely Mary Barker, as well as the fairy homes found on Monhegan Island in Maine.
She maintains her enchanted forest homes about once a week, usually in the evenings with her adult son, and also removes unsightly fairy houses and trash littering the trail.
In addition to the non-organic things left in the woods, “There are some terrible hooligans in the woods,” Ojibway said, adding that some of the fairy furniture occasionally gets stolen.
Visitors to the trail who want to create their own fairy home are asked to use all natural materials and follow this advice: “Please follow the Fairy House rules! Natural materials only. No plastic or glass. Do NOT paint trees.”
Despite the simple rules, visitors to the trail leave inappropriate bits of plastic furniture, Smurf characters and even green army figures.
These non-biodegradable materials go against the “take nothing, leave nothing” spirit of the outdoors, including the lime-green X marks and arrows that someone had painted on tree trunks, marking the fairy trail.
Note: The South Mountain Reservation was conceived by the Olmsted Brothers in the late 19th century. The 2,100-acre nature reserve is located entirely within Essex County. It is home to numerous natural features: dramatic waterfalls, tranquil ponds, babbling brooks and gently rolling wooded hills bisected by popular hiking trails.
South Mountain Reservation
c/o The Rahway “Fairy” Hiking Trail
Milburn, New Jersey