Nestled deep in a New Jersey forest, there's a trail that's populated by fairies.
Over the past decade, a village of tiny, handcrafted houses have been popping up along a half-mile stretch of the South Mountain Reservation, a 2,112-acre nature preserve in Essex County that spans Maplewood, Millburn and West Orange.
In true Frank Lloyd Wright fashion, the miniature feats of architecture blend almost seamlessly into the woods, always a half-step hidden behind the nearest tree root or boulder. Move too quickly and it's easy to miss the couch made of a hunk of mushroom … the doors constructed out of tree bark … the chairs crafted from acorns.
For years, the creator of the so-called "South Mountain Fairy Trail" remained a mystery, until she was revealed as local artist and special education teacher, Therese Ojibway. Since then, the trail has become an immensely popular, family-friendly destination for people seeking to get outdoors and reconnect with nature, sometimes attracting hundreds of visitors a week.
Guests at the free, public trail are asked to tread lightly to avoid wrecking the houses or the surrounding preserve. Get directions and see rules for visiting here, and check out the fairy trail's Facebook page here.
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Photojournalist Yazhi Zheng recently took a trip to Essex County to capture a firsthand look at the trail. Take a look at what Zheng found in the gallery at the top of this article.
Ojibway previously told Patch that the fairy trail attracts people from all backgrounds – a "really good cross-section of the community." Her adult son, Clinton, who has been diagnosed with autism, is just one of the people who have used the trail as a much-needed escape from modern life.
"I think that fairies are part of a lot of childhoods," Ojibway said. "It brings a lot of parents back to a part of their past that they want to expose their kids to. It makes people look at things in a different way, spurs the imagination. I think that people need the fairy trail as a relief from the awful stress and news that we're faced with every day."