Allumuchy State Park – Allumuchy and North Allumuchy Mountain

Park Site

Trail Map:  here and here

Hike Distance: 7.65 Miles

Trails:  White, Dan Beard, Ditch/Cardiac (and possibly others that I didn’t realize)

My Map:

My goal for this hike was to summit both Allumuchy Mountain and North Allumuchy Mountain.  I didn’t have a real plan for that, because I didn’t have a map that showed the definitive location, or a specific trail for reaching the summits.  AllTrails showed an approximate location.  Caltopo showed the mountains, but not trail names or colors.  My plan changed multiple times on-trail; which I fully admit is not the smartest way to plan and manage a hike.

In doing the research ahead of time, I frequently read that there are many trails in the park, many not blazed or listed on the maps; and that bikes were frequent here (I saw four the whole day.)  I will reiterate what I’ve read:  hike here with a good map.  More than once I ended up on a bike trail that was not where I wanted to be.  Also, the Allumuchy Scout camp is located within the park, and you are not supposed to enter.

I parked just off Route 517 on Stuyvesant Road which is a rutted dirt road with large potholes.  I was the third car there, and there were easily 10+ cars when I left, with more coming.  I saw no other hikers the whole day, there was plenty of solitude.  I saw four bikes, two separately, then a group of two went by while I was eating lunch.  At the southern end of my hike I could hear the cars on Route 80, so there is some road noise – but I only heard it near that southern section.

Right off the bat there was a great patch of Perriwinkles.

I started off on White, and for the most part the trail itself was relatively wide and composed of soft dirt.  I was surprised in that the trails were not non-stop rocks like so much of north Jersey.  In many portions of the White trail there are switchbacks on the slopes, many rutted out from mountain bikes.  There are numerous unblazed and un-named trails that junction with white.  The main park trail junctions are fairly well-marked with trail names and permitted uses.

Dutchman’s breeches

After a little while on White, I came across a small ruin; it’s not listed on any of the maps I had.

Violet-Toothed Polypore

In many locations around the park I ran into trees just covered with Fomes, some white, and some dark colored.  I couldn’t really identify which versions I stumbled upon, some were pretty big.  Many of the trees looked like this:

Following White, I came to a trail junction that I had heard about, but was not on the park map.  (The junction shows up in a Caltopo map and is marked in AllTrails.)  A sign called out a junction with the Dan Beard trail.

You can see to the left of the kiosk a well-defined trail (albeit of rock right there) that heads in a south westerly direction.  Looking at AllTrails, it showed that this trail would go right over the top of North Allumuchy mountain.  However, I knew I was right on the edge of the scout camp.  I called the audible, and headed off – knowing that I didn’t want to wander into the camp grounds.  And really, if this trail was off limits, there should have been a sign or barrier.

Hexagonal Core Polypore

The Dan Beard trail is well defined, though lots of un-named/unblazed trails split off; and it was here I saw to bike riders.  The trail is not blazed per-se, but with the number of Posted signs (on my left) it was easy to follow the boundary of the camp.  To my right appeared to be State Park land, and to my left appeared to be the camp.  My rationale was I would be ok as long as I did not step over that invisible line that went from posted sign to posted sign.  Here’s what it looked like:

Signs were literally almost every twenty feet.

I came to a boulder with a whole patch of Daffodils right near the top of North Allumuchy Mountain.

There was not a view at the top, and the same goes for Allumuchy mountain; there was no view to speak of.  However, both mountains are on the NJ1K list.  It was nice to be able to summit them both.

My nomination for New Jersey’s plant:

Garlic Mustard
Turkey Tail

I used AllTrails to guess where the actual top of North Allumuchy mountain was:

Before junctioning with the Ditch/Cardiac trail, the Dan Beard trail took a turn or two that seemed to head into the camp area.  However, I still had posted signs to my left.  And there were a couple unmarked trails that seemed to head towards  Route 80.

Round-leaved Violets
Rue Anemone
Wintergreen

I finally met up with the purple-blazed Ditch/Cardiac trail,  and it was good to be “back on the map.”

Mayapple

After crossing a small stream I came to a  small pine grove, where it was extremely quiet inside.  The trail goes through the pine grove, around the other side, before cutting back inside.

I took purple back to white.  Near the exit of the park, I heard loud motors and was passed by dirt bike and rider on a quad.  I’m pretty sure motorized bikes are not allowed in the park.  And it explains why some of the ruts of mud had really deep tracks.

For solitude this was a great hike.  I’d like to come back to do the area by Waterloo village or the by Deer Lake.  However, I will definitely have a route set out and have the appropriate maps.

Blazes:

I have no idea what this correlates to:

Hiked:  4/10/2021

Baldpate Mountain

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 7.21 Miles

Trails:  Summit Trail (Blue), NW Loop (Red), Ridge Trail (White), Kuser (Green), Cooper Hill (Orange)

My Map:

After two weeks of cold and rain, it was time to get out on the trails.  Leaving my house it was cloudy and about 45.  The sun would come out as I crested Baldpate mountain and the temperature would warm up to about 60 making for some perfect hiking weather.

This hike was the perfect warm-up, even though I I did a good stretch of the Delaware and Raritan Canal two weeks ago.  Baldpate Mountain, at Ted Stiles Preserve, has some minor elevation, very minor scrambling, but mostly flat dirt trails.  Be warned, though, the northern east-west section of the NW Loop had sections with very deep mud.  I also encountered mud on the Kuser  and Cooper Hill trail where very small streams flow down the middle of the trail.  Trails can be used by bicycles (I saw none) and horses (I saw one.)

Right off the bat I saw what appears to grow all over Mercer County, garlic mustard.

On both sides of the trail, all over the park is plenty of Multiflora Rose, an invasive species.  And this is all over.

A little further, I found some fungi in the rose bush, Little Nest Polypore.

Little Nest Polypore

And when the sun peeked out from behind the clouds for an instant, I saw:

cut leaved Toothwort

All this was found on the beginning of the Summit Trail.  I hadn’t gone far.  The trail winds up Strawberry Hill, and there are a couple of good scrambles.

Before reaching the Strawberry Hill Lodge, there was more to see.

Bloodroot (before the sun came out)
Lesser Calendine
Periwinkle
Siberian Squill

Once at the top I explored the grounds of the Strawberry Hill Lodge – which looks like a great reception center on expansive grounds and a view of the Delaware River (though maybe not with leaves on the trees.)

Heading to the NW Loop, I stumbled across a patch of Virginia Bluebells.

Virginia Bluebells

I had to bushwack around some serious mud while on the NW Loop.  And, it climbs steeply to get back to the Ridge Trail.  The Ridge Trail is mostly flat, somewhat-wide packed dirt.

Every so often I ran into unblazed trails with an ominous sign.

Where the Summit Trail junctions with the Ridge Trail are a couple of old farm buildings, part of the Welling/Burd Farmstead.  On the way back, I would turn here to visit the pond.

Just before cresting Baldpate Mountain, I came across an area with many trees cut down.  I have no idea for the reason, and some of the trees looked really tall.

Right after this I was passed by a rider on a horse.

The Ridge Trail ends at a parking lot, and when I got there the sun was out, and there were two horse trailers parked.  A power cut runs through the parking lot, I took the Kuser trail which followed the cut for a short while.

Dafodil
False Turkey Tail
Bloodroot (in the sun)

The Cooper Hill trail climbs up to junction with the Ridge Trail (in order to make my way back.)  Along the way I came across the ruins of an old house.

I took the Ridge Trail all the way back to the farm buildings and turned left on the Summit trail headed towards a pond.  Behind a building on the pond is a secluded concrete slab which made the perfect place for lunch.  People passed by on the Summit Trail, and probably had no idea I was there.   The fish were picking the insects off the water’s surface, and frogs were croaking – the perfect spot for lunch.

After lunch it was a quick jaunt down the Summit Trail back to the car.

Turkey Tail

This is a great place to hike, there are enough trails to make loops of any mileage.  Do note that there are some muddy spots.  And while there are some ascents and descents, it’s nothing too strenuous.  The trails are a pleasure to walk on, and there is ample signage.  I got there by about 8:30 in the morning and was the fourth car in the lot.  When I returned, the lot was full.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  4/4/2021

Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park (part 2) – Washington’s Crossing to Scudders Falls

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 5.22 miles

Trails:  the towpath

My Map:

I reached the parking lot at Washington’s Crossing right around noon, and it wasn’t too packed.  Lots of people were making their way to Washington’s Crossing State Park (which I had hiked at the end of January.)  After eating a quick lunch it was off to hike the towpath.

This section of the hike uses the towpath on the western side of the canal.  There is high sun exposure (on a sunny day) so be prepared with a hat and plenty of water.  Like my previous hike, the towpath is crushed gravel and flat.  The only real ascent/descent was at Scudders Falls.

The hike starts out with a great shot of the bridge to Pennsylvania.

For this portion of the hike, you are no more than ten or so feet from the canal, and Route 29 is on the other side.  You will hear plenty of road noise from Route 29 like before, as it is a fairly busy road.

This section of the canal flows pretty slow, and makes a great home for ducks and geese.  I saw signs that this section is stocked with trout, no one was fishing though.

Just before Route 29 junctions with Interstate 295, you will reach the Scudders Falls parking lot.  A small downhill road will take you right up to the falls.  It’s fairly fast moving water and there are plenty of signs warning on the dangers of swimming.

A shot of the standing waves:

Kayakers must love this in warmer weather.

How the heck did the log get up in the tree?

I mean, I think I know the answer, but the water must have been pretty high.

Like the last hike, it was straight back to the car using the same trail.

I found this section of the trail to be different from earlier in the day; there was lots more sun, but surprisingly less people on this section.  I imagine it gets more crowded in the summer.

Ticks: 0

Hiked:  3/13/2021

Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park (part 1) – Bull’s Island to Prallsville Mills

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 5.98 miles

My Map:

February was a busy month, and received much snow.  Having gotten some hiking gifts form the holidays, I waited for the first good weekend day.  There is store nearby that sells hiking and camping supplies of which I have been the beneficiary (Canyon Pass Provisions) and today was the day to put them to the test.  When I figure out how I’ll handle product reviews, I’ll start including them here.

This is part 1, part 2 will be included in the next post.

The pandemic has kept me busy with work and unable to hike.  I figured, before I start tackling more challenging terrain I had better get back into hiking shape.  A jaunt down the Delaware and Raritan Canal towpath should do just the trick.

I started at Bull’s Island recreation center and immediately was presented by the canal.

For this section of the hike, you will hike on the Eastern side of the canal.  The trail is flat and shaded in this section with benches every so often.

If you are looking for silence, this is not the hike for you.  On your left (for the whole hike) will be Route 29, which is fairly busy. Sometimes you are 10 feet from the road, sometimes a little more.  But, it is always there, and there is always traffic.  The canal will be on your right, and sometimes a handful of yards away, and sometimes you cannot even see it.

Spring is just starting, so there is not much green.  I did find this interesting  mile marker which I believe from an old route.

This section of the trail is actually routed over the old Delaware & Belvidere railbed, though I did not see evidence of that.  The trail is crushed gravel and makes for easy walking.  There are signs every so often with explanations of  how the canal worked and archaeological finds.

I reached Prallsville Mills earlier than I anticipated, and none of the buildings were open.  This means I’ll be back another day to visit.

As I reached Prallsville Mills earlier than expected, I decided to beast it back to the car and do a second section of the D&R Canal that I was saving for a second day.

This is a great park and a long trail (almost 70 miles) and was a perfect way to get back into hiking shape.  You cannot really get lost, there’s one trail.  On this section of the trail I passed a bunch of people walking and numerous bikes, but it was not overly crowded – even on a gorgeous sunny day.

Ticks:  0

Blazes:  (none, but mile markers every so often.)

Hiked:  3/13/2021

Goat Hill Preserve – Goat Hill Overlook

Park Site – a short note here.  There were state park signs throughout the preserve, and I’ve read that the park is part of Washington Crossing State Park.  However, these trails are not on the Washington State Park map.

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  2.43 miles

Trails:  Main, Yellow, White, Red

My Map:

I’m going to preface this by saying I got the creepiest vibes while hiking here.  I hiked these trails right after hiking in Washington Crossing State Park, as I knew this would be a relatively short hike.  From the parking lot, you can take the main trail straight to the overlook.  However, I wanted some miles so made an immediate left on the yellow trail.

And right off the bat, there was fungus.

Mossy Maze Polypore
False Turkey Tail

The Yellow Trail winds its way to the White Trail, which you take to get back to Goat Hill Overlook.  Branching off the White trail every so often are short trails to rocks and overlooks.  These short spur trails are blazed red.

You can just barely make out Bowmans Tower in the middle of the picture.  It was much easier to see while there.

It was at this point I started getting weird vibes.  While walking down the White Trail I came across this abandoned camp site, right at the junction of one of the Red Trail spurs.

After visiting the rocks, I took a closer look at what was at the camp.  A sleeping bag was rolled up.  There is a demolished tent (a general two-person pup tent that you would get at a big box store) likely demolished by the wind.  Underneath the tent was a (vacant) mummy sleeping bag, an assortment of sardines and other canned food, and some wire (??)  There was a crate, with an empty beer can, an empty wine bottle, and one boot.

I didn’t disturb a thing, only making sure I didn’t come across a body.  The whole camp looks like it has been there a couple of days, and there was NO ONE around.  Admittedly, it was creepy.

When I didn’t see anyone, or the signs of anyone, I headed off.  I started down the next spur to see what view the overlook provided.  Turning around to come back, I was greeted with the following:

Yes, that appears to be an “altar” in a grotto.  Or maybe I was imagining it.  After the campsite, I wasn’t too much in the mood to find out.

Back to the White Trail to head to Goat Hill Overlook.

At another Red Trail junction, I could faintly make out something in the woods.

While impressive, after the abandoned campsite and Satan’s Grotto, I noped out of there eventually reaching the Goat Hill Overlook.

It was at this location that scouts for both Washington’s army and Corwalis’ army spied upon the opposition during the war.

I returned to my car down the main path, but not before I ran into the Turkey Vultures of Doom.

Fortunately, it is five minutes to the car.

I certainly would have enjoyed this more a) if it were about 20 degrees warmer, and b) the creepy vibes were not off the charts.  However, this is a great little preserve with a small lot.  There are numerous No Parking signs along the road to the parking lot, and I imagine it gets pretty busy in better conditions.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  1/23/2021

Washington Crossing State Park

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  4.8 miles

Trails:  Continental Lane, Red Dot, Green Dot, Blue Dot, Red, Yellow Dot

My Map:

First hike of the new year.  And it was cold and very windy, with temperatures around 35.  Fortunately, the sun was out most of the time, and while in the trees, the wind was not that bad.

With the temperatures and the wind, there were very few people out.

I parked by the visitor’s center, but parked in the back of the lot, not knowing where the trail head was located.  Of course, I parked as far away from the trail as possible.  So, walking towards the visitor’s center / museum, I looked for the trail and came across Continental Lane; the route that Washington’s army took after crossing the Delaware River.

Continental Lane is an easy walk.

Not too far down, I found my first instance of green, Garlic Mustard.  And this stuff was growing all over the place.  I will say, that if the Continental Army wanted, they had plenty of spices to add to their meals.

Garlic Mustard

Instead of turning onto Red Dot (which I eventually would,) I followed Continental Lane to the observation lookout.

This overlooked the location where Washington’s army came ashore.  I followed the Green Dot trail to the pedestrian bridge, and crossed over Route 29 – though I did not go all way to the D&R Canal (a trip for another day.)

I headed back to the Red Dot.

American Holly
Thistle

I made my way to the Nature Center, and took the Red trail counter clockwise.  After passing the Blue trail, I saw a small cut-through trail that took me to the Blue Dot trail, and took that.

It was eerie walking through Cedar groves when the wind would start howling.  You could hear the squeaking of trees as they leaned against other trees.  And more than one time I heard something crash, falling from the trees.

Hairy Bracket Fungi

The Yellow Dot trail paralleled Steele Run (southern branch) for quite a while.

At one point there was a rock hop across Steele Run, which I thought odd, as there were bridges throughout the rest of the park.  Before joining up with Continental Lane, the trail passed by an open outdoor ampitheater.

You have to cross the road to reach the end of the Yellow Dot trail, though you could follow the road back to your car.  Turning around after crossing the road gave you a glimpse of the arched bridge.

There is lots of history at the park, and I wish the visitor’s center was open in order to see more of the artifacts.  This was definitely a good hike to start the year on, and I’ll definitely be back to hike portions of the D&R Canal.

Ticks:  0

Blazes (I missed getting the Blue Dot)

Hiked:  1/23/2021

2020 Analysis

Ok, first, a comment.  Totals for this year, while accurate, are going to be out of whack compared to previous years.  I got out on the trail much more this year – thank you pandemic, and looking for solitude – and the numbers do not really correlate or compare to prior years.  However, the numbers are interesting none the less.  And, I hope to get out about the same this year (hopefully more), so that will be a better comparison.

But, enough of comparisons, the reality is I traveled to many more destinations and got to see much more of this and neighboring  states, and was able to experience more environments, sites and trails.  So, without further ado, let’s look at some numbers.

2017 hikes: 12
2018 hikes: 10
2019 hikes: 5
2020 hikes: 23

So, right off the bat I went on (almost) as many hikes as the last three years combined.

2017 miles: 40.45
2018 miles: 41.54
2019 miles: 23.35
2020 miles: 149.57

And yep, more mileage than the last three years combined.  In the beginning of the year I hoped to hit 100 miles.  The shortest hike occurred in the Great Swamp Wilderness, when all but one trail were impassable due to mud.  The longest hike happened in Brendan T Byrne State Forest and encompassed part of the Batona trail along with a ramble through a good portion of the forest.  My sweet spot for hike distance seems to be in the 7-9 mile range.  I don’t mind longer, and sometimes with shorter hikes I feel short changed.

New this year, total elevation gain.

2017 elevation: 2555 feet
2018 elevation: 3300 feet
2019 elevation: 2192 feet
2020 elevation: 17838 feet

I’m not even going to attempt commentary.  In looking back through my notes I see hikes (in previous years) where I did not record elevation gain.  And, I had some hikes this year that had more elevation gain than any of the prior year’s totals.

So, let’s look at my favorite hikes of the year.

Honorable MentionLord Stirling Forrest

I said on this hike’s write-up that I would be surprised if this hike was not in the top five hikes I took for the year.  Well, I was pleasantly surprised.  Lord Stirling Park was a great hike on an absolutely gorgeous day.  I loved the boardwalks, especially the section that goes through the swamp.  The only reason this hike did not place higher is I went bigger with some crazy views.

5Kittatiny State Park

Come on, how can you compete with a hike that had some climbing, a walk by a lake, and an airport?  This hike was taken on another absolutely gorgeous day at the beginning of the pandemic.  I remember sitting by the runway eating lunch, and if it were not getting a little too crowded for my liking I would have stayed longer to watch the planes.

4Apshawa Preserve

What can I say?  Again, another absolutely perfect day.  Minus an airport, this park checked all the boxes for a great hike:  scrambling, a couple of good strenuous climbs, a walk around a lake, cascades, and a waterfall.  It’s also the site where I learned of the need for trekking poles.

3Schunnemunk State Park / Schunnemunk Mountain

Water crossing and rock hopping.  Some good-sized scrambles.  While not above tree line, a little exposure at the top.  I thoroughly enjoyed this park on a journey outside New Jersey.  The views were intense once I reached the ridge to the top of Schunnemunk Mountain.  Of course, with the wind blowing as hard as it was, I’ll admit, I was a little uneasy.  But, I had the place all to myself for a mid-week hike on election day – I saw ONE other person the entire hike (results not typical – it appears weekends are packed here.)  And it was nice to get some good elevation.

2Stairway to Heaven

For my money, this is THE view for New Jersey.  And. You. Will. Work. For. It.  Yes, the view at Mt. Tammany is iconic and a great hike to boot.  However, the hike across the boardwalks and through the cow pasture are serene.  And the climb up the mountain to Pinwheel Vista is one tough thigh-burning climb.  But the payoff is totally worth it.  I could have sat there for hours.  For another absolutely perfect day, it got crowded – even during a pandemic.  My only downside would be the crowds.  That view, though, has become my Zoom background.

And…..

1Bearfort Ridge

I had trouble just picking a picture for this hike.  And I probably don’t have to say it, but it was yet another absolutely perfect day weather-wise.  Heck, you can see New York City in the picture.  To me, this hike had it all:  great elevation gain, some great scrambles, puddingstone ridges, a lake, views, views, and more views.  It seemed after every scramble, or every turn, there was yet another fabulous view trying to outdo the last.  Heck, the view overlooking Greenwood Lake is massive, and really, requires a panoramic lens.  While this hike was not as crowded as, say, Stairway to Heaven or Tammany, it’s popular.  But that doesn’t matter, I will go back to do this hike again.  I can’t recommend this one enough.

So, those are my top five hikes for the year (and one honorable mention.)  With 23 hikes there were some other great standouts:  The waterfall at Schooley’s Mountain is extremely picturesque, and a good scramble to reach.  Norvin Green State Forest has some great views and little something for everyone.  The epicly long Stonetown Circular trail is a beast, with five mountains in almost 11 miles of hiking.  Climbing to the top of New Jersey at High Point State Park was notable, even if I did blow out a boot at the end.  A little closer to home, the swinging bridge at Princeton Battlefield / Institute Woods was fun to find and cross.

Where will 2021 take me?  I have a list.  My goal is to keep going upwards.  And ever since being on Mt. Etna, I have a desire to climb volcanoes.  But that’s probably a ways off.  Of course, the pandemic will probably have a voice in where I actually end up.

Here’s to a great new year; with great weather, great elevation, great views, the open air, wildlife, a pack on your back and traveling blaze to blaze.,

National Park Service Free Entry Days For 2021

2021 will see the following days where entry is free:

January 18th – Martin Luther King’s birthday

April 17th – First day of National Park Week

August 4th – One year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act

September 25th – National Public Lands Day

November 11th – Veterans Day.

See the press release here.

Clayton Park

Park Site

Trail Map – surprisingly, there were printed brochures

Hike Distance:  6.09 miles

Trails – all (Glen Trail, Bridges Trail, Clayton Fields Trail, Doctor’s Creek, and Old Forge Trail)

My Map:

I wanted to do something shorter and close to home, so off to Clayton Park, a Monmouth County Park.  While a typical Monmouth county park, with very little signage or blazing, the trails were wide, dirt, with leaf covering and some roots.  It was nice to not have rocks.  Be warned though, there are LOTS of mountain bikes.

You can see by my map that I hiked almost the entire park, I tried not to double-back, but there were two spots I had to.  You really can’t get lost, and you can make as many loops as you want.  Bring a paper map or GPS to guide you around the unmarked trails.

With all the brown, it would be easier to pick out plants and mushrooms.

Bracket Fungi
Japanese Honeysuckle

I did not see one blaze in the park.  The closest thing to a blaze are the signs at trail junctions.

Greater Celandine
Garlic Mustard

There is very little elevation, there are a couple of hills to ascend and descend.

Stinking Orange Oyster

I found some of my favorite, and I never just find one.  Trees and logs are always covered with them.

Turkey Tail
Christmas Fern

Striped Wintergreen

I walked a good portion of the Clayton Fields Trail though I did not walk to the lake.

And I ended up going around the pond twice.

Ticks: 0

Hiked:  11/27/2020

Terrace Pond – West Loop

Park Site – a note here:  The trails are located in Wawayanda State Park, however they appear on the Abram Hewitt map.

Trail Map – here is the official map, linked to the site.  However, trails have been re-blazed.  This map is much better (until the official map is updated.)

Hike  Distance:  4.9 miles

Trails:  Terrace Pond Loop (Yellow)

My Map:

The weather was supposed to be nice, with rain coming in the week, so I figured I would head out again.  When I reached the pond, with the sun out, it was pretty hot.  But, overcast moved in, and the temperature dropped though out the day.  I did this hike clockwise, which put the scrambling and the ups and downs at the beginning of the hike.  As you move away from the pond, you will go downhill and finish up on a woods road, and a smaller trail.

A note about the pond, swimming is NOT allowed, not that I had planned it.  There is ample signage both at the trailhead and at the pond.    Bear in mind that much of the edge of the pond is surrounded by rock and if you get in trouble, search and rescue will take a while to reach you.  While I was at the pond, it was starting to fill up with people – hiking just to the pond is a nice hike.

A note on parking:  I got to drive on New Jersey’s most haunted road.  I had read about this road often enough in Weird NJ, so it was fun to actually visit this landmark.  I can safely say I didn’t experience anything.  Park in lot P-7, when I arrived at 9:00 in the morning I was the third car; when I returned a little after 12:00, the lot was packed.  Walk across the street to the trailhead.

The new blazes really stand out, and are spaced appropriately.  They’re easy to see – maybe because they are so new.  The hike starts out on nice wide trails, and early on you will cross some streams.

The big rocks are a nice touch.

The Ents are still asleep.

After a short distance, you will arrive at a power-cut, make a right, and head up.

Puddingstone!

You won’t go up the whole hill, but will turn part way up.  At that turn is a nice view.

There will be a couple of good scrambles before you reach the pond.

From the top of this scramble, there is another nice view.

With leaves down, it’s easier to pick out anything not brown.  Unfortunately, no mushrooms on this hike.

Rock Greenshield Lichen
Smooth Rock Tripe
Eastern Teaberry

Just before reaching the pond, there will be a good-sized scramble that ends at this fin-shaped rock.

The trail goes around the rock, but you can scramble to the top for a great view.  I did not.  There’s not a lot to stand on, and a sheer drop on the other side.  Crawling most of the way to the top, I can vouch that the view is nice.

More puddingstone

Eventually you will reach the pond, and connect with the Circular Trail (White.)  I put the pond about a third of the way into the hike.  While there is some minor scrambling after the pond, you’re mostly done with the hard stuff.

After leaving the pond, and going over some rocks, I came to this smallish cave.  You can see that it goes back a bit, and there’s water; but I wasn’t willing to find out who might be napping in there.

Haircap Moss

There were a couple of sections of the trail that were just perfect to walk…wide dirt trails covered in pine needles.

Desiccated puffball

Eventually the trail will wind down to a swamp, and join a woods road.  You will go over three drainage pipes, that form small cascades across the road from the swamp.

Follow the woods road for a while.

Bracket fungi

Eventually, the road will veer left, with the trail making a hard right, and becoming more of a trail than a road.  You will follow this back to the trailhead.

Flat-Branched Tree Club-Moss

Just before descending to the trailhead there is a good-sized Rhododendron tunnel to pass through.

This is another great hike.  I may attempt the northern loop in the future as a new trail has been cut to form a true loop.  I can imagine this hike would be much more crowded in the summer and nicer weather.  Because of the popularity of the pond, I did come across more people, but not the insane crowds on some of my previous hikes.

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Hiked:  11/21/2020