Phoenicia – Mount Tobias Wild Forest – Mount Tremper

Park Site

Trail Map – from the site, I used the NY NJ Trail conference map

Hike Distance: 6.19 miles

Trails:  Red (Phoenicia?)

Mountain:  Mt. Tremper

My map:

This was hike 1 with the Monmouth County Park Systems on their Fire Tower Challenge.  They are running trips to see the six fire towers in the lower Catskills.  The challenge description can be found here.  While there are five towers on top of mountains, a sixth is right next to the visitor’s center which we drove right by.  I suppose, if you live in the area, this is not that bad.  Coming from the Jersey shore, this is a bit of a drive, and makes the challenge more interesting.  There are trips all throughout the year.  Trip 1 was to Mt. Tremper and the visitor center.

The Catskills got snow on Wednesday and Thursday before our trip.  The weather called for sun in the morning, with partial clouds in the afternoon.  Fortunately, that didn’t happen; it was sunny all day.  However, this would be a microspikes day – up and down in microspikes.  And, we had snowshoes strapped to our packs.  That wasn’t a problem for me, I was testing a new pack.  It actually came last Saturday, but I was already out and it was too late to use.  I’ll review it down the road after a few more trips.  The bottom of the mountain was mostly snow and ice and microspikes definitely helped.  As we got higher on the mountain there was more snow – we estimated about eight inches at the top.  I never used the snowshoes – I should have, I don’t know when I’ll get the chance again.

Zoom in on the picture of the kiosk.  At the lower left you’ll see a warning about timber rattlesnakes.  Supposedly, around the 1450 mark there is a quarry to the left of the trail housing a den of almost 100 timber rattlesnakes.  During warmer times, the snakes are out on the rocks and trail sunning themselves.  Obviously, at this time of year, we didn’t see any.  Maybe I’ll come back to check that out.

Mt. Tremper from the Catskills Visitor Center

This would be a relatively easy walk up.  The trail follows an old Jeep road up the mountain.  There were a couple of steep sections, but not for too long.  At the top, with more snow; the snow covered all the rocks we would have had to deal with.  Because of the snow we basically walked up a hill.  On the way down, the temperatures warmed up to the high 40s and the snow became much softer.  The bottom of the mountain became a mud puddle.

Heading up

The higher we ascended, the more snow we found and the less ice.

Before reaching the top, at around 1.8 miles, you will come to the Baldwin shelter (and privy.)  Just above the shelter is a spring that had a lot of water running through.  At the top of the mountain, you will find another shelter.  From there it’s about 250 feet to the tower.

As I am not one to climb towers, here’s a view from the first landing.

Here’s what the tower looks like.

There wasn’t much of a view from the top of the mountain, even with the leaves down.  I heard from our group that the view was much better all the way at the top of the tower; but the trees are almost as high as the tower.

We made quick work of the descent.  I was able to grab a few more pictures.  I took pictures through the trees while the leaves were down.  I suspect that during the spring and summer, you can’t see much.

While I took a picture of these rocks due to the ice, I think the snake den would be a little above this (towards the right.)  Our trip leader mentioned it on the way up.

Life:  None, it was too snowy.  Not even any tracks.

Blazes:

Hiked: 1/28/2023

Bass River State Forest – Lake Absegami area

Park Site

Trail map

Hike Distance: 8.75 miles

Trails:  Poppy Allen (yellow), Falkinburg (purple), CCC (orange)

My Map:

Average temperature for this hike was around 35 degrees, and the wind was blowing.  There were flurries every so often but  no accumulation.  I did this hike as a figure-eight, sort of.  Both loops were hiked clockwise.

Before I started the trail, I checked out Lake Absegami and the beach area.  At the time of this writing there is construction on a new pavilion, but it is still possible to walk down to the water.  Plans are for the construction to be completed by summer of 2023.

Lake Absegami

After viewing the lake, it was time to start the hike.  By the water, the wind was really whipping, but in the trees, you did not feel it as much.  You could hear the wind, sort of like background noise.

Most of the trails were wide, compact sand.  In a couple of spots the trail was the loose, deep, sugar sand.  And there were some places where you hike on sand roads.  There is almost no elevation gain throughout the whole forest, though that is to be expected hiking in the Pine Barrens.

The Poppy Allen trail takes you right alongside a group campsite; that was busy today with a Boy Scout troop.  I would later run into the scouts out on a hike.  “Poppy” Allen was the first caretaker of Bass River State Forest.

Pixie cup lichens

Every so often you hike into Pine tree plantations, where the trees are somewhat growing close together.  It was in these biomes where it was the most peaceful.

All the trails in this State Forest were well marked.  There are lots of side trails, woods roads, and sand roads; but if you stay on the trail (and keep your map handy) you will not get lost.  What I liked especially:  Whenever there was a turn, there was a blaze with an arrow telling you which way to turn, and then a blaze immediately after the turn for you to pick up the trail.  And all junctions are well blazed.

After turning onto the Faulkinburg trail, the trail sort of parallels the Garden State Parkway.  This was one of two places where there is a bit of road noise.  The trail actually comes pretty close to the roadway.

Soon enough it cuts back into the woods.

At the big junction of trails (in the center of the figure-eight in my map) is a sign announcing one of the tree plantations.  There are many in the forest, all planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930s.

From this junction I jumped on the CCC trail for the western part of my journey.  This crosses East Greenbush road.  Where it crosses, I was able to get a picture of the Bass River Fire tower and another plantation.

The forest in this section was my favorite of them all.  The trees are HUGE.  It is extremely quiet and peaceful in this section.  I could have sat there for hours, except it was 37 degrees and the wind was blowing.  Maybe in the summer.  Definitely a magical place.

The trail winds its way towards the Bass River.  I did not have a view of the river, but I could see houses lining it.  There are some marshy, boggy areas, and that is perfect conditions for a cedar grove.

At the northern part of this loop you will come to ruins of the Civilian Conservation Corps camp.

And just past the ruins you will come to the Forest Fighter Memorial which has signage regarding two major forest fires; and memorializes lost firefighters in those wildfires.  I had been to this memorial driving home from Batsto Village.

 

Eastern Teaberry

Coming back to the main junction, I followed the CCC trail back to my car.  The trail follows the park road and goes over a small bridge.  From the bridge I could see the southern portion of Lake Absegami.

And across the road, I could see where the lake drained into Faulkinburg branch.

I didn’t know that there were campsites here, so I will have to return to check out the camping.  Certainly, it won’t be long backpacking, but it is close enough to home to warrant checking out.

Chiggers:  NONE, thankfully

Blazes:

Hiked:  1/14/2023

Merrill Creek Reservoir

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  7.99 Miles

Trails:  Perimeter, Yellow, Blue, Orange

My Map:

I did this hike clockwise.  I was the third car in the parking lot (at the visitors center parking lot) but there were many more cars when I finished.  Just as I parked it started snowing out, really, just flurries.  It would flurry a couple of times on the hike; though there was no accumulation.  There were plenty of printed trail maps at the kiosk which I haven’t seen in quite a while.

From the visitors center lot, I walked down to the boat ramp.  One boat was on the water fishing.  There is a bulletin board of all the large fish taken from the reservoir.

If you are hiking clockwise, the path will be wide, flat, and mostly crushed stone.  For this whole portion of the hike there are great views of the reservoir – for much of the time you are no further than 20 yards from the water’s edge.

While walking the Perimeter trail, there are convenient markers that tell you how far you have walked.

The first dike I came to was the SE Dike.  I was not prepared for crossing the dikes and dams.  All of the hiking is in the woods, except for the dikes and dams.  While crossing the dikes and dams you will be exposed to the wind, and it was pretty cold.  And because of that, I typically just kept crossing and didn’t stop for too long.  I did take this picture looking across the reservoir.

After taking this picture, a shadow started covering me.  I looked up to see a bald eagle heading towards me.  It was the first bald eagle I would see (I saw a second about an hour later) and those birds are big.  He flew off into the trees.  I didn’t know it at the time, there are numerous eagle nesting areas throughout the reservoir.

The dam is much larger than the dikes, and looking down the land-side of the dam, it drops pretty far.  There was a stairway that headed down, but it was closed off – and I doubt I would have tried it – it is a steep stairwell.

Here’s a view off the dam looking southwest.

A little further down the dam I could see something swimming towards the rocks.  I thought it was a beaver, but the tail was too skinny.  It came to the edge, scrambled up some of the rocks, then saw me.  He would dart in and out of the rocks playing hide and seek.  I finally got a picture.  It’s zoomed in, so not the best.  But you can see an otter in front of a horizontal log.

After crossing the dam, the trail heads off into the woods and becomes more of a traditional trail.  The trail moves further away from the reservoir but at times comes close to a road.  Fortunately, there are not many cars zooming along.

There’s a nice “beach” to stop at.

 

Lesser Perriwinkles

After you pass the parking lot that connects to Fox Farm Road, the Perimeter trail joins with the Warren Highlands Trail.  You will stay on this trail until the parking lot for the Inlet / Outlet Tower.

Just before I took the next picture I would see another eagle flying off towards the center of the reservoir.

False Turkeytail

There are numerous areas throughout the reservoir where there are stands of pine trees.

After crossing a footbridge I decided to veer away from the reservoir and explore some of the other trails and ruins.  When you get to the “colored” trails, you will find signs and maps at every trail junction.  You shouldn’t get lost in this area of the park.

I veered off on the orange trail that parallels the Upper Merrill Creek.

This section of the park is very damp and muddy.  Further, the little bridges over the wetter sections were treacherously slippery.  I thank the Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops that installed the bridges, but they were treacherous today.

Here’s a picture of the ruins of the Upper Beers Farm.

Further down the Blue trail, are ruins of the Lime Kiln.

As I traveled down the Blue trail, I came across ruins of the Spring House.

Finally, as I got closer to the Visitors Center, I came across a stand of real large pine trees.  It was dark and really quiet and had a great view of the water.

This is a great park to hike.  There are a couple of hills, but nothing terribly steep or for too long.  The northwest section of the park has more traditional trails and it is in this section that you will find more rocks.  I thoroughly loved seeing the eagles and to see an otter, I’ve read that snow geese migrate here and are a great site to see as well.

Blazes:

Hiked: 1/7/2023

2022 Analysis

As I sit to write this post, and accumulate the stats for the year, I can’t believe another year has gone by.  I vowed to get out more this year and expand my hikes, and I think I accomplished those goals.  For the coming year, I’d like climb more, do more elevation; and I suspect that will mean trips to further destinations (and quite possibly more camping – I’m good with that.)

Since I seemed to get out more this year, I published more on the blog.  The blog’s reach has expanded if the statistics are to be believed.  And for that, I’m thankful to you, my readers.  I hope you are able to get something from these posts that helps YOU on YOUR journey.  Just a note to add, some weekends I don’t post due to hiking a trail I’ve done previously.  While those hikes are certainly different from the original hike, I generally don’t write them up.  I do, however, add those totals to the yearly stats.

With that, let’s see what I did in 2021.

2017 hikes: 12
2018 hikes: 10
2019 hikes: 5
2020 hikes: 23
2021 hikes: 29
2022 hikes: 33

That’s more than half the weekends in a year.  I would certainly like to raise that number, but life does find a way to intercede.  Further, there were some weekends where the weather was forecasted to be really bad.  I’ll continue hiking when it starts to rain.  I generally don’t like to start in a monsoon.  And I stay away from thunderstorms, hail, and lightning.  40 trips in a year seems like a stretch; and I see accomplishing that by doing multiple hikes in a week – certainly a possibilty.

Let’s take a look at mileage:

2017 miles: 40.45
2018 miles: 41.54
2019 miles: 23.35
2020 miles: 149.57
2021 miles: 210.77
2022 miles: 236.97

That looks (and feels) right to me.  The number of hikes increased by 4, which looks to be about four miles per extra hike.  Mileage, to me, is not my most meaningful stat; but mileage is definitely interesting.  I do not pick hikes based on mileage.  7-9 miles a trip seems to be the sweet spot.  Of course elevation plays into that as well.  7-9 miles in the Pine Barrens is a whole lot different than 7-9 miles in the Catskills.  Generally, if I’m driving farther to a trailhead, I’d like to get a full day out of it.

A note on mileage:  I noticed this year that some of my GPS tracks were markedly different from the posted mileage on signs or maps.  And I’ve been studying it for the year.  I tried baking off Gaia and AllTrails, and the mileage on the two apps for the same hike sometimes differed greatly.  I’ve seen comments on some posts asking about taking in the elevation gain or loss as factoring into the posted mileage.  And that very well could be.  Though, sometimes my track matches almost exactly.  I know GPS isn’t 100% accurate.  In the book Harriman Trails, there is a note that they calculated mileage using a distance wheel.  And that leaves me with more questions than answers.

And finally, elevation gain:

2017 elevation: 2555 feet
2018 elevation: 3300 feet
2019 elevation: 2192 feet
2020 elevation: 17838 feet
2021 elevation: 29480 feet (1 Mt. Everest)
2022 elevation: 35038 feet

This is my surprise for the year.  Four extra hikes, roughly 16 extra miles, but close to 6000 feet of elevation gain EXTRA from last year.  I attribute this to hiking more in New York:  doing two hikes in the Catskills, and numerous hikes in Harriman/Bear Mountain state parks (see below.)  And this year, I think I hiked less trails in the Pine Barrens where there is not much elevation change.

What were my favorite hikes?  This is always a tough question to answer.  Just getting out is always a good.  And I don’t think I had any “bad” hikes this year.  We can get the negatives out of the way real quick.  I fell twice:  Once on rocks that had running water under leaves which I didn’t see.  I fell about five feet or so, but that fall hurt.  The second fall occurred when loose dogs from a family coming against me caused me to fall about 10 feet down an embankment.  That didn’t hurt so much as it made me annoyed.  Leash your dogs people.  Finally, I took an unplanned dip in a stream in Harriman off some slippery rocks.  Lesson learned:  when the map says “bridge out”, even if the map is two years old, find another route.  Oh yeah, the massive chigger bites after a hike in the Pine Barrens was not fun either.

One of my favorite hikes of the year:

For the second year in a row, I saw a bear.  This picture was taken after he scurried off the path in front of me.  Initially, we were a lot closer than the previous bear I encountered.  This was another awesome sighting.  And what makes this interesting is that this hike took place in a park that juxtaposes a pretty urban area.

Hike number two in the Cataskills, this picture was taken at the viewpoint after the brutal climb to the ridge to Plateau Mountain. My other Catskill trip was up Mt. Wittenberg.  I really like the Catskills, and the elevation.  The views are just great:  forests, mountains and great hikes.  Since I found a good campsite, I hope to spend more time in the Catskills in the coming year.

My Fall was spent hiking in both Bear Mountain and Harriman state parks.  The drive wasn’t too bad, and the hikes were really great.  I’ll list a couple of my standout Harriman Bear Mountain hikes below.

Probably my favorite hike was a loop climbing Bald Mountain, a jaunt over to the Timp, and returning via Doodletown.  The climb up Bald Mountain was pretty steep, but once up, there was not much more to climb.  There is a small col between Bald Mountain and the Timp, but the second climb is not bad.  The picture above is from the Timp.  Doodletown is a great historic location that I could have spent more time exploring.  I did get to explore one of the cemeteries, which was extremely quiet and peaceful.  I missed finding the Cornel mine on the way up, which gives me an excuse to hike the circuit again.

For historical hikes, I completed the Pine Meadow Loop, which circumvents Pine Meadow Lake and uses some unmarked trails.  This hike did not get written up and was not posted on the blog.  There are numerous historical markers as you go around Pine Meadow Lake.  At the end of an unmarked trail you can find the ruins of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. And, further unmarked trails will take you to the Conklin cemetery.  The Conklin family owned much of this land early in the 1900s.  A note on Pine Meadow:  The Reeves Nature Center lots fill up quickly.  This area is popular and sees LOTS of people – get there early.

I don’t have a name for the hike for the picture above.  I started at Car Pond Mountain, and hiked to Parker Cabin Mountain, Tom Jones Mountain, and finally climbed Black Rock Mountain. While walking the ridge behind Black Rock Mountain, I climbed over the highest point in Harriman State Park.  The picture above is looking East from atop Parker Cabin Mountain.  This hike brought me to two shelters in the park which had great views.  Climbing Black Rock Mountain had the steepest ascent, but had the best views at the top.

The last of my favorite hikes was a circuit hike I took using predominantly the Suffern Bearn Montain trail and the Timp-Torne trail. The Timp-Torne trail had some incredible views; both west over the Palisades, and east towards Bear Mountain.  Also, there was some good scrambling along the trail that provided some unexpected fun.

A note on Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks.  After completing the Pine Meadow Loop hike, I bought the book Harriman Trails.  I’ve mentioned it before in prior posts, but it bears (no pun intended) repeating.  This is a great resource on the history and the trails/roads/mines/sites within the two parks.  This is not a guide, per se, you won’t use it PLAN hikes.  It is invaluable for giving color and history of the hikes you WILL take.  It was one of the best books I read over the year, and I refer to it when hiking in the parks.  The authors have a long history with the New York New Jersey Trail conference and have great familiarity with the trails in the parks.

Wrapping this up:  My shortest hike was a hike at Garret Mountain Reservation at just 3.1 miles.  The longest hike was at High Mountain Park Preserve at 11.17 miles and was where I saw the bear.  I set new personal records for elevation gain at Mt. Wittenberg, and highest elevation at Plateau Mountain, both in the Catskills.

I already have some ideas for 2023, so the planning has begun.  Hopefully the weather will cooperate.  I hope you enjoy wherever the trail takes you in 2023.

Bear Mountain State Park – West Mountain

Seven Lakes Drive lot

Park Site

Trail Map – Official, though I used the NY NJ Conference maps

Hike Distance – 5.48 miles

Trails – 1777 West (white, w/red 1777), Appalachian, Suffern-Bear Mountain (yellow), Timpe-Torne (blue), Fawn (white w/red F)

Mountains – West Mountain

My Map:

It was 22 degrees at the trailhead, but, because I haven’t been out in a couple of weeks, I was heading out.  There was no snow on the ground, though I had microspikes with me, lesson learned from a couple of weeks ago.  I was the third car in the parking lot, though by the time I finished up, the lot was full.  I saw only one or two other people on the trails until I got to the Timp-Torne where I ran into some very large groups.  And, while I was mostly in Bear Mountain State Park, I crossed over into Harriman briefly.

The 1777 W trail has a spot where the tops of the trees have been snapped off.  It’s pretty surreal.  At this point the trail is pretty level, and there are a couple of brooks to rock hop.

Here’s a shot looking back.  The water seemed higher than I would have expected.

After turning onto the Suffern-Bear Mountain trail, the trail started to climb, ultimately making its way up West Mountain.  There were a couple of spots that were pretty steep.  Like this one.  And it was 8:50 in the morning when I reached this spot.  Nothing like a good workout to start the day.

The picture is deceiving, the terrain is almost straight up; you can sort of tell by the trees.  And it was cold, though all the uphill kept me warm.

Needle ice

The scramble led to a false summit of West Mountain.  At the top was a vernal pond, with a layer of ice on the top.

From here it was on to the top of West Mountain.  At the junction with the Timp-Torne trail, I went left to visit the West Mountain shelter.  This shelter is a little bigger than the other shelters I’ve seen, the sleeping platform goes the width of the shelter.  However, the shelter was packed (not with campers); there were two large groups of hikers that were milling about.  The shelter has a great south-looking view; with the Timp right in front of you, and clear view of New York City.  I took some pictures, then headed out.

The Timp is the mountain on the left – I’ve been there – viewing the shelter.
West Mountain Shelter

From this point I took the Timp-Torne trail north.  The map showed multiple viewpoints along the way, and they did not disappoint.  There were views on both sides of the trail – sometimes looking west, and sometimes looking Northeast at Bear Mountain.

Here’s one of the first viewpoints.

The next viewpoint, though, was my favorite.  It overlooks the southern portion of the Anthony Wayne recreation area parking lot, and looks west into Harriman state park.  The Appalachian trail junctions here.

While sitting here for a minute eating a snack, I realized my phone was buzzing with incoming texts and mail.  Odd, I thought, because I lost reception when I pulled into the parking lot.  So I sent out a few texts and noticed the signal strength was almost 100%.  Upon looking around, I figured out why:

You would never see that in the summer, with all the leaves on the trees.  That’s the Palisades Interstate Parkway just behind the tower.  The parking lot is just to the right.

Here’s a shot of Bear Mountain from the right side of the trail.

Walking the ridge along the top of West Mountain had great views, and not just from the viewpoints.  I was lucky in that all the leaves were down; I imagine it’s tougher to see in the summer.

The last scramble for the day occurred at this point.  You have to squeeze between the rocks.  Right in the center of the picture, the trail turns right and goes straight up the small cliff.  It’s easily doable up.  I’m not sure I would want to try it down.  There must have been a trail that went around the climb, because I could hear people, but I couldn’t see them.

From here I took the Timp-Torne to the Fawn trail, then back to the car.  There is a good scramble downwards (or up, if you’re going the other direction) just before the junction with the Fawn trail.  This was a really great hike for views – and the viewpoints will be great all year round.  With the leaves down there were some extra views.

Blazes:

Hiked:  12/10/2022

Harriman State Park – Almost Perpendicular, Elbow Brush, Claudius Smith Den, Black Ash Swamp

Park Site

Trail Map – official – I used the NY NJ Trail Conference Map 118

Distance: 6.61 miles

Trails:  Blue Disc (blue circle on white), Ramapo-Dunderberg (red circle on white), Kakiat (white)

Mountains:  Pound Mountain, Big Pine Hill

My Map:

It was 22 degrees at the trailhead.  I hadn’t been out in over a week due to rain, and I have re-hiked some trails over the past couple of weeks.  I wanted to get back into Harriman.  While it rained at home the night before, I did not consider the amount of snow that would be on the ground in the park.  This fact may, or may not, play into the hike.  None the less, I started with hat, gloves and jacket over the fleece.  In the shade, it remained cold; however the sun felt great.

Snow was still on the ground, and did not disappear until the sun was high overhead and above the surrounding mountains. I started out on the Blue Disc trail.

False Turkey Tail

The first stop of the day was Almost Perpendicular, a rock scramble to a cliff.  There’s nothing like scrambling before 9:00 in the morning.

The views, though, were spectacular.

The Reeves Meadow Visitor Center can be seen in the distance.  It’s (relatively) empty in this picture, I’m sure it was a madhouse later in the day.

Lots of Needle Ice, and it made a crunching sound when walking on it.

After Almost Perpendicular, it was a fairly level walk until Elbow Brush.  There was lots of icicles and melting snow on  Elbow Brush.

I liked Elbow Brush, it’s similar to the Lemon Squeezer, further to the north.  Here’s a picture looking into the rocks.  It’s not the best picture due to the position of the sun.  Ultimately, you enter where the middle shadow falls.

Here’s what it looks like inside:

Elbow Brush

After Elbow Brush, the trail heads to Claudius Smith Den. While rounding a curve I almost ran into this guy.

The Blue Disc trail junctions with the Tuxedo-Mt. Ivy trail at Claudius Smith Den.  Claudius Smith Den is allegedly where the outlaw Smith and his gang hid out during the Revolutionary War.  There is a cave a short way down the Tuxedo-Mt. Ivy trail, but I did not investigate.  There was a group that was camping (probably right in front of the cave) – and probably illegally – and I did not want any part of it.  If I do the hike again, I’ll go to the cave.  Here’s a shot of the rocks.  I scrambled to the top using the Blue Disc Trail.

The view from the top:

And here’s where I get in trouble.

At the top I stopped to talk with a group of women – we had been leapfrogging each other since the parking lot.  They were taking the Tuxedo-Mt. Ivy trail to the right for a more gentle trip back to the car.  Originally, I had planned on the Tuxedo-Mt. Ivy trail to the left, but looking at the map, that would get me back to the car in about an hour.  Too short.  Looking at the map, I could finish the Blue Disc trail then come back down the Ramapo-Dunderberg and add about another mile and a half.  That felt right.  The women at the top were not going to risk the downhill (off Big Pine Hill) but mentioned that since I had trekking poles, it “shouldn’t be that bad.”  Shouldn’t be that bad?  I’ve always gotten in trouble when I extend or change my plans.

Side note:  I am in the middle of reading Harriman Trails, by William J. Myles and Daniel Chazin.  If you have ever read the trail descriptions on the NY NJ Trail Conference page, they were likely written by Daniel Chazin.  The book is excellent (I highly recommend) but it is more a guide and historical reference.  Do not get the book thinking it will help plan routes.  It can add color, but it is not for planning.  It has an excellent history of the trails, roads, lakes that make up Harriman and Bear Mountain state parks.  Sure, there are trail descriptions, but there is so much more.  The following sentence concerning the Blue Disk trail stands out to me:  “Blue Disc now descends steadily, for much of the way over bare, sloping rocks that are often slippery in winter.”  I don’t know how I missed that, or didn’t retain it when I read it.

Here’s a shot looking off the back of Big Pine Hill, with Black Ash Swamp in the center.  This is before the downhill.  The swamp is right behind the bare tree in the center of the picture.

You’ll notice there is still snow on the ground.  And those rocks?  They were slippery.  Many coated with ice.  The leaves didn’t help.  In the summer, this is a great downhill.  Snow covered?  Not so much.  It was here that I remembered why I tend to head south during the colder months, to avoid this situation.  I have microspikes on the way.

The trail comes to the southern end of Black Ash Swamp.

Blue Disc ends at Tri-Trail Corner, where the Ramapo-Dunderberg and Victory trail all converge.

Tri-Trail Corner

I was going to take the Ramapo-Dunderberg back from this spot, but it looked like I would have to backtrack.  Ramapo-Dunderberg crosses a stream, and the rocks didn’t look inviting.  Neither did the water.  I fell a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t want to make that mistake again.  Conveniently, the Blue Disc trail uses a natural dam to cross the water.

The swamp is on the other side of the rocks.

A little spur trail connects the Blue Disc with the Ramapo-Dunderberg. I have been on the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail a bunch of times, though not in this section.  It was mostly a woods road.  The trail does go past the Black Ash mine, though I didn’t find the mind (and wasn’t bushwacking in the snow on a hill to find it.)

I junctioned with the Kakiat trail to head back to my car.

Not my car, but close.

This section of the Kakiat is mostly woods road.  Part of it is near Route 87, so there is some road noise.  It eventually turns away and heads back towards the Blue Disc trail.

Annoying Insects – 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  11/19/2022

Harriman State Park – Car Pond Mountain, Parker Cabin Mountain, Tom Jones Mountain, Black Rock Mountain

Park Site

Trail Map – official – I used the NY NJ Trail Conference Map 118

Distance – 7.07

Trails – White Bar (white), Triangle (yellow), Ramapo-Dunderberg (Red dot on White), Dunning (yellow), Nurian (White)

Mountains – Car Top, Parker Cabin, Tom Jones, Black Rock

My Map

After getting clobbered by chiggers last week in the Pine Barrens, I thought I would return to the mountains.  Certainly, I thought the temperatures would have killed off most of the bugs.  It was 37 at the trailhead, though I passed through areas were it was down to 34.  And, with the sun out, the temperatures rose into the 50s making for a perfect day.  There were sporadic groups of hikers out, though I saw a scout troop heading up Tom Jones Mountain, likely making for the shelter.  And there was a scout troop at the Bold Rock shelter.

The hike starts by going up Car Pond Mountain from the parking lot.

Then, there is a big descent that drops lower in altitude than the parking lot.  There is a nice view right off the back of Car Pond Mountain.

I took the Triangle trail east to head up Parker Cabin Mountain.  Right near the top was a solo hammock camper – he mentioned that it got near freezing at night.  At the top was brilliant sunshine.  (For the first part of the hike I was in the shade as the sun had not risen above the mountains.)  The view from the top of Parker Cabin is expansive.

From here I took a jaunt over to Tom Jones Mountain.  Between each of the mountains was a descent, which meant an ascent to the next mountain.  Usually, the elevation gain was not too bad.

The Tom Jones Shelter is at the end of a spur trail off the top of Tom Jones Mountain.

The view from the shelter is pretty nice too.

From there, I found the top of Tom Jones Mountain and had a snack.  The sun was pretty warm, and views were almost 360 degrees.

Walking across the top of Tom Jones mountain I could see where I was headed next, Black Rock Mountain.  This would be the only mountain where there would be significant elevation loss, and a climb back up.  The trail goes down to the road, then climbs back up Black Rock Mountain.  This picture sort shows the detail.  At the end of the rock, the trail drops down significantly.  In about a half hour, I would be standing at the top of the mountain in the center of the picture.

The climb up from the roadway is pretty steep in sections, with one or two rocks to scramble up.  At the top I reached my favorite viewpoint of the day, with 270 degrees of view.

After sitting for a while and having another snack, I had a decision to make.  The Nurian trail leaves from here and would get me back to my car in about a half hour.  However, about a half hour up the trail would be the Bold Rock shelter, and I could loop back to my car adding about two miles.

I took the long route.

Walking the top of Black Rock Mountain is walking mostly on exposed rock.  The Black Rock lookout is just as nice a view as the others.  This would be my highest point of elevation in the hike.  Most of the trail looks like this (until it heads back into the forest.)

I found the Bold Rock shelter.  It appears to be the same size as the Tom Jones shelter, though doesn’t have a view right in front.  A short hike to the back leads to a view, that will be better when the leaves fall.

Here’s a shot of the bear hang.  There was a bear hang at the Tom Jones shelter too.  Apparently, bears have learned to check the shelters for food.

Behind the shelter a scout troop was setting up camp.  And closer to the view, there were others that had pitched tents.  It would be busy at this shelter tonight.

Many many years ago I backpacked in the snow in Harriman, and we stayed at a bigger shelter.  I remember all of us fitting in the shelter, so it could not have been either of these two.

I picked a good weekend, the colors were out.  I’m not sure it is peak, but there were spots of vibrant colors all around.

Compare the views from two weeks ago to get a good idea of how the color has changed.

Ticks – 0

Lanternflies – 0

Chiggers – 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  10/22/2022

Bear Mountain State Park – Bald Mountain, The Timp, Doodletown

Park Site

Trail Map – official, though I used the NY NJ Conference maps

Hike Distance – 6.73 miles

Trails – Cornell Mine (blue), Ramapo-Dunderberg (red dot on white), 1777 (white w/red 1777), 1777E (white w/red 1777E)

Mountains – Bald Mountain, The Timp

My Map:

It was a balmy 49 at the trailhead, with not may cars at the pullout on 9W.  By the time I got back he temperatures were in he middle 50s and the pullout was packed.  A perfect day.  I took off my fleece on the way up Bald Mountain, for the steep section, but I put it back on up top.  It was cold and and windy at the top.

The trail starts out paralleling the Doodletown Brook which had some nice cascades.  I went off trail once to get a picture, but you could hear the brook until the trail turned away.

After a short climb, and turn away from the brook, you can see the mountains (and the steep climb) in front of you.  Dunderberg is on your left, Bald is on your right.

The climb up to the top of Bald Mountain is steep.  Yes, there are switchbacks, but even the switchbacks are steep.  I stopped to take off the fleece because it was such a workout.  It’s not quite the climb as it was up the Devil’s Path to the top of Plateau Mountain, but there were some steep sections.  Once you get to the junction with the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail, the climbing is mostly done for the day.

The top of Bald Mountain had some great views.

Anthony’s Nose on the right.  Bear Mountain Bridge in the center.
Bear Mountain. Perkins Tower is on the left.
West Mountain
Common Dittany

The trail off Bald Mountain was pleasant.

I wasn’t planning on climbing the Timp, but when I looked at the map, I didn’t realize it was as close as it was.  And I wouldn’t have to climb much.  I called an audible and decided to go for it.  The Timp is in Harriman State Park, which is connected to Bear Mountain State Park.  It WAS a short trip.  And the elevation gain wasn’t that much.  But the views were fantastic.  Again, it was colder and windy, but so worth it.  I could see people at the West Mountain shelter across the valley.

West Mountain

I made my way back to the 1777 trail, which is the path the British took when they headed to Doodletown to attack Colonist forts during the Revolutionary War.  The path is wide most of the time, and becomes a paved road once you arrive at Doodletown.

You’ll know you have arrived at Doodletown when you reach this structure, left over from a church camp.

Fall is coming.

In the middle of Doodletown, I found one of the old cemeteries. It was very quiet and peaceful, with not a lot of light.  This particular cemetery is still used, there are stones with modern dates on them.  There are some stones that go back to the middle-1800s.

American Astors

This was probably my favorite non-Catskill hike of the year.  The views were great, the climb was not too long, the weather was perfect.  I’d definitely do this hike again.

Ticks – 0

Lanternflies – 0

Blazes

Hiked: 10/8/2022

Indian Head Wilderness – Mount Plateau

Park Site

Trail Map – official, I used the NY NJ Trail Conference, map 141

Hike Distance – 6.6 or 7.4

Trail – Devil’s Path (red)

Mountain – Plateau Mountain

My Map:

There will not be a lot of pictures for this one.  This was another great hike with the Monmouth County Park System.  There are not many pictures due to:  the quick pace that we moved at, and the unrelenting uphill for the first part of the hike.  In my map, we started at the upper left.  The first 1.3 miles was uphill at a steep grade.  You can see that in how many contour lines we crossed, and how close together those lines are.

I’ve listed two mileages for the hike distance.  According to the hike leader (and the NY/NJ Trail conference map, the route we hiked was 7.4 miles.  I added up all the distances listed and came up with 7.4 miles.  However, my GPS track showed 6.6 miles, and lines up with other sites on the internet, including this one (see the Notch Lake description.)  I get that different GPS apps can arrive at different totals.  But how can GPS differ so significantly from the maps?  Anyone with information, please leave an answer in the comments.  All summer I have been baking off AllTrails and Gaia and have seen wildly different results.

The first picture comes from the first viewpoint, Orchard Point, atop the brutal climb from Notch Lake and Devil’s Tombstone Campground.  That climb is STEEEEP and LOOOOONG.  It is well worth the rest at the viewpoint.  And for my money, this was the best view of the day.  After scrambling up the rock, or climbing around it, the view you will see looks off towards Hunter Mountain.  It’s my favorite as there is nothing but trees and mountains.

From here to the summit is a ridge walk.  There might be 100 feet in elevation gain for the next two plus miles.  A typical view looks like:

We stopped for lunch two tenths of a mile past the summit at an over look that looks at Sugarloaf Mountain.

After lunch, it was back on the ridge retracing our steps.

We got back to Orchard Point overlook and rested for a few minutes before we started that steep descent back down.

Here’s a picture of the rock at the overlook.  On the way up, I went around it, since there was a nice trail there.  Going down, I shimmied down the rock.  It was much easier down than up; and I suppose if you are taller, it might be easier going up.

Back at the parking lot I took a couple of shots of Notch Lake.

Ticks – 0

Lanternflies – 0

Blazes

Hiked: 9/24/2022

Slide Mountain Wilderness – Mt. Wittenberg

Park Site

Trail Map – official, I used map 143 of the NY NJ Trail Conference

Hike Distance – 7.61 miles

Trails – Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide Trail (red), also known as the Burroughs Range Trail.

Montain – Mt. Wittenberg

My Map:

I started this hike from the Woodland Valley Campground and Day Use area.  It cost $6 to park in the lot for the day.  The bigger bonus is, I found a place to camp so I can climb some of the other mountains and not have to drive back the same day.  That was brutal.

I got to the parking lot a little before 9, paid my fee, and headed up.  Right away, this trail heads up.  Here’s a shot of the trail leading up to the trail register.

The trail is like that most of the way up.  There are some “flatter” sections, but they are only long enough for you to catch your breath and get ready for the next climb.

Here’s a shot of an obscured viewpoint, it’s probably much nicer in the late fall, winter, and early spring.

Artist Bracket

There are a couple of smaller scrambles before the fun really begins.

The trail junctions with the yellow blazed Terrace Mountain trail, which heads to Terrace Mountain and the lean-to.  The next junction is with the blue-blazed Phonecia East Branch trail.

After this the fun begins.  I probably should have stowed my poles, as there are numerous spots where you need both hands.  And don’t look down.

One of my favorite signs in the Catskills.

Reaching the top gives you a huge view looking mostly southeast.  The large body of water is the Ashokan Reservoir.  Here are three pictures looking left to right.

It was gorgeous up top, around 75 degrees.  And it was fairly crowded.

There were two sections coming up that were kind of tricky, and I had been thinking of them the entire time at the top.  So, I headed back down.  And blew right through those two sections.  Here’s a look at one of them.  Once you get behind the tree, the trail goes right, and it’s a pretty steep drop off the trail.

Once past the two trail junctions from before, it was smooth sailing all the way down.

Fortunately, the trail went around this rock.

Leaves are definitely down early this year.

Crossing the bridge back to the campground.

It was only .8 miles to Cornell.  Maybe I’ll try it from Slide.

Ticks – 0

Lanternflies – 0

Blazes:

Hiked: 9/10/2022