Morristown National Historic Park / Jockey Hollow – Blue, Yellow, and Red

Park Site

Trial Map

Hike Distance: 6.47 miles

Trails:  (in order) Blue (Old Camp Road, Outer Loop, New York Brigade), Yellow, Red (Primrose Brook) – The Grand Loop Trail crosses over or coexists on some of these trails

My Map:

I call this the Unfinished Business hike, as I attempted this one a couple of years ago and did not get to finish due to seeing Noah’s Ark float by.  Today would be a different story.  It was absolutely perfect to start out; 58 degrees, and I was first in the parking lot.  When I finished there were open spaces and the temperature climbed to 68 – you really could not ask for better weather.

I decided to re-hike the Blue trail, then pick up my original plans from last year.  Like the prior hike, the trail surface was mostly wide dirt trails, with very minimal rocks making for great walking.  All trail junctions had trail maps, with a “you are here” marker.  I had a trail map this time.

Ghost Pipes

I reached the viewpoint where Stark’s Brigade camped.  The table is gone, but there is still a bench to make use of.

Monument to Stark’s Brigade

Much of this hike was devoted to history, as you cannot escape it in this park.  There are interpretive signs all over with much detail on Washington’s camp and the severity of the winter they faced.  New Jersey has lots of Revolutionary War history, but this was one area I was not the most familiar with; and it was nice to be immersed in the surroundings.

Brambles – with berries

I took off down the New York Brigade trail headed towards where I had to cut the hike short previously.  I reached Cat Swamp pond in bright sunny conditions and noticed the temperatures were starting to rise.  At least, the pond had a great view this time.

Cat Swamp Pond

There were lots of bullfrogs making noise.

This next picture does not really show the scale, but the trees are absolutely huge here.

While driving in in the morning, heading toward the Trail Center parking, I passed a tree which had recently fallen (been hit by lightning?)  As luck would have it, the yellow trail passed right by.

I reached the soldier’s huts, which was part of my destination years ago.  The huts are all replicas but are built on the site of actual huts, and are constructed to pretty close specifications.  You can go in and wonder around them.  It’s interesting to picture and imagine living there well over 200 years ago.

(the huts are in the shadows of the trees, it was still pretty early at the time of this picture.)

The Yellow trail had one steep(ish) climb through some overgrowth, and that was the extent of climbing.  There were other climbs on the Blue trail, but nothing really steep, and mostly gradual.  After the huts, the Yellow trail parallels Cemetery Road, and alternates between overgrowth and dirt trail.  I had been sent a link to a great (short) video called “Why I Hike.”  And while I have not endeavored a long or multi-day hikes, the video speaks to reasons for getting out on the trail, of any length.  It was at this point on the Yellow trail (before reaching Wick Farm) that I had time to ponder the video and the questions it posed.

Upon reaching Wick Farm, I had to break my thoughts and figure out where the trail went.  As usual, I overthought it, and the answer was much more simple than I made it out to be.

I made it back to the car, and it was only 11:00.  It had been a great hike, but I still wanted more.  Checking the map, I figured I would add the 1.3 mile Primrose Brook loop trail.

This is a nice trail that crosses over the brook numerous times, both on rocks and bridges.  I startled a Great Blue Heron that was wading in the brook, and he startled me with his size.

Scarlet Bee Balm

Overall, this was a great hike.  I’d like to come back and hike the Grand Loop Trail at some point, and that would probably complete all the trails.  After changing at the car I drove to the visitor’s center which was closed the last time I was here (no power) and took a walk around the interior.  They have nice interpretive displays about what I saw on the walk, and a really cool video describing the history.  And, I got my cancellation.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  7/31/2021

Long Pond Ironworks State Park / Norvin Green State Forest – Horse Pond Mountain, Lake Sonoma, Overlook Rock

Park Site(s):  Long Pond Ironworks State ParkNorvin Green State Forest

Trail Map(s):  Long Pond Ironworks State ParkNorvin Green State ForestRevised trails

Hike Distance: 8.19 miles

Trails:  (in order)  Burnt Meadow (green), Highlands (teal), Stonetown Circular (red triangle), Lake Sonoma (orange), Manaticut (yellow), Overlook Rock (white), Tapawingo (blue), Burnt Meadow (green)

Mountain(s):  Horse Pond Mountain, Mount Harrison, Long Pond Hill

My Map:

What a day.  Temperatures were in the low 80s with lots of sunshine.  I had been to Norvin Green State Forest before, but I hiked the southern trails.  And, I had (unknowingly) been to Long Pond Ironworks State Park before when I hiked the Stonetown Circular trail.  I ended up hiking a little over a mile on the Stonetown Circular trail today and it was nice to see a familiar section of the trail.

Of note, there are not as many pictures as normal.  I had read that this hike would be one of solitude, except around Lake Sonoma.  However, when I reached the pull-out parking lot, it was already packed.  Luckily, I found a space.  But I would soon learn that a large group was meeting up for a hike.  And they were loud, and not making any effort to hide that fact.  I took off and hoped they would stay behind.  However, they caught me at the top of Mount Harrison.  They took a break, as their drill sergeant really pushed them up to the top.  I took off, and thought I heard them once more, but never saw them again.

Brittlegills

From where I parked I took Burnt Meadow up to Horse Pond Mountain.  Horse Pond Mountain has been on my list a while so it was good to find a good route to get here.  I had heard the views of Monksville Reservoir were impressive, and they were; however, there was lots of foliage And I couldn’t see as much as I would have liked.

From there, it was south on the Highlands trail.

The Highlands Trail goes straight up Mount Harrison, no switchbacks, no real curves; just straight up hill.  I remembered when I hiked the Stonetown Circular trail that Mount Harrison would be the fifth peak you climbed.  And it was brutal.  It was no less brutal going up the Highlands trail.  I stopped for a good couple of minutes to get something to drink and cool down.  It was neat being in a familiar place and knowing this short section of the trail.

Ah Jersey, you don’t disappoint

There were lots of mushrooms and fungus about.  I found it odd to find these Ghost Pipes in broad daylight.

Not one, but TWO cars off the trail in Jersey.  Where else.  (Of course, I had seen both of these before.  Still.)

Just before meeting the Lake Sonoma trail, I went through a small wetlands and almost stepped on this guy.

The Lake Sonoma trail meets the Stonetown Circular trail at a section of Burnt Meadow Road that is closed to vehicular traffic.  I remember this junction from my last hike, and it was off into the woods instead of continuing on the Stonetown Circular trail.

The Lake Sonoma trail headed over a large hill.  There were portions of the trail where I got the distinct feeling I was the first person on the trail in weeks.  A couple of times the trail just disappeared.  Excuse my finger in this picture.

Where did the trail go?

I just kept walking towards blazes, and it all seemed to work out.  This happened a couple of times, and I thought I would be covered with ticks. (Spoiler, I wasn’t.)  Most of the berries I saw were past their prime.

Eventually, I made my way to Lake Sonoma; where I thought I would run into more people as the lake is more easily accessible from a lot close by.  However, I didn’t see a sole.

There was a nice breeze by the lake, so I hung around a bit.  After, it was up to Overlook Rock.  Where the Overlook Rock Trail is joined by the Manaticut Trail, you will come to a sizable rock in front of you, a little off trail.  Scramble up, it’s only about four feet or so…but then you will have a huge view.  The rock drops down quite a bit and is really quite big – but you don’t see that from the trail.  Lunch was served here.

After lunch, it was north on the Overlook Rock and Tapawingo trail.  A word of caution here….there were spiderwebs EVERYWHERE.  I can’t tell you how many times I walked through them.  Fortunately, a park ranger got one of my attempts on camera.

No, I didn’t actually run into the spike trap, but I could have.

Eastern American Jack O Lantern
Striped Wintergreen

One complaint I had is that the Tapawingo trail isn’t the best marked in this section.  I know that the NY NJ Trail Conference is building some trails and re-blazing others.  But there are a couple of spots that are downright confusing.  There are significant blow downs in the area, and one or two areas that are vastly overgrown.  More than once I needed to pull out GPS.

Just before merging with Burnt Meadow (which led to the car) there was a large rock that the trail paralleled and eventually climbed up onto – with very nice views for the short walk.

After finishing the hike I stopped at the Long Pond Ironworks State Park Museum which is run by the Friends of Long Pond Ironworks.  Secretly, I was hoping they had vending machine to get something to drink.  They didn’t.  But the museum is neat and I definitely learned something about the area, the history, and certainly who many of the trails were named after.

I hope to come back and see the more historical side to Long Pond Ironworks State Park.

Ticks: 0 (And I’m still shocked by that)

Blazes:

Hiked:  7/24/2021

 

Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area – Four Birds Trail – Hawkwatch Overlook

Park Site:  I couldn’t find a web site for the Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  5.53 Miles

Trails:  Four Birds Trail (White), Flyway Trail (Orange), Hibernia Brook Trail (also Orange)

My Map:

Rain was supposed to wash out most of the weekend, so I took off Friday to do this hike.  It was hot, in the 90s, with greater than 70% humidity.  By the time I reached the overlook, I was drenched.  Rain did not move in until later Saturday night – oh well, one less day at work.

This is definitely not a challenging hike with lots of vertical, though the heat and humidity added to the difficulty.  My goal was to see the bat cave (yes – bat cave), the cemetery and the overlook.  I thought I might initially extend the hike, maybe up to Split Rock Reservoir, but upon reaching the overlook, and realizing it was so hot, I decided to make a respectable loop, and not push it.  Wise decision.

The bat cave is not far down the trail, maybe a quarter of a mile.  It was easy to find, though not obvious at first.  As I’ve mentioned, it was in the 90s.  As I was walking along, I passed a small junction, and the temperature easily dropped 20 degrees.  Turning, I found:

So, I took the trail.  (Bear in mind, if this were Halloween, and or near dark, I never make this turn.)

I was greeted with the following phenomenon.

Probably one of the coolest non-viewpoint photos I’ve taken

This was originally a mine opening for the Andover mine tunnel, and allegedly goes pretty far back into the mountain.  This area of Hibernia was at one time the Hibernia Iron Mine, one of New Jersey’s largest iron mines.  There are many holes, some very deep, and because of that there are areas that are fenced off.  Bats took up residence in this tunnel, and a viewing platform goes into more detail.  I did not see any bats while there, though given the time of day, I really did not expect to see any.  Over the years the population has dwindled due to disease.  Further, the entranced has been barricaded to allow the bats access and keep people out.

It’s really cool there (pun intended.)  As air rushes out of the cave it immediately contacts the hot humid air and turns to fog, hence the really neat pictures.

I stood around for a  while, and noted that I would come back and “cool off” just before getting in my car.

Trails in the Wildlife Area are really nice and do get used by mountain bikes.  There are some rocky sections, but there are also some very smooth and easy walking sections.

It rained the day before, so lots of fungus about.

Red Chanterelles
Ghost Pipes – seriously – these things are freaky looking
Blushers
Flat Crep

Be careful hiking here, there are lots of side trails and woods roads.  Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s there existed a thriving mining town in the area.  Some of the woods roads are still used.  At one point the trail meanders on top of a mining berm.

(The leaves cover the ditch, to the left of the berm.)

When the trail junctioned with the Flyaway trail, I made a right, and walked about 300 yards to the Hawkwatch Overlook.  Absolutely amazing views.  I’ve read that you can make out New York City on a clear day, and today was clear; but it was too humid, and the foliage blocks out the view.

American Trumpet Vine
Staghorn Sumac

It was too hot to continue to Split Rock Reservoir, which was a potential.  I took the Flyway Trail (only a mile or so to a parking lot) and then made a left.  Partway down the Flyway trail I found this:

No idea. Your guess is as good as mine.

At the parking lot, I made a left, yet the trail blazes stayed the same color.  Same trail?  The map called this trail the Hibernia Brook trail.

I took the trail to a junction with the Four Birds Trail (which I had passed earlier) in order to find the cemetery – which I missed on the way to the Overlook.

This was a really neat little cemetery, off nestled in the woods.  I wandered around a bit, but tended to stay on the main paths as the small paths were overgrown and screamed of Tick City.  Why a cemetery in the woods?  As this area was a thriving mining community, a cemetery would not be out of the ordinary.  I found some old stones, and there appeared to be markers that have been well taken care of.  While snapping pictures I noticed that it was exceptionally quiet, and I could have stayed a while if it were not so hot.  I’m glad I took the time to come back and find this area.

The Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area is really nice and I recommend a trip.  The next time I come, I’ll look to do the northern section of the area, and possibly link up with Farney State Park and Split Rock Reservoir.

Ticks:  3

Blazes:

Hiked:  7/16/2021

 

Worthington State Forest / Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area – Raccoon Ridge

[I took a picture of the trail kiosk, but for some reason it wasn’t saved.]

Park Site

Trail Map:  here, but I used map 120 from this set.

Hike Distance:  12.1 miles

Trails:  Garvey Springs (orange), Appalachian (White), Buckwood (turquoise), Coppermine (red), Kaiser Spur (blue/red), Kaiser (blue)

Mountains:  Mount Mohican

My map:

Rain was supposed to come in later in the day (it didn’t) so I thought I would try and beat the rain, knowing I probably won’t get out next week.  There were a couple of times that dark clouds hung around for a few minutes, but I didn’t get wet.  And it was an otherwise perfect day with temperatures in the high 70s with low humidity.

To get to my starting point, take the last exit in New Jersey on Route 80 (heading west), and wait at the light.  It’s a long one, as it controls the portion of Old Mine Road that is one lane.  Incidentally, as I drove by the Mt. Tammany lot, I could see that it was bedlam already just before 9:00 a.m.  I parked in the Douglas lot, which is after the driveway to the Worthington office – about four miles from the light on Old Mine Road.

To get up on the ridge I took the Garvey Springs trail which is short (1.2 miles) but steep; only leveling out where it joins the Rockcores trail briefly.  As the trail climbs there is a nice creek to your right.

It rained the night before, so I would see all kinds of mushrooms and flora.

Once Garvey Springs junctions with the Appalachian Trail, I took a right to head to Sunfish Pond, which I hadn’t been to in about 30 years.  I took the Buckwood trail to a rock outcropping that had great views of the pond – and you could see where people had walked down to the pond to swim.  After climbing Garvey Springs, it certainly would have been refreshing to jump in.

I rested there for a good twenty minutes.  It was back to the AT to head towards Raccoon Ridge.

Typical AT

Both sides of the trail were lined with all kinds of berry bushes.  I admit, I helped myself to some big fat blueberries.

Bolette

You get an idea of the quantity of berries in this picture:

Deerberries

Raccoon Ridge had some great views, both north and south.  South overlooked the reservoirs, and north had distant views of the Delaware River.

After hiking off Raccoon Ridge you enter the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation area.  My plan was to reach Catfish Pond Gap (where I was two weeks ago) and take the Coppermine trail to make a loop.

As I mentioned, it was a great day, and I was passed by numerous through-hikers (some multiple times) as they made their way from Georgia to Maine.  They all commented on the great views, but all mentioned the rocks – all thinking they were done with the rocks after leaving Pennsylvania.

All the way to Catfish Pond Gap there were great views of Lower Yards Creek Reservoir.

The trail off the ridge was steep heading into the gap, and I was glad I was not coming back up this section of the trail.

I took a left onto the Coppermine trail.  After a little way I found the largest fungi I had ever seen.

Berkley’s Polypore

Right after the above picture was taken I was approached by a couple heading the opposite direction.  They asked how far I was going, because they had just seen three bears!  A mother and two cubs.  The bears immediately bolted into the woods.  They saw the bears beyond where I was turning, but now I kept my eyes open more than normal.  (Spoiler – I never did see them, it would have been cool.)

I took the Upper Kaiser Spur trail to connect from Coppermine to Kaiser (I would have come to the bear sighting location if I continued on Coppermine.  I thought about it, but my route was long to begin with.)  While the spur trail is short (less than a quarter of a mile) there were three stream crossings.  And the rhododendron were just starting to bloom.

The Kaiser trail is only about a mile (from this point – back to the AT) and mercifully is a long slow gradual incline; nothing steep like coming down the AT to the gap, or Garvey Spring.

Taking the AT back (towards Garvey Spring) you cross back into Worthington State Forest.

From there it was back to Garvey Spring and the descent down.  This was a long hike (longer than I normally do) and I was looking forward to getting back to the car.  The descent was grueling, especially late in the afternoon.

Garvey Spring is surreal as there are times you fell like you are in a sea of ferns.  Ferns as far as you can see.

This was a great hike, with a near miss on bears.  After having two successive trips in the Kittatinys, I’m ready for something a little different.

Ticks:  5  (There was lots of high grass.  Two ticks were found on my pack.)

Blazes:

Hiked:  7/4/2021

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area – Rattlesnake Swamp – Appalachian Trail

Park Site

Trail Map:  Here, but I used number 121 from the NY NJ Tail Conference

Hike Distance:  8.01 miles

Trails:  Appalachian (White), Rattlesnake Swamp (Orange)

Mountains:   Catfish Mountain

My Map:

It was supposed to rain later in the day, I was prepared for it.  It didn’t.  I wish it did.  It was oppressively hot and humid.  Heat and humidity lead to bad decision making, and I got greedy for miles.

Note:  I parked here, a pullout on Millbrook Road.  This was not the easiest to find, and bear in mind (with  Verizon) there is very little cell service in this area.  That’s kind of my point, I want to get away from civilization, but this was the first time that I had NO service.  There are a couple of pullouts on Millbrook Road, however, only the pullout for the Catfish Fire Tower has a gate (that I saw.)  If the pullout looks like the picture at the top, you’ll know you are at the coordinates I’ve linked to.  Google Maps in Satellite view shows the pullout, and some overflow pullouts.  (Don’t rely on your phone to look at the maps when driving around.) I was the second car at the trailhead, the first left as I was getting ready; and when I returned, there were two others.

This hike was classified Bon Jovi, it was Slippery When Wet.  Rain happened in early morning, and all rocks were extra slippery.  Fortunately there were no scrambles; there were plenty of steep sections, and it’s the AT, there are plenty of rocks.  I slipped more on this hike then ever before – I thanked my trekking poles and vowed to offer a sacrifice later.

From the pullout, walk down the woods road.  You’ll come to where the Appalachian Trail goes left (and to the tower.)  I continued a little further to reach the Rattlesnake Swamp Trail.

This is a great trail that skirts the edge of Rattlesnake Swamp.  The swamp will be on your right, the ridge that the AT follows will be on your left.  This trail is mostly dirt and roots, with some rocks.  Mountain Laurel was out, and there are a significant number of Rhododendron tunnels.  It will be another month for those blooms though.

Just one of the Rhododendron tunnels

Lots of Mountain Laurel in bloom.

The moist ground made for a lot of mushrooms, these were hard to photograph due to the humidity.

Mushrooms in the Pinwheel family

Ghost Pipes

While walking along, I startled this guy and he dove under a leaf.

Look in the center of this picture for yet another frog.

Before ascending the ridge to the Appalachian Trail, I took a little spur trail to the AMC Mohican Outdoor Center, a camping spot on the AT for through-hikers.  This looked pretty cool, and I wanted to cut through to see Catfish Pond up close, but there was a group of people in a class by the pond access.  I regret not getting a picture of the pond, it looked like a really nice spot.  The spur trail was all boards.

From there it was back to the Rattlesnake Swamp trail and a big climb to get up on the ridge.

As I got near the top, I thought I saw a limited viewpoint.

But

BOOM

20 Feet further down the trail:

Amazing views.  Fortunately it was a great day for views.  I’m not sure how I would feel with snow and ice at this location as it was a sheer drop off at the cliff’s edge.

It’s also here where I got greedy for miles.  The sensible thing to do would have been to make a left and head to the fire tower and my car for a nice loop.  However, I made a right and headed for Catfish Pond Gap along the Appalachian Trail.  This was a nice walk, except I had to descend into the gap.  That also meant, I had to climb back up to head back to the junction on the AT.  Brutal.

In the gap there was a nice stream to sit by, which was cool and shady – and it allowed me contemplate my last decision.  There were plenty of cars here, and I passed numerous people as I was descending; many of whom I caught up with on my way back.

Getting back up on the ridge was murder in the heat and humidity.  Once up on the ridge, it’s a pleasant walk.  There are some great views to your right as you head to the fire tower.  It’s easy to get lost in your thoughts as the walk it relatively flat.  Yes, there are plenty of rocks, but it’s the AT, and that comes with the territory.

On one such rock (which by this time had dried out) I went to step, heard a loud hiss, and used a pole to vault off the rock.

Not a rattler, and the jury is out on if it was a Copperhead.  The colors are right, but the markings are not.  I took a bunch of pictures, but let him be.  And I was certainly more aware of the rocks.

Eventually, I reached the Catfish Fire Tower.  Again, I didn’t climb.  There was a group of 8 or so that were at the picnic table – they all climbed.  And with some hilarity as well.

That’s 60 feet tall.  Supposedly, the views are awesome from the top.  I’ll take everyone’s word for it.

Deptford Pink

I’m really enjoying the various sections of the AT that I’ve been hiking.  Rattlesnake Swamp is a great trail that is quite different from the AT.  I saw a couple of big groups of people, but for the most part it was quiet and empty.  This is definitely an area worth checking out even if it is pretty remote.

Ticks:  0

Blazes:

Hiked:  6/19/2021

 

Mahlon Dickerson Reservation

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  6.35 miles

Trails:  Highlands Trail (teal), Pine Swamp (white), Blue, Ogden Mine Railroad (green)

My Map:

It was cloudy all through the hike, and at one point, I thought I was going to get rained on.  Luckily, that did not happen.  Mahlon Dickerson Reservation is a large Morris County park with lots of trails, camping, and the highest point in Morris  County.  I pulled into a basically empty parking lot, that was not full on my return.  I saw very few people on the trails.

I parked at the Saffin Pond lot, and took a spur trail to the Highlands Trail at the south end of the pond.  It must have rained the night before, or shortly before my arrival because the ground was damp, and I could hear the water falling from the canopy.  Trails were soft, but not overly muddy.

The Highlands Trail is being re-routed at the southern end of the pond.  At times it runs over the Yellow trail as well.

Wild Sasparila
Common Marsh Bed-Straw

All of the water crossings had bridges to help in the crossing.  By this bridge was one of the biggest Skunk Cabbages I’ve ever seen.

I made my way over to Headly Overlook, which had one of the two serious climbs on my hike.  On a clear day I should have been able to see Lake Hopatcon in the distance; I couldn’t today.  Further, there are lots of leaves on the trees, obscuring much of the view – it’s probably nicer in the fall, or early spring.  However, I could still see for quite a distance.

Lots of these guys out again:

Peasant: “Well, she turned me into a newt!
Sir Bedevere: A newt?”
Peasant: “… I got better.”
Chestnut Oak

Crossing the camping parking lot, I picked up the Pine Swamp trail.  This trail would have the second serious climb of the day, taking me to the highest point in Morris County.  There’s not a view at the top, but a cool sign marking the location.

Unfortunately, it is where I found my first tick of the day.

I did not follow the Pine Swamp trail further, but backtracked to the Blue.  The weather was getting darker, though all forecasts stated a zero percent chance of rain.  I did not really want to take the chance.

Where the blue trail junctions with the Ogden Mine Railroad there is a pond facing you.  I heard lots of frogs and crickets.  I didn’t see any turtles in the water – where I thought I might.

The Ogden Mine Railroad trail is flat and wide – and I did not see one blaze on it until the end.  (I could just barely make out a blaze going the other direction from the junction.)  However, you really can’t get lost on this – it’s pretty wide and very well defined.

For a brief minute you will be in Sussex County.  Once you cross back into Morris County, there will be water and wetlands on your left.  At one point Weldon Brook spills into Toomey’s pond.

Just before the trailhead, I ran into an old favorite.

Turkeytail

This is a really nice park, and I wish I were here on a better day weather-wise.  My only complaint:

Some trails are hikers only, some allow both horses and bikes.  I didn’t see any horses, I did see where bikes had been.  I wouldn’t mind coming back to camp here and hit some of the trails I did not hike on this trip.  If you come, make sure to wear long pants.

Ticks:  5

Blazes:

Hiked:  6/12/2021

Stokes State Forest – Culver’s Gap to Sunrise Mountain

Park Site

Trail Map:  park map, and NY/NJ Trail Conference map

Hike Distance:  10.68 miles

Trails:  Appalachian

My Map:

The day before this hike we received a storm that was biblical in nature.  It wasn’t long, but it was hard with lots of cloud to ground lightning.  I didn’t think much of it until I got to the trailhead parking, and wondered if I was going to be in for a lot of mud.  I needn’t have worried; while there were a couple of spots that were muddy, it was mostly soft dirt – which made walking extremely pleasant.  Rocks were wet; but with temperatures reaching into the 90s, by lunchtime most everything was dry.

This picture doesn’t really capture what the forest looked like.  It was early in the morning, with the sun out, the leaves were still wet, and it sparkled everywhere.

From the Culver’s Gap trailhead parking lot, there is a steep climb to get up onto the ridge.

Wild Geranium

There were lots of these guys scampering around, apparently enjoying the moist forest floor.  Once I reached the ridge, I saw less and less of them.

Red Eft

More Mountain Laurel was blooming.

Once on the ridge there is a great view southwest.

The ridge is pleasant, with a few ascents and descents, but nothing serious until you come to Sunrise Mountain.  Note,  Sunrise Mountain  is the second highest mountain in New Jersey.  (Sort by elevation.)   The Appalachian trail on the ridge makes for a great walk; I did see a bunch of section hikers during this time.

The first point of interest you will come to is the Culver’s Gap Lookout Tower, originally known as the Normanook Fire Tower.  You can climb the stairs, but unless it’s manned you can’t get into the top.  I didn’t even consider it.

There’s a great view out towards Blue Mountain.

There are three trail junctions before Sunrise Mountain, and plenty of views, some probably better after the foliage has fallen.  There are a couple of streams to rock hop, and at least one section with small boardwalks.

Throughout the whole trail I encountered lots of millipedes; way more than I am accustomed to seeing.

Wood Ear

After a small rock scramble you will come to the top of Sunrise Mountain.  A small concrete cairn holds the summit disc.

Here’s a shot looking south:

It was hot at this time, and I had lunch on a bench in the pavilion.

While there, I met a section hiker who was hiking the Appalachian trail in New Jersey.  He mentioned that he was in a shelter the night before when the storm hit, but he heard from hikers that were still on the ridge.  They said it was more than frightening.

The walk back was pretty uneventful other than it was oppressively hot.

Puddingstone – I didn’t expect to see this

As this was an out and back, I was essentially retracing my steps.  On the way TO Sunrise Mountain I passed a small spur trail, but I couldn’t see where it led.  On the way back, I decided to investigate.  It looked like it led to a viewpoint on the NY/NJ Trail conference map.  Sure enough, it did.  Probably the best view of the day.  I apologize for the picture, it was in the 90s at the time, and I was beat.

I hadn’t been in Stokes State Forest before, and I think the next time I come I may hike south on the Appalachian Trail.  Or, I may backpack to the shelter for a short trip.  The lot was packed when I arrived at 8:45, though there were still spots available.  When I returned to my car, the lot was fairly empty.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

You only need to know one

Hiked:  6/5/2021

Ramapo Mountain State Forest – Ruins and Wanaque Ridge Trail

Park Site

Trail Map:  Official, and revised NY/NJ Trail conference map (I used this)

Hike Distance: 7.32 Miles

Trails:  Ramapo Lake Spur (blue/black), Castle Loop (white), Cannonball (red circle w/ white C), Wanaque Ridge (orange), Ramapo Lake Loop (blue)

My Map:

Last week was a short hike.  I wanted to clock some miles this week; however the holiday weekend didn’t look good.  I happened to have Friday off, and waking up earlier than I wanted to and seeing the sun out, I decided to hit the trails today, as I didn’t think I would get to for the rest of the weekend.  (As I type this, temperatures have plummeted and are barely cracking 50.)

I’ve read about this area in the past, and the ruins of Van Slyke castle are pretty famous.  The ruins and the Wanaque Ridge trail were on my agenda for the day.  And while it started out sunny with great temperatures, I knew that bad weather would be rolling in.  I’m glad I went, and yes, I beat the bad weather.

500 feet in, on the Ramapo Lake spur trail, I was greeted with:

The NY/NJ Trail conference does a great job maintaining trails here, and you can see the stream crossing, though the stream was pretty low.

The trail to the lake is used heavily.  It’s wide in many spots, and there is plenty of evidence of its use.  I picked up lots of garbage in this area, but couldn’t begin to grab all of it.  As you hike away from the lake you will see less and less people, with the exception of up by the ruins.

The lake is gorgeous, with numerous places to sit and take a gander; including a dam I would cross at the end of the hike.

Lots of great foliage, though it was about a week early for the Mountain Laurel – I suspect next weekend will be full bloom.

Eastern Skunk Cabbage
Mountain Laurel

After reaching the lake, I took the Castle Loop trail up to the ruins.  This trail is popular (for the ruins) but also has the steepest grades.  I completely passed the junction with the Cannonball trail (which I would be taking later) on the way up.  There’s nothing too crazy, a lot of rocks, but, to be expected.

I came to stairs, which I hadn’t read about.

Turning around at the top of the stairs gave me this great view.

New York City
Multi Flora Rose

You hike through some bushes, and the ruins open up right in front of you.

It’s really impressive what still stands.  I hiked past the ruins to see the tower and came across this view, looking west, towards Wanaque Reservoir.

After this you pass the old pool, and shortly after that, the tower.

This would be the highest elevation of the hike.  It is unfortunate the amount of graffiti that exists; however, considering the castle was burned by vandals it is not surprising.  In the doorway to the tower was a solitary Red Columbine.

I saw lots of other critters on this hike, at one point I thought I heard a bear in the undergrowth, turns out it was only a gopher.  I almost stepped on:

Millipede

Coming down the Castle Loop, I found the junction with the  Cannonball trail, the blazes were completely missing from the other side of the tree.  All Trails has it marked, but it’s difficult to find on the way up.  There’s an area by a stream with tons of ferns.

American Cancer Root

Up on the ridge that the Wanaque Ridge trail follows I was reminded of the climb on Bearfort Ridge.  There are a few spots where it is probably not more than 15 yards wide.  There are some great viewpoints, of which, I made use of for lunch.

At one point a viewpoint opened up looking east towards the ruins of Van Slyke castle.

Tickseed

Clouds started to roll in on the way down from the ridge and I could feel it starting to cool off.  Keep the map handy because there are some areas where there are unmarked trails – it almost looks like the original trail has been re-routed.  After crossing the pipeline cut for the second time, the trail ascends on stairs, thank the trail maintainers for these.

This was the perfect hike for the day, and given that I just made it out before the rain I was even happier.  There are trails in the northern part of the forest which I will have to come back and explore.  As I was there on a Friday, the lot was not too crowded with cars, but I bet this gets packed on weekends.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  5/28/2021

Storm King State Park – Butter Hill and Storm King Mountain

Park Site

Trail Map – though I used these, highly recommended

Hike Distance: 2.44 miles

Mountains:  Butter Hill, Storm King

Trails:  Butter Hill (orange), Stillman, (yellow – Highlands trail follows this), Bypass (white)

My Map:

Note:  I would call this the Mt. Tammany of New York.  This is a good workout, with some early scrambling, and some amazing views.  It’s not a long hike, clocking in at 2.44 miles, with a long descent after the view.  My only drawback is the length, I would have loved to have done more, and maybe with a little more planning, I could have found a connector to extend the trip.

That said, I had a gorgeous day to hike; though it started out cloudy.  The temperatures were in the upper 70s to start, and by the time I finished they were in the upper 80s.  I got up extra early because I feared not getting a parking space – and after my drive, I found that I didn’t have to worry.  There were plenty of spaces upon my arrival.  Even when I finished, about two and half hours later, there were still spaces.  Though, the lot was mostly full.

To start this hike, you climb Butter Hill, which also happens to be the highest elevation.  Right after your first ascent, you are greeted with:

Oh good morning….

That wasn’t too bad, though a good workout.  Right off the bat I was presented with a view looking west off Butter Hill.

Feel free to catch your breath here, because the next section is:

It’s too early for this

Two big scrambles and I wasn’t at the top of Butter Hill yet.  However, it was less than a half hour’s climb.

After the first two scrambles I came to some ruins.

Before the final ascent of Butter Hill I saw some small Striped Maple growing.  I would find this all over the park (at least on Butter Hill) including some big groves.

The beginning of the final scramble to the top:

With some great views:

There’s a large rock on top of Butter Hill, and a marker so you know you found it.

From the top of Butter Hill it is a nice walk to the eastern face (and viewpoint) of Storm King.  The walking is pleasant, on mostly soft trails with plenty of rocks sprinkled in so that you pay attention.

Striped Maple grove

I passed a couple of viewpoints that were partially obscured by foliage, but eventually came to THE viewpoint.

There were a couple of other people sitting here, but you could tell this spot gets very crowded.  It’s easy to see why.  That’s the Beacon bridge in the top of the picture and that is Pollepel Island (with Bannerman’s Castle) in the middle.  I sat here a while just to take it all in.  In fact, I had lunch, though it was only 9:30.

Bannerman’s Castle

It felt noticeably warmer, and with the sun coming out, I figured I would descend before the crowds started to arrive.

Cyprus Spurge

I took the Bypass down, and right at the junction of the Bypass and Stillman, there is a great view south.

The walk down was fairly straight forward on a wide rocky trail.

Violets
Greater Calendine

When I got back to my car, I couldn’t believe how early it was.  Though, this was a great hike, and on a great day to boot.  The trails were all well marked and are easy to follow.

I couldn’t believe I was on top of these rocks two hours ago.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  5/22/2021

Harriman State Park – the Lemon Squeezer

Park Site

Trail Map – I used these.  And they are EXCELLENT.

Hike Distance:  7.8 miles

Mountains:  Island Pond Mountain, Surebridge Mountain, Hogencamp Mountain

Trails:  Appalachian, Arden-Surebridge, Lichen, Ramapo-Dundberg, White Bar, Dunning, Stahahe Brook

My Map:

Two weekends of hockey trips, a short work week, but it felt like two weeks of work, and I was ready to get back on the trails.  This trip, as fun and as awesome as it was, was more about getting out, recharging, and finding some quiet.  All of those boxes were ticked.

The last time I hiked Harriman State Park had to be in the middle to late 80s with my scout troop.  I have no idea where we hiked; I remember a winter hike to one of the shelters, but I couldn’t tell you which shelter – it was a long time ago.  The park is huge.

I left at my usual time, traffic was light; I was headed for the Elk Pen lot – which I later read was used to house Elk from Yellowstone at one point.  I missed the turn for Arden Valley Road, GPS took me to Arden Road – which is NOT what you want.  Arriving at the lot, I found it FULL, and this was before 8:30.  I couldn’t believe it – though fortunately, someone was leaving; so I waited five minutes and took their spot.  At the end of the day, cars were parked on both sides of the road to the lot, AND on the road TO the lot.  Get there early.  And, note to self, start getting up even earlier.

In this case there were at least TWO large groups of hikers, which I would see numerous times throughout the park.

I jumped on the Appalachian trail and was off.

It’s not long before I came to the first junction.

For the most part (in this section) trails were nice and flat, dirt, with only nominal amounts of rocks and roots.  Obviously, that would change.

The first stop was Island Pond.  This is no ordinary pond, to me it seemed much bigger than a pond, more of a lake.  This seemed bigger than  Surprise Lake or Terrace Pond.  Because it was warm, with no wind, I could have stayed at this spot for quite a while.  But, I had places to be, with things to do.

Right after the pond I crossed a spillway which was built for an unfinished dam.

Soon enough, I encountered the Lemon Squeezer.

This was a lot of fun and an interesting workout.  Upon going through the opening, you’re greeted with:

I really had to shimmy through there to get through.  Completing that, you are presented with a scramble up a good-sized rock.  There is a route around it, if you so choose, but I came here to at least give it a try.  I had read that it was pretty difficult, but I found a foot hold, pulled myself up, then realized it wasn’t as bad as I had read.

I went back downhill, around the Lemon Squeezer to jump on the Arden-Surebridge trail.

This, I took to the Lichen Trail, which I had read is one of the under-rated trails in the area.  This climbs to the top of Hogencamp mountain and has some amazing views.

Looking back towards Island Pond

Heading towards the junction on top of Hogencamp, I came across these Half Scented ferns.

At the top of Hogencamp, I looked for Ship Rock, and it wasn’t hard to find.

On the Ramapo-Dundenberg, there was an interesting water crossing.

All along the trail were lots and lots of blueberry bushes.  It was a little early in the season, so nothing worth eating.  I’m sure the bears have a field day.

Violet

Coming down the Dunning trail I came across the Boston Mine.  This was a really neat site, though not easily explored.  You can see in the first picture that there is easily six inches (maybe more) of mud in the entrance.  Fortunately (for me) someone had laid branches and rocks along the left side of the entrance in order to peek in.  The mud was deeper the farther you went in, with full on water of an undetermined depth.  I could hear water dripping, but I couldn’t tell you from where.

Wintergreen

Right after the mine I came across Green Pond, which is a pond in all senses of the word.  I couldn’t find access to it, but the sky clouded up (for a few minutes) and I didn’t want to stick around and test the weather.

Around this area the Dunning and Nuran trail intersect at times.  I don’t think I followed Dunning to the proper end, I think I jumped on Nuran early.  It’s not hard to figure out why.

This doesn’t help

I noticed many blowdowns on this hike.

While coming down the Nuran, and descending some rocks, I almost stepped on this guy.  Fortunately (for me) he got out of the way quickly.  I’d guess he was about three feet long.

Black Rat Snake (zoomed in)

Next, I descended Nuran farther into the Valley of Boulders.

Just before getting back onto the Arden-Surebridge trail, there was a watercrossing at a cascade.

After that, it was smooth sailing back to the parking lot.

False Turkey Tail

Harriman is huge.  I did a real small section.  I plan on coming back for more.  Due to the number of blowdowns, the Nuran and Dunning trails get confusing.  And the junction of the Ramapo-Dunderberg and Dunning trail is very difficult to find.  I got lucky and happened to spot a marker.  I came across two other hikers that were looking for it, and they totally missed it.  I had read that there was to be a cairn at this intersection, but I did not see one.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked: 5/15/2021