Wells Mills Park – Penns Hill Trail

(Sorry, no picture of the trail kiosk, it looked like they were building a new one out in the parking lot. A picture of the nature center (closed) will have to do.)

Park Site

Trail Map

Distance:  8.4 miles

Trails – White (Some discrepancy here.  Signage in the park called this the Penns Hill Trail.  The map linked to the site calls it the Macri Trail.  Either way, I hiked white.)

Map:

I left home nice and early and had a good ride down to Wells Mills park.  I  knew this would be a longer hike, with good weather for once, and I knew it would take me longer.  For Memorial Day weekend, I wanted to beat any traffic.

It was gorgeous out, 75 and sunny.  Unfortunately, the Nature Center was closed due to the holiday, but there were still trail maps in the container up on the porch.  There were also a ton of carpenter bees buzzing all over the place; not a nuisance, but all over the place.  As there was no kiosk, I used the nature center as the starting point.  I went right, on the trail, and immediately entered woods, close to Wells Mills Lake.

This was some of my favorite part of the trail as there was lots of water and lots of bridges to cross.  We had rain the other day, but the trails were mostly dry; with only a few spongy spots later on.

Once the trail left the lake, it veered off to the northwest part of the park.  Here’s were there were hills (which I wasn’t really expecting.)  Walking in this area (at 10 in the morning) I distinctly heard gun fire – I don’t know if there was a range nearby, or someone hunting.  I doubt it was fireworks that early in the morning.

I enjoyed the fact that there were very distinct and different environments as you walked along.  The trail, for the most part, was dirt or sand, occasionally covered with pine needles – very forgiving.  Which was great on a longer walk.  One section of the park was hilly.  One section had a cedar forest.  There were lots of boardwalks.  One section contained thick Mountain Laurel.   And what would the Pine Barrens be without pitch pine.  For over eight miles, there was lots of diversity.

This next picture doesn’t do justice, this was a pretty steep hill, at the top of which was a bench – a perfect water break.

The map shows two hills: Penns Hill, with an elevation of 126 feet, and Laurel Hill, 130 feet.

Bon Jovi was here:

I heard lots of birds, caught a glimpse of a chipmunk or two; but that was about it for wildlife.

Right near the end of the hike I came across this sign:

I’m not sure how accurate the sign is, and it was the only mileage/distance sign I saw on the whole hike.  It was getting pretty hot (and I was getting tired) at this point, so I did not check my GPS.

The final bridge crossing was over Oyster Creek, which I crossed at least once before.  This bridge was big enough for a car to drive over.

This was another great hike in the Ocean County Park system.  Trails were well marked, though there are a couple of unmarked trails that criss-cross where I walked.  It’s kind of hard to get lost as long as you stay on the trails.  Wells Mills park does have a reputation for ticks and I can attest that they were out in force.  Be prepared.  Finally, if you decide to hike the Penns Hill trail, bring enough water if it will be sunny and/or hot.  It’s a good distance.  Should you decide (or need) to cut the hike short, there are junctions with the yellow or green trail that will save you mileage.

One final note.  I left at the parking lot and headed north on the Parkway.  Big mistake on Memorial Day, as the traffic northbound was horrendous.  I got on the parkway at exit 69, and it took me an hour to get to Route 70, which is exit 89.  Traffic didn’t clear until I passed exit 91.  It will probably get much worse into the afternoon and evening .  And I thought I would beat the traffic.

Ticks:  5 7

Hiked: 5/27/2019

Hacklebarney State Park

Park Site

Trail Map – (as you can see by the picture above, the kiosk was a mess when I arrived around 9 in the morning.  Fortunately, I had a printout of the trail map.  When I finished the hike and returned by this kiosk, park rangers were neatening and restocking the maps.)

Distance:  3.66 miles

Trails:  Riverside -> Windy Ridge -> Main Trail -> Playground Trail -> Upland -> Main Trail

Map:

When I left the house in the morning there was bright sun.  Upon getting to Hacklebarney State Park it was cloudy and hovering around 51 degrees.  The forecast called for 60% chance of rain, but I wasn’t letting a chance of rain deter my first hike of the year.  I should probably pay more attention to forecasts, at least this wasn’t as bad as the Jockey Hollow hike last year.

I hiked my route counter-clockwise, when looking at the map, which started me on the Riverside trail.  This trail starts off on a pseudo paved trail until it descends to the river.  I noticed lots and lots of picnic tables and each table had a charcoal grill by it.  Some of the tables by the water are pretty far from the lot, I’m wondering how many people schlep picnics that far.  Also, I noticed numerous water fountains – none in operation.  Note:  on this day, the only restrooms open were at the trailhead.  Both of the other restrooms were closed.

Heading off the Main trail, onto Riverside:

Crossing Trout Brook:

I really liked this portion of the trail (despite the pavement) due to walking by the brook.  It’s pretty loud and can be heard from a good distance.

Spring is trying to come forth (even though it was 51 when I took this picture.)

Before reaching the Black River, there is a little rock scramble down to Trout Brook to see the falls.

You really get a sense of the trail surface from this next picture.  And yes, you had to squeeze through the fallen trees to continue.

For 90% of the hike, I noticed many many downed trees.  (The one above was recent.)  Upon coming to a sign at the end of the hike, I learned that most of the trees fell during Sandy.  And, the sign continued, there was work ongoing (though not today) to clear dead trees such that invasive species did not take the spots of the fallen trees.  Interesting.

The Black River was great to hike along.

That would be it for the paved trails though until I climbed back up closer to the parking lot.  Along the Black River the Riverside Trail became a rock scramble, a bit more strenuous than the pavement.

It was like that for almost a mile.  Today, while hiking this stretch, I noticed many fishermen along both banks.  Apparently, there is good trout fishing in the Black River – which was stocked on Friday.

Partway down the Black River I came to bridge where Trout Brook fed into the Black River.

More rocks.

A little further along I came to Rhinehart Brook which was smaller than Trout Brook.  I could see cascades up the brook.

And here is where Rhinehard Brook joins the Black River.

At this point I noticed it was starting to rain.  Fortunately, leaves were sprouting from the trees, and not much rainfall was reaching the forest floor.  I could hear it though.

At the southern end of the park were two pillars marking the park boundary.  If you kept walking past the pillars you entered land belonging to the Black River Fish and Game Club.  It is adequately marked.  I walked far enough to take this picture.

From here I took the Riverside Trail until it crossed Rhinehart Brook and I joined the Windy Ridge Trail.  While shorter, there was a steep section that started the climb back.  I hiked the trail to its junction with the Main Trail.  Here, I detoured on to the green trail heading towards the Upland Trail, by a playground.  I had read on other blogs that there was an observation tower.

Found it.

And what could you see?

I doubt if the overcast hid anything.  I wasn’t sure what the tower was actually pointed at.  Anyway, it was back on the Upland Trail heading back to the Main Trail that I would take to the parking lot.

I heard a rustle, and realizing I was in bear country, I scanned around.

Later on Upland Trail, up in some trees

A giant turkey vulture.  I kept walking.

This was a great hike, despite the light rain that fell at the end and the paved portions of trails.  If the whole thing had been paved I would have been disappointed.  But the sections along Trout Brook and the Black River were awesome.  I am definitely coming back on a sunny day, and possibly in the fall to see the colors.  I suspect it will be much more crowded, but I think it will be worth it.  Trails were well marked and easy to follow.

Ticks: 0

Hiked:  4/28/2019

2018 Analysis

With a few minutes of free time, and not being able hike for at least a month and a half; I thought I would look back on 2018. The summer of 2018 presented a bunch of challenges that did not allow me to get out and hike as much as I would have liked – between hockey tournaments, college visits, and plenty of adverse weather, I spent many a weekends indoors or away from the trails.

2017 hikes: 12
2018 hikes: 10

2017 saw me return to hiking and many of those trips were to the local county parks, I wanted to tick them off the list. 2018 saw me traveling more to locations out-of-county and on my list. However, the challenges listed above limited my number of trips in the past year. Weather was particularly bad, particularly on the Jockey Hollow trail when I ran into a deluge.

2017 miles: 40.45
2018 miles: 41.54

In two less trips I was able to essentially increase my mileage by a mile. Of note, 2017 was spent in County parks, for the most part; where this year I traveled to bigger parks with longer trails.

Highlights from this year:

Cattus Island: Ocean County park. My daughter and I hiked many of the trails here for a long day. We hiked it in May before the heat, humidity, and insects took over. Lots of great scenery, especially by the water.

Watchung Reservation: Sierra Trail. This was a great hike, 7 miles in length. The day was HOT HOT HOT. I had planned 11 miles, but ran pretty low on water. Lots of great views while up on the ridge, and probably my favorite part was hiking through Feltsville, the abandoned town.

Jenny Jump State Park:  An out-and-back. I liked the climbs, the walk on the ridge, Ghost Lake, the views from the lookouts, not seeing a bear (though I wouldn’t mind, from a distance), and not seeing ghosts. Lots of rocks here.

In 2019, I hope to get out more, expand the miles, and challenge myself with new, and maybe more challenging terrain. While I don’t have a bucket list, I do have plenty of trails I want to hike, both here and out of state.

See you on the trails.

Cheesequake State Park – Yellow and Blue (with a little Red)

Park Site

Trail Map  <- important, see below

Distance:  3 Miles

Trails:  Yellow -> Blue -> Red

Map:

Saturday, December 29th was a warm day for December.  I had some time to kill in the afternoon and ended up at Cheesequake State Park to hike the Blue trail, which I had not hiked previously.  My original plans were to hike on Sunday, but I saw potential rain, and lower temperatures in the forecast.  I left my house around 1:00 p.m. so I knew I couldn’t do anything real long.  Temperatures were in the middle 50s, and it started out sunny, but became overcast as the afternoon wore on.

Driving to the parking lot, I came across this sign:

However, when I got to the lot, I discovered it packed.  And, throughout the afternoon I noticed the same thing, the trails were packed.  There were more people on the trails than I had probably seen on trails all year.  I get it, the last Saturday of the year, people had been together all week, mild temperatures, sun….definitely a great day to get out.  Fortunately, I neither saw or heard hunters.

I started out on the Yellow trail which I had hiked before, it’s rather short, and makes for a good warmup.  Without leaves on the trees, there were good views of Hooks Creek Lake.

“They” say that 2018 has been one of the wettest years on record for our area.  There was rain on Friday, but for the most part trails were ok (except as noted below.)  However, creeks and streams were all gurgling.

There were numerous spots along the trails where good-sized puddles existed, some puddles had deep water.  Many times there were enough rocks or roots that you could effectively hop across.  This would not be the case in the picture below, and little creative bushwhacking would be in order.

There was one place where you had to be careful, and that was coming down some of the hills.  Leaves had gathered near the roots of trees, and you had be careful stepping into them; as you didn’t know how deep the pile would be.  Only once did I almost stumble, probably before this picture as it is what prompted me to take the picture.  The picture doesn’t do the hill justice – not that they were real tall or steep, but the picture is taken looking downhill.

Walking through the woods was peaceful.  And, I was in an area of Cheesequake I had not hiked before.  The sun came out as I reached Perrine Pond, where I stopped to enjoy the sun.  I had a fleece on and it was perfect for the temperatures.

Here’s where it got a little tricky.  I had printed out an old(er) map of Cheesequake (one I used on a previous hike) and was following Blue around the pond.  When, all of a sudden:

I was not attempting to ford that.  Retracing my steps, I came to where the previous picture of Perrine Pond was taking.  At the waterfowl blind, I realized the trail went left.  More signs noting that turn would be helpful.  And, removing the signs on Blue to where the trail stops would be helpful as well.  Although, along that route was an osprey nest and nice views of the marshland.  Worth the extra walk.

No real problem, I followed Blue around the near edge of the pond, found where it met up with the “old” trail, then followed the old trail to see the other side of where it ended:

This is why, if you look at my AllTrails trail map, above; you will notice I almost completely encircle Perrine Pond.  In the map that I link to, the trail is correctly annotated.

I followed Blue until I came upon the “Great Junction” of Blue, Green, and Red.  I have hike Green in the past, noticed that Blue follows Perrine Road back to the parking lot, so called an audible and walked on Red.  Red sort of paralleled the road, then met up with Green, and was familiar at this point.

All in all it was a great hike and I was pleased to get out.  While the trails were crowded there were still plenty of spots of solitude and silence.  I saw the usual squirrel militia, no dear, and a couple of hawks.

Ticks: 0

Hiked:  12/29/2018

Jenny Jump State Forest – Visitor’s Center to Ghost Lake

Park Site

Trail Map

Distance:  5.8 miles

Trails:  Swamp Trail -> Spring Trail -> Summit Trail -> Ghost Lake Trail (back to car on the Summit Trail)

Map:

It had been quite a while since I was able to hit the trails, with time filled up with marching band and hockey season.  As we are nearing the end of hockey season, I found a weekend where we only had one game scheduled; which meant I was able to make an attempt at getting out and hiking.  What a day too, it started out sunny and upper 40s at 8:00.  I reached the trail by 9:45 and it warmed up to the lower 50s though clouded up as the day went on.  When I finished it was around 55, and the clouds had come in.  I took many more pictures than I’ve posted, but I’ve determined the potato I’m using is not taking the pictures it used to, so, on future trips I will be trying a new camera app.  We’ll see.  I apologize in advance.

Starting out on the Swamp trail was a great beginning; trails were wide, dirt-based, covered with leaves.

At the end of the Swamp Trail, I turned onto the Spring Trail; and that’s where things took a turn.  Minor rock scrambling was necessary to ascend to the ridge and up to Jenny Jump Mountain.  The trail changed to mostly rocks – what I am most used to in North Jersey.  Once up to the ridge I hiked along until I caught up with ten members of a hiking club.  I trailed behind them until the rested near the top of Jenny Jump Mountain and then I walked on by.  Make sure to bushwack to the overlooks, there are some great views of the mountains and fields in the distance.

Eventually, I started the long descent towards Ghost Lake.  Eventually, I turned onto the Ghost Lake trail which was wide, but had its fair share of rocks.  There are two sections with minor rock scrambling in order to get down – I wasn’t thinking about the return trip…I would have to climb UP this section later.  There were some neat plant-life in the area, massive boulders (moved by glaciers) and even a small stream that fell towards Ghost Lake.

The boulder below is huge, and a tree had fallen from the incline on the right, landing on top of the boulder.  The trail winds UNDER the fallen tree.

Eventually, I exited the forest and got to Ghost Lake.

This was a great place to stop for a minute, eat, and grab something to drink.

After resting for a minute, I thought I would look for the Fairy Hole, a cave by the side of Ghost Lake.  In using Google Maps, I realized the cave was on the other side of Ghost Lake, and really didn’t want to walk all the way around when I had a trip (uphill) all the way back.  Off I went.  (And on the way back into the forest, I ran into the hiking group I had passed earlier.  I think I saw “Garden State Hiking Club” on one gentleman’s jacket. Hello again, if you’re reading.)

I took the Ghost Lake Trail back to the Summit Trail (uphill – all the way, including the rock scrambling I earlier descended) and turned on to the Summit Trail.  I planned to take the Summit Trail back to the car.  When I reached the highest point, I came across a bench facing a great view.

That’s the Delaware Water Gap in the distance…and it probably looks better on a) a less cloudy day, b) less leaves, and c) a better picture.  Continuing on, I was treated to more glacial erratics:

One last overlook had a great view of the fields:

Trails were well marked; while I had the trail map in my bag, I really didn’t need it.  On this hike I happened across more people than I had seen on the trails in a while. Even though it had rained the day before, the trails were in great condition.  I passed a whole bunch of campsites and shelters, and on a future trip here I think I would want to stay in a shelter; it looked like fun.  There were lots of squirrels, and I think the chipmunk militia was following me again; I heard them frequently.  I was walking in bear country again, but did not see any.

I chose Jenny Jump as it will probably be my only hike before Halloween; and there are lots of myths about the forest.  Supposedly, a young girl jumped to her death off one of the large boulders near the top of Jenny Jump mountain, and her spirit wanders the park.  Ghost Lake is named due to a local native American burial ground, or the steam and mist that rises from the lake in the mornings.  And, as an avid Weird NJ reader, I was right near Shades of Death Road.  Of course, I had to drive down the road so I could say I did.

I’m happy to say I made it back with no issues stopping for both pumpkins and apple cider doughnuts at a roadside stand.  Unfortunately, I saw no ghosts, and no bears, but it was a great hike and a great day.

Ticks:  0  (Though we did find one on the dog the next day, it’s not confirmed where the tick came from.)

Hiked:  10/14/2018

 

Poricy Park – Red and Blue trails

Park Site

Trail Map

Distance:  2.4 miles

Trails:  Riparian (red), and Bird Watcher (blue)

Map:

It was icing on the cake that I was able to grab a hike today, and while it was shorter, there were definitely issues.  My son’s game, then practice was canceled.  Had I known that on Friday I would have planned a much bigger hike, but I didn’t know until yesterday, and I only had a couple of hours – and Poricy Park is a few minute’s drive away.

I had the place to myself on a sunny day that started out nice but became hot by the time I decided to hike.  The car showed 88 when I was walking to the trailhead.  My plan was to take the blue trail to the red, walk along the tracks, loop by the pond, take blue to a platform overlooking the pond, then finish up on blue (maybe green) back to the parking lot.  Starting out, the trails look like:

This is great, and easy to walk.  However, there are NO signs, blazes or marks of any kind.  There are poles with numbers on them, but they did not correspond to my map.  Maybe they corresponded to a trail map that was supposed to be available, but I did not see any.  As I cut over to red, to parallel the railroad tracks, I ran into:

Even though I was wearing long pants, I wasn’t venturing into that.  No way.  A little backtracking got me to:

After the boardwalk, there were stairs going up the other side:

At this point the trail became more “woodsy.”

Following this for a bit opened up some great views of Poricy Pond.

I followed this to the end and was anticipating a loop, coming back closer to the tracks.  Unfortunately:

Another overgrown section.  I investigated about 15 feet to see if the trail opened up.  It didn’t.  I back tracked, then followed the trail all the way back to the boardwalk – where I crossed over then followed the wide trail to a pond view.

On the way back, I ran into a couple of freshly cleared areas where a “stage” and some benches had been erected.

There were a couple of these spots, and they were not on my map.  I made my way past the farm house and the barn and crossed a brook on my way.

For the last bit, I followed a blue/green trail back to the parking lot.

What’s this?!?

I saw one other sign on the entire hike.

This was a nice little walk despite no maps available, very poor trail conditions on the Riparian trail near the tracks, and no blazes.  The green and blue trails were wide and grassy, and you probably couldn’t get lost.  Red was iffy at best.  I would only recommend this if you are looking for a short, quick hike.  As for wildlife, butterflies were all over the place.  And I saw a few rabbits and squirrels peeking out from the underbrush.  At one point, a black cat was sitting trailside, but as I approached, it darted off.  (I probably should have guessed that was an omen.)

Ticks: 0 (And this is surprising, the last time I was here, I was covered in them.)

Hiked:  8/26/2018

Jockey Hollow – Blue Trail

Park Site

Trail Map

Distance:  3 Miles

Trails:  Blue Trail (which included parts of the Patriot Path)

Map:  No map, I couldn’t upload it (see below)

There are two lessons learned from this hike:  1:  If the weather says there’s a potential for flash floods, believe it.  And 2:  If your printer won’t print out the trail map, take the time to fix it, find another map, or ensure there is adequate cell service at the place you’re hiking.

The weather called for thunderstorms and a potential for flash flooding throughout the day.  It rained early in the morning, yet by the time I walked the dog it was sunny and the ground was dry.  I thought, perfect day for a hike, as long as the rain will hold off.  Hockey season starts next week, I don’t know what my schedule will be like, so I had better make the most of the free time.  A quick glance at the weather map showed rain in the area I was hiking, but it was moving out.  So, off to print a trail map and head up so as not to waste time.  Except the printer wouldn’t print the map.  Rather than spend some more time, I figured I would grab a map at the visitor’s center, or worst case, use All Trails on my phone.

I drove up in bright sunshine and chastised myself for not bringing sunglasses.  As I pulled into the parking lot, clouds were just starting to build, but nothing serious.  And it would be all down hill from here, so to speak.

First stop is the visitors center in order to pick up a trail map.  But what’s this?  Closed, on account of no power.  I knew rain had blown through earlier, could it have knocked out the power?  Possible, I guess.  It took a few minutes to find the trail head, I ended up driving the Grand Parade Road and parking at the Trail Side parking lot, where most of the trails terminated.  Fortunately, I drove by the Soldiers’  Huts, which I planned to hike to.

As I got out of the car and loaded up All Trails..whamo.  Nothing.  I could record, but no trails.  Funny thing, you need cell service to interface with the maps (GPS ran fine.)  And there wasn’t cell service here (at least, for Verizon.)  Well, I got all the way here, I was at least going to walk.

I headed for the Blue Trail.  And it starts out on an old “road” used by the soldiers while camped here.

Today the trail was soft, spongy in some spots, with water pooled every so often.  But the trail was wide and soft dirt with infrequent rocks, and pleasant to walk.  Not having a map was a little unsettling until I came to the first trail junction.

They have a trail map ON THE POST at the actual junction.  So, I took a quick picture so that I would have some reference if needed.  My plan was the Blue Trail, cut over to the Orange, and go by the Soldiers’ Huts.  I saw the typical fauna:  squirrels, chipmunks, some birds.  Fortunately, no bears.

I passed a couple more junctions, each with a map, AND a “you are here” marker, and thought, this should be a pretty nice hike for not having a map.  Heck, even the sun came out.

It wasn’t as hot and humid as last week, 75 or so, with a lower humidity.  My plan was to do about six miles, and with this terrain, that didn’t figure to be so bad.  I noticed clouds were starting to build, and I didn’t see the sun as much.

There was a bench and table at this overlook, which must look absolutely fabulous on a clear day.  The marker at this spot indicated that Stark’s Brigade camped here  during the Revolutionary War.  The sign at this spot was very informative.  And, there was a monument to the occasion built from stones from the officers’ chimneys.

After snapping a picture, I headed off.  The trees were real tall with a thick canopy and as I walked, I noticed it started getting dark, real dark.  At one point I thought I might get out my headlamp.  It was 1:30, yet it felt like it was night, almost like when I hiked the Brisbane Trail at Allaire last year when the sun set faster than I thought.  And then I heard it, it sounded like wind, yet when I looked up, the leaves were not moving enough.  Sure enough, it was starting to rain.  But under the canopy, I wasn’t really getting wet.  I did think that I wasn’t going to do all of the trails I wanted to as I had a small bit left of the Blue Trail.

You can see the drops hitting the pond.

After the pond, the trail wandered through open space.  And then the rain really started coming down.

By the time I reached the road where the next junction was, it was pouring.  Torrential.  By far the hardest rain I’ve hiked in.  The signpost said .4 miles back to the car, most of it downhill – and off I went.  Not even a quarter of a mile in, water was cascading down the trail I was on.  How I didn’t slip on any of the rocks is a miracle.

Suffice to say, no more pictures after the pond.

I cut it short, reached the car, changed into dry clothes, and decided to head home.  I’ll have to come back to do the other trails I wanted to hike, and to see the visitors center.

Ticks:  0 – surprising.  I wore shorts, which I don’t normally do, and there were a couple of spots where the trail was overgrown.

Hiked:  8/11/2018

Watchung Reservation – Sierra Trail

 

Park site:  http://ucnj.org/parks-recreation/paths-trails-greenways/watchung-reservation/

Trail Map:  http://ucnj.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Watchung-Trail-Map-020314.pdf

Distance:  7 miles (planned 11)

Trails:  Sierra (though a few connectors were used)

Map:

After not being able to hike for a few weeks, I was ready to get out and hit the trails.  It poured multiple times yesterday, so today had to be the day.  I knew it would be warm (really, hot) with high humidity, I just didn’t know how hot and humid.  My plan was to hike the whole Sierra trail, but it was too hot.  I cut back when I reached the dam by the lake as I was running low on water – and I brought extra water for the hike.  Because it rained yesterday, the lower portions of trails were really spongy…outright muddy in parts.  And where there was mud, there were gnats.

Finding the actual trail head wasn’t the easiest, fortunately, I printed out directions from the great folks at NJHiking.  Once I started, the hike was pleasant enough, it gradually went uphill, with lots of different trail types.

Before reaching the picnic shelter, I found myself on the purple trail.  I was following white, and the next thing I knew I T-intersected purple.  Thank you AllTrails, for getting me back on white.  However, I had to make a steep incline to get back.  I don’t know if I had followed white properly if I would have routed around the steep portion.

The trail paralleled Sky Top Drive with a nice overlook towards the quarry.  After the descent, the trail followed Blue Brook.

It was really neat to walk through the foundations of the mill, and believe it or not, it was noticeably cooler in this area. That wouldn’t last for long.

After the mill the trail turns away from the creek, and runs straight uphill.  Steeply.  At the top, I needed a water break.  Fortunately, I was at an overlook, looking northwest.  Route 78 is in the background.

Looking down Seeley’s Pond:

I met two guys with dogs on this boardwalk.  One dog didn’t like people and was leashed.  A basset hound was following unleashed.  I passed three other groups of people with dogs during the hike, none of the dogs were leashed.  One family was calling one of their dogs, it had taken off into the brush off trail, and they had no idea where it was.  None of the owners had water for their dogs, which I thought criminal.  Further, I had to get off the trail once for a mountain bike – which is expressly forbidden.

One of the neatest aspects of the hike was coming upon the abandoned village of Feltsville.

Notice in the picture above…the porch light is on.  So, while the houses are abandoned, there is electricity running to them.

I passed a barn when I came out of the trail, it looked like people were setting up for a party or wedding.  I was so hot, I thought about sauntering over and helping myself to some cold drinks.  The way I looked at the time (soaking wet) I doubt anyone would have risked approaching me.  It looked like it would have been a nice party.  I carried on.

Behind the house pictured above was the Revolutionary War cemetery.

I turned around, and lo and behold, there was a white blaze.  I followed that to the dam.

The water was too deep to ford, I rock hopped onto the mesh and crossed that way.  Sorry.  From there I took a horse trail to the blue trail, then orange, and made my way back to my car.

Even though I brought extra water, I never would have made it around the lake, it was just too far under these conditions.  I think I made the right decision.

This was definitely a hike to go blaze to blaze, you had to stay alert and keep a lookout.  Trails were well marked and it was apparent which way to go at most junctions.  There were a few tricky ones.  There are a bunch of blow downs that need clearing.  I met two hikers that heard a tree fall, though they didn’t see it.

I finished up by going into the nature center – it was air conditioned.  While the exhibits were great, I hung out by the water fountain.  Definitely a great hike, though the heat and humidity made it tough.

Ticks: 0  (Surprising, as there were some overgrown spots.)

Hiked:  8/5/2018

 

Hartshorne Woods – western side

Park site:  https://www.monmouthcountyparks.com/page.aspx?id=2496

Trail map:  http://monmouthcountyparks.com/documents/130/hartshorne09.pdf

Distance:  5.4 miles

Trails:  Laurel Ridge, Grand Tour

Map:

We’ve had a couple weeks of oppressive heat and humidity, culminated by thunderstorms yesterday.  Those storms chased out the humidity and lowered the temperatures, and today was absolutely gorgeous.  I woke up to upper 60 degree temperatures and clear sunny skies.  I know I’m somewhat booked the next couple of weekends, so I figured I would get a hike in today; and take advantage of the excellent weather.  Off I went on a short drive to Hartshorne Woods, the Buttermilk Valley entrance, to hike the western side of the park.  I had hiked the eastern side almost exactly two years ago.

I thought I was smart by getting up early and getting to the trail head before the bikes got there and before it started to get warmer.  I wasn’t smart enough.  I got the last quasi-legal spot in the lot.

I started on Laurel Ridge (rated medium) which climbed to the top of the hill quickly.  I’d guess a hundred or so feet.  The trail was wide and very easy to follow, despite the lack of blazes.  With no humidity and comfortable temperatures (70) it was a great walk.

After a short walk, I turned on the Grand Tour (rated difficult).  The trail type changed, the park calls it more “primitive.”  The path became more narrow, steeper in sections, with lots more rocks, roots and even a couple of switchbacks.  Bikes were in out in force and there were plenty of spots I had to move over so as not to get run over.

The Grand Trail reconnected with Laurel Ridge, and surprisingly did not get “easier” despite changing difficulty (according to the park.)  There were lots of ups and downs.  As for wildlife, I only spotted one deer, numerous squirrels (which I thought were stalking me) and a chipmunk or two.  Above I could see some hawks circling overhead.  Here’s what the sky looked like:

There was a short trail off Laurel Ridge that led to an overlook.  As the park overlooks the Navesink River and Claypit Creek, I figured I would take the trail to see what the overlook actually overlooked:

Yep, I’ll have to come back in later Fall, Winter, or Spring to see what the overlook shows.

I remember hiking this section of Hartshorne Woods over 30 years ago with my dad.  There were spots I walked through that were vaguely familiar, more like deja vu.  I don’t remember bikes back then.  And I don’t know how much of the Eastern part of the park was part of the park system.

All in all, this was a great hike on a great day.  Highly recommended.  However, I will point out, there were two trail junctions that I had to get out my phone and check AllTrails for; as the signage on trail was not good.  The map didn’t help as the junctions had unmarked trails coming in as well – something I’ve remembered from past Monmouth County Parks.  The trails lead well enough into the woods that you lose the traffic noise of Navesink Avenue and Route 36.  And, only occasionally did I hear the banner planes towing their signs to Sandy Hook.

Ticks:  0

Hiked:  7/7/2018

Jakes Branch Park

Park site:  http://www.oceancountyparks.org/frmRegContentPrks?ID=0694b294-986f-46e6-a679-d03ac775c176

Distance:  4.7 miles

Trails:  Tindey (blue), Interretive (green), Swamp Spur (white)

Map:

I looked for something short(ish) that was relatively close by for a hike today; I wanted to go up north, but knew I did not have enough time.  So, off to another Ocean County park; and what a park.  This is another really nice park, with well-marked trails, ample parking, and a fabulous nature center.  Sure, there were some unmarked trails, but it would be hard to get lost – the marked trails are pretty obvious.  And blazes are abundant.  Note, I came across bikes on this hike.

It was a great 75 degrees with barely any clouds in the sky and relatively low humidity.  I arrived a little before 10:30 on a Saturday morning, and there were few cars in the parking lot.  The trail kiosk was fully stocked with trail maps and numerous flyers for upcoming events.  And, the nature center was open, with a separate door for bathrooms.

As I was heading to the trail head I noticed interpretive displays regarding forest fires; which I initially though thought odd to have at a trailhead.  Though, reading through, I learned how some fires are good, they rejuvenate the land – and there was recently a sizable fire here at Jakes Branch back in 2002.

I started on the Tindey trail (blazed blue); and as I am want to do, chose left to do the loop.  Trails were wide, soft, sandy, and easy to walk.

I stayed on Tindey until I junctioned with the Interpretive trail (green) which is a short loop.  This trail, while still soft, was covered in pine needles.  Partway through there was a neat bog.

Back on Tindey, there was some nice flowers:

At points, the Tindey trail comes close to Double Trouble Road (which parallels the Parkway.)  At this point the sounds of the cars are a little overbearing, and I feel detracts from the allure of being outside.  It would not be until I was on the other side of the park that the sounds of cars would fade away.

When I came to the junction of the Swamp Spur (white) I decided to venture forth and see this “swamp.”  The trail is only a quarter mile long.  However, there was a section that was overgrown, and I suspect I picked up hitch hikers here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The swamp at the end of the trail was pretty wet, but not what I was expecting.

While walking the Tindey trail you will walk through areas where you can tell the fire was.  New trees are starting to grow, ferns are abundant, and there was plenty of sunshine.

I saw deer while walking.  I came across frogs.  And I happened to spot this Black Swallowtail butterfly.

This was definitely a great hike, I would highly recommend it.  I think my total hike time was a little under two hours.  While boots are always recommended, this could have been done in sneakers.  Definitely wear long pants if you plan to hike the Swamp Spur.

Ticks:  2 3 – 1 brutally murdered in my car on the way home, to the enjoyment of those passing me on the Parkway.  I found another after getting home.

Hiked:  6/9/2018