Turkey Mountain

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  6.26 miles

Trails:  Yellow, White, Red, Green, Blue

My Map:

I had been to this park before, though the other side of the street.  Back in 2017, I hiked Pyramid Mountain with my dad in the rain – rain for most of the hike.  It looked like a higher chance of rain on Sunday, so I made this a Saturday hike.  I arrived at the parking lot at 8:30 in the morning, and it was already packed, so I had to park on Mars Court, across the street.  Be careful parking here, you can only park on one side of the streets; and businesses have ominous signs in their lots.  I was surprised it was that packed that early, though it was a really nice day.  I believe I was the fourth car on Mars Court (and when I returned, there were cars all the way down the street, and on 511 south of the park.)  That’s why there is a gap between my starting and ending points on my map, above.  Almost everyone was on Pyramid Mountain, I had Turkey Mountain virtually to myself.

I like this park:  trails are wide (for the most part) made up of mostly dirt and rocks.  There is great signage and trails are very well marked (except when the turn symbol is on a blowdown.)  I noticed at major trail junctions there were cairns, so it was kind of hard to get lost.

I wasn’t planning on taking the red trail right at the beginning, but I thought I saw a viewpoint on the map.  About 300 yards in, I ran into:

There were numerous blowdowns all through the park, most easily navigable.

A shortcut to…mushrooms (JRRT)

While scrambling in the lower portion of the park, it started to get HOT and very humid.  Unlike High Point, I had to zip off the lower portion of my pants.  Not my favorite thing to do, as I’m susceptible to poison ivy, and it’s too easy to get ticks from the fields and high grass.  And no one needs to see my legs.

If you follow the route I took, you will cross the powercut at least four times.  Twice you will go right under towers.  I wasn’t totally prepared for that, as at the first tower, you could hear buzzing.

This guy almost got stepped on.

Following the Yellow trail along the roadside, it suddenly comes out on the road.

Fortunately, it’s pretty well marked, right after the guardrail, make a left into the woods.  (I noticed a pullout parking spot for one car at this spot.)

Left after the guardrail.

At this point, you are heading up Turkey Mountain, I believe to the highest point in the park on this side of 511.  While the trail is wide, I ran into a stone wall that crosses the trail.

When Yellow T-intersects with Red, I took a quick detour to the right to find the actual top of Turkey Mountain.  I couldn’t find a marker, but GPS confirmed that I did in fact reach the highest point.  I retraced my steps, and continued on Red.  There’s a steep descent where you run into Green.  Then a steep ascent, at the top of which are stone ruins.  This area, at one time, was a limestone quarry.

Following Green you come to a great spot overlooking Lake Vallhalla.  There are numerous overlooks along this route, however with the leaves out, many overlooks did not have views.

Finally, I followed Green until Blue, which traveled uphill and up the powercut.  There were some great views from the base of the powerline tower.

This was the beginning of the 100 Stairs, the path down to the road and back to the car.  In the bright, hot and humid sun, this was tough.  In the Fall, it’s probably great.  On a hot and humid day, it’s strenuous.

All in all this was a great hike.  There were a couple of rock hops that probably are trickier in the spring with more water flowing.  Also, it was nice to come back to this park on a day where it wasn’t raining.  When I got back to my car, the street was packed, but I noticed more people returning from Pyramid Mountain.

Tickes:  0

Blazes:

Hiked:  8/22/2020

Holmdel Park – Ramanessin area

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 3.89 miles

Trails:  Steeplechase, Ramanessin

My Map:

Shakedown hike!  I’ve been to Holmdel Park countless times, it’s about 20 minutes from my house.  But, after my last couple of hikes I had to make some changes and this seemed like a great place to a) hike a trail I haven’t been on, and b) test out some new gear.

First:  For Father’s Day I was given money to purchase trekking poles.  After coming down the steep section of the mountain on the Green trail in Apshawa Preserve, I realized I should probably try trekking poles.  I realize that they seem to be a polarizing issue; you either love them or hate them. I can see pros and cons, but if they truly make it a little more comfortable, I’m game.  I purchased a pair of Cascade Mountain Tech Trekking poles, cork handles and lever locks.

Second:  After the debacle with the boots I figured it was time to upgrade to newer boots.  My previous boots were L. L. Bean boots, of about twenty years; though used the most during the past five.  I know there rages two debates, boots or trail runners, and waterproof or non-waterproof. Ultimately, I think I’ll move to trail runners at some point, to save the weight, however; given where I hike and the sheer amount of rocks I went with a more traditional boot.  And, I went with non-waterproof as they will dry quicker.  My choice was Merrell Moab 2 Vents, and a ridiculous deal from Amazon.

So, this hike was to break in new boots and learn how to effectively use trekking poles.

The boots are awesome, they barely need breaking in.  They are extremely comfortable and a noticeable upgrade from my last boots.  As for the poles, it took me a mile or two to really get them right.  I’m sure I looked pretty spastic to the people coming the other way as I was trying to get into the right rhythm with them.  My verdict, I like them.  Certainly, on flat sections I get into a good rhythm and can make good (better) time.  Plus, there is an upper body workout as well.  Holmdel park isn’t known for elevation changes, but I did get to climb and descent some small hills; and I definitely see advantages to the poles.  They’ll make rock hopping and stream crossings easier, though I don’t know how much they’ll get used during scrambles.

As for the hike…this was a typical Monmouth County Park System hike.  There were very few blazes, mostly markers telling you which way the trail went.  And there were plenty of unmarked trails.  Trails were wide and well used, so it is very hard to actually get lost, though I found it difficult staying to my plan.  More than once I had to turn around.

One of the neatest aspects of this section of Holmdel Park is that the park follows Ramanessin Brook which is known to have shark’s teeth and fossils in it.  While walking along the southern portion of the Steeplechase trail I came across a person who had a couple.

I hiked down to the water to check it out.  I would like to come back and walk the brook and see what’s actually there as the brook is shallow and easily walk-able, and on a hot summer day will feel great.  I’ve heard that there are more fossils and teeth at Big Brook Park.

By the end of the hike I was pretty proficient with the poles and will be happy to bring them on future hikes.  And the boots were great.  I didn’t realize that the Ramanessin area had it’s own pull-out lot, which would have shaved about three quarters of a mile off the hike.  I parked in the main Longstreet Farm lot, which was starting to get full by the time I returned.

Ticks:  0

Blazes:

Hiked:  7/12/2020

High Point State Park

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  7.5 miles

Trails:  Iris, Appalachian, Monument/Shawangunk Ridge, Cedar Swamp

My Map:

This would be some hike.  I believe that this would be the furthest I drive for a hike in New Jersey as this was a long drive; but a really nice day.  I had never been to High Point or the monument even though it is widely known.  The monument is not open due to the pandemic, it is unlikely that I would have climbed it even if it was open.  Forget the fact that I would have just come up a steep section of the Monument/Shawangunk Ridge trail, I’m not sure I could do the steps.

I started this hike at the Appalachian Trail pull off lot, which was good-sized and empty by the time I got there.  I took the connector to the Iris trail, which is part of the Appalachian Trail until Route 23 and the park office.  I was a little disoriented when I came to Route 23 as I knew I had to cross the road, but I wasn’t sure where the trail picked up.  It became very obvious.

The next section on the Appalachian Trail was pretty strenuous, and I was beginning to think of the other week at Apshawa.  Lots and lots of rocks.  And some pretty steep sections as well.  I usually hike in long pants to keep the ticks/bugs off me.  They are the pants that zip off above the knees to convert to shorts.  It was pretty warm, around 85, and somewhat humid; I considered zipping them off when I got to the monument for some relief.  I found the observation deck on the AT and rested a moment before the next leg – which consisted of a descent into a small valley, then a hike uphill to the monument.

The Appalachian Trail will meet the Monument/Shawangunk Ridge Trail, and that’s where I left the Appalachian.  There is one section of this trail that runs straight uphill to the back of the monument.  The rest at the top was totally worth it.  It was here that I thought I would convert my pants to shorts, but after sitting for a few minutes I started to realize it was a little chilly.  It’s a perfect spot for a snack and by the time I had finished eating, people watching, wandering around the monument I was cooled off.  I took a picture looking back at the observation deck.

Be advised that there is a parking lot about 100 yards from the monument and it gets crowded.  I know I got some looks from people as I emerged from the trail dripping with sweat and probably looking like I would collapse.

Here’s where it got interesting for me.  I wanted to continue on the Monument/Shawangunk Ridge trail to find the Cedar Swamp trail.  Monument/Shawangunk Ridge continues on the other side of the parking lot.  While crossing the parking lot I felt something flapping on my left boot.  I took a look and I could see where the boot was separating from the sole.  Sigh.  Now what?  I’m a little under two miles in.  It has gotten partly cloudy, to the point that rain may be arriving.  And I have a boot that may be failing.  Looking at the topo map I saw that there wasn’t too much elevation change.  My questions would be a) what if really started raining? and b) could I make it back over the AT if I needed to?

I decided to press on.

Not a bad decision.  I just had to manage that left boot.  Which held up pretty well.  At a break, I looked at the right boot, and I could see where it too was starting to fail.  Granted, these boots were almost 20 years old, but only used heavily the last five years.

I found the Cedar Swamp trail and completed that circuit.  Backwards I found out.  Typically that trail starts from the parking lot east of Lake Marcia.  The park has set the trail direction as clockwise.  I entered the trail from the Monument/Shawangunk Ridge trail, didn’t see signs, and walked counter-clockwise.  Fortunately, I didn’t see many people, but wondered why I got funny looks from the people I did pass.  When I got to the trail “start” I saw the signs for the temporary directions.  The Cedar Swamp trail was nice, cool, relatively level, and very different from the surrounding terrain.

I finished the loop and got back on the Monument/Shawangunk Ridge trail to complete my loop back towards the AT.  Where the Shawangunk Ridge trails bears right to New York I stopped to take a picture at one of the view points.  I believe that’s Port Jervis in the distance.

I’m pretty sure that’s New York state in the distance.

I continued on the Monument Trail.  After a little bit I noticed some good elevation changes, one of which became pretty rocky.  And, my left boot was becoming worse.  I quickly realized I was going to have to make some decisions soon.  Coming out of the woods, I followed the trail down to Marcia Lake.  The sun was out, it was a little warmer so I stopped to eat and rest again. There’s a beach at the far end, and it was packed with people; some swimming in the lake.

Looking at my boot I realized I would not make it back over the AT.  I decided to road walk the rest of the way back.  And honestly, even without the boot problem, this might have been the better decision as the walk around the lake was extremely pleasant, albeit warmer.

After exiting the park I had a short road walk on Route 23 south, probably a quarter mile or so.  About 300 yards from the AT parking lot, the boot and sole separated.  I am extremely thankful it happened here, rather than on the trail somewhere.  Big lesson learned – I’m now carrying a small role of duct tape for these kinds of situations.

I really enjoyed this hike, I’d like to come back and hike some of the southern area from the parking lot.  The mental stress of the hike was certainly a distraction, but being better prepared on my part would alleviate that.  The AT parking lot was not full when I returned and is a great place to park if you don’t want to pay the fees and/or don’t mind the the extra walk.

Ticks:  0

Blazes:

Cedar Swamp marker

Hiked:  7/3/2020

Apshawa Preserve

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  6.3 miles

Trails:  Blue, White, Red, Green

My Map:

I’m calling it now, this hike will be in the top five at the end of the year, if not the top spot.  This was a great hike, and is a great place to visit and hike.  It did not hurt that the weather was perfect:  sunny, barely a cloud in the sky and very low 70s.  To me, this hike has it all:  some steep terrain, lakes, cascades and waterfalls, ruins, and great views.

The state of New Jersey is slowly re-opening and I looked for a hike that might be out of the way with less people.  I can’t remember where I learned of Apshawa Preserve, my best bet is NJHiking.com. I left early, as usual, and by the time I got to the parking lot, I was almost the last car in; there were lots of people early in the morning.  In the lot, there was a large group of loud people, only a few masked.  I let them start off ahead of me hoping to give them a good head start while I snapped a picture of the trail kiosk.  And this great picture:

I haven’t seen a bear while hiking.  I’d like to, but from a distance.  It was not to be today.  To enter the park, you have to pass through a gate in a fence, which I read is used to keep the deer out.  I didn’t see any deer in the park, so I would say it is effective.  In I went.

It was all uphill to start, which was fun.  It didn’t take me long to catch up to that large group, I could hear them while walking and figured I would catch them sooner or later.  I figured I would pass them, but we got caught in a bottleneck – where the trail descends a rock scramble.  I let them take their time with that while checked out the view.  One in their group was playing music through their phone, one was on their phone trying to send pictures to someone.  I started to plan where I wanted to pass them, but luckily, did not have to.  I turned onto white, which went straight uphill.  I slowly lost their noise, and was rewarded with views from the top.

White descended steeply to junction with Red.  This would be the trail around Butler Reservoir and had some amazing views of the water.  I would have liked to have circumnavigated yellow, but the trail is closed due to beaver activity.

I must have missed the actual trail between the two sections of the reservoir.  I was probably walking on a small footpath when I realized I had to cross a small stream.  I couldn’t believe the trail would present this path to casual hikers.

I crossed without issue.  And after walking about 20 feet on the other side, I saw where the “real” trail rock hopped across the stream.  Either way seemed fun.

Some views of the reservoir:

This is why the Yellow trail is closed

Mountain Laurel were still in bloom and could be found in numerous locations.

On the southwestern side of the reservoir I met up with the large group of hikers.  They were looking for the waterfall, which I knew to be on the Green trail.  I let them know, but they were dedicated to going around the reservoir.  Shortly after, I met up with a hiking group with their dogs, all unleashed.  When they saw me they started to leash up the dogs but I was mostly by them by the time the dogs were all leashed.  I’m a dog person, so don’t mind them, but I would rather they be leashed.

After a brief rest on the rocks in the middle of the reservoir, I headed to the green trail.  This went up, steeply.  There was a great view at the top that was probably much better without the vegetation.  The peak was the highest point in Apshawa Presever, and I’ll say, it was a nice long ascent.  The descent, though, was a different story.  There were two or three switchbacks, but it felt like it was straight down the fall-line and my knees felt it.   Here’s what that section looks like in Caltopo, the switchbacks are in the center, and you can see the contour lines.

I rested at the cascades of Apshawa Brook.

A little ways up the trail (and uphill) I came to the ruins of the old water purification system.  What’s not shown are the massive tanks sitting by the brook.

Up the steep hill to the waterfall of Apshawa Brook.

From here I followed Green until it met back with Blue, and took that back to the car.  Upon reaching the parking lot I noticed that there were police directing the flow of traffic.

This is a great place to hike and I highly recommend it; it has something for everyone.  I hiked as long as I could, but there were numerous paths and circuits to make the hike as long and rugged as you like, or not.  My advice is to get there early as the lot fills up.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  6/14/2020

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  1.02 Miles

Trails:  White Oak trail

My Map:

Another hike while still “shut down.” Great Swamp is another park that is a relatively short drive from home, so I figured I would explore this.  Reading about it in 50 Hikes of New Jersey (the really old edition,) I noticed that they called out that this would be one of the wettest hikes in their book that you would undertake.  Further, it rained the night before I went up.  However, it was bright and sunny, so I figured this would be interesting.

And interesting it was.  There are two longish out-and-back hikes that have separate trailheads.  I planned on walking the longer one.  After parking and getting ready, I walked in…only to find shin-deep mud.  I bushwacked and stayed as dry as possible, looking for passable routes.  Nope, none.  After about a quarter mile (and an hour of walking) I turned around and sought the other trail head.  Unfortunately, it was much the same.  I don’t mind a little mud, but the hiking was long for such a short distance, and upon scouting what was in front of me, it didn’t appear to be getting better, on the contrary; it was getting worse.

I realize the park is a wildlife refuge, and as such trails are not “maintained” to the degree that other parks maintain trails.  The trails and the park are left to nature.  I resolved to come back another day, such as after a week of no rain – maybe it would dry out a little.

On the way out of the park I passed the visitor’s center, and happened to see a trailhead out of the corner of my eye.  So, turning around, I parked and investigated.  It was too nice a day to drive the distance I did for nothing.  I found the White Oak trail, which was a short loop right across from the the parking lot.  This trail was split between a meadow walk and a short jaunt into the woods.

A couple of pictures:

The large white oak tree:

The White Oak

Excuse my finger

Ticks: 0

Blaxes:

Hiked:  6/7/20

Sourland Mountain Preserve

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  6.3 miles

Trails:  Ridge, Roaring Brook Trail

My Map:

After the number of people I saw in the parks last week, I thought I would find something a little more off the beaten path, so to say.   For this trip, I headed to Sourland Mountain Preserve, and the famed Devil’s Half Acre.  Sourland Preserve is known for its bouldering, both in the Devil’s Half Acre and by the Roaring Brook.  There were more cars in the parking lot at 9:00 a.m. than I expected but still plenty of spaces.

Trails are mostly dirt, with some roots, and lots and lots of rocks.

The hike up to the Ridge Trail – fairly tame

After about 100 yards, the trails would be exclusively

And that is not a lot, by comparison.

The boulders in the Devil’s Half Acre were huge, and there were lots of people all over them.  I did not partake:  a) there were too many people, not many masked, and b) I wasn’t really dressed for it.  But it was cool to see.  The trails around these boulders were not well marked, as evidence by my map.  If you look at the northern-most part of my map, you’ll see where it appears I went around in circles.  I did.  AllTrails didn’t really help either.  I almost broke out the compass.  Once I figured out where to go, it was smooth sailing from then on.

A “small” boulder

After turning on the Roaring Brook trail, the path became mostly rock.

From here to the end there were numerous small creek crossing that entailed fairly easy rock hopping.  It was also at this point that the sun became blazing hot.  Surprisingly, I had to pass through, not one, but two chain link fences – I suspect the same fence in two locations.  And after looking at the map, my guess is the fence is the town border.  Also, I had to cut across a pipeline cut twice.

When the Roaring Brook meets back with the Ridge trail it is mostly downhill and more level terrain.  At this point I started meeting more people, probably 80/20 masked; and I came across a group with unleashed dogs.

Getting back to the parking lot around noon I noticed it was packed.  In fact, closed.  I’m sure a great many of the people were bouldering, as I did not see many people on the trails away from the big rocks.  People by the lake were not social distancing.  And at least one car followed my back to my car for my space.  While it was great in the woods, the parking lot was another story all together.  This was a great hike, though, and I would definitely come back.

Ticks:  0

Blazes:

Hiked:  5/24/2020

Princeton Battlefield State Park / Institute Woods

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  6.33 Miles

Tails:  Many (of the named ones:  Corfield, Far, River’s Edge, Marsh, Oden & Trolley Track)

My Map:

In the midst of the quarantine, and with parks open for the first week, I thought I would find some place relatively secluded where I could ramble the trails.  And in this case, I wanted to find the swinging bridge.  Arriving at the park early enough there were only six other cars in the parking, which I thought might be a good sign.

I started by hiking out down the road, thinking I would take a trail that skirted the woods and would pick up the River’s Edge trail.  After walking down the road, I found where the map AND AllTrails indicated the turn to towards the woods should be.  However, that trail doesn’t exist.  So, it was back up the road, with the sun blazing down.  I eventually turned on the Cornfield trail by the marker.

Once inside Institute Woods, trails would be wide and packed dirt, with occasional roots.  It’s easy walking with no elevation gain; and it is really hard to get lost – even though blazes are sporadic and trails are only named on the map.  And, there are numerous unmarked trails.

However, I was off to find the bridge.  The path by the river’s edge is very nice, the water moving faster than I expected.  After some time, found it:

The Swinging Bridge

Following the trail on the other side of the bridge led to the Delaware & Raritan Canal and trail of the same name.  However, a rockhop over the canal would be necessary; the rocks were spaced a bit and I didn’t have trekking polls to help balance.  Another day.

I hiked down to the viewing stand and walked around the marsh.  If you are into birding, this is a great place to watch the birds, with a clear view while remaining hidden in the trees.

While walking I got to see a little wildlife:

Frogs in the creeks
Always, ever present, deer

Finally, I walked along the old trolley track and took the trail up to the Columns.  I didn’t hike out to the columns because there were too many people – and I was trying to stay away.

When I got back to the parking lot, there were easily 30+ cars jammed in; and cars lining the driveway.  People were all over the place, and no one was social distancing.  I guess cabin fever crept in.  After unloading, I walked to see the Clarke House, but from a distance.  As there were so many people I figured to come back another day.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked: 5/17/2020

Kittatiny Valley State Park

Park Site

Trail Map:  1 & 2   <— 2 is better, it shows more of the unmarked trails

Hike Distance 5.02 miles

Trails:  White, Yellow, Red, Blue, and a bunch of unmarked trails

My Map:

It was the first weekend of parks being open, so I figured I would make the most of it.  I started out in rain, though by the time I got to the park, the sun was out and it was warming up.  The lot was crowded, mostly with bikes, dogs, and a few people running.  I did see a couple of horses.  Once I got into the woods, I rarely saw anyone; which was nice.  I saw plenty of people out on the lake and when I reached the airport.  Yes, I said airport.

Sorry, no payphone this post.

I started on white, which quickly went up on the ridge.  The trails were wide, soft dirt, with rocks strewn in; but it was easy walking.

I especially like walking next to Lake Aeroflex (I think now named Lake Wawayanda.)  The trail came pretty close to the water, and there were some spots where it would have been pretty easy to fall in.

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Lake Aeroflex / Wawayanda

The trail comes to a little dock with a great view of the lake.  Next to it is an old wall, I took the picture looking back.

Old fireplace

Next to this fireplace was a trail that led down to the water.  At one point the YMCA Wawayanda camp for boys was here, and I suspect that trail led to a boat launch of some kind.

A few minutes more walking brought me to the Aeroflex Andover Airport.  This was the coolest spot, and one other spot where I saw other people.  There were multiple benches where one could sit and watch the planes take off and land.  After getting a selfie with a plane landing, I plopped down on a hill to watch for a while.  The planes would land by coming right over the lake; and took off going away from it.  While I was there I saw four or five takeoffs and landings.

A takeoff

After sitting for a few minutes, it was back to the hike.

While heading towards the Sussex Branch trail, I found this rock.

A few minutes further down the trail I ran into an issue, easily six inches of water cover the trail for about 10 yards.  I had to bushwhack around it.

Towards the southern end of the park there are many unmarked trails.  It looks like there is a new Andover Loop trail (not marked on my map, and with smaller trails branching off it.)  I found my way to the Blue trail, but not using the path I intended.

Andover Loop Trail

Coming back up the Blue trail was nice.  Atop a hill there was a nice view of White’s Pond, which my initial path would have taken me closer to.

All in all this was a great hike.  It’s not often you hike to an airport.  The trails were not too strenuous, and it seemed pretty hard to get lost in the park, even on some of the unmarked trails.  I highly recommend, for the airport alone.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked: 5/3/2020