Bearfort Ridge

Park Site

Trail Map

But also look here and here for improvements and changes.

Hike Distance 7.7 Miles

Trails:  Bearfort Ridge, Ernest Walter, Appalachian, State Line

Note on trails:  See the extra maps above.  What was known as the Quail Trial/Jimmy Glick trail appears to have been renamed to make up the Bearfort Ridge Loop.  Also, as of now (September 2020) The Bearfort Ridge Loop trail has been reblazed a lime green color.  It looks like there will be a new trail as well.  Bearfort Ridge used to be white.

My Map:

I was blessed with another perfect day to go out, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky all day.  It was in the low 50s when I left home, yet high 40s when I got to the trailhead.  As I might not be able to hike for a couple of weeks, this was a great way to go out.  This route has been on my list for a while as it is described in 50 Hikes in New Jersey; the next time I go, I may try Terrace Pond to the south.

This was a long day though; I was not prepared for the amount of scrambling I would be doing.  when I come back, I may just do the loop for the views.  However I highly recommend this hike.

Starting out, the trails are fairly wide, and soft dirt.  It wouldn’t be north Jersey without rocks.  And lots of rocks.  There were lots of trees down, but the trail is well maintained.

Eastern Hemlock Varnish Shelf mushroom

I went left when the Bearfort Ridge trail split as I wanted to head up to the Appalachian trail before I got to Surprise Lake.  The trail heads up steeply, then sort of levels out as you near the ridge.  I felt like walking on the ridge was like walking on someone’s spine.  There were plenty of rock scrambles, each affording it’s own view.

Right near the top of the ascent, I noticed a big rock to my left and scrambled up that for a great view to the south / southwest.  Coming down that I was faced with:

I was glad to have to go up that, and not down.  However, there was more to come.  This was a good scramble, and with a crazy good view as the payoff.

New York City

It seemed every scramble had a view, and I was blessed with great weather.  Walking northwards on the ridge was pleasant with multiple scrambles and rocks to walk along.

I came to a swamp with a large rock that seems to have been detached from the rest of the rock.

When the Bearfort Ridge trail junctioned with the Ernest Walter trail, I went left, through a small field, then to some large rocks.  Fortunately, I was going down.  Here’s a shot looking back up.

Just beyond, I ran into a group of three, and warned them of what they were going to have to go up.  They mentioned that I had a big rock in store for me that they just came up.  I didn’t think I would have anything more difficult than the above.  They were right.  I don’t have any pictures (I didn’t want to stick around) but I basically came to a twelve foot cliff that had two spots that sort of looked like steps.  After not finding a way around this, I chucked my trekking poles down, slid out on the ledge, kind of twisted over and lowered myself down.  I regret not getting a picture, but I was more content on getting out of that spot.

Eventually, I junctioned with the Appalachain trail, and saw one thru/section hiker going by.  While waiting for a large-ish group of hikers to come scrambling down some rocks, I found a pretty cool looking web.

Scrambling up wasn’t too bad, though the rocks were in the sun and I thought about snakes sunbathing on top.  I figured the snakes would be gone after the group I waited for had left.

I met up with the State Line trail.  However, I wanted to see how far New York was up the Appalachian Trail.  It was much shorter than I expected.

Standing in two states at once

The State Line trail mostly descended until it junctioned back up with the Ernest Walter trail. Then it was a mad climb back up the Ernest Walter.  Again the payoff would be worth it as there expansive views of Greenwood Lake.  My pictures cannot do it justice.  There was a long walk on a large rock and view kept getting better and better as I climbed.  Stitch these next two pictures together.

It would be easy to sit on the rock and look at the view, but I was hungry and wanted to eat at Surprise Lake, a glacial lake.

And then it was down on the old Quail Trail, now part of the Bearfort Ridge Loop.

Orange Mycena

Many of the rocks were covered with Smooth Rock Tripe.  It was all over the place.

False Death Cap

There were a couple of water crossings, mostly dried up, a few with trickling water.  This would probably be much more interesting in the Spring after the rains.

Finally, it was back to where the connector trail led to the parking lot.

This was an awesome hike; it didn’t hurt that I had absolutely phenomenal weather.  I highly recommend this; though if you are going to do the Ernest Walter trail be prepared for some big scrambles.  It seemed that every facet of the this trail was awesome, there were no dull parts.  And for the most part, it is one big view.

Ticks:  0

Blazes:

Hiked:  9/19/2020

Stairway to Heaven

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  7.7 miles

Trails:  Appalachian, blue

My Map:

(a note on my map, I forgot to un-pause GPS after sitting, but I essentially retraced my steps.)

There’s a lady who’s sure
All that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to Heaven
When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Oh oh oh oh and she’s buying a stairway to Heaven

Like the famous song, this hike is usually listed in the top three hikes of New Jersey.  The scenery is gorgeous.  The boardwalks and suspension bridge are great.  The “Stairway to Heaven” portion of the the Appalachian Trail is steep and rugged, but the payoff is totally worth it.

This had been on my to do list for a long time; but since I knew it was such popular hike I had to find the right time to do it.  The Sunday of Labor Day seemed as good as any.  Be warned, parking is crazy:  lots are small, the parking on the road in the Pochuk Valley is limited, and the local towns are fierce with their ticketing.  I left the house at 6:00 in the morning, figuring if I got there “too early” I could nap.  I was the 5th car by the boardwalks, arriving at 8:00.  But, I couldn’t nap, so I headed out.

This hike is an out an back.  From Pinwheel Vista at the top of Wawayanda Mountain, retrace your steps.  I’ve divided this hike up into three sections:  The Pochuck Valley boardwalk, the middle, and Stairway to Heaven, with the terminus at Pinwheel Vista.

There’s a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In a tree by the brook
There’s a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiving

The first section contains the boardwalks of Pochuck Valley, and there were plenty of people just walking the boards.  It was 59 degrees when I started, and the temps were only supposed to get into the low 70s.  Boardwalks are easy going, and I made the best time here.  But the scenery is incredible; lots of wild flowers.  There were tons of crickets, making a symphony of noise.   Bozza’s Aria it wasn’t.

One of the neatest features is the suspension bridge over Pochuck Creek.

Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder

The next section I deemed the middle, and it roughly started at the bike path at Canal Road.  It was here that the boardwalk ended, and I moved into the woods; hard-packed dirt and a wide trail.  Due to the constant shade, it was noticeably cooler on this section.

Also, there were a handful of stiles to go over the fences; though some of the fences were missing.  (I still went over the stiles when I could.)

The stile above deposited you into a farm where there were cows (not until my way back.)  And yes, you had to watch where you walked.

And yes, that’s Wawayanda Mountain in the background.  Imposing.

There’s a feeling I get
When I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who standing looking

Upon crossing the last stile you’re deposited in the roadway.  Be careful crossing, cars go flying by.  (There’s also a dairy farm a short trip up the road, I didn’t stop, it was too crowded.)  Here, for a small lot, there were a ton of cars.  All of these people were just climbing the mountain to head to Pinwheel Vista.  I apologize, there are not too many pictures of the climb up….you’ll understand in a minute.

These pictures don’t do it justice.  And really, there are a lot of “stairs.”  A.  LOT.  Plus, in some sections it gets pretty steep.  I didn’t break out the poles because there were sections where you needed at least one hand in addition to your feet to climb. Looking at my split times, this section had the slowest time.  Parts of it were brutal.  And it was slow going with the number of people out today.

And it’s whispered that soon, If we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn
For those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter

You’ll know you’ve reached the top when you reach the humongous pile of rocks.  Head to the left to get to Pinwheel Vista.

I, however, wanted to see the mailbox for AT thru hikers, which was less than a half-mile down the path.

Coming back from the mailbox, make a right at the pile of rocks and head to Pinwheel Vista.  It is easy to see why this trail ranks so highly, the views are definitely worth it.

It was so clear I could see the High Point monument directly across from me (way in the distance.)  And you could just barely see Mt. Tammany in the Water Gap.  I sat for quite a while, as it was an exhausting climb and I needed water and something to eat.

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow
Don’t be alarmed now
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen
Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on
And it makes me wonder

To get back, retrace your steps.  I left Pinwheel Vista at the perfect time, a little before noon.  There was an endless stream of people coming up – switchbacks were jammed up, basically with traffic jams.  And I saw people on those rocks with flipflops and crocs and no water or anything to eat.  I tried to keep a good pace going down, but didn’t want to overtake the family in front of me.  Two little girls were bounding on the rocks until one pulled up sharply and shrieked.

A New Jersey Black Rat snake.  I got a good picture and high tailed it out of there.

I think I stopped counting around 300 people that I passed, and it surely had to be more.

Your head is humming and it won’t go
In case you don’t know
The piper’s calling you to join him
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow?
And did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind?

On the way back down I was able to stop at Annie’s Bluff, which was packed with people when I was climbing.  It was a limited view, but nice none-the-less.

Upon reaching the bottom it was a relatively flat return to the car.  However, the cows were out.

And I spotted this guy basking in the sun.

There were tons of people on the boardwalk and I got back to my car around 1:00.  The road was packed and there were people still showing up, I suspect many were only walking the boardwalk.

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll
And she’s buying a stairway to Heaven

All in all, this was a great hike; it’s easy to see why this hike ranks so highly in polls.  The Pochuck Valley and middle sections are easy enough, you will work hard on “the Stairs.”  But the payoff is worth it.  The trail is super easy to follow, it’s the Appalachian Trail.  Supposedly the trail to the vista is blazed blue, but I didn’t see any blazes.

My only concern is the amount of litter on the trail, presumably a factor of the amount of people. I saw masks, paper towels, tissues, etc.  In fact, I kept my mask on from the time I left the Vista until I reached my car due to the number of people.  If you can do this hike mid-week or in sub optimal weather, do it.  I had no solitude today.

Ticks:  0

Blazes:

You only need to know one….

Hiked: 9/6/2020

Thanks to Robert, Jimmy, John, and John for allowing me this cliche comparison.

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