Trails: Red Maple (Red leaf on white), Brink Road (Shay?), AT (White), Jacob’s Ladder (Blue and White)
Mountain – Blue Mountain
I haven’t been in this area of NJ i n quite a while, and it was a great day to get out. Leaving the house I could see my breath. I was the first car to pull into the Lake Ashroe parking lot in Stokes State Forest, and the temperature made it to the 60s. It would reach the middle 70s later in the day. I started without the fleece, and that was a wise move.
This hike starts on the Red Maple trail, which skirts a campground before heading into the woods. The campground seemed full when I went by, and has, by far, the best access to the lake.
The trail is single track until it joins a woods road, named Woods Road. From here on out the trail is wide and fairly level. I should note, this section of the trail was infested with mosquitoes. I couldn’t stop or I would be covered by them. It was so bad during this stretch I though of cutting the hike short. Fortunately, it was only this area that was so bad; no other part of the hike had any bugs to speak of.
I made good time in this section, a) because it was wide and flat, and b) the mosquitoes may have carried me off if tried stopping. At one point I passed a large swamp on my right. I crossed over Brink Road (the Shay trail), saw the gate, but didn’t realize that’s where I needed to turn in order to reach the Appalachian Trail. It wasn’t until the Red Maple leaves the woods road and heads off into the woods towards Tillman Ravine that I realized I missed my turn. Fortunately, I had not gone too far.
The section of Brink Road I used to connect to the AT is not long, maybe a half mile. The Brink Road shelter is on this trail and is about a quarter of a mile from the AT. At the junction, I turned right (southbound) to head up Blue Mountain. A steep climb takes you to some rocks, but there’s no view. In the research I did for this trip, I distinctly remember views. A quick look at the map showed a small descent, then climb to another “top.” After coming out of the woods, and walking through the scrub oak, BAM, views all around, though generally looking north, and west into Pennsylvania. It was a clear day, so I could see far.
If you zoom in on the next picture you can see the High Point tower.
I stopped to eat here, and it was really warm in the sun. From this point I retraced my steps back to Brink Road, and proceed to head north on the Appalachian Trail. This walk was atop the ridge, and there would be views to both sides if the foliage wasn’t already on the trees.
Of course, I stopped to sign the trail register.
Continuing north on the AT, I found a small spur trail that lead to a partial view looking into NJ.
I took the Jacob’s Ladder trail back to the Red Maple trail which would lead to my car. Jacob’s Ladder had one section that was pretty steep, descending a large rock slab. Here’s what it looked like looking back up.
There was one tricky stream crossing just before the junction with the Red Maple. At this point I had only seen about four people in total. When I rejoined the Red Maple trail, I started to see many more people. And when I returned to the lot there were many more cars there, though the lot was not entirely full. After changing, I walked over to see what Lake Ashroe looked like. This is just one end.
Ticks: 4 (a far cry from the 20+ of two weeks ago.)
It was 22 degrees at the trailhead, but, because I haven’t been out in a couple of weeks, I was heading out. There was no snow on the ground, though I had microspikes with me, lesson learned from a couple of weeks ago. I was the third car in the parking lot, though by the time I finished up, the lot was full. I saw only one or two other people on the trails until I got to the Timp-Torne where I ran into some very large groups. And, while I was mostly in Bear Mountain State Park, I crossed over into Harriman briefly.
The 1777 W trail has a spot where the tops of the trees have been snapped off. It’s pretty surreal. At this point the trail is pretty level, and there are a couple of brooks to rock hop.
Here’s a shot looking back. The water seemed higher than I would have expected.
After turning onto the Suffern-Bear Mountain trail, the trail started to climb, ultimately making its way up West Mountain. There were a couple of spots that were pretty steep. Like this one. And it was 8:50 in the morning when I reached this spot. Nothing like a good workout to start the day.
The picture is deceiving, the terrain is almost straight up; you can sort of tell by the trees. And it was cold, though all the uphill kept me warm.
The scramble led to a false summit of West Mountain. At the top was a vernal pond, with a layer of ice on the top.
From here it was on to the top of West Mountain. At the junction with the Timp-Torne trail, I went left to visit the West Mountain shelter. This shelter is a little bigger than the other shelters I’ve seen, the sleeping platform goes the width of the shelter. However, the shelter was packed (not with campers); there were two large groups of hikers that were milling about. The shelter has a great south-looking view; with the Timp right in front of you, and clear view of New York City. I took some pictures, then headed out.
From this point I took the Timp-Torne trail north. The map showed multiple viewpoints along the way, and they did not disappoint. There were views on both sides of the trail – sometimes looking west, and sometimes looking Northeast at Bear Mountain.
Here’s one of the first viewpoints.
The next viewpoint, though, was my favorite. It overlooks the southern portion of the Anthony Wayne recreation area parking lot, and looks west into Harriman state park. The Appalachian trail junctions here.
While sitting here for a minute eating a snack, I realized my phone was buzzing with incoming texts and mail. Odd, I thought, because I lost reception when I pulled into the parking lot. So I sent out a few texts and noticed the signal strength was almost 100%. Upon looking around, I figured out why:
You would never see that in the summer, with all the leaves on the trees. That’s the Palisades Interstate Parkway just behind the tower. The parking lot is just to the right.
Here’s a shot of Bear Mountain from the right side of the trail.
Walking the ridge along the top of West Mountain had great views, and not just from the viewpoints. I was lucky in that all the leaves were down; I imagine it’s tougher to see in the summer.
The last scramble for the day occurred at this point. You have to squeeze between the rocks. Right in the center of the picture, the trail turns right and goes straight up the small cliff. It’s easily doable up. I’m not sure I would want to try it down. There must have been a trail that went around the climb, because I could hear people, but I couldn’t see them.
From here I took the Timp-Torne to the Fawn trail, then back to the car. There is a good scramble downwards (or up, if you’re going the other direction) just before the junction with the Fawn trail. This was a really great hike for views – and the viewpoints will be great all year round. With the leaves down there were some extra views.
Trails – Appalachian (white), Mt. Minsi Fire Road, green, and some unmarked trails
Mountain – Mt. Minsi
My map –
I have been on Mt. Minsi, but it was over 30 years ago. And, we came from the ridge, I believe we climbed to the ridge at Totts Gap and we walked to the Minsi Lookout. This time, I started at the Appalachian Trail trailhead in the town of Delaware Water Gap, which is a nice quaint small mountain town. I got the last (legal) spot in the lot just before nine in the morning. When I came back, there were cars all over the place. And, there was trail magic in the parking lot.
The parking lot is right next to Lake Lenape, which was in full bloom of water lilies. The AT is part of the Mt. Minsi fire road for a couple of hundred yards, so it is nice and easy walking.
Once off the fire road, the walking becomes typical Appalachian Trail (at least for this section.)
Crossing Eureka Creek was fun, the water was low, and the trail heads off into a small Rhododendron tunnel. As typical, there was Rhododendron all over the place.
Shortly after, I zipped off the leggings of my pants – it was just too hot and humid. After that I quickly made it to the first viewpoint, Lookout Rock.
After Lookout Rock, it’s pretty much up and up and up until you get to the viewpoint looking across the river at Mt. Tammany.
Birch trees already have their leaves changing color. I don’t want to think about that yet – it’s still August.
Getting closer to the next lookout is a long Rhododendron tunnel, that ends with a small scramble.
I made it to the overlook that looks east and towards Mt. Tammany. However, there were ten kids making all kinds of noise at the overlook, so I headed off to the summit. From that overlook to the top, it’s all uphill. You’ll know you are at the summit as there is a cell tower at the top (?) and the remains of what look like a fire tower.
About a quarter mile west of the summit and on the left is a small overlook that looks south with views of both New Jersey and Pennsylvania and the Delaware River. The view would be bigger without the leaves on the trees.
After sitting a bit, I headed back the way I came.
When I reached the viewpoint, there was no one around, which afforded me time to eat something. It was sunny (and hot) and I had a great view of Mt. Tammany.
While sitting, I noticed a bunch of hawks flying around. Some came suspiciously close.
On the return trip, I took the Mt. Minsi fire road. Before reaching the fire road, it was back through a Rhododendron tunnel, that was very dark. I tried to get a picture, but the camera took in too much light. This picture doesn’t do it justice, it was really dark in the tunnel.
I was looking for Table Rock, so I turned off the fire road to a trail labeled Green on AllTrails. It’s just marked as an unmarked trail on the NY NJ Trail Conference map. I never did find Table Rock, maybe I should have stayed on the fire road longer. This trail was definitely not used as much, but was interesting none the less.
Two more unmarked trails took me to Lake Lenape, though from a different side. There were tons of frogs all along the banks that jumped in the water as I approached.
There were lots of people out and about today; not so much when I went off the fire road. When I reached the parking lot, there were cars all over the place, but a welcome sight (and one I hadn’t see before) was Trail Magic – a van set up with food and cold drinks for AT thru-hikers.
Trails: Fairview (yellow), AT (white), Buckwood (turqoise), Sunfish Fire Road, Dunnfield Creek (green), Holly Springs (red)
For those wondering, this isn’t the typical Sunfish Pond loop. That loop starts at the Dunnfield Creek lot, and uses the full sections of the Appalachian Trail and Dunnfield Creek trail (and may be a tad longer too.) I wanted to stay away from the circus of people and chose to head to the Fairview lot off of Old Mine Road. When I pulled in around 8:20, I was the second car in the lot, and the first left while I was lacing up my boots. When I drove by the two hiker lots (of which one is the Dunnfield Creek lot) they were already mostly full. When I finished my hike, there was one other car in the lot. That’s not to say I didn’t see people; I saw a bunch of thru-hikers on the AT. But I “missed out” on the huge crowds at Mt. Tammany.
When I arrived at the Gap, there were lots of low clouds. Fortunately, once the sun came out it burned off all the clouds and became a great day. I thoroughly enjoyed the Fairview trail, though coming back I did not get to hike the whole Dunnfield Creek trail – and that’s a trail I really like.
Starting up the Fairview trail, the trail is nice and wide. At this time of year, there is lots of green,with ferns out all over the place.
The sun burned off the clouds early.
I passed a couple of spots with bear droppings, one really fresh. But alas, no bear sightings today.
I quickly came to the junction with the Appalachian Trail, and found this marking on the ground. 1300. I’m assuming miles, but I don’t know from which end.
The trails seemed damp, as if it had rained the night before. I don’t recall getting rain the day before. However, the mushrooms were out.
In case you have forgotten, or just don’t know what the AT is like in New Jersey…here is a typical section:
After stopping at the backpacker campsite to check things out, I quickly made it to Sunfish Pond. I had hiked this route close to 40 years ago, and I just don’t remember Sunfish Pond at all. On this day, it was gorgeous. The only sound were the frogs, and there were plenty. Here is Sunfish Pond, looking East.
I followed the Appalachian Trail along the northern edge – be advised there’s a small amount of rock scrambling at water’s edge. I took the Buckwood trail to continue going around the pond, as the AT heads north towards Raccoon Ridge. There is an overlook on the Buckwood trail that is (in my opinion) one of the best views of Sunfish Pond. It looks west, back from where I came.
Those clouds in the distance did start to build, but by the time I left the park, nothing had happened.
I was worried about what the Sunfish Fire Road would look like, as it is not “blazed” and that was my connection to the Dunnfield Creek Trail. I needn’t worried, it was not only pretty obvious, but signed. Further, the fire road is wide and pleasant to walk.
The junction with the Dunnfield Creek trail leads uphill, to the point of my highest elevation. And I’m glad I did the hike in the direction I did, as I would not have wanted to climb that hill with all the rocks. Going down was tough enough. I like the Dunnfield Creek trail, especially when it joins Dunnfield Creek. Be advised that there are a handful of stream crossings; all pretty easy as I had rocks sticking up above water. It could be a different story with higher water.
I almost stepped on this guy.
Mountain Laurel was still blooming; in some spots more than others.
The junction with the Holly Springs trail is pretty muddy. And it’s uphill almost all the way back to the junction with the AT and the Fairview trail.
All in all, this was a great hike. It was hot, the car said 84 when I returned to it. And it was a little muggy. I’m glad I chose the Fairview lot (and trail) as the Dunnfield Creek lots were jammed when I returned, I assume cars were in the overflow lot on the other side of Route 80.
This was the trip I was hoping for two weeks ago when I went out chasing Fall foliage. While there were spots of brilliant colors, there were also spots with leaves down. It depended on where you were. So, for this post, be on the lookout for bonus pictures.
What the heck, bonus picture number 1. This picture was taken on the road (before Mountain Road) on the drive in. Fortunately, at that hour of the morning, there were no other cars.
On the drive in, if you’re coming from 206, follow Struble Road until you reach Wallpack Cemetery (you will pass two parking lots for Tillman Ravine.) Make a left at the cemetery and proceed down Mountain Road. A note on Mountain Road, it’s a dirt road, with many potholes, and some water crossings. It’s definitely doable in most any car, though you have to be careful, play a lot of dodge-pothole, and be wary of cars coming in the other direction.
As I entered Mountain Road, I couldn’t believe all the cars I saw before me. Until I saw all the blaze orange and the shotguns. Fortunately, by the time I reached the parking lot for the falls, I had left the hunters behind me. I pulled into the parking lot at 8:30 and was the first car there. It felt darker, but that was because the sun was on the other side of the ridge and had not risen high enough yet. I guess the other reason there was no one in the lot was due to the fact it was 23. That’s Fahrenheit.
So, let’s get the money shot out of the way.
If it were not so cold, I could have sat there a while. Which is why this place gets so crowded. I headed off with a fleece, hat and gloves on; knowing that enough activity would warm me up and keep me warm.
Not in the picture are the stairs that wind their way up the side to reach the top of the falls. Most of it was pretty easy, except for the last stairway to the top.
I was only a couple of hundred yards in. I couldn’t back out now. Head down, I plowed on up. Though, in the back of my mind the entire day was how I was going to get back DOWN those stairs. There’s a viewing platform at the top, that sort of looks down the falls. I didn’t even go look.
The entire Buttermilk Falls trail is a little less than two miles. But, it is almost straight up onto the ridge. In fact, it was the only serious climbing I did the entire day. Right after the falls is a section that is pretty steep. It was during this portion that I shed the gloves; the hat and fleece stayed on all day.
Did I mention the colors?
Just before the Woods Road trail would bisect the Buttermilk Falls trail, there is a portion to walk on the top of some exposed (large) rocks. I took this picture of the frost.
When I came back this way a little later, the sun was up and had melted the frost. When the sun was out, it was really nice. However, when the sun was behind the ridge or blocked by the trees, you could tell it was much cooler. And, when the sun was hidden, it looked a lot like this:
Eventually making it onto the ridge, I prepared myself for a typical New Jersey section of the Appalachian Trail.
This was downright pleasant. Where were the rocks? Where was the tortuous ups and downs? If the 2×6 white blazes were not visible every so often I would have thought I was someplace else. It was .9 miles to Crater Lake, and that went by quickly.
The Appalachian Trail junctions with the Crater Lake Loop just passed the trail to Hemlock Pond. I would come back to this spot momentarily. First, it was a trip to Crater Lake. I chose to go counter-clockwise, which meant a stop at a viewpoint.
Right after the viewpoint, the AT and the Crater Lake Loop sort of split. I wanted to take the shortcut, so I should have stayed on the AT. I stayed on the Crater Lake trail, and ended up adding about a half mile more. Definitely worth it, the Crater Lake Loop is almost entirely a woods road.
There’s one section where the land passes Crater Lake on the left and big pond on the right. I found out why there are many trees down in the area.
While most of the time was spent looking up, I did manage to look down once or twice to find some Mountain Laurel.
Upon reaching Crater Lake, there’s a parking lot with a small spur trail to the lakeside.
Absolutely serene. No wind. And no one was around. I had it to myself. I sat for quite a bit, but was interrupted by two cars entering the parking lot with real loud music blasting. Not wanting to leave, I stuck around until it became apparent that people were headed in my direction.
The rest of the loop was rather short. I did notice this old structure in the woods. And if it was a house at one time, the occupants had one heck of a view.
The Hemlock Crater Connector trail was the only other trail that was not a woods road; but at .4 miles long, I wasn’t on it enough to worry or matter. Mostly, it descends to the Hemlock Pond trail; another woods road. Though, it’s easy to see where Hemlock Pond gets its name.
Opposite the junction of the (Blue Mountain) Outer Loop trail is a small spur trail to the pond. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by these types of spur trails in the past, so I gave it a shot.
I definitely stayed here a few minutes. Again, no one around. And quiet. Real quiet. Life could percolate for a few minutes here. Feel free to pause a few minutes. I can wait.
The trail winds up the western shore until you reach a large rock outcrop.
You can just barely make out my earlier stopping point on the right.
I followed the Hemlock Pond trail on my way to the Woods Road trail. The Hemlock Pond trail would branch off to head down the eastern shore of Hemlock Pond. The Woods Road trail heads back to Buttermilk Falls. Why is this trail named the Woods Road Trail?
It passed through a small swamp. And the mystery of downed trees was solved once again.
One small stream crossing was a little trickier than it needed to be as the bridge (log) has been washed away. Still fun though.
The forest was very very quiet, which made for some great hiking. The only noise was my traipsing through leaves. It wasn’t quite noon, but the sun shining through the Hemlock trees was pretty magical.
I ran into people on my way back down the Buttermilk Falls trail. And the number of people without maps was astounding. I’m not sure where they all were going. The thought of the stairs popped back into my head. And when I reached the stairs, there were a lot of people milling around. I waited until no one was coming up…..then just put my head down and went down. It certainly wasn’t “fun” but I made it without thinking too much about it. And holy moly, the lot was full. Not just full, but packed, with cars waiting to get in. Most people were just stopping to view the falls, then leaving.
As I was leaving, I got a shot of one of the water crossings on Mountain Road.
Bonus Pic 2, for those of you that read this far. The drive out.
Mention the bonus word “Color” to receive a free hike.
Disclaimer: Elevation not guaranteed, colors not guaranteed, weather not guaranteed, trip not guaranteed.
Trails: Appalachian (white), Iris (red dot), connectors (2) both blue (one to the shelter, and one an AT connector)
Looking back at previous posts it has been almost exactly a month since the last time I was on the trails. It has been too long. And life certainly has gotten in the way. Initially, I thought I would be walking, enjoying the outdoors, unwinding and not taking many pictures. However, the day was just perfect: 60 degrees at the trail head, bright blue skies, and almost no humidity. It was the first time all summer that I left a trail without being absolutely soaked.
One note on today’s hike. The remnants of Hurricane Ida passed through on Wednesday and I wasn’t thinking. While the trails were relatively dry, all creeks became streams, and streams became torrents. There was still runoff. And while there were not many blowdowns, there were plenty of branches down.
The Appalachian trail portion of the hike took place almost exclusively on the Kittatiny ridge. After scrambling up there is a nice viewpoint, though partially obscured due to the summer leaves.
I really like the Appalachian trail…once you get a mile or so in, there’s almost no one. I didn’t see any through-hikers today. However, there’s only one way to describe the trail itself (as it pertains to New Jersey):
After a couple of short miles on the ridge I came to Dutch Shoe Rock, which has two viewpoints to check out. Unfortunately, it was much too early to eat by the time I reached the overlook.
Back on the ridge, it was off to the junction with the Iris trail, which would take me back to the car and complete the loop. On the way, I found:
Challenge accepted. After consulting the map, it would be only .4 miles to the shelter. There are a couple of water crossings that under normal circumstances would be pretty easy with many exposed rocks. Today, with all the water, they were a little trickier.
No one was here when I arrived. It’s definitely a nice shelter, and would make a great spot for a backpacking trip. Another time.
It was here that I helped out a fellow hiker who was a little lost. He had been following me, and didn’t realize I was just checking out the shelter. I’m not sure where he thought he was going. I let him take a picture of my map and he was on his way – I didn’t see him again.
Back to the AT, it was a short distance to the junction of the Iris trail. I really thought about extending the loop as both the Iris and the AT continue and I could have added about three miles to the loop. But, remembering some of my past decisions, I decided to keep to my original plan – and turn left on the Iris.
What a pleasure. Yes, most of it was downhill. And, for the most part, it was much like a woods road. But the real reason this was so nice:
There were a couple of stream crossings, and with the water running the way it was, I took the bridges when possible.
The Iris trail headed around Lake Rutherford’s western edge and had a couple of viewpoints. The first two I came to were on large rocks overlooking the lakes and if it were not for the trees with full canopies, I would have stopped to eat. I was certainly hungry, but there wasn’t much of a view. A little longer on the Iris trail a small unmarked spur trail appeared on the right. It dropped down about fifty feet or so, and landed right at the lake shore; a perfect spot for lunch. The water was clear, I could see fish and salamanders swimming about, and the breeze was right in my face.
It would be a short walk to the parking lot from this spot.
High Point is a great place to hike, I’ve been here before. It is one of my farther drives in NJ. And, I would certainly consider coming back to camp at the shelter.
Trails: Garvey Springs (orange), Appalachian (White), Buckwood (turquoise), Coppermine (red), Kaiser Spur (blue/red), Kaiser (blue)
Mountains: Mount Mohican
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.
Both sides of the trail were lined with all kinds of berry bushes. I admit, I helped myself to some big fat blueberries.
You get an idea of the quantity of berries in this picture:
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.
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.)
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.
Lots of Mountain Laurel in bloom.
The moist ground made for a lot of mushrooms, these were hard to photograph due to the humidity.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mountains: Island Pond Mountain, Surebridge Mountain, Hogencamp Mountain
Trails: Appalachian, Arden-Surebridge, Lichen, Ramapo-Dundberg, White Bar, Dunning, Stahahe Brook
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.