Weather and multiple trips to Michigan have conspired to keep me from getting out as much as I would like. I’ve had a bunch of hikes planned for the weeks where I was not travelling, but weather has been crazy wet around here cancelling everything. It has been a wet and cold spring; which probably doesn’t bode well for the summer. So, WHERE have I been in the last three months?
I was thrilled to snowshoe in the Catskills, enough so that I got a pair. Of course, that just ensured we wouldn’t see snow for the rest of the winter. I used snowshoes on Red Hill Mountain as part of the County Park System’s / New York State’s Firetower challenge. It was definitely a blast, and has changed my perspective on winter hiking completely. Here are two shots from Red Hill:
A couple of weeks later I climbed Slide Mountain in the Catskills. While I was hoping to snowshoe, we only needed microspikes. What a great day, with great weather, and great views.
Including my favorite sign in the Catskills:
The week after Slide Mountain I traveled with the Park System (again) to Katterskill Falls. This was a great hike, but Katterskill Park just gets too crowded for my taste. The falls were awesome, as were parts of the Escarpment Trail that we hiked. But there were just too many people.
Almost a month later, I traveled to the Millbrook area in order to hike some trails, hike Van Campens Glen, and see Millbrook village. The village was neat. Van Campens Glen and the falls were neat. But stay away from both the Pioneer Trail and the Hamilton Ridge trail. Both trails are massively overgrown, and I stopped counting how many ticks I pulled off at 20. Further, the Watergate area is STILL closed, which means a long road walk back to your car if you parked at the village.
Yesterday, I saw another bear in Harriman, just before the rains came down (again.) No pictures because it happened so fast.
I’m hoping for better weather in the future so I can get out more.
A note on the map: I was on the hiking trails. See all of those other trails – they’re mostly used by bikes, and are not marked. You will be fine on the hiking trails, the trails are well marked.
Rain was to move in today, so I started early. And it was really foggy out. I got to the trailhead and decided not to wear the fleece, which was a great decision as the temperatures climbed into the 70s – and it became humid. There were not many cars in the parking lot – it would be packed when I returned. Most people (I saw) stuck to the red and yellow trails, climbing to the top of the mountain. I saw no one on any of the other trails.
It rained a ton the day before, but the trails were fairly dried out. There were a couple of spots that were extra spongy, and you could see where the rain traveled downhill. Trails were mostly wide with packed dirt, but there are numerous locations of ankle-rolling rocks.
Here’s the beginning of Red:
There are a couple of big rocks to start out.
This was hanging at the junction of the white trail. Don’t ask, I have no idea. Just when you think you might have seen all the weirdness…
Lots of polypore out.
The White trail descends a bit, and you could see where yesterday’s rain ran downhill. The trail is on the right.
Heading north on White you can see the land opening up in front of you. The trail goes right by:
I watched for a bit.
The White trail continues north. Curiously, it is also blazed with a yellow blaze, that is not on the map. I don’t know if it is a continuation of a trail from another park or not. Here’s where it turns away from white.
The sign on the tree reads 1895, I don’t know if that’s a trail name or not. That yellow trail led to:
As I approached the bank, many frogs jumped into the water.
Further on, I disturbed a big bird in a tree; which startled me. He flew to a tree not to far away, and I was able to get this picture.
A nice feature to this park are signs posted every so often with a number on them. If you were to get in trouble, you could call 911, and give them the sign number and help would be on the way. (Though it might take a while.) You don’t have to worry about cell service…it’s amazing that this park exists with Wayne and Paterson so near. It was really quiet on the trails away from the mountain save for planes on their approach to Newark airport.
I came to Franklin Clove, which is a gorge between two sheer cliff faces. Walking through the gorge was 10 degrees cooler and very very quiet. Most of it was like walking on a cobblestone road, though picture the cobblestones as loose and all over the place.
Instead of taking the orange trail to its end, I took a small spur trail to see the waterfall. AllTrails has it named Buttermilk Falls, but I wouldn’t really compare it to THE Buttermilk Falls. And I was surprised at how little water was going over it considering the rain we received yesterday.
I thought about trying the blue trail which would have added an extra three miles onto the hike. I’m glad I didn’t, as I had miscalculated in the first place, and did a few more miles than I anticipated.
And it wouldn’t be hiking in New Jersey without finding a car in the woods.
I called this section “The Ramp” though I don’t know if it has an official name. Essentially you walk up a huge rock that resembles a ramp. It’s quite easy, and smooth, which beats the ankle pounding small rocks. The steepness doesn’t come through in the picture.
I was meandering along at a good pace and I rounded a corner when right in front of me on the trail was a good-sized black bear. He couldn’t have been more than 50 feet in front of me. The problem was, he was on the trail, where I needed to go. I quickly scanned for cubs and didn’t see any. Day made. By the time I got my phone out, he had run off the trail, probably 50 yards or so away.
Another very cool bear encounter. And thankfully, a positive encounter. Like the last time, this bear looked up at me, definitely saw me, and took off. After this, it was hard to concentrate on the the surroundings.
The yellow trail heads up High Mountain, and here I would see more people. The overlook has a giant star, placed by the town, and powered by solar panels.
It was cloudy, though the sun had peeked out a couple of times. However, you could just barely make out New York City from the overlook. The picture doesn’t show it.
After this, the yellow trail heads back to the red, and back to the car.
This is a nice park, tucked away from both Wayne and Patterson. I will come back to hike the one trail I neglected, though had I done it today, I surely would have missed the bear. The lot is not big, so get their early. The trails up and down the mountain are where you will see everyone – you will have the rest of the park to yourself.
Trail Map – I will note that I had multiple maps with me, one that extended further than this map, as I was, for a bit, in Ringwood State Park.
Hike Distance: 8.15 miles
Trails: Vista Loop, Halifax, Hoeferlain Memorial, Shore, Red-Silver, Ridge Loop
A gorgeous day, it was 49 at the trail head, and middle 70s when I finished. I reached the parking lot at around 8:45 in the morning and it was already starting to fill up. When I finished, sometime after 1:00, it was full. Ramapo Reservation gets packed, with people out for an easy stroll, picnicking, and fishing. Any trails beyond the Vista Loop or the waterfall will see significantly less people.
Starting out on the Vista Loop you will walk by Scarlet Oak Pond, with lots of people on the banks fishing.
After the pond, I took a right on Vista Loop heading up the hill. The first stop would be Hawk Rock – probably twenty minutes into the hike. Hawk Rock offers plenty of views. It was here that I took off the fleece, I wouldn’t need it for the rest of the hike.
From Hawk Rock, the trail heads uphill to Cactus Ledge. Why is it named Cactus Ledge?
The view is directly East, and it was clear enough for me to see:
I hike to get away from it all, but it is still pretty neat to be able to see the city.
I made a wrong turn…or rather, I didn’t make the turn I was supposed to make (and I have no idea how I missed it – this wouldn’t be the first time) and ended up on a trail that wasn’t on any of three maps I brought. I did get to see this guy, though:
After getting back on Vista Loop, it was off to the Halifax trail, which would be the longest trail of the hike. Right off the bat, I had to navigate some construction in a gas pipeline cut.
The Halifax trail is mostly a woods road, but does head off on it’s own after a while. Again, another turn I would miss – though this time I was looking for the Halifax ruins off to my right. I couldn’t see them as there were too many leaves on the trees. And, obviously, I didn’t see the left turn.
And, Ladies and Gentlemen, you have hit the Daily Double. If you had the exacta, you received a nice payday.
I have no explanation.
Just after the turn I missed, I came across this common earthball:
Backtracking, I found where I was supposed to turn. I really shouldn’t have missed this.
Trails were in great condition for the most part. Every so often, while in the woods and not on woods roads, I came across blowdowns; some looked relatively recent.
A shot looking down the pipeline cut:
My path crossed this cut three times. Coming out on the other side of this particular spot the trail followed a looong rock – which felt great to walk on.
This tree is hungry:
There is just a hint that leaves are starting to turn. There are some yellow leaves on the ground, and leaves are starting to fall more and more. In a couple of weeks the colors will be fabulous.
After crossing the third pipeline cut, I came to paved road, which I was only on for about 20 yards. Once back in the woods I was greeted by this Coral Tooth Fungus.
As I neared the Shore trail I found a tree covered with what I think is Chicken Of the Woods. And they were big. The second picture I used my hand for scale. It is edible I believe, but I wasn’t going to take any; it looked pretty cool where it was. And, in this section, the mosquitoes were out.
While walking on the Shore trail I could see Bear Swamp Lake opening up to my left. Not wanting to make a mistake I made on a previous hike, I took a small spur trail to see the lake.
It was worth stopping for a few minutes for a drink and a snack. After hydrating, I started back to the main trail. I heard a bunch of sticks breaking in the distance, and looked up to see a black shape crossing my path about 20 yards in front of me. I stopped to take pictures:
Wow! He looked right at me, and when I got up, he ambled off. Of course, my first reaction was to look for cubs, and seeing none, I took pictures. He really didn’t seem interested in me.
After watching for a minute, I took off on my route. A hiker approached me from the opposite direction and I let her know of the bear. We stopped to admire (he was a ways off this point) and then decided to leave. Megan, I hope you got the pictures.
At the southern end of Bear Swamp Lake, the trail crosses over a dam and joins the paved road for a bit.
We took the Red-Silver trail back towards the parking lot. It parallels the southern edge of MacMillan Reservoir and junctions other trails at the dam. There were LOTS of people at this point – it was really crowded.
We could have taken the Ridge Loop back to the Vista Loop, but we detoured to see the waterfalls. Water was low, so the cascades were merely a trickle. But, there was some good water going over the falls. There would be no solitude at this point.
From here it was back to the lot, which was at capacity when I returned around 1:00. I ate on rock, as I didn’t eat by the lake like I had planned. There are not as many pictures of the end of the hike as my thoughts were elsewhere so I will have to come back and hike more of the area. And to Megan and Eric, best of luck in the future.
Mosquitoes: more than I expected, but numbers were significantly lower than last week.