Clayton Park

Park Site

Trail Map – surprisingly, there were printed brochures

Hike Distance:  6.09 miles

Trails – all (Glen Trail, Bridges Trail, Clayton Fields Trail, Doctor’s Creek, and Old Forge Trail)

My Map:

I wanted to do something shorter and close to home, so off to Clayton Park, a Monmouth County Park.  While a typical Monmouth county park, with very little signage or blazing, the trails were wide, dirt, with leaf covering and some roots.  It was nice to not have rocks.  Be warned though, there are LOTS of mountain bikes.

You can see by my map that I hiked almost the entire park, I tried not to double-back, but there were two spots I had to.  You really can’t get lost, and you can make as many loops as you want.  Bring a paper map or GPS to guide you around the unmarked trails.

With all the brown, it would be easier to pick out plants and mushrooms.

Bracket Fungi
Japanese Honeysuckle

I did not see one blaze in the park.  The closest thing to a blaze are the signs at trail junctions.

Greater Celandine
Garlic Mustard

There is very little elevation, there are a couple of hills to ascend and descend.

Stinking Orange Oyster

I found some of my favorite, and I never just find one.  Trees and logs are always covered with them.

Turkey Tail
Christmas Fern

Striped Wintergreen

I walked a good portion of the Clayton Fields Trail though I did not walk to the lake.

And I ended up going around the pond twice.

Ticks: 0

Hiked:  11/27/2020

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

Weltz Park

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  1.99 Miles

Trails:  Sweetbriar Trail, Eastern Loop, and an unmarked trail

Map:

I had some time to kill, and I just recently learned there was a Monmouth County park in Ocean Township.  Weather was great, partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid-70s.  I almost didn’t break a sweat during the walk.

There’s a pull-off, right off West Park Avenue, that fits 5-7 cars comfortably.  The trails start off with a wide dirt road.

Most of the trails are sand or dirt, no rocks to speak of, and no elevation change.  A good portion of the trails were mowed paths through fields.

A bat house:

I was hiking along fine until:

Now what?

According to the map, I should have headed left.  Consulting AllTrails, there was a whole new trail to the left.  Of course, this is not on the trail map provided by the Park System.  (By the way, print one off, if you want one, there were none at the kiosk.)  I chose right, and added on to the hike.

The grass along side the paths was taller than me in some spots.

I was surprised to find cactus here:

This was a great way to kill an hour or so.  You really can’t get lost.  Some of the unmarked side trails appear to head off to the properties to the East of the park.

Ticks:  0

Blazes (I think I captured every signpost on the trails.  There are no actual blazes):

Hiked:  9/1/2019

 

 

Hartshorne Woods – western side

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

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

Distance:  5.4 miles

Trails:  Laurel Ridge, Grand Tour

Map:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ticks:  0

Hiked:  7/7/2018

Huber Woods

Huber Woods was one of the first of the Monmouth county parks that I hiked – this was a park I have been to a bunch of times, but not to hike.  On a sunny Sunday with the afternoon free I decided to log some miles in Huber Woods.  The trails here are pretty wide, dirt trails, with very minimal hills.

I started off crossing the field and hopping on the Fox Hollow trail, a very gentle, easy trail.  This was pleasant to hike and headed into the woods.  After a short bit, I merged onto the Valley View trail, which would encompass most of the hike.  This trail gradually went down the back side of the hill, meeting up with Claypit Run, which heads off towards the Navesink River and the Claypit Creek section of Hartshorne Woods.  This area of the park, though, exemplifies one of the bigger issues I’ve found in the Monmouth County park system:  There are lots of unmarked trails leading off of main trails.  It’s not that complicated, but if you are not careful you can get off your intended trail.  Further, at trail junctions, it would help if there were better signage, and or more blazes.

I took Valley View, and my plan was to make a right on Many Log Run, which is a loop.  I went by an unmarked trail/junction, and my spidey sense said to make a turn.  No signs or blazes though, and I couldn’t see anything down the trail.  I kept going.  After making a small loop, I realized where I should have been, kept walking and made the right turn.  Many Log Run had more hilly terrain and was a little more challenging.  At the far western edge, you get close to the road, and can hear cars.  I took Many Log Run to Meadow Ramble, and took that to Fox Hollow.

I got back to the field and could see the path back to the parking lot; however, I felt good and wanted to walk a little further.  The nature loop was in front of me so I took it – a half mile jaunt on a loop with lots of samples of what you would see in the rest of the park.  There were some interesting trees on the trail.

Finally, I decided I had had enough.  It was back through the field and towards the parking lot.

I like the Monmouth County park System, the trails are nice, well thought out, challenging in some places, and great for an afternoon jaunt.  My only wish is that there were better marking in the forms of blazes and junction signs.  Unmarked trails, if they are maintained, should be added to maps.

Shark River Park

Of all the Monmouth County parks that I’ve walked in, this has probably been my favorite.  I liked the walk along the water, and due to the moisture and water, there were some tricky spots to the trail.  Shark River Park is known for wet trails.  Also, of the Monmouth county parks, Shark River Park had the least amount of unmarked trails.  Many of the trail junctions were not marked, and fortunately the map was detailed enough that you are not likely to get off track.

I started this walk using the River’s Edge trail which meanders parallel to the Shark River.  You will begin by walking along Schoolhouse Road until you come to the bridge over the river.  At this point, follow the trail into the woods and along the river.

The trail is rated more difficult, and compared to other trails in the park, that statement would be true.  There were plenty of wet spots along the trail that would take some navigating.  And, there were hills with fashioned stairs to climb over.

The River’s Edge trail ran into the Hidden Creek trail, and at the junction I made a right.  The Hidden Creek trail was relatively flat, but there were spots with big puddles that presented a minor challenge.  I stayed on the Hidden Creek trail until I came to a junction with the Pine Hills trail.  This trail is a loop trail, which was a nice diversion as it was dry compared to the rest of the trails in the park.  Finishing the loop, I jumped back on the Hidden Creek trail.

I was only on the Hidden Creek trail for a short bit before I jumped on the Cedar Loop trail which headed back to trailhead.  This trail, while flat and easy the whole way, had spots that were really wet and particularly challenging to cross.

Turkey Swamp Park

Turkey Swamp Park is another Monmouth County Park that I had never been to before.  So, on a hot sunny Sunday I started out.  There’s lots to do in Turkey Swamp Park so the parking lot was packed by the time I got there.  As it was a hot day, the obvious attraction were the boat rentals.  While starting the trail, which starts out by the lake, there were lots of people out and about.

I started out on the Old Lenape Trail, rated green, which starts by the lake then winds around the campgrounds.  The walking was easy, a sandy trail through the trees.  Again, in a Monmouth County park, I noticed numerous unmarked trails and trail junctions that were not marked well.  The main trails were easy to follow and were for the most part flat.

I followed the Old Lenape Trail until it junctioned with the Manasquan trail.  I enjoyed the solitude of the Manasquan trail as it headed further away from the crowds.  The trail passed some large fields and the archery range within the park.  At about the furthest part from the parking lot, the trail makes a 90-degree turn to the south and follows briefly along the Manasquan River.

The Manasquan trail winds its way westward back towards the lake and the parking lot.  You will use a couple of bridges (more like boardwalks) over some swampy land.  The trail will cross the access road to the parking lot and join the Alder trail as it follows the coast of the western shore of the lake.  The Alder trail will take you back to your car and parking lot.

 

Tatum Park

I’ve driven through Middletown many times and have even driven by the Tatum Park entrance; it’s right across from Deep Cut Gardens (which I’ve never been to.)  So, on a day with some free time I made the short drive up to Tatum Park to walk their trails.  The day started off nice but quickly got cloudy with rain threatening.

I picked up a trail map at the trailhead and started off.  Early on, the trails were well marked and easy to follow, you head down a small hill on a dirt path.  However, there were a bunch of unmarked trails that made it a little confusing.  With a good sense of direction I was able to stay on course.  Also, there were long stretches without any blazes, and fortunately these occurred where the trails were straight and true.

Interestingly, and new to me, some of the trails cut through fields.  You really couldn’t miss where to go, because the grass had been mowed, but there were access roads in the fields as well.  Beware, the grass is high off the trails – tick central.

This was a fun walk in a nice park that I had never walked.  The trails are easy, there were no strenuous sections or anything that posed a real challenge.  However, it was very quiet, I only saw a couple of others walking, and you can log some quiet miles in the park.

Manasquan Reservoir – 5-Mile Loop

On a hot Summer day I was looking for a hike that was somewhat nearby.  I had been hiking a lot within the Monmouth County Parks System and saw that the Manasquan Reservoir was on my list to hike.  I have been to the park in the past, but not to hike, so the trip was familiar.  The  park is large, with ample parking – many people are there for the reservoir itself.  Also, the reservoir has a fabulous nature center – when I was at the nature center with the kids, there was a camera to see the eagle’s nest, turtles, and all kinds of exhibits.

There are numerous places to walk the reservoir loop trail, but probably the two most popular are from the nature center or from the main reservoir parking lot.  I chose to start from the main parking lot.

For this loop you will walk five miles all around the reservoir.  On the day I did this loop is was very hot.  While a good portion of the trail meanders around the water, and much of it is covered, there is one section by the nature center (along the road) that is in the bright sun.  If it is hot, bring water; in fact, bring extra.  On this day, I thought I might actually run out.

The walk is easy, and very well marked.  The trail, such as it is, is a concrete path, that circles the water.  Outside of the length, this is an easy walk.  There is lots to see, many gorgeous views of the reservoir.  On my walk, I happened to see deer on the north side of the reservoir.

When I finished, I stopped in the visitor’s center where you could rent kayaks and canoes – I think there is a concession stand, though it wasn’t open when I was there.