Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area – Buttermilk Falls – Crater Lake – Hemlock Pond

Park Site

Trail Map – here is the “official” site, I used map 121 from the NY/NJ Trail Conference

Hike Distance – 7.69 miles

Trails:  Buttermilk Falls (blue), Appalachian (white), Crater Loop (orange), Hemlock Crater connector (orange/green), Hemlock Pond (Green), Woods Road (yellow)

My Map –

Here.

We.

Go.

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.

nope

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.

……what???

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.

bye bye Crater Lake

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.

Ticks:  0

Blazes:

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.

Hiked:  11/6/2021

Morristown National Historic Park / Jockey Hollow – Blue, Yellow, and Red

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 6.47 miles

Trails:  (in order) Blue (Old Camp Road, Outer Loop, New York Brigade), Yellow, Red (Primrose Brook) – The Grand Loop Trail crosses over or coexists on some of these trails

My Map:

I call this the Unfinished Business hike, as I attempted this one a couple of years ago and did not get to finish due to seeing Noah’s Ark float by.  Today would be a different story.  It was absolutely perfect to start out; 58 degrees, and I was first in the parking lot.  When I finished there were open spaces and the temperature climbed to 68 – you really could not ask for better weather.

I decided to re-hike the Blue trail, then pick up my original plans from last year.  Like the prior hike, the trail surface was mostly wide dirt trails, with very minimal rocks making for great walking.  All trail junctions had trail maps, with a “you are here” marker.  I had a trail map this time.

Ghost Pipes

I reached the viewpoint where Stark’s Brigade camped.  The table is gone, but there is still a bench to make use of.

Monument to Stark’s Brigade

Much of this hike was devoted to history, as you cannot escape it in this park.  There are interpretive signs all over with much detail on Washington’s camp and the severity of the winter they faced.  New Jersey has lots of Revolutionary War history, but this was one area I was not the most familiar with; and it was nice to be immersed in the surroundings.

Brambles – with berries

I took off down the New York Brigade trail headed towards where I had to cut the hike short previously.  I reached Cat Swamp pond in bright sunny conditions and noticed the temperatures were starting to rise.  At least, the pond had a great view this time.

Cat Swamp Pond

There were lots of bullfrogs making noise.

This next picture does not really show the scale, but the trees are absolutely huge here.

While driving in in the morning, heading toward the Trail Center parking, I passed a tree which had recently fallen (been hit by lightning?)  As luck would have it, the yellow trail passed right by.

I reached the soldier’s huts, which was part of my destination years ago.  The huts are all replicas but are built on the site of actual huts, and are constructed to pretty close specifications.  You can go in and wonder around them.  It’s interesting to picture and imagine living there well over 200 years ago.

(the huts are in the shadows of the trees, it was still pretty early at the time of this picture.)

The Yellow trail had one steep(ish) climb through some overgrowth, and that was the extent of climbing.  There were other climbs on the Blue trail, but nothing really steep, and mostly gradual.  After the huts, the Yellow trail parallels Cemetery Road, and alternates between overgrowth and dirt trail.  I had been sent a link to a great (short) video called “Why I Hike.”  And while I have not endeavored a long or multi-day hikes, the video speaks to reasons for getting out on the trail, of any length.  It was at this point on the Yellow trail (before reaching Wick Farm) that I had time to ponder the video and the questions it posed.

Upon reaching Wick Farm, I had to break my thoughts and figure out where the trail went.  As usual, I overthought it, and the answer was much more simple than I made it out to be.

I made it back to the car, and it was only 11:00.  It had been a great hike, but I still wanted more.  Checking the map, I figured I would add the 1.3 mile Primrose Brook loop trail.

This is a nice trail that crosses over the brook numerous times, both on rocks and bridges.  I startled a Great Blue Heron that was wading in the brook, and he startled me with his size.

Scarlet Bee Balm

Overall, this was a great hike.  I’d like to come back and hike the Grand Loop Trail at some point, and that would probably complete all the trails.  After changing at the car I drove to the visitor’s center which was closed the last time I was here (no power) and took a walk around the interior.  They have nice interpretive displays about what I saw on the walk, and a really cool video describing the history.  And, I got my cancellation.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  7/31/2021

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area – Rattlesnake Swamp – Appalachian Trail

Park Site

Trail Map:  Here, but I used number 121 from the NY NJ Tail Conference

Hike Distance:  8.01 miles

Trails:  Appalachian (White), Rattlesnake Swamp (Orange)

Mountains:   Catfish Mountain

My Map:

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.

Just one of the Rhododendron tunnels

Lots of Mountain Laurel in bloom.

The moist ground made for a lot of mushrooms, these were hard to photograph due to the humidity.

Mushrooms in the Pinwheel family

Ghost Pipes

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.

But

BOOM

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.

Deptford Pink

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.

Ticks:  0

Blazes:

Hiked:  6/19/2021

 

National Park Service Free Entry Days For 2021

2021 will see the following days where entry is free:

January 18th – Martin Luther King’s birthday

April 17th – First day of National Park Week

August 4th – One year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act

September 25th – National Public Lands Day

November 11th – Veterans Day.

See the press release here.

Fire on Mt. Tammany

Attention New Jersey hikers, and those hikers from the surrounding areas headed to the Delaware Water Gap:

News broke today of a fire on Mt. Tammany in the Delaware Water Gap.  Numerous sources have plenty of information:

Lehigh Valley Online

NJ101.5

The Daily Record

At this time I did not see anything on the Worthington State Forrest page, nor did I see anything on the Delaware Water Gap National Park page.

It is reported that the fire was contained this afternoon.  Trails to the summit have been reported as closed, though sites are reporting that the Appalachian Trail remained open.

Sandy Hook – South Beach Dune Trail – Multi Use Path

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 3.99 Miles

Tails:  South Beach Dune Trail, Multi Use Path

My Map:

Sandy Hook is the closest National Park to me, and almost the closest set of trails to me as well.  Sandy Hook is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, and the only piece in New Jersey; with the rest in New York.   I have been on Sandy Hook quite a bit, I have documented over 500 hours as a tour guide at the Sandy Hook lighthouse.  But, in going to the lighthouse, I stayed on all the major roads, never really seeing the rest of the park.  Of course, I have frequented the beaches many many times.  Today was supposed to be windy and rainy, yet when I woke up, it was partly cloudy with no rain in the forecast.  True, it was below 40 degrees when I started out, the wind would be the bigger factor.

A variation of this hike is in 50 Hikes in New Jersey, though my version of the book is really really old; old enough that the Multi Use Path is not on the maps in the book.  The hike in the book is a four-mile straight shot, using a shorter South Beach Dune Trail, and ending up in the Fort Hancock historic district.  I opted for a loop, starting on the South Beach Dune trail and returning on the Multi Use Path.  I parked just south of E lot, at the visitor’s center (closed) and started out on the Multi Use Path for a very short distance.

At the first junction, I made a right onto the South Beach Dune trail.

Most of the South Beach Dune Trail is all sand (as expected,) sometimes walking out on the beach.  When the trail headed into the Holly Forrest it became dirt, with a lot of sand.

The holly looked awesome.

There was a side trail that led to Nike Pond, a freshwater pond.  However, it looked like I would not be able to visit today.

A short distance a way, it would be beach walking.  One qualm I had is there are not many blazes to really mark the trail.  I ended up on the beach before I should have, I could have stayed on the trail longer.  It’s tough when you find markers like this:

So, it was on to the beach.  Weather was beautiful:  sun most of the time, with small clouds.  The wind was brutal.  On the beach it was a little colder, in the holly forest – you could hear the wind but it was quite protected.

So…here’s the tricky part.  The map shows a short walk on the beach, then a left turn into the forest.  However, there are NO blazes or signs to show where to turn left.  Here are my notes.

  1.  This is where I came out on to the beach.  The trail headed east from Nike Pond sort of disappears in the dunes and deposits you on the beach.
  2.   At this point, there should be markers/signs/blazes to let you know to make the left hand turn back onto the trail and off the beach.  I, obviously, missed this.  It should be obvious, as you walk past the Nike missile installation.
  3. At the road, I made a left, knowing that I missed the turn.  By making the left here, I know I missed part of the trail.  A shot of the road is below.

A washed-out pillbox and old fortifications.

Shots of the forest.

Eventually the trail ends at the Multi Use Path, an asphalt path that runs the length of Sandy Hook.  Immediately, I came upon the Nike missile base radar installation.

I decided to turn around at the Hallyburton memorial.  In the picture below, you get a good sense of the wind.

At this point I turned around and took the Multi Use Path back.

The wind on the bay side:

The Multi Use Path goes by the missile launch area.

Finally, before the parking lot, I jumped back on the South Beach Dune Trail, where I passed a grove of cactus.

This was a great hike on a nice day (despite the wind.)  I was dressed appropriately so was comfortable the whole way.  I imagine this could be a brutal hike on a hot and humid July or August day.  This was the perfect hike to start the new year.  I did not hike as much as I wanted to last year (stats to come) and I vowed to get out more in the current year – starting out locally was a good start.  I would have liked to have seen more signs and blazes, for a National Park, that was a little surprising.

Ticks:  0

Blazes (sort of):

(I don’t know what that reflector was for…)

(At the end of the trail, I found this marker; I never saw another number.)

Hiked:  1/5/2020

 

National Parks Free on Veterans Day

I was checking the National Parks Service page on Free Days and I see that on Monday, November 11, 2019, Veterans Day, National Parks will be free.

Those of you with National Parks near by will be able to take advantage of free trails for the day.

Here in New Jersey, we have the following National Parks:

  • The Appalachian Trail  (multiple states)
  • Crossroads of the American Revolution
  • The Delaware Water Gap
  • Ellis Island
  • Gateway National Recreation Area (Sandy Hook, in New Jersey)
  • Great Egg Harbor
  • Lower Delaware
  • Morristown National Historic Park
  • New Jersey Pinelands
  • Patterson Falls
  • Thomas Edison National Historic Park
  • Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route  (multiple states)

There are many miles of trails to walk and lots of history to absorb.

Jockey Hollow – Blue Trail

Park Site

Trail Map

Distance:  3 Miles

Trails:  Blue Trail (which included parts of the Patriot Path)

Map:  No map, I couldn’t upload it (see below)

There are two lessons learned from this hike:  1:  If the weather says there’s a potential for flash floods, believe it.  And 2:  If your printer won’t print out the trail map, take the time to fix it, find another map, or ensure there is adequate cell service at the place you’re hiking.

The weather called for thunderstorms and a potential for flash flooding throughout the day.  It rained early in the morning, yet by the time I walked the dog it was sunny and the ground was dry.  I thought, perfect day for a hike, as long as the rain will hold off.  Hockey season starts next week, I don’t know what my schedule will be like, so I had better make the most of the free time.  A quick glance at the weather map showed rain in the area I was hiking, but it was moving out.  So, off to print a trail map and head up so as not to waste time.  Except the printer wouldn’t print the map.  Rather than spend some more time, I figured I would grab a map at the visitor’s center, or worst case, use All Trails on my phone.

I drove up in bright sunshine and chastised myself for not bringing sunglasses.  As I pulled into the parking lot, clouds were just starting to build, but nothing serious.  And it would be all down hill from here, so to speak.

First stop is the visitors center in order to pick up a trail map.  But what’s this?  Closed, on account of no power.  I knew rain had blown through earlier, could it have knocked out the power?  Possible, I guess.  It took a few minutes to find the trail head, I ended up driving the Grand Parade Road and parking at the Trail Side parking lot, where most of the trails terminated.  Fortunately, I drove by the Soldiers’  Huts, which I planned to hike to.

As I got out of the car and loaded up All Trails..whamo.  Nothing.  I could record, but no trails.  Funny thing, you need cell service to interface with the maps (GPS ran fine.)  And there wasn’t cell service here (at least, for Verizon.)  Well, I got all the way here, I was at least going to walk.

I headed for the Blue Trail.  And it starts out on an old “road” used by the soldiers while camped here.

Today the trail was soft, spongy in some spots, with water pooled every so often.  But the trail was wide and soft dirt with infrequent rocks, and pleasant to walk.  Not having a map was a little unsettling until I came to the first trail junction.

They have a trail map ON THE POST at the actual junction.  So, I took a quick picture so that I would have some reference if needed.  My plan was the Blue Trail, cut over to the Orange, and go by the Soldiers’ Huts.  I saw the typical fauna:  squirrels, chipmunks, some birds.  Fortunately, no bears.

I passed a couple more junctions, each with a map, AND a “you are here” marker, and thought, this should be a pretty nice hike for not having a map.  Heck, even the sun came out.

It wasn’t as hot and humid as last week, 75 or so, with a lower humidity.  My plan was to do about six miles, and with this terrain, that didn’t figure to be so bad.  I noticed clouds were starting to build, and I didn’t see the sun as much.

There was a bench and table at this overlook, which must look absolutely fabulous on a clear day.  The marker at this spot indicated that Stark’s Brigade camped here  during the Revolutionary War.  The sign at this spot was very informative.  And, there was a monument to the occasion built from stones from the officers’ chimneys.

After snapping a picture, I headed off.  The trees were real tall with a thick canopy and as I walked, I noticed it started getting dark, real dark.  At one point I thought I might get out my headlamp.  It was 1:30, yet it felt like it was night, almost like when I hiked the Brisbane Trail at Allaire last year when the sun set faster than I thought.  And then I heard it, it sounded like wind, yet when I looked up, the leaves were not moving enough.  Sure enough, it was starting to rain.  But under the canopy, I wasn’t really getting wet.  I did think that I wasn’t going to do all of the trails I wanted to as I had a small bit left of the Blue Trail.

You can see the drops hitting the pond.

After the pond, the trail wandered through open space.  And then the rain really started coming down.

By the time I reached the road where the next junction was, it was pouring.  Torrential.  By far the hardest rain I’ve hiked in.  The signpost said .4 miles back to the car, most of it downhill – and off I went.  Not even a quarter of a mile in, water was cascading down the trail I was on.  How I didn’t slip on any of the rocks is a miracle.

Suffice to say, no more pictures after the pond.

I cut it short, reached the car, changed into dry clothes, and decided to head home.  I’ll have to come back to do the other trails I wanted to hike, and to see the visitors center.

Ticks:  0 – surprising.  I wore shorts, which I don’t normally do, and there were a couple of spots where the trail was overgrown.

Hiked:  8/11/2018