Warren Grove Recreation Area – #OptOutside

Park Site

Trail Map – I didn’t see blazed trails – GPS is a must if you are unfamiliar with the area

Hike Distance – 5.75 miles

Trails – Woods roads, fire roads, prescribed burn cuts, Keith Line

My Map:

It had been two weeks.  I needed to get back out.  I looked forward to this hike because I had signed up with the State Forestry department; I think the hike technically was run out of the Bass River State Forest office.  Our guide was Eric – who had free snacks and lots of information for us before we trudged off.  Parking is at the intersection of Beaver Dam Road and Fire Tower Road (hence the picture at the top of the post.)  No trail kiosk.  No blazes.

I signed up for this hike as it was advertised to walk along the “historic Keith Line” which I had never heard of.  Also, we were to traverse the Pine Planes where we would encounter Pygmy Pines.  Again, I had no idea what they were either.  The chance to jump on a hike with a guide in an unfamiliar area and learn some history was one I was not going to pass up.

Right off the bat, before any hiking commenced, our guide gathered us to show us Broom Crowberry, a somewhat endangered plant that just happens to have a large population right where we parked.

Broom Crowberry

After that, our large group of 25+ headed off.  All of the walking was on woods roads, fire roads, prescribed burn cuts, and the famous Keith Line; with the exception of one trail that cut through Little Pine Plains.  At our first “junction” where we stopped to gather everyone up, I took a picture of what “typical” Pine Barrens trees look like.

A little further down, we turned onto a “trail” used for prescribed burns; where fires are deliberately set, in order to restore health and to build fire boundaries for the fires that start naturally.  You can see where the fire has occurred in the following picture.

Lots of Eastern Teaberry grows….all over, with the red berries easily found.

Eastern Teaberry

After a short walk, we turned off the sandy road and headed “into the woods.”  We were told to space out and not hold branches for the people behind, as they inevitably snapped back and whacked the person following pretty good.  The person in front of me did it often.  I learned to follow at a great distance.  This part of the trail was very narrow, and there were times I (deliberately) lost the person in front of me.  Fortunately, there was no place else to go, and the trail was easily identifiable.

You can’t see the person in front of me

In the morning I drove down to the trailhead in rain, and the forecast called for early morning rain.  Fortunately, the sun came out and it was pretty nice.  The wind howled at times, but in the trees, you really didn’t feel it.

As I understand it, Pygmy Pines are mature pine trees that do not grow tall like the pitch and scrub pines and oaks you see throughout the Pine Barrens.  Scientists do not know for certain what stunts the tree growth:  is it poor soil, insect damage, minerals in the soil?  There is no definitive answer.  But the trees are unique.  Many trees are not much taller than the people walking by.

I got the sense I was walking in a really big Charlie Brown Christmas Tree farm.

After coming out of the Little Pine Planes, we headed on the southeast leg of our loop; and this section would be on the Keith Line.  The Keith Line is a path that was created in 1686 by George Keith in an attempt to mark the official boundaries of East and West Jersey.  The Line starts in southern Ocean county, borders Ocean and Burlington County, then goes through Mercer County before continuing on the border of Somerset and Hunterdon counties.  It was succeeded by two other lines (Thornton and Lawrence) with the Lawrence Line becoming the more “official” boundary.  Parts of the Keith Line are actual roads, some of it is fire/hunting roads, and some of it is more like a trail.  Here’s a picture where we joined the Line to head southeast – the picture is looking northwest.

After about 100 yards, there was a good spot to see the difference between Pygmy pines and the normal pines that grow throughout the Pine Barrens.

Our guide did not have an answer to why there are islands of normal pines growing within the Plains of Pygmy pines.

After about a mile, we stopped at a junction, where we would take a small detour.  After walking down a woods road, we made a hard left into the trees.  Then headed UPHILL! I was not expecting this – and the hill was small (relatively,) but huge in the context of the Pine Barrens.  At the top was gorgeous overlook….with Little Pine Plains right in front of us, and the tall trees all around the plains.

I never expected a view like this.  And even with all the other interesting facets of the hike, this was probably my favorite part.

It would be a mile or so of a hike out, back to the cars.  The sun went behind the trees and it got colder.  Here’s one more shot of recent fire activity.

This was a really great hike.  I couldn’t duplicate it.  The early part had lots of turns that are not marked.  Maybe I could follow my previous track, but I wouldn’t want to get lost.  I’m pretty sure I could get back to the hill, as that was on main hunting/fire roads.

The hiking was not strenuous, relatively.  However, you’re walking on sugar sand, with minimal elevation changes.

I highly recommend this hike when it gets offered.  Bear in mind this is not done in the summer, the heat would be unbearable – along with the ticks or chiggers.  Also, when I registered, I was told this was a six mile hike.  Some people thought it was only 1 mile…..the brochure said “hike along 1 mile of the Keith Line.”  So there were some that definitely were not prepared.  Further, the hike was done twice – I opted for the early hike.  A second hike ran at 2:30….and I question if they finished before dark.  I wouldn’t want to do this at dark…..the Jersey Devil is out there.

Ticks – 0

Blazes:   bwahahahahahahahahahahaha

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

Cooper Gristmill – Elizabeth Kay Environmental Center

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  8.06 Miles

Trails:  Patriots Path (Blue), Green, Orange, Green-Orange, Red  (The map doesn’t list names, though, in addition to the Patriots Path, I saw Black River Trail, Conifer Pass Trail, and Bamboo Brook Trail on various signs.)

My Map:

(Once again, I missed a turn, hence that loop.  The loop doesn’t really close, as the Black River goes through the bottom of the loop.)

The sole purpose of today’s hike was to a) see some Fall colors, and b) not walk as far as the last two weeks.  Colors are coming out but they are not peak here.  I drove by some vibrant colors, and I drove through areas that were still green.  The same goes for the park on this day.  I started off in rain, and by the time I made it to the Environmental Center, the sun was trying to peek through.  It was mostly cloudy for the whole walk, though.

Right off the bat, the Patriots Path starts at the Cooper Gristmill.  While closed, I would have loved a tour.

Behind the mill, the path winds down to the Black River, and the Patriots Path, the Green trail, the Orange trail, and the Green-Orange trail walk close to the river.  The river is always gurgling, however, when you come to falls, it gets pretty loud.

It did not take long to arrive at Kay Pond.

I bet the pond would look gorgeous with the sun out.

From the green trail, I took the orange trail part way to find the ruins of Kay’s Cottage.

A pool had been created for the cottage by damming the river.  Again, the falls were loud.

Retracing my steps back on Orange, I took the Orange-Green trail until it merged with the Green trail.  For a cooler cloudy day, there was still plenty of growth.

Striped Wintergreen
White Cheese Polypore

Green hugs the river, and just before the junction with Red, I came across these ruins.

Red follows the river too, for just a little bit.

Then, it’s off into the woods.  Almost immediately, there’s a steep climb up a hill, and as the hill is not large, a decent on the other side before coming to Pottersville Road.  Cross the road.

Following Red, there will be another hill to climb.  At the top of this hill is the junction with the Patriots Path and signs with actual trail names.  This would be my highest elevation.  Patriots Path meanders back to Pottersville Road, where there is a short road walk.

Partridgeberry
Turkeytail
Pottersville Road on the way to the Enviornmental Center

Eventually, Patriots Path turns left into the Elizabeth Kay Environmental Center.  Here, the sun was trying to come out and it helped a little with the colors.

Common Milkweed

Behind the Environmental Center I picked up the Patriots Path and followed that all the way back to my car, eventually junctioning with the trail where I started my loop.  Along the river I saw a fisherman pull out a good-sized trout which was cool to see.

I did not see many people until I got near the Environmental Center, but I suspect the pick-your-own apples farm just near the Cooper Gristmill is where a bulk of the people were on this great Fall day.  I recommend this hike for a great walk along the river with a couple of hills to make you work.  It would be worth coming back in the Summer to be able to stop along the river and cool off in the pools.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked: 10/23/2021

Ringwood State Park – West – Ringwood Manor – Cooper Union trails

Park Site

Trail Map – I had the printed map…and AllTrails.  But there are a ton of extra bike trails and intersecting woods roads.

Hike Distance:  11.93 miles

Trails:  Ringwood Manor (blue), Crossover (white), Cooper Union (yellow)

My Map:

Note:  Ok, I know my version of 50 Hikes In New Jersey is old, I believe it is the second edition, published in 1997.  I know there is a new(er) edition, that has some different trails in the list (2020 I believe) – I get it, there have been trail modifications/reroutes, trails removed, new trails, new blazes, etc.  Heck, I’ve experienced it as I have worked through the list of trails (and I’ve almost got them all.)  However, I want to call out this week’s hike.  I tried to link hikes 8 and 10 (in my version of the book.)  In the book, the Ringwood Manor trail is listed as a mile and a half; my gps said 3.37.  And the book says their version of the Cooper Union trail was three and a half miles.  Obviously, my mileage was vastly different.  Either their pedometer was grossly off (for their hikes) or the trails have been substantially rerouted.  And I don’t think it was the latter.  Ok, rant over, no more chitchat, time to get on the trails.

I started with the Ringwood Manor trail, and I couldn’t really find the trailhead.  I wandered the Ringwood Manor grounds until I found blue blazes, and I eventually found the actual trailhead.  The first portion of the Ringwood Manor trail goes by Sally’s Pond on your left, though I think  that’s a local name, maps show it also as Ringwood Mill Pond.  I traveled clockwise on the loop, so if you keep it on your left, you’ll do just fine.

The first stop on the trail is to Erskine Cemetery.  The cemetery contained many more stones than I expected.  And, it was extremely quiet and peaceful here, I could have stayed for hours, just sitting on a bench overlooking the pond – extremely therapeutic.  However, heavy wind and rain was expected later in the afternoon, and I did not want to get caught in that. A note on the cemetery (and I’ll borrow from the book – or at least, paraphrase.)  Many of the names found in the cemetery are “titans” in the early mining industry of north Jersey that predate the Revolutionary War.  These names make up familiar and famous trails and parks in northern New Jersey:  Morris (Morris Road), Patterson (the city), (Robert) Erskine (a surveyor for Washington and manager of the mines) and Hewitt (Hewitt State Forest.)  Side history note (you had to expect this from a park like this):  Peter Cooper (Cooper Union trail – named after his railroad)  bought the property, then sold it to Abram Hewitt.  Erskine Hewitt donated the manor house and property to the state.  His nephew, Norvin Green (the state forest’s namesake) added more property.  Further donations included what would become Ramapo State Forest and Ramapo County Reservation.

Quiz next week.

Morris headstones

There are lots of markers for children.

This headstone has a great example of the winged skull, a New Jersey “tradition(?)” at the time.  WeirdNJ has a great story on the evolution of the winged skulls.

The Hewitt markers:

I believe that is (or was) a sanctuary for the Order of Saint Francis across the pond.

Robert Erskine’s markers:

The grounds were well kept and easily walk-able.  You can see on my map a real spaghetti bowl of lines where I walked the cemetery grounds.  It was quite easy to walk around with plenty of room to be respectful of the actual graves.  In one spot I found a huge group of striped wintergreen growing.

Finally, as old and clear as some of these markers are, there are many many other markers that are just rocks standing up.  I’m sure the archaeologists have found the presence of graves – the markers either never existed or have been lost to time.

Onward.

I came across these bushes…and I would find them all along the hike.  It’s invasive.  And it was all over.

Winged Euonymus

It created some really cool tunnels to walk through though.

And then I happened on this:

Uh Oh

That kept my head on a swivel.  I never saw him, but I’m sure he was around nearby.

While walking along the back portion of the Ringwood Manor trail, I came across a tree and log where it looked like the Honey Mushrooms and Turkey Tail were locked in a fierce battle.

Honey Mushrooms
Turkey Tail

Weeeee
Why hello there…

Just before finishing the Ringwood Manor trail I came across another one of those tunnels.

Now the fun began.  I planned on hiking Cooper Union.  I just had to figure out how to get to it.  I knew I needed the Crossover trail, but getting to that trail wasn’t clearly marked on ANY map.  Using GPS, I tried to figure it out – it entailed crossing water and the road.  And you can see my little wandering on my map, it’s that path in red that heads to 1:00 on the western side of Sloatsburg Road.  When I came to this bridge, I realized that there had to be a better way.

And really, I probably could have hopped the gate and crossed.  But I didn’t want to take a chance, there was at least one board missing.  Someone sitting at a picnic table mentioned to me that there was another bridge about 100 yards south and it would connect to the trail.  I didn’t see it on the way to this point, but I figured I would give it a whirl.

Well, it’s not quite that simple.  It is easier to walk from the parking lot, back to the entrance hut.  Walk to the Waterwheel, when you get to the Blacksmith shop on your right, turn left towards the carriage barn / art activity center.

Walk down the driveway (the carriage house is really cool) until you come to this sign:

Of course, enter, but IMMEDIATELY turn right and lo and behold, you’ll see:

My little (initial detour) added an extra mile and a half hour to what I was already doing.

Back on trail, it was easy to follow.  Another tunnel:

The Cooper Union trail crosses two roads.  In between Morris Road and Carletondale Road the Cooper Union trail contains many junctions with unmarked trails and woods roads, no doubt used by the cycling community.  I came across numerous bikes on this hike, only getting run over once.  Right after crossing Carletondale Road I came across these structures.

When I came to the loop portion of the Cooper Union trail, I headed left to complete the loop clockwise.  There’s a great view at the top, just below the summit.

That’s Windbeam Mountain across the Wanaque Reservoir.  Yep, been up there on the Stonetown Circular hike.  After sitting for a while, I looked at my map, and realized this was going to be significantly longer than the 5+ miles I thought it would be.  I sat a little longer.  It was breezy, and the colors are just starting to pop – you can sort of get a sense of it from the picture.  I won’t be here next week to see it in bloom, but I suspect it will be great.

After that, I climbed a short bit to the actual summit and started back.  Downhills looked like this:

Gorgeous.  But treacherous – the leaves covered rocks and roots, so footing became tricky.

Stump puffballs

Cutting through the pipeline cut, I found this guy:

The trip back was pretty uneventful.  I found another log covered with Turkey Tail, and I don’t know how I missed it on the trip out.

Just before crossing the road back to the parking lot, I found these mushrooms all growing in a line.

I really enjoyed Ringwood State Park.  The manor house wasn’t open for tours (of course I would have) because work was being performed on the roof.  The grounds were really nice, and it explained a lot of the history I’ve been wondering around for the last little bit.

Ticks: 0

Bears:  almost

Blazes:

Hiked:  10/16/2021

Ringwood State Park – East – Skylands Manor – Ilgenstein Rock

Park Site

Trail Map – note:  I brought the linked map.  And All Trails.  You will need them as there are many biking, unblazed, and unmarked woods roads.  I really would like the NJ / NY Trail conference maps, but the new edition isn’t out yet.

Hike Distance:  11.85 Miles

Trails:  Ringwood – Ramapo (red,) Five Ponds (pink,) Halifax (green,) Hoeferlin Memorial (yellow,) a light blue blazed connector

Mountains:  Mount Defiant, Ilgenstein Rock

My map:

Cloudy skies, mid 60s temperatures, no humidity, a slight breeze, rain forecasted for much later.  This calls for one thing.  A football game!  Go Green!  Who are we kidding?  This is perfect weather for a hike.

I tried to connect two hikes in my version of 50 Hikes In  New Jersey, and I did – though I probably bit off a little more than I could chew.  This was longer than anticipated.  The two hikes I connected were the Hoeferlin Memorial hike with the Skylands Manor hike.  I had done the first half of the Hoeferlin hike last week, and with the trails I took for this, I connected the Halifax trail to right where I left it last week.  Also, I walked right to the area where I saw the bear last week, so believe me, I kept my head on a swivel.

I parked at the Shepherd Lake recreation area parking lot, and was the second car there in the morning.  There were a bunch of cars parked in the boating area with bicycles.  I had heard there were bikes in the park, and I only saw a few.  Some of the trails seemed designed specifically for bikes.

From the dock I caught this great picture of the lake.

Shepherd Lake

Then, it was on to the Ringwood – Ramapo trail, which ultimately winds its way into Ramapo State Forest.

Right off the bat, there’s a steep climb up onto the ridge.  I started out with a fleece on, but by the time I reached the ridge, the fleece would be off.  Temperatures still hovered in the middle 60s, but with the ups and downs, the fleece would stay off.  Right where I took off the fleece:

Honey Mushrooms
Amanita (of some kind)

Some of the pictures are very fairy-tale-like, as the birch tree leaves covered the ground.  In some locations, there were yellow leaves on the ground and in the canopy, and green leaves in the middle.

Striped Wintergreen

I took the Ringwood – Ramapo trail to the Five Ponds Loop trail, and made a left.  If you follow the Five Ponds Loop trail, you will go by five ponds  by the completion of the loop.  At this section, I went by one:  Glasmere Ponds.  Yes, plural.  The body of water is bisected by a small strip of land, and this area saw heavy mountain bike use.  Leaves are just starting to change, probably next week and the week following will be peak.  You can get a good idea of where we’re at in this picture of Glasmere Pond (north).

I took the Five Ponds Loop trail to where it junctioned with the Halifax trail.  And this I would take all the way to where I left it last week.  There was a sizable uphill, and while stepping onto a log, I almost stepped on this guy.

He/She stands no chance if the mountain bikes come shooting down this trail.

Viscid Violet Cort

I made a right on the Hoeferlin Memorial trail and took this all the way to Ilgenstein Rock which had absolutely great views even though it was cloudy.  This was the highest elevation of the hike.

I had the rock to myself so I could enjoy the solitude for a little while.  It was a bit cloudy, but the New York City skyline was visible.  While sitting, it started to get chilly, so I headed off; turning on a light blue blazed trail.  I couldn’t find a name for the trail.  I was on this for about a mile before it connected with the Ringwood – Ramapo trail; which I would take north back to the Five Ponds Loop.

Webcaps

The leaves really gave the park a serene feeling to it.

I think I have found my new favorite polypore:

Blue Cheese Polypore

While still on the Ringwood – Ramapo trail, I came to this stream crossing, and I’m extremely grateful for the trail builders for this massive slab they used to cross the stream.  I don’t mind a good rock hop….and all I could wonder is how the heck they got this slab here.  It is huge.

Further on up the trail is Warm Puppy Rock.

And yes, you will go to the top.  The trail meanders around the right side, then climbs up the back of the rock on a narrow stone trail.  It was here that I was almost run down by a mountain bike.  So much for right of way.  The view on the top would be so much better a) in the winter with the leaves off the trees, and b) in the sunlight.

I junctioned with the Five Ponds Loop trail for the last bit in the woods.  While heading towards the Gardens and the Manor the sun came out for about ten minutes.

Once I got to the road, I probably could have taken the Crossover trail back to Shepherd Lake.  Instead I cut through the Botanical Gardens, which were nice, and worthy of a trip in itself, and wandered across the grounds of Skylands Manor.  The manor was being set up for a wedding reception – I saw the happy couple getting pictures taken in the gardens.  What a photobomb I would make.

I road walked it back to the car, I was beat.  I could have followed the Crossover trail back to the Ringwood – Ramapo trail, but that would have added an extra mile and a half, and I new rain was coming.

Finally, just before the car, I stopped over to see St. Luke’s Chapel.

In the northern sections of the park, you can hear shooting from Thunder Mountain Skeet Range.  I was not about to investigate for fear of appearing on the wrong side of the property.

I  hope to come back to hike the eastern section of the park in the coming weeks, though I will not be doing quite the mileage.  As I reached the lot there were many people picnicking by the lake – one large group had a barbecue going and it smelled great.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  10/9/2021

Ramapo Valley Reservation

Park Site

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

My Map:

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?

Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus

The view is directly East, and it was clear enough for me to see:

New York City

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:

Hickory Tussock Moth

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.

Christmas Ferns

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.

Weeeeeee

And, Ladies and Gentlemen, you have hit the Daily Double.  If you had the exacta, you received a nice payday.

Not ONE…..
But TWO junked cars in the woods

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:

Bear Swamp Lake’s namesake

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.

Bear Swamp Lake

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.

MacMillan Reservoir

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.

Ticks:  0

Mosquitoes:  more than I expected, but numbers were significantly lower than last week.

Bears: 1

Blazes:

Hiked:  10/2/2021

Wawayanda State Park

Park Site

Trail Map – “official”, and “modified”

Hike Distance:  8.26 miles

Trails:  Laurel Pond (yellow), Cherry Ridge (black and white), Lookout (white), Old Coal (red), Cherry Ridge, Pines (green), Cedar Swamp (blue), Double Pond (yellow)

My Map:

A gorgeous day to start; 69 degrees, warming up to the mid 70s.  It was mostly sunny for most of the hike.  I had wanted to do this clockwise, however the first junction was where two yellow-blazed trails met.  I chose incorrectly.  However, going counter-clockwise left me with the Cedar Swamp trail for the end, a nice way to end a brutal day.

Note:  What really marred this hike was the sheer number of mosquitoes, and I don’t mean a few here and there.  It was brutal.  For the entire hike (except by the beach at Wawayanda Lake where a breeze existed) I was walking in a cloud of mosquitoes.  And if I stopped to take a picture….the swarm landed on me.  It was real bad.  I applied mosquito repellent…twice.  That only afforded a little respite.  If some pictures are a little out of focus, well, that’s because I was fighting being carried off.

And, this could have been a great hike, with minimal elevation gain and lots to see.  The mosquitoes really killed it.  And, a mountain bike race took place on some of the trails.  Nothing like being run off the trails a couple of times.  And to top it off, on two trails I encountered motor bikes; so much for the silence.

Bring a map; there are multiple unmarked side-trails.

First stop was to the furnace, which is all that is really left of the ironworks that existed at one time on the property.

Across the street from the furnace was a pretty quick moving stream.

Still no mosquitoes.  But that would end shortly.  After choosing wrong, I headed into the woods.  The trails at this point were nice and wide, with nice soft footing, and not too many rocks.

But that’s where the assault would come.  You can tell by the focus on this mushroom.

Same with this one.

I had to drop the poles, whip out the camera, compose and focus as best I could – then take the picture and get out.

Once I got on the Lookout trail, I lost the nice wide soft trails in favor of something a little more rugged.  Still mosquitoes though.  I stopped by Lake Lookout to grab this picture.

This is a little blurry, but not due to mosquitoes.  A whole bunch of bikes raced by, and I was trying not to end up IN the lake; though it might have felt good.  This would have been a great place to stop and have something to eat.  But, you just could.  not.  stop.  Or, you would have been fodder for the mosquitoes.

One of the signs I looked forward to seeing is below.

The point of the sign is to tell the riders that their course was not down this trail.  Seeing the sign meant I would have a few minutes of peace and quiet, only to swat mosquitoes.  I wouldn’t be constantly dodging bikes.

Yellow Amanita Muscaria – Fly Agaric

If they were red…I could have asked Mario to power me up.  Alas.

Stump Puffballs

Towards the end of the day I made my way to the Cedar Swamp trail.  This trail is almost one and half miles of a rhododendron tunnel.  Here’s a picture of the beginning.

The picture doesn’t do it justice.  There were sections where the rhododendrons fully went over you in true tunnel fashion.  A couple of wet sections exist that you will cross on rocks with frogs scattering in all directions.  I ran into two other hikers coming against me, one with full mosquito netting.

And of course

It’s not New Jersey without a car in the woods

In the middle of the swamp, the water gets pretty deep and boardwalks are available to walk across.  Make no mistake though, the boards are extremely slippery, even WITH roofing shingles attached to try and give you some traction.  If you slipped off, you fell into water that would easily be six inches or more deep.

I tried to get a picture of the cedar-infused water.

Waxcaps

Just before coming to the campsites (and how people could sit without being savagely attacked in their sites,) I came across a boardwalk that crossed parts of a pond.  There were a couple of spots where the water flooded the boardwalks, and I thought I was going to get wet.  The boots held, and I emerged dry.  I wanted a picture, but I knew I was near the end, and I was really tired of the bites.

Asters
Daisys

The mosquitoes and the bikes really marred this one for me.  And I’m not sure who junctions two trails of the same color – but that’s partly on me for not being more astute.  I’d probably come back, but not until the winter or much colder weather.  I arrived at the parking area before the access gate was open, and when I returned, the lots were fairly full.  I could see this being packed in the summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

I talked with a ranger on my way out, and she confirmed that the mosquitoes have been the worst lately.  I didn’t see any Lantern Flies, and when I asked about the Emerald Ash Borers, the ranger responded that had cut down almost all of the Ash trees to help stop the spread.

Ticks: 0

Mosquitoes:  1,357,209  (a pretty exact number, I might have missed one or two.)

Blazes:

Hiked:  9/18/2021

High Point State Park – Appalachian Trail and Iris Trail

Park Site

Trail Map – though I used the NY / NJ Trail Conference maps (specifically map 123)

Hike Distance:  7.59 miles

Trails:  Appalachian (white), Iris (red dot), connectors (2) both blue (one to the shelter, and one an AT connector)

My Map:

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):

Miles. And. Miles. Of. Rock.
Viscid Violet Cort

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.

Lake Rutherford in the distance.

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.

Rutherford Shelter

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.

 

Smooth Chanterelles
Bolette
Black Tooth
Pine Sap – that’s what the app said – but they look like red Ghost Pipes

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:

Yeah, not many rocks

There were a couple of stream crossings, and with the water running the way it was, I took the bridges when possible.

Coral Fungi

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.

Today’s lunch partner

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.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked: 9/4/2021

Norvin Green State Park – Wyanokie Torne and Osio Rock

Park Site

Trail Map – The map isn’t 100%.  There’s a new trail, blue with black dots, that routes a steep section of the Hewitt Butler trail.  The Hewitt Butler has been re-routed.  If you stay on blue, you won’t miss any junctions.

Hike Distance:  3.09 miles

Trails:  Hewitt Butler (blue), Torne (red)

Mountains:  Wyanokie Torne

My Map:

It started out bright and sunny, but clouds moved in for most of the day.  Knowing that I might not get out for a couple of weeks I wanted to do one more hike without adding much driving.  I knew this would be short, but not having to drive much made up for that.  I parked in the Otterhole parking lot, and snagged the last legal space.

I took the Hewitt Butler up, and the Torne down.  Hewitt Butler is a lot of climbing, not necessarily a bad thing.  On the way up, I came to a good-sized rock, and I didn’t think this guy was going to let me pass.

Both trails were really nice to walk.  The trails were either typical Jersey rocks, or nice and wide, flat, with soft dirt.

One thing I was looking forward to finding was the Stone Living Room, a Weird NJ attraction.  I’ve read about this in numerous issues and didn’t realize it was right off the Hewitt Butler.  You’ll know when you come to an open area and there is a cairn right by some bushes.  Push through the bushes and their is a small trail that leads right to the Stone Living Room.

I sat for a bit.

The view from the Stone Living Room is pretty darned good too.

A little further down the trail you’ll come to a large rock with a stone bench on it.  From here you can see New York City, probably better without leaves on the trees or some of the haze.

New York City was a lot more prominent with polarized sunglasses on.

Fishy Milkcap

Staying on Hewitt Butler, you will come to an unmarked junction (at least, on the official map.)  Hewitt Butler goes left, the original trail goes straight.  The original trail has a steep descent, while the re-routed Hewitt Butler is a little more gradual.  (There’s still one steep section.)  They meet back up, just before the junction with Red.  Cross Red.

After a steep climb, there will be a really big rock off to the right.  I thought this was Osio Rock, as I didn’t see anything else around.  And I knew that there were 360 degree views from the top.  I wasn’t scrambling to the top of this, and I hoped there was really more.

I needn’t have worried.  Further down the trail you’ll come to a small scramble, then you’ll know you’re on Osio Rock.  Views all around.  Except for some trees right on the top, it’s virtually 360 degrees.

I stuck around for a while, I had it to myself; and I knew the hike back was not as long.  Again, you could just make out New York City.  Continuing on the Hewitt Butler trail, you have to scramble off the rock, and it wasn’t the easiest.  From here, the trail sharply descends.  Even though I saw no one on the trails today, I came across a spot where someone had dumped water bottles – which got packed up, but still.

Coming down the back side of Osio Rock

The cool thing about these mushrooms is that they are growing INSIDE the tree.

Ruddy Panus

Once you finish descending off Osio Rock, the trail levels out for much of the way back to the lot.

At the junction with the Torne trail (red), you’ll see a stream on your left.  Don’t bother crossing, it appears the Hewitt Butler used to continue south; but the trail is now closed.

I took the Torne all the way back to where it initially junctioned with Hewitt Butler.  There is one section (right in the middle of the two trails figure eight) where there is a scramble, while on the Torne, that is not the easiest.  It’s not high, but I had to pull myself up the rock.  That, or I picked the worst way up.  After that, it’s a straight shot, and doesn’t take long at all.

Looking to add a little more, I crossed the road where my car was, and headed to the Otterhole.  I’ve been to the Otterhole before, but from the other side.  There wasn’t as much water this time, but I did find a new trail companion.

And with that, I’ve completed almost all of the trails in Norvin Green.  This is truly a fabulous place to hike; it really has it all:  climbs, views, water, long trails.  It can get crowded, especially at the “attractions,” I got lucky today and didn’t see anyone on my section of trails.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  8/7/2021

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