High Mountain Park Preserve

Park Site

Trail Map – I used the map from the NY/NJ Trail Conference

Hike Distance – 11.13 miles

Mountain:  High Mountain

Trails: Woodland (red), Brookside (white), Beech Mountain-clove (orange), Summit (yellow), waterfall spur (orange/black dot)

My Map:

A note on the map:  I was on the hiking trails.  See all of those other trails – they’re mostly used by bikes, and are not marked.  You will be fine on the hiking trails, the trails are well marked.

Rain was to move in today, so I started early.  And it was really foggy out.  I got to the trailhead and decided not to wear the fleece, which was a great decision as the temperatures climbed into the 70s – and it became humid.  There were not many cars in the parking lot – it would be packed when I returned.  Most people (I saw) stuck to the red and yellow trails, climbing to the top of the mountain.  I saw no one on any of the other trails.

It rained a ton the day before, but the trails were fairly dried out.  There were a couple of spots that were extra spongy, and you could see where the rain traveled downhill.  Trails were mostly wide with packed dirt, but there are numerous locations of ankle-rolling rocks.

Here’s the beginning of Red:

There are a couple of big rocks to start out.

This was hanging at the junction of the white trail.  Don’t ask, I have no idea.  Just when you think you might have seen all the weirdness…

Lots of polypore out.

The White trail descends a bit, and you could see where yesterday’s rain ran downhill.  The trail is on the right.

Heading north on White you can see the land opening up in front of you.  The trail goes right by:

Bushwood….ha-ha…just kidding

I watched for a bit.

The White trail continues north.  Curiously, it is also blazed with a yellow blaze, that is not on the map.  I don’t know if it is a continuation of a trail from another park or not.  Here’s where it turns away from white.

The sign on the tree reads 1895, I don’t know if that’s a trail name or not.  That yellow trail led to:

Ancients Pond

As I approached the bank, many frogs jumped into the water.

Further on, I disturbed a big bird in a tree; which startled me.  He flew to a tree not to far away, and I was able to get this picture.

Barred Owl

A nice feature to this park are signs posted every so often with a number on them.  If you were to get in trouble, you could call 911, and give them the sign number and help would be on the way.  (Though it might take a while.)  You don’t have to worry about cell service…it’s amazing that this park exists with Wayne and Paterson so near.  It was really quiet on the trails away from the mountain save for planes on their approach to Newark airport.

millipede
red eft
American Cancer Root

I came to Franklin Clove, which is a gorge between two sheer cliff faces.  Walking through the gorge was 10 degrees cooler and very very quiet.  Most of it was like walking on a cobblestone road, though picture the cobblestones as loose and all over the place.

Instead of taking the orange trail to its end, I took a small spur trail to see the waterfall.  AllTrails has it named Buttermilk Falls, but I wouldn’t really compare it to THE Buttermilk Falls.  And I was surprised at how little water was going over it considering the rain we received yesterday.

Buttermilk Falls

I thought about trying the blue trail which would have added an extra three miles onto the hike.  I’m glad I didn’t, as I had miscalculated in the first place, and did a few more miles than I anticipated.

Ringless Honey Mushroom

And it wouldn’t be hiking in New Jersey without finding a car in the woods.

I called this section “The Ramp” though I don’t know if it has an official name.  Essentially you walk up a huge rock that resembles a ramp.  It’s quite easy, and smooth, which beats the ankle pounding small rocks.  The steepness doesn’t come through in the picture.

I was meandering along at a good pace and I rounded a corner when right in front of me on the trail was a good-sized black bear.  He couldn’t have been more than 50 feet in front of me.  The problem was, he was on the trail, where I needed to go.  I quickly scanned for cubs and didn’t see any.  Day made.  By the time I got my phone out, he had run off the trail, probably 50 yards or so away.

Another very cool bear encounter.  And thankfully, a positive encounter.  Like the last time, this bear looked up at me, definitely saw me, and took off.  After this, it was hard to concentrate on the the surroundings.

The yellow trail heads up High Mountain, and here I would see more people.  The overlook has a giant star, placed by the town, and powered by solar panels.

It was cloudy, though the sun had peeked out a couple of times.  However, you could just barely make out New York City from the overlook.  The picture doesn’t show it.

After this, the yellow trail heads back to the red, and back to the car.

This is a nice park, tucked away from both Wayne and Patterson.  I will come back to hike the one trail I neglected, though had I done it today, I surely would have missed the bear.  The lot is not big, so get their early.  The trails up and down the mountain are where you will see everyone – you will have the rest of the park to yourself.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  5/14/2022

Silas Condict Park

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance – 3.82 miles

Trails – Red, White

My Map:

The weather called for scattered thunderstorms after 3:00 in the afternoon; I went more than prepared.  I did not have to worry.  It was partly cloudy for the whole time, with the sun coming out for the last half hour or so.  In fact, with the sun out, I shed my fleece.

This was a nice hike through a nice park, though I thought the park was bigger than it is.  The main entrance on William Lewis Arthur Drive was closed, I made the next left on Ricker Road and it brought me to the same parking lot.  There is plenty of parking, though I suspect it gets filled in the summer months.

I traveled counter-clockwise, and started on the Red Trail.  This trail is essentially a woods road, it is fairly wide and flat.  Immediately, I noticed that gnats were out, and out in force when the breeze was not blowing.

While walking along I ran into a few unusual rocks; at least I wasn’t expecting them.  Every so often I found an isolated puddingstone rock.  I certainly wasn’t expecting to see it here.

All through the park are benches on trails; some of the small variety, and some larger; erected by  a scout for his Eagle Scout project.  Some are found at some of the viewpoints which make for a nice place to take a break.

The Red Trail ends abruptly in the outfield of a softball field.  Fortunately a game wasn’t going on, as I would have been in the field of play.

To get to the White trail from here, make a right, and follow the unmarked trail.  A directory will be on your right, and the White Trail heads off into the woods from there.

The sign said that the White Trail is rated moderate, has some steep ascents and descents and was 3.1 miles long.  That’s a pretty good description, as there were some areas of very light scrambling.  Note:  The Yellow trail branches off the White Trail in two places, and is about a mile long.  I didn’t take it.  The sign said that the Yellow trail was rated easy.

Spring is coming, these Mayflowers will be in bloom before we know it.

This is what I was looking for, and something I hadn’t done in a while.  Steep uphills.

The trail winds its way up to the ridge, and there were quite a few nice viewpoints.  There aren’t any leaves on the trees yet, so there is not much color.  But you can see for a pretty good distance.

Serviceberry

My favorite viewpoint came just before the trail turned East, and was atop some larger rocks in the middle of the trail.  You can see almost 360 degrees.

This will be fun to walk through in a month or two:

One last viewpoint before the trail turns off the ridge and heads back towards the parking lot.

And yet, more:

One feature I was looking forward to finding was the Cave Tunnel.  I had not seen pictures beforehand so I didn’t not know what to expect.  But it’s pretty cool.  And, if you don’t like enclosed spaces, you can go around.  It’s not as close as the Lemon Squeezer in Harriman State Park. If nothing else, it’s a massive erratic.

These next couple of pictures are after I have gone through, and I’m looking back.

And yet, more

The trail winds its way back to the parking lot and Canty’s Lake.

I liked the park.  There were numerous places where when it gets rocky or steep, side trails have been created bypassing the challenge.  That’s unfortunate.  I enjoyed the trails here despite the plague of gnats that followed.  A nice breeze kept it nice and cool.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  4/16/2022

Voorhees State Park

taken from the Hoppock Grove Picnic area

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance – 6 miles

Trails – Company Street (black), Hollow (yellowish), Brookside (orange), Highlands (teal), Vista (pink), Solar System (purple), Hill Acres (blue)

My Map –

Note:  Part of the Solar System trail is missing from my map.  It had just finished pouring…my phone was wonky.

The lesson for today is to embrace being wet. I had signed up for another trip today but that trip got canceled.  The last time that happened to me the day was great.  Having not gone out the last two weekends, I created a Plan B last night and picked Voorhees State Park as my backup.

Voorhees State Park is another park that hosted and (at one time) had Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) presence.  It’s evident at various points of the park, with signs and ruins visible.  I started out on Company Street, which contained two signs detailing the Corps’ presence.

Going down the trail, on both sides, you will find evidence of the old buildings that were used by the CCC.

The weather was dreary and most everything was either gray or brown.  Anything with color immediately stood out.

Eastern Skunk Cabbage

I walked around the Brookside section before taking off on the Highlands Trail.  What is nice about the Brookside section is you can hear Willoughby Brook for almost the entire time.  You will cross it a couple of times.  One section, to the northeast was through fields.  Today, that section essentially was under water from all the rains we had over the last couple of days.  I felt my feet get wet once or twice, but once back on the dirt trail, they dried off pretty quickly.  It was the type of ground where when you boot landed, it sunk another inch or two.

Here’s a shot of the brook.  The water was really moving due to the recent rains.

Going uphill at all became interesting as there were many sections where water just ran down the trail, creating its own stream.  For the most part, this wasn’t too bad.  There were a couple of sections that needed some bushwacking as the water on the trail was too deep.

The hardwoods do not have their leaves yet so there is not much color.  However, there is plenty of American Beech to make up for it, and those trees mostly had their leaves.

The Highlands Trail skirted many stone walls and contained a few stream crossings.  And all crossings were trickier due to the recent rains.  I suspect in the summer, some may even be dry.  There was one nice spot where the trail had streams, and cascades on both side of it.  At one point, the trail meanders through one of the stone walls.

And yes, this crossing was trickier than it needed to be.

Of course, with rain, there’s lots of fungi.

This would be the last relatively dry picture.  I had just cut through the power cut and was making my way to the  Vista Trail and entered a pine grove.

I saw one hiker coming against me on the Vista Trail, and she mentioned that rain was coming.  She was right.  I had felt a few drops, but it wasn’t anything to worry about – heck, I was traipsing through mud and little streams of water, what was a little rain?

Except, turning a corner I could hear it.  The skies opened up and a downpour started.  I had no time to get my jacket or pack cover out, I was soaked in an instant.  It might not have been too bad if the trees had their full canopies, alas, that was not the case.  From this point, I booked it up the Vista Trail, and the hill, towards the observatory.  Getting to the top of the hill, I found George’s Thrones, but it was raining too hard to sit for a minute.  On any other day, these seats would  have made an awesome rest stop after climbing the hill.

At the observatory I waited out the downpour from a porch.  The temperature dropped so I finally got my jacket out, and while I was at it, I got my pack cover out and put that on.  I think the moral of the story is to pack both in easier to reach areas when rain has a high potential.

At some point I would like to come back and use the telescopes  It looked really neat.  And despite that Open sign….it was closed.  They probably wouldn’t have let me in anyway.

After the rain slowed to a sprinkle, I took a quick walk down the Solar System trail which has markers for the planets, marked out to scale.  At the end of the trail is a viewpoint that (should) overlook Round Valley; however I was in a cloud, and it was still raining.  It might be good at this time of year if it’s not raining because the trees do not have leaves.

After a short walk across the parking lot, I took the Hill Acres trail back to my car.  This trail is essentially a woods road, that leads to group campsites.  The road was a little tricky today, with a couple of sections fully flooded out.

I really liked the park, especially when it wasn’t raining.  My only suggestion would be to cut runoffs into the downhill sections of some of the trails so the water has some place to go other than down the trail.  There is something for everyone here and well worth another visit.

Ticks: 0

Noah’s Ark:  Maybe?  There was enough water.

Blazes:

Hiked:  4/9/2022

Monmouth Battlefield State Park

From the Perrin Hill trailhead

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance – 5.97 miles

Trails – Red Trail, Farms Trail (and a whole bunch more)

My Map:

This was two hikes…I started at the Visitor’s Center (the eye of the rabbit in the picture above) and finished by hiking trails from the Perrin Hill trailhead.  When I left my house, it was 21 degrees out, it was 30 degrees upon leaving the visitor’s center.  The area received a dusting of snow the night before, but by the time I left after hiking the northern section, much of the snow had melted.  The good thing about the low temperature is that any moist or flooded sections were frozen solid.

A note on trails.  For the southern section, my plan was to do the Red Trail as a loop in a counter clockwise direction.  The printed map shows the trail circling the visitor’s center.  However, when I got to the rabbit’s belly (in my map above) the Red Trail stops.  I tried to follow what the map shows, and after road walking for a bit, I picked up blue blazes.  Blue isn’t shown on the map in this location.  When I finished, I drove to the Perrin Hill trailhead where my plan was to take the Farms trail all around the fields.  I never once saw a green marker or blaze.  I ended up taking a trail across the field and cutting off a large part of my hike.  I didn’t see (m)any markers in this section of the park.  Most of my track was by intuition, and think I did a good enough job.  At this point, I was really looking for historical markers, and less concerned with my initial plan as blazes were out the window.

What follow will be more a mind dump and less of a trail report.

I started just off the visitor’s center at the sign describing the Continental artillery positions.

Trails were super wide, all dirt, with no rocks.  In the morning, there was a dusting of snow covering the trails.  Even though the temperatures were frigid, someone hasn’t told the daffodils to wait.

A good portion of the southern section is in the woods.  Towards the ends, around Combs Farm there are more fields.

When the Red Trail “ends” follow the road straight.  You’ll be able to see where a trail picks up in front of you.  Don’t bother turning right to follow the road.  I did that, and it leads to a maintenance building.  Stay straight.

Too much snow covered the polypore to really see what it was.

And there was a giant polypore way up a tree just off the trail.  I had to zoom in, because I couldn’t really reach it.

Unfortunately, the visitor’s center wasn’t open, even though the hours stated 9-3.  It looked like there were some interesting displays worthy of checking out.

I drove up to the northern section, and parked at the Perrin Hill trailhead parking lot.  There were many more interpretive signs in this section, but with the wind blowing in the field, it was COLD.

Since I missed the turn that would have taken me around the big loop, I tried to reach many of the interpretive signs.

The battle of Monmouth (or Monmouth Courthouse) was not a significant battle in the Revolutionary War.  There were not significant prisoners taken.  Strategically, it did not have much bearing on the war.  The British would still be able to retreat to Sandy Hook and sneak off to New York City.  Most historians consider the battle a draw.  However, the action gave the Continental Army a boost in morale and proved that they could force the British to retreat.  And, it would be the first battlefield that Washington would hold after the day’s action.

This section of the park is extremely exposed.  On June 27-28 in 1778, this area was boiling hot – most agree that more men died due to the heat than the actual fighting.  I don’t think I would hike hear in late June, or July, or August.  It would be brutal without shade.

It is here though that the legend/myth of Molly Pitcher is born.  Mary Hayes (Molly Pitcher) was a woman who (supposedly) helped man her husband’s gun (cannon) when he went down in the fighting.  The popular myth is that she helped fire the gun on the British Highlanders down the hill.  Likely, she was a camp follower who helped schlep water to the troops from the spring.  There are ample signs detailing her life all around this section.  This picture is taken from the spot where her husband’s cannon was stationed.

Beyond the tree and down the hill is where the British Highlanders were sitting.  And, the gun positions and directions were laid out by the Battlefield Restoration and Archaeological Volunteer Organization.  (I couldn’t find their site.)  Volunteers searched the fields back in the 90s to find the remnants of munitions.  Those findings, along with detailed journals and maps, allowed the archaeologists to identify exactly (as best as possible) where the guns were and in what direction they fired.

To my left, and in the woods, is the spring that Molly supposedly drew water from and brought to the heat stricken soldiers.

This final picture is of Tennant Church, and part of the graveyard associated with the church.  Tennant Church was a meeting place where the Continental Army marched by.  After the fighting, it was used as field station to aid wounded soldiers.  Supposedly, it’s very haunted.  It may be worth a trip here in October.

I really liked Monmouth Battlefield State Park.  I had not been here in a long long time – probably the last time I was here I watched some of the re-enactment that takes place.  I would definitely come to see that again.  Definitely plan a trip here to see the Revolutionary War history.  If you are hiking, plan on adapting to trails without blazes.

Ticks: 0

Polar Bears: 0  (but it could have happened)

Blazes:  (such as I saw)

Hiked:  March 13, 2022

Wharton State Forest – Batsto Lake Trail and Tom’s Pond Trail

Park Site

Trail Map – official, and the one I used, courtesy of NJHiking.com

Hike Distance – 7.46 miles (and this includes wandering around Batsto Village a bit)

Trails – Batsto Lake (white), Batona (pink), Tom’s Pond (orange)

My Map:

As a side note, this is probably my last hike in the “south” for a while.  The weather is getting warmer (yay!) and I have some hikes with the County Park System teed up; and to get ready, I need to work some elevation.  However, I have a new found favorable opinion of the Pine Barrens.  If you had asked me about my opinion of the Pine Barrens a year ago, I would replied, “bah, it’s nothing more than sand and pitch pines.”  And it is.  But it is much more than that too.  True, there isn’t much elevation and the views are not as jaw dropping, but if you are looking for exercise and the same workout, I challenge you to walk a couple miles in sugar sand.  The Pine Barrens are like no other place I’ve hiked.  Sphagnum moss, pitch pines, unique plants, berries of all kinds, bogs, Cedar groves.  It’s definitely worth a visit.  I would recommend visiting out of the summer sun and heat to escape the chiggers and ticks.

This hike leaves from the Batsto Village visitor center.  I headed north to travel the Batsto Lake (white) trail counterclockwise, which for a short time travels along the Batona trail.  It was a dream hiking here, the trails were wide, flat, mostly dirt, some sand, and a lot of pine needles.  And I don’t recall seeing rocks anywhere.  Be advised, there are plenty of bike trails here, though I only saw bikes once the whole day.

False Turkey Tail

Early on while walking the Batsto Lake trail I walked through a portion of the forest that had recently (the last ten years?) had a fire.  One thing I’ve learned from my hikes in the Pines is that fire is necessary to “clear” the forest and allow for new growth.  Without fire, the pines wouldn’t come back, and this would have been The Oak Barrens. It was definitely evident in this section of the forest.

A little after this section, the Batona Trail leaves the Batsto Lake trail and heads north.  The Batsto Lake trail starts to head south and parallels the Batsto River – which feeds Batsto Lake.  There are a couple of nice viewpoints on this section of the trail.

Believe it or not, the river was about 15-20 feet downhill from the trail.

There was one viewpoint that gave a nice overview of the Lake.  Here are two pictures, one looking north, and one looking south.

When the Batsto Lake (white) trails joins with the blue and red versions of the Batsto Lake trail, there are more interpretative signs explaining some of the flora in the area.

Shortly thereafter I made it back to the parking lot.  I had to go through the parking lot, and into Batsto Village to get to Tom’s Pond Trail.  On the dam there is a great view of the lake, looking north.

Stay on the main “road” and go through the village, passing the worker’s houses.  The other side of the village contains the additional trailhead.  I headed west to explore the Tom’s Pond trail.  This area was a little different from where I had just hiked.  Yes, there is still pitch pine, but the area is made up of bogs, so the Cedar groves stand out.  Shortly in, I came to this boardwalk that led to a bridge crossing the Mullica River.

Heading north, I came to this plant.  The sign next to it said Inkberry.

And it wouldn’t be the Pine Barrens without sphagnum moss.  It was all over the ground in this area.

Bayberry

I think the Cedar groves are really neat to walk through.  The trees are close together, more times than not it’s wet, boggy, and you’re on boardwalks, and I love the aroma of the Cedar trees.  Some of the trees are huge, and some of the groves are really compact.

I really enjoyed my time on this hike.  In the Fall and Winter I will probably search out more trails in the Pine Barrens.  The Pine Barrens are HUGE, and I have only scratched the surface.  As I mentioned earlier, be wary of ticks and chiggers in season.  I didn’t have to worry on this hike.

BONUS:

I’m not hiking a historical village without touring the grounds.  (I did not tour the mansion, to do on another day.)  Batsto seemed to me to be a lot like Allaire; a “corporate” mining village that was self-contained.  To start, right by the Tom’s Pond trailhead were the worker’s houses.  These were small.

And yes, behind each house:

I went inside one of the houses that was open.  Dinner was served, though it looked a little dusty.

The worker’s houses were set off from the rest of the village.  On the way back, I had to recross the dam.  What is interesting is that a fish “staircase” has been built so that fish can travel upstream, “around” the dam, and get back to Batsto Lake to spawn.

fish staircase

An interesting facet of cedar groves is that any of the water around them runs red.  And actually, it’s considered very pure, without bacteria because of what leeches from the cedar trees.  I wasn’t going to try it, I was carrying enough water.  But I got a good shot of the RED water.

After, I explored some other portions of the village:  The grist mill, corn crib, and the general store.  I waited quite a while for service, then gave up.  Prices looked pretty good, though.

I wandered around the ice house and woodshed before heading to my car to eat and call it a day.  But Batsto Village alone requires its own visit.

Double Bonus:

On an earlier trip down to the Pine Barrens, I traveled on East Greenbrush Road, and passed a memorial to fallen forest firefighters.  I didn’t stop the last time, but as I passed it on my way to Batsto, I thought I would return and check it out.  The memorial is to firefighters who lost their lives battling both the 1936 and 1977 forest fires in the area.  The memorial is tucked right off the road and there is a small parking lot (which incidentally is a trailhead – I have to look that one up.)

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  3/5/2022

Belleplain State Forest

Kiosk picture taken from the south parking lot
Trailhead – I went left though, and returned from here.

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance – 7.27 miles

Trails:  East Creek trail (white)

My Map:

The lesson today is to remember to bring both your driving directions and trail map.  I forgot both.  Fortunately, GPS got me where I wanted to be without issue.  As for the trail map, I had AllTrails.  Funny thing though.  If you look at my map, the right hand side appears to be bushwhacking – AllTrails doesn’t think there’s a trail there.  Rest assured, the East Creek trail makes one big loop.  It is well defined, easy to follow, and with good blazes.  Bonus – when bike trails or spur trails joined in, there were appropriate signs as to where to go.  The only “issue” I had was starting out:  I parked in the picnic lot, found the trailhead I would return from, but needed to find blazes heading south by Lake Nummy.  A short walk down the road led me to blazes – a blaze or two is needed on the road by the lake.

Once on my way I found the trails to be wide, flat, and ultra-soft.  It was all dirt, or sugar sand, covered in pine needles.  It was like walking on clouds. I didn’t see one rock all day, and questioned if I was really in New Jersey.  There were a couple of long boardwalk sections as well.  And I saw three people on the trail the entire time.

The only green besides Pine trees, Eastern Holly

I did the loop clockwise.  My first stop was to look at a field that the trail skirts.

Pine Bracket

After heading southeast, the trail makes a 90 degree turn and heads right into a marshland.  There wasn’t much water here on this day; I imagine there might be more in the Spring.  It was at this point that I walked on a long boardwalk.

The boardwalk deposited me right into a Cedar grove, with lots of running water.

After the cedar grove it was another straight shot.  Except, I found water.

The water appeared to be about six inches deep, with a very thin layer of ice on top.  Fortunately for me:

A small trail cutout to circumvent the water.

The trail lets you out at Route 347, and there would be a short road walk.  However, it is really well marked and not hard to follow.  The road is not very busy, but the cars go flying by.  I hugged the guardrail as I walked by East Creek Pond.

East Creek Pond

The trail turns right, and goes through a small pull off parking lot.  There is a nice bench to stop and have a snack and admire the pond; which I did.

The trail heads north back to Lake Nummy and the picnic area.  There were nice hardwood sections and two cedar groves.  Also, there was one spot on the trail I really had to bushwhack around due to standing water.

Belleplain State Forest is probably the furthest I’ll drive in New Jersey to get to a trail.  Had I gone the other direction from my house and driven the same time, I would have been in New York.  This is a great location though, that was not crowded today.  It costs to get in in-season.  And, walking around Lake Nummy after hiking, I noticed a beach that would have life guards in the summer.  I passed a couple of camp grounds, so I will keep this on the camping list as well.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  2/19/2022

Parvin State Park

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance – 8.07 miles

Trails – Parvin Lake (green), Long Trail (red), Nature (white), Black Oak (brown?), Lost (yellow), Flat (Pink)

My Map:

A note on my map, at the top left, I got off the Long Trail somehow, and ended up on the Black Oak trail, which is supposedly a horse trail.  When I realized I was on the “wrong” trail, I bushwhacked back to the Long trail, and pressed on.  I came to a connector trail, and because it was so nice, I decided to add miles and go back to the Black Oak trail.  Don’t follow my map….pick a saner route.

Last week it was 24.  Today:  54 at the trailhead, and 61 when I got back to the car.  There was no way I was NOT going today.  Especially since there is a chance of snow tonight.

All the trails were wide and flat, for the most part walking on sand and pine needles.  I walked almost all of the trails, and there is quite a bit of diversity around the park.  There is also quite a bit of history in the area, as it was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  Many trails have interpretive signs along the way.

No blooms yet (it IS February) but the perriwinkle are out.

This one was a new one for me, and it was all over the beginning of the trail.

Flat-branch tree clubmoss

Just before the junction of the Long Trail, and the pavilion, a short spur trail dropped down to Muddy Run; which eventually feeds into Parvin Lake.

I had planned the entire time to take the short Nature Trail which branched off the Long Trail.  When I got to the junction, I found I had no choice anyway.

When the Nature trail joined back with the Long Trail, it was obvious that there was much storm damage.  Many of the boards had been moved away from the little creeks they crossed.  At least once I closed my eyes, jumped and prayed I made it across.  And more than once I almost got pretty wet.  This was the only section of the day with any significant mud and wet trails.

It’s hard to tell in this picture, but there are A LOT of leaves on the trail.

I had to cross Muddy Run again.  Muddy Run is pretty wide and deep, and at some spots appears to move pretty quickly.  This bridge would be the last time I crossed.  Though, the bridge was a little more rickety than I would have liked.  And if there was a troll underneath, that wouldn’t have surprised me either.

(Those boards near the top of the picture were not very secure.  This section of the trails needs a little work.)

After coming out of the wetlands, the trails reverted back to wide and flat.  And in the sun it was perfect.  It was easy walking, and after bushwhacking for a bit, I decided to add some more miles.  (That doesn’t always work out the best for me.  It was fine in this instance.)

There’s a nice campground in the middle of the park and right by the lake.  I stopped to have a snack at Jagger’s Point, which had a big fire ring.  The geese were making a tremendous racket here.

From Jagger’s Point it is a quick mile back to the parking area.  There’s a nice bridge that crosses right in front of the falls.

And from there it’s a short walk back to the offices.

I was the fourth or fifth car in the parking lot when I arrived just before 9:00 in the morning.  When I got back, the lot was mostly full.  I can imagine during the summer months it gets very crowded as the Day Use area has a large beachfront.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

(A quick note on the blazes.  Oddly, all the blazes on trees were at about ten feet off the ground.  I’m used to seeing them about head high.  This is the only park I’ve been to where the blazes were that high.)

Hiked: 2/12/2022

Roebling Memorial Park

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance – 5.13 miles

Trails – Bluff Trail (red), Abbott Brook Trail (yellow), Spring Lake Trail (blue), Island Trail (orange), Annabelle Trail (white)

My Map

I had not gotten out in over month.  The holidays, commitments, you name it; it all conspired to prevent me from getting out.  I had planned to go somewhere last week, but we got a foot of snow on Saturday, and I did not feel like driving in that kind of weather.  So, today was the first day to get out.  And that I did.  In 26 degree weather.  With the wind blowing.  It was sunny, so once moving, it didn’t feel that bad – and the forests and wooded areas kept the wind down.

There’s a lesson to be learned here as well.  I’m pretty thorough in planning my trips, I like to keep the real surprises to a minimum.  I can’t help trail closures, or re-routes, or detours.  Roebling Memorial Park is the northern most part of the Abbott Marshlands.  There are other trails that go through the marshlands, including the Delaware and Raritan Canal trail which I did sections of last year.  So, in planning the trip for today, I looked at the map and thought I would take the Tidal Water Trail all by the creek, down to the Delaware and Raritan Canal, and figure out a way back.  Until I looked a little closer.  The Tidal Water Trail is trail for canoes and kayaks.  So, a little scrambling led me Roebling Memorial Park and the trails it contained.

Trails were wide and flat.  It rained all day yesterday, but the temperature plummeted last night, and everything froze.  Flooded out sections of the trail were easy to walk through.  And sections of the trail that appeared to be normally muddy were just a little crunchy.

There wasn’t too much green.  Most of the green was made up of Holly Trees.

Up on the hill I could see Route 295.

Many of the trails contained a light dusting of snow from yesterday’s storm.

Crossing the bridge below, I could hear the ice creak and crack.

Very slippery

On the Abbott Brook Trail I had to cross over the water.  To do so meant crossing a bridge made of planks that had roofing shingles and small fencing wrapped around.  It was still slippery and one misstep landed you in frigid water.  I took my time over this.  I’m not sure it would have been much easier in warmer weather.

the marshlands

One the way to Spring Lake I passed an outlet for water to flow into the marshlands.  Normally, I don’t like graffiti, but both sides of this were painted appropriately.

Silver Lake was mostly frozen over.  There were spots of open water that the geese were swimming in.  Definitely no hockey here.

There was at one time an amusement park up the hill from the lake called White City.  It allegedly had rides including a Ferris wheel and merry go round.  The rides are long gone, but the “grand staircase” that led from the rides to the lake still remains.

There were a couple of beaver lodges in and around the lake.

The Annabelle trail is where I found all the mushrooms and fungi.

Lots of cattails, all round the lake.

And plenty of evidence of said beavers.

I was surprised to find this – as I saw plenty of signs prohibiting hunting.

On the Island trail there were a couple of spots that had benches facing the sun.  And while it was cold out, and the wind was fierce; sitting in the sun felt pretty nice.  I imagine in the summer these spots are pretty hot during the day.

Just off the Island trail was a little spur trail.  As I was surrounded by water, I figured I would see where it leads.

While nice, this is definitely not built by the park system.  In fact, it was pretty precarious going out.  There is a nice view at the end though.

Roebling Memorial Park was the perfect hike to begin the year.  The mileage was just right, and it was a good warm up for getting back into the trails.  Upon leaving I saw more cars, and I can imagine in the summer the park can be crowded.

Ticks: 0

Blazes

Spring Lake isn’t really blazed. This is the closest I found to a blaze.

Hiked: 2/5/2022

Penn State Forest

Park Site

Trail Map – There are no marked trails.  I hiked roads, though they were just as good as trails.  Bring a GPS, because there are unmarked side roads and trails.

Hike Distance – 8.86 miles

Trails – (roads, in this case) Jenkins Road, Penn Place Road, Cabin Road, Sooy Road, Chatsworth Road, Stave Road, Lost Lane Road

My Map:

It was cloudy all day.  It rained for a few minutes, but not enough to break out the jacket, and only two times as I can remember.  When I left for the trailhead it was 49 degrees.  During the hike I saw it in the mid 50s, and when I returned home, it got above 60.  So much for December.

After doing the hike with the State Forest service a couple of weeks ago, I realized I wanted to explore more of the Pine Barrens.  Penn State Forest seemed as good as any place to start.  Bear in mind, there really are not trails here (though you can find them – they appear to be unmarked.)  The roads were my trail.  Most were sandy, a couple of the sugar sand variety.  Some of the smaller roads would have been difficult to navigate with a car.  I only saw a couple of other people the entire time here, most were drivers, no hikers.

This hike is in my copy of 50 Hikes in New Jersey (second edition,) I did it backwards of that hike.  My goal was to find Bear Swamp Hill and see the Pygmy Pines.

I parked next to Oswego Lake, and explored it for a few minutes before taking off.  The wind was pretty strong, but it was relatively warm.

Just before embarking on the road I found these large Birch Polypore.

And then I was off.  There isn’t much elevation in the Pine Barrens and I would be on “roads” so I knew I would cover ground more quickly.  Looking at my splits, it looks like 20 minute miles, which doesn’t happen often.

I get asked what it’s like hiking in the Pine Barrens.  Here’s a typical view (on a cloudy late Fall day.)

Pitch Pine, Scrub Pine, Cedars, Oak trees make up most of the Pine Barrens.  But don’t let this picture of a “typical” view fool you, there’s lots of beauty in the Pines, and finding it is the fun part.

Here’s a picture of the typical roads I traversed, in this case it is Jenkins Road.

On a cloudy day, color is easy to spot.

Eastern Teaberry

Before I came to my turn (Penn Place) there was a junction.  The road to the right leads to an old Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, which I’ve read planted many of the groves in the area.  I did not check the camp out.

About a hundred yards down the road, I noticed it was getting darker.  The wind started picking up.  I didn’t notice rain, but all of a sudden there was a loud rumbling that was getting louder and louder.  Great, I thought, this is how the Jersey Devil gets me.

Nope.

It took me a minute to get my heart back in my chest, and by the time I got the camera out, the truck was by me.  I saw three of them before turning off Jenkins road.  I have no idea where they were coming from or where they were headed.  That was the last of the noise for the entire day.  I went on undaunted.

Pixie Cup Lichens
American Holly

At one point I came across this locked “cabinet” for lack of better description.  The US Geological Society has set up wells where they measure water levels and content; and I just happened to come across one.

Sooy Road is probably the “biggest” road that goes through the forest, though bear in mind it’s all sand.  Eventually, I found the turn from Sooy road to Bear Swamp Hill.  The road up is steep in some sections, even though max elevation peaked at 160 feet.  Parts of the road were paved.  It later dawned on me I could have driven all the way to (and up) Bear Swamp Hill.  But what fun is that?  At the top of the hill is a “parking lot” which is not what I was expecting.  To my right was a rhododendron tunnel which looked interesting.  And, it went further uphill.

In the tunnel

At the top were the remains of the Bear Swamp Hill Firetower – which is what I was looking for.  And rather then write out what occurred here, I’ll let the picture speak.

Here is what is left.

I was tempted to try and find the crash site.  But A) it would have taken quite a while, B) since the tower is gone, my guess is the wreckage is gone too, and C) I would be trekking into the swamp.  If that wreckage exists, feel free to leave a comment.

After descending I took Sooy up to Chatsworth, then turned onto Stave Road; where it proceeded to rain pretty hard.  Fortunately it did not rain long.  Along Stave Road, you come up to the Spring Hill Plains and the Pygmy Pines it contains.  You could see the difference in trees, but it was more noticeable when I turned onto Lost Lane Road.

(The trees in the background are the Pygmies)

Eventually I left the plains and headed back into the taller Pitch and Scrub Pines.  In this picture, I tried to capture the edge of the plains.  The shorter trees (and the plains) are to the left, while the taller trees start to appear to the right.

The effect is much better live.

Here is Lost Lane Road deep in the Pines.

Fires occur naturally in the Pine Barrens, and they are good for the environment.  I remember reading about a particularly big file in Penn State Forest just recently, and evidence was all around.

Just before reaching the car, I passed a really cool and dense Cedar swamp.  The trees were really close together and it looked foreboding deep in the forest.

This was a fun hike, I almost wish I had a forest ranger with me to learn more.  While it was eerily quiet in the forest, I thought this might make a nice hike with a small amount of snow on the ground and in the trees.  The hike would probably be silent.  Definitely a hike for another day.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:  (none, I did find two “road signs” though)

Hiked:  12/11/2021

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