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.


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

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


Hiked:  8/7/2021

Long Pond Ironworks State Park / Norvin Green State Forest – Horse Pond Mountain, Lake Sonoma, Overlook Rock

Park Site(s):  Long Pond Ironworks State ParkNorvin Green State Forest

Trail Map(s):  Long Pond Ironworks State ParkNorvin Green State ForestRevised trails

Hike Distance: 8.19 miles

Trails:  (in order)  Burnt Meadow (green), Highlands (teal), Stonetown Circular (red triangle), Lake Sonoma (orange), Manaticut (yellow), Overlook Rock (white), Tapawingo (blue), Burnt Meadow (green)

Mountain(s):  Horse Pond Mountain, Mount Harrison, Long Pond Hill

My Map:

What a day.  Temperatures were in the low 80s with lots of sunshine.  I had been to Norvin Green State Forest before, but I hiked the southern trails.  And, I had (unknowingly) been to Long Pond Ironworks State Park before when I hiked the Stonetown Circular trail.  I ended up hiking a little over a mile on the Stonetown Circular trail today and it was nice to see a familiar section of the trail.

Of note, there are not as many pictures as normal.  I had read that this hike would be one of solitude, except around Lake Sonoma.  However, when I reached the pull-out parking lot, it was already packed.  Luckily, I found a space.  But I would soon learn that a large group was meeting up for a hike.  And they were loud, and not making any effort to hide that fact.  I took off and hoped they would stay behind.  However, they caught me at the top of Mount Harrison.  They took a break, as their drill sergeant really pushed them up to the top.  I took off, and thought I heard them once more, but never saw them again.


From where I parked I took Burnt Meadow up to Horse Pond Mountain.  Horse Pond Mountain has been on my list a while so it was good to find a good route to get here.  I had heard the views of Monksville Reservoir were impressive, and they were; however, there was lots of foliage And I couldn’t see as much as I would have liked.

From there, it was south on the Highlands trail.

The Highlands Trail goes straight up Mount Harrison, no switchbacks, no real curves; just straight up hill.  I remembered when I hiked the Stonetown Circular trail that Mount Harrison would be the fifth peak you climbed.  And it was brutal.  It was no less brutal going up the Highlands trail.  I stopped for a good couple of minutes to get something to drink and cool down.  It was neat being in a familiar place and knowing this short section of the trail.

Ah Jersey, you don’t disappoint

There were lots of mushrooms and fungus about.  I found it odd to find these Ghost Pipes in broad daylight.

Not one, but TWO cars off the trail in Jersey.  Where else.  (Of course, I had seen both of these before.  Still.)

Just before meeting the Lake Sonoma trail, I went through a small wetlands and almost stepped on this guy.

The Lake Sonoma trail meets the Stonetown Circular trail at a section of Burnt Meadow Road that is closed to vehicular traffic.  I remember this junction from my last hike, and it was off into the woods instead of continuing on the Stonetown Circular trail.

The Lake Sonoma trail headed over a large hill.  There were portions of the trail where I got the distinct feeling I was the first person on the trail in weeks.  A couple of times the trail just disappeared.  Excuse my finger in this picture.

Where did the trail go?

I just kept walking towards blazes, and it all seemed to work out.  This happened a couple of times, and I thought I would be covered with ticks. (Spoiler, I wasn’t.)  Most of the berries I saw were past their prime.

Eventually, I made my way to Lake Sonoma; where I thought I would run into more people as the lake is more easily accessible from a lot close by.  However, I didn’t see a sole.

There was a nice breeze by the lake, so I hung around a bit.  After, it was up to Overlook Rock.  Where the Overlook Rock Trail is joined by the Manaticut Trail, you will come to a sizable rock in front of you, a little off trail.  Scramble up, it’s only about four feet or so…but then you will have a huge view.  The rock drops down quite a bit and is really quite big – but you don’t see that from the trail.  Lunch was served here.

After lunch, it was north on the Overlook Rock and Tapawingo trail.  A word of caution here….there were spiderwebs EVERYWHERE.  I can’t tell you how many times I walked through them.  Fortunately, a park ranger got one of my attempts on camera.

No, I didn’t actually run into the spike trap, but I could have.

Eastern American Jack O Lantern
Striped Wintergreen

One complaint I had is that the Tapawingo trail isn’t the best marked in this section.  I know that the NY NJ Trail Conference is building some trails and re-blazing others.  But there are a couple of spots that are downright confusing.  There are significant blow downs in the area, and one or two areas that are vastly overgrown.  More than once I needed to pull out GPS.

Just before merging with Burnt Meadow (which led to the car) there was a large rock that the trail paralleled and eventually climbed up onto – with very nice views for the short walk.

After finishing the hike I stopped at the Long Pond Ironworks State Park Museum which is run by the Friends of Long Pond Ironworks.  Secretly, I was hoping they had vending machine to get something to drink.  They didn’t.  But the museum is neat and I definitely learned something about the area, the history, and certainly who many of the trails were named after.

I hope to come back and see the more historical side to Long Pond Ironworks State Park.

Ticks: 0 (And I’m still shocked by that)


Hiked:  7/24/2021


Worthington State Forest / Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area – Raccoon Ridge

[I took a picture of the trail kiosk, but for some reason it wasn’t saved.]

Park Site

Trail Map:  here, but I used map 120 from this set.

Hike Distance:  12.1 miles

Trails:  Garvey Springs (orange), Appalachian (White), Buckwood (turquoise), Coppermine (red), Kaiser Spur (blue/red), Kaiser (blue)

Mountains:  Mount Mohican

My map:

Rain was supposed to come in later in the day (it didn’t) so I thought I would try and beat the rain, knowing I probably won’t get out next week.  There were a couple of times that dark clouds hung around for a few minutes, but I didn’t get wet.  And it was an otherwise perfect day with temperatures in the high 70s with low humidity.

To get to my starting point, take the last exit in New Jersey on Route 80 (heading west), and wait at the light.  It’s a long one, as it controls the portion of Old Mine Road that is one lane.  Incidentally, as I drove by the Mt. Tammany lot, I could see that it was bedlam already just before 9:00 a.m.  I parked in the Douglas lot, which is after the driveway to the Worthington office – about four miles from the light on Old Mine Road.

To get up on the ridge I took the Garvey Springs trail which is short (1.2 miles) but steep; only leveling out where it joins the Rockcores trail briefly.  As the trail climbs there is a nice creek to your right.

It rained the night before, so I would see all kinds of mushrooms and flora.

Once Garvey Springs junctions with the Appalachian Trail, I took a right to head to Sunfish Pond, which I hadn’t been to in about 30 years.  I took the Buckwood trail to a rock outcropping that had great views of the pond – and you could see where people had walked down to the pond to swim.  After climbing Garvey Springs, it certainly would have been refreshing to jump in.

I rested there for a good twenty minutes.  It was back to the AT to head towards Raccoon Ridge.

Typical AT

Both sides of the trail were lined with all kinds of berry bushes.  I admit, I helped myself to some big fat blueberries.


You get an idea of the quantity of berries in this picture:


Raccoon Ridge had some great views, both north and south.  South overlooked the reservoirs, and north had distant views of the Delaware River.

After hiking off Raccoon Ridge you enter the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation area.  My plan was to reach Catfish Pond Gap (where I was two weeks ago) and take the Coppermine trail to make a loop.

As I mentioned, it was a great day, and I was passed by numerous through-hikers (some multiple times) as they made their way from Georgia to Maine.  They all commented on the great views, but all mentioned the rocks – all thinking they were done with the rocks after leaving Pennsylvania.

All the way to Catfish Pond Gap there were great views of Lower Yards Creek Reservoir.

The trail off the ridge was steep heading into the gap, and I was glad I was not coming back up this section of the trail.

I took a left onto the Coppermine trail.  After a little way I found the largest fungi I had ever seen.

Berkley’s Polypore

Right after the above picture was taken I was approached by a couple heading the opposite direction.  They asked how far I was going, because they had just seen three bears!  A mother and two cubs.  The bears immediately bolted into the woods.  They saw the bears beyond where I was turning, but now I kept my eyes open more than normal.  (Spoiler – I never did see them, it would have been cool.)

I took the Upper Kaiser Spur trail to connect from Coppermine to Kaiser (I would have come to the bear sighting location if I continued on Coppermine.  I thought about it, but my route was long to begin with.)  While the spur trail is short (less than a quarter of a mile) there were three stream crossings.  And the rhododendron were just starting to bloom.

The Kaiser trail is only about a mile (from this point – back to the AT) and mercifully is a long slow gradual incline; nothing steep like coming down the AT to the gap, or Garvey Spring.

Taking the AT back (towards Garvey Spring) you cross back into Worthington State Forest.

From there it was back to Garvey Spring and the descent down.  This was a long hike (longer than I normally do) and I was looking forward to getting back to the car.  The descent was grueling, especially late in the afternoon.

Garvey Spring is surreal as there are times you fell like you are in a sea of ferns.  Ferns as far as you can see.

This was a great hike, with a near miss on bears.  After having two successive trips in the Kittatinys, I’m ready for something a little different.

Ticks:  5  (There was lots of high grass.  Two ticks were found on my pack.)


Hiked:  7/4/2021

Stokes State Forest – Culver’s Gap to Sunrise Mountain

Park Site

Trail Map:  park map, and NY/NJ Trail Conference map

Hike Distance:  10.68 miles

Trails:  Appalachian

My Map:

The day before this hike we received a storm that was biblical in nature.  It wasn’t long, but it was hard with lots of cloud to ground lightning.  I didn’t think much of it until I got to the trailhead parking, and wondered if I was going to be in for a lot of mud.  I needn’t have worried; while there were a couple of spots that were muddy, it was mostly soft dirt – which made walking extremely pleasant.  Rocks were wet; but with temperatures reaching into the 90s, by lunchtime most everything was dry.

This picture doesn’t really capture what the forest looked like.  It was early in the morning, with the sun out, the leaves were still wet, and it sparkled everywhere.

From the Culver’s Gap trailhead parking lot, there is a steep climb to get up onto the ridge.

Wild Geranium

There were lots of these guys scampering around, apparently enjoying the moist forest floor.  Once I reached the ridge, I saw less and less of them.

Red Eft

More Mountain Laurel was blooming.

Once on the ridge there is a great view southwest.

The ridge is pleasant, with a few ascents and descents, but nothing serious until you come to Sunrise Mountain.  Note,  Sunrise Mountain  is the second highest mountain in New Jersey.  (Sort by elevation.)   The Appalachian trail on the ridge makes for a great walk; I did see a bunch of section hikers during this time.

The first point of interest you will come to is the Culver’s Gap Lookout Tower, originally known as the Normanook Fire Tower.  You can climb the stairs, but unless it’s manned you can’t get into the top.  I didn’t even consider it.

There’s a great view out towards Blue Mountain.

There are three trail junctions before Sunrise Mountain, and plenty of views, some probably better after the foliage has fallen.  There are a couple of streams to rock hop, and at least one section with small boardwalks.

Throughout the whole trail I encountered lots of millipedes; way more than I am accustomed to seeing.

Wood Ear

After a small rock scramble you will come to the top of Sunrise Mountain.  A small concrete cairn holds the summit disc.

Here’s a shot looking south:

It was hot at this time, and I had lunch on a bench in the pavilion.

While there, I met a section hiker who was hiking the Appalachian trail in New Jersey.  He mentioned that he was in a shelter the night before when the storm hit, but he heard from hikers that were still on the ridge.  They said it was more than frightening.

The walk back was pretty uneventful other than it was oppressively hot.

Puddingstone – I didn’t expect to see this

As this was an out and back, I was essentially retracing my steps.  On the way TO Sunrise Mountain I passed a small spur trail, but I couldn’t see where it led.  On the way back, I decided to investigate.  It looked like it led to a viewpoint on the NY/NJ Trail conference map.  Sure enough, it did.  Probably the best view of the day.  I apologize for the picture, it was in the 90s at the time, and I was beat.

I hadn’t been in Stokes State Forest before, and I think the next time I come I may hike south on the Appalachian Trail.  Or, I may backpack to the shelter for a short trip.  The lot was packed when I arrived at 8:45, though there were still spots available.  When I returned to my car, the lot was fairly empty.

Ticks: 0


You only need to know one

Hiked:  6/5/2021

Ramapo Mountain State Forest – Ruins and Wanaque Ridge Trail

Park Site

Trail Map:  Official, and revised NY/NJ Trail conference map (I used this)

Hike Distance: 7.32 Miles

Trails:  Ramapo Lake Spur (blue/black), Castle Loop (white), Cannonball (red circle w/ white C), Wanaque Ridge (orange), Ramapo Lake Loop (blue)

My Map:

Last week was a short hike.  I wanted to clock some miles this week; however the holiday weekend didn’t look good.  I happened to have Friday off, and waking up earlier than I wanted to and seeing the sun out, I decided to hit the trails today, as I didn’t think I would get to for the rest of the weekend.  (As I type this, temperatures have plummeted and are barely cracking 50.)

I’ve read about this area in the past, and the ruins of Van Slyke castle are pretty famous.  The ruins and the Wanaque Ridge trail were on my agenda for the day.  And while it started out sunny with great temperatures, I knew that bad weather would be rolling in.  I’m glad I went, and yes, I beat the bad weather.

500 feet in, on the Ramapo Lake spur trail, I was greeted with:

The NY/NJ Trail conference does a great job maintaining trails here, and you can see the stream crossing, though the stream was pretty low.

The trail to the lake is used heavily.  It’s wide in many spots, and there is plenty of evidence of its use.  I picked up lots of garbage in this area, but couldn’t begin to grab all of it.  As you hike away from the lake you will see less and less people, with the exception of up by the ruins.

The lake is gorgeous, with numerous places to sit and take a gander; including a dam I would cross at the end of the hike.

Lots of great foliage, though it was about a week early for the Mountain Laurel – I suspect next weekend will be full bloom.

Eastern Skunk Cabbage
Mountain Laurel

After reaching the lake, I took the Castle Loop trail up to the ruins.  This trail is popular (for the ruins) but also has the steepest grades.  I completely passed the junction with the Cannonball trail (which I would be taking later) on the way up.  There’s nothing too crazy, a lot of rocks, but, to be expected.

I came to stairs, which I hadn’t read about.

Turning around at the top of the stairs gave me this great view.

New York City
Multi Flora Rose

You hike through some bushes, and the ruins open up right in front of you.

It’s really impressive what still stands.  I hiked past the ruins to see the tower and came across this view, looking west, towards Wanaque Reservoir.

After this you pass the old pool, and shortly after that, the tower.

This would be the highest elevation of the hike.  It is unfortunate the amount of graffiti that exists; however, considering the castle was burned by vandals it is not surprising.  In the doorway to the tower was a solitary Red Columbine.

I saw lots of other critters on this hike, at one point I thought I heard a bear in the undergrowth, turns out it was only a gopher.  I almost stepped on:


Coming down the Castle Loop, I found the junction with the  Cannonball trail, the blazes were completely missing from the other side of the tree.  All Trails has it marked, but it’s difficult to find on the way up.  There’s an area by a stream with tons of ferns.

American Cancer Root

Up on the ridge that the Wanaque Ridge trail follows I was reminded of the climb on Bearfort Ridge.  There are a few spots where it is probably not more than 15 yards wide.  There are some great viewpoints, of which, I made use of for lunch.

At one point a viewpoint opened up looking east towards the ruins of Van Slyke castle.


Clouds started to roll in on the way down from the ridge and I could feel it starting to cool off.  Keep the map handy because there are some areas where there are unmarked trails – it almost looks like the original trail has been re-routed.  After crossing the pipeline cut for the second time, the trail ascends on stairs, thank the trail maintainers for these.

This was the perfect hike for the day, and given that I just made it out before the rain I was even happier.  There are trails in the northern part of the forest which I will have to come back and explore.  As I was there on a Friday, the lot was not too crowded with cars, but I bet this gets packed on weekends.

Ticks: 0


Hiked:  5/28/2021

Mt. Tammany

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  3.77 Miles

Trails:  Red Dot (Mt. Tammany), Blue (Pahaquarry), Green (Dunfield Creek), White (Appalachian)

My Map:

Nothing says Fall like driving north on Routes 31 and 46 north of Route 78.  The colors, the farmstands, the cool air; it’s all there.  This was not my intended destination, but I figured I would give it a whirl since my initial destination was before this, and I figured if the lots were full I could go back to where I initially intended to go.  I got lucky.

It was in the 40s when I left, and it was probably 50 when I got back to my car after the hike.  The top of Mt. Tammany was definitely cooler.

Be warned.  The lots fill up fast on a weekend. I just missed getting into the lot by the trailhead by one car.  So, it was down to exit one, go under 80, and back to the visitor’s center; which, by my arrival had plenty of spots left.  However, I had a good half-mile walk to the trailhead.  Do not park on 80.

I have fond memories of hiking Mt. Tammany (and Mt. Minsi) back when I was much younger, but it had been a long long time since I was last here.  The visitor’s center seemed very different (it wasn’t open for obvious reasons) from when I was here last.

Even though I was early (9:00 a.m.) the Red Dot trail was crowded going up.  That’s an understatement.  I felt like I was in a conga line and I thought back to Stairway to Heaven a couple of weeks ago.  So, you won’t see many pictures of the way up.  In fact, I wore a mask almost the entirety of the ascent.  You will see all types of people heading up.

The overlook on the shoulder still afforded a great picture.

As I mentioned, it has been a long time since I was last here.  While there was lots of scrambling on the way up, there was a particular rock I remembered, and the trail turned left just before that rock.  I feel like the trail has been re-routed.  What seemed new to me was a real long scramble to a rock-strewn trail to the top.  I have vague recollections of a forest walk before coming to the top that I did not pass through.

Honey Mushroom

It took me about an hour to reach the top, due mainly to having to stop and wait for the line in front of me to make it up the rocks.  Once to the top, you can’t help but take the iconic picture:

Mt. Minsi

It was very crowded at the top, and much colder.  I stayed to eat a little (it was only 10:00) and enjoy the view.  Then it was off before the rest of the crowd got there.

I took the Blue trail back down, and for the most part the trail was exactly as I remembered it.  Fortunately, I had the trail mostly to myself, which allowed me to grab some pictures.

The ridge walk is pleasant, before it heads downhill.

And then, it’s all downhill from there.  Welcome to New Jersey trails:

Eastern Teaberry

I stepped off the trail to let some hikers ascend, and found the following off trail:

I have no idea what this is

On the way down I came to a section where all the leaves were down.  This area is about a week ahead of where I live in terms of colors and leaves on the trees.

Stump puffballs

Eventually, I merged with the Green (Dunfield Creek) trail.  I’ve always liked hiking by Dunfield Creek. It’s a little darker, as the sun is blocked, and the sounds of the creek follow you in either direction.  Plus, the trail is much flatter, with less rocks.

Looking up the bluffs on the other side of the creek
Bracket Fungus

Just before the parking lot, there was a grove of brightly-colored trees.

This is a fun hike, the view is definitely worth it.  I could do without the crowds, and have only myself to blame; as I called an audible to come in the first place.  Make sure you either arrive early or come on a weekday.  When I got back to the visitor’s center, every space was full, including along the visitor’s center road (this was around noon.)

Ticks: 0


Hiked:  10/25/2020

Norvin Green State Forest

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 9.32 miles

Trails:  Otter Hole, Hewitt Butler / Highlands, Wyanokie Circular, Lower, Carris Hill

My Map:

I ended up with free time today, unexpectedly, so it was off to Norvin Green State Forest; a place I’ve wanted to hike.  Originally, I planned to do about seven miles; but called an audible and climbed Carris Hill.  Starting out today, I drove through fog and drizzle, and expected rain later in the day.  Fortunately, the rain held off, and the sun came out after lunch.  The pictures of the views would have been much better had I gotten to them in the afternoon.

Trails are, for the most part, soft dirt; but it’s New Jersey, and you can’t forget two scoops of rocks.

I was the fifth car in the lot by 8:30, when I returned, the lot was packed.

It was off on the Otter Hole trail.

Eventually, that junctions with the Hewitt Butler and  Highlands trail, which I took until that merged with the Wyanokie Circular trail.  This was the route to Wyanoki High Point.  It was here that I ran into the most amount of people – most going to the High Point and back.  There were multiple views just going to the High Point.

Leaves are turning already….

There were a couple of nice scrambles all throughout the forest.  This one was just before the High Point.

I didn’t stay at the High Point long as there were a lot of people up there.  But the views were fantastic – and would have been better when the sun came out after noon.

Leaving Wyanokie High Point sent me deeper into the forest and for the most part, away from people.  I took the Lower trail, with the intention of finding Chikahoki Falls.

When I junctioned with the Carris Hill trail I sat for a moment to think.  It was here that I changed my plans and decided to climb Carris Hill.  I really wasn’t sure when I would come back, it was early, and I figured I could have lunch at the top.

There were lots of good views from this trail.

And lots of other scenery.

Flax Leaf Astor mixed with blueberries

Toadskin Lichen

I thought the Carris Hill trail the most difficult trail in the forest.  At the top it was time for lunch, though it wasn’t quite noon.  After eating, I looked up, and noticed these guys waiting for me to keel over.

I came down the Hewitt Butler / Highlands trail finding these Honey mushrooms along the way.

When the trail junctioned with the Lower trail I backtracked to the Chikahoki Falls, which didn’t have a lot of water going over it.  In fact, I stood in a dry section, where you could tell the water would normally be, probably in the Spring after the rains.

I walked back to the Hewitt Butler / Highlands trail and took that all the way to the Otter Hole trail.

Spotted Wintergreen
Eastern North American Destroying Angel

With a desiccated puffball next to it.

I walked past the Otter Hole trail to go take a look at the Otter Hole.

Then, it was 2.3 miles on the Otter Hole trail back to the car.

Shelf Fungi

The Otter Hole trail is mostly a woods road, and alternates between nice flat, soft trails, and punishing rocks.

I really liked the forest and will come back to do some of the northern trails, and maybe Stonetown Circular one day.  You’ll find most people around Wyanokie High Point, and with good reason – the views are great.  But, you can hike in solitude on many of the other trails.

Ticks: 0


(not the AT)

Hiked:  9/27/2020

Bearfort Ridge

Park Site

Trail Map

But also look here and here for improvements and changes.

Hike Distance 7.7 Miles

Trails:  Bearfort Ridge, Ernest Walter, Appalachian, State Line

Note on trails:  See the extra maps above.  What was known as the Quail Trial/Jimmy Glick trail appears to have been renamed to make up the Bearfort Ridge Loop.  Also, as of now (September 2020) The Bearfort Ridge Loop trail has been reblazed a lime green color.  It looks like there will be a new trail as well.  Bearfort Ridge used to be white.

My Map:

I was blessed with another perfect day to go out, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky all day.  It was in the low 50s when I left home, yet high 40s when I got to the trailhead.  As I might not be able to hike for a couple of weeks, this was a great way to go out.  This route has been on my list for a while as it is described in 50 Hikes in New Jersey; the next time I go, I may try Terrace Pond to the south.

This was a long day though; I was not prepared for the amount of scrambling I would be doing.  when I come back, I may just do the loop for the views.  However I highly recommend this hike.

Starting out, the trails are fairly wide, and soft dirt.  It wouldn’t be north Jersey without rocks.  And lots of rocks.  There were lots of trees down, but the trail is well maintained.

Eastern Hemlock Varnish Shelf mushroom

I went left when the Bearfort Ridge trail split as I wanted to head up to the Appalachian trail before I got to Surprise Lake.  The trail heads up steeply, then sort of levels out as you near the ridge.  I felt like walking on the ridge was like walking on someone’s spine.  There were plenty of rock scrambles, each affording it’s own view.

Right near the top of the ascent, I noticed a big rock to my left and scrambled up that for a great view to the south / southwest.  Coming down that I was faced with:

I was glad to have to go up that, and not down.  However, there was more to come.  This was a good scramble, and with a crazy good view as the payoff.

New York City

It seemed every scramble had a view, and I was blessed with great weather.  Walking northwards on the ridge was pleasant with multiple scrambles and rocks to walk along.

I came to a swamp with a large rock that seems to have been detached from the rest of the rock.

When the Bearfort Ridge trail junctioned with the Ernest Walter trail, I went left, through a small field, then to some large rocks.  Fortunately, I was going down.  Here’s a shot looking back up.

Just beyond, I ran into a group of three, and warned them of what they were going to have to go up.  They mentioned that I had a big rock in store for me that they just came up.  I didn’t think I would have anything more difficult than the above.  They were right.  I don’t have any pictures (I didn’t want to stick around) but I basically came to a twelve foot cliff that had two spots that sort of looked like steps.  After not finding a way around this, I chucked my trekking poles down, slid out on the ledge, kind of twisted over and lowered myself down.  I regret not getting a picture, but I was more content on getting out of that spot.

Eventually, I junctioned with the Appalachain trail, and saw one thru/section hiker going by.  While waiting for a large-ish group of hikers to come scrambling down some rocks, I found a pretty cool looking web.

Scrambling up wasn’t too bad, though the rocks were in the sun and I thought about snakes sunbathing on top.  I figured the snakes would be gone after the group I waited for had left.

I met up with the State Line trail.  However, I wanted to see how far New York was up the Appalachian Trail.  It was much shorter than I expected.

Standing in two states at once

The State Line trail mostly descended until it junctioned back up with the Ernest Walter trail. Then it was a mad climb back up the Ernest Walter.  Again the payoff would be worth it as there expansive views of Greenwood Lake.  My pictures cannot do it justice.  There was a long walk on a large rock and view kept getting better and better as I climbed.  Stitch these next two pictures together.

It would be easy to sit on the rock and look at the view, but I was hungry and wanted to eat at Surprise Lake, a glacial lake.

And then it was down on the old Quail Trail, now part of the Bearfort Ridge Loop.

Orange Mycena

Many of the rocks were covered with Smooth Rock Tripe.  It was all over the place.

False Death Cap

There were a couple of water crossings, mostly dried up, a few with trickling water.  This would probably be much more interesting in the Spring after the rains.

Finally, it was back to where the connector trail led to the parking lot.

This was an awesome hike; it didn’t hurt that I had absolutely phenomenal weather.  I highly recommend this; though if you are going to do the Ernest Walter trail be prepared for some big scrambles.  It seemed that every facet of the this trail was awesome, there were no dull parts.  And for the most part, it is one big view.

Ticks:  0


Hiked:  9/19/2020