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

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

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

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.

Brittlegills

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)

Blazes:

Hiked:  7/24/2021

 

Allumuchy State Park – Allumuchy and North Allumuchy Mountain

Park Site

Trail Map:  here and here

Hike Distance: 7.65 Miles

Trails:  White, Dan Beard, Ditch/Cardiac (and possibly others that I didn’t realize)

My Map:

My goal for this hike was to summit both Allumuchy Mountain and North Allumuchy Mountain.  I didn’t have a real plan for that, because I didn’t have a map that showed the definitive location, or a specific trail for reaching the summits.  AllTrails showed an approximate location.  Caltopo showed the mountains, but not trail names or colors.  My plan changed multiple times on-trail; which I fully admit is not the smartest way to plan and manage a hike.

In doing the research ahead of time, I frequently read that there are many trails in the park, many not blazed or listed on the maps; and that bikes were frequent here (I saw four the whole day.)  I will reiterate what I’ve read:  hike here with a good map.  More than once I ended up on a bike trail that was not where I wanted to be.  Also, the Allumuchy Scout camp is located within the park, and you are not supposed to enter.

I parked just off Route 517 on Stuyvesant Road which is a rutted dirt road with large potholes.  I was the third car there, and there were easily 10+ cars when I left, with more coming.  I saw no other hikers the whole day, there was plenty of solitude.  I saw four bikes, two separately, then a group of two went by while I was eating lunch.  At the southern end of my hike I could hear the cars on Route 80, so there is some road noise – but I only heard it near that southern section.

Right off the bat there was a great patch of Perriwinkles.

I started off on White, and for the most part the trail itself was relatively wide and composed of soft dirt.  I was surprised in that the trails were not non-stop rocks like so much of north Jersey.  In many portions of the White trail there are switchbacks on the slopes, many rutted out from mountain bikes.  There are numerous unblazed and un-named trails that junction with white.  The main park trail junctions are fairly well-marked with trail names and permitted uses.

Dutchman’s breeches

After a little while on White, I came across a small ruin; it’s not listed on any of the maps I had.

Violet-Toothed Polypore

In many locations around the park I ran into trees just covered with Fomes, some white, and some dark colored.  I couldn’t really identify which versions I stumbled upon, some were pretty big.  Many of the trees looked like this:

Following White, I came to a trail junction that I had heard about, but was not on the park map.  (The junction shows up in a Caltopo map and is marked in AllTrails.)  A sign called out a junction with the Dan Beard trail.

You can see to the left of the kiosk a well-defined trail (albeit of rock right there) that heads in a south westerly direction.  Looking at AllTrails, it showed that this trail would go right over the top of North Allumuchy mountain.  However, I knew I was right on the edge of the scout camp.  I called the audible, and headed off – knowing that I didn’t want to wander into the camp grounds.  And really, if this trail was off limits, there should have been a sign or barrier.

Hexagonal Core Polypore

The Dan Beard trail is well defined, though lots of un-named/unblazed trails split off; and it was here I saw to bike riders.  The trail is not blazed per-se, but with the number of Posted signs (on my left) it was easy to follow the boundary of the camp.  To my right appeared to be State Park land, and to my left appeared to be the camp.  My rationale was I would be ok as long as I did not step over that invisible line that went from posted sign to posted sign.  Here’s what it looked like:

Signs were literally almost every twenty feet.

I came to a boulder with a whole patch of Daffodils right near the top of North Allumuchy Mountain.

There was not a view at the top, and the same goes for Allumuchy mountain; there was no view to speak of.  However, both mountains are on the NJ1K list.  It was nice to be able to summit them both.

My nomination for New Jersey’s plant:

Garlic Mustard
Turkey Tail

I used AllTrails to guess where the actual top of North Allumuchy mountain was:

Before junctioning with the Ditch/Cardiac trail, the Dan Beard trail took a turn or two that seemed to head into the camp area.  However, I still had posted signs to my left.  And there were a couple unmarked trails that seemed to head towards  Route 80.

Round-leaved Violets
Rue Anemone
Wintergreen

I finally met up with the purple-blazed Ditch/Cardiac trail,  and it was good to be “back on the map.”

Mayapple

After crossing a small stream I came to a  small pine grove, where it was extremely quiet inside.  The trail goes through the pine grove, around the other side, before cutting back inside.

I took purple back to white.  Near the exit of the park, I heard loud motors and was passed by dirt bike and rider on a quad.  I’m pretty sure motorized bikes are not allowed in the park.  And it explains why some of the ruts of mud had really deep tracks.

For solitude this was a great hike.  I’d like to come back to do the area by Waterloo village or the by Deer Lake.  However, I will definitely have a route set out and have the appropriate maps.

Blazes:

I have no idea what this correlates to:

Hiked:  4/10/2021

Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park (part 2) – Washington’s Crossing to Scudders Falls

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 5.22 miles

Trails:  the towpath

My Map:

I reached the parking lot at Washington’s Crossing right around noon, and it wasn’t too packed.  Lots of people were making their way to Washington’s Crossing State Park (which I had hiked at the end of January.)  After eating a quick lunch it was off to hike the towpath.

This section of the hike uses the towpath on the western side of the canal.  There is high sun exposure (on a sunny day) so be prepared with a hat and plenty of water.  Like my previous hike, the towpath is crushed gravel and flat.  The only real ascent/descent was at Scudders Falls.

The hike starts out with a great shot of the bridge to Pennsylvania.

For this portion of the hike, you are no more than ten or so feet from the canal, and Route 29 is on the other side.  You will hear plenty of road noise from Route 29 like before, as it is a fairly busy road.

This section of the canal flows pretty slow, and makes a great home for ducks and geese.  I saw signs that this section is stocked with trout, no one was fishing though.

Just before Route 29 junctions with Interstate 295, you will reach the Scudders Falls parking lot.  A small downhill road will take you right up to the falls.  It’s fairly fast moving water and there are plenty of signs warning on the dangers of swimming.

A shot of the standing waves:

Kayakers must love this in warmer weather.

How the heck did the log get up in the tree?

I mean, I think I know the answer, but the water must have been pretty high.

Like the last hike, it was straight back to the car using the same trail.

I found this section of the trail to be different from earlier in the day; there was lots more sun, but surprisingly less people on this section.  I imagine it gets more crowded in the summer.

Ticks: 0

Hiked:  3/13/2021

Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park (part 1) – Bull’s Island to Prallsville Mills

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 5.98 miles

My Map:

February was a busy month, and received much snow.  Having gotten some hiking gifts form the holidays, I waited for the first good weekend day.  There is store nearby that sells hiking and camping supplies of which I have been the beneficiary (Canyon Pass Provisions) and today was the day to put them to the test.  When I figure out how I’ll handle product reviews, I’ll start including them here.

This is part 1, part 2 will be included in the next post.

The pandemic has kept me busy with work and unable to hike.  I figured, before I start tackling more challenging terrain I had better get back into hiking shape.  A jaunt down the Delaware and Raritan Canal towpath should do just the trick.

I started at Bull’s Island recreation center and immediately was presented by the canal.

For this section of the hike, you will hike on the Eastern side of the canal.  The trail is flat and shaded in this section with benches every so often.

If you are looking for silence, this is not the hike for you.  On your left (for the whole hike) will be Route 29, which is fairly busy. Sometimes you are 10 feet from the road, sometimes a little more.  But, it is always there, and there is always traffic.  The canal will be on your right, and sometimes a handful of yards away, and sometimes you cannot even see it.

Spring is just starting, so there is not much green.  I did find this interesting  mile marker which I believe from an old route.

This section of the trail is actually routed over the old Delaware & Belvidere railbed, though I did not see evidence of that.  The trail is crushed gravel and makes for easy walking.  There are signs every so often with explanations of  how the canal worked and archaeological finds.

I reached Prallsville Mills earlier than I anticipated, and none of the buildings were open.  This means I’ll be back another day to visit.

As I reached Prallsville Mills earlier than expected, I decided to beast it back to the car and do a second section of the D&R Canal that I was saving for a second day.

This is a great park and a long trail (almost 70 miles) and was a perfect way to get back into hiking shape.  You cannot really get lost, there’s one trail.  On this section of the trail I passed a bunch of people walking and numerous bikes, but it was not overly crowded – even on a gorgeous sunny day.

Ticks:  0

Blazes:  (none, but mile markers every so often.)

Hiked:  3/13/2021

Goat Hill Preserve – Goat Hill Overlook

Park Site – a short note here.  There were state park signs throughout the preserve, and I’ve read that the park is part of Washington Crossing State Park.  However, these trails are not on the Washington State Park map.

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  2.43 miles

Trails:  Main, Yellow, White, Red

My Map:

I’m going to preface this by saying I got the creepiest vibes while hiking here.  I hiked these trails right after hiking in Washington Crossing State Park, as I knew this would be a relatively short hike.  From the parking lot, you can take the main trail straight to the overlook.  However, I wanted some miles so made an immediate left on the yellow trail.

And right off the bat, there was fungus.

Mossy Maze Polypore
False Turkey Tail

The Yellow Trail winds its way to the White Trail, which you take to get back to Goat Hill Overlook.  Branching off the White trail every so often are short trails to rocks and overlooks.  These short spur trails are blazed red.

You can just barely make out Bowmans Tower in the middle of the picture.  It was much easier to see while there.

It was at this point I started getting weird vibes.  While walking down the White Trail I came across this abandoned camp site, right at the junction of one of the Red Trail spurs.

After visiting the rocks, I took a closer look at what was at the camp.  A sleeping bag was rolled up.  There is a demolished tent (a general two-person pup tent that you would get at a big box store) likely demolished by the wind.  Underneath the tent was a (vacant) mummy sleeping bag, an assortment of sardines and other canned food, and some wire (??)  There was a crate, with an empty beer can, an empty wine bottle, and one boot.

I didn’t disturb a thing, only making sure I didn’t come across a body.  The whole camp looks like it has been there a couple of days, and there was NO ONE around.  Admittedly, it was creepy.

When I didn’t see anyone, or the signs of anyone, I headed off.  I started down the next spur to see what view the overlook provided.  Turning around to come back, I was greeted with the following:

Yes, that appears to be an “altar” in a grotto.  Or maybe I was imagining it.  After the campsite, I wasn’t too much in the mood to find out.

Back to the White Trail to head to Goat Hill Overlook.

At another Red Trail junction, I could faintly make out something in the woods.

While impressive, after the abandoned campsite and Satan’s Grotto, I noped out of there eventually reaching the Goat Hill Overlook.

It was at this location that scouts for both Washington’s army and Corwalis’ army spied upon the opposition during the war.

I returned to my car down the main path, but not before I ran into the Turkey Vultures of Doom.

Fortunately, it is five minutes to the car.

I certainly would have enjoyed this more a) if it were about 20 degrees warmer, and b) the creepy vibes were not off the charts.  However, this is a great little preserve with a small lot.  There are numerous No Parking signs along the road to the parking lot, and I imagine it gets pretty busy in better conditions.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  1/23/2021