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

Washington Crossing State Park

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  4.8 miles

Trails:  Continental Lane, Red Dot, Green Dot, Blue Dot, Red, Yellow Dot

My Map:

First hike of the new year.  And it was cold and very windy, with temperatures around 35.  Fortunately, the sun was out most of the time, and while in the trees, the wind was not that bad.

With the temperatures and the wind, there were very few people out.

I parked by the visitor’s center, but parked in the back of the lot, not knowing where the trail head was located.  Of course, I parked as far away from the trail as possible.  So, walking towards the visitor’s center / museum, I looked for the trail and came across Continental Lane; the route that Washington’s army took after crossing the Delaware River.

Continental Lane is an easy walk.

Not too far down, I found my first instance of green, Garlic Mustard.  And this stuff was growing all over the place.  I will say, that if the Continental Army wanted, they had plenty of spices to add to their meals.

Garlic Mustard

Instead of turning onto Red Dot (which I eventually would,) I followed Continental Lane to the observation lookout.

This overlooked the location where Washington’s army came ashore.  I followed the Green Dot trail to the pedestrian bridge, and crossed over Route 29 – though I did not go all way to the D&R Canal (a trip for another day.)

I headed back to the Red Dot.

American Holly
Thistle

I made my way to the Nature Center, and took the Red trail counter clockwise.  After passing the Blue trail, I saw a small cut-through trail that took me to the Blue Dot trail, and took that.

It was eerie walking through Cedar groves when the wind would start howling.  You could hear the squeaking of trees as they leaned against other trees.  And more than one time I heard something crash, falling from the trees.

Hairy Bracket Fungi

The Yellow Dot trail paralleled Steele Run (southern branch) for quite a while.

At one point there was a rock hop across Steele Run, which I thought odd, as there were bridges throughout the rest of the park.  Before joining up with Continental Lane, the trail passed by an open outdoor ampitheater.

You have to cross the road to reach the end of the Yellow Dot trail, though you could follow the road back to your car.  Turning around after crossing the road gave you a glimpse of the arched bridge.

There is lots of history at the park, and I wish the visitor’s center was open in order to see more of the artifacts.  This was definitely a good hike to start the year on, and I’ll definitely be back to hike portions of the D&R Canal.

Ticks:  0

Blazes (I missed getting the Blue Dot)

Hiked:  1/23/2021

Terrace Pond – West Loop

Park Site – a note here:  The trails are located in Wawayanda State Park, however they appear on the Abram Hewitt map.

Trail Map – here is the official map, linked to the site.  However, trails have been re-blazed.  This map is much better (until the official map is updated.)

Hike  Distance:  4.9 miles

Trails:  Terrace Pond Loop (Yellow)

My Map:

The weather was supposed to be nice, with rain coming in the week, so I figured I would head out again.  When I reached the pond, with the sun out, it was pretty hot.  But, overcast moved in, and the temperature dropped though out the day.  I did this hike clockwise, which put the scrambling and the ups and downs at the beginning of the hike.  As you move away from the pond, you will go downhill and finish up on a woods road, and a smaller trail.

A note about the pond, swimming is NOT allowed, not that I had planned it.  There is ample signage both at the trailhead and at the pond.    Bear in mind that much of the edge of the pond is surrounded by rock and if you get in trouble, search and rescue will take a while to reach you.  While I was at the pond, it was starting to fill up with people – hiking just to the pond is a nice hike.

A note on parking:  I got to drive on New Jersey’s most haunted road.  I had read about this road often enough in Weird NJ, so it was fun to actually visit this landmark.  I can safely say I didn’t experience anything.  Park in lot P-7, when I arrived at 9:00 in the morning I was the third car; when I returned a little after 12:00, the lot was packed.  Walk across the street to the trailhead.

The new blazes really stand out, and are spaced appropriately.  They’re easy to see – maybe because they are so new.  The hike starts out on nice wide trails, and early on you will cross some streams.

The big rocks are a nice touch.

The Ents are still asleep.

After a short distance, you will arrive at a power-cut, make a right, and head up.

Puddingstone!

You won’t go up the whole hill, but will turn part way up.  At that turn is a nice view.

There will be a couple of good scrambles before you reach the pond.

From the top of this scramble, there is another nice view.

With leaves down, it’s easier to pick out anything not brown.  Unfortunately, no mushrooms on this hike.

Rock Greenshield Lichen
Smooth Rock Tripe
Eastern Teaberry

Just before reaching the pond, there will be a good-sized scramble that ends at this fin-shaped rock.

The trail goes around the rock, but you can scramble to the top for a great view.  I did not.  There’s not a lot to stand on, and a sheer drop on the other side.  Crawling most of the way to the top, I can vouch that the view is nice.

More puddingstone

Eventually you will reach the pond, and connect with the Circular Trail (White.)  I put the pond about a third of the way into the hike.  While there is some minor scrambling after the pond, you’re mostly done with the hard stuff.

After leaving the pond, and going over some rocks, I came to this smallish cave.  You can see that it goes back a bit, and there’s water; but I wasn’t willing to find out who might be napping in there.

Haircap Moss

There were a couple of sections of the trail that were just perfect to walk…wide dirt trails covered in pine needles.

Desiccated puffball

Eventually the trail will wind down to a swamp, and join a woods road.  You will go over three drainage pipes, that form small cascades across the road from the swamp.

Follow the woods road for a while.

Bracket fungi

Eventually, the road will veer left, with the trail making a hard right, and becoming more of a trail than a road.  You will follow this back to the trailhead.

Flat-Branched Tree Club-Moss

Just before descending to the trailhead there is a good-sized Rhododendron tunnel to pass through.

This is another great hike.  I may attempt the northern loop in the future as a new trail has been cut to form a true loop.  I can imagine this hike would be much more crowded in the summer and nicer weather.  Because of the popularity of the pond, I did come across more people, but not the insane crowds on some of my previous hikes.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  11/21/2020

Stairway to Heaven

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  7.7 miles

Trails:  Appalachian, blue

My Map:

(a note on my map, I forgot to un-pause GPS after sitting, but I essentially retraced my steps.)

There’s a lady who’s sure
All that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to Heaven
When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Oh oh oh oh and she’s buying a stairway to Heaven

Like the famous song, this hike is usually listed in the top three hikes of New Jersey.  The scenery is gorgeous.  The boardwalks and suspension bridge are great.  The “Stairway to Heaven” portion of the the Appalachian Trail is steep and rugged, but the payoff is totally worth it.

This had been on my to do list for a long time; but since I knew it was such popular hike I had to find the right time to do it.  The Sunday of Labor Day seemed as good as any.  Be warned, parking is crazy:  lots are small, the parking on the road in the Pochuk Valley is limited, and the local towns are fierce with their ticketing.  I left the house at 6:00 in the morning, figuring if I got there “too early” I could nap.  I was the 5th car by the boardwalks, arriving at 8:00.  But, I couldn’t nap, so I headed out.

This hike is an out an back.  From Pinwheel Vista at the top of Wawayanda Mountain, retrace your steps.  I’ve divided this hike up into three sections:  The Pochuck Valley boardwalk, the middle, and Stairway to Heaven, with the terminus at Pinwheel Vista.

There’s a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In a tree by the brook
There’s a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiving

The first section contains the boardwalks of Pochuck Valley, and there were plenty of people just walking the boards.  It was 59 degrees when I started, and the temps were only supposed to get into the low 70s.  Boardwalks are easy going, and I made the best time here.  But the scenery is incredible; lots of wild flowers.  There were tons of crickets, making a symphony of noise.   Bozza’s Aria it wasn’t.

One of the neatest features is the suspension bridge over Pochuck Creek.

Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder

The next section I deemed the middle, and it roughly started at the bike path at Canal Road.  It was here that the boardwalk ended, and I moved into the woods; hard-packed dirt and a wide trail.  Due to the constant shade, it was noticeably cooler on this section.

Also, there were a handful of stiles to go over the fences; though some of the fences were missing.  (I still went over the stiles when I could.)

The stile above deposited you into a farm where there were cows (not until my way back.)  And yes, you had to watch where you walked.

And yes, that’s Wawayanda Mountain in the background.  Imposing.

There’s a feeling I get
When I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who standing looking

Upon crossing the last stile you’re deposited in the roadway.  Be careful crossing, cars go flying by.  (There’s also a dairy farm a short trip up the road, I didn’t stop, it was too crowded.)  Here, for a small lot, there were a ton of cars.  All of these people were just climbing the mountain to head to Pinwheel Vista.  I apologize, there are not too many pictures of the climb up….you’ll understand in a minute.

These pictures don’t do it justice.  And really, there are a lot of “stairs.”  A.  LOT.  Plus, in some sections it gets pretty steep.  I didn’t break out the poles because there were sections where you needed at least one hand in addition to your feet to climb. Looking at my split times, this section had the slowest time.  Parts of it were brutal.  And it was slow going with the number of people out today.

And it’s whispered that soon, If we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn
For those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter

You’ll know you’ve reached the top when you reach the humongous pile of rocks.  Head to the left to get to Pinwheel Vista.

I, however, wanted to see the mailbox for AT thru hikers, which was less than a half-mile down the path.

Coming back from the mailbox, make a right at the pile of rocks and head to Pinwheel Vista.  It is easy to see why this trail ranks so highly, the views are definitely worth it.

It was so clear I could see the High Point monument directly across from me (way in the distance.)  And you could just barely see Mt. Tammany in the Water Gap.  I sat for quite a while, as it was an exhausting climb and I needed water and something to eat.

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow
Don’t be alarmed now
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen
Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on
And it makes me wonder

To get back, retrace your steps.  I left Pinwheel Vista at the perfect time, a little before noon.  There was an endless stream of people coming up – switchbacks were jammed up, basically with traffic jams.  And I saw people on those rocks with flipflops and crocs and no water or anything to eat.  I tried to keep a good pace going down, but didn’t want to overtake the family in front of me.  Two little girls were bounding on the rocks until one pulled up sharply and shrieked.

A New Jersey Black Rat snake.  I got a good picture and high tailed it out of there.

I think I stopped counting around 300 people that I passed, and it surely had to be more.

Your head is humming and it won’t go
In case you don’t know
The piper’s calling you to join him
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow?
And did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind?

On the way back down I was able to stop at Annie’s Bluff, which was packed with people when I was climbing.  It was a limited view, but nice none-the-less.

Upon reaching the bottom it was a relatively flat return to the car.  However, the cows were out.

And I spotted this guy basking in the sun.

There were tons of people on the boardwalk and I got back to my car around 1:00.  The road was packed and there were people still showing up, I suspect many were only walking the boardwalk.

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll
And she’s buying a stairway to Heaven

All in all, this was a great hike; it’s easy to see why this hike ranks so highly in polls.  The Pochuck Valley and middle sections are easy enough, you will work hard on “the Stairs.”  But the payoff is worth it.  The trail is super easy to follow, it’s the Appalachian Trail.  Supposedly the trail to the vista is blazed blue, but I didn’t see any blazes.

My only concern is the amount of litter on the trail, presumably a factor of the amount of people. I saw masks, paper towels, tissues, etc.  In fact, I kept my mask on from the time I left the Vista until I reached my car due to the number of people.  If you can do this hike mid-week or in sub optimal weather, do it.  I had no solitude today.

Ticks:  0

Blazes:

You only need to know one….

Hiked: 9/6/2020

Thanks to Robert, Jimmy, John, and John for allowing me this cliche comparison.

High Point State Park

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  7.5 miles

Trails:  Iris, Appalachian, Monument/Shawangunk Ridge, Cedar Swamp

My Map:

This would be some hike.  I believe that this would be the furthest I drive for a hike in New Jersey as this was a long drive; but a really nice day.  I had never been to High Point or the monument even though it is widely known.  The monument is not open due to the pandemic, it is unlikely that I would have climbed it even if it was open.  Forget the fact that I would have just come up a steep section of the Monument/Shawangunk Ridge trail, I’m not sure I could do the steps.

I started this hike at the Appalachian Trail pull off lot, which was good-sized and empty by the time I got there.  I took the connector to the Iris trail, which is part of the Appalachian Trail until Route 23 and the park office.  I was a little disoriented when I came to Route 23 as I knew I had to cross the road, but I wasn’t sure where the trail picked up.  It became very obvious.

The next section on the Appalachian Trail was pretty strenuous, and I was beginning to think of the other week at Apshawa.  Lots and lots of rocks.  And some pretty steep sections as well.  I usually hike in long pants to keep the ticks/bugs off me.  They are the pants that zip off above the knees to convert to shorts.  It was pretty warm, around 85, and somewhat humid; I considered zipping them off when I got to the monument for some relief.  I found the observation deck on the AT and rested a moment before the next leg – which consisted of a descent into a small valley, then a hike uphill to the monument.

The Appalachian Trail will meet the Monument/Shawangunk Ridge Trail, and that’s where I left the Appalachian.  There is one section of this trail that runs straight uphill to the back of the monument.  The rest at the top was totally worth it.  It was here that I thought I would convert my pants to shorts, but after sitting for a few minutes I started to realize it was a little chilly.  It’s a perfect spot for a snack and by the time I had finished eating, people watching, wandering around the monument I was cooled off.  I took a picture looking back at the observation deck.

Be advised that there is a parking lot about 100 yards from the monument and it gets crowded.  I know I got some looks from people as I emerged from the trail dripping with sweat and probably looking like I would collapse.

Here’s where it got interesting for me.  I wanted to continue on the Monument/Shawangunk Ridge trail to find the Cedar Swamp trail.  Monument/Shawangunk Ridge continues on the other side of the parking lot.  While crossing the parking lot I felt something flapping on my left boot.  I took a look and I could see where the boot was separating from the sole.  Sigh.  Now what?  I’m a little under two miles in.  It has gotten partly cloudy, to the point that rain may be arriving.  And I have a boot that may be failing.  Looking at the topo map I saw that there wasn’t too much elevation change.  My questions would be a) what if really started raining? and b) could I make it back over the AT if I needed to?

I decided to press on.

Not a bad decision.  I just had to manage that left boot.  Which held up pretty well.  At a break, I looked at the right boot, and I could see where it too was starting to fail.  Granted, these boots were almost 20 years old, but only used heavily the last five years.

I found the Cedar Swamp trail and completed that circuit.  Backwards I found out.  Typically that trail starts from the parking lot east of Lake Marcia.  The park has set the trail direction as clockwise.  I entered the trail from the Monument/Shawangunk Ridge trail, didn’t see signs, and walked counter-clockwise.  Fortunately, I didn’t see many people, but wondered why I got funny looks from the people I did pass.  When I got to the trail “start” I saw the signs for the temporary directions.  The Cedar Swamp trail was nice, cool, relatively level, and very different from the surrounding terrain.

I finished the loop and got back on the Monument/Shawangunk Ridge trail to complete my loop back towards the AT.  Where the Shawangunk Ridge trails bears right to New York I stopped to take a picture at one of the view points.  I believe that’s Port Jervis in the distance.

I’m pretty sure that’s New York state in the distance.

I continued on the Monument Trail.  After a little bit I noticed some good elevation changes, one of which became pretty rocky.  And, my left boot was becoming worse.  I quickly realized I was going to have to make some decisions soon.  Coming out of the woods, I followed the trail down to Marcia Lake.  The sun was out, it was a little warmer so I stopped to eat and rest again. There’s a beach at the far end, and it was packed with people; some swimming in the lake.

Looking at my boot I realized I would not make it back over the AT.  I decided to road walk the rest of the way back.  And honestly, even without the boot problem, this might have been the better decision as the walk around the lake was extremely pleasant, albeit warmer.

After exiting the park I had a short road walk on Route 23 south, probably a quarter mile or so.  About 300 yards from the AT parking lot, the boot and sole separated.  I am extremely thankful it happened here, rather than on the trail somewhere.  Big lesson learned – I’m now carrying a small role of duct tape for these kinds of situations.

I really enjoyed this hike, I’d like to come back and hike some of the southern area from the parking lot.  The mental stress of the hike was certainly a distraction, but being better prepared on my part would alleviate that.  The AT parking lot was not full when I returned and is a great place to park if you don’t want to pay the fees and/or don’t mind the the extra walk.

Ticks:  0

Blazes:

Cedar Swamp marker

Hiked:  7/3/2020

Princeton Battlefield State Park / Institute Woods

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  6.33 Miles

Tails:  Many (of the named ones:  Corfield, Far, River’s Edge, Marsh, Oden & Trolley Track)

My Map:

In the midst of the quarantine, and with parks open for the first week, I thought I would find some place relatively secluded where I could ramble the trails.  And in this case, I wanted to find the swinging bridge.  Arriving at the park early enough there were only six other cars in the parking, which I thought might be a good sign.

I started by hiking out down the road, thinking I would take a trail that skirted the woods and would pick up the River’s Edge trail.  After walking down the road, I found where the map AND AllTrails indicated the turn to towards the woods should be.  However, that trail doesn’t exist.  So, it was back up the road, with the sun blazing down.  I eventually turned on the Cornfield trail by the marker.

Once inside Institute Woods, trails would be wide and packed dirt, with occasional roots.  It’s easy walking with no elevation gain; and it is really hard to get lost – even though blazes are sporadic and trails are only named on the map.  And, there are numerous unmarked trails.

However, I was off to find the bridge.  The path by the river’s edge is very nice, the water moving faster than I expected.  After some time, found it:

The Swinging Bridge

Following the trail on the other side of the bridge led to the Delaware & Raritan Canal and trail of the same name.  However, a rockhop over the canal would be necessary; the rocks were spaced a bit and I didn’t have trekking polls to help balance.  Another day.

I hiked down to the viewing stand and walked around the marsh.  If you are into birding, this is a great place to watch the birds, with a clear view while remaining hidden in the trees.

While walking I got to see a little wildlife:

Frogs in the creeks
Always, ever present, deer

Finally, I walked along the old trolley track and took the trail up to the Columns.  I didn’t hike out to the columns because there were too many people – and I was trying to stay away.

When I got back to the parking lot, there were easily 30+ cars jammed in; and cars lining the driveway.  People were all over the place, and no one was social distancing.  I guess cabin fever crept in.  After unloading, I walked to see the Clarke House, but from a distance.  As there were so many people I figured to come back another day.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked: 5/17/2020