Lord Stirling Park

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  6.04 miles

Trails:  I was on most of them: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, connectors – Orange was closed

My map:

The Ides of March.  When I left home, it was cloudy and low 40s.  I got to the park and was the fourth or fifth car there; the temperatures had warmed up to about 45.  I stopped in the Environmental Education Center for a map, and by the time I got back out the sun was coming out.  I could tell this would be a great day.  And it was.

Lord Stirling Park (part of the Somerset County Parks) is immensely diverse, and should be on your list of hikes; if it already isn’t.  There’s forest, mud, ponds, mud, swamp and wetland, mud, fields, mud, observation towers, mud and even blinds to check out both the scenery and wildlife.  I would be remiss not to mention that the trails in the southern part of the park can be muddy.  To me, the southeastern portion of the park reminds me of the La Brea Tar Pits.  Looking at my split times for miles, I see my times are down – partly because there is so much to see and read in the park; and partly because the really muddy sections will slow you down.  Really though, what was I expecting hiking in The Great Swamp?

The trail in the southeast starts off nice and flat and wide.

One of your first stops, if starting in the southeast, is the eastern observation blind, right outside Lily Pad Pond.

Eastern Observation Blind
Lily Pad Pond

As you are walking, you can tell you are near the Passaic River.

Passaic River

This section of the park has lots of mud:

You really don’t have to worry about losing the trail, look for the mud (or the boardwalks when you get to them.)  There are plenty of blazes and you don’t really need to worry about turns.  As a bonus, at EVERY trail junction, there’s a sign that shows exactly where you are and because of that I really did not need my trail map.  Frequently, I changed my mind on where I was going when I reached a sign.

Trail junction – I headed right at this one

My next stopping point would be the East Observation Tower, overlooking the Passaic River. Bonus points were given as I was out of the mud and onto a boardwalk.

East Observation Tower
Passaic River
Passaic River

Back on the trail, I headed for my next waypoint.

What the…?

I thought I was out of it, but

I wouldn’t see mud again until I finished with the northern section of the park which included the swamp and boardwalks.  It was very pleasant walking at his point; the sun was out and it was getting warmer.

Loch Ness Monster?

Finally, onto the boards.

wetlands

I came across a landing overlooking the Passaic River called the Dance Floor.  No music was playing, but there were benches to sit and watch the river amble by.

The Dance Floor

It would be boards all the way to the Boondocks Boardwalk, which traversed La Plus Grande, part of the Great Swamp.  This was by far my favorite section of the park.  Just before La Plus Grande:

Boondocks Bypass

It’s shown on the map as Boondocks Bypass, but taking it would detour you around the fabulous wetlands and boardwalk.  And you can see, looking down the trail in the picture, yep:  mud.

There was no question in my mind where I was going.

Entering La Plus Grande

I can imagine this section of the trail is HOT in the Summer months.  Off the boards and back into the woods made a nice change of scenery.  It should be noted that there are benches at almost all the trail junctions.

After walking around Woodpecker Swamp, I came to The Great Swamp Oak.  This tree was huge; I figure it would take three or four people holding hands to be able to reach around it.

The Great Swamp Oak

The Southwestern portion of the park skirts a bunch of fields and leads to the West Observation Deck.

West Observation Deck

There was evidence of recent burning in the fields and I read that this was a result of prescribed burns, so that the fields can grow anew.  I made a quick detour up to the Sugar Shack, where they were making syrup.  This was the last weekend of the year for the demonstration.

I had to stop at Bullfrog Pond – I didn’t see any frogs but I heard one.

Bullfrog Pond
A little too close to the trail
Branta Pond – just outside the Environmental Education Center

This was a great hike!  It is only the middle of March, but I would be surprised if this hike does not end up in the Top 5 by the end of the year.  The weather was perfect, the trails were great (despite the mud) and there is so much to see.  I had planned to hit the orange trail as well, but it was closed due to construction; looks like I’ll be back.  I finished hiking around 12:30 and by this time the parking lot was packed.  I stopped into the center after the hike, and there are great exhibits detailing the wildlife and the history of the Great Swamp.  Finally, I headed over to the Turtle Pond.  No turtles.

Ticks:  0  (Though I imagine that number changes in the Summer)

Blazes:

Hiked:  3/15/2020

Brendan T. Byrne State Forest – Batona trail to Ong’s Hat

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  9.26 miles

Trails:  Batona Trail (to Ong’s Hat), Shinn’s road (back)

My Map:

 

My route, lollypop, going counter-clockwise

Back to Brendan T Byrne for another trail in 50 Hikes in New Jersey.  Today was a much better day, gorgeous sun, and not a cloud in the sky.  It was 33 when I got out of the car, and 42 when I returned with a light wind blowing the whole time.  Though, I didn’t notice it much as I was in the trees.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m not likely to backpack the whole trail, there are some other sections I might do; but I wanted to come back and do this section.

The trails were the of the same makeup, soft dirt, covered with pine needles or sandy roads – truly great to walk on.

Be aware that walking this portion of the Batona Trail does cross over some busy roads, though early on a Sunday morning I had no difficulty and saw limited traffic.  Two paved roads in particular to cross are Route 70 and Four Mile Road.  Within the forest there are numerous woods roads, unmarked trails and sandy/dirt roads that you will cross and are not on all maps.

A wide sandy portion of the trail, after crossing Route 70

After crossing Route 70, the first feature you will come to is Deep Hollow Pond.

Deep Hollow Pond

The trail meanders generally to the northeast, almost parallel to Bisphams Mill Creek.  There was no place that the trail actually goes to the creek, so my pictures had to be through the brambles.  You wouldn’t be able to see the creek in the summer with the foliage out.

Bisphams Mill Creek

There’s evidence of fire.

On a day like today, you could walk and walk.  I saw a couple of people running on the trail, and towards the end I met a couple with two dogs on leash.  Supposedly, bikes are not allowed, but there is definitely evidence that bikes use the trail.  Fortunately, I did not run into any.  On the way back from Ong’s Hat, I heard a motorbike, but I never saw it.  The only other noise to be heard were the cars on the roads you cross, and traffic on Route 72 while the trail is close by.

There is a spot where you have to cross Four Mile Road.  On a Sunday morning, there was no traffic.

Four Mile Road, looking north

Finally, I reached the northern terminus of the Batona Trail, located in Ong’s Hat.

Very much likely not THE tree

What is Ong’s Hat?  I’ll quote from 50 Hikes In New Jersey (second edition):

The story begins in the early 1700s, when Jacob Ong built a tavern here.  He was a Quaker from Pennsylvania who apparently strayed from the steady course and took a liking to dancing and flirting.  The tavern, which made an excellent halfway stop for stagecoaches travelling between Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore, soon became the scene of some wild goings-on, and in 1715, the history-making event occurred.  Jacob got in a fight with one of his girlfriends.  In a jealous rage, she grabbed the hat off his head and thew it high into a huge oak tree beside the tavern.  For years the hat remained caught in the high branches, and passersby would frequently say, “Look, there’s Ong’s hat.”  It took a while, but in 1828 the town got official recognition on New Jersey maps.  It is also shown on the USGS Browns Mills quad.  As for the tree, well, it was cut down in 1978 by the county highway department.

I walked around, I didn’t see any buildings or anything remaining of Ong’s Hat.  There was a deserted building across Route 72, but I wasn’t going to cross a very busy road to investigate.

On the way back, I took Shinns Road.  Straight.  Wide.  Sandy.

Shinns Road

I passed a section on the right where you could see that the trees had been cleared out, and after a while, where the forest resumed.

There were a bunch of spots along the Batona Trail where you entered forests of young trees, nature reclaiming its space.  The trees were close together, but not very tall.

Here’s a shot of (re)crossing Route 70 (early on a Sunday morning.)

At the beginning of the trail I walked by the Lebanon Fire Tower.  On the way back, I investigated.  There was nothing preventing me from climbing the tower, I don’t know if the door to the room at the top was open.  I wasn’t finding out.  And it had nothing do with the sign saying “no trespassing.”  There was no way I was going up those stairs.

Nope
Double Nope

I had a great time on this hike; the weather co-operated which made the hike pleasant.  This would be even better in the Spring or early Summer as you are in the shade for much of the hike.  Highly recommended.

Ticks:  0

Jersey Devil sightings: 0

Blazes:

Connector trail
Batona Trail
Batona Trail across a road

Hiked:  3/1/2020

Brendan T. Byrne State Forest – Batona, Cranberry, Mount Misery, Lebanon Trails

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  12.5 Miles

Trails:  Connector, Batona, Cranberry, Mount Misery, Lebanon

My Map:

You can tell by the first picture that the sun is out and it looks like great weather for a hike.  That was true, to start.  I finished in the rain and with the temperatures lower than when I started.  This is another hike in “50 Hikes in New Jersey” that I wanted to check off, and it’s a great hike in the heart of the Pine Barrens.  One mistake I made (and rather crucial.)  I used the online map to plan my hike, figuring that there would be parking sort of where the Lebanon and the Cranberry Dot trail met.  That would make for a nice round trip of around eight miles.  Oops.  Parking is at the visitor center…I needed to take a trail or two to GET to my route, then a walk back to the car (from my proposed route.)  That’s how I got to 12 miles.  And yes, I’m still sore.

You’ll notice for this post there are almost as many pictures of blazes as there are of the hike itself.  There were many blazes on this hike, including one that isn’t on any map.

My original plan did not call for me to walk a portion of the Batona trail, but I’m glad I did.  I’m not one for much backpacking, so it’s doubtful I’ll ever hike the whole trail in one shot.  I may section hike it, because I really liked what I walked.  It’s well marked, and the trail (in this section) was a dream – loose dirt/sand, covered with pine needles.

Some pictures from the Batona trail:

I took the Batona trail to Pakim Pond Day Use Area, which, believe it or not, had people enjoying a cookout.  In 40 degree weather.  Pakim Pond looked like a cool area to hang out in the summer.

The next section of the hike was spent on the Mount Misery trail and the Lebanon trail, which is mostly a paved road through the forest.  It was at this point that the rain started, mostly as sprinkles.  But, it started to get dark, and the rain a little more intense, so I stuck to the Lebanon trail to shave off some time (and distance.)

I got back on the Mount Misery trail heading back to the park office.  Doing so took me through Reeves Cranberry bogs, which were really neat to see (even in the rain.)

Finally, I was back on the Cranberry trail headed back to the office.  There was a portion of the trail that was wide, but forest close-in on both sides of the trail.

This was a great hike in the Pine Barrens.  There was no elevation change to speak of and the trails were a dream to walk on, loose dirt/sand usually topped with pine needles.  There were only a couple of locations with plenty of roots.  And, on the Batona trail there was a long stretch of boardwalk.  As it had rained the night before, there were a few sections that were a little spongy but nothing impassable.  The Lebanon trail is paved (for vehicles) most of the way, with one portion that is a dirt road.  The Park office wasn’t open (it was a Sunday) so I would like to come back and see what the office had to offer.

Ticks:  0

Jersey Devil sightings: 0

Blazes:

Connector trail to the Batona trail:

Batona Trail:

Batona and Cranberry:

Mount Misery:

One of two blazes I saw for the Lebanon trail:

I have no idea what the heck this one is, it wasn’t on ANY map.  I saw a second one too.  Anyone who knows, leave a comment.

Cranberry Trail:

Hiked:  02/02/2020

Sandy Hook – South Beach Dune Trail – Multi Use Path

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 3.99 Miles

Tails:  South Beach Dune Trail, Multi Use Path

My Map:

Sandy Hook is the closest National Park to me, and almost the closest set of trails to me as well.  Sandy Hook is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, and the only piece in New Jersey; with the rest in New York.   I have been on Sandy Hook quite a bit, I have documented over 500 hours as a tour guide at the Sandy Hook lighthouse.  But, in going to the lighthouse, I stayed on all the major roads, never really seeing the rest of the park.  Of course, I have frequented the beaches many many times.  Today was supposed to be windy and rainy, yet when I woke up, it was partly cloudy with no rain in the forecast.  True, it was below 40 degrees when I started out, the wind would be the bigger factor.

A variation of this hike is in 50 Hikes in New Jersey, though my version of the book is really really old; old enough that the Multi Use Path is not on the maps in the book.  The hike in the book is a four-mile straight shot, using a shorter South Beach Dune Trail, and ending up in the Fort Hancock historic district.  I opted for a loop, starting on the South Beach Dune trail and returning on the Multi Use Path.  I parked just south of E lot, at the visitor’s center (closed) and started out on the Multi Use Path for a very short distance.

At the first junction, I made a right onto the South Beach Dune trail.

Most of the South Beach Dune Trail is all sand (as expected,) sometimes walking out on the beach.  When the trail headed into the Holly Forrest it became dirt, with a lot of sand.

The holly looked awesome.

There was a side trail that led to Nike Pond, a freshwater pond.  However, it looked like I would not be able to visit today.

A short distance a way, it would be beach walking.  One qualm I had is there are not many blazes to really mark the trail.  I ended up on the beach before I should have, I could have stayed on the trail longer.  It’s tough when you find markers like this:

So, it was on to the beach.  Weather was beautiful:  sun most of the time, with small clouds.  The wind was brutal.  On the beach it was a little colder, in the holly forest – you could hear the wind but it was quite protected.

So…here’s the tricky part.  The map shows a short walk on the beach, then a left turn into the forest.  However, there are NO blazes or signs to show where to turn left.  Here are my notes.

  1.  This is where I came out on to the beach.  The trail headed east from Nike Pond sort of disappears in the dunes and deposits you on the beach.
  2.   At this point, there should be markers/signs/blazes to let you know to make the left hand turn back onto the trail and off the beach.  I, obviously, missed this.  It should be obvious, as you walk past the Nike missile installation.
  3. At the road, I made a left, knowing that I missed the turn.  By making the left here, I know I missed part of the trail.  A shot of the road is below.

A washed-out pillbox and old fortifications.

Shots of the forest.

Eventually the trail ends at the Multi Use Path, an asphalt path that runs the length of Sandy Hook.  Immediately, I came upon the Nike missile base radar installation.

I decided to turn around at the Hallyburton memorial.  In the picture below, you get a good sense of the wind.

At this point I turned around and took the Multi Use Path back.

The wind on the bay side:

The Multi Use Path goes by the missile launch area.

Finally, before the parking lot, I jumped back on the South Beach Dune Trail, where I passed a grove of cactus.

This was a great hike on a nice day (despite the wind.)  I was dressed appropriately so was comfortable the whole way.  I imagine this could be a brutal hike on a hot and humid July or August day.  This was the perfect hike to start the new year.  I did not hike as much as I wanted to last year (stats to come) and I vowed to get out more in the current year – starting out locally was a good start.  I would have liked to have seen more signs and blazes, for a National Park, that was a little surprising.

Ticks:  0

Blazes (sort of):

(I don’t know what that reflector was for…)

(At the end of the trail, I found this marker; I never saw another number.)

Hiked:  1/5/2020

 

Weltz Park

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  1.99 Miles

Trails:  Sweetbriar Trail, Eastern Loop, and an unmarked trail

Map:

I had some time to kill, and I just recently learned there was a Monmouth County park in Ocean Township.  Weather was great, partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid-70s.  I almost didn’t break a sweat during the walk.

There’s a pull-off, right off West Park Avenue, that fits 5-7 cars comfortably.  The trails start off with a wide dirt road.

Most of the trails are sand or dirt, no rocks to speak of, and no elevation change.  A good portion of the trails were mowed paths through fields.

A bat house:

I was hiking along fine until:

Now what?

According to the map, I should have headed left.  Consulting AllTrails, there was a whole new trail to the left.  Of course, this is not on the trail map provided by the Park System.  (By the way, print one off, if you want one, there were none at the kiosk.)  I chose right, and added on to the hike.

The grass along side the paths was taller than me in some spots.

I was surprised to find cactus here:

This was a great way to kill an hour or so.  You really can’t get lost.  Some of the unmarked side trails appear to head off to the properties to the East of the park.

Ticks:  0

Blazes (I think I captured every signpost on the trails.  There are no actual blazes):

Hiked:  9/1/2019

 

 

Bear Mountain State Park – Major Welch Trail and the Appalachian Trail

Park Site

Trail Map

Distance:  3.6 Miles

Trails – Major Welch going up, Appalachian Trail coming down

Map:

This hike has been on my list for a while.  What’s interesting is that I remember going by the park when I was little when we would visit my grandparents.  We would take the Palisades Parkway to the Bear Mountain bridge, cross, and take 9D up.  But, it’s been a long long time since I had been up this way.  Leaving the house a little after 8:00, skies were clear, the sun was out, and it was the middle 70s.  When I got to the park, it was already in the middle 80s.  My plan of attack was to go up the Major Welch as I had heard that there was some rock scrambling on the way up.  Oh, there was.  Just look at the map:  after you go by the lake, and turn off the paved trail, you can see how many contour lines I crossed in a short amount of time.

A little foreshadowing:

I’m pretty sure this guy was circling overhead when I was part way through the rocks.  I think he was just getting a count of how many walked by so he could triage lunch.

Some shots of walking by Hessian Lake:

It was walking on pavement around the lake.  Make sure the lake is immediately to your right – the trail head isn’t the most intuitive.

Here’s where the trail leaves the pavement and the lake.  Read the sign.  That’s the longest 1.5 miles I think I’ve ever walked.  Of course, I started to blow through the rocks when I left the pavement – it wasn’t that bad.

There were some (short) sections that were pretty flat.

There were lots and lots of those stairs.  And yes, they took a toll.

After an immediate left turn, the fun began.  I like rock scrambling as much as the next guy; but wow, this went on for a while – or so it seemed/felt.  These next pictures just don’t do it justice.  There were multiple sections of these immense boulders to scramble up.  And in the heat, it got tiring.

I only managed two pictures.  There were more sections.  At this point there were three or four groups of us leap frogging each other as we passed through the scrambles.  At one point, though, a young woman came RUNNING by us.  She blew by us like we were standing still (we were.)  Just before the top, the trail crosses Perkins Drive, and it’s a nice place to stop and get a drink.  The groups I was with all commented on how someone was RUNNING up that trail.

After crossing the road, and one more scramble, the trail flattens for a bit.

Don’t be surprised at the top, Perkins  Drive stops at the fire tower for people to picnic.  The looks I got when I came out of the woods were priceless.  Probably the best part, there was a soda machine selling  Powerade, maybe the best $3 I have ever spent.  I had plenty of water, but I needed something else.

I looked at the fire tower for a good ten minutes.  After coming up that grueling trail, did I really want to climb the steps to the top to see the view?  No.  But when was I coming back – so of course I climbed.  And I’ll admit, the view was nice.  Supposedly, you could see four states from the top.  But I needed to eat, and finish that Powerade.

My eating rock:

After a good long rest, it was down the Appalachian Trail.

Don’t kid yourself.  Yes, it’s crushed gravel, all the way down – a welcome respite from what I climbed going up.  However, there are a ton of stairs cut out of rock – which I really appreciate – but takes its toll on the way down.

There were a couple of viewpoints on the way down:

To give you an idea on the stairs, I took this picture looking back:

It’s really impressive how this portion of the Appalachian Trail was built.  And, when you reach the bottom, there are interpretive displays on building the trail, and some of the features that make up a trail.  I highly recommend stopping to see the displays.

Another great hike, though if I were to plan it again, I would wait until the temperatures have dropped a bit.  Be prepared when doing this hike.  Bring plenty of water (though there are vending machines at the top.)  And know that the rock scrambling truly is strenuous.  My final verdict:  I loved it, I’ll pay the price tomorrow, but it will be worth it.  One final note: the park was PACKED with people, so get there early.  I didn’t have a problem at 10:00 when I arrived, but I suspect parking would be a premium much after that.  (Side note, it was $10 to get in the park.)

Ticks: 0

(A new feature I’ll add going forward)

Blazes:

Major Welch:

Appalachian Trail:

(Missing:  the piece of the trail at the top, around the fire tower.  Markers had the Major Welch red circle above the AT white blaze.)

Hiked:  7/28/2019

 

Hacklebarney State Park

Park Site

Trail Map – (as you can see by the picture above, the kiosk was a mess when I arrived around 9 in the morning.  Fortunately, I had a printout of the trail map.  When I finished the hike and returned by this kiosk, park rangers were neatening and restocking the maps.)

Distance:  3.66 miles

Trails:  Riverside -> Windy Ridge -> Main Trail -> Playground Trail -> Upland -> Main Trail

Map:

When I left the house in the morning there was bright sun.  Upon getting to Hacklebarney State Park it was cloudy and hovering around 51 degrees.  The forecast called for 60% chance of rain, but I wasn’t letting a chance of rain deter my first hike of the year.  I should probably pay more attention to forecasts, at least this wasn’t as bad as the Jockey Hollow hike last year.

I hiked my route counter-clockwise, when looking at the map, which started me on the Riverside trail.  This trail starts off on a pseudo paved trail until it descends to the river.  I noticed lots and lots of picnic tables and each table had a charcoal grill by it.  Some of the tables by the water are pretty far from the lot, I’m wondering how many people schlep picnics that far.  Also, I noticed numerous water fountains – none in operation.  Note:  on this day, the only restrooms open were at the trailhead.  Both of the other restrooms were closed.

Heading off the Main trail, onto Riverside:

Crossing Trout Brook:

I really liked this portion of the trail (despite the pavement) due to walking by the brook.  It’s pretty loud and can be heard from a good distance.

Spring is trying to come forth (even though it was 51 when I took this picture.)

Before reaching the Black River, there is a little rock scramble down to Trout Brook to see the falls.

You really get a sense of the trail surface from this next picture.  And yes, you had to squeeze through the fallen trees to continue.

For 90% of the hike, I noticed many many downed trees.  (The one above was recent.)  Upon coming to a sign at the end of the hike, I learned that most of the trees fell during Sandy.  And, the sign continued, there was work ongoing (though not today) to clear dead trees such that invasive species did not take the spots of the fallen trees.  Interesting.

The Black River was great to hike along.

That would be it for the paved trails though until I climbed back up closer to the parking lot.  Along the Black River the Riverside Trail became a rock scramble, a bit more strenuous than the pavement.

It was like that for almost a mile.  Today, while hiking this stretch, I noticed many fishermen along both banks.  Apparently, there is good trout fishing in the Black River – which was stocked on Friday.

Partway down the Black River I came to bridge where Trout Brook fed into the Black River.

More rocks.

A little further along I came to Rhinehart Brook which was smaller than Trout Brook.  I could see cascades up the brook.

And here is where Rhinehard Brook joins the Black River.

At this point I noticed it was starting to rain.  Fortunately, leaves were sprouting from the trees, and not much rainfall was reaching the forest floor.  I could hear it though.

At the southern end of the park were two pillars marking the park boundary.  If you kept walking past the pillars you entered land belonging to the Black River Fish and Game Club.  It is adequately marked.  I walked far enough to take this picture.

From here I took the Riverside Trail until it crossed Rhinehart Brook and I joined the Windy Ridge Trail.  While shorter, there was a steep section that started the climb back.  I hiked the trail to its junction with the Main Trail.  Here, I detoured on to the green trail heading towards the Upland Trail, by a playground.  I had read on other blogs that there was an observation tower.

Found it.

And what could you see?

I doubt if the overcast hid anything.  I wasn’t sure what the tower was actually pointed at.  Anyway, it was back on the Upland Trail heading back to the Main Trail that I would take to the parking lot.

I heard a rustle, and realizing I was in bear country, I scanned around.

Later on Upland Trail, up in some trees

A giant turkey vulture.  I kept walking.

This was a great hike, despite the light rain that fell at the end and the paved portions of trails.  If the whole thing had been paved I would have been disappointed.  But the sections along Trout Brook and the Black River were awesome.  I am definitely coming back on a sunny day, and possibly in the fall to see the colors.  I suspect it will be much more crowded, but I think it will be worth it.  Trails were well marked and easy to follow.

Ticks: 0

Hiked:  4/28/2019

Cheesequake State Park – Yellow and Blue (with a little Red)

Park Site

Trail Map  <- important, see below

Distance:  3 Miles

Trails:  Yellow -> Blue -> Red

Map:

Saturday, December 29th was a warm day for December.  I had some time to kill in the afternoon and ended up at Cheesequake State Park to hike the Blue trail, which I had not hiked previously.  My original plans were to hike on Sunday, but I saw potential rain, and lower temperatures in the forecast.  I left my house around 1:00 p.m. so I knew I couldn’t do anything real long.  Temperatures were in the middle 50s, and it started out sunny, but became overcast as the afternoon wore on.

Driving to the parking lot, I came across this sign:

However, when I got to the lot, I discovered it packed.  And, throughout the afternoon I noticed the same thing, the trails were packed.  There were more people on the trails than I had probably seen on trails all year.  I get it, the last Saturday of the year, people had been together all week, mild temperatures, sun….definitely a great day to get out.  Fortunately, I neither saw or heard hunters.

I started out on the Yellow trail which I had hiked before, it’s rather short, and makes for a good warmup.  Without leaves on the trees, there were good views of Hooks Creek Lake.

“They” say that 2018 has been one of the wettest years on record for our area.  There was rain on Friday, but for the most part trails were ok (except as noted below.)  However, creeks and streams were all gurgling.

There were numerous spots along the trails where good-sized puddles existed, some puddles had deep water.  Many times there were enough rocks or roots that you could effectively hop across.  This would not be the case in the picture below, and little creative bushwhacking would be in order.

There was one place where you had to be careful, and that was coming down some of the hills.  Leaves had gathered near the roots of trees, and you had be careful stepping into them; as you didn’t know how deep the pile would be.  Only once did I almost stumble, probably before this picture as it is what prompted me to take the picture.  The picture doesn’t do the hill justice – not that they were real tall or steep, but the picture is taken looking downhill.

Walking through the woods was peaceful.  And, I was in an area of Cheesequake I had not hiked before.  The sun came out as I reached Perrine Pond, where I stopped to enjoy the sun.  I had a fleece on and it was perfect for the temperatures.

Here’s where it got a little tricky.  I had printed out an old(er) map of Cheesequake (one I used on a previous hike) and was following Blue around the pond.  When, all of a sudden:

I was not attempting to ford that.  Retracing my steps, I came to where the previous picture of Perrine Pond was taking.  At the waterfowl blind, I realized the trail went left.  More signs noting that turn would be helpful.  And, removing the signs on Blue to where the trail stops would be helpful as well.  Although, along that route was an osprey nest and nice views of the marshland.  Worth the extra walk.

No real problem, I followed Blue around the near edge of the pond, found where it met up with the “old” trail, then followed the old trail to see the other side of where it ended:

This is why, if you look at my AllTrails trail map, above; you will notice I almost completely encircle Perrine Pond.  In the map that I link to, the trail is correctly annotated.

I followed Blue until I came upon the “Great Junction” of Blue, Green, and Red.  I have hike Green in the past, noticed that Blue follows Perrine Road back to the parking lot, so called an audible and walked on Red.  Red sort of paralleled the road, then met up with Green, and was familiar at this point.

All in all it was a great hike and I was pleased to get out.  While the trails were crowded there were still plenty of spots of solitude and silence.  I saw the usual squirrel militia, no dear, and a couple of hawks.

Ticks: 0

Hiked:  12/29/2018

Jenny Jump State Forest – Visitor’s Center to Ghost Lake

Park Site

Trail Map

Distance:  5.8 miles

Trails:  Swamp Trail -> Spring Trail -> Summit Trail -> Ghost Lake Trail (back to car on the Summit Trail)

Map:

It had been quite a while since I was able to hit the trails, with time filled up with marching band and hockey season.  As we are nearing the end of hockey season, I found a weekend where we only had one game scheduled; which meant I was able to make an attempt at getting out and hiking.  What a day too, it started out sunny and upper 40s at 8:00.  I reached the trail by 9:45 and it warmed up to the lower 50s though clouded up as the day went on.  When I finished it was around 55, and the clouds had come in.  I took many more pictures than I’ve posted, but I’ve determined the potato I’m using is not taking the pictures it used to, so, on future trips I will be trying a new camera app.  We’ll see.  I apologize in advance.

Starting out on the Swamp trail was a great beginning; trails were wide, dirt-based, covered with leaves.

At the end of the Swamp Trail, I turned onto the Spring Trail; and that’s where things took a turn.  Minor rock scrambling was necessary to ascend to the ridge and up to Jenny Jump Mountain.  The trail changed to mostly rocks – what I am most used to in North Jersey.  Once up to the ridge I hiked along until I caught up with ten members of a hiking club.  I trailed behind them until the rested near the top of Jenny Jump Mountain and then I walked on by.  Make sure to bushwack to the overlooks, there are some great views of the mountains and fields in the distance.

Eventually, I started the long descent towards Ghost Lake.  Eventually, I turned onto the Ghost Lake trail which was wide, but had its fair share of rocks.  There are two sections with minor rock scrambling in order to get down – I wasn’t thinking about the return trip…I would have to climb UP this section later.  There were some neat plant-life in the area, massive boulders (moved by glaciers) and even a small stream that fell towards Ghost Lake.

The boulder below is huge, and a tree had fallen from the incline on the right, landing on top of the boulder.  The trail winds UNDER the fallen tree.

Eventually, I exited the forest and got to Ghost Lake.

This was a great place to stop for a minute, eat, and grab something to drink.

After resting for a minute, I thought I would look for the Fairy Hole, a cave by the side of Ghost Lake.  In using Google Maps, I realized the cave was on the other side of Ghost Lake, and really didn’t want to walk all the way around when I had a trip (uphill) all the way back.  Off I went.  (And on the way back into the forest, I ran into the hiking group I had passed earlier.  I think I saw “Garden State Hiking Club” on one gentleman’s jacket. Hello again, if you’re reading.)

I took the Ghost Lake Trail back to the Summit Trail (uphill – all the way, including the rock scrambling I earlier descended) and turned on to the Summit Trail.  I planned to take the Summit Trail back to the car.  When I reached the highest point, I came across a bench facing a great view.

That’s the Delaware Water Gap in the distance…and it probably looks better on a) a less cloudy day, b) less leaves, and c) a better picture.  Continuing on, I was treated to more glacial erratics:

One last overlook had a great view of the fields:

Trails were well marked; while I had the trail map in my bag, I really didn’t need it.  On this hike I happened across more people than I had seen on the trails in a while. Even though it had rained the day before, the trails were in great condition.  I passed a whole bunch of campsites and shelters, and on a future trip here I think I would want to stay in a shelter; it looked like fun.  There were lots of squirrels, and I think the chipmunk militia was following me again; I heard them frequently.  I was walking in bear country again, but did not see any.

I chose Jenny Jump as it will probably be my only hike before Halloween; and there are lots of myths about the forest.  Supposedly, a young girl jumped to her death off one of the large boulders near the top of Jenny Jump mountain, and her spirit wanders the park.  Ghost Lake is named due to a local native American burial ground, or the steam and mist that rises from the lake in the mornings.  And, as an avid Weird NJ reader, I was right near Shades of Death Road.  Of course, I had to drive down the road so I could say I did.

I’m happy to say I made it back with no issues stopping for both pumpkins and apple cider doughnuts at a roadside stand.  Unfortunately, I saw no ghosts, and no bears, but it was a great hike and a great day.

Ticks:  0  (Though we did find one on the dog the next day, it’s not confirmed where the tick came from.)

Hiked:  10/14/2018

 

Poricy Park – Red and Blue trails

Park Site

Trail Map

Distance:  2.4 miles

Trails:  Riparian (red), and Bird Watcher (blue)

Map:

It was icing on the cake that I was able to grab a hike today, and while it was shorter, there were definitely issues.  My son’s game, then practice was canceled.  Had I known that on Friday I would have planned a much bigger hike, but I didn’t know until yesterday, and I only had a couple of hours – and Poricy Park is a few minute’s drive away.

I had the place to myself on a sunny day that started out nice but became hot by the time I decided to hike.  The car showed 88 when I was walking to the trailhead.  My plan was to take the blue trail to the red, walk along the tracks, loop by the pond, take blue to a platform overlooking the pond, then finish up on blue (maybe green) back to the parking lot.  Starting out, the trails look like:

This is great, and easy to walk.  However, there are NO signs, blazes or marks of any kind.  There are poles with numbers on them, but they did not correspond to my map.  Maybe they corresponded to a trail map that was supposed to be available, but I did not see any.  As I cut over to red, to parallel the railroad tracks, I ran into:

Even though I was wearing long pants, I wasn’t venturing into that.  No way.  A little backtracking got me to:

After the boardwalk, there were stairs going up the other side:

At this point the trail became more “woodsy.”

Following this for a bit opened up some great views of Poricy Pond.

I followed this to the end and was anticipating a loop, coming back closer to the tracks.  Unfortunately:

Another overgrown section.  I investigated about 15 feet to see if the trail opened up.  It didn’t.  I back tracked, then followed the trail all the way back to the boardwalk – where I crossed over then followed the wide trail to a pond view.

On the way back, I ran into a couple of freshly cleared areas where a “stage” and some benches had been erected.

There were a couple of these spots, and they were not on my map.  I made my way past the farm house and the barn and crossed a brook on my way.

For the last bit, I followed a blue/green trail back to the parking lot.

What’s this?!?

I saw one other sign on the entire hike.

This was a nice little walk despite no maps available, very poor trail conditions on the Riparian trail near the tracks, and no blazes.  The green and blue trails were wide and grassy, and you probably couldn’t get lost.  Red was iffy at best.  I would only recommend this if you are looking for a short, quick hike.  As for wildlife, butterflies were all over the place.  And I saw a few rabbits and squirrels peeking out from the underbrush.  At one point, a black cat was sitting trailside, but as I approached, it darted off.  (I probably should have guessed that was an omen.)

Ticks: 0 (And this is surprising, the last time I was here, I was covered in them.)

Hiked:  8/26/2018