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

Baldpate Mountain

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 7.21 Miles

Trails:  Summit Trail (Blue), NW Loop (Red), Ridge Trail (White), Kuser (Green), Cooper Hill (Orange)

My Map:

After two weeks of cold and rain, it was time to get out on the trails.  Leaving my house it was cloudy and about 45.  The sun would come out as I crested Baldpate mountain and the temperature would warm up to about 60 making for some perfect hiking weather.

This hike was the perfect warm-up, even though I I did a good stretch of the Delaware and Raritan Canal two weeks ago.  Baldpate Mountain, at Ted Stiles Preserve, has some minor elevation, very minor scrambling, but mostly flat dirt trails.  Be warned, though, the northern east-west section of the NW Loop had sections with very deep mud.  I also encountered mud on the Kuser  and Cooper Hill trail where very small streams flow down the middle of the trail.  Trails can be used by bicycles (I saw none) and horses (I saw one.)

Right off the bat I saw what appears to grow all over Mercer County, garlic mustard.

On both sides of the trail, all over the park is plenty of Multiflora Rose, an invasive species.  And this is all over.

A little further, I found some fungi in the rose bush, Little Nest Polypore.

Little Nest Polypore

And when the sun peeked out from behind the clouds for an instant, I saw:

cut leaved Toothwort

All this was found on the beginning of the Summit Trail.  I hadn’t gone far.  The trail winds up Strawberry Hill, and there are a couple of good scrambles.

Before reaching the Strawberry Hill Lodge, there was more to see.

Bloodroot (before the sun came out)
Lesser Calendine
Periwinkle
Siberian Squill

Once at the top I explored the grounds of the Strawberry Hill Lodge – which looks like a great reception center on expansive grounds and a view of the Delaware River (though maybe not with leaves on the trees.)

Heading to the NW Loop, I stumbled across a patch of Virginia Bluebells.

Virginia Bluebells

I had to bushwack around some serious mud while on the NW Loop.  And, it climbs steeply to get back to the Ridge Trail.  The Ridge Trail is mostly flat, somewhat-wide packed dirt.

Every so often I ran into unblazed trails with an ominous sign.

Where the Summit Trail junctions with the Ridge Trail are a couple of old farm buildings, part of the Welling/Burd Farmstead.  On the way back, I would turn here to visit the pond.

Just before cresting Baldpate Mountain, I came across an area with many trees cut down.  I have no idea for the reason, and some of the trees looked really tall.

Right after this I was passed by a rider on a horse.

The Ridge Trail ends at a parking lot, and when I got there the sun was out, and there were two horse trailers parked.  A power cut runs through the parking lot, I took the Kuser trail which followed the cut for a short while.

Dafodil
False Turkey Tail
Bloodroot (in the sun)

The Cooper Hill trail climbs up to junction with the Ridge Trail (in order to make my way back.)  Along the way I came across the ruins of an old house.

I took the Ridge Trail all the way back to the farm buildings and turned left on the Summit trail headed towards a pond.  Behind a building on the pond is a secluded concrete slab which made the perfect place for lunch.  People passed by on the Summit Trail, and probably had no idea I was there.   The fish were picking the insects off the water’s surface, and frogs were croaking – the perfect spot for lunch.

After lunch it was a quick jaunt down the Summit Trail back to the car.

Turkey Tail

This is a great place to hike, there are enough trails to make loops of any mileage.  Do note that there are some muddy spots.  And while there are some ascents and descents, it’s nothing too strenuous.  The trails are a pleasure to walk on, and there is ample signage.  I got there by about 8:30 in the morning and was the fourth car in the lot.  When I returned, the lot was full.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  4/4/2021

Clayton Park

Park Site

Trail Map – surprisingly, there were printed brochures

Hike Distance:  6.09 miles

Trails – all (Glen Trail, Bridges Trail, Clayton Fields Trail, Doctor’s Creek, and Old Forge Trail)

My Map:

I wanted to do something shorter and close to home, so off to Clayton Park, a Monmouth County Park.  While a typical Monmouth county park, with very little signage or blazing, the trails were wide, dirt, with leaf covering and some roots.  It was nice to not have rocks.  Be warned though, there are LOTS of mountain bikes.

You can see by my map that I hiked almost the entire park, I tried not to double-back, but there were two spots I had to.  You really can’t get lost, and you can make as many loops as you want.  Bring a paper map or GPS to guide you around the unmarked trails.

With all the brown, it would be easier to pick out plants and mushrooms.

Bracket Fungi
Japanese Honeysuckle

I did not see one blaze in the park.  The closest thing to a blaze are the signs at trail junctions.

Greater Celandine
Garlic Mustard

There is very little elevation, there are a couple of hills to ascend and descend.

Stinking Orange Oyster

I found some of my favorite, and I never just find one.  Trees and logs are always covered with them.

Turkey Tail
Christmas Fern

Striped Wintergreen

I walked a good portion of the Clayton Fields Trail though I did not walk to the lake.

And I ended up going around the pond twice.

Ticks: 0

Hiked:  11/27/2020

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

Point Mountain

Park Site  (northern section)

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  6.9 miles

Tails:  Orange, White, Blue (northern section), Red, Blue (central section)  (The brochures have actual trail names, I’ve just used the colors from the trail map.)

My map:

Point Mountain has been a place I’ve been to a couple of times as I dropped off and picked up my daughter from Camp Bernie.  It was time to climb to the viewpoint and explore the park.  Arriving at the trailhead, it was in the mid 40s, yet when I reached the viewpoint, it was already in the upper 60s.  The sun felt great, and I’m not going to complain about 70 degree weather the first weekend in November.

I have some mixed emotions about this hike, which I’ll get to.  However, know that practically all of the leaves are down (which hasn’t happened yet at home.)  This was a blessing and curse – the curse to be revealed later.  However, as the ground and surroundings are brown, anything non-brown became picture-worthy.

From the trailhead, start on blue (for a very short time) until orange splits off.

American Wintergreen
Resinous Polypore
Christmas Fern

And those were just within the first 100 feet.

Orange splits off, and you can see what you will be in for as the trail works its way up to the top.

Ultimately, you will wind your way around to the right, and come up the shoulder.  Once to the top, there are numerous viewpoints looking north over the farmlands.

The Orange trail leaves and meanders northeast along the ridge.  You’ll see a couple of rocks to scramble out on for more viewpoints.

Garlic Mustard

The ridge walk was especially pleasant as temperatures had really warmed up.  The trail was easy to follow and you can see views off to your left.  To the right is all forest and an army of squirrels gathering food for the winter.

As you descend, you will reach an area with a small stream crossing.

I took the White trail north heading into the Northern Section of the park.  This trail was well marked and easily followed.  I had read that there were sections that were overgrown, I did not find that to be the case today.  As the trail emerges by Penwell Road and a creek, I found these Turkey  Tail fungi.

 

Spotted Wintergreen

This tree was covered with Turkey Tail.

The trail comes out on Penwell Road and it is not immediately obvious where to go.  Cross the road, and head to the left.  There is a private driveway, with a “No Outlet” sign.  Just to the right is a large cairn marking the continuation of the trail.

Head up.  It’s another climb.  And at this point, on this day, all the leaves were down.  I felt like I was wading through water.  The leaves were knee-deep in some parts, and it was very easy to lose the trail.  I’m pretty sure I was off trail quite a bit.  Essentially, I hiked blaze-to-blaze, when I saw the next blaze, I walked to it whether the trail could be seen or not.  And, it was very loud, with all the leaves.  Coming down I figured would be treacherous.

I took the White, which crested the mountain, then descended, to the Blue, to the Red, which connected back to the white.  On the red you go through a large stone wall.

Funeral Bell Mushrooms

Don’t eat those…they’re toxic.

I backtracked on white to eventually get off the mountain, and head back to the central section of the park.  What I found interesting is there a section of the white trail where it appears that someone walked with a portable blower and blew off the leaves.  It’s only for about 100 feet or so, and you can see where this person’s trail heads back towards private property.  It was a welcome, brief, respite from the noise.

Back in the central section of the park, I continued on Orange until it joined with Blue – which paralleled the Muscunetcong River.

While walking this section there are many nice rocks to sit on, take a break, and watch the river flow by.

Canadian Wild Ginger

The Blue trail splits, taking the left fork will take you back to where you parked.  I went right and followed the river a bit more.  Eventually the bridge comes into view.

Clustered Black Snake Root

I decided to cross the road by the bridge, and finish up that last section of the blue trail.  You can see by my map that I didn’t finish the whole trail.  There was a huge blowdown obscuring the path.  Also, this section is wildly overgrown, and you don’t want to go off trail.  I’m sure I picked up a hitchhiker here.  On my way back, there were so many leaves down, that I’m sure I was off trail in spots.

Thin-wall Mazed Polypore

The lot was full when I reached it after finishing the Blue trail.  And it was warm, in the 70s by now.  All in all, I really enjoyed the Central Section of the park.  I do not think I would hike the northern section unless it is before the leaves dropping.  I did not see a single person on this hike until I reached the river, and back at the lot.  I would definitely hike to the viewpoint again.  Trails were well marked, and aside for the overgrowth and leaves, were easy to follow.

Ticks: 1

Blazes:

Northern Section
Northern Section

Hiked:  11/7/2020

Schunnemunk State Park – Schunnemunk Mountain

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  8.23 miles

Trails:  Trestle (White), Barton Swamp (Red dot), Jessup (Yellow), Dark Hollow (Black dot), Otterkill (Red)

My Map:

It’s election day and my company gave me the day off to vote.  The joke’s on them, I voted three weeks ago.  So, with all the rain this past weekend, I planned on hiking today as the weather was supposed to be better.  It started out nice at home, by the time I reached the trailhead and parking lot on Otterkill Road, it was cloudy and there was a smattering of rain drops on my windshield.  By the end of the day the sun was out and it was gorgeous.  The wind was blustery, and at the top it was downright howling, especially in the exposed areas.

I started by heading up the Trestle trail, aptly named as it starts into the woods under the MTA train trestle.  On the way, I took this picture of what I would be doing very shortly.

I started out with a jacket on as I wasn’t entirely shore if I would get soaked.  And the trail heads steeply up.  By the time I reached Sharon’s Bench, I took the jacket off.

Sharon’s Bench, with the Gunks in front of the Catskils

The trail kept climbing until it got onto the ridge.

Smooth Rock Tripe

There was lots and lots of puddingstone.

Once onto the ridge, there are lots of views in all directions.

After a short walk, you’ll run into cairns; which is where the Barton Swamp trail meets the Trestle Trail.  Hang a left, then head downhill.  For my entire trip, most of the difficult scrambles were in the downhill direction; and made worse by the large amount of leaf litter.  Yes, I slipped a couple of times.  This picture will give some idea of what the downhill scrambles look like.

 

Winter Russula

Barton Swamp heads down (with extensive scrambling) into a valley where it comes to Baby Creek.

After crossing the creek, you’ll head uphill to the junction with the Jessup trail.  This climbs onto the ridge of Schunnemunk Mountail, with views-a-plenty.

Did I mention puddingstone?

I wonder what this is?
Eastern Teaberry

Before reaching the ridgeline, there was a viewpoint where I could look across to the western ridge – looking across the valley I had just traversed.

When I got onto the top of the ridge, the wind really picked up.  And while I wasn’t above tree-line, there was a little exposure here.  Much of the walking was on huge, long, flat puddingstone rocks; almost like walking on a roadway.  At least the sun had finally come out and took the bite off the wind.  I got as close as I could to the top of Schunnemunk Mountain.

From here I retraced my steps to the Dark Hollow trail; which would be my descent off the mountain.  You could almost skateboard on some of the sections of rock.

The Dark Hollow trail is one continuous descent.  There were lots of rock scrambles, one with water pouring from it (tough to see in this picture.)

Here’s a shot looking back up.  Treacherous, with all the leaves on the trail.

Also, there would be numerous stream crossings, many of the streams were too deep to rockhop.

And what do we have here?

I wasn’t sure, until I checked here (scroll down until you get a match.)

To my eyes, it looks like Bobcat.  I certainly wasn’t prepared for that.

There are a couple of nice viewpoints coming down Dark Hollow.

The trail junctions with the Otterkill trail at the railroad tracks.  DO NOT CROSS the tracks.  At this point most of the uphill/downhill is over, and the Otterkill is more of a woods road.  There will be some small climbs, but it is a good way to finish the day.

You cross a small stream

before eventually crossing Baby Creek again, this time over a bridge.

Bracket Fungi
Oyster Mushroom
Eastern Wintergreen
Asian Beauty

There is one last viewpoint on the Otterkill trail before it meets back up with the Trestle Trail.

This was a great hike and it turned into a great day.  It felt great with the sun out, and the wind was bearable.  The trails are fairly well marked, there are only a couple of spots I had to really look around.  On the large puddingstone rocks on top of the ridge, there are cairns to keep you from getting off trail, and painted arrows on the rocks when there are turns.  What was nice is I only ran into one other hike the entire day.  Though, there are signs along Otterkill road warning not to park on the sides – so I suspect it’s pretty busy on the weekends.  All in all, a great day.

Ticks:  0

Bobcat:  Well, I didn’t see one, I saw where one was.

Blazes:

Hiked:  11/3/2020

Mt. Tammany

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  3.77 Miles

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

My Map:

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

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

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

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

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

The overlook on the shoulder still afforded a great picture.

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

Honey Mushroom

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

Mt. Minsi

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

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

The ridge walk is pleasant, before it heads downhill.

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

Eastern Teaberry

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

I have no idea what this is
Wintergreen

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

Stump puffballs

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

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

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

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

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  10/25/2020

Stonetown Circular

Park Site  (not really a park, though parts of the trail are in Norvin Green State Forest)

Trail Map  (I made my own with CalTopo)

Hike Distance: 10.72 miles

Trails:  Stonetown Circular

My Map:

Oh boy.

I’ve seen this trail listed as the most strenuous in New Jersey.  I’ve seen it argued that it is the most difficult trail in New Jersey.  I’ll agree that it’s the most strenuous; and it’s a combination of the length, the significant ups and downs, and the rocks.  Oh the rocks.  But it wouldn’t be New Jersey without them.  Also, I’ve seen it mentioned that the trail is not the most well-marked.  I did the trail counter-clockwise; and I can say that when the Highlands trail leaves, there are less blazes.  There are lots of woods roads and if you do not pay attention, you can get off trail easy.  Many of the woods roads reconnect with the trail.  You can see by my map that I got off trail for about 200/300 yards or so, I was on a woods road; and fortunately, I ended up where I needed to be.

But, I will say that the trail is a real workout with some great views.  And when else will you say you climbed 5 mountains on one trail?  (Caveat:  New Jersey mountains, but still.)  It’s a lot of ups and downs.

Wolf’s Milk

When starting by the guardrail the trail is relatively flat.

And this for this hike, many birch leaves were down, which will play a small factor later.  None the less, it looked picturesque.  Probably the peak leaf season will be the next weekend into the following.

Purplepore Bracket

First up would be Little Windbeam Mountain.  And what a way to start the hike, not twenty minutes in.

The view from the top of Little Windbeam was expansive, probably better without leaves.

Next it was onto Windbeam Mountain.

Even the bee was tired – sitting on this Princess Tree

There are multiple viewpoints on the way up Windbeam Mountain.

And yet another scramble.

The top of Windbeam was flat, and the trail was soft dirt, leaves; and a dream to walk on.

Haircap Moss

Next in line is Bear Mountain (not to be confused with Bear Mountain in New York.)  The views were on the way up, not from the top.  When I got to top I took a picture, but it’s all leaves.

And then it is on to Board Mountain.  I read that there is a scenic overlook; so I decided to eat there – a little early, but by the time I reached the overlook, it had been four mountains of up and down, and I was hungry.

I sat for a while and relaxed.

Puffball

From Board Mountain, it was a descent and meandering on to Monksville reservoir.  After descending, the trails are wide and sandy; great to hike on.  You come to a road – hop the guardrail, and cross the road.  You’ll see:

Hop the guardrail again, go down the road (leads to a boatramp) and make a left, the trail is wide with crushed rocks.

It will take a bit before you see a blaze.

The trail meanders around Monksville Reservoir a bit.

After crossing the powercut for the second time, prepare.  It’s at this point that you ascend your fifth mountain, Harrison Mountain.  And the trail heads pretty much straight uphill.  It’s a beast.  I probably could have used more food at this point.  Or maybe I was lulled into complacency by the relatively flat trails before climbing.  After four major uphills (and downhills,) this one was rough.  This occurs around the six mile mark.

When you get to the top, the Highlands trails heads right, and a connector trail (blue squares with a black dot) head left.  It is from this point that there seems to be less blazes.  Keep your eyes open.

At the top of Harrison Mountain (and the south peak) there are not one, but two cars rusting off the trail.  Hey, it’s Jersey.

I can’t even imagine how they got there.  There are woods roads all around, but the roads don’t really look drive-able.

Next up on the agenda would be Tory Rocks.  It’s here where I started to think more about the leaves and pine needles on the trail.  This is the first real scramble in the “down” direction that I can remember.  And a mis-step on the leaves, or a slide, could lead to a very bad day.

Here’s a shot looking back up.

It’s hard to judge slope in the pictures.

The trail meanders for a while, then makes a hard left at a road.  If you see this trail sign (for trails in Norvin Green) you know you just got off trail.

Immediately, turn around, go down about five feet, and head right.  The trail sort of parallels the road.  Yes, I missed the turn, turned left down the road before I realized I was off trail.  There maybe shortcuts back onto the trail, but I didn’t find them.

Wintergreen
Eastern Destroying Angel

With about a mile and a half you will come to two large rock scrambles, certainly not to the height of the five mountains from before, but definitely notable.  My first thought was “This isn’t fair.”  Coming down was pretty steep, and again, with plenty of pine needles and leaves.

The trail finally starts a long descent.  You can see on my map where I missed a turn, and was on a woods road for a bit.  I figured it would lead to where I wanted to go anyway – which fortunately, it did.  The trail deposits you out on Magee Road.  And it is a short walk to Stonetown Road and the parking lot.

You get a great shot of Windbeam Mountain as you walk to the car.  Who knew that over five hours ago, I was at the top:

All in all this was a great hike.  Plan for it to be long.  If I had not done some of the hikes I did over the last couple of weeks, this might have been rougher.  But it is a hike I’ve wanted to attempt for a while.  I can confirm, it IS strenuous.  The feeling of accomplishment is awesome, and the views going up each of the mountains is great.

I returned to the rec center, where my car was parked, to a PACKED parking lot, so make sure you get there early.  It is a large lot, but youth soccer games were ongoing by the time I was leaving.

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All you need to follow

Hiked:  10/4/2020

Norvin Green State Forest

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 9.32 miles

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

My Map:

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

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

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

It was off on the Otter Hole trail.

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

Leaves are turning already….

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

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

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

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

There were lots of good views from this trail.

And lots of other scenery.

Flax Leaf Astor mixed with blueberries

Toadskin Lichen

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

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

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

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

Spotted Wintergreen
Eastern North American Destroying Angel

With a desiccated puffball next to it.

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

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

Shelf Fungi

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

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

Ticks: 0

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(not the AT)

Hiked:  9/27/2020

Schooleys Mountain

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 5.02 Miles

My Map:

Another great day and another great hike.  As I got to the trailhead, it was 59 degrees out, and I was the fourth car.  I seriously debated starting with a jacket on, but packed it – and after a few minutes, I was thankful.  I started with the Blue trail (Falling Waters trail) to head to the falls.  Just before the trail descended, I was able to get this picture of Lake George:

Lake George

Just by the dam, the trail starts down – be prepared, this is rocky and steep in sections.  It was perfect weather on my hike; I can only imagine this section on the wet rocks or with ice.  However, the falls are awesome.  You can scramble all over the rocks to get all kinds of views.  It was nearing 60 degrees, had this been August with high heat and humidity, I might have taken a dip.

The Falling Waters trail follows Electric Brook beneath the falls.  There are ruins of the old power station, but I did not find them.  I followed the trail until the fence marking private property, where the trail bears left and goes straight up hill.  At the top of the hill you will come to a junction of many trails and the end of the Falling Waters trail.  There will be rocks on your right, walk out those for a view.

The map shows a point of interest that comprises a big rock outcropping.  Even though I was making a big loop, I took the Pink trail (not named) to its end where it junctions with the Grand Loop trail.  The Pink trail is more a woods road, so, wide with lots of crushed gravel.  There is an unmarked trail to the right which shortly leads to the rocks.

Behind the rocks there should be a view, but with the leaves on the trees, there wasn’t much to see.  I took Pink back to the junction.

At the junction, I turned left onto a White and Teal Trail (Patriot’s Path and the Highlands trail.)  This I took to Fairview Avenue.

Along the way there was a junction and a sign for a Green trail, not named, but shown, on my map.  On the sign was tacked “most difficult.”  After walking about 100 yards I came to sign that said trail’s end, and a cliff.  The map showed more trail, but I couldn’t find where it went, I must have missed it.  Because what I walked was flatter than the Falling Waters trail.  When I come back, I will have to further explore.

I got back on Patriot’s Path/Highland trail and took that to the parking lot at Fairview Avenue, where I would make a left onto the Yellow Dot trail (Beeline trail.)  Approaching this junction and  parking lot is where I ran into more people – this is a fairly busy lot.  This trail has some steep sections as it climbs onto the back section of Schooleys Mountain.  Junction with the Yellow (Grand Loop trail) and continue.

I rested at the junction of Red (High Cut) but stayed on Yellow to get back to the Orange (Upland Meadow trail.)  Orange cuts through two meadows filled with plenty of wild flowers and trees, bird houses, and lots of crickets.  Under a big tree I stopped for a snack though I was mostly done.  The sun was out, and felt great as it pushed the temperatures into the upper 60s.

I walked back on Yellow to Red to cross over the top of Schooleys Mountain.  Following my GPS, I estimated the summit to be right here:

It gets a little squirrlly at the top, I lost the trail a couple of times; and I suspect I wasn’t the only one.  It doesn’t help when I find blazes in the following locations:

Red junctions with Yellow (again) and I took Yellow back to the car.  This portion of the trail is a wide woods road of crushed gravel.

And just before my car I got one more picture of Lake George.

This was a great hike.  By the time I got back to my car, there were more cars there and more people out and about.  This is a really nice park, as are all of the Morris County parks I’ve hiked in.  The trails are well maintained, well blazed and provide great maps (though print your own, there were none at the trailhead.)

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Hiked: 9/13/2020