Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area – Cliff Trail – Hackers Falls – Raymondskill Falls

Park Site

Trail Map:  here, though I used the NY NJ Trail conference maps (the whole Cliff Trail is on two maps 122 and 123.)

Miles: 8.07

Trails: Cliff (White), Buchanan (orange), Pond Loop (Blue), Hackers (Yellow)

My Map:

[TL;DR – The climb up is the steepest/hardest part of this hike.  The whole hike is mostly woods roads with only some easy climbs/descents.  Great views, and two waterfalls.]

I haven’t posted in a while; I figured I would rectify that after this weekend’s outing.  And the day I went out was the only nice day of the weekend.  I got lucky, the sun peeked out a couple of times, and for the most part the day remained mostly cloudy.  I drove through rain on the way to the trailhead, and fortunately there was no rain during the day.

A note on parking.  I parked in the Hackers Trailhead parking lot, right across the street from the trail.  I was the first one in the lot at a little after eight in the morning.  The next lot up the road is for Raymondskill falls, and can be used.  However, when I finished the trails on the other side of the road, and before I went to Raymondskill falls, I noticed the parking lot(s) were absolutely packed – at around 11:15.  This was in January.  I can’t imagine this lot in the summer, later in the day.  There were gates on Raymondskill Road that were open, I wonder what happens in snowy weather?  I did not see anyone on the hike until closer to 11, and as I was by the waterfalls.  I had the Cliff Trail to myself.

Start out across the street from the parking lot.  To do the Cliff trail, make a right at the first junction, cross a creek, then climb straight up.  No switchbacks to speak of.  It’s a woods road, so the trail is plenty wide.  And when you reach the top, and the first overlook, you will have completed the bulk of the climbing for the day with only nominal ascents and descents for the rest of the day.

There are four overlooks on the way to Milford Knob, all have generally the same view.

In this next picture, the needle pointing straight up in the middle of the picture (zoom in) is High Point State Park.  It’s much easier to see live.

The Cliff trail meanders across the top of the cliffs that parallel Route 209.  Here’s a shot of the cliff from one of the viewpoints.

While it was mostly cloudy, with not much color, it was easy to pick out some life in the park.  Squirrels and birds were the most “wildlife” I saw.

Striped Wintergreen
Turkey Tail

From many of the viewpoints there were side trails/sidequests that you could take.  Those paths stayed closer to the cliff edge, and no doubt had more phenomenal views.  As the ground was damp, the leaves wet, I decided to stay on the main trail.

The Cliff Trail ends at Milford Knob and has a great view of the town of Milford.

I retraced my steps back to a junction with a spur trail that would lead to the waterfalls.

Both the Buchanan and the Pond Loop were on woods roads as well.

If you take the Pond Loop to the right, you will traverse a section that is pretty wet.  The pond isn’t named on the NY NJ Trail Conference maps.

Eastern Teaberry

The Pond Loop trail (either one) ends at a parking lot.  I took the Buchanan trail to Hackers Trail for the first waterfall, Hackers Waterfall.  You can hear this waterfall long before you see it.

The Hackers trail has one climb that is not long, that sets you back on the woods road.

I took the Hackers trail back to my car.  And from there, I ambled around Raymondskill falls – and this is where I saw considerably more people.  The trail can be slippery.  The views are more than worth it.

Raymondskill Falls

Blazes:

Hiked:  1/27/2024

Overlook Mountain Wild Forest – Overlook Mountain Fire Tower

Park Site

Trail Map: I used the NY NJ Trail conference maps – a free map for the Fire Towers can be found here.

Miles:  4.98

Trails:  Overlook Spur (red)

Mountain:  Overlook Mountain.

My map:

[TL;DR – This is an easy path, following the old fire tower road straight up.  There wasn’t much to see on the path, save for the ruins of the Overlook Mountain House hotel.  Views were opening up when we got to the top.  There were no snakes at the top (even though it was mating season) due to impending rain.]

This was one of those hikes where if it was called off, it wouldn’t rain all day.  And if the trip stayed on, there would be rain.  Fortunately, that rain held off until we were most of the way home.  And when it rained, it poured.  I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the mountain when it hit.

The parking lot is right across the street from a Buddhist temple, complete with prayer flags and prayer wheels.  It is open for visitation, and while we were there, there was a ceremony taking place.  I did not have the time to stop over and take a look, but I highly recommend it.

So, what is this hike like?  This picture is all you need to know (until you get to the top.)

The hike follows the Overlook Spur trail, which uses the road to the fire tower.  It rarely changes.  And it is uphill the whole way, I don’t recall any level sections.  It was interesting that there were electrical wires overhead the whole way up.  I could have taken this picture ten more times to fill up space.

Fall is definitely coming though.

Just before reaching the top you will come to the ruins of the Overlook Mountain House, one of the old Catskill Hotels.  From reading in the fire tower keeper’s house, this was the third iteration of the hotel.  The trail goes through the ruins, so it is worth checking out.

Shortly after the ruins, I had two interesting finds:

Closed Bottle Gentians
Hen of the Woods

The Hen of the Woods is edible, but it looked like it had been there a while.

As we neared the tower, these signs became more numerous:

Apparently, there are numerous snake dens near the top of the mountain and it is advised to stay on trail.  At the top, the Fire Tower keeper mentioned that this is mating season, and the snakes are usually out and about the top of the mountain.  However, with rain coming in imminently, they were tucked away in their dens.  I would have liked to have seen one or two…from a distance.

The Overlook Mountain Fire Tower:

Beyond the fire tower, and the fire tower keeper’s cabin is a nice viewpoint overlooking the Ashokan Reservoir.

Here is my first shot from when we first got to the overlook.

And here’s a picture I took before leaving.

This was trip four for the County Parks System fire tower challenge, we’ve been to five of the six towers.  Our last trip will be to Balsam Lake Mountain.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  9/9/2023

Bald Eagle State Forest – Penns Creek Wild Area – Penns Creek Path (Mid-State Trail)

Park Site – you’ll have to scroll down to the Penns Creek Wild Area

Trail Map –  see page 2 of this PDF.  The Mid-State Trail is the orange trail in the middle of the page.  While that trail is long, Penns Creek Path is the shorter section in the middle.

Miles: 6.72

Trails:  Penns Creek Path (note:  This trail is shared with the Mid-State trail in this section – blazed orange.)

My Map:

[TL;DR: A perfect day.  I did this hike with my dad, six plus miles on a rail trail.  I didn’t have a paper map of the route, but you really can’t get lost, the trail is an old rail bed.  Even though the temperatures reached into the 80s, there was a nice breeze the entire time.]

The last time I hiked rail trails was over two years ago, so this would be the first rail trail in a while.  And I haven’t been in Pennsylvania in a while either.   A trip out to see my parents afforded me the time to hike this trail.  A quick note on the day.  The park websites in Pennsylvania are not like what I normally link to when I hike in New Jersey or New York.  And, it took quite a bit of searching to find an online “map” of the hike.  If you know of better resources, please leave a comment and I’ll update.  Take Route 45 to Weikert Road.  Follow that to the end.  Cherry Run Road will come in from the right (at a bridge.)  The road will continue to diminish until you come to the Cherry Run Road parking lot which will be heavily used by fisherman.  The rail trail (portion of the Mid-State Trail) will be to the right.  If you take the woods road at the end of the parking lot, it will take you to the Fish And Game cabin (which is what we did.)  Ultimately that trail will intersect the Mid-State /Penns Creek Path.

There was bright sun and 80 degree weather while we hiked.  I’m normally half way done with trails by the time we reached the trailhead at 10:00.  And there were a good number of people out and about; I’d say the majority of people were fishing Penns Creek, which will be right to your left on the way out on this out-and-back trail.  There are plenty of views of the creek, and you will pass many spur trails that head down to the water for fishing access; some of those trails are sketchier than others.

I didn’t miss the Mountain Laurel blooms this week, it was all over the trail.  I’d guess this area of Pennsylvania is a week behind New York in terms of blooms.

Here’s a good shot of what the trail looks like.

About a mile down the trail you will come to a bunch of locations where there are many rockfalls.  Part of me wanted to scramble up, but it would have taken quite a while.  I believe the top of this would be parts of Sawmill Mountain.

Looking left (across the creek) you can see the ridgeline of White Mountain.  And yes, I believe there is a trail along that ridge.

Near “the end” of this section of the trail you will come to a little cottage with a picnic table out front.  This makes a great place to stop for a snack.  About a quarter of a mile down the path from there you will come to the old rail tunnel.  The tunnel was upgraded/fixed/improved in 2015 – you don’t need a headlamp when going through (though it might be nice.)  I’m told it was very dark before the improvements were made.

Continuing on past the tunnel you will pass a couple of residences before you come to the bridge over Penns Creek.  Water was low today due to the fact that we haven’t had much rain.  There were lots of people fishing, though no one seemed to have caught anything.  Here’s a shot of Penns Creek looking north.

The trail will continue past some camps to a western parking area for Po Paddy State Park.  (If you click on the hiking tab on the website, you’ll see mention of the Penns Creek trail (outside the park) and its description.)  The Mid-State trail turns left at the parking area and heads into Po Paddy State Park.  We continued down Penns Creek trail for a while, which followed the creek on our right.  Ultimately, we turned around and retraced our steps.  However, the trail crosses the creek and continues on.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  6/10/2023

Harriman State Park – Hogencamp Mountain and Pine Swamp

Park Site

Trail Map: official (?), I used the New York New Jersey Trail Conference maps (119)

Miles: 5.68 miles

Trails:  Long Path (aqua), Dunning (yellow), Ramapo – Dunderberg (red dot on white), Arden – Surebridge (red triangle on white)

Mountain: Hogencamp Mountain

My map:

[TL;DR – Here’s the Reader’s Digest version for those that just want to scroll through pictures.  This was a little shorter than I would normally hike.  But it was phenomenal.  I saw not one, but two Danger Noodles.  No bears.  Hiking on a Friday, there were a handful of people at the parking lot fishing.  I saw one person on the trail.  And, I was actually able to pull into a parking spot a the Reeves Meadow Visitor Center when I got iced tea.  That NEVER happens.]

Lake Askoti parking lot

I went on a Friday instead of the usual Saturday due to the weather forecast.  And as I type this up, I’m second guessing myself.  It was 84 when I did this, it’s 68 now.  The forecast for the weekend has been all over the place.  In hindsight..the day was perfect.  And there was no one around.

Park in the Lake Askoti parking lot, the road down is a little steep, but the lot is large (and empty on this day.  I can’t say for weekends.)

At the trailhead there are two trails, I chose left, and to do the loop clockwise.  The trailhead picture does not show it, but there a lot of dragonflies flying around.  I started on the Long Path.

I missed the Mountain Laurel Bloom by a day or two.  I suspect the weekend will be in full bloom.

At the junction with the Dunning Trail you can find the Hogencamp Mine.  Thinking of the ticks last week, I didn’t want to venture too far off trail.  However, I probably should have as the mine area is impressive.  I could see big piles of rock from the trail, but not much else.  Next time, I’ll explore a little more.

Nope Rope 1 – harmless – Black Rat snake

Just off the Dunning Trail is a nice view looking south.  The body of water is Little Long Pond.

And, I did finally get lucky and find some Mountain Laurel blooms.

I turned onto the Ramapo – Dunderberg trail which I have hiked in various sections all over the park.  The trail is one of the longest in the park.  This section will take you over Hogencamp mountain;  much of this part is hiking on HUGE slabs of rock.

Rock Harlequin

There wasn’t much water to cross on this hike, it hasn’t rained in a while.  This crossing was much easier than it looked.

At the top of Hogencamp Mountain, the trail turns left and there is a great viewpoint.  Because the day was so clear, I could see all over.

There are plenty of rocks to sit on and enjoy a snack.  I don’t know what tower is off on the distance, I could not find the tower marked on my map.  The picture is looking East, maybe a little North.

Eventually the RD trail will junction with Times Square.

There are a bunch of trails junctioning here:  Ramapo-Dunderber, Arden-Surebridge, and the Long Path.  It can be a little confusing.  I made a right onto Arden-Surebridge.

Part way down the trail I encountered this:

Nope Rope 2 – Venemous – Northern Copperhead

The Arden-Surebridge junctions with the beginning of the Dunning Trail.  I took a quick detour down the Dunning to see what I could of Pine Swamp.  Unfortunately, with all the foliage, I couldn’t see much.  If you zoom in, you just make out the swamp between the leaves.

Cross the (dry) stream and you will immediately come to one of the Pine Swamp Mine openings.  There are a bunch of openings, and some ruined buildings – but you will have to venture off trail to find them.  This mine opening can’t be missed though.  I believe it is one of six.  You really can’t walk back into it due to all the water in the mine.

From here back to the car is a pretty easy walk.  This section of the Arden-Surebridge trail is mostly woods road, and fairly easy at that.

The only mushroom of the day:

Deer (Shield) Mushroom

Ticks: 0 (thankfully)

Blazes:

Hiked: 6/2/2023

 

Stokes State Forest – Blue Mountain – Red Maple and Appalachian Trails

Park site

Trail Map – The Stokes map – though I used the NY NJ Trail Conference map

Hike Distance – 9.01 miles

Trails:  Red Maple (Red leaf on white), Brink Road (Shay?), AT (White), Jacob’s Ladder (Blue and White)

Mountain – Blue Mountain

My route:

I haven’t been in this area of NJ i n quite a while, and it was a great day to get out.  Leaving the house I could see my breath.  I was the first car to pull into the Lake Ashroe parking lot in Stokes State Forest, and the temperature made it to the 60s.  It would reach the middle 70s later in the day.  I started without the fleece, and that was a wise move.

This hike starts on the Red Maple trail, which skirts a campground before heading into the woods. The campground seemed full when I went by, and has, by far, the best access to the lake.

The trail is single track until it joins a woods road, named Woods Road.  From here on out the trail is wide and fairly level.  I should note, this section of the trail was infested with mosquitoes.  I couldn’t stop or I would be covered by them.  It was so bad during this stretch I though of cutting the hike short.  Fortunately, it was only this area that was so bad; no other part of the hike had any bugs to speak of.

Geraniums

I made good time in this section, a) because it was wide and flat, and b) the mosquitoes may have carried me off if tried stopping.  At one point I passed a large swamp on my right.  I crossed over Brink Road (the Shay trail), saw the gate, but didn’t realize that’s where I needed to turn in order to reach the Appalachian Trail.  It wasn’t until the Red Maple leaves the woods road and heads off into the woods towards Tillman Ravine that I realized I missed my turn.  Fortunately, I had not gone too far.

The section of Brink Road I used to connect to the AT is not long, maybe a half mile.  The Brink Road shelter is on this trail and is about a quarter of a mile from the AT.  At the junction, I turned right (southbound) to head up Blue Mountain.  A steep climb takes you to some rocks, but there’s no view.  In the research I did for this trip, I distinctly remember views.  A quick look at the map showed a small descent, then climb to another “top.”  After coming out of the woods, and walking through the scrub oak, BAM, views all around, though generally looking north, and west into Pennsylvania.  It was a clear day, so I could see far.

Looking west
scrub oak, also called Bear Oak

If you zoom in on the next picture you can see the High Point tower.

Looking north

I stopped to eat here, and it was really warm in the sun.  From this point I retraced my steps back to Brink Road, and proceed to head north on the Appalachian Trail.  This walk was atop the ridge, and there would be views to both sides if the foliage wasn’t already on the trees.

Pink Lady Slipper

Of course, I stopped to sign the trail register.

 

Another Pink Lady Slipper

Continuing north on the AT, I found a small spur trail that lead to a partial view looking into NJ.

I took the Jacob’s Ladder trail back to the Red Maple trail which would lead to my car.  Jacob’s Ladder had one section that was pretty steep, descending a large rock slab.  Here’s what it looked like looking back up.

There was one tricky stream crossing just before the junction with the Red Maple.  At this point I had only seen about four people in total.  When I rejoined the Red Maple trail, I started to see many more people.  And when I returned to the lot there were many more cars there, though the lot was not entirely full.  After changing, I walked over to see what Lake Ashroe looked like.  This is just one end.

Ticks:  4 5 (a far cry from the 20+ of two weeks ago.)

Lantern Flies: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  5/27/2023

I’m not dead yet…

I’m not.

Weather and multiple trips to Michigan have conspired to keep me from getting out as much as I would like.  I’ve had a bunch of hikes planned for the weeks where I was not travelling, but weather has been crazy wet around here cancelling everything.  It has been a wet and cold spring; which probably doesn’t bode well for the summer.  So, WHERE have I been in the last three months?

I was thrilled to snowshoe in the Catskills, enough so that I got a pair.  Of course, that just ensured we wouldn’t see snow for the rest of the winter.  I used snowshoes on Red Hill Mountain as part of the County Park System’s / New York State’s Firetower challenge.  It was definitely a blast, and has changed my perspective on winter hiking completely.  Here are two shots from Red Hill:

A couple of weeks later I climbed Slide Mountain in the Catskills.  While I was hoping to snowshoe, we only needed microspikes.  What a great day, with great weather, and great views.

Including my favorite sign in the Catskills:

The week after Slide Mountain I traveled with the Park System (again) to Katterskill Falls.  This was a great hike, but Katterskill Park just gets too crowded for my taste.  The falls were awesome, as were parts of the Escarpment Trail that we hiked.  But there were just too many people.

Almost a month later, I traveled to the Millbrook area in order to hike some trails, hike Van Campens Glen, and see Millbrook village.  The village was neat.  Van Campens Glen and the falls were neat.  But stay away from both the Pioneer Trail and the Hamilton Ridge trail.  Both trails are massively overgrown, and I stopped counting how many ticks I pulled off at 20.  Further, the Watergate area is STILL closed, which means a long road walk back to your car if you parked at the village.

Yesterday, I saw another bear in Harriman, just before the rains came down (again.)  No pictures because it happened so fast.

I’m hoping for better weather in the future so I can get out more.

Double Trouble State Park

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 5.97 miles

Trails:  Sweetwater (orange), Swordens Pond (yellow), Clear Brook (purple), Mill Pond(red)

My Map:

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  It was cold though, which is ironic because it was in the 60s for the past week.  I had planned on going up north but the trails I wanted to hike were closed for the winter.  And since this park was relatively close to  the house, I decided to check it out.

Double Trouble State Park encompasses an old town and is the site of an ex logging operation and at one time the biggest cranberry bog in the state.  There are numerous Atlantic Cedar groves in the park and many of the trails circumvent the numerous cranberry bogs.  Much of the water in the creeks is stained red due to the cedars.

Most trails are on wide sandy roads

At one point the Sweetwater trail abuts the Garden State Parkway.

For the most part, the trails are flat; there is almost no elevation gain.  My total for the day was 75 feet.

The first body of water I came to on the Sweetwater trail was the Cedar Creek.  After checking it out from the bridge, I climbed down some stairs to get a closer look.

There were plenty of smaller creeks undoubtedly used for moving water from the larger creeks.

The first large body of water I came to was the Sweetwater Reservoir.  It was much colder on the southern side of bodies of water, as the wind was really howling.

At the top of the Sweetwater Reservoir I made a left onto the Swordens Pond trail.  This was more of a “trail” then sand roads.

After walking by the southern end of Platt Reservoir, the Swordens Pond trail makes a loop.  I chose to do the loop clockwise.  And the trail type changed.  Instead of walking on a trail, I was in a ditch.  It was as if they made a fire break out of the trail.  And, I caught a whiff of what I thought was a campfire.

After walking a few minutes, the smell of campfire became more prolific.  It became obvious what I had come across.  All around me were the results of fire.  It was if someone swept out the forest, clearing the ground of leaves, pine needles, brambles, twigs, etc.  It wasn’t until I got home and looked it up, the area had a prescribed burn four days ago.

Half way around the loop I came to Swordens Pond.

The evidence of fire was all around.  However, the fire is good.  It cleans the forest.  All of the sticks, leaves and pine needs add acid to the ground, which would promote the growth of oak trees.  This area would be the Oak Barrens if fire didn’t clean the sandy soil every so often.

Eastern Teaberry

I came to area where fire did not cross the fire break.  Here’s what it looked like on the un-burned side.

Back on the Sweetwater, I continued north.  Where the Nature Trail junctioned, the trail went off into a Cedar Grove.

Here’s a shot of the water in Platt Reservoir.

At a large junction there was a sign describing how a large cedar grove was damaged by Hurricane Sandy.  Efforts are underway to reclaim the land and repopulate it with Cedar trees.

I took the Clear Brook trail up to where it ends at Cedar Creek.  The Clear Brook parallels the trail, but here is what the end of the trail looks like.

Flat Branched Tree Club Moss

At the junction of the Mill Pond trail, there are historic buildings from the town of Double Trouble.  Next to me is the packing plant.

I took the Mill Pond Trail up to the Mill Pond Reservoir.  At times the return path was twenty feet next to me, across a small creek.

The middle of the trail had great views of the reservoir but were very cold due to the wind.

As I was heading back to where I parked using the Mill Pond trail, I noticed some obviously man made stones off the trail.  A short spur trail took me to the Crabbe Family Cemetery which was established in 1938.  There were some stones with dates going back to the late 1800s on them.  And there was a stone with a 2001 date.

Commodore Edward Crabbe purchased the Double Trouble tract in 1903 and established the Double Trouble Company in 1909. His heirs sold the property to the state in 1964.

Just before I reached the car, I looked at some of the other buildings of the town.

School house

Blazes:

Hiked: 2/18/2023

 

Bear Mountain State Park – Timp-Torne and Ramapo-Dunderberg

Park Site

Trail map – official, we used the NY NJ Trail Conference Map

Hike Distance: 7.97 miles

Trails: Timp-Torne (blue), Rampao-Dunderberg (white with red dot)

Mountains:  the Timp, Bald Mountain, Dunderberg Mountain

My map:

As the week before this hike progressed, I thought I would be hiking more local; my initial plan was to hike Double Trouble State Park, in the northern Pine Barrens.  Mid week, one of my friends sent a group text to see who wanted to hike in Bear Mountain State Park.  Obviously, I don’t need my arm twisted to hike, or hike in that area.  Unfortunately, our other friend couldn’t make it.  Part of the problem was deciding on which day to go.  The weather looked iffy on Sunday, so Saturday was agreed upon.  It turned out to be a glorious day, with the gusts of wind making it a little chilly. (And it’s a good thing I didn’t go to Double Trouble as the state has been doing controlled burns in the Pine Barrens.)

All I knew was we were hiking the Timp-Torne trail, and I immediately assumed we were hiking the northern portion with all the views – a walk off West Mountain along the ridge.  I was surprised when we got off the Palisades Parkway at exit 15 and made our way over to 9W.  We parked at a small lot where the Timp-Torne and Ramapo-Dunderberg began.  This was an area of Bear Mountain I hadn’t hiked.  The initial plan called for us to take the Timp-Torne to the Timp, and come back along the same way.  However, if the weather wasn’t bad and time wasn’t a factor, maybe we’d head from the Timp to Bald Mountain, and explore the Ramapo Dunderberg and the area of the Spiral Railway.

Right off the bat, there is a very steep climb to get up on the ridge.  After the junction with the Ramapo-Dunderberg, we headed off upon the Timp-Torne.  And right away we came to evidence of the Spiral Railway.

More climbing brought us to the top of the ridge and the Unfinished Tunnel.

Taking a peek inside:

Harriman Trails devotes four full pages to the Dunderberg Spiral Railway, and we would walk over parts of it on the latter half of the hike, including the steep incline that made up the projected path for the cables that would pull the cars up.  The Railway was started in the 1890s and was envisioned to bring ore out of the mountains down to where Jones Point is now for shipping down to New York City.  The lower tunnel (pictured above) was completed, along with a handful of stone abutments (we passed some of them.)  Much of the “path” was carved out but never finished, much like the tunnel pictured above.  Cars were supposed to be pulled up to a circle, then would head west to reach the mines.  The cable way incline is part of the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail and is just north of the junction with the Timp-Torne.  This was definitely an interesting area to hike.  The project for the Spiral Railway ran out of money, went bankrupt, and was never finished.

Our plan, though, was to reach the Timp.  When the wind wasn’t blowing it was almost hot.  Coming up the back side of the Timp we had a great view looking south.

The top of the Timp was gorgeous, with views in all directions.  The West Mountain Shelter was clearly visible (no one was there) and you could see in all directions.

Coming off the Timp we came to the junction of the Ramapo-Dunderberg.  It was still early and the weather was really nice.  So we set off to Bald Mountain which we reached rather quickly.  I had hiked this before, though in the opposite direction.  The views from the top of Bald Mountain were just as good and Bear Mountain was right in our faces.  We followed the RD off Bald Mountain and I took a few minutes to find the Cornell Mine, to no avail.  It would take more bushwacking than I wanted to exert at this time, so I’ll look for it again on another trip.  At the junction of the Cornell Mine trail, we headed east on the RD.  This was an area I had never hiked and would lead to more of the Spiral Railway.

It was a rather easy climb to the top of Dunderberg Mountain and there were ample views.  It was really neat to walk into the groves of young Beech trees.

Just before one climb we found a pond (not listed on the map).

Along the ridge were more groves of trees, and some really nice walking with only minor ups and downs.

Just before the long descent, we came across a viewpoint that looked north up the Hudson River and provided a great view of Bear Mountain, the Bear Mountain Bridge, and Anthony’s Nose. Iona Island is in the foreground.

Just a note on the Ramapo-Dunderberg trail immediately before it rejoins the Timp-Torne.  You will descend along the cable way for the Spiral Railway, where a lot of elevation is lost.  This part of the trail is made up of “gravel” but I would call it softball-sized rocks.  It’s steep, and this has ankle roller written all over it.  Take it easy on this section.  I’m sure it’s just as treacherous going up.

We saw a couple of woodpeckers.  There were some hawks at the top of the Timp.  That was about it.

Blazes:

Hiked:  2/11/2023

Phoenicia – Mount Tobias Wild Forest – Mount Tremper

Park Site

Trail Map – from the site, I used the NY NJ Trail conference map

Hike Distance: 6.19 miles

Trails:  Red (Phoenicia?)

Mountain:  Mt. Tremper

My map:

This was hike 1 with the Monmouth County Park Systems on their Fire Tower Challenge.  They are running trips to see the six fire towers in the lower Catskills.  The challenge description can be found here.  While there are five towers on top of mountains, a sixth is right next to the visitor’s center which we drove right by.  I suppose, if you live in the area, this is not that bad.  Coming from the Jersey shore, this is a bit of a drive, and makes the challenge more interesting.  There are trips all throughout the year.  Trip 1 was to Mt. Tremper and the visitor center.

The Catskills got snow on Wednesday and Thursday before our trip.  The weather called for sun in the morning, with partial clouds in the afternoon.  Fortunately, that didn’t happen; it was sunny all day.  However, this would be a microspikes day – up and down in microspikes.  And, we had snowshoes strapped to our packs.  That wasn’t a problem for me, I was testing a new pack.  It actually came last Saturday, but I was already out and it was too late to use.  I’ll review it down the road after a few more trips.  The bottom of the mountain was mostly snow and ice and microspikes definitely helped.  As we got higher on the mountain there was more snow – we estimated about eight inches at the top.  I never used the snowshoes – I should have, I don’t know when I’ll get the chance again.

Zoom in on the picture of the kiosk.  At the lower left you’ll see a warning about timber rattlesnakes.  Supposedly, around the 1450 mark there is a quarry to the left of the trail housing a den of almost 100 timber rattlesnakes.  During warmer times, the snakes are out on the rocks and trail sunning themselves.  Obviously, at this time of year, we didn’t see any.  Maybe I’ll come back to check that out.

Mt. Tremper from the Catskills Visitor Center

This would be a relatively easy walk up.  The trail follows an old Jeep road up the mountain.  There were a couple of steep sections, but not for too long.  At the top, with more snow; the snow covered all the rocks we would have had to deal with.  Because of the snow we basically walked up a hill.  On the way down, the temperatures warmed up to the high 40s and the snow became much softer.  The bottom of the mountain became a mud puddle.

Heading up

The higher we ascended, the more snow we found and the less ice.

Before reaching the top, at around 1.8 miles, you will come to the Baldwin shelter (and privy.)  Just above the shelter is a spring that had a lot of water running through.  At the top of the mountain, you will find another shelter.  From there it’s about 250 feet to the tower.

As I am not one to climb towers, here’s a view from the first landing.

Here’s what the tower looks like.

There wasn’t much of a view from the top of the mountain, even with the leaves down.  I heard from our group that the view was much better all the way at the top of the tower; but the trees are almost as high as the tower.

We made quick work of the descent.  I was able to grab a few more pictures.  I took pictures through the trees while the leaves were down.  I suspect that during the spring and summer, you can’t see much.

While I took a picture of these rocks due to the ice, I think the snake den would be a little above this (towards the right.)  Our trip leader mentioned it on the way up.

Life:  None, it was too snowy.  Not even any tracks.

Blazes:

Hiked: 1/28/2023

Bass River State Forest – Lake Absegami area

Park Site

Trail map

Hike Distance: 8.75 miles

Trails:  Poppy Allen (yellow), Falkinburg (purple), CCC (orange)

My Map:

Average temperature for this hike was around 35 degrees, and the wind was blowing.  There were flurries every so often but  no accumulation.  I did this hike as a figure-eight, sort of.  Both loops were hiked clockwise.

Before I started the trail, I checked out Lake Absegami and the beach area.  At the time of this writing there is construction on a new pavilion, but it is still possible to walk down to the water.  Plans are for the construction to be completed by summer of 2023.

Lake Absegami

After viewing the lake, it was time to start the hike.  By the water, the wind was really whipping, but in the trees, you did not feel it as much.  You could hear the wind, sort of like background noise.

Most of the trails were wide, compact sand.  In a couple of spots the trail was the loose, deep, sugar sand.  And there were some places where you hike on sand roads.  There is almost no elevation gain throughout the whole forest, though that is to be expected hiking in the Pine Barrens.

The Poppy Allen trail takes you right alongside a group campsite; that was busy today with a Boy Scout troop.  I would later run into the scouts out on a hike.  “Poppy” Allen was the first caretaker of Bass River State Forest.

Pixie cup lichens

Every so often you hike into Pine tree plantations, where the trees are somewhat growing close together.  It was in these biomes where it was the most peaceful.

All the trails in this State Forest were well marked.  There are lots of side trails, woods roads, and sand roads; but if you stay on the trail (and keep your map handy) you will not get lost.  What I liked especially:  Whenever there was a turn, there was a blaze with an arrow telling you which way to turn, and then a blaze immediately after the turn for you to pick up the trail.  And all junctions are well blazed.

After turning onto the Faulkinburg trail, the trail sort of parallels the Garden State Parkway.  This was one of two places where there is a bit of road noise.  The trail actually comes pretty close to the roadway.

Soon enough it cuts back into the woods.

At the big junction of trails (in the center of the figure-eight in my map) is a sign announcing one of the tree plantations.  There are many in the forest, all planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930s.

From this junction I jumped on the CCC trail for the western part of my journey.  This crosses East Greenbush road.  Where it crosses, I was able to get a picture of the Bass River Fire tower and another plantation.

The forest in this section was my favorite of them all.  The trees are HUGE.  It is extremely quiet and peaceful in this section.  I could have sat there for hours, except it was 37 degrees and the wind was blowing.  Maybe in the summer.  Definitely a magical place.

The trail winds its way towards the Bass River.  I did not have a view of the river, but I could see houses lining it.  There are some marshy, boggy areas, and that is perfect conditions for a cedar grove.

At the northern part of this loop you will come to ruins of the Civilian Conservation Corps camp.

And just past the ruins you will come to the Forest Fighter Memorial which has signage regarding two major forest fires; and memorializes lost firefighters in those wildfires.  I had been to this memorial driving home from Batsto Village.

 

Eastern Teaberry

Coming back to the main junction, I followed the CCC trail back to my car.  The trail follows the park road and goes over a small bridge.  From the bridge I could see the southern portion of Lake Absegami.

And across the road, I could see where the lake drained into Faulkinburg branch.

I didn’t know that there were campsites here, so I will have to return to check out the camping.  Certainly, it won’t be long backpacking, but it is close enough to home to warrant checking out.

Chiggers:  NONE, thankfully

Blazes:

Hiked:  1/14/2023