Holmdel Park – Ramanessin area

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 3.89 miles

Trails:  Steeplechase, Ramanessin

My Map:

Shakedown hike!  I’ve been to Holmdel Park countless times, it’s about 20 minutes from my house.  But, after my last couple of hikes I had to make some changes and this seemed like a great place to a) hike a trail I haven’t been on, and b) test out some new gear.

First:  For Father’s Day I was given money to purchase trekking poles.  After coming down the steep section of the mountain on the Green trail in Apshawa Preserve, I realized I should probably try trekking poles.  I realize that they seem to be a polarizing issue; you either love them or hate them. I can see pros and cons, but if they truly make it a little more comfortable, I’m game.  I purchased a pair of Cascade Mountain Tech Trekking poles, cork handles and lever locks.

Second:  After the debacle with the boots I figured it was time to upgrade to newer boots.  My previous boots were L. L. Bean boots, of about twenty years; though used the most during the past five.  I know there rages two debates, boots or trail runners, and waterproof or non-waterproof. Ultimately, I think I’ll move to trail runners at some point, to save the weight, however; given where I hike and the sheer amount of rocks I went with a more traditional boot.  And, I went with non-waterproof as they will dry quicker.  My choice was Merrell Moab 2 Vents, and a ridiculous deal from Amazon.

So, this hike was to break in new boots and learn how to effectively use trekking poles.

The boots are awesome, they barely need breaking in.  They are extremely comfortable and a noticeable upgrade from my last boots.  As for the poles, it took me a mile or two to really get them right.  I’m sure I looked pretty spastic to the people coming the other way as I was trying to get into the right rhythm with them.  My verdict, I like them.  Certainly, on flat sections I get into a good rhythm and can make good (better) time.  Plus, there is an upper body workout as well.  Holmdel park isn’t known for elevation changes, but I did get to climb and descent some small hills; and I definitely see advantages to the poles.  They’ll make rock hopping and stream crossings easier, though I don’t know how much they’ll get used during scrambles.

As for the hike…this was a typical Monmouth County Park System hike.  There were very few blazes, mostly markers telling you which way the trail went.  And there were plenty of unmarked trails.  Trails were wide and well used, so it is very hard to actually get lost, though I found it difficult staying to my plan.  More than once I had to turn around.

One of the neatest aspects of this section of Holmdel Park is that the park follows Ramanessin Brook which is known to have shark’s teeth and fossils in it.  While walking along the southern portion of the Steeplechase trail I came across a person who had a couple.

I hiked down to the water to check it out.  I would like to come back and walk the brook and see what’s actually there as the brook is shallow and easily walk-able, and on a hot summer day will feel great.  I’ve heard that there are more fossils and teeth at Big Brook Park.

By the end of the hike I was pretty proficient with the poles and will be happy to bring them on future hikes.  And the boots were great.  I didn’t realize that the Ramanessin area had it’s own pull-out lot, which would have shaved about three quarters of a mile off the hike.  I parked in the main Longstreet Farm lot, which was starting to get full by the time I returned.

Ticks:  0

Blazes:

Hiked:  7/12/2020

High Point State Park

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  7.5 miles

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

My Map:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I decided to press on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ticks:  0

Blazes:

Cedar Swamp marker

Hiked:  7/3/2020

Apshawa Preserve

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  6.3 miles

Trails:  Blue, White, Red, Green

My Map:

I’m calling it now, this hike will be in the top five at the end of the year, if not the top spot.  This was a great hike, and is a great place to visit and hike.  It did not hurt that the weather was perfect:  sunny, barely a cloud in the sky and very low 70s.  To me, this hike has it all:  some steep terrain, lakes, cascades and waterfalls, ruins, and great views.

The state of New Jersey is slowly re-opening and I looked for a hike that might be out of the way with less people.  I can’t remember where I learned of Apshawa Preserve, my best bet is NJHiking.com. I left early, as usual, and by the time I got to the parking lot, I was almost the last car in; there were lots of people early in the morning.  In the lot, there was a large group of loud people, only a few masked.  I let them start off ahead of me hoping to give them a good head start while I snapped a picture of the trail kiosk.  And this great picture:

I haven’t seen a bear while hiking.  I’d like to, but from a distance.  It was not to be today.  To enter the park, you have to pass through a gate in a fence, which I read is used to keep the deer out.  I didn’t see any deer in the park, so I would say it is effective.  In I went.

It was all uphill to start, which was fun.  It didn’t take me long to catch up to that large group, I could hear them while walking and figured I would catch them sooner or later.  I figured I would pass them, but we got caught in a bottleneck – where the trail descends a rock scramble.  I let them take their time with that while checked out the view.  One in their group was playing music through their phone, one was on their phone trying to send pictures to someone.  I started to plan where I wanted to pass them, but luckily, did not have to.  I turned onto white, which went straight uphill.  I slowly lost their noise, and was rewarded with views from the top.

White descended steeply to junction with Red.  This would be the trail around Butler Reservoir and had some amazing views of the water.  I would have liked to have circumnavigated yellow, but the trail is closed due to beaver activity.

I must have missed the actual trail between the two sections of the reservoir.  I was probably walking on a small footpath when I realized I had to cross a small stream.  I couldn’t believe the trail would present this path to casual hikers.

I crossed without issue.  And after walking about 20 feet on the other side, I saw where the “real” trail rock hopped across the stream.  Either way seemed fun.

Some views of the reservoir:

This is why the Yellow trail is closed

Mountain Laurel were still in bloom and could be found in numerous locations.

On the southwestern side of the reservoir I met up with the large group of hikers.  They were looking for the waterfall, which I knew to be on the Green trail.  I let them know, but they were dedicated to going around the reservoir.  Shortly after, I met up with a hiking group with their dogs, all unleashed.  When they saw me they started to leash up the dogs but I was mostly by them by the time the dogs were all leashed.  I’m a dog person, so don’t mind them, but I would rather they be leashed.

After a brief rest on the rocks in the middle of the reservoir, I headed to the green trail.  This went up, steeply.  There was a great view at the top that was probably much better without the vegetation.  The peak was the highest point in Apshawa Presever, and I’ll say, it was a nice long ascent.  The descent, though, was a different story.  There were two or three switchbacks, but it felt like it was straight down the fall-line and my knees felt it.   Here’s what that section looks like in Caltopo, the switchbacks are in the center, and you can see the contour lines.

I rested at the cascades of Apshawa Brook.

A little ways up the trail (and uphill) I came to the ruins of the old water purification system.  What’s not shown are the massive tanks sitting by the brook.

Up the steep hill to the waterfall of Apshawa Brook.

From here I followed Green until it met back with Blue, and took that back to the car.  Upon reaching the parking lot I noticed that there were police directing the flow of traffic.

This is a great place to hike and I highly recommend it; it has something for everyone.  I hiked as long as I could, but there were numerous paths and circuits to make the hike as long and rugged as you like, or not.  My advice is to get there early as the lot fills up.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  6/14/2020

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  1.02 Miles

Trails:  White Oak trail

My Map:

Another hike while still “shut down.” Great Swamp is another park that is a relatively short drive from home, so I figured I would explore this.  Reading about it in 50 Hikes of New Jersey (the really old edition,) I noticed that they called out that this would be one of the wettest hikes in their book that you would undertake.  Further, it rained the night before I went up.  However, it was bright and sunny, so I figured this would be interesting.

And interesting it was.  There are two longish out-and-back hikes that have separate trailheads.  I planned on walking the longer one.  After parking and getting ready, I walked in…only to find shin-deep mud.  I bushwacked and stayed as dry as possible, looking for passable routes.  Nope, none.  After about a quarter mile (and an hour of walking) I turned around and sought the other trail head.  Unfortunately, it was much the same.  I don’t mind a little mud, but the hiking was long for such a short distance, and upon scouting what was in front of me, it didn’t appear to be getting better, on the contrary; it was getting worse.

I realize the park is a wildlife refuge, and as such trails are not “maintained” to the degree that other parks maintain trails.  The trails and the park are left to nature.  I resolved to come back another day, such as after a week of no rain – maybe it would dry out a little.

On the way out of the park I passed the visitor’s center, and happened to see a trailhead out of the corner of my eye.  So, turning around, I parked and investigated.  It was too nice a day to drive the distance I did for nothing.  I found the White Oak trail, which was a short loop right across from the the parking lot.  This trail was split between a meadow walk and a short jaunt into the woods.

A couple of pictures:

The large white oak tree:

The White Oak

Excuse my finger

Ticks: 0

Blaxes:

Hiked:  6/7/20

Sourland Mountain Preserve

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance:  6.3 miles

Trails:  Ridge, Roaring Brook Trail

My Map:

After the number of people I saw in the parks last week, I thought I would find something a little more off the beaten path, so to say.   For this trip, I headed to Sourland Mountain Preserve, and the famed Devil’s Half Acre.  Sourland Preserve is known for its bouldering, both in the Devil’s Half Acre and by the Roaring Brook.  There were more cars in the parking lot at 9:00 a.m. than I expected but still plenty of spaces.

Trails are mostly dirt, with some roots, and lots and lots of rocks.

The hike up to the Ridge Trail – fairly tame

After about 100 yards, the trails would be exclusively

And that is not a lot, by comparison.

The boulders in the Devil’s Half Acre were huge, and there were lots of people all over them.  I did not partake:  a) there were too many people, not many masked, and b) I wasn’t really dressed for it.  But it was cool to see.  The trails around these boulders were not well marked, as evidence by my map.  If you look at the northern-most part of my map, you’ll see where it appears I went around in circles.  I did.  AllTrails didn’t really help either.  I almost broke out the compass.  Once I figured out where to go, it was smooth sailing from then on.

A “small” boulder

After turning on the Roaring Brook trail, the path became mostly rock.

From here to the end there were numerous small creek crossing that entailed fairly easy rock hopping.  It was also at this point that the sun became blazing hot.  Surprisingly, I had to pass through, not one, but two chain link fences – I suspect the same fence in two locations.  And after looking at the map, my guess is the fence is the town border.  Also, I had to cut across a pipeline cut twice.

When the Roaring Brook meets back with the Ridge trail it is mostly downhill and more level terrain.  At this point I started meeting more people, probably 80/20 masked; and I came across a group with unleashed dogs.

Getting back to the parking lot around noon I noticed it was packed.  In fact, closed.  I’m sure a great many of the people were bouldering, as I did not see many people on the trails away from the big rocks.  People by the lake were not social distancing.  And at least one car followed my back to my car for my space.  While it was great in the woods, the parking lot was another story all together.  This was a great hike, though, and I would definitely come back.

Ticks:  0

Blazes:

Hiked:  5/24/2020

Kittatiny Valley State Park

Park Site

Trail Map:  1 & 2   <— 2 is better, it shows more of the unmarked trails

Hike Distance 5.02 miles

Trails:  White, Yellow, Red, Blue, and a bunch of unmarked trails

My Map:

It was the first weekend of parks being open, so I figured I would make the most of it.  I started out in rain, though by the time I got to the park, the sun was out and it was warming up.  The lot was crowded, mostly with bikes, dogs, and a few people running.  I did see a couple of horses.  Once I got into the woods, I rarely saw anyone; which was nice.  I saw plenty of people out on the lake and when I reached the airport.  Yes, I said airport.

Sorry, no payphone this post.

I started on white, which quickly went up on the ridge.  The trails were wide, soft dirt, with rocks strewn in; but it was easy walking.

I especially like walking next to Lake Aeroflex (I think now named Lake Wawayanda.)  The trail came pretty close to the water, and there were some spots where it would have been pretty easy to fall in.

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Lake Aeroflex / Wawayanda

The trail comes to a little dock with a great view of the lake.  Next to it is an old wall, I took the picture looking back.

Old fireplace

Next to this fireplace was a trail that led down to the water.  At one point the YMCA Wawayanda camp for boys was here, and I suspect that trail led to a boat launch of some kind.

A few minutes more walking brought me to the Aeroflex Andover Airport.  This was the coolest spot, and one other spot where I saw other people.  There were multiple benches where one could sit and watch the planes take off and land.  After getting a selfie with a plane landing, I plopped down on a hill to watch for a while.  The planes would land by coming right over the lake; and took off going away from it.  While I was there I saw four or five takeoffs and landings.

A takeoff

After sitting for a few minutes, it was back to the hike.

While heading towards the Sussex Branch trail, I found this rock.

A few minutes further down the trail I ran into an issue, easily six inches of water cover the trail for about 10 yards.  I had to bushwhack around it.

Towards the southern end of the park there are many unmarked trails.  It looks like there is a new Andover Loop trail (not marked on my map, and with smaller trails branching off it.)  I found my way to the Blue trail, but not using the path I intended.

Andover Loop Trail

Coming back up the Blue trail was nice.  Atop a hill there was a nice view of White’s Pond, which my initial path would have taken me closer to.

All in all this was a great hike.  It’s not often you hike to an airport.  The trails were not too strenuous, and it seemed pretty hard to get lost in the park, even on some of the unmarked trails.  I highly recommend, for the airport alone.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked: 5/3/2020

Plainsboro Preserve

Park Site

Trail Map – downloadable, not linked

Hike Distance: 4.8 miles

Trails:  I think I was on all of them (I didn’t hike Green or the Blue Shortcut)

My map:

For the first weekend in April, it was pretty warm.  I thought I would be able to get away, stay socially distanced, and log a few miles.  Well, I was partially right.  I once lived in Plainsboro, and never knew about this park, so it was nice to visit, explore, and hike a new find.

However, in the midst of the pandemic, it seems many people had somewhat the same idea.  The fact that it was gorgeous out at the beginning didn’t hurt.  There were more cars in the parking lot than I was comfortable seeing.  I was hoping that once I cut into the woods I would see less people.  And for the most part, that was true.

Trails here are really well marked, some are lined by felled trees and branches.  It’s kind of hard to get lost here.  And all the trails were wide, flat, and dirt-covered, which meant walking was awesome.

Starting out of the parking lot…what the…?

This is the second time in two hikes.

That’s more like it….

One thing I noticed while walking the park is that there has been A LOT of beaver activity.

The Blue trail and Maggie’s Trail skirt McCormack Lake, with Maggie’s trail going out into the lake.  It was clouding up at this time, but it was still nice.  On a more warmer day, I would have stayed longer.

Looking out at the lake from the end of Maggie’s Trail

This was a great place to hike, part of the Audubon Society.  There were signs for when the park and trails are closed due to hunting season, but I was beyond that.  Also nice, on the White trail there were signs giving a little of the history of the park and descriptions of some of the flora.

However, there were way too many people congregating by the lake on my way out, I could not get out of there fast enough.  Driving home, there were way too many cars on the road, and I was glad to finally get home.

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  4/5/2020

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