Jakes Branch Park

Park site:  http://www.oceancountyparks.org/frmRegContentPrks?ID=0694b294-986f-46e6-a679-d03ac775c176

Distance:  4.7 miles

Trails:  Tindey (blue), Interretive (green), Swamp Spur (white)


I looked for something short(ish) that was relatively close by for a hike today; I wanted to go up north, but knew I did not have enough time.  So, off to another Ocean County park; and what a park.  This is another really nice park, with well-marked trails, ample parking, and a fabulous nature center.  Sure, there were some unmarked trails, but it would be hard to get lost – the marked trails are pretty obvious.  And blazes are abundant.  Note, I came across bikes on this hike.

It was a great 75 degrees with barely any clouds in the sky and relatively low humidity.  I arrived a little before 10:30 on a Saturday morning, and there were few cars in the parking lot.  The trail kiosk was fully stocked with trail maps and numerous flyers for upcoming events.  And, the nature center was open, with a separate door for bathrooms.

As I was heading to the trail head I noticed interpretive displays regarding forest fires; which I initially though thought odd to have at a trailhead.  Though, reading through, I learned how some fires are good, they rejuvenate the land – and there was recently a sizable fire here at Jakes Branch back in 2002.

I started on the Tindey trail (blazed blue); and as I am want to do, chose left to do the loop.  Trails were wide, soft, sandy, and easy to walk.

I stayed on Tindey until I junctioned with the Interpretive trail (green) which is a short loop.  This trail, while still soft, was covered in pine needles.  Partway through there was a neat bog.

Back on Tindey, there was some nice flowers:

At points, the Tindey trail comes close to Double Trouble Road (which parallels the Parkway.)  At this point the sounds of the cars are a little overbearing, and I feel detracts from the allure of being outside.  It would not be until I was on the other side of the park that the sounds of cars would fade away.

When I came to the junction of the Swamp Spur (white) I decided to venture forth and see this “swamp.”  The trail is only a quarter mile long.  However, there was a section that was overgrown, and I suspect I picked up hitch hikers here. 







The swamp at the end of the trail was pretty wet, but not what I was expecting.

While walking the Tindey trail you will walk through areas where you can tell the fire was.  New trees are starting to grow, ferns are abundant, and there was plenty of sunshine.

I saw deer while walking.  I came across frogs.  And I happened to spot this Black Swallowtail butterfly.

This was definitely a great hike, I would highly recommend it.  I think my total hike time was a little under two hours.  While boots are always recommended, this could have been done in sneakers.  Definitely wear long pants if you plan to hike the Swamp Spur.

Ticks:  2 3 – 1 brutally murdered in my car on the way home, to the enjoyment of those passing me on the Parkway.  I found another after getting home.

Hiked:  6/9/2018

Cattus Island Park

Park site:  http://www.oceancountyparks.org/frmRegContentPrks?ID=0751673c-9513-4ecc-8f3e-3e65b0f2ec45

The kiosk by the parking lot contained many trail maps.

For the beginning of May, the temperatures hovered right around 60 degrees – with a slight breeze that became stiffer as we got nearer to the water.  My daughter and I headed down to Cattus Island for a hike – I was looking at the hike in 50 Hikes in New Jersey.  That hike was around 3 miles.  We did 5.8.  Here’s my log:

I had never been down here and did not know what to expect.  This was a great hike, we did most trails and walked most of the park.  Trails were mostly soft dirt, pine needles, and boardwalks – plenty of boardwalks.  There were many sections that were spongy, with a bit of mud; but nothing impassable or challenging.  As we approached beaches the wind noticeably picked up.  Also, benches abound – you will not walk far without coming upon a bench (some with great views) to sit and rest a bit.

Also, this was the first Ocean County park I’ve hiked.  Trails were well marked; in fact, there were ample blazes.  Turns and junctions are marked so you don’t get lost.  There were a couple of unmarked trails, but with enough blazes, you are not going to get lost.  We did not stop at the Cooper Activity center, though we did walk by it.  Pictures from the hike:

All in all, this was a great hike.  I can imagine that the White trail is very hot in the summer with sun shining down on you and no shade.  Definitely bring enough water in hot weather.  The other trails provided plenty of shade as you are in the woods and/or by the water.

Ticks – 0 (And I should note, no mosquitoes by Mosquito Cove – I bet that changes in much warmer weather.)

On the way home, we stopped for ice cream at The Yellow Brick Road Ice Cream Shop, Carosel.  Very very good.

Hiked:  5/6/18

F. Bliss Price Arboretum

On a pretty cold March day I did not have anything to do (for once) so figured I would take a quick hike.  I’ve driven by this park hundreds of times and decided I’d like to hike the grounds and see what is actually there.  I’ll say, the arboretum is much bigger than I though and goes much deeper from the roadway than it appears.  Here’s my walk:

The park has very wide dirt trails with occasional trails of grass.  The park is an arboretum, meaning there are lots and lots of trees, though trails sometimes meander around and through the trees, and sometimes cut through fields.  I walked the exterior before I explored the center.  In the back of the park there are monuments at the base of trees dedicated to many volunteers and supporters of the park.  And, many of the perimeter trails skirt residential areas.

The month of March saw many days of snow, more than seemed normal.

I didn’t know there was a creek running through the park.

Towards the back of the park there is a definite change, the trees seem older.

There is no trail map, not even a kiosk where you would be able to obtain one.  While the main trails are wide and it’s not hard to get lost you do need to keep an eye on where you are walking.  At one point I turned on to a small trail and walked a while only to realize I wasn’t really going anywhere – I had stumbled onto a deer path.  And I wasn’t alone:

The sun started to show as I was nearing the end of my walk, and I would guess the temperatures had warmed up to the low 50s.  Many times I came to places where snow had melted and water blocked my path.

All in all, this was a great getaway for two hours or so.  And, I felt great to explore an area I was not familiar with.  If you are in the area and want to kill some time without any hills or any real challenges, F Bliss Price arboretum is worth the trip.

Tick count:  0 – it’s a little early in the season.  (I bet in the summer there are tons.)

Hiked:  3/10/2018

Cheesequake State Park

Cheesequake State Park was a park I had visited many many moons ago as part of a Boy Scout campout.  I only remember one part of the trail (which I would pass through on this hike) and I remember that it rained.  I remember not wanting to camp in the rain after that.  On this day, the sun was out – it was in the 60s, which made for great hiking weather.  As it was before Memorial Day, there were no fees, and the parking lot was not that full.

The plan for the day was to do the Yellow Trail into the Green trail.  All trails here are well marked, the trails are easy to walk, with only a couple of hills.  Junctions are well marked both with signs and blazes, so you are not likely to make any mistakes.  Trails cross access roads, and they are very easy to pick up on the other side of the road.  There were benches every so often, which is a nice touch for those who want a quick rest.

My favorite part of the hike was the section of the Green trail that was made up of boardwalks.  This section of the park was pretty swampy, and there were some sections that bordered on the creek with lots of water.

After the boardwalks, the trail goes through a section of White Pine trees that is really nice.  Before coming up to the campground, the trail goes by the Giant Beech tree.

Before the Beech Tree, and while you are heading back towards the trail head, there is a section with a couple of hills.  Certainly, there is not a lot of altitude, but after walking a couple of miles of flat trails, the hills add some strenuous activity.

I had a lot of fun at Cheesequake and look forward to coming back to do some of the other trails.  Having only walked the Yellow and Green trails, there are other sections and trails to explore.

Hiked:  4/14/2017


Huber Woods

Huber Woods was one of the first of the Monmouth county parks that I hiked – this was a park I have been to a bunch of times, but not to hike.  On a sunny Sunday with the afternoon free I decided to log some miles in Huber Woods.  The trails here are pretty wide, dirt trails, with very minimal hills.

I started off crossing the field and hopping on the Fox Hollow trail, a very gentle, easy trail.  This was pleasant to hike and headed into the woods.  After a short bit, I merged onto the Valley View trail, which would encompass most of the hike.  This trail gradually went down the back side of the hill, meeting up with Claypit Run, which heads off towards the Navesink River and the Claypit Creek section of Hartshorne Woods.  This area of the park, though, exemplifies one of the bigger issues I’ve found in the Monmouth County park system:  There are lots of unmarked trails leading off of main trails.  It’s not that complicated, but if you are not careful you can get off your intended trail.  Further, at trail junctions, it would help if there were better signage, and or more blazes.

I took Valley View, and my plan was to make a right on Many Log Run, which is a loop.  I went by an unmarked trail/junction, and my spidey sense said to make a turn.  No signs or blazes though, and I couldn’t see anything down the trail.  I kept going.  After making a small loop, I realized where I should have been, kept walking and made the right turn.  Many Log Run had more hilly terrain and was a little more challenging.  At the far western edge, you get close to the road, and can hear cars.  I took Many Log Run to Meadow Ramble, and took that to Fox Hollow.

I got back to the field and could see the path back to the parking lot; however, I felt good and wanted to walk a little further.  The nature loop was in front of me so I took it – a half mile jaunt on a loop with lots of samples of what you would see in the rest of the park.  There were some interesting trees on the trail.

Finally, I decided I had had enough.  It was back through the field and towards the parking lot.

I like the Monmouth County park System, the trails are nice, well thought out, challenging in some places, and great for an afternoon jaunt.  My only wish is that there were better marking in the forms of blazes and junction signs.  Unmarked trails, if they are maintained, should be added to maps.

Shark River Park

Of all the Monmouth County parks that I’ve walked in, this has probably been my favorite.  I liked the walk along the water, and due to the moisture and water, there were some tricky spots to the trail.  Shark River Park is known for wet trails.  Also, of the Monmouth county parks, Shark River Park had the least amount of unmarked trails.  Many of the trail junctions were not marked, and fortunately the map was detailed enough that you are not likely to get off track.

I started this walk using the River’s Edge trail which meanders parallel to the Shark River.  You will begin by walking along Schoolhouse Road until you come to the bridge over the river.  At this point, follow the trail into the woods and along the river.

The trail is rated more difficult, and compared to other trails in the park, that statement would be true.  There were plenty of wet spots along the trail that would take some navigating.  And, there were hills with fashioned stairs to climb over.

The River’s Edge trail ran into the Hidden Creek trail, and at the junction I made a right.  The Hidden Creek trail was relatively flat, but there were spots with big puddles that presented a minor challenge.  I stayed on the Hidden Creek trail until I came to a junction with the Pine Hills trail.  This trail is a loop trail, which was a nice diversion as it was dry compared to the rest of the trails in the park.  Finishing the loop, I jumped back on the Hidden Creek trail.

I was only on the Hidden Creek trail for a short bit before I jumped on the Cedar Loop trail which headed back to trailhead.  This trail, while flat and easy the whole way, had spots that were really wet and particularly challenging to cross.

Turkey Swamp Park

Turkey Swamp Park is another Monmouth County Park that I had never been to before.  So, on a hot sunny Sunday I started out.  There’s lots to do in Turkey Swamp Park so the parking lot was packed by the time I got there.  As it was a hot day, the obvious attraction were the boat rentals.  While starting the trail, which starts out by the lake, there were lots of people out and about.

I started out on the Old Lenape Trail, rated green, which starts by the lake then winds around the campgrounds.  The walking was easy, a sandy trail through the trees.  Again, in a Monmouth County park, I noticed numerous unmarked trails and trail junctions that were not marked well.  The main trails were easy to follow and were for the most part flat.

I followed the Old Lenape Trail until it junctioned with the Manasquan trail.  I enjoyed the solitude of the Manasquan trail as it headed further away from the crowds.  The trail passed some large fields and the archery range within the park.  At about the furthest part from the parking lot, the trail makes a 90-degree turn to the south and follows briefly along the Manasquan River.

The Manasquan trail winds its way westward back towards the lake and the parking lot.  You will use a couple of bridges (more like boardwalks) over some swampy land.  The trail will cross the access road to the parking lot and join the Alder trail as it follows the coast of the western shore of the lake.  The Alder trail will take you back to your car and parking lot.


Allaire State Park – Brisbane Trail

My son had a hockey practice just down the road from Allaire State Park one evening, I figured I could get a hike in while he practiced.  His practice was at 6, I was only doing a little under 3 miles, flat terrain, nothing too difficult.  Lesson learned, give yourself a little more time than you think you actually need.  I walk at a pretty good clip, I needed to start a little earlier.  For this hike, I walked the Brisbane trail, which is listed at 2.8 miles.  To get to the trailhead, I drove past the main entrance on Atlantic Avenue to a pulloff down the road a bit on the right.

The trail started off as a concrete trail that you will share with bicyclists, joggers and lots of other people, as it heads towards the main entrance to the park.  When I started, the sun was still up, and it was a gorgeous evening.

You will walk by the meadows of Allaire State Park, and be heading in a direction towards the old village.  The trail, though, crosses Atlantic Avenue, and eventually turns into the soft surface of sand and dirt.

While there are lots of people using the park and visiting, I did not see many people when I headed off into the woods after crossing Atlantic Avenue.  (I walked the trail clockwise.)  There was one brief section in the northwest “corner” of the trail where the trail meanders close to and along the eastbound side of Route 195.  It is at this point that there is a fair amount of noise from the traffic along 195.  Once the trail heads southeast, you will lose the car noise and go back to solitude.

Once the trail curves southwest you will be in the home stretch.  It is at this point that I noticed it was starting to get dark.  As in, seriously dark.  While the sun wasn’t fully down yet, it was certainly below treetop level.  I picked up the pace.  You can tell in the following picture, I’m still in the woods.

I eventually made it back to Atlantic Avenue.  The following picture was only taken about ten minutes from the one above, but I’m out of the woods and close to the lot.  I was trying to capture the fireflys that were out.

This was a great hike and a great park to hike in.  There are lots of other trails, though certain sections of the park are heavily used by mountain bikes.  Parking in the pulloff will save you park fees in-season.  The trail was well marked and easy to follow – trail maps are available online.

Hiked:  7/18/2017

Tatum Park

I’ve driven through Middletown many times and have even driven by the Tatum Park entrance; it’s right across from Deep Cut Gardens (which I’ve never been to.)  So, on a day with some free time I made the short drive up to Tatum Park to walk their trails.  The day started off nice but quickly got cloudy with rain threatening.

I picked up a trail map at the trailhead and started off.  Early on, the trails were well marked and easy to follow, you head down a small hill on a dirt path.  However, there were a bunch of unmarked trails that made it a little confusing.  With a good sense of direction I was able to stay on course.  Also, there were long stretches without any blazes, and fortunately these occurred where the trails were straight and true.

Interestingly, and new to me, some of the trails cut through fields.  You really couldn’t miss where to go, because the grass had been mowed, but there were access roads in the fields as well.  Beware, the grass is high off the trails – tick central.

This was a fun walk in a nice park that I had never walked.  The trails are easy, there were no strenuous sections or anything that posed a real challenge.  However, it was very quiet, I only saw a couple of others walking, and you can log some quiet miles in the park.

Pyramid Mountain

On Father’s Day (or the weekend after) I took my dad on a trip to a park that neither of us had hiked previously, Pyramid Mountain – part of the Morris County Parks.  The trails at Pyramid Mountain are known for their glacial erratics – we definitely wanted to see Tripod Rock, but ended up passing a bunch of different rocks.  The day started out nice, however as we got closer to the park it started to rain.  Since we were most of the way there, we were not about to turn back; and it was not yet raining that hard.  That would change.

There were not many other cars in the parking lot when we arrived – probably pretty typical for a rainy day.  I can imagine with the sun out and nice weather that parking lot can get packed. We stopped into the Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area visitors center before we started the hike…wow!  What a treat.  The exhibits were great (and given the weather) we had the place to ourselves.  Definitely stop inside if you are hiking in the area, the visitors center is well worth it.

The trailhead was well stocked with maps, and the trail maps for the park are very well done – with a great legend, marked trails and easily read.  It was easy to follow paths, and that I recall, everything was well marked.  We started on the Blue trail and took that to the White trail, which we followed for a while.  We stopped off at Bear rock, a HUGE rock at a trail junction, where we saw the only other people hiking in the park.  We debated cutting over on the Blue/White trail and shortening the hike – it was raining pretty good at this point.  But, we decided to carry on – taking the Blue trail around Bear Swamp and towards the ridge.  There is one steep section that goes up a short distance as you climb onto the ridge.  It’s steep.  I felt it in my thighs when we got to the top.  A short distance from the the top of that climb brought us to Whale Head rock, another very large rock.  I’ll admit, I really did not see the whales head in the rock.  Onward, we hiked on the Red / White-striped trail until it junctioned with the White.  We took the White to Tripod Rock where sits one of the most famous erratics in the park.  I took some pictures here, and this was the only place I took any pictures due to the rain.

After tripod rock, we continued on the Blue trail while on the ridge.  A short detour to Lucy’s Overlook, which probably would have had a magnificent view if it were not cloudy and rainy, was well worth the rocks and the climb.  This “detour” is clearly marked on the Blue trail.  Back on the blue, we hiked until we junctioned with the Yellow and took that all the way back to the visitors center.  (I believe we got back on the Blue for a 300 feet or so to get to the parking lot.)

We had a great time despite the weather.  Turkey Mountain is “across the street” and is something I look forward to coming back to hike.

Hiked:  6/17/2017