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

Manasquan Reservoir – 5-Mile Loop

On a hot Summer day I was looking for a hike that was somewhat nearby.  I had been hiking a lot within the Monmouth County Parks System and saw that the Manasquan Reservoir was on my list to hike.  I have been to the park in the past, but not to hike, so the trip was familiar.  The  park is large, with ample parking – many people are there for the reservoir itself.  Also, the reservoir has a fabulous nature center – when I was at the nature center with the kids, there was a camera to see the eagle’s nest, turtles, and all kinds of exhibits.

There are numerous places to walk the reservoir loop trail, but probably the two most popular are from the nature center or from the main reservoir parking lot.  I chose to start from the main parking lot.

For this loop you will walk five miles all around the reservoir.  On the day I did this loop is was very hot.  While a good portion of the trail meanders around the water, and much of it is covered, there is one section by the nature center (along the road) that is in the bright sun.  If it is hot, bring water; in fact, bring extra.  On this day, I thought I might actually run out.

The walk is easy, and very well marked.  The trail, such as it is, is a concrete path, that circles the water.  Outside of the length, this is an easy walk.  There is lots to see, many gorgeous views of the reservoir.  On my walk, I happened to see deer on the north side of the reservoir.

When I finished, I stopped in the visitor’s center where you could rent kayaks and canoes – I think there is a concession stand, though it wasn’t open when I was there.

Fair Haven (NJ) Natural Area

As I live near Fair Haven, I have driven by the Fair Haven Natural Area many times – seen the parking lot and wondered what really was in there.  Fair Haven lists the park on their web site, here, and after some digging, I waited for a sunny day with a couple of hours to spare in order to check it out.  Certainly, you don’t need much time.  I figure I walked no MORE than two miles; and that was going over some trails more than once.

There is a nice gravel parking lot with enough room for ten or so cars.  At the “trailhead” there is a good-sized board with a large picture of the trail map, along with other information about the park.  You really can’t get lost, the park is not that big.  And really, if you did, if you picked a direction and started walking a straight line, you would come to one of two major roads, a housing development, Fair Haven athletic fields, or the Fair Haven Methodist church.

However, this is a great place to get away for an hour.  Trails are wide, well kept, and mostly dirt.  Once a year Fair Haven hosts a day where the trails are cleaned up and maintained.  It is relatively quiet while walking the trails, though you will hear cars as you walk near the roadways and (in season) the athletic fields are well used.

My favorite spot in the park is the pond, which sits smack dab in the middle.  You can get to it easily from the parking lot, or you can amble around and run into.  What makes the pond enjoyable are the benches scattered around the perimeter offering nice views and a comfortable place to sit and watch the pond and listen to the wildlife.  While on my hike I could watch the turtles sunning themselves on logs.

Enjoy the park.  I am sure I’ll visit again, to warm up for longer hikes or just to get away for an hour or so.

Hike to Hemlock Falls – South Mountain Reservation

Rock hopping!  Woohoo!  What fun.  Not having to have done that before on a hike, this was a real treat, and a great hike that I thoroughly enjoyed.  I learned of this hike when my co-worker mentioned taking his girlfriend to the park to hike and to see the waterfall; they parked close to the falls and took a few of the popular woods roads.  After stealing their idea, I plotted a hike.

Some (strong) advice:  Not only print out the map from here, but I would copy the directions to a text document and print that out.  There are so many side trails and woods roads that one can easily get turned around, make a wrong turn, or end up going in a direction you don’t want to.  While there was a big board with the map at the trailhead, there were not printed maps to take with you.  I suppose you could take a picture of that.

On the day I went, it was a gorgeous 75 and sunny.  I arrived around noon and parked in the Locust Grove lot, which was packed by that time.  I checked my map, and started up the Lenape (yellow) trail.  Ok, I like steep, and I like strenuous, but I wasn’t expecting this opening to a trail.  The trail basically goes straight up the ridge, no switchbacks to speak of, just a rocky trail straight up, with the ascent stopping at Crest Drive.  I noticed people doing this portion in flip flops and sneakers, and there were some really young kids too.  I could foresee some trouble ahead.  The first time I pulled out the directions was after walking down Crest Drive a bit.  The Lenape trail isn’t really well marked here.  Essentially, head to Washington Rock.

From Washington Rock you will see the lookout, with a great view right in front of you.  Head down and spend a few minutes enjoying the view.  You will notice that many people are here, many have parked and walked to Washington Rock – and honestly, if you are not in it for the hike, this is a great idea.  Back to the Lenape trail.  When I was there, finding the trail was not intuitive.  From the view, turn around and face up the hill.  The trail is IMMEDIATELY to your left, going slightly downhill.  It was overgrown when I was there, and fortunately, I heard voices coming up the hill.  Off I went.

While walking the trail I came to a couple of stream beds.  I suspect that at other times in the year, water flows, cascades may be present, and you’ll hear some gurgling.  Nothing, on this hike.  Barely a trickle in some parts.  The board-bridges are still there to help you cross.

Along the way, I came to a couple of rock piles.  On the other side of the rocks, there is a steep downslope with many roots.

The trail winds its way around, and you will ultimately come to the falls.  When I arrived, there were many people milling around.  And because I did not see many people on the trail I could not understand how that many people were at the falls.  I later found out you could drive to a lot right near the falls and take a short, relatively easy, hike down to view the falls.  As it had been been sunny and dry for a couple of weeks, there was not much water coming down the falls.

To get back to the lot, I thought I would take the Rahway (white) trail.  From the falls I had to follow the Lenape to the Rahway.  A small note here, while following the Lenape, you’ll come to a four-way intersection.  The Rahway trail is right in front of you – sort of into the bushes.  After a couple of steps, you’ll see the white blazes and know you are on the right path.  Fun times will be right in front of you as you reach the Rahway river.  Time for some rock hopping!  When I hiked through, the river was at the right height, not too fast, and if I fell or slipped, it would not be that deep.

After crossing the river, follow the trail for a while until you come to an intersection of a few trails and a gravel road.  Cross the bridge that is to your left (I believe there where white/red blazes,) and before you get to the woods road, the trail goes to the right.  It’s not easy to spot.  Once you make the turn, you will spy the white blazes.  The trail follows the river and has some nice views.

One nice surprise was the end of the White Trail (which ended up at the Locust Grove parking lot) are the fairy houses.  I’ll leave the surprise to you, you will definitely see one, and then look for more as you finish up.  It’s awesome to see, however leave them for the next person to find.  I saw numerous young kids at the end, and fortunately, no one was disturbing the houses.

Hiked:  9/4/2017

Where to hike (and wander) in New Jersey

When I was much younger my dad used to take my brother and I hiking in the Delaware Water Gap, specifically Mt. Minsi, and Mt. Tammany.  Many times I’ve hiked Tammany.  And for the longest time, I thought that was it for hiking in New Jersey.  Always the Water Gap.

Since I’ve rediscovered hiking, I’ve been to a whole bunch of new places and experienced some truly amazing hikes; and I know I’ve only scratched the surface.  Just recently, my dad and I hiked Pyramid Mountain in the rain to see Bear Rock, Whale Rock, and Tripod Rock.  And, my most recent hike was the Lenape and Rahway trails to see Hemlock Falls in South Mountain Reservation – where I got to experience rock-hopping for the first time (write-up coming soon.)

I don’t have “bucket lists” of hikes I have to do.  I do have a list of hikes that I’ve discovered while clicking around on the interwebs; mostly getting inspired from online lists I’ve found.  I like rock scrambles, I (now) like rock hopping, and I like some strenuous activity.  The couple of lists below should help you branch out and find additional great hikes like they have for me.

50 Hikes in New Jersey (I think I have a different version.)

That’s just a start for NJ.  I’m sure I’ll find more and update the list in the future.


edit 9/26/2017 – added the Asbury Park Press article.

Hello World

This is the post excerpt.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

A great walking poem by the master.

I started this blog to chronicle my wandering.  This year alone I’ve walked more trails than I have up to this year combined.  There have been some great trails, great views, and great challenges.  Not only have the trails been great, but the journey has been just as great; finding great restaurants, diners, and other neat gems.

Get out there.  Find your trail.  Walk blaze to blaze.  And remember, not all those who wander are lost.