Watchung Reservation – Sierra Trail

 

Park site:  http://ucnj.org/parks-recreation/paths-trails-greenways/watchung-reservation/

Trail Map:  http://ucnj.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Watchung-Trail-Map-020314.pdf

Distance:  7 miles (planned 11)

Trails:  Sierra (though a few connectors were used)

Map:

After not being able to hike for a few weeks, I was ready to get out and hit the trails.  It poured multiple times yesterday, so today had to be the day.  I knew it would be warm (really, hot) with high humidity, I just didn’t know how hot and humid.  My plan was to hike the whole Sierra trail, but it was too hot.  I cut back when I reached the dam by the lake as I was running low on water – and I brought extra water for the hike.  Because it rained yesterday, the lower portions of trails were really spongy…outright muddy in parts.  And where there was mud, there were gnats.

Finding the actual trail head wasn’t the easiest, fortunately, I printed out directions from the great folks at NJHiking.  Once I started, the hike was pleasant enough, it gradually went uphill, with lots of different trail types.

Before reaching the picnic shelter, I found myself on the purple trail.  I was following white, and the next thing I knew I T-intersected purple.  Thank you AllTrails, for getting me back on white.  However, I had to make a steep incline to get back.  I don’t know if I had followed white properly if I would have routed around the steep portion.

The trail paralleled Sky Top Drive with a nice overlook towards the quarry.  After the descent, the trail followed Blue Brook.

It was really neat to walk through the foundations of the mill, and believe it or not, it was noticeably cooler in this area. That wouldn’t last for long.

After the mill the trail turns away from the creek, and runs straight uphill.  Steeply.  At the top, I needed a water break.  Fortunately, I was at an overlook, looking northwest.  Route 78 is in the background.

Looking down Seeley’s Pond:

I met two guys with dogs on this boardwalk.  One dog didn’t like people and was leashed.  A basset hound was following unleashed.  I passed three other groups of people with dogs during the hike, none of the dogs were leashed.  One family was calling one of their dogs, it had taken off into the brush off trail, and they had no idea where it was.  None of the owners had water for their dogs, which I thought criminal.  Further, I had to get off the trail once for a mountain bike – which is expressly forbidden.

One of the neatest aspects of the hike was coming upon the abandoned village of Feltsville.

Notice in the picture above…the porch light is on.  So, while the houses are abandoned, there is electricity running to them.

I passed a barn when I came out of the trail, it looked like people were setting up for a party or wedding.  I was so hot, I thought about sauntering over and helping myself to some cold drinks.  The way I looked at the time (soaking wet) I doubt anyone would have risked approaching me.  It looked like it would have been a nice party.  I carried on.

Behind the house pictured above was the Revolutionary War cemetery.

I turned around, and lo and behold, there was a white blaze.  I followed that to the dam.

The water was too deep to ford, I rock hopped onto the mesh and crossed that way.  Sorry.  From there I took a horse trail to the blue trail, then orange, and made my way back to my car.

Even though I brought extra water, I never would have made it around the lake, it was just too far under these conditions.  I think I made the right decision.

This was definitely a hike to go blaze to blaze, you had to stay alert and keep a lookout.  Trails were well marked and it was apparent which way to go at most junctions.  There were a few tricky ones.  There are a bunch of blow downs that need clearing.  I met two hikers that heard a tree fall, though they didn’t see it.

I finished up by going into the nature center – it was air conditioned.  While the exhibits were great, I hung out by the water fountain.  Definitely a great hike, though the heat and humidity made it tough.

Ticks: 0  (Surprising, as there were some overgrown spots.)

Hiked:  8/5/2018

 

Hartshorne Woods – western side

Park site:  https://www.monmouthcountyparks.com/page.aspx?id=2496

Trail map:  http://monmouthcountyparks.com/documents/130/hartshorne09.pdf

Distance:  5.4 miles

Trails:  Laurel Ridge, Grand Tour

Map:

We’ve had a couple weeks of oppressive heat and humidity, culminated by thunderstorms yesterday.  Those storms chased out the humidity and lowered the temperatures, and today was absolutely gorgeous.  I woke up to upper 60 degree temperatures and clear sunny skies.  I know I’m somewhat booked the next couple of weekends, so I figured I would get a hike in today; and take advantage of the excellent weather.  Off I went on a short drive to Hartshorne Woods, the Buttermilk Valley entrance, to hike the western side of the park.  I had hiked the eastern side almost exactly two years ago.

I thought I was smart by getting up early and getting to the trail head before the bikes got there and before it started to get warmer.  I wasn’t smart enough.  I got the last quasi-legal spot in the lot.

I started on Laurel Ridge (rated medium) which climbed to the top of the hill quickly.  I’d guess a hundred or so feet.  The trail was wide and very easy to follow, despite the lack of blazes.  With no humidity and comfortable temperatures (70) it was a great walk.

After a short walk, I turned on the Grand Tour (rated difficult).  The trail type changed, the park calls it more “primitive.”  The path became more narrow, steeper in sections, with lots more rocks, roots and even a couple of switchbacks.  Bikes were in out in force and there were plenty of spots I had to move over so as not to get run over.

The Grand Trail reconnected with Laurel Ridge, and surprisingly did not get “easier” despite changing difficulty (according to the park.)  There were lots of ups and downs.  As for wildlife, I only spotted one deer, numerous squirrels (which I thought were stalking me) and a chipmunk or two.  Above I could see some hawks circling overhead.  Here’s what the sky looked like:

There was a short trail off Laurel Ridge that led to an overlook.  As the park overlooks the Navesink River and Claypit Creek, I figured I would take the trail to see what the overlook actually overlooked:

Yep, I’ll have to come back in later Fall, Winter, or Spring to see what the overlook shows.

I remember hiking this section of Hartshorne Woods over 30 years ago with my dad.  There were spots I walked through that were vaguely familiar, more like deja vu.  I don’t remember bikes back then.  And I don’t know how much of the Eastern part of the park was part of the park system.

All in all, this was a great hike on a great day.  Highly recommended.  However, I will point out, there were two trail junctions that I had to get out my phone and check AllTrails for; as the signage on trail was not good.  The map didn’t help as the junctions had unmarked trails coming in as well – something I’ve remembered from past Monmouth County Parks.  The trails lead well enough into the woods that you lose the traffic noise of Navesink Avenue and Route 36.  And, only occasionally did I hear the banner planes towing their signs to Sandy Hook.

Ticks:  0

Hiked:  7/7/2018

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)

Map:

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

Lake Anne Blue Trail

My plan for 2018 is to be more descriptive with posts: showing parking locations, adding some history, giving mileage, etc.  Unfortunately, this post isn’t going to help.  I had to cut this hike short, not due to weather or time, even though those things were actual factors.

I was in Reston, Virginia for my son’s hockey tournament. There was some time between games, and while my son hung out with his teammates, I looked for something to do – I only had about two hours.  A couple of quick searches on Google led me to believe that I could do the circuit hike of the Lake Anne Blue trail with plenty of time to pick up my son before his game.  A quick gander at the map showed me that this should be a reasonable nice walk around the lake.

I got to the parking lot (number 1 on the map) and noticed that it had clouded up.  It was about 32 degrees out, and had it been sunny and warmer, it would have been packed.  Undaunted, I headed off.

The walk was pleasant, the views of the lake were really nice.  Almost all of the walk was completed on paved paths, sidewalks, or actual streets in town.

There were lots of views of the lake – no boats were out, only a few geese.  Some of the homes had nice decorations outside:

Even with the map, and with AllTrails running on my phone, it was easy to make a wrong turn and head off in a direction that I wasn’t intending to go.  There were no blazes to speak of, I spotted a few markers, and they didn’t line up with the map I was using.

After walking down one street, I came to a cul-de-sac with only houses around.  On the map, this would be between markers 15 and 16.  Look between houses for this path:

Continuing on, the path parallels Wiehle Avenue to the the opposite side of the lake from your car.  It was at this point that it started snowing, or really, precipitating frozen ice pellets.  As I wasn’t really getting wet, I decided to carry on.  A picture looking back across the lake:

Onward.  Until:

Uh Oh.  On the map I had, this can be found at 17.  The access to the bridge was cut off, and directions were given to get back on the trail.  I followed those directions, but couldn’t find the path that brought to me to where I needed to be.  I even bushwacked a bit (sorry, if you saw me cut through your backyard) but I never found trail access.  A quick look at my watch told me I did not have enough time to truly search for this access trail.  So, I ended up retracing my steps.

Supposedly, the access to the bridge will be open April 1 (2018).  If you plan to hike this trail around that date, see if you can find an updated trail status.

Total Mileage:  2.4 miles (though I was planning on this being 1.5 total.)

Hiked:  2/17/2018

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.