Huckleberry Ridge State Forest – 12 Jun 2016

Info

  • Map: NYNJTC Northern Kittatiny Trails (Map 123)
  • Trails: Lenape Ridge (red) and Minisink Ridge (yellow)–but more on the colors later
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance:  4+ miles
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Exertion: Moderatly moderate

Getting There

Take I84 West to its last exit in NY, Exit 1 (not surprisingly) for Port Jervis, and take a left on the ramp for US Rte. 6 West.  At the next light make a very sharp right onto Minisink Ave, and follow that for maybe a half mile to the hiker’s parking lot on the left.  It’s easy to miss, but despite the notation on the map, it’s a legit parking area, and not simply on-road parking.

The Hike

So trying to figure a hike for a beautifully clear if somewhat windy Sunday afternoon, not minding a bit a of a drive since I was well sucked into yet another Steven King book on CD (Duma Key in this case), I picked this somewhat obscure destination because there were lots of stars (vistas) on the map, and I kind of like this funky part of Orange County where New York seeps into Pennsylvania across the membrane of the Delaware River.  (How’s that for a run-on sentence?)

Never having hiked HRSF (see the title), I’d no idea what to expect, but I’d done the AT here from High Point SP in NJ, which is just a quick drive up Rte. 23 from Port Jervis, and knew it would be, well, bucolic if nothing else.  This was a pretty straightforward loop hike, but it held a few surprises which I will go into some detail on shortly.  Perhaps part of this was due to the vintage of my map, 2009.  On that map, it clearly states that the Lenape Ridge trail is blazed white, and the Minisink Ridge Trail is blazed red.  But that is no longer the case.  The Lenape is blazed red and the Minisink yellow, although there is ample evidence as you walk along that they were indeed at one time blazed white and red respectively.

Now this raises some questions in my mind.  Say you’re the caretakers of HRSF, and you have two trails, one blazed white, the other red.  For some unknown reason you decide, “Hey I don’t like those colors, let’s change ‘em!”  Why do you want to do so?  I dunno, but ya do.  Yeah, I guess white’s not the most definitive of colors, and as the AT is in the vicinity, it might not be a bad idea to stay away from its totemic blaze color.  OK, so let’s lose the white on the Lenape trail.  What would you select?  How’s ’bout red?  Well, no because the Minisink trail that runs parallel to the Lenape, and intersects it at the beginning and end is red.  So what now?  Let’s change both!  Make the Lenape red and Minisink yellow so we’re sure to confuse anyone with an old map!  It’s not clear to me why any reasonable person or organization would embark on such a re-coloring project, but then again I don’t understand why Congress wants to allow people on the terrorist watch list to buy guns.  They just do.  Yes, there’s a nice kiosk at the trailhead properly identifying the trail colors.  Unfortunately, that kiosk does not fit in my pants pocket, and I was in a rush to get started on the hike, so I skipped it.  If I hadn’t, this is what I would have seen:

Kiosk with the Right Trail Colors

Kiosk with the Right Trail Colors

So OK, let’s move on…

This hike is a very simple, narrow loop, about two miles in each direction.  Since it is a ridge walk, as you can tell from the names of the trails, it’s a pretty easy-going journey with minimal ups and downs once you attain the ridge lines.  Based on the number of vista stars on the NYNJTC map, I decided to chose the Lenape Trail as my first segment because I find myself always more receptive to things at the start, as opposed to the end, of a hike.  The two trails are conjoined from the parking lot, and you walk a few hundred feet before they split here:

Which Way to Go?

Which Way to Go?

I admit to pausing here for a couple of minutes to translate the color scheme from my map to reality.  I figured they can always change color, but you can’t make left right or vice-versa, so I hung the right and assumed the Lenape was now to be blazed in red.  Shortly along the way, evidence of the transformation confirmed my theory:

Red Tag Overlays a White Blaze

Red Tag Overlays a White Blaze

Now I have to say that this trail is nice and all, but despite four vista stars on the map, they’re all pretty much the same, and all just show the ridge of High Point SP in NJ to the south and I84 climbing out of the Delaware River Valley:

The Way I Got Here--I84

The Way I Got Here--I84

Zoom in on the High Point Monument in NJ

Zoom in on the High Point Monument in NJ

I suspect in the winter this might be a much better hike because the leaves block everything to the west.  There’s a little peek down into something called Heinlein Lake, but I don’t grok what’s special about it–it seemed pretty swampy to me.  (There’s a pun in there; big ATTABOY if you can find it.)  When the Lenape Trail finally crashes into the Minisink Trail you’re at a power line that rips right through the ridge into the valley and beyond.  It does expose some scenic farm country, if you can overlook the high tension wires:

Farm Country

Farm Country

Pastures and Wires

Pastures and Wires

Now we switch over to the Minisink Ridge Trail, with its yellow, formerly red, blazes.  Here is the testimony to its transformation by the crazed caretakers of HRSF:

Yellow Tag atop Red Blaze

Yellow Tag atop Red Blaze

(I know it looks orange, but I swear it was yellow–I’d better check my new camera!)

For a trail with only two vista stars, I found this to be more scenic than the Lenape.  There was some variation in the valley below, from farm to golf course, with the buildings of Port Jervis and Matamoras PA to the southwest.  There were good stretches along the ridge where you would have an exposed view for a couple hundred feet.  To add to the natural beauty, the wind was blowing like an MF-er, up to 40 MPH I heard later on the news.  So it was a warm day in the 80′s, clear and sunny, with this beastly wind that almost blew me off the ridge a few times.  (Hyperbole alert!)  Here are some pics of the nicer of the two ridges:

Farm from Minisink Ridge

Farm from Minisink Ridge

Golf Course from Minisink Ridge

Golf Course from Minisink Ridge

Looking back North from Minisink Ridge

Looking back North from Minisink Ridge

So, now here comes the big shocker of the day…  One of the, um, challenges of walking this trail is that it’s a little hard to follow.  I can understand this to some degree.  Exposed ridges and escarpments have very limited tree coverage, trees being the primary recipients of blazing.  There seems to be a lot of deadwood hanging on by a thread up here, perhaps due to the winds, climate change–who knows?  So after a few minutes along the ridge I got a little lost.  There was actually a little diversion to the right off the ridge line that I missed–had to backtrack a little, happens to the best of us, no biggie.  After re-acquiring the trail, I continued on the crest and came to this obvious turn to the left:

Turn Left, Right?

Turn Left, Right?

I admit I was suspicious right then and there.  Going left would actually start me back on a northerly course, but OK, I’d seen this before–some jigs and jags and you’re back in the right direction.  But after I hung the left, I kept walking back along the ridge until I hit the spot where I had previously been lost with no further blazes to be seen.  Something was wrong.  I walked back to my “last known good,” looked on the other side of the tree and saw this:

Go Left from the Other Direction?  I'm Confused

Go Left from the Other Direction? I'm Confused

So if I were coming from the south, I’d turn left as well?  Does not make sense.  Since I’d just walked where the reverse blaze directed, I knew it was correct, hence the one on the opposite side of the same tree must be wrong.  I must pause here and say that I’ve seen lots of sub-optimal blazing in my hiking.  Sometimes they indicate a turn that’s not really a turn, or a straight ahead that’s anything but, but this was the first time I found a blaze that sent me in the absolute opposite direction of where I was supposed to go.  But, it’s OK because it’s just another reminder that you have to keep thinking out on the trail, and that blazes and maps are not always correct, so you need to apply your senses to the task.  I was a little shocked with this blatant misdirection, but not angered.  (I’m way more pissed off about the blaze colors!)

The remainder of the hike is without much to see.  The trail descends and stays in the trees, skirting the railroad tracks that occasionally come into view.  One impressive stone bank greets you near the end of the hike:

Rock Wall on the Descent

Rock Wall on the Descent

This was a little steep and mushy as I made my way down along side this rock beast.

Once back at the trailhead, I perused the sign I’d skipped on the way up then drove into Port Jervis to revisit this quaint little place with its most famous attraction, the old Erie Railroad turntable:

Railroad Turntable

Railroad Turntable

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