'NJ Highlands' Category

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

Morris Canal Greenway — 23 June 2013

Info

  • Map: NYNJTC, Jersey Highlands Trails, Map 126
  • Trails: Morris Canal Greenway (Yellow), Highlands (Blue-ish)
  • Type: Out and back
  • Distance:  2 miles
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Exertion: Non-existent

Getting There

Find your way to I80 west of I287.  Take Exit 25, Rte 206N, and pretty quickly exit on the right, following the signs for Waterloo Village.  Keep following the signs as you go along Continental Drive.  When that ends, make the left onto Cty Rte. 604, and look for the signs to the aforementioned village.  You will likely miss it, and if you’re like me, won’t be able to figure out where to park once you get in there.  So I advise you to park about 50 yards up the road on the right–there is a little gravel entrance leading to a large parking area for the Highlands Trail.

The Hike

OK, so full disclosure: not a lot of hiking recently.  Many of the winter weekends were spent skiing, and then I had to deal with a knee injury that as of yet may require surgery.  I’ve been walking all along, but sometimes with pain, and sometimes not able to maintain my usual pace.  Last few weekends as the weather has gotten hotter, I’ve been more inclined to get out, chores permitting.  Last week was Harriman, which I hope to post later (it’s probably going to be longer than this screed).  This weekend I decided to invest in some driving and tried to hit this Morris Canal Greenway thing smack in the middle of Jersey.  Long story short: it was a bad hike.  Several reasons:

  • I selected perhaps the least appealing part of the Greenway to walk.
  • Bugs–lotsa bugs.
  • Not a lot of trail maintenance going on in Warren & Sussex Ctys, NJ by my reckoning.
  • Not a lot of blazes, esp. for the Greenway.
  • Did I mention bugs?

So Waterloo Village…  On the map it says “restored,” which indeed it seems to have been, and quite nicely:

Waterloo Village (restored)

There’s also an attractive church, if you’re into that kind of thing.  My beef with this is that the sign at the entrance to the park said ” no unauthorized vehicles–church service.”  Indeed this was a Sunday, but it was 2:30PM, and after parking across the street and walking into the Village, I soon realized there was not a soul in the place.  Completely deserted:

Waterloo Village Church

In front of the church was a stream, which to my best guess was remnants of the Morris Canal.  It was hard to tell, as there were no signs about, and the distinctive blazes I was expecting were nowhere to be found.  I headed west into the brush, thinking that I was probably close to the right track.

Where Is This Greenway?

Eventually, you run into the light blue diamond blazes of the Highlands Trail, which the latest edition of the NYNJTC map says is supposed to be running alongside Rte. 604 at this point, but clearly it is not.  As both the Highlands and the Greenway trails eventually conjoin, it was not much of leap of faith to figure I was doing OK by following the blue diamonds.  Eventually, I did see one of the yellow octagons above, but they are a bit scarce.  The Highlands Trail is blazed much better, so if pretended I was hiking that.

OK, so the Greenway…  Yea, it’s green, and there’s some water, although in most places it’s a pretty stagnant backwash.  The underbrush keeps you from seeing the main stream while you walk on a muddy towpath and deal with the denizens of the stagnant water–mosquitos and plenty of them.  Walking in the “green” part of the Greenway is so abysmal that you actually appreciate the couple of times it veers out of the woods onto 604 for a few yards.

By about an hour in, and little more than a mile an a half, after all my meandering about Waterloo Village, I’d had it.  I turned around back out to 604 after yet another plunge into the infested woods, and started to walk back to the parking area.  I had a great idea to try to pick up a hiking trail, Waterloo South, on the opposite side of the road, and take it to its partner, Waterloo North, which would deposit me back on 604 closer to my destination, but 1 minute in I was greeted by this thrilling blowdown:

Waterloo South Trail? I Think Not!

Four downed trees within 20 yards did not bode well.  Likely due to Hurricane Sandy which was, oh 8 months ago.  Not much in the way of trail maintenance going on in Warren County these days, huh?  Rather than wrestle with this nonsense (which would really piss off my bad knee), not to mention the omnipresent bug swarm, I returned to 604 to hump back to my car.

I wish to cast no aspersions on the Morris Canal Greenway, Warren County, or any part of NJ, but this was not a good hike by any measure.  Probably mostly bad luck on my part, and there are probably much nicer spots on the canal.  Perhaps I will revisit when the mosquitoes are gone.  Sadly, the best picture of the day comes from a rest area on I80:

Scenic Overlook, I80, Near Exit 19

Turkey Mountain — 3 June 2012

Info

  • Map: NY/NJ Trail Conference, Jersey Highlands, Central North Region
  • Trails: Yellow, Green, Blue
  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: Approx. 4 miles
  • Time: About 2 hours
  • Exertion: Easy

Getting There

From the I287 south, exit at NJ 23 north.  After about 2 miles, you’ll pass county Rte. 511, so make the next jug-handle left back over to 23 south, then hang the right onto 511 south.  (If you don’t know what a jug-handle left is, well then my friend, you have not been driving in New Jersey enough!)  Pyramid Mountain County Park is a few twisty miles off on this road on the right.  A good-sized parking lot, visitor center, and port-o-potty await.

The Hike

OK, so after inadvertently letting my membership in the NY/NJ Trail Conference lapse a couple years ago, I re-upped for $30 and saved almost twice that with my member discount when I purchase their 11-map bundle set for about $80.  The time had come to refresh some of these maps I’d been using for over 10 years.  Some I’d lost on hikes (you know sometimes how you swear you put the map back in your pocket, but it just disappears?), some were getting out of date, and some in the bundle I’d never even bought before, so for the whole magilla, it seemed like the right thing to do.  I spent an exciting hour the day they came in looking over the set, figuring out where were new trails I’d never seen, trails I’d walked but were not on the map in prior editions, and just new areas I’d not known before.

I noticed that the northern NJ maps had been expanded somewhat of late, and include areas not in earlier versions.  I was not a fan of these previous maps because the contours were only at 100 feet and they were lacking in detail.  This set is much nicer now with 20-foot contours, larger scale (1″ = 0.63 mi. now, vs 1″ = 0.73 mi.), and there’s just more Tyvek.  So my first excursion into Terra Incognita was to the Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area in Morris County.  There are two “mountains” in this park, Pyramid itself, and Turkey Mountain, which is the one I selected.

According to the New Jersey Walk Book, some of these trails do have names, but not all, so I will refer to them simply by their colors.  From the parking lot, walk to the south exit, past the port-o-potty and cross back over Rte. 511.  There’s a nice crosswalk that you should use, although since this is New Jersey–well, if truth be told, since this is the Northeast, there’s little protection from being hit by a car in a crosswalk, beyond having a good court case should you survive.  The trailhead for the Yellow trail is obvious.

The Yellow is a gravel road at the start and pretty flat for the first half-mile or so.   You quickly pass the Red Dot Trail (see if you can guess the blazes for that one), and shortly thereafter a white-blazed trail.  After passing the Blue trail, you descend into a wet area that’s still pretty wooded and not really a swamp.  The other terminus of the White trail we passed earlier comes and goes, and the first landmark of any note is a so-called “limestone quarry,” which to me just looks like a long hole:

Limestone Quarry?  Looks like a hole to me!

Limestone Quarry? Looks like a hole to me!

I know, it’s a terrible picture.  They’ll get better.  As the Yellow trail meanders around the park, it gets a bit dark and dreary.  My original intent was to take the Yellow to its end, with a wide loop to the northeast, but it began to rain, so rather than get stuck in a downpour, I opted to hack over to the Green trail, which after the Yellow goes under the power lines, runs almost parallel to it for a good bit.

At the Green, I made a left, roughly back west.  This brings you soon to a ruined foundation and fireplace.  I’ve not been able to determine the origins of the place, but it looks pretty mean and small.

Ruins on Turkey Mountain

Ruins on Turkey Mountain

If you walk around to the front of the house, there’s a sign indicating a short spur trail to a decent view.  Now if you’re into high-tension wires, this is the place for you, but especially on this kind of cloudy day, the supposed view of the NYC skyline was not evident, at least from this point.

View of the NYC Skyline, but not Today

View of the NYC Skyline, but not Today

I spent some time wandering around this area, and did catch some skyline later on.  There also seems to be another ruin consisting of only a fireplace and chimney across the rut for the power line, but there’s no easy way to get up to it.  I tried–it’s not worth it.

Going back to the Green trail, there’s another vista shortly after the ruins overlooking a grandiosely-named Lake Valhalla.  From here, I did get something of the view promised earlier, although it was still pretty cloudy.

Ah, There's the Skyline!

Ah, There's the Skyline!

Shortly afterward, the Green trail ends at the Blue trail we passed earlier.  Hanging a right gets us back to the lovely power line and we’ll walk under this for the rest of the hike.  As these things go, it’s tolerable.  There’s a nicely maintained set of rock stairs as you drop down off the hill called the 100 Steps.  It deposits you in this odd section of the power line rut where it looks like they clear cut about two acres and then topped the rest of the trees down to Rte. 511–for no apparent reason, since the wires are way above the tallest trees.

Love What You've Done with the Place!

Love What You've Done with the Place!

Well, at least it was quiet.

That’s pretty much it.  I wish I had not short-circuited the route under the threat of rain.  I also did not properly judge the distances on my new map due to scale changes, so this wound up being a shorter hike than I would have liked.  I will probably go back at some point an see what’s up on the eponymous Pyramid Mountain.  Not a great hike, but to paraphrase an old saying, A bad day hiking is better than a good day working.