Friday, April 30, 2010

Douthat State Park, VA - Blue Suck Falls/Tuscarora Overlook/Stony Run

DISTANCE: 10.5 miles

TRAILHEAD: From the park office driving into the park, turn left at the Camp Carson Picnic Area just before Douthat Lake. Drive all the way to the end and park at the Blue Suck Falls trailhead.

Follow the blue-blazed Blue Suck Falls trail for 3 miles. Along the trail you will first pass small waterfalls and Blue Suck Falls.

The trail goes up and you will begin to see mountains in the distance to the east.

Around this point, I heard a loud purring/chortling noise coming from my left off the trail. It seemed to follow us for a bit then stopped. I asked the park ranger about it later and as I thought, it was a bobcat. But, more specifically, when I got home I googled and found the identical sound which turns out to be a bobcat in heat looking for a mate. Guess she realized that was not us! Never saw her but I can say I heard a bobcat in heat.

At Lookout Rock, climb part of the way up the rock for a view to the west.

At 3 miles, turn left on the yellow-blazed Tuscarora trail.
At 3.5 miles, turn left on the Tuscarora trail spur and hike a short distance to an incredible view. I believe the elevation here is around 2,800 feet. The first mountain is Beards Mountain where Hike 2 takes place. (Yes, ALL the way to the top!) Douthat Lake is in the foreground.

Retrace your steps back to left on the yellow-blazed Tuscarora trail.
At 4.5 miles, turn left on the orange-blazed Stony Run Trail.

This trail goes through the thickest rhododendron grove I have ever seen. It almost blocks out all sunlight.

At 7.5 miles, turn left on the yellow-blazed Locust Gap trail.
At 9 miles, turn right on the blue-blazed Blue Suck Falls trail and reach the parking lot at 10.5 miles.

Douthat State Park, VA - Long Weekend Hiking Trip

ABOUT THE PARK: Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

TRAIL MAP: Online Map / Online Trail Descriptions / maps available in park office

DIRECTIONS: About a 7 hour drive from Central New Jersey. I-78 west to I-81 south to I-64 west to north on Route 629 for 6 miles to park office on right

Hikes are broken down individually. Click on the links for descriptions and pictures of each hike.
Hike 1 - 10.5 miles - Blue Suck Falls/Tuscarora Overlook/Stony Run
Hike 2 - 13 miles - Beards Mountain/George Washington National Forest
Hike 3 - 8.5 miles - Middle Mountain/Douthat Lake

The trail map indicates the level of difficulty of each trail. Based on how trails are rated here in New Jersey and New York, I would say none of the trails is above moderate although several are listed as difficult. There are no rock scrambles and for the most part trails are smooth, some rocky areas, consist mostly of switchbacks and run along narrow ledges with amazingly beautiful steep dropoffs. I tend to get queasy if up high looking straight down but none of the trails affected me like that, maybe because the rest of the mountain going up on the other side offered a wall with a sense of stability. Make no mistake, you will be getting quite the workout but amazing views await you at the top.

We stayed in a 2 bedroom cabin, which was very nice and much more than I had expected. Dogs are allowed for a $10 per night additional fee, but most importantly, they are allowed, which is rare! This cabin came to about $100 per night in off-peak season. My dog, Shawnee, will give a tour:

We stayed in cabin 28. Cabins are spaced a decent distance apart and are climate controlled with heat and central air conditioning.

You enter through a screened in porch which is a very pleasant place to sit and read a book.

You first come into the combo living/dining room with fireplace:

Beyond that is the kitchen with refrigerator/freezer, microwave, stove, toaster, coffee maker.

Out the side door is a patio with picnic table and barbeque grill.

On the other side of the cabin are the bedrooms and bathroom.

Shawnee and I both highly recommend staying here. There are different cabins with different features and camping facilities. Click here for more information on accommodations at Douthat State Park. The trails and views are magnificent and it is definitely worth spending at least a weekend hiking them.

I normally do a litter report at the end of each hike in hopes someone who might consider littering will think twice after seeing how awful it looks. But on this trip, I only found one item of "litter" so I will report it here. And I have to say, this was not the kind of litter you find every day, nor would I say it was intentional. Kudos to Douthat State Park for being litter-free!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Norvin Green State Forest, NJ (Buck Mountain/Wyanokie High Point/Carris Hill)

ABOUT THE PARK: New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry

NY/NY Trail Conference North Jersey Trails Map #115
Online Map
The kiosk in the parking lot was well stocked with maps but that might not always be the case.
I-287 to exit 53, left on Hamburg Pike, right on Glenwild Avenue to parking on right.


This hike is 10 miles long but can be split into two 6-mile hikes. Plenty of exceptional views either way. The parking lot holds about 10 cars - get there early because it fills up. From the parking lot turn left on Glenwild Avenue and walk a few steps to the trailhead on the left. Follow the blue-blazed trail through Otter Hole.

At .5 miles turn left on the yellow-blazed trail which climbs up steeply with views of the New York City skyline along the way. This trail will pass the summit of Buck Mountain around 1.5 miles.

At 2.8 miles continue straight on the pink-blazed trail for some short rock scrambles and great views.

At 3.9 miles turn left on the red dot on white blazed trail. Watch for the turn because if you suddenly find yourself on the red dot trail, you missed the turn and are going the wrong way.

At 4.9 miles turn left on the green-blazed trail for the 10 mile hike. (Turn right on the green-blazed trail then right on the blue-blazed trail to take you back to the parking lot for a 6 mile hike.)

At 5.2 miles turn right on the white-blazed trail.

At 5.8 miles turn left on the blue-blazed trail and walk briefly to a view.

Retrace your steps on the blue-blazed trail going back the way you came and continue on the blue trail until you reach the intersection for Wyanokie High Point.

Go around the rock and follow the trail up to Wyanokie High Point with spectacular 360 degree views. This picture shows the Wanaque Reservoir with the New York City skyline in the background.

Retrace your steps off of Wyanokie High Point, continuing on the red dot/teal/blue trail.

At 6.4 miles the red dot trail leaves off to the right. Stay on the teal/blue trail to Yoo-Hoo Point where you can turn around and see Wyanokie High Point where you just came from.

At 7.2 miles keep left on the yellow-blazed trail which has multiple views along the way.

At 8.2 miles turn right on the white-blazed "Lower" trail. (This blaze has an "L" in the center.) Keep on this trail briefly, then turn right at the intersection on to the solid white-blazed trail (no "L" in the center) passing waterfalls.

At 8.7 miles continue straight on the blue/teal-blazed trail.

At 9.7 miles, turn left on the blue-blazed trail which takes you through the Otter Hole and back to the parking lot.

Some interesting litter today. On the pink-blazed trail, smack in the way of a scenic overlook, somebody's plastic clamshell from their lunch with a slice of very "ripe" tomato in it. Squashed it flat, sealed it up in a poop bag and my dog carried it out in her backpack.

Saw this book and candy wrapper on a log early on at 7:30 am so figured if it was still there on my way back by in the afternoon, I would take it. It was still there, has now been posted on and hopefully it will find a new home.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Delaware Water Gap, NJ (Copper Mines, AT, Catfish Mountain, Rattlesnake Swamp, Catfish Pond)

ABOUT THE PARK: National Park Service

TRAIL MAP: NY/NJ Trail Conference Kittatinny Trails Map #121

I-80 to New Jersey exit 1, north on Old Mine Road for 7.5 miles, parking on left.

NEW JERSEY 1K CLUB PEAKS: Catfish Mountain

Great hike at Delaware Water Gap NRA. Very few people there so lots of solitude, waterfalls, views, swamps and ponds. The hike is 11.6 miles.

From the parking lot cross Old Mine Road to the trailhead. The red-blazed Copper Mines Trail goes straight. To the left is an unmarked trail that goes along waterfalls to a mine. Out and back is only .25 miles so we did that first.

Take the red-blazed Copper Mine Trail until you reach the white-blazed Appalachian Trail at about 2.5 miles. This trail is very scenic and even though it is a steep uphill, you barely notice there is so much to look at.

When you reach the white-blazed Appalachian Trail, turn left, go over a bridge then cross a gravel road and continue on. This stretch seems really boring after the waterfalls but once the views start, they keep getting better.

At 5.3 miles you reach the Catfish Fire Tower which is the summit of Catfish Mountain if you are peakbagging. You can go up the fire tower for better views.

Continue on the white-blazed Appalachian Trail 1/2 mile then turn left on an unmarked gravel road. After about 1/4 of a mile, turn left on the orange-blazed Rattlesnake Swamp trail at 6 miles.

You'll reach Catfish Pond at about 7.9 miles.

At 8.2 miles, leave the orange trail turning right on an unmarked trail. This trail turns into a gravel road which goes through the AMC Mohican Outdoor Center. Continue on the gravel road until you meet up with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail at 9 miles. Turn right and cross back over the bridge you crossed earlier. In just a few feet turn right on the red-blazed Copper Mine Trail and follow that back to the parking lot. From the far side of the parking lot, you can get a nice view of the Delaware River.

Only one plastic bottle and one napkin which we packed out.