Sunday, February 27, 2011

Jakes Branch County Park, Beachwood, NJ

ABOUT THE PARK:  Jakes Branch County Park - Ocean County, NJ Parks & Recreation

GPS Coordinates 39.929279, -74.214299
Park in the Nature Center parking lot.

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Jakes Branch County Park Trail Map
The online map does not show the white-blazed .2 mile long Swamp Spur but this is shown on the printed maps in the kiosk.

4 miles
Distance can be added by connecting with additional sand roads in neighboring Double Trouble State Park

The trail starts at the kiosk at the end of the parking lot closest to the nature center.
When the trail splits, take the right fork of the blue-blazed Tindey Trail.
The trail will cross over several streets with names, which are not streets at all rather sand roads with no vehicular traffic.  All intersections are well-marked and the trail is very well-blazed.

OPTIONAL:  If you want to make the hike longer, a right turn on Pine Street takes you out of Jakes Branch County Park and into Double Trouble State Park on a network of unmarked sand roads covered with pine needles.  Note that this area of Double Trouble State Park is for hunting so only try this section on Sundays during hunting season.  There is a power cut in this area that is heavily littered with broken glass and beer cans.

Although the roads along the power cut would bring you to Pinewald-Keswick Road to cross over to Mill Pond Reservoir and the cranberry bogs at Double Trouble State Park, none of the sand roads were passable due to swamps covering the roads. 
I did manage to get across this swampy section on a different sand road only to have the road end in a loop.
I've seen old cars in the woods before but this is the first time I have seen boats.

Back on the blue Tinday Trail, turn right on the white-blazed Swamp Spur at 2.45 miles.

The white spur trail ends at a creek.  Retrace back to the blue trail, turn right and head towards the visitor's center.
At the end of the hike, it's worth taking a trip up to the nature center's five story observation deck.  The steps are inside the building so even someone like me who has issues with climbing fire towers can climb those stairs without a problem.

[  0.00]  Start at the kiosk at the end of the parking lot closest to the nature center; right at fork
[  0.10]  Cross Tamarack Road (sand road)
[  0.20]  Cross Chestnut Street (sand road)
[  0.40]  Cross Daisy Road (sand road)
[  0.95]  Cross red-blazed Spruce Street (sand road)
[  1.10]  Cross Sugar Sand Road (sand road)
[  1.30]  Cross Pine Street***
[  2.65]  Turn right on white-blazed trail; cross foot bridge
[  2.85]  White trail ends at creek/swamp; retrace back to blue trail
[  3.05]  Cross foot bridge; turn right on blue Tindey Trail
[  3.35]  Cross two bridges
[  3.80]  Cross red-blazed Spruce Street (sand road)
[  4.00]  Arrive back at parking lot

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Valley Forge National Historical Park, PA - North Side Trails

Valley Forge - National Park Service
Pawling Farm - National Park Service

Pawling Farm Parking:
GPS Coordinates 40.107867,-75.459291
My GPS went haywire not knowing where to tell me to turn.  After crossing the bridge on Pawlings Road, you will see a sign similar to the one above for River Trail parking.  Pass that one by as that lot is smaller.  Continue on until you see the sign above for Pawling Farm on the right.  Parking is clearly marked with signs just past Pawling Barn, across from the kiosk.

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North Side Trails (Map should open in IE if it will not open in Firefox.)

HIKE DISTANCE:  5.10 miles 

The hike starts beyond Pawling Barn, which appears to be undergoing restoration, to the left of the kiosk and follows a trail through a field.
Pawling Barn
Trail across field.
The trail joins up with the River Trail which follows along the Schuylkill River to the Betzwood Picnic Area.
At the Betzwood Picnic Area, pick up the paved Schuylkill River Trail to loop back around for the return route on the River Trail.
Schuylkill River Trail
The River Trail from the Schuylkill River Trail
Dirt road back to parking lot from the other end of the River Trail.

[  0.00]  Start the hike across the field to the left of the kiosk
[  0.20]  Keep left when trail goes right
[  0.30]  Cross over bridge
[  0.40]  Turn right on unmarked trail leaving the main trail
[  0.50]  Keep right when trail comes in from left; turn left at next intersection
 on River Trail
[  0.95]  Sullivan's Bridge plaque on left
[  1.10]  Cross over bridge
[  1.50]  Keep straight on River Trail as a trail comes in from left (return route)
[  1.75]  Arrive at Betzwood Picnic Area
[  1.85]  Left on Schuylkill River Trail just before restrooms
[  2.25]  Turn left at intersection leaving Schuylkill Trail, left again, then switchback down
[  2.30]  Right on the River Trail
[  2.85]  Sullivan's Bridge plaque on right
[  3.25]  Cross over bridge; keep straight when trail comes in from right
[  4.40]  Watch for hill to the right to end then turn right and follow unmarked trail along far edge of hill
[  4.50]  Right on dirt road
[  4.95]  Pass barrier and continue on road towards parking area
[  5.10]  Arrive at parking lot

Valley Forge National Historical Park, PA - Mount Misery and Mount Joy

Valley Forge - National Park Service
See "The Story of Valley Forge Mountain" for an interesting history of the hiking areas.

Washington's Headquarters Parking:
GPS  Coordinates 40.102376, -75.457431
(My GPS did not tell me to turn in the proper place for the last turn into the parking lot.  Turn right at the sign to Washington's HQ parking if your GPS does not tell you to turn.)

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Mount Misery Trail Map
Mount Joy Trail Map
(Maps open better in IE than Firefox.)
Map of trails from parking lot through Washington' Headquarters to Valley Creek and Horseshoe Trails.

3.95 miles - Mount Misery
4.30 miles - Mount Joy
7.55 miles - Mount Misery and Mount Joy

Both the Mount Misery and Mount Joy trails can be accessed from Washington's Headquarters parking lot.  The hikes can be done together or separately and you can spend some time exploring the Washington's Headquarters area.

From the parking lot take the sidewalk that curves back and forth down to the train station.
Walk through the train station platform all the way to the end then turn left and go down the steps.  The building ahead on the left is Washington's Headquarters.
Continue straight as the sidewalk turns into a gravel path.  You can explore this area before or after the hike but you want to end up on this gravel path heading towards the stoplight at the road to get to the Horse-Shoe Trail.
At the stop light, cross the road then turn right walking in the grassy area along the road and cross over the bridge.  Just after the bridge turn left following the sign for the Horse-Shoe Trail and Valley Creek Trail.  Follow the yellow blazes for the Horse-Shoe Trail which will take you up Mount Misery.  The Valley Creek Trail will be the return route.
Yellow blaze of the Horse-Shoe Trail
The Horse-Shoe Trail going up Mount Misery
Ruins along the Horse-Shoe Trail
Ruins of a Bottling Plant at Colonial Springs on the Horse-Shoe Trail

Where the yellow-blazed Horse-Shoe Trail goes right just after the the trail register and the yellow horseshoe on the tree, turn left following the sign for the covered bridge.  The trail will eventually have white blazes.
Limited seasonal views from Mount Misery
The white-blazed trail descends to a parking lot.  Walk through the parking lot, turn left on the paved road and walk towards the covered bridge.  Pick up the Valley Creek trail to the left of the covered bridge.
Covered Bridge - 1865
Valley Creek Trail
At the end of the Valley Creek Trail, turn right on Valley Forge Road and cross back over the bridge.  Either turn left and cross over at the stop light to complete the hike or continue straight crossing over Valley Creek Road to go on to Mount Joy.  The trail starts to the right just a few steps after crossing Valley Creek Road.

Trail going up Mount Joy
View from top of Mount Joy.
Old observatory sign.
The sign above was for the Mount Joy Observatory built in the early 1900's and demolished in the 1980's.  The trail leads to a clearing which I believe is the summit where the observatory would have stood.  This link gives more information.  Beyond the clearing the trail continues downhill and across paved roads to a new observation deck:
The observatory sign leads to an observation deck at Redoubt 3.

The Mount Joy trail eventually joins up with the paved multi-use Joseph Plumb Martin Trail briefly before looping back around for the return route.
Heading back through Washington's HQ area to the parking lot.
How sweet of Friends of Valley Forge Park to put a dog water bowl outside the restrooms! 

[  0.00]  From parking lot follow curvy sidewalk downhill to Valley Forge Train Station; at the end of the train station platform turn left down the steps; continue straight to gravel path to stop light at Valley Forge Park Road
[  0.50] Cross over Valley Forge Park Road at stop light; turn right and cross bridge over creek; follow yellow blazes to left for Horse-Shoe Creek Trail
[  0.70]  Turn right at information kiosk
[  0.80]  Keep left at fork
[  0.85]  Keep straight on yellow-blazed Horse-Shoe Trail when the Valley Creek Trail goes left
[  0.90]  Trail turns right where trail straight ahead is blocked by wooden beam
[  1.15]  Ruins on left
[  1.45]  Just beyond trail register turn left on white-blazed trail towards covered bridge when the yellow-blazed Horse-Shoe Trail turns right
[  1.75]  Map shows trail split that I missed - keep right
[  1.85]  Trail forks at unmarked intersection, keep left (not on map)
[  2.15]  Walk through parking lot; turn left on paved road and walk towards covered bridge
[  2.25]  Turn left just before covered bridge and proceed down to the Valley Creek Trail
[  2.60]  Keep straight on the Valley Creek Trail when an unmarked trail comes in from the left
[  3.10]  At intersection turn right on yellow-blazed Horse Shoe Trail heading back towards Valley Forge Park Road
[  3.35]  Turn right on Valley Park Road and cross over bridge
                *** for Mount Misery 3.95 mile hike only turn left at light back to parking lot ***
[  3.45]  Cross over Valley Creek Road and shortly thereafter turn right on gravel road following sign towards Mount Joy (Mount Joy trail will not be blazed)
[  3.55]  Veer right at fork; left will be the return route
[  3.70]  Keep straight as trail (not on map) comes in from left
[  3.95]  Keep right as trail comes in from left (left will be return route)
[  4.10]  Keep right with paved road and bridge on left (bridge will be return route)
[  4.25]  Turn left at old observatory sign; cross over clearing
[  4.40]  At split go either way as trails will join back together
[  4.50]  Cross paved road and keep straight; keep right at fork
[  4.60]  Cross parking lot to viewing deck; retrace steps all the way back to old observatory sign
[  5.05]  Turn left at old observatory sign to continue on Mount Joy trail
[  5.60]  Keep left on paved trail when dirt trail ends; shortly ahead turn left on paved Joseph Plumb Martin Trail
[  5.80]  Pass cannons, cabin and restrooms on the right
[  5.95]  After crossing parking lot exit, watch on the left a few steps ahead for a clearing through the woods; turn left, cross over street and proceed through that clearing on an umarked trail (green trail on map) which leads to the wooden footbridge from earlier
[  6.10]  Cross wooden footbridge, cross paved road, then turn right on dirt trail to head back to Washington's Headquarters
[  6.25]  Keep right at the fork
[  6.65]  Keep straight as trail comes in from left
[  6.75]  Turn left at Valley Forge Road; cross Valley Creek Road; turn left and cross Valley Forge Road at light
[  7.25]  Arrive at parking lot

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hartshorne Woods Park, Middletown, NJ

ABOUT THE PARK:  Hartshorne Woods Park - Monmouth County Parks

Buttermilk Valley Entrance:  GPS Coordinates 40.401525, -74.012600

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TRAIL MAP:  Hartshorne Woods Park Trail Map and Brochure

3 miles - Buttermilk Valley section
6 miles - Buttermilk Valley and Monmouth Hills sections
9 miles - Buttermilk Valley, Monmouth Hills and Rocky Point sections

The trails are not blazed but most of the intersections are marked with posts.  Just off the parking lot is a kiosk which was stocked with maps when I was there and a water fountain for both humans and canines.
The green Candlestick Trail starts in this immediate area.  To pick up the blue Laurel Ridge Trail, head towards the porta potty on the right to find the Laurel Ridge Trail just to the left of the porta potty.
Laurel Ridge Trail
The view from the side trail off of the blue square Laurel Ridge trail has limited views in the winter, most likely no view in the summer:
Views are somewhat better at the Rocky Point Trail viewing area:

Black Fish Cove Pier
Black Fish Cove

[  0.00]  Take the blue square Laurel Ridge Trail to the left of the porta potty
[  0.70]  Keep left at the fork where right goes to ranger's residences
[  1.00]  Turn right on green overlook trail
[  1.15]  Overlook with limited view; follow around and loop back to intersection
[  1.30]  Right on blue square to continue on Laurel Ridge Trail
[  2.30]  Right on black diamond Grand Tour Trail
              *** keep left to continue on Laurel Ridge Trail for 3 mile hike ***
[  2.75]  Keep left on black diamond trail; woods road to maintenance area goes right
[  3.20]  At T-intersection turn right staying on black diamond Grand Tour Trail
[  3.50]  Turn left where sign indicates right turn to Hartshorne Road (not on map)
[  3.75]  Turn right at unmarked intersection where black Grand Tour continues to the left
              *** turn left to continue on Grand Tour Trail for approx 6 mile hike ***
[  4.00]  Cross straight over paved trail to black diamond Rocky Point Trail (Command Loop to right on paved trail)
[  4.25]  Cross paved trail to continue on black diamond Rocky Point Trail (Bunker Loop to right on paved trail)
[  4.75]  Turn right and go beyond wooden barrier for side trail to view; return to Rocky Point Trail
[  4.90]  Continue right on Rocky Point Trail
[  5.45]  Cross bridge, turn right on paved trail towards restroom; follow around to steps on right down to Black Fish Cove; leave Black Fish Cove uphill on paved trail to right of steps; turn right to continue on Rocky Point Trail just after fork in paved trail (unmarked)
[  6.00]  Turn right on paved trail to view; backtrack
[  6.15]  Continue to the right on black diamond Rocky Point Trail (unmarked but opposite marker on left)
[  6.75]  Cross over bridge
[  6.95]  Right on paved road and proceed between pillars with sign for authorized vehicles only; green water tank on right (parking lot on left); straight when paved Bunker Loop goes left
[  7.05]  Right on blue square Cuesta Ridge Trail
[  7.25]  Keep straight on Cuesta Ridge Trail where umarked trail goes left
[  8.00]  Turn right on black diamond Grand Tour Trail at intersection with log bench on left; keep left at split with water tower straight ahead (not on map)
[  8.05]  Cross straight over gravel road (not on map)
[  8.15]  Keep left at fork (not on map) then cross gravel road (not on map)
[  8.50]  Turn right on Laurel Ridge (woods road) where sign says Laurel Ridge straight ahead (right will be the other direction of Laurel Ridge but no sign stating that just arrow to parking)
[  9.00]  Arrive back at parking lot