Monday, January 30, 2012

Skyline Preserve, NJ


ABOUT THE PARK:
Skyline Preserve - New Jersey Conservation Foundation

DIRECTIONS:
GPS Coordinates 41.04609,-74.368631

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Pull off parking for 2 cars north side of Weaver Road by bridge.

TRAIL MAP:
Jersey Highlands Trails Map 125 - New York New Jersey Trail Conference
North Jersey Trails Map 115 - New York New Jersey Trail Conference

HIKE DISTANCE:  3.45 miles

THE HIKE:
From the parking pull off, walk west across the bridge for .2 miles.  Turn left just before the black mail box with number 139 at the Trail Access sign.  Go through a ditch and proceed straight ahead to the 3 yellow markers designating the beginning of the yellow-blazed trail.
Yellow-blazed trail starts after Trail Access sign.
Pass an old wrecked car just before crossing a small creek on logs at a second triple blaze.
At the .5 mile point the trail veers left on to a woods road.  Make note of this turn as there is no turn blaze in the opposite direction for the return trip.  You can see one yellow marker on the tree going the other way and a nail where the second marker used to be so this turn is hard to find on the return trip unless you note where it is.
At .9 miles the trail comes out on a rock slab with Van Nostrand Lake visible ahead.  No markers in this area but look for the back side of a marker for the opposite direction to the left before the boulder on the left.
A pretty pine tree growing out of the rock slab.
Trail goes uphill along Van Nostrand Lake
New York City skyline view from Table Rock
Trail veers left at pretty creek with small waterfalls.

HIKE SUMMARY:
[  0.00]  Walk west over bridge from pull off parking
[  0.20]  Turn left at Trail Access sign just before mail box with number 139
[  0.50]  Trail turns left following woods road
[  0.55]  Trail leaves woods road to right as footpath
[  0.90]  Trail comes out at clearing heading towards Van Nostrand Lake
[  1.05]  Trail comes out at Van Nostrand Lake and veers left uphill along the lake
[  1.15]  Trail veers away from lake on woods road after brief downhill rock scramble
[  1.30]  Trail leaves wider path to the right on a more narrow path (start of lollipop loop)
[  1.60]  View of New York City skyline from Table Rock Overlook on right
[  1.70]  Area of heavy blow down to climb over and crawl under; sparse blazing
[  1.85]  Trail clears as it turns left before creek with small waterfalls
[  2.10]  Trail comes out on mossy, rocky woods road
[  2.15]  Keep straight on woods road having completed lollipop loop when yellow goes left from beginning of hike; now retracing first part
[  2.25]  Just before lake trail leaves woods road to right as footpath
[  2.30]  Brief rock scramble up then trail follows along upper level with lake below to the left
[  2.50]  Cross open rock slab with pretty pine growing out of rock
[  2.80]  Trail turns left on woods road
[  2.90]  Trail leaves woods road to right before woods road forks left uphill (this is where turn blaze is missing)
[  3.20]  Cross small creek on logs at wrecked car
[  3.25]  Turn right on Weaver Road
[  3.45]  Back at parking pull out

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tohickon Valley, PA: Ralph Stover State Park and Tohickon Valley Park


ABOUT THE PARKS:
Ralph Stover State Park - Pennsylvania Department of Conservation
Tohickon Valley Park - Bucks County, PA


DIRECTIONS:
GPS Coordinates 40.434401, -75.097524

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Parking at Ralph Stover State Park

TRAIL MAPS:
Ralph Stover State Park - Pennsylvania Department of Conservation
Tohickon Valley Park - Bucks County, PA
Neither map is of much use.  No map exists showing the trails available.  There are many informal trails that shoot off of the more defined trails.  Between High Rocks Vista and the campground at Tohickon Valley Park there are 3 trails that run parallel on different levels:  Yellow (highest level), Red dot on white (middle level), unmarked (lower level).  Knowing this helps make more sense of the layout of the trails.

Most of the trails are accessed by crossing the red bridge from the parking lot and following the paved road uphill through a residential area.  The trails start in about .4 miles from the parking lot.  If you reach Tory Road, you missed the trails but not by much.  Alternatively, parking with trail access is available at High Rocks Vista (40.44127, -75.10060) and Tohickon Valley Park (40.43819, -75.07700).
40.44127, -75.10060
40.44127, -75.10060
  • YELLOW TRAIL:  Starts on the right side of the paved road about half way up the guardrail which is on the left side of the paved road.  This trail seems to be very well blazed (fresh blazes) the entire length.  The yellow trail follows the highest level along the rim of the valley and seems to be the most heavily used.  It runs for about 2.4 miles to the campground at Tohickon Valley Park.
  • WHITE TRAIL:  Starts on the right of the paved road a short distance from the start of the yellow trail.  Not well blazed and blazes are old and faded.  This trail meets up with and joins together with yellow trail in under 1/10th of a mile.  Terminates at High Rocks Vista parking area when yellow continues on as yellow only before joining with red dot on white.
  • UNMARKED LOOP TRAIL:  Starts to the left directly opposite the start of the white trail on the paved road.  This is a 1.5 mile loop trail.  The trail forks a few steps in.  Right follows the higher contour then descends to creek level and meets back up at the fork to complete the loop.
  • UNMARKED FENCE TRAIL:  At High Rocks Vista an unmarked trail follows along the safety fencing a level lower than and somewhat parallel to the yellow-blazed trail.  This trail ends merging back with the yellow trail when the safety fencing ends. 
  • UNMARKED LOWER LEVEL TRAIL:  Beyond High Rocks Vista after safety fencing has ended watch for a fork where a double yellow blaze indicates a left turn of the yellow trail.  It is the only yellow double turn blaze I saw in that direction.  At this fork the red dot on white trail veers right.  A few steps before this fork, watch for an unmarked trail leaving to the right.  This trail descends to a lower level and continues for about 1.3 miles terminating at the red dot on white trail.  Several unmarked trails branch off of this trail but keep to the right following along the contour of the creek to stay on the trail.  This trail seems to be the most lightly used but is the most scenic.
  • RED DOT ON WHITE TRAIL:  Starts at the Cedar Overlook sign and runs with the yellow-blazed trail (although only yellow blazes visible after the Cedar Overlook sign) until the double blazes indicating the yellow trail is turning left.  Turn right at this fork and eventually there will be a red dot on white blaze but they are faded and very infrequent initially.  Blazing becomes better towards the end of the trail.  This trail runs about 1.8 miles and ends at the campground at Tohickon Valley Park.  The red dot on white trail runs between the lower unmarked trail and the higher yellow trail.
  • UNMARKED TOHICKON VALLEY PARK TRAIL:  From behind the park pool an unmarked trail to the left comes out at Cafferty Road in .3 miles.  Turn right on another unmarked trail before Cafferty Road and this trail leads back to the narrow paved park road to park cabins in .25 miles.  Continue beyond cabin 3 then cabin 4 following an unmarked trail that ascends and terminates at the red dot on white trail at the campground in .6 miles for a total loop of about 1.15 miles.
From the parking lot before crossing the bridge:
  • UNMARKED TRAIL TO DOAN'S CAVE:  Turn right before the bridge and walk towards picnic pavilion with the restroom building beyond.  Unmarked trail starts behind pavilion and crosses a bridge.  Rustic trail loops around following creek through rocky area where Doan's Cave is located.  After steep incline, trail terminates at gravel road which is private property but best to retrace from Doan's Cave and before steep incline for total of about .6 miles out and back.
CLICK HERE for my notes where I have referenced the voice recorder track number with the corresponding pictures below if this is of any help in planning a hike without a proper map.

HIKE DISTANCE:
I hiked 12 miles exploring the trails but it is definitely possible to put together loops of various lengths.

THE HIKE:
The pictures do not do this hike justice at all.  I was shooting into the sun so the pictures are not the best.  The scenery is FABULOUS and it's definitely a hike worth doing.  Ralph Stover State Park and Tohickon Valley Park are next to each other and sort of intermingle - hard to tell where the boundaries are.
TRACK #1:  Access trails by crossing the bridge with the covered sides from the parking lot.
TRACK #2:   Paved State Park Road from bridge ascends with Tohickon Creek to the left through residential area to trails.
TRACK #8:  Unmarked loop trail that starts to the left of paved road opposite white-blazed trail.
TRACK #19:  Unmarked trails follows along left bank of Tohickon Creek.
TRACK #26:  White-blazed trail starts on right from paved road opposite unmarked loop trail.
TRACK #27:  Yellow merges in from right; trail continues as white/yellow to High Rock Vista.
High Rocks Vista parking lot with porta potty left before bridge; yellow continues across bridge or right goes to unmarked trail along safety fence at views.
The yellow-blazed trail branches off to the High Rocks Vista parking lot.  This is a view coming from the parking lot.  Turn left on yellow to cross small bridge, keep straight to unmarked trail at safety fence for views, came in from the right on white/yellow.
TRACK #32:  Chain link safety fence at views.
TRACK #34:  Argillite Overlook.  There supposedly 4 named overlooks but the only signs I saw were for the Argillite and Cedar Overlooks.
TRACK #36:  Wrought iron safety fence.
People walking on unmarked trail along safety fence as seen from the yellow trail.
One of the valley views at High Rock Vista.
TRACK #37:  At Cedar Overlook, a red dot on white blaze with a yellow blaze indicating from this point both trails run together but red dot on white blazes will be sporadic along this section.
At the overlooks, turkey vultures fly by at eye level.  This is how close they come and the level of detail visible.  You almost look each other in the eye.
If you get there early before other visitors have scared them off, the turkey vultures might even put on a show for you.  They let me get closer than I have ever been to a turkey vulture.  Maybe they know that safety fence was keeping me and my dog (who could have cared less about them) from getting too close.
It was incredibly awesome to be able to hang out with them for a while and take pictures!
Turkey vultures hanging out on the cliffs by the chains the rock climbers use.
To give you a better idea just how high up those chains are.
A rock climber going down the cliff face.
TRACK #39:  Turned right on an unmarked trail just before the double left turn blazes for the yellow trail at a fork where the red dot on white trail goes right.  This unmarked trail starts high but descends gently to a lower level running parallel to Tohickon Creek.
TRACK #47:  In a hemlock grove, a trail goes downhill to the right for a short out and back to the bank of Tohickon Creek.
TRACK #56:  Lower level unmarked trail follows along the bottom of rock walls.
TRACK #59:  One of the many rock hops over a feeder creek.
TRACK #60: The unmarked lower level trail terminates at the red dot on white middle level trail.
TRACK #63:  The red dot on white trail terminates at two posts with blazes on each at a camping/picnic area.  Pit toilet on right open in winter.  From this point if you look to the left, you see where the yellow trail terminates at the campground.
TRACKS #73 and #85:  If you take the loop that starts behind the pool in Tohickon Valley Park, watch for the turn just before paved Cafferty Road where my dog is standing.  This brings you down to a bend in the paved park road at the cabin area - turn left following the park road as it curves to the right towards cabins 3 and 4.  A trail continues beyond cabin 4 and ascends to meet up with the red dot on white trail for the return trip.
TRACK #91:  Looking back at Cabin #4 right at Tohickon Creek.
Heading back on the red dot on white trail.
TRACK #114:  Rock ledge along red dot on white trail with unmarked lower level trail from earlier visible below.
TRACK #120:  Blazes become very faded and less frequent.
TRACK #124:  Rock hop over feeder creek with a small waterfall.
After crossing back over bridge with covered sides to parking lot, turn left to find unblazed trail to Doan's Cave behind the picnic pavilion.  Trail crosses a foot bridge,  goes through swampy section, then becomes rocky.  The trail is not all that well defined but it is possible to follow it.
When you come to this memorial for Sullivan James Burd who apparently died here at the age of 20 on 9/9/2010, retrace a bit and go down to the lower level beneath the memorial to find Doan's Cave.  To continue on, the trail becomes more difficult to follow and ends at a gravel road on private property so best to retrace from this point.
Doan's Cave

HIKE SUMMARY:
CLICK HERE for transcribed trail notes.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Franklin Parker Preserve, NJ


ABOUT THE PARK:
Franklin Parker Preserve - New Jersey Conservation Foundation
NJCF Wins Award for Bog Restoration - PhillyBurbs.com

DIRECTIONS:
Franklin Parker Preserve
GPS Coordinates 39.813677, -74.547471

View Larger Map


TRAIL MAPS:
Franklin Parker Preserve Trail Map (Black and White) - NJCF
Franklin Parker Preserve Trail Map (Color) - NJCF

HIKE DISTANCE:
10.45 miles
Trail network allows for many shorter loops - see trail maps

THE HIKE:
The red trail and part of the yellow trail are very scenic footpaths through cedar swamps, pine forests and along the Wading River.  All other trails are packed sand roads through forests, blueberry fields and cranberry bogs.  The trails traverse many swampy areas and there are several water crossings on branches piled across so waterproof hiking shoes are most definitely needed.
Facing the gate, look for the red-blazed trail on the right that goes into the pine forest.
The red-blazed trail follows along Bertha's Canal.
The trail crosses over abandoned railroad tracks.

The combined red and green trails on sand roads through the cranberry bogs.
Observation deck at the cranberry bogs.
Swans in flight.
Swans in the water.
The white-blazed trail leads to Bald Eagle Reservoir.
Bald Eagle Reservoir
An interesting crossing at Bald Eagle Reservoir.
Bald Eagle Reservoir Observation Deck
A blue-blazed connector trail.
Yellow-blazed foot traffic only trail section to and along the West Branch Wading River.
West Branch Wading River
Busy Beavers
The yellow trail meets back up with the red trail via a blue connector trail.
Bridge on the red trail.
The red trail leads back to the parking lot at the opposite side of the gate from where the hike began.
Tracks in the snow.

HIKE SUMMARY:
[  0.00]  Facing the gate, turn right on the red-blazed trail
[  0.35]  Red-blazed trail begins to parallel Bertha's Canal
[  0.70]  Just after conservation easement sign watch for red trail to make sharp left turn before reaching the dam (turn not marked)
[  1.10]  Cross unmarked woods road then abandoned railroad tracks then enters cranberry bogs
[  1.35]  Red trail veers away from bogs back into forest
[  1.55]  Cross foot bridge back towards cranberry bogs then turn right merging with green trail on sand road
[  1.80]  Observation deck
[  2.00]  Pass bench on right
[  2.20]  Turn right on red leaving green as green continues straight
[  2.30]  Turn left at old cinder block building on unmarked, cross over canal then turn right on green (Note: To continue straight on red would involve a canal crossing which is not doable; red meets back up with green the other side of that crossing.)
[  2.45]  Watch for red to come in from the right at canal crossing merge briefly with green then leave to the left - turn left on red here through pygmy pines
[  2.70]  Cross over canal
[  2.85]  Stay on red as it turns left merging with green on sand road then turn right on red as it leaves green as a foot path
[  3.00]  When red crosses over green (sand road) at bird house #13, turn right on green
[  3.05]  Keep left on green at fork when unmarked goes right
[  3.30]  When green turns left over canal, keep straight towards Northgate Road sign so woods are on the left, bogs on the right.
[  3.45]  Green turns right and leads to a cinder block building - keep straight passing by building and two sand roads immediately after the building to the left, one right after the another.  There is no blazing in this section but it is the correct route.
[  3.60]  At next intersection turn left and green blazes resume
[  3.90]  Green trail turns right and crosses canal then turns right again
[  4.05]  Keep straight on white (sand road) when white/green goes left
[  4.25]  Keep straight on white when blue goes left at a bench
[  4.75]  White trail turns left at a bench
[  4.80]  Cross reservoir on concrete squares
[  4.90]  Turn right then left to observation deck; retrace and continue right on white
[  5.05]  Turn right on white after passing observation deck
[  5.45]  White turns left and parallels paved Route 563
[  5.60]  At kiosk turn right on yellow, cross paved Route 563 and continue straight on yellow
[  5.70]  Pass another kiosk and walk around gate, continue briefly then turn left on blue into pine forest
[  6.10]  Blue trail turns right on to a sand road
[  6.30]  Blue trail leaves sand road to the left
[  6.40]  Blue trail ends at the yellow trail, turn left on yellow
[  6.85]  Cross straight over paved Route 563 and continue on yellow
[  7.20]  Yellow trail begins to parallel Wading River
[  7.30]  At clearing keep left (no blazes)
[  7.35]  Yellow blaze visible in opposite direction, at fork veer right - blaze not immediately visible but after a few steps comes into view on right
[  7.95]  At T-intersection yellow turns left away from Wading River; a few steps later yellow turns left again
[  8.10]  At clearing turn right on blue connector trail (sand road) when yellow turns left on sand road
[  8.35]  Turn right on red (foot path) when red crosses over blue
[  8.65]  Cross water on sticks and twigs
[  8.75]  Cross water on sticks and twigs
[  8.80]  Suspension bridge
[  8.95]  Two benches on left
[  9.00]  Hilly section
[  9.10]  Stay on red as it turns right on sand road merging with green briefly then leaves to left downhill as green continues straight on sand road
[  9.30]  Cross water on board
[  9.45]  Red trail skirts clearings
[10.25]  Cross abandoned railroad tracks
[10.45]  Back at parking lot