Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rancocas Nature Center and Rancocas State Park, NJ

Rancocas Nature Center
Rancocas State Park - New Jersey State Parks
The way I understood it when researching this park is that the Rancocas Nature Center (no dogs allowed) is north of Rancocas Creek and Rancocas State Park (dogs allowed) is south of Rancocas Creek.  This is true but where Rancacos Nature Center only has a couple of miles of trails, there are also state park trails on the northern side of Rancocas Creek which allow for a much longer hike.  These trails are not shown on the state park map but were on a map by the bridge, picture below.

GPS Coordinates 40.003201, -74.821251

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Parking at Rancocas Nature Center

Rancocas Nature Center Trail Map
This map was at the bridge crossing the creek into the part of Rancocas State Park that is north of Rancocas Creek.  The state park trails are to the left of the bridge and the nature center trails are to the right of the bridge.

Rancocas Nature Center, NJ at EveryTrail


Where we had been heading south to hike, recent snow storms to the south have made the terrain too treacherous for Shawnee (not to mention single digit temps) so we haven't hiked in a couple of weeks.  Today I had to be in Mt. Laurel in the morning so I decided to swing by Rancocas Nature Center for a short no dogs allowed hike before heading home.  Snow had partially melted and refrozen and it made for tough going even with microspikes.  Sometimes I was walking on top of frozen snow, other times crashing through into inches of icy snow or twisting my ankles in frozen footprints if I was not paying attention to where I was stepping.  I'll go back with Shawnee to do the southern part where dogs are allowed.  If the snow and ice ever melt.
Starting on the blue trail (no blazes here) between the kiosk and the barn.  It was very rough going on these ankle-breaking frozen footprints.
A short distance in, a left on red where no man had gone before. Relatively smooth sailing here on top of frozen snow with microspikes.
When there were prints they were only small wildlife prints.
The trail skirts the edge of the conifer plantation.
Conifer Plantation
A left on blue continues through the conifer plantation to ...
... a left on orange.
Again, no footprints on orange and it was a very pretty trail through holly trees.
Rancocas Creek
It was terribly loud walking on frozen snow and ice so birds generally did not hang around when they could hear me coming from a mile away.
It was in the low 20's but it was a beautiful, clear day with the moon still visible in the afternoon.
Orange ends after a stretch along the creek - heading back.
Left on blue but not quite as many frozen footprints here so it was easy to avoid them.
The bridge over a small side creek to the state park trails.  The map above is at the other side of this bridge.
The yellow-blazed trail into the state park.
Animal tracks perfectly following the yellow trail.
Tufted Titmouse
Rancocas Creek from the yellow trail.
Back to the side creek then the bridge.
Instead of crossing the bridge I went a short distance on the brown trail along the side creek until it met up with white.  This would have made another nice loop but was running short on time so had to turn around back to the bridge.
After crossing the bridge, turned left on yellow.  I believe this part is still state park - it is obvious when you are back on the Nature Center part because the blazes on the trees end and you have to follow the numbered posts that have yellow on them.
Yellow ends at the Nature Center back at the parking lot.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Double Trouble State Park, NJ

Double Trouble State Park - New Jersey DEP

GPS Coordinates 39.897753, -74.221855

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The parking lot is large but if you don't get there early, it fills up even on an icy winter day.

Double Trouble State Park Trail Map - NJ DEP (map is color coded but trails are not blazed)
Historic District Trails and Cranberry Bogs - NJ DEP (shows the main trails but not all of the trails names that exist on posts at some intersections)
There were a few copies of this map in the trail guide box at the Berry Packing House and it actually shows the names of the trails that are sometimes on posts at intersections.
Double Trouble State Park, NJ at EveryTrail

HIKE DISTANCE: 8.6 miles

Starting out through the historic village ...
... to the Mill Pond Trail (no signs).  The woods road on the other side of the canal is also part of the Mill Pond Trail loop but we just stayed on this side for an out-an-back to Mill Pond Reservoir.
I had hoped to get out of the north Jersey snow and ice but there were still some long stretches of it here.
The dam at Mill Pond Reservoir.
Mill Pond Reservoir
Heading back on Mill Pond Trail.
Cedar Creek
Back on Double Trouble Road to White Bridge over Cedar Creek.
Cedar Creek from the bridge.
Just after the bridge, a right on Clear Brook Path.
Shawnee found some foot paths at the end of Clear Brook Path so we followed until they fizzled out.
Cedar Creek from the foot paths.
Back at the intersection with Double Trouble Road, park patrol.
The sign at the intersection shows names different than on maps.  We continued straight across Double Trouble Road on what the map says is Nature Trail/Sweetwater Trail - the sign says Mud Dam Road.
Lots of robins in this area.
Mud Dam Road or Nature Trail/Sweetwater Trail
The next intersection sign shows the name Sweetwater Lane but Also Swordens Pond Road, which is not on the map.  That is the way we were heading to get away from the more crowded areas of the park and do some exploring.
But first, a break at the bench around the corner.
Quiet back trails with no snow or ice and no other people!  There was some evidence of horses so this area must be used more by equestrians.
Sometimes the trail gets a little tight but was passable all the way to...
... the power cut.
Heading back we took some of the trails to the right (which were on our left heading out) but they all seemed to lead back to the power cut.  I walked in a short distance at each intersection and as you can see by the track above, they all seem to run parallel back to the power cut.  Looks like there used to be cranberry bogs here that have now all reverted back to forest.
A very pretty, quiet area.
Ours were the only tracks.
I finally found the turn to Sworden's Pond, shown in on the first map link, above.
Continuing on trying to follow the loop shown on the one map, the trail was pretty flooded out in places and did not look like it got much use at all.
Back on Sworden's Pond Road to the Sweetwater Road intersection.
Through the old cranberry bogs.
After looping around the Cranberry bogs, we took the Sweetwater Trail a short distance to the "Danger No Horses" sign, which is the Nature Trail but no sign indicates that.
Nature Trail
Bridge over Cedar Creek.
Cedar Creek from the bridge.
Continuing on the Nature Trail at Upper Hooper Bog and Lower Hooper Bog.
It turned out to be a gorgeous, sunny, 50-degree day where 60 miles north it had been foggy, dreary and cold all day.
Coming up on the Berry Packing House at Gowdy Bog.
Back to the parking lot.