Category Archives: 50 Hikes

Jockey Hollow and We Saw a Bear

If you live in Morristown, NJ and you’ve never been to Jockey Hollow, you’re missing out on some great New Jersey hiking only 5 minutes from the town green. Our hike today was embarrassingly short; combining the entire lengths of the red and yellow trails, we hiked just under 3.5 miles, but the brief hike was packed with action. With 10 brook crossings, 3 bears, 5 reconstructed Revolutionary War huts and an apple orchard that once fed George Washington, Jockey Hollow, though easy on the legs, was vibrant in attraction.

We took the Yellow Grand Parade trail into the Red Primrose Brook trail and then hiked the rest of the Yellow trail back. The Primrose Brook trail is a 1 mile trail weaving in and across the brook 8 times. Most of the crossings were easy enough–I do think children could do it– but a few required more attention. Nellie had to be carried across two crossings and fell into the brook once when she misjudged a jump. We saw a more experienced hiker using a pole to help him cross over.

Meredith crossing the Primrose. Nellie later fell here.

After mastering the art of brook-crossing, we crossed Jockey Hollow Road to reach an information booth and the start of the Yellow Trail. Sara and Meredith had water, while I took out a sandwich from my pack. About twenty paces in from the head, while I’m stuffing my face with peanut butter and Nutella sandwich, we heard a rustling in the brush to our left. Meredith and Sara both yell, “Bear!” “No, three bears!” “Shea, get rid of that SANDWICH!” Grabbing at my backpack to dig out one of Nellie’s poop-bags to hid my sandwich in, I looked up and saw two black bear cubs climbing up a tall tree, one after the other. Below I could see branches and leaves shaking and moving about–the signs of a larger bear, but I feared making eye-contact. Instead, I snapped a picture of the second bear cub before Sara, Meredith, Petrified Nellie and I hurried on.

Here's the second black bear cub climbing after its sibling while Momma Bear stands at the base of the tree-- protecting them from us.

Shortly after, we arrived at Grand Parade Road where we dutifully warned an approaching family and Boy Scout troop of the black bears. The family was grateful for our warning. Two of the Boy Scout Leaders said “Cool, Bears. Let’s Go!” and rushed on in the direction we came from. Another laughed saying “No worries, we can out-run these boys.” A sensible leader in the group eventually re-directed the troop down Grand Parade Road instead of to the bear family. We bid them good-bye.

This hut, along with several others, was reconstructed to resemble huts in which the Continental Army would have stayed as they waited for the British Army. It’s interesting to imagine what it would have been like eating and sleeping in those bunks. Throughout Jockey Hollow, we read plaques and signs with historic information. We even learned about the Irishmen who served in the Revolutionary War.

Trivia: Wick Farm fed the Continental Army when they stayed in Morristown. Pictured--Apple Orchard

Jockey Hollow certainly wasn’t a rigorous hike. Granted, we only hiked the Red and Yellow trails which added up to be about 3 miles. I’d love to hike the 6.5 mile White Trail next time. That one promises New York City views and bigger brook crossings.

I’d recommend Jockey Hollow to history nerds and people looking for wildlife. Besides the bears, we saw more birds and chipmunks than on any other northern New Jersey trail. The hikers in 50 Hikes in New Jersey wrote that they came face to face with a deer in Jockey Hollow!

Lastly, I’ll mention that the trails were incredibly well marked. Not only are the trail blazes clear, at every junction you can find a printed trail map with an arrow saying “You are Here.” I heard from other Morristown hikers that JH had previously been confusing to hike. No Longer.

That completes hike #6. Have you hiked Jockey Hollow? Did you encounter a deer or bear? Is the White Trail better than the Red and Yellow? Let me know!

Here's the little guy again zoomed in.

Happy hiking!

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Jersey Girls in the Woods: South Mountain Reservation

It started with an innocent “Hey, let’s go for a hike!” Four hours later with nothing but drops in our water bottles, no food and an increasingly slow pace, Mr. Knightly sat down in the middle of the trail refusing to go on. My friend Nicole looked at me with a similar question in her eyes “When will this torture end?”

Two months ago I convinced friends Nicole and Meredith to come out hiking. We picked South Mountain Reservation in northern New Jersey because Meredith and I had already been to High Point recently and it was one of the only other hiking trails we could think of. I carefully mapped out a trail on a map printed off the internet.

Meredith leading the hike.

The hike started out swimmingly–well, once we found the trail head. Save for some mud, everyone was excited for a day out in nature.

Once we had fallen into a rhythm, hiking farther and farther from the parking lot, did the hike reveal itself for what it is: a really long walk in the woods. Nicole had not anticipated the rocks, inclines, overhanging branches, mud, lack of pavement and she was not pleased with the discovery. I had failed to include these details in the Upcoming Attractions at South Mountain  and now my hiking buddy was feeling unprepared. That wasn’t the only mistake.

Halfway into the trail we came upon a river crossing that seemed more intermediate than easy. There was no bridge in sight and the rocks intended for crossing were far apart from each other and slippery. We walked to one possible “crossing” and then backtracked to another. Neither crossing seemed straight forward, and both seemed so difficult for our abilities that we’d end up soaked in the river. Not to mention our Westie terrier with short legs. We saw one man across the river attempt to cross it, but we never saw if he succeeded. Minutes after we spotted him, he disappeared into the woods.

After checking our map over and over to figure out if, yes, we were supposed to cross here, we decided to take the plunge. Fortunately, it was not a literal plunge. All of us made it. Embarrassing video was taken. Nellie, who had been terrified during most of the trail, forged the river as if she had been born to do it. After crossing, she shook herself and swelled with pride.

We took on a 6 mile hike that day and didn’t pack any food. Not one power bar or fruit. All of us felt the tightening of our stomachs by the end of the trail. Even the dogs were hungry.

Hunger and surprises aside, all of us had a memorable day. On seeing the parking lot, we were all giddy with excitement. It wasn’t until the drive home that we considered our small victories. We forged a river! Finished a six mile hike! Found the waterfalls! Didn’t get lost!

South Mountain has some great features to experience such as a waterfall, reservoir, and several trail systems. We saw two waterfalls that day!

I would love to hike South Mountain again. Once I cross off a few other hikes on my list, I will return! As if I didn’t make enough mistakes during that hike, I forgot my camera too! These pictures are all courtesy of Nicole’s phone and if you’d like to check out her other adventures she keeps a health blog here.

Just keep hiking, just keep hiking.

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Wells Mills County Park– Waretown NJ

Ticks, ticks and ticks, oh my. Whatever other information I read about Wells Mills County Park in Ocean County was blurred out by the redundant warnings of ticks in the park. I’ve always hated insects. Blood-sucking insects scare me even more. For a moment, I thought about skipping Wells Mills, or putting it off until next December when it might be under a foot of snow. However, since we were in the area and I want to complete all of the hikes on my list, we loaded up with insect repellent and drove to Waretown, NJ.

I can’t tell you much about the trail because, well, we booked it. Despite having a small group including my little brother Finn, we finished the 3.5 mile Green Trail in less than an hour and a half. I think we were all anxious about ticks and eager to push through it. Also, Finn wasn’t so eager to come hiking in the first place. As soon as he got the trail map, he named himself leader and sped off into the woods.

Perhaps our fearful motivation paid off because as of this time, after several thorough reviews, neither the people nor dogs came out with a single tick! Enough about ticks and more about the Pine Barrens…

We took the Green Trail which a Park ranger told us would be the most scenic. The trail goes in a loop and is extremely easy to follow. The terrain alternates between a bed of soft pine needles, sand and boardwalk. The boardwalks take you through swamps and the pine trees surround you through the whole trail. There is also an option to hike an 8.4 mile White Trail. We saw a few cross-country runners, but not many other hikers.

We saw these geese as we finished up the hike.

In short, the Pine Barrens were beautiful, but I will not be back.

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Hiking the Jersey Shore: Island Beach State Park

2 miles beyond the amusement park and bungalows of Seaside Park, to others known as the set of the Jersey Shore, lay an 8-mile stretch of what the entire shoreline could have looked like centuries ago. Island Beach State Park located in Seaside Heights, NJ is a refuge for native coastal birds, an outdoor recreation hot spot and a breath of fresh air in the midst of the increasingly developed Jersey Shore.

   

On Friday afternoon, my sister, Ying, and I drove through the sleepy shore towns of Ocean County arriving at the tip of the Inlet. A friendly park ranger greeted us and took our $5 for a map and afternoon of exploring. After driving south for 8 miles, we parked in section A-23 and continued south by foot.

After hiking Schooley and Pyramid Mountains, I was thrilled to get on some new terrain: the beach! We followed an easy trail in the shape of an “L.” First we walked south to the jetty and then west toward Barnaget Bay. On the way to the jetty, Nellie cut her paw on a shell so we whipped out our old lifeguard skills and first aid kit. Here she is with the first bandage that lasted 5 minutes.

We didn’t see anyone else hiking but we did see loads of fishermen, a kayaker, picnickers, bird-watchers, bikers and someone out in the birds’ cove. Speaking of the birds’ blind, it felt as if we were trespassing through a secret nature preserve. Hundreds of birds rested in the area where Barneget Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. The map we had boasted that Island Beach has the largest colony of osprey in the state. Several information stands along the trail highlighted the many other species of birds native to the area. Just beyond the sea of birds we had a great view of the Barneget Lighthouse. I later learned you can visit the lighthouse up close in Barneget Lighthouse State Park. I’d love to check it out someday.

When we stopped for water and snacks near the birds, Nellie tended to her wounds again. She laid on the sand and licked each of her paws. She and Mr. Knightley enjoyed their biscuits, but Nellie wouldn’t get up to complete the hike.

Halfway into the hike and Nellie refusing to budge, Ying and I decided we had to carry Nellie the rest of the way back. It was impossible to look into her sad big eyes, watch her lick the wounds on her paws and not feel terrible. So up she went and unfortunately, because she is a rescue dog not accustomed to being carried, carrying her was much like hoisting a bag of potatoes.

Don’t these pictures make you want to go to the beach?? I know I can’t wait to go back. Maybe next time I’ll check out the Barneget Bay Lighthouse. I’ll also make sure Nellie has booties on her feet–that is, if she ever let’s us drag her onto the beach again. Last night, she would not put one paw into the sand… hopefully, we haven’t traumatized the poor dog.

Yesterday, we completed one more hike! Stay tuned for my update on Wells Mills County Park also in Ocean County. Have you hiked today?

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Pyramid Mountain – Boonton, NJ

Located in Morris County Pyramid Mountain provides a moderately challenging hike with many well-defined trails, three overlooks including one of New York City and a geological marvel which could be New Jersey’s very own Stonehenge.

I’ve been pumped to try Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area for a while now and had previously marked out a 7 mile figure eight shaped trail that would encompass Pyramid Mt. as well as neighboring Turkey Mountain. Saturday’s rain forced us to move the hike to Sunday, which also meant there was only half a day to complete the trail because my hiking partner Brett had to catch a flight afterward.

With the help of a really handy trail map provided by Morris County Parks at the Visitor’s Center, Brett and I mapped out a 3 mile hike of Pyramid that looked like this: BlueRed-White-Yellow/White-Blue/White-Blue. Hiking the trail took roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes with some stops for photographs and water.

Yea, I futzed with the camera settings on this one.

Power Lines Through Turkey

The hike started out easy and became increasingly rocky with views of … large power lines. Things got interesting as we began to hike the white trail seeing signs of springtime and running water. Though the brooks seemed easy to cross, there were foot bridges at every crossing.

Nervous Nellie found her courage on this foot bridge. She is queen of the outdoors! Next came the most exciting part of this trail: giant rocks!

Bear Rock is considered to be one of the largest glacial erratics in North Jersey. According to 50 Hikes in NJ, approximately 12,000 years ago during the last Ice Age, it rode the Wisconsin glacier to its final resting spot in Boonton, NJ. It’s quite a site– testament to the strength of nature.

After Bear Rock and the Wetland area of Bear Swamp, we came to the great natural spectacle that is Tripod Rock.

Did glaciers thousands of years ago carry this boulder and by sheer chance leave it resting on these three smaller rocks? Or did ancient people erect this tripod as a spiritual site? You tell me because Wikipedia couldn’t. Apparently, geologists are also undecided, however, I found an interesting discussion about it here.

For the rest of the trail we stayed on high ground until a quick rocky descent near the end. We visited Lucy’s Overlook and two overlooks of NYC, but the rocky terrain kept more of my attention. I wouldn’t suggest hiking Pyramid Mt. without proper footwear. Even with proper footwear, those with knee issues take it slow. Your legs will get toned on this trail. I say this because my left knee was a little swollen after the hike. Even Brett, who was visiting from the hiking haven of San Francisco, said he broke a sweat!

A few last items of note: Dogs were allowed on a leash. I also noticed a kids’ trail about 20 paces in from the start of the Blue trail. It was marked with a friendly green acorn. Though the parking lot was filled, the trails didn’t seem too crowded. There were enough trail options to keep hikers dispersed. The parking lot also had a port-o-john that was both clean and stocked with TP!

I’d say the Pyramid Mountain hike met my expectations in terms of difficulty and attraction. I can’t wait to get back to the area to hike Turkey Mountain!

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Spring Forward at Schooley’s Mountain

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Today I found myself short an hour, so I decided to start with a short hike in Morris County.  Sometimes you find yourself with limited hours in the day, and for that, Schooley’s Mountain County Park was the perfect choice. The hike runs 3 miles on mostly rocky terrain. I was able to complete it in about 2 hours occasionally pausing to take pictures and breaking for water.

50 Hikes in New Jersey rates the hike easy and I agree, although you really have to stay alert with the rocky footing in some areas. It’s not easy enough to rush through while playing Words with Friends, and with the first half of the trail hugging close to the lively Electric Brook, I doubt you’d want to. The Park is deemed pet friendly, and most people I saw brought their four-legged friend. And their special someone. Speaking of people, there were quite a lot on the first half of the trail. Around every corner you’d bump into another happy hiking couple and their pooch. However, no one seemed to venture past the blue trail onto the white, yellow or red trails.

I followed the suggested route in my book: beginning with the Blue trail just left of Lake George and continuing to the Yellow trail until the end. I won’t go into many details on navigation because the trails were all easily marked and at every junction, there was a clear wooden sign pointing in the direction of the parking lot. Outside of the wooded area, the park contains many picnic areas, open green spaces and even a small beach next to Lake George.

The 3 mile hike left me wanting more, though, in only 2 hours you get a lot of bang for your buck. As an added bonus, I got to see some horse-back riders as I was leaving!

Hike #1 = Complete! Happy spring everyone!

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50 Hikes in New Jersey

When ever I start reading someone’s blog, I always scroll back to the first blog post ever. I like to read about the initial drive for writing in the first place. Why do they want to put it all out there? Where did it all begin?

For me it begins with my 24th birthday. Yesterday, I officially hit my mid-twenties and with any milestone, I made a new goal: to hike New Jersey. I’ve been meaning to get the book “50 Hikes in New Jersey” as a guide to the best trails in the state. Today I have it! 50 adventures waiting to be had!

Later on, I’ll give you some background on my experience hiking (slim to none,) why I’m in New Jersey in the first place (Jersey chose me,) and which hikes are on the agenda.

Welcome to the blog and happy hiking!

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