Appalachian and Mt. Tammany Trails, Delaware Water Gap

Last weekend we hiked in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation area again, completing a 1.5 mile section of the New Jersey A.T to just beyond the Pennsylvania border, and throwing in a climb up Mt. Tammany for some views. Mt Tammany is one of the two main peaks at the Gap, but is not on the Appalachian Trail like its neighbor across the river in Pennsylvania, Mt. Minsi. I did wonder many times during the hike if it used to be, as the views are remarkable. To summit Mt. Tammany its a 3.4 mile loop off the A.T. in the Dunnfield Creek area of DWG.

Because Saturday was a lot of heavy rain and wind, we did just a day hike on Sunday and dropped into Mohican Outdoor Center on Saturday to revisit some fond memories of our section hike through there last fall with our friends.  But also because of the bad weather Saturday, and peak fall foliage in the area, the trail, and especially the parking lots, were overcrowded beyond belief on this gorgeous fall Sunday. It seemed everyone in the state came to hike there that day, and it is one of the most popular hikes in the state because of the views.

There are a LOT of rocks on the loop but nothing too difficult, and despite the crowds, we really enjoyed the scenery. We started the hike on the Pennsylvania side at the Mt. Minsi Appalachian Trail parking lot, doing a lollipop hike over to the Tammany Loop and back. So half the walk was on roads, and a noisy bridge. But even that section had its own nice scenery, and the N.J./PA official crossing.

We now have two 9-mile sections to finish in New Jersey and then we can call that state complete. We plan to finish these in the spring as season warm-up overnights, and then move on to either Maryland, Pennsylvania, or Vermont next. Photos below.

Miles: 7.4

– Linus

Crossing the Delaware on Rt 80

Crossing the Delaware on Rt 80

A waterfall on Mt Minsi

A waterfall on Mt Minsi

 

Mt. Tammany in the distance

Mt. Tammany in the distance

Up the Tammany Trail

Up the Tammany Trail

First amazing view from Mt. Tammany

First amazing view from Mt. Tammany

Mt Minsi beyond from Mt Tammany

Mt Minsi beyond from Mt Tammany

Fielden Stream on Mt Tammany

Fielden Stream on Mt Tammany

Goofy Linus

Goofy Linus

Fielden Stream at the NJ/PA A.T. border

Fielden Stream at the NJ/PA A.T. border

Dunnfield Creek

Dunnfield Creek

Re-Visiting Mohican Outdoor Center

Re-Visiting Mohican Outdoor Center

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Appalachian Trail: New Jersey Section 5

Back to Jer-zThis past weekend we did another section in New Jersey.  We had skipped this section earlier this year because we were planning another hike with our friends and wanted to do one with more amenities and a shelter where there were guaranteed to be some thru hikers to interact with. Also the section we ultimately chose had the High Point monument and observation deck, so a lot of wow factor to impress them as well.

Above-trail pond

Above-trail pond

While this section we postponed does have a shelter, its about 3/4 of the way to one end, and would make for quite long and quite short mileage days instead of two balanced ones.  So the only other option was a primitive campsite halfway along.  So we opted to save this one for later.

That said, the primitive campsite was quite nice, and we are used to bare bones sites more than our friends.  Catholes, bear-bag hangs, and no water sources nearby are conditions we are accustomed to, but felt was not something that would be appealing to our friends who only go out on the trail with us once a year.

Fielden Stream at a rock cairn

Fielden Stream at a rock cairn

From regular weather checks, things were looking good for the weekend. The heatwave broke 2 days before we were to hit the trail. And despite a slight chance of rain Sunday afternoon, the highs would be in the low 70’s and the lows around 60. PERFECT backpacking conditions for late summer.  That would change. I must remember mother nature makes those rules, and not the internet.

We got to our end point at Culver’s Gap to meet our shuttle at noon. Our shuttle driver in New Jersey is awesome, and always has some murray beads for us when he picks us up. At this point, I noticed already that the temperature was a good 15 degrees cooler than forecast. I chalked it up to being in the mountains, and forgot about it for the moment. If it meant we wouldn’t be as sweaty and sticky, no problem there.

Fork Tree near Crater Lake

Fork Tree near Crater Lake

We arrived at the road crossing we left off at with our friends last year and began our 7 mile hike north to Buttermilk Falls campsite. Armed with lots of information on water sources on a mostly dry day’s stretch, we had loaded up on water.  Our shuttle driver confirmed there wouldn’t be much today in that regard. Though now the light precipitation had started and so he mentioned the spring that fed the falls might be running. Either way, we were well prepared.

After passing an entrance sign reminding us of the rules for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (and the Appalachian Trail), the route followed a pond for a short while. What was interesting about the pond is the trail was actually about a foot below the level of the pond, and the grass and soil at the edge of the pond acted as a levy or dam and kept it above the trail level (except for one area where it flooded over a bit). It did drain off the side of the mountain via a small pipe which was under the trail a bit farther along. I thought this was really neat.

Flooded ground, not a pond

Flooded ground, not a pond

The path then climbed quickly up the ridge and through a powerline clearing with great views west to Pennsylvania – though quite a bit overgrown in areas.  From there we bounced up and down the ridge line, enjoying occasional views to the east. I did want to catch a glimpse of Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco and its’ Sand Pond, which is the location of Camp Crystal Lake from the Friday the 13th movie series. I did manage one from a short path to the ridge, but the ‘official’ view was down a side trail down the side of the ridge, and it was lined with grass which was now very wet. I didn’t want to slide off a mountain into a lake, especially THAT lake! Jason is in that lake…

Slippery scramble

Slippery scramble

Speaking of lakes, as we approached Crater lake there was a creek where there were water signs and that’s good to know should we have needed it. There were many cars parked at that trailhead lot. An old pump there is no longer in operation and I assume it’s because visitors using it didn’t realize you had to filter.  As the rain was picking up and the temperatures continued to drop, I joked that we should hitch a ride from one of them to Mohican Outdoor Center for the night, just a few miles away. We had a nice stay there with our friends on the hike here last year. At this point the rain showed on the forecast but was supposed to stop by the evening. We don’t mind rain. In fact, every backpacking trip we’ve done this year has had rain, two of them torrential all night and day affairs.

Fielden doing the scramble

Fielden doing the scramble

But on those hikes we were more prepared for it and knew about it ahead of time. The weather predicted was the weather that happened. And the temperatures were much warmer. Once the temperatures drop to a certain point, hypothermia becomes a real risk, and one that nearly happened to me a year ago. So I don’t mess around with cold and wet weather for fun. Nor bring my loved ones out in it for fun. Things were definitely starting to deteriorate enough for me to consider the lodge. But we didn’t have far to go and with the rain supposed to stop in a few hours we continued on. A unique fork-like tree held the white blazes that pointed us in the right direction.

The wet rocks went on for miles

The wet rocks went on for miles

We had the good fortune of about a 1.5 mile walk along an old road before this, so now it was back on to ‘real’ trail. After a short steep rocky descent we passed what we thought was Crater Lake but was just in fact a flooded meadow. A bit farther on we of course came to the part where we had to go back up, and it was a rocky ledge scramble that allowed us to test our limits of how far our legs could stretch to push up the edge of it safely.  A father and son were doing an out and back day hike in the area and when we made friendly somewhat complaining-about-the-weather comments, he felt it necessary to remind us it was “better than the couch.” Duh. We’re the ones out here backpacking that would not be sitting on the couch tonight when he was!  It was a bit rude.

Wet scramble up Rattlesnake Mtn

Wet scramble up Rattlesnake Mtn

Once on top of the scramble the trail followed some wet ledges around the real Crater lake and then made the final climb up to Buttermilk Falls campsite. The last mile of our hike to the campsite was again a mostly flat old road and we were grateful for it. I would find out later that this peak that the campsite and the top of the falls trail met at was called Mount Paradise. It would also be the highest elevation on this hike – around 1,600ft – and one of the highest spots on the trail in New Jersey. On this day I’d say that “Paradise” was pushing its description a little, but it was a nice campsite. The falls are the highest in New Jersey, and I would like to visit one day but its a steep 2-mile descent to the falls and the road below. So we will drive there to visit in the future. Despite doing a much tougher hike a few weeks earlier, for some reason our bodies were not feeling as strong on this day.

A brief respite through a young forest

A brief respite through a young forest

In a brief respite of rain we got the tent set up and all of our things in it that needed to stay dry. After a few bad throws and a stubborn branch I got the bear bag rope set up, and just as we sat to make dinner it started to rain again. A family of 6 was now entering the campsite but they were just looking for the Buttermilk Falls trail, their route back to their car.  We helped point them to the blue blazes and they were on their way. Hopefully they were able to get down before dark.

We ate quickly and hoisted the bear bag up the tree. This section is known for heavy bear activity and in fact the shelter 4 miles north has a bear trap! If anything I’m thinking the bears don’t like being out in the all day rain either so there was a positive. I was in a bit of a funk at this point because now the forecast had changed that it wouldn’t stop until almost 10. But I tried to keep it positive, made myself laugh and was thankful that it also said it wouldn’t start again until 1pm the next day and we’d possibly be done by then.

Cairn and rock monument on Blue Mtn

Cairn and rock monument on Blue Mtn

We got to bed around 8 and about 2 hours later I was woken by howling winds and heavy downpours. Now I was really confused. I looked at my app and now rain was predicted 100% from this point until about 4 days later! I looked at the satellite and sure enough, the hurricane had created a large disturbance overhead about 100 miles wide and about 50 miles from top to bottom. What was worse, we were only about 20 miles into it.

Florence causing trouble (we're the blue dot)

Florence causing trouble (we’re the blue dot)

Had we chosen a section north, we’d be dry as a bone at least until tomorrow. This really set me off. Lows would now hit about 45 tonight and a high of 55 tomorrow. With an even longer day tomorrow and much more difficult terrain, I was miffed to say the least. These were dangerous and at the very least quite uncomfortable temperatures in the rain. Grumpy again, at this point I had trouble sleeping, drifting in and out of sleep for the next few hours until daylight.

Forecast changed overnight, thanks Florence!

Forecast changed overnight, thanks Florence!

When we were both up we made the decision to skip breakfast and take advantage of the first break in heavy rain to pack up the wet tent and get moving to stay warm. I will reiterate that we have lots of experience and lots of fun hiking in the rain, but I think it was a combination of disappointment in the changing conditions, and the worry of hypothermia that had me in this bad place. I was also worried we’d have none of the great vies. I decided to hike in my long john bottoms and both shirts, with my raincoat. I felt warm and dry for the time being. Today we had 3 summits and a big descent to tackle. It took much longer than usual.

High Point in the distance

High Point in the distance

The trail became one rock garden after another, split up by long walks on wet angled rocky ledges on the mountaintops. The ascents up several peaks were boulder scrambles, and many of the descents were roots and twisted iceberg rocks. It was tough going. However, there were still some fantastic views on both sides of the ridge. Despite the constant rain, it wasn’t so socked in that we didn’t get those. We had views to the west from Rattlesnake Mountain and Blue Mountain that stretched for 50 miles and reminded us of the Shenandoahs. I even got a view of High Point monument 20 miles in the distance. I had at this point shed my raincoat. As long as I kept moving, my body heat kept me warm enough.

Lichen these

Lichen these

We saw a few backpackers and a couple with their baby out for a short hike. All the extra work negotiating rocks and roots did have us pretty tuckered out however. Only once or twice were we met with a flat walk like the previous day. Though the ones we did go through seemed to be very young forests, perhaps the result of a fire in the past. We saw a family of turkeys as well. Not many humans were out in this on purpose.

We made the most of it and made sure to stop for water, snacks, and rest as much as needed, and talked about which restaurant we would reward ourselves at. The last few miles were view after view of Lake Owassa, Culver Lake, and the gap below. The walk off the ridgeline and descent to the gap was much quicker than expected and soon we were at the most risky part of the hike – crossing route 206. Boy do people drive fast here. Once we cleared the road it was a short .3 to the parking lot. Just as we arrived at the car mother nature decided to throw one more heavy downpour at us. This time we were armed with a car to protect us and we were off to stuff our faces on mexican food and visit the farmer’s market on the way home.

Lonely orange mushroom

Lonely orange mushroom

This section reminded me a lot of New York. Doesn’t look like much on the map profile but it was challenging. It also rewarded us with views and self-confidence that we can get through almost anything together. Let’s hope we get one dry hike before the season is over. Unless the hurricane comes at us full force in the coming days, I will be out ridgerunning again next weekend. At the moment it looks clear but if I learned one lesson this weekend it was that that can change and change again very quickly. And the ATC is already putting out weather advisories all along the trail as the storm has now began to affect the entire east coast with heavy weather. Stay tuned.

Miles day 1: 7.1

Miles day 2: 7.9

– Linus

Appalachian Trail: New Jersey Section 2

Hitting the hayfields near Unionville

Hitting the hayfields near Unionville

This past weekend we returned to the trail in New Jersey for our march north! We still have about 24 miles to complete that we skipped, and we will be back to do that either this fall or next spring. Besides that all we have left is the 9 miles to the NY border from Vernon. On this trek we continued where we left off with our friends in Unionville, and did all of section 2, finishing in Vernon NJ. We got shuttled by a great guy from the area, formerly involved with the trail conference. He helped build Pochuck (where we spent the night) and Wawayanda shelter.

Pochuck Mountain in the distance

Pochuck Mountain in the distance

He was also part of the crew who blazed the trail through here, got it off the roads, and helped with the boardwalk projects in the area. We have a good mutual friend in the trail community who recommended him to me. He’s a gem!  He gave us some nice bead necklaces he made when he picked us up and told us he heard the water source at the bottom of Pochuck mountain was reported to be off as we drove by it on the way to our starting point. Since that was expected to be the case, we stopped by a shop in Unionville and got our water topped off. I also  bought an extra bottle as I planned to fill up there and only had brought enough for the first few miles so I didn’t have to carry 6 extra pounds of water.

At the nature preserve

At the nature preserve

We hit the trail around 1230, planning and expecting to be at the shelter early so we could have our pick of the few tenting areas, and set up our tarp, which we only bring along when we know we have lots of rain on the way. What an understatement! We had a small hill or two before a short roadwalk that would take us to the Wallkill wildlife refuge, the only one of its kind along the whole A.T. Here you do about a 2 mile loop around a giant rectangle that had elements of the everglades to it, for obvious reasons. There’s even a birding platform at the north end. But that was not required.

Baby turtle

Baby turtle

We saw heron, egrets, tanagers, and buzzards. We saw lots and lots of thistle with monarch butterflies and bumblebees practically glued to their blossoms. We saw a small turtle, and many types of other wildflowers. It was a lovely walk and there was what we call ‘breeze magic’ to keep us cool, as a large storm was moving in in the next few hours.  In full sun and the temps we had last week, that might not have been as enjoyable. We took our time as we had lots of it, and stopped at a few benches along the way to enjoy it before heading up into the woods. At the last bench we met a thru hiker with her dog toby and mentioned the water source and she said she saw it was just updated in the gut hook app that it was back on. At around the same time George asked us if we could check it on the way up the mountain so he had the most current information.

Bead magic from George

Bead magic from George

At the next road crossing was the bottom of the climb. And a property down the road with a barn that had a water machine and was selling water for 50 cents a gallon. They have a change machine and a fancy water dispenser and all that. They also have a ton of signs saying they have video surveillance cameras everywhere. While I think this is a really nice service they’re providing given how low water is in the area in the heat of summer, the idea that they would prosecute you if you filled up some water and didn’t have 50 cents is a little over the top and besides there IS a free water source .1 mile up the trail, actually closer in distance to the trail crossing than the barn.

Got nice and close, one of my best photos yet!

Got nice and close, one of my best photos yet!

I walked to the barn thinking that was the source but then as we went up the trail the vacant house with the spigot in back was very close and indeed the water was back on. So I question why they have that setup at the barn – is it for when the spigot is off? Or is it for hikers like me who thought that was the water source in the guide? Who knows. Either way its not expensive IF you have some money on you.  Also, many trail angels leave jugs of water at trail crossings.

Egrets

Egrets

Anyway after checking the spigot we did the rest of the quick intense climb up to the shelter.  It was another .4 miles of steep to the shelter side trail. But we got there with plenty of time, around 320pm. Hiker midnight, even with a storm rolling in, was at least 8pm. We got our tent and tarp setup and greeted the thru hikers as they came in, including the woman with the dog we met at the edge of the preserve.  A few other thrus came in to use the privy and then they continued on to Vernon to stay in town and wait out the rains there. A ridgerunner also came in, and my wife recognized him as the one we met last September at backpackers campsite in DWG. We had a nice time catching up with him after our dinner and a few games of blackjack.

Our camp setup for rain

Our camp setup for rain

Around 8 the storm rolled in as predicted. The winds were high, and the rain came down in flash flood proportions.  We had setup on a bit of an uphill so water wouldn’t pool under our tent. But because the wind was so intense, it did manage to blow some water under our tent footprint. But we stayed completely dry through it all, not a drop made it into the tent from above and the footprint helped minimize the water beneath.  It stopped around 7 am and the stream of thru hikers at the shelter were on their way. When we mosied out of our tent at 730 to start packing up they were long gone. We had some breakfast, packed up, signed the shelter register and said goodbye to the ridgerunner.

Rock wall up Pochuck

Rock wall up Pochuck

Then we continued the climb up and over Pochuck Mountain’s many ridges and shoulders. We went over the main peak and met some guys there who knew our shuttle driver. One said he’s the reason they love hiking. We know he took a lot of kids from the area out on the trail when he was a high school teacher in town.  Clearly he inspired many youth. We continued through rocky climbs, boulder fields, forests and along ridges – one with a nice view west to Kittatinny mountain and the preserve and farms below. We crossed a few roads, including one to a girl scout camp that was buzzing with activity. As we came down the steep eastern side of the mountain into Vernon valley, the trail was lined with endless raspberries, which was just the pickup we needed. Many of the houses along here had their own trails here to the A.T. and beyond, clearly to harvest all the berries. We did our best bear impression and indulged in a feast of berries.

The view west from Pochuck Mountain

The view west from Pochuck Mountain

The trail then reached the beginning of the famous boardwalks. The first was the Pochuck Boardwalk, completed in the 90s I believe. Its almost a full mile of wooden boardwalks over the marshes, with many spots for benches. However there were no benches on this stretch. They’ve had a lot of trouble with parking on the road here and the neighbors association has done much to discourage people parking and starting the walk here vs the other end in Vernon 2 miles east. So we guessed they took the benches off this side to discourage lingering for long periods of time and I assume easing congestion at the parking area near their homes.

Fielden Stream on the boardwalk

Fielden Stream on the boardwalk

I have mixed feelings about this. While I understand things were getting out of control at times, this is not only a large tourist attraction built by the town for enjoyment by ALL residents, but also part of a national scenic trail that’s been there for almost 100 years. Perhaps they should have taken that into consideration before moving there. Most people who live by the trail embrace it and provide trail magic and move there on purpose…  But I digress… not my battle. There were nice views of Wawayanda Mountain where the trail continues up to Pinwheel vista and the Stairway to heaven, as well as Mountain Creek ski area further down the ridge.

Snakes on the boardwalk

Snakes on the boardwalk

We saw some garter snakes enjoying sunning themselves on the edge of the boardwalk, and found our first bench just before the big footbridge. We sat for a few to talk to someone we met at the trail head the day before but were baking in the sun so continued on. The footbridge sways a bit because its on floating foundations and is a wonder of design. From here the trail wound through woodlands again for a mile which was nice because we got to cool off a bit from the sun. If there’s one place we didn’t want the sun to come back was right when we got to the boardwalk with no shade! This area too reminded us of the everglades, with its boardwalks and wildlife everywhere.

Berry heaven

Berry heaven

We got some food recommendations from the locals we met on the trail and thinking of that powered us forward to the home plate, though the boardwalks on the other side were really just planks and need their own upgrade. We got to the car and as much as we wanted to have ice cream at Heaven Hill farm, we wanted real food first, and not from a hot dog stand. The places recommended to us were 10 miles in the wrong direction. So we headed north and found a place along Greenwood lake, and boy was I temped to rent a lake house for the night and swim off all the stink and dirt till the sun went down! But alas it was home we were headed till next time. You can watch the video of the hike here

The Pochuck footbridge

The Pochuck footbridge

It was a great hike and the only regret I have is that one of our favorite thru hikers we’ve been following online was literally only half a day in front of us, and we would have loved to have met him and bought him his favorite – ice cream! We seem to be missing all the thrus on the trail that we’ve been following, by just hours. Such was the case as well with Scoutmaster in May, but we got a nice thank you card from him when he completed his thru this summer.

Up next, we’re finishing the last 14 miles of Massachusetts – next month if we can. And I have several ridgerunning weekends to do. See you out there!

Miles day 1: 4.3

Miles day 2: 6.5

– Linus

 

 

 

Appalachian Trail: New Jersey Section 6: Delaware Water Gap

And we're off!

And we’re off!

Last weekend we brought our friends out on their first backpacking trip, and first trek on the Appalachian Trail. As they live in Central Pennsylvania and we live in Connecticut, we decided to choose a section right in between.  We were preparing to start New Jersey either this season or next, as we are closing in on the end of Massachusetts. So it seemed a no-brainer to start New Jersey, but from the south, at Delaware Water Gap.

A great idea

A great idea

The area is incredibly scenic, and has 100 miles of trails including the Appalachian Trail. The A.T. section provides some of the best views in the park as it follows the ridgelines of the New Jersey highlands. You are treated to views of the Delaware river and Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains to the west, and New Jersey to the East. It turned out to be even more beautiful than expected, and a great first outing for our friends.

We started in the Dunnfield Creek natural area, less than 1 mile east of the Pennsylvania border in the DWG National Recreational Area. The Appalachian Trail passes through here after it crosses the I-80 bridge over the river.

Placing stones

Placing stones

The state line is painted on the bridge and many a hiker have a photo there. We contemplated starting on the PA side for this very reason, but ultimately decided that starting right into the woods would be more the experience we were looking for after 2 hrs driving the interstates and just plain needing a nature fix. Shortly after we headed into the woods the red dot trail branches off the A.T. and ascends mount Tammany, the dramatic mountaintop on the east side of the gap. We will come back for that hike on another occasion when an A.T. section isn’t the goal. They had these great carry out bags for trash, which I think we need to employ on our section  and will be recommending to my committee in Connecticut.

Hawk posing at sunset

Hawk posing at sunset

We ascended gently up an old carriage road, passing the creek and then many side trails as we headed to Backpacker’s Campsite. There used to also be a campsite on the junction of the Holly Springs trail, as there is a spring there. Not sure if it was for reasons other than the view that that campsite is no longer and the current one is a mile farther up on the mountaintop with epic views. But either way, Backpacker’s campsite 2 has great views as it rests right along the mountaintop’s western ridge.  Just bring water up for the night. I researched it in advance per usual so we hiked up with lots of water. I knew there would be a bunch of cairns at Sunfish pond but was surprised to find a bunch in the woods just off the Holly springs trail. We had fun adding a rock or two here and taking photos.

Cairns at Sunfish pond

Cairns at Sunfish pond

Sunset was dramatic to say the least, and we also saw a hawk land on top of an old leafless treetop at dusk, which made for a great photo. The caretaker told us that all the bare trees here is because there was a fire from an illegal campsite and it burned much of the north side of the ridge. I’ll just leave that there. It made me felt better about why I enforce the rules I do in our part of the trail. There are actually many legal dispersed campsites for thru hikers along the trail here, so I don’t feel it’s out of utter necessity that these problematic stealth sites pop up in most cases. A lot of times, folks see a nice view and decide that they will break all the rules and make camp there, and a fire, and its always been in these instances that devastating results happen.

The Delaware from above

The Delaware from above

We had a nice chat with the caretaker and a thru hiker staying there, and then set up our camp. I helped my friends with their tent and using the stove and the bear box. We took in the sunset view over dinner and had fun talking until bed time. Entertainment included chasing away a black snake slithering around our tents. I believe we must have set up near his home…

In the morning, we were in the clouds we saw hanging over the next ridge the previous night. Any raindrops seemed to fall just on our tent, as they always seem to find it. We had some coffee and packed up and hit the trail, headed for the AMC’s Mohican Outdoor Center.

Summit of Kittattiny

Summit of Kittattiny

This day’s hike provided view after view from the ridgelines as mentioned above. They really didn’t stop until we headed down into the gap to Mohican camp road. On top of one ridgeline you got a 270 degree view and a large cairn marked it’s summit. A hawk watching group was stationed there with various telescopes and cameras and a fake owl on a branch to bait the hawks who apparently like to swoop down and taunt their bird of prey rivals. We took some great photos up there and headed down to the road and to the MOC.

AMC Mohican Center

AMC Mohican Center

It’s about a half mile road walk from the trail crossing up to the main lodge. We checked in with the super friendly staff and got the keys to our private cabin, which it turns out is another half mile up the camp road. It was a great cabin with a dividing door but also the option to open it up to a suite until bedtime and for privacy. We had electricity, a fridge, a heater and fan, and a microwave. The rec center next door had full bathrooms with showers and a large room which was formerly a dining hall when this was a Boy Scout camp, filled with AMC pamphlets and miscellaneous educational collections of flora and fauna. The AMC has year round outings and camp type experiences for people of all ages and I imagine this space and these collections are part of that.

Our cabin at MOC

Our cabin at MOC

They had skywatching programs and astronomy lectures on this particular weekend, though we did not end up participating because we were sitting around the large fire ring between the cabin and the lodge with a bunch of the other hikers and families we met at dinner. Dinner was a homemade family style affair, which was quite filling and tasty. Afterwards we got a ride into town to pick up a few groceries and beverages. We got to bed late but it was worth sitting around the fire with new friends and the milky way above. Next time we go back we will take out a canoe or kayak. Catfish pond was very inviting.  With the 3 walks to and from the cabin I’m sure we clocked another 3 miles that day!

Ready for day 3

Ready for day 3

The next morning we had a breakfast of eggs, bacon, french toast, home fries and various breads. And of course, lots of coffee! We picked up some nice items at their shop and hit the trail a bit earlier on day 3 as we had to be back at our cars by lunchtime.  Again we woke in the fog, but today it didn’t break until we were off trail. We climbed back out of the gap and along the ridges; some quite close to the edge and with a significant drop. With the clouds all around it was almost a bit spooky, but eased any real vertigo because you couldn’t see how far the drop was.

Was probably a great view!

Was probably a great view!

We did throw a rock off one though to see how long it took until we heard it land! Far enough… In a few short miles we reached the Catfish fire tower, but it was closed. Still we enjoyed a snack at the picnic table before our final walk out to the road where we parked on the first day. They occasionally have someone there who will bring you up for the views, but as it was a whiteout still, I imagine they waited until later in the day so there was an actual view.

Autumn Sassafras

Autumn Sassafras

Still, we had lots of views the previous days so it was no big disappointment. I look forward to going back to Mohican as well as exploring some of the other AMC lodges in New York, New Hampshire and Maine for family trips. The only downside was there was no signal at all at the cabin so we had to walk the half mile to get wifi. They also had a phone in the main lodge for emergencies.

Our friends also got their trail names: Skippy (for his skipping stones at Sunfish Pond) and Bird Bitch (because she’s really into birds and birdwatching).

It should be added that before and after the hike, we enjoyed spending time in nearby Blairstown, NJ — both on its quaint historic main street and a modern brewery after the hike.

Catfish fire tower

Catfish fire tower

It was a huge success and we are excited to continue the march north through New Jersey together staring in the spring. Now that we know they’re naturals at it, we will do longer miles next time. They were on the short side for this first trip. But not lacking in fun and adventure one bit.

We recently added a video of this hike to our channel. You can watch it here.

Miles day 1: 3.5

Miles day 2: 5.8 (+3 miles in camp)

Miles day 3: 3.7

– Linus

 

 

Appalachian Trail: NY Section 13 (and completion of NY!)

A.T./State Line junction

A.T./State Line junction

Saturday, we finished New York. I can’t say how thrilled I am. On the trail I asked Fielden: “when we started at the New York-Connecticut state line last April, did you think we’d actually finish the whole state by next year?”

Well the answer is neither of us knew for sure if we’d stay at it all the way to New Jersey. We did it though, and it feels great. Our life and schedules are hectic. So this was a big accomplishment. We stuck at it as many weekends as we could each season and got it done!

We did most of New York southbound, though the last few sections we did in reverse, just for logistical reasons based on pickups and trail head parking. We did from 17a north to East Mombasha road and Little Dam Lake in August (where we left off southbound hiking), and then from the New York/New Jersey state line north back to 17a on this hike. This one was a day hike where as the previous was a backpacking trip.

At the state line

At the state line

Since it was Fielden’s birthday I was treating her to a nice bed and breakfast instead of a tent. We tried that last October, at least for the first night. It was freezing. We can deal with that and have many times, but given the occasion, a nice bed to sleep in seemed the right way to go.

We drove down to the state line trail lot across from Greenwood Lake marina. The top level of the lot is specifically for hikers. I had read on many sources that this is only day hiking parking, but many of the locals we talked to seemed to think overnight wouldn’t be a problem. We wouldn’t find out today.

Fielden Stream at Prospect Rock

Fielden Stream at Prospect Rock

As we got to the lot there were a few cars and people getting ready to hike. Shortly after, 4 or 5 more cars showed up and filled the lot. What I thought was a group of backpackers was in fact either a meetup or a local yoga class who were hiking up to the ridge to do yoga. I think that’s pretty cool and I like my yoga, but in a lot this size, carpooling would have been better so that everyone had a place to park. We were lucky to arrive when we did.

Fielden Stream scrambling

Fielden Stream scrambling

We hit the trail immediately so that we could get ahead of the group. The state line trail climbs 800ft in just over a mile to its intersection with the A.T. It’s not too bad and switchbacks a lot, with only one or two steeper sections as you climb what is known as Bearfort Mountain on the New Jersey side. As you near the ridgeline you also pass the eastern spur of the yellow-blazed Ernest Walter trail that circles Surprise lake in Abram Hewitt State Forest. Once you reach the Appalachian trail you are just shy of the highest point of the hike, at almost 1,400ft. From here we headed north along the A.T. just a short distance to reach the state line. There’s the famous line painted on the rock with “N.Y.” one one side of it and “N.J.” on the other. We took what is a typical photo with one of us on each side of the line and took out the GoPro to get a shot for our video.

Mini Mahoosic Notch

Mini Mahoosuc Notch

After a short snack break we headed north along the rocky spine of the mountain to Prospect Rock. At 1,443ft it’s the highest point on the entire New York Appalachian Trail. There is also a large American flag here, and a sweeping view of the lake, the Ramapo hills and on this day, despite it being overcast, New York City’s skyline. I don’t know for sure why the flag is here. I assume it’s either to mark the highest point, or as a 9-11 memorial similar to the one on Shenandoah Mountain, since you can see the city from here. There is a trail register box but we were distracted by the great views and did not sign it. We did of course get many photos. I could see the rocky face of Bellvale Mountain in the distance. We would be climbing that soon enough.

A bit north, the Zig-Zag trail intersects with the A.T. and leads west to Warwick County Park. This short trail allows day hikers to take in the great views here without quite as much effort as climbing up from the State Line or the longer walk through Abram Hewitt State Forest from Warwick turnpike to the south.

Fielden Stream climbing the rebar ladder

Fielden Stream climbing the rebar ladder

From here the long rocky ridge walk continues for a mile or two before dropping into the forest. After a good distance in the woods we reached the bottom of the rock tumble and ledge on Bellvale Mountain. The first half is a pile of car sized boulders that you climb around and over and while you don’t go under or through any of them, I called it a mini Mahoosuc Notch. It was easy though. From there the trail twists sharply up a few more large rocks before depositing you at the bottom of a 20ft ledge. There used to be a metal ladder here similar to what you’d use to clean the gutters on your roof. Now there are several rebar stairs and handholds drilled into the slighter face of the mountain. This was something that at one point gave me some anxiety but upon doing it, It was a ton of fun and a piece of cake. That of course would be a different story had it rained.

Southeast view from summit of rock ledge

Southeast view from summit of rock ledge

The forecast originally had rain in the afternoon so we were in a hurry to get at least half way through the hike where the rocks stop before any rain. We ultimately lucked out and it didn’t rain at all until that night. And very heavily. This is not a hike we would have done the next day unless we had to, and even then we might have zeroed. Several miles of large wet rocks and ridge walks would have been sketchy, though I know many do it. When you have the choice though why take the risk.

View from Mt. Peter

View from Mt. Peter

As we reached the summit of Bellvale Mountain, we were greeted by several cairns and more broad views to the east and our first real views to the west. The trail continued along rocky spines and puddingstone outcroppings. It returned to the forest shortly and up one last smallish rock scramble just before the view on Mt. Peter. The back side of this mountain is actually a ski resort, and where the Bellvale Creamery and hot dog stand are, though its confusing because the next section of trail which we completed in August calls itself Bellvale Mountain, and the creamery takes the same name. So who actually knows.

Village Vista Trail to town

Village Vista Trail to town

There’s a broad view southeast over Greenwood Lake and the town of the same name. You also get a nice northeastern view from here. Shortly after this view the trail returns to the forest for the remainder of the section. Also ahead (nobo) is the intersection with the village vista trail which takes you right down to the town of Greenwood Lake and so it is very popular for backpackers to resupply as well as for day hikers from town who just want to get some excercise and a nice view in just over a mile walk. We saw many local hikers on the top of Mt. Peter and on their way up to the view.

Warwick hot dog stand on Mt. Peter

Warwick hot dog stand on Mt. Peter

The final 2 miles of the section was easy and mostly flat through young forests, reminding us of Shenandoah. We saw a blue blazed turn off about a quarter mile before we reached the road but didn’t know what it was for. Turns out it goes up to the parking lot where our target was: the hot dog stand. However, upon exiting the A.T. on 17a and walking west on the road to the lot with the hot dog stand, we realized if we had taken that trail up, we wouldn’t have finished the last bit of the section, so it worked out just fine. I wanted to note that every single water source on this section was dry. Some folks left jugs of water just north of the 17a crossing though.

CT AMC Appalachian Trail Day

CT AMC Appalachian Trail Day, Oct 15, 2016, Kent, CT

We were looking forward to those hot dogs and a soda and asked many of the day hikers we passed on the way if they were still open this late in the season. Luckily, they were! We scarfed down some hot dogs, chips and a soda and called our friends at Nite Owl taxi to get back to our car on the N.J. line. We celebrated our completion of New York by visiting several local wineries and doing tastings, followed by a delicious Italian dinner in Warwick.

We will likely continue working on finishing Massachusetts in the spring, and this Saturday is the 10th anniversary of our annual Appalachian Trail day with the Connecticut AMC. There are lots of hikes, trail work parties, rock climbing and even paddling events all culminating with our grand BBQ at Macedonia Brook State Park ($6 donation for the BBQ). Non-members and members alike are welcome and there are hikes for all ages and abilities. I will be there and hope to see you! I will be going along on a hike covering another past route of the A.T.

Oh, and lest I forget, the full video of our journey across New York is here. Two years in the making, I tried to make its 19 minutes entertaining as possible. I hope you enjoy it!

Miles: 7.1

–  Linus