Hiking in South Mountain Reservation.
Today I decided to go for a short two mile hike. Nothing to long. Just wanted to get outside. I have recently purchase a Canon T6 DLSR(review will be coming) and I want to try it out. The only way I know how to is by just by getting outside and exploring. Decided to go over to South Mountain Reservation in West Orange NJ. I was only able to walk around for an about 2 hours because the weather started turning and I wasn’t prepared for rain. Ended up driving down Brookside Drive, to a point I know where I could park and get out and walking around. The first place I was able to get to quickly was this small creek with a very small man made dam. This creek or river is part of the Rahway River system. But today, most of the river was dried up and not really moving. Was able to take some good pictures. Ended up crossing over the rock bed onto the other side of the river and walking down a trail for about half a mile, before I came across another trail. This trail sparked my interest. This trail seemed wide enough for a jeep and on top of that I saw a lot of tire track. So I decided to follow it for about a mile or so. This place was complete silent. The most I heard was two squirrels fights over a nut or something. I am pretty much a quite person when I am out walking in the woods. But this was strange. So I would about a 100 feet stop, look and listen. I did this for about three hundred yards. And still heard and saw nothing. Maybe I smelled bad, lol. So I followed this trail to a rocky river. Took off my shoes rolled up my pants and crossed it. I felt like I just wanted to see how fart this trail went or where did it go. After I cross the shallow rocky river I came to a dead end. However, after looking about, I did come across some animal tracks, some deer tracks and what looks like a coyote tracks.( look below at picture). So after look around some and not seeing any other way, of getting back to my Jeep. I knew I had to cross back through this rocky river again, but than I realized that the river had tire tracks running through it. So this meant that a jeep or truck had passed by here many times. After cross back through the river, I looked at the weather and saw that I didn’t have much time before the rain came in. So I started my way back to my Jeep. By the time I got back to my Jeep it started rain really hard. After getting myself together and with the help of google maps, I was able to figure out what trail I was on. The trail I was on was called Lenape Trail. The Lenape Trail was established in 1982. This is the fifth largest trail in NJ(please see link below for full history). So after doing more research. That tire tracks I did see, where mostly service trucks. But it would have been nice if there was another off-roading trail that no one really knew about, to explore.
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My wife and I decide instead of fighting traffic, trying to a spot on one of the many overly crowed New Jersey beaches, we headed North to Crater Lake. A Lot of drive up with highway. But as soon as we got off our exit on RT 80, that changed. Most of these backroads are beautiful. Going from two lanes to sometimes single lane, you forget you are in NJ. One of the most over populated states in the country. The Northern park of New Jersey this time of year for very green. Trees and plants in full bloom, deer and birds everywhere. You just want to slow down just so you can take it all in, which we did. I don’t even think most people in NJ know how vast in wilderness is up here, and maybe most shouldn’t. The peace a quite and a slower pace are needed after working 40-60 a week. I know these area some what. There used to be a lot of open off-roading trails up here. However, over the past couple of years. Most have been closed down my the rangers due to some people needlessly damaging the wood and trails. Taking chain saw, cutting down trees to make new trails. I can go on for hours about this. But lets keep on course. Driving up here like I have written is great. However, some of the roads are not well or at all maintained. So driving a little bit slower might keep you from damaging your Jeep or hitting a bump or a hole the wrong way and fly off a cliff. Also the other reason you might want to take is slower is because there are a lot of deer and bear around. You might be driving around one of the many blind curves and not see the animal standing right in the middle of the road. So after about 30 minutes on the back roads we turn onto the dirt/rock/gravel road that leads to Crater Lake. This road is not well maintained at all. With all the rain we have had this summer there are a lot of wash out. Also this road gets very thin at points. So I would be careful when driving. So cars will be coming there other way and the decision might have to be made of who is going into the grass to let the other one pass. Before you ask, “do you need to put it into 4wd?”. I say yes and no. The road is pretty hard pack, however, in some turn can be a little bit slippery with the rocks. I put it in 4wd high just to be safe and in case I need to let someone pass going the opposite way. Fun fact: I have been up here before and have had to help pull some people out, because they went into the grass, didn’t see the hole there were parked in and couldn’t get out. So after we got on the trail to Crater Lake it only took us about 10 minutes to get to our destination. We were glade we when got there. We didn’t see to many other cars, and I took a quick walk to the lake while my wife was in the bathroom. There were only a couple of people around. After we got setup and ate lunch and I jump in the lake. This lake is almost crystal clear and the water temp is prefect this time a year. As soon as you get in, all the sunnies and blue gill will follow you around. Mostly looking for any food you will drop. Theres a lot of wildlife in and round the lake. This time a around we saw two water snakes, one salamander two of the biggest tadpoles I have ever seen and a lot of fish. I alway from my snorkeling/free diving gear with me when I go to this lake. Once you get a little ways from shore, you will only see the green of hydrilla. However, I have heard and read that there is a car somewhere in the lake that I keep searching for, but have never found it yet. Side Note: NO motorize boats can be on this lake of any type. So this is a great place to bring you kayaks, SUP boards or canoes. If you are looking to do a little fishing, I think the only thing you might catches are the sunnies and blue gills. I haven’t seen anything bigger than them in the lake. Now for us we wanted to leave before sun down, I had the doors off the jeep and my wife gets cold very easily, and I knew that the temp up here was going to get into the high 50’s at night. So after spending all day relaxing swimming and just getting a little peace and quite we left. Here are some tip, one, try to make it up there early, theres not that many good spots to get. Two, DO NOT put a hammock up between two tree. For some reason this is against the law and you will be fined. Three, DO NOT bring beer, it is a federal forest and they do not allow it. The Rangers do come by from time to time and will ask to open your cooler. Last hole park closes at sun down so the Rangers will get on you if your not already pack up and moving on.
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