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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Day Seven 7/6 Thursday
This day became our busiest day since it was out last day in Colombia. We wanted to pack as much as we could before leaving. First stop was a long walk to the fort “Castillo de San Felipe”. Since we knew it was going to be a bit of a hike from the hotel, we took a short cut through a mall to take advantage of the AC. The fort is a great piece of architecture and it encases the Spanish fight to keep the city safe from investors like the British and the French. The walk to the top was long but it was worth it. The views were amazing, you could see the old walled city and the new high rise city. Perfect marriage between the old and the new. After venturing around the fort for a while, we decided to make our way back to the hotel. After getting back to the hotel, and resting a bit we rented bikes. This was a interesting adventure, we got tandem bikes and rode around the city right as the sun was going down. Fun fact, the roads in Cartagena are very small, all one ways and most of the time barely fit a car. So when riding any bike you must be completely aware of what is going on around you. We rode around for little over an hour, took some great pictures, had some fun then went back to the hotel to shower and get ready for our last night. We went to dinner at “Alquimico”. This place was very cool. They had a list of mixed house infused drinks. Ask the server, what they recommend, they won’t steer you wrong. The food menu was small but the food itself was good, nothing to brag about. However, want put this place on the top three places that you must go to. After you have dinner, head to the roof. They have a great roof top patio. At the end of our diner, the waitress came over the table with four mystery infused rums. We played a little game called: name the flavor that the rum is infused with. After sipping and smelling them, we got the ingredients right. Ginger, pineapple, anise and mint. I must say ginger was horribly strong.
And just like that our trip came to an end. While I wish I had done more research to plan my days to visit Parque Tairona and other surrounding areas, this trip was one to remember. I will definitely be coming back to Colombia.
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Day two 7/1 Saturday
The hotel bed was a little hard but overall we had a good night sleep. Breakfast was included in our hotel booking. Fresh fruit, Colombian coffee, eggs, toast and fresh squeeze juice (delicioso!). Today we decided to explore the old walled city and get lost while looking at the architecture and history written all around. The weather was in the high 90s with tons of humidity. Although it was hot, we enjoyed looking around and whenever we were in need of some cool air, we walked into a store to look around and cool off. We definitely stopped at one too many delicious bakeries while looking for AC but all the Pan de Bono I had was to die for. The artwork and old buildings are beautiful. Everywhere you look, there is a colorful and full of life building. I love the fact that this city is so bright, it just makes you happy. Walking around was definitely a good way of getting to know the city. There are so many small boutiques, cafes, and landmarks to stop at and spend some time.
After walking around all day, we returned to the hotel and decided to jump in the pool to cool off before heading out for dinner and drinks. The restaurant we chose that night was “El Santisimo”. Although, a little on the high end price, it is worth every penny. They combine French techniques with local coastal cuisine creating some seductive unique dishes. With a wide variety of wines, they sure satisfy even the most demanding palates. I tried the salmon, which was served in a bed of cream of asparagus. After dinner, since the night was still young, we decided to continue the party at “5”. This bar is a Medellin inspired bar, they offer inside and outside sitting and a long list of cocktails. Once again, we danced the night away until it was time to head back to the hotel and rest for the night.
*Tip of the day. Pick up a map at your hotel but don’t flaunt it. Street vendors will spot a tourist and surround you trying to sell you everything and anything. While there is nothing to be fearful off, sometimes they can be a little pushy.
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Day One 6/30 Friday
As we were flying into Cartagena, you could see the colorful streets all around. When we got off the plane, the hot summer Colombian weather greeted us with big open arms, it did not make me miss the New Jersey weather at all. At the airport we asked what was the best way to get to “The Old City”, one of the airport security guys recommended taking a taxi. He also recommended negotiating the price before getting in the cab. The cab ride was only a 10 minute ride from the airport to the hotel, which was located in what its called “The Walled City”, and it costs about $13,000 Colombian pesos ($5 US dollars +/-). At the hotel we were greeted by the staff who was so welcoming and helpful. After we settled in, we decided to go find something to munch on and explore the city. We walked down the beautiful colorful streets and ended up at “Mistura”, this place is located right across the street from Parque Fernandez Madrid, they had an amazing tender sirloin steak and fresh grilled octopus. We immediately made friend with the bartender who so kindly gave us a taste and a lesson on Colombian rum and moonshine. After a delicious taste of Colombian moonshine we met with our friends who landed in Cartagena a little latter. We were quick to make plans for that night to take a “Chiva” (local, doorless, super loud bus) for a night tour bus of the city. The Chiva is definitely something that even though is a cheese way to lure in tourists, its so much fun and you get a tour around the city, drinks, entertainment, a guide and a couple of arepas while on board. During this tour, one of the stops was at the wall the surrounds the city. While we were at the top of the wall, other Chivas stopped there too and it became a big party. A Ballenato (type of Colombian music) band played lived music while everyone danced around and drank. Local street food vendors were selling arepas, empanadas and other street food. After dancing on the wall, we kept touring around the city for a final stop at a club. We continued the dancing and the drinking until we had no more energy left. Definitely a good start of this 7 day trip.
*Tip of the day. If you didn’t exchange money before traveling to Colombia. Only exchange a little bit at the airport, enough to pay for the cab and exchange the rest of the money at a hotel or one of the many exchange places in the downtown area. You will definitely get a better exchange rate.
Check out our website for more review, pictures and up coming events: http://www.nomadsus.com
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