Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Deleware Water Gap

Hiking and Camping During a Holiday Weekend
Not the Smartest Idea I Have Ever Had

After spending a few days researching the Delaware Water Gap I was very excited to spend a day hiking followed by a night out camping.  I usually work on the weekends but the restaurant I work at was closed for the holiday so I took advantage of my time off to take the trip I had been planing for awhile.  I should have known better than to plan a trip at a place like the Delaware Water Gap during a holiday weekend.  

The Early Bird
Doesn't Always Catch the Worm

I knew the camping area and hiking trails would be a bit busy because of the holiday but I figured arriving the park bright and early might allow us some time by ourselves on the trails and the opportunity to get a great camping site.  We left the house before the sun was up and were at the gates by 8am.  The park was already packed.  We spent about 25 minutes trying to find a camp site that wasn't run over by families with their kids and dogs.  We finally managed to find a small site with a bit of quite.  By that time the hiking trails were packed with people.

Planning Out a Trip Ahead of Time
Doesn't Always Equal Success

I had spent a few hours planning out the trip, what trails we would hike, where we would go swimming and what other fun activities we could fill the day with.  After all the planning my expectations were pretty high for the weekend and I was left feeling disappointed.  The park was over run with lots of families and the amount of space provided could not accommodate everyone.  Also, early in the morning on Sunday a huge thunderstorm rolled through the park unexpectedly, putting a final damper on the trip.  I have defiantly learned a few important lessons after this trip.  Don't try and plan your trip exactly, leave some room to explore and unforeseen circumstances.  Most importantly, avoid major parks during the holiday weekends!!

Owl Watching... In the Dark!

Hiking at Night-Time

Over the holiday weekend I was able to go on a few different hikes, including one at night.  I met a small group of people at the Sourland Mountains, in Hillsborough New Jersey.  The Sourland's Planing Council has been planning to begin night hikes over the summer.  They will be a hike supervised by members of a boyscout troop from the Hillsborough area.  My father works on the planning council for the Sourland Mountains so I was able to tag along during the trail run for the hikes.

Owl Watching

The goal of the night hike is to be on the look out for owls.  Being that owls are a nocturnal animal spotting them on a hike during the day is very rare.  Hiking at night you are more likely to see them in performing their nightly rituals.  We met the hiking group at 9pm on Friday.  It was really warm and the bugs were out so I made sure to load up on bug spray.  The people giving the hikes explained to us that we may bring along flashlights, but using them would most likely cause the owls to hide.

Hiking in the dark
Not like the Blair Witch Project

During the first quarter of a mile or so I must admit I was a bit afraid.  It was very dark and you lots of noises were going on.  I couldn't get the images from a few scary movies out of my mind for a little bit.  After my eyes finally adjusted to the dark and the women in our group stopped turning on her flashlight every two minutes the hike became very exciting.  During the day, when your vision isn't impaired you may not notice all that is going on around you.  In the dark you must rely on your other senses.  There were sounds I had never heard before and we even got to see an owl on the hunt for prey.  We had people of different hiking capabilities within our group so the hike was at a slower pace than I am accustomed to but the slower pace allowed me to take in all that was going on around me.  If you are ever able to take a hike at night, I highly recommend it.  Just don't forget the bug spray!

Friday, May 27, 2011

A few tips

Bad Sinus Infection
Means no hikes for me this week

I have been suffering from seasonal allergies, like many people are, and this week I went to the doctors.  I was told I have a sinus infection and was sent home with some antibiotics and a nasal spray.  I decided it would probably be best I stay indoors for the week until I am feeling better so I thought I would give a few suggestions and tips in relation to clothing to wear while hiking.

Long Pants
Always a must!  Even in the 90 degree weather.

Always wear long pants!  That is a tough lesson I learned first hand.  I had gone on a hike one summer afternoon and thought it would be ok to wear a pair of athletic shorts.  Not only did I get numerous bug bits and a small patch of poison ivy, but I also had a lot of cuts all over.  That was the last time I wore shorts during a hike.  For those really hot day I suggest light weight yoga pants or breathable spandex.  Jeans are always a good idea but they can get a bit clingy on the hot days.  Stick to light colors and breathable fabrics.

Not always the proper choice.

While wearing sneakers may be a good choice for flat terrain or maybe even slightly rocky walks, majority of the time you will want to wear hiking boots.  Although one might assume wearing heavy boots is not a good idea, they provide very important ankle support.  A good pair of hiking boots may be a bit of an investment so make sure the pair you chose has both high top ankle supports, a good grip on the bottom as well as strong laces.

Always Stretch
Even if you are going on a short, easy hike.

Many people under estimate the importance of stretching before, and after a hike.  Be sure to do a few hamstring and calf stretches before starting out your hike.  These are the muscles you will use the most during your hike especially when walking up-hill.  The last thing you want to happen is to be halfway through a hike and have to stop because you have pulled something.  Most importantly after the hike be sure to do a few stretches before hopping into your car.  This will prevent soreness from creeping in the next day.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ramapo Overlook

So Much Rain!!
Makes for a great waterfall

With the large amount of rain that we have been getting I thought a trip to a nearby waterfall would be a sight to see.  I did some digging and came across a highly recommended hiking trail with a water fall in Ringwood, NJ.  The best part about this trail apart from the waterfall was that it was dog friendly.  Many of the user reviews started that their dogs had a great time and did not have to remain on a leash for the entire hike.  Walter had been going a bit stir crazy being cooped up inside due to the rain so this place seemed perfect.  The drive to the park was a short 25 minutes from my home in Hillsborough, NJ.  When I first arrived I was confused about where to park, there are two parking lots that are not well marked.  I parked in the second lot, farthest from the road and that turned out to be the correct lot.

Walter has Never Been so Happy
This trail is made for dogs and their owners

Walter and I went for the hike on Monday morning and we were the only two on the trails.  He had a great time running ahead of me on the trails and exploring the woods on either side of the trails.  The parking lots are located off of a busy road so I did keep him a leash until we reached the head of the trail.  The park itself consists of two trails, the white blazed Todd Trail and the Yellow Blazed Trail.  The white blazed trail is directly across from the parking lot, which is where I began my hike.  The trail begins out with a lot of rocky terrain through a densely forest area.  The loop is pretty short and if you retrace your steps you will arrive back where you began to pick up the yellow trail.  The Yellow trail begins by taking you through a swampy area; Walter was covered in mud within a minute.  Due to the vast amounts of moss there are not many trees along the beginning of the trail, making it a bit boring.  Eventually you will walk back into the forest where you will be able to hear sounds of small waterfalls.  Exploring around a bit Walter and I were able to find the falls where we both did some climbing and he was able to swim around and wash a lot of the mud off.  The one downside of this trail is you have to retrace your steps to return back to your car, both of the trails do not seem to loop around like majority of the trails I have hiked in the past.  I plan to return again when the weather warms up so I will be able to take a swim in the falls with Walter.

Friday, May 20, 2011

If you can't hike why not research??

Due to the weather I missed yet another week of hiking.  So I spent the time I usually would be hiking researching some popular hiking trails in and around Philadelphia.  Although I have not hiked any of these trails I do plan to at some point.

Wissahickon Trails
Over 57-Miles of trails!!

Wissahickon is 1,800 acres and according to their website has 57 miles of trails, a total of eight separate trails.  I downloaded the map from the website which is not very detailed, a more detailed version is available for purchase.  The park is open to the public, but you did need a permit to ride your bike, something I am not too thrilled about.  Purchasing a permit seems relatively easy, a link to do so is on the website as well.  Wissahickon is a small part of a much larger 9,200-acre Fairmount Park “one of the largest city parks in the world.”  Wissahickon starts in Chestnut Hill and extends to Manayunk.  It’s a short drive from University City and has a small creek running through the length of the park.

Delaware Water Gap
Plan your whole trip before arriving!

The Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area has a great website, on which you can plan your entire trip before heading out the door.  There are links for hiking in New Jersey and PA.  The website has a large number of trails to chose from in both states ranging from 2 miles up to a 6 hour hike.  You can hike on a historic trail, along a waterfall or along flat ground.

There’s more to do than simply hike the trails.  You can hike, bike, canoe, kayak, camp and fish.  There is not fee to actually enter the park but if you want to use some of the park’s facilities there are some fees as well as permit requirements.  The website provides information on all the various fees as well as ways to reserve picnic areas and different ways to obtain permits to hunt and fish.

After researching these two places it looks like I will be heading to the Delaware Water Gap Recreational Area within the next week to try out all these trails!  Updates coming soon.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rain Rain Go AWAY!

I thought April showers were over...

It has been raining all weekend long so I haven’t been able to go on a hike.  So instead of writing about my hiking experience this week I thought I would explain some of the basics I bring with me for every hike.  My list may seem a bit long but it has been created based on numerous hikes and years of experience.

In my backpack

First and foremost I always bring water with me.  Even if you are only hiking for a mile you should bring water to make sure you maintained hydrated throughout your journey.  For those longer hikes I make sure to pack a protein bar and some fruit.  A lot of the hikes I go on are over five miles and having a protein bar or an apple halfway through my hike gives me a boost of energy that I sometimes need.  If possible I always bring a map of the trails I will be hiking.  I find these on websites for the park before hand or at a visitor’s center.  I like to make sure I know where I am going before I begin or where to go if I wander off the trail a bit.  I also always make sure to have a few Band-Aids handy.  Nothing is worse than being a mile into a hike and realize your boots are giving you a blister.  You won’t be able to enjoy your hike and you’ll be stuck with a painful sore on your foot for a few days.

Bag’s all packed!  What else should I do?

I’m not sure how many people saw the movie 127 Hours but it sends out a very clear message: tell people where you are going.  Before leaving on any hike, weather I am going with a group or by myself, I always tell someone who is not going with me where I will be.  By doings so, I have ensure that someone will know where I am if something happens.  A bit paranoid, maybe, but I like to play it safe.  I have looked at the weather for the weekend and it looks like more rain but hopefully things will clear up so I can get back on the trails soon!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust

10 miles of woods, meadows and trails, all naturally preserved.

Pennypack is about a 30-minute drive from Drexel University.  The park itself has over ten miles of woodland and meadows with a large number of trails to pick from.  Before making the trip to Pennypack I researched the park and learned the trails are divided into two categories: multiple use and hiking only.  The multiple use categories consist of three trails ranging from .5 miles to 1.6 miles.  Pets (on leashes) are only allowed on these three trails.  The second category of hiking only tails consisted of many more options ranging from a .2 mile muddy hike to a 1.3-mile meadow hike.  Due to the strict pet rules I decided to leave my dog Walter at home for my first trip to Pennypack.

Which trail to choose?
Good thing I printed out the trail lists before hand.

It was a bit overwhelming arriving to Pennypack and deciding which trail to chose from.  Although their list of various trails on their website were very helpful.  I highly suggest referencing their list before getting to the park.  The list includes specific details about the trails including the distance as well as the terrain you will be hiking through.  Although the trails offered beautiful scenery the hikes themselves were not much of a workout.  The Papermill Woods trail was especially beautiful because you are walking along a crystal clear stream for majority of the walk.  The Papermill Road trail brings you across the second oldest bridge in Montgomery County (it was built in 1817).

Wonderful Sights, but not really hiking.
No trails over two miles long??

Like a mentioned before Pennypack has a large number of trails to chose from, but none of the trails are very long or strenuous for that matter.  The longest trail Raytharn Trail is only 1.3 miles long and you spend majority of the hike walking through meadows.  Most of the hikes at Pennypack are on level dirt footpaths or are too short to feel like you are truly on a hike.  Pennypack is a great way to spend the day leisurely walking through beautiful scenery but not a place I would recommend coming to if you are looking to go on a true hike.