STEPHENS STATE PARK, Hackettstown, NJ
Its the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, its 62 degrees and a perfect day to take the family out for a hike. Today we traveled up a bit North of Hackettstown, NJ to Stephen's State Park in Morris county. Our mission today was to find a new spot to kick off our summer of camping and to get in a great hike. It was definitely a success!
Our hike today was WORK, but it was, indeed, great. We planned to follow the orange trail most of the way, and the trailhead is right in the back of the parking lot. As soon as we got onto the trail we were instantly ascending. We began hiking at around 600 ft and walked straight up to over 1100 ft. This may not be all that impressive to a seasoned hiker but it was a record for us as a family. :) The trail goes straight up for 0.8 miles before it levels out a bit. It isn't until 1.15 miles into the trail that you begin the descent. This nice part is that the more challenging part of the hike is right in the beginning, when everyone is excited and full of energy.
The trail is engaging: tricky footing, some obstacles, and plenty of beauty to take in. The kids love when there are fallen trees in our path and they get to figure out how to get over or under them. Its usually a little more challenging for the Dad and I because we have to figure out the best plan for getting the baby and the carrier over. It doesn't usually take us long. :)
The Dad and olders caught a glimpse of a fox scampering away with what appeared to be lunch in his or her mouth. I was bummed that I missed seeing that but we saw a lot of much smaller forest dwellers. We found a lot of inchworms and caterpillars. We saw almost a dozen millipedes, which the kids thought were really cool. Our two olders were into naming each one that we found. This one might be "Leggy Fast Racecar" or "Princess Shiny", I am not sure.
We packed lunch and a blanket so we could picnic with the kiddies. Once we got back down to the bottom of the trail, we crossed a little bridge to a very small island to find a sunny spot and open our blanket. Little Sister was grateful to have some freedom to run around after being part of the hike in our Kelty carrier. Everyone was grateful for a chance to refuel and hydrate. It was a great hike but between the elevation climb and the tricky footing, our energy levels were depleted.
We couldn't have picked a better spot. Besides a few fishermen on one side of island and a handful of passersby, we really had the spot to ourselves. It was really beautiful having the sun on our faces and the sound of the Musconetcong River right next to us.
There were many people fishing in this river, a bit more downstream from where we were picnicking. This is a trout stocked river and was hosting both novice and more seasoned fishermen alike. Our kids were really only interested in throwing in rocks and sticks and stirring up the dirt at the bank of the river. To each their own, I guess.
Big Sister found this dragonfly sunning itself on a tree. It looks like it recently emerged from the shell below it, transforming from a nymph to an adult dragonfly. Pretty freaking cool.
|A view from our descent. Just perfect.|
After our hike we hopped over the road to the to check out the campsites. All 5 of us gave the approval so we are planning on heading back in a few weeks to spend a weekend. There is tons more hiking to be done at the adjacent Allamuchy Mountain State Park, there are the nearby Saxton Falls to be seen, Waterloo Village, a replica of a 400-year-old Lanape Village, rock climbing, kayaking and canoeing. Hmm, maybe a weekend is not enough.