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Unread 05-01-2014, 08:10 AM   #1
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Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: High Bridge, NJ
Posts: 65
Walpack for the weekend...

Going up to Walpack/DWG/Stokes on Saturday to do a little camping and four wheeling capped off by a night of cold beers, bad jokes, and tall tales around a roaring fire. It's going to be a little soggy but I'm hopeful that things will dry out a bit today and tomorrow. We were supposed to go last weekend but one of the guys is in the National Guard and couldn't get out of drill-it would have been perfect up there, but oh well. Buttermilk Falls should be impressive-this picture was taken yesterday afternoon:

I'll post some pics when I get back-we'll be exploring old farm lanes/farmsteads, and some of the more out of the way spots. Two of the guys have never been to the Gap or even that part of the state (they're South Jersey guys) before so we're going to show them what the Highlands have to offer. Counting the hours until 6:00 a.m. Saturday...

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Unread 05-04-2014, 07:05 PM   #2
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Pictures are taking forever to upload but we had a great trip. We had to cut it a little short and only hit the highlights because we got a late start. We had a blast exploring Stokes. It's not the Rubicon but there are some nice rides through the woods and it is challenging driving, but that's probably due to the fact that the spring melt/runoff combined with the 5" of rain Sussex County saw on Wednesday really tore up the roads. There were a lot of bad washouts and some of the roads were real teeth rattlers. It's really a shame that the NPS, save for a few exceptions, pretty much has a no motorized vehicles policy on its unpaved roads. There are many miles of roads left over from before the Tocks Island land grab that are gated.

One big disappointment was when we took Woods Road headed southwest from where it intersects with Brink Road. I was hoping we'd be able to follow it all the way out to the ponds/bogs that feed the stream which flows through the lane of the Shoemaker Farm (more on that later)-when we got to the border between Stokes at the DWG there was a gate. The road was much less defined beyond the gate, but definitely there. In fact, I'm fairly certain that it continues all the way to Hemlock Pond, though it's likely badly damaged/overgrown in some areas-a topographic map represents a connector that at times is depicted as an unpaved road and at times a trail. I plan on driving to the gate and then hiking the rest of the way this summer. It will be interesting to see what there is to find along the road-especially around the ponds. I don't think they're naturally occurring and must have been dammed at one time. I don't know of any developments in that area, but I suppose it could have been part of the same vacation community built around Hemlock, Crater, and Blue Mountain Lakes further to the southwest. The photos should be all uploaded by tomorrow.
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Unread 05-05-2014, 08:03 AM   #3
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We got to Bear Creek around 11:00 but we had to wait for the owner to get back because the Wednesday rainstorm flooded out a lot of the wooded campsites along the Flatbrook. He showed us where we could set up-we made camp and got a little lunch going:

We hit Buttermilk first because none of them had ever been there before:

Then checked out the old cow barn across from the white house on Mountain Road-the Walpack valley used to be big dairy country:

Small waterfall across the road beside the white house-it amazes me how much stonework was done to guide the flow of water and that it's still there after all these years of heavy runoff and flooding:

Then up to Skyline Drive:

"Lake" Success (the first one you come to on Skyline on the way to Crater) is looking more like a lake again even though the NPS drained it sometime in the late '90s/early 2000s. Some beavers got to work and raised the water level about 6'. It was spilling over due to the heavy rains:

Caught dinner at Crater

And then hiked around to the cliffs on the northeast side:

The rock face looks tough to climb but it's not:

Nice view from the top:

Back down in the Valley to the Shoemaker Farm:

Someone was apparently renting the property from the NPS until about 2007 according to a friend of my wife's who lives in Stillwater, hence the fairly recent improvements to the horse barn:

The outlet of the stream that tore up the lane going into the farm-this is the one that originates from the pond on top of the ridge where I was hoping to be able to drive through to but was stopped by the gate on Woods Road:

Took a small detour on the way back to camp to an area where the Flatbrook-Roy WMA and the Gap border each other. There's a decent hillclimb or two but it doesn't really go anywhere. Couldn't snap any pictures while I was driving:

Back to camp-mmmm...burgers, brats, and beer...

It rained a little which kind of sucked but it passed over before we really got soaked. I hit the sack first because I had been up since 5:00 a.m. and passed out. My buddies said they're pretty sure that if there were any bears in the area (we saw a big one at Crater) they probably cleared out because once I got to snoring I sounded like a big one It's nice having a four man tent all to yourself.
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Unread 05-05-2014, 08:04 AM   #4
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Day two-broke camp and headed out to Stokes (Brink Road):

After taking Brink as far as we could (Just past the Brink Road shelter) we hit the rocks that block the way down the mountainside to Route 521. I'm betting it's because the road just fell into disrepair because of the steep slope and is probably more like a waterfall/stream now. According to tax maps, where Brink (called Bevans on some maps at that point) hits Route 521 it's still state land. I need to go back and see if it can be accessed from there as well, but it's moot point anyway since it's blocked. At that point we turned around and headed southwest on Woods Road to the gate at the DWG border, then doubled back to Shay Road.

After that we found what we ended calling the "Beaver Pond trail." Some beavers had raised the water level of a bog up over the roadway making the holes seem a lot worse than they were. A Jeep headed in the other direction did get stuck briefly. We hung around for a minute to see if he needed help but he was able to back out and get through on his own:

Stopped to wet a line in a small pond off of Shay:

After that took an unnamed road off of Struble that runs behind the 4H camp and comes out at Flatbrook-Roy WMA. Lots of old stone walls here-definitely an area to get back to for some hiking. This was the roughest road by far-I idled through a lot of stuff in 1st/4LO just because it felt like the truck would rattle apart if I went any faster:

My heavy duty rear springs are great for hauling firewood-not so good for uneven terrain

After that it was time to head for home. The only road I didn't get to was Coss, which runs NW/SE between Struble and Woods. It apparently also intersects with an unnamed road that heads NE above Kittatinny Lake and eventually makes it almost out to 206, but some of it may be Kittatinny Lake property and therefore off limits. Next time we'll plan on checking that out as well as the area Northeast of 206. Obviously none of this is hardcore off roading, but it was a great couple of days out in the woods.

One funny story-After we came off the unnamed road into Flatbrook WMA we saw two guys heading toward one of the open fields in a Hummer H3 that was so new the dealer tags were still on it . All of a sudden it was halfway up to the doors in water and we thought he was sunk. He spun wheels like a maniac and got himself out. My buddy in the Ford stopped to ask if he was OK and they were foreigners (Polish maybe?) and said "OUT FOR TEST DRIVE!" Then he opened the door and about 3" of water spilled out...I wish I had gotten pictures...
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Unread 02-14-2015, 08:05 AM   #5
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Poughkeepsie, NY
Posts: 614
Nice write up. I've been there many times just passing through. One of these times I'll actually stay and spend some time exploring.
1998 White TJ with a whole lotta stuff...

Just another member of:Hudson Valley 4 Wheelers, Inc. (a 501(c)(7) Not-for-Profit Corporation)
Member: NOVA (Northeast Off-road Vehicle Alliance)
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