Headed up to Stokes for the 3rd annual “May Days” cabin outing on Friday, May 2nd. This year I had bagged my 1st choice - cabin #6. It’s a great waterfront location with a neighbor on only one side and a nice picnic table/fire ring backyard. The only issue at #6 is waterfront access which is very swampy and unuseable, but that’s pretty much true of all the cabin sites.
I was joined by my Dad(TK), Uncle Jim(JK) and cousin Will(WK). JK and WK had never been to Stokes so I was looking to give them a good overview of the park. First up that afternoon was a hike to Buttermilk Falls via an easy stroll down Mountain Road from the Walpack Cemetery (2 miles each way). The falls were ripping after the biblical rains earlier in the week. After swearing my crew to secrecy I also showed them the Hidden Falls on the return back to the car.
Pray you don't see these fools in the campsite next to you!
In the evening we drove up to Sunrise Mountain and checked the views from NJ’s 2nd highest point (1653’). Fairly clear skies this trip, not as hazy as it usually seems. Returned to camp for steaks and campfire merriment.
Saturday I made a big bacon, egg and homefry breakfast for the crew to put them in high spirits. Then I revealed my hidden agenda for my unusual kindness – they were to be my trail crew. I’ve volunteered to be a trail maintainer for the Lackner and Lead Mine trails at Stokes. After conscripting them into working my trail, we hopped in the car and drove over. Just to make it more interesting, I made sure we encountered 2 bear cubs right in the area- they ran across Coursen Road in front of our car as we headed to Stony Brook to start the trail. And they were running south into the area I was about to force my guys to work!
Bear mace in hand (for some), we walked Lackner to the end (it’s 2.2 miles). Cleared some small drop and picked up litter. Not a very exciting hike, an easy hour long stroll. We didn’t’ encounter our little furry friends either. There’s no scenic vista or payoff to this trail – I guess as a rookie trail maintainer I have to cut my teeth here for a few years. Once we reached the end at Stoke’s HQ, we walked up Coursen road to Lead Mine’s trail head. This trail has really no redeeming value at all – I’m not even sure why anyone would ever hike it – but again, it’s mine (pun intended) so I’ll be up there a few times this year. I released my crew from duty around noon and we headed back to the cabin.
UJ and WK hit the road around 1 o’clock as they were jonesing to get home and bet the derby. Me and my old man did some birding around Ocquittunk and relaxed around camp waiting for my girlfriend, Irena to arrive. We choose to spend that evening at NJ’s highest Point, the monument in High Point (1803'). Really great views at magic hour (7-sunset). Retired back to the cabin for a feast Irena prepared for us and S’mores and drinks around the campfire.
Sunday, after I butchered some pancakes we packed up the cabin and bid a teary farewell to #6. Before heading home we did a quick low cost/high reward hike – the upper section of the Tower Trail. Parking on Sunrise Mountain Road at the trail head it’s about a half mile up in less than 30 minutes. But awesome views and a very cool spot to have a congratulatory snack as you look out at raptors and towards Stony Brook Lake.
By late afternoon was heading back home and dreading work. But May Days marks the official start of camping/backpacking season and I'm ready.
Summary: I vowed to redeem myself and up my pancake game for next year, so I’m in training mode for May Days 2015. I’ll be apprenticing with Mrs. Butterworth, so I might not have time to hike, much less post my ridiculous blogs anymore here in 2014. Jokes aside, it was a great trip and glad I got to share with all the main people in my life. Back to slumming it in tents for the rest of the year! -TJK