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Silvermine Lake/Turkey Hill Lake Loop, Harriman - July 22, 2012

We did Daniela Wagstaff's Silvermine Lake/Turkey Hill Lake Loop Hike last Sunday.  Great hike, but problems w/blazes and trail conditions.

On our return route at the junction of Long Path & Popolopen Gorge Trail (going toward Turkey Hill Lake) we totally missed a left turn blaze on the (Red) Popolopen Gorge Trail. Or more likely, the double-blazes weren't there in the first place.  Actually, from that Long Path junction, the Red blazes were near non-existent.  Our original intent was to take the Red and join up w/the White, Anthony Wayne, into The 1779.  An alternate would have been to stay on the Red and take it directly to the 1779 and bypass the White, Anthony Wayne, altogether.  In retrospect, that would have been preferable.  

Thinking we were still on the Red, we continued straight toward (what we thought) would intersect w/the White.  There were still no blazes.  We passed another couple up ahead who had apparently made the same mis-turn.  All a bit confused, we compared maps, directions and opinions that neither of us had seen any left-turn Red blazes further back which would have led us all toward Turkey Hill Lake.  They decided to double back to where they thought the Red had turned off. We opted to continue straight ahead. 

Although unmarked, the trail we were on appeared well-trafficked and was initially pleasant enough.  But after another 10 minutes or so we found ourselves bushwacking on what was quickly morphing into a long, overgrown, blowdown-strewn, deep-cut woods road.  We pressed ahead because according to our compasses, GPS & the NY/NJ Trail Conf map, it should have eventually intersected the White, Anthony Wayne.  

Not! It totally dead ended amongst brush and jumbled woods w/no discernible path or foot-traffic. We did, however, hear traffic noise from Rt. 6 and figured if we continued bushwacking toward the direction of that noise we'd either pick up The Anthony Wayne or just follow Rt 6 till we picked it up since the trail had to cross Rt. 6.  I was glad we'd started out super early that day, so any time we lost at that point wasn't a concern.  It was only the nagging threat of thunderstorms that hovered overhead and in my mind. 

Using our poles as pseudo-machetes through the briars, barberries and those lovely, killer-thorn rugosa roses, we finally emerged bearing little bloody gashes all over our legs (what a time to wear shorts) onto a slight embankment about 10 feet above Rt 6.  Traipsed up and down a bit to find a better way to the blacktop and relented to sort of "butt-end" it down.  At that point, what was a few more bruises on the back of our legs.  

Once on solid ground we could see two left-turn white blazes on the guard rail about 100 yards to our left on our side of the road indicating where we would/should have emerged if we'd been on The Anthony Wayne Trail as planned.  Peering back into the trail from the road, we could see it was totally overgrown w/gigantically tall reeds & grass twice our height.  Lovely.  Despite our bloodied legs and scratched arms, the briars, barberries & blowdowns weren't looking so bad then.

After dodging what seemed to be an endless stream of 90-mile an hour cars on Rt. 6, we crossed to pick up our remaining section of the Anthony Wayne.  About 20 feet in and for the rest of the hike on that trail, we discovered it wasn't much different than what we'd glimpsed of the other section that we'd missed. Overgrown, reedy as hell, swampy.  Yum.  Oh, and it's where all the bugs we'd fortunately dodged before were hanging out, too. Again:  Yum.

The Anthony Wayne Trail in mid summer is NOT something one wants to do. Trust me. How we didn't come out of there loaded w/ticks, pimpled with bazillion mosquito bites, poison ivy or lugging angle-bracelets of garter snakes is a mystery to me. 

Later, I did recall a red and white plastic cup, upended on about a foot-long stick in the ground at the point on the Popolopen Gorge trail where we probably should have borne left toward Turkey Hill Lake. In retrospect, I think this may have been someone's pathetic attempt at indicating a blaze where a proper left-turn, double blaze should have been.  At the time, I assumed it was just another bit of teen-trail flotsam on their way to the lake along w/other bits of lake, day-tripping empty soda cans & torn chip bags.  

So if you're headed that way, keep a keen eye for a left turn about 1/4 mile from that Long Path & Popolopen Gorge Trail juncture.  It's a narrow footpath.   If you miss it and you continue straight ahead for longer than you feel you should be and see no blazes whatsoever, then you're on the same inadvertent journey we took.  

But if you're lucky enough to spot that left-turn bearing on the Red,  you should hit into Turkey Hill Lake and can pick up The Anthony Wayne. However, if it's anytime when the flora is at its height of growth, you might just want to keep on the Red, follow it along Turkey Hill Lake and turn right onto the 1779 and bypass the White Anthony Wayne entirely.  

Believe me, you won't be missing anything.  Otherwise, be prepared to bring a machete and lots of extra bandages.


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Comment by njHiking.com on July 27, 2012 at 4:10pm

"...or lugging angle-bracelets of garter snakes..."


What an, um, adventure you guys had.


Comment by Daniela Wagstaff on July 28, 2012 at 3:24pm

Gosh, don't you just hate when that happens?  The only thing that keeps me from forging onward through overgrown jungles is that Shawnee is TERRIFIED of bushwhacking.  Yes.  My dog has bushwhackaphobia.  And I am sure for all of the reasons you stated.  Sounds like this is a hike for winter but would be nice to know that before making the trip, wouldn't it?

Comment by Linda Frank on July 28, 2012 at 8:59pm

You know it's strange.  Or masochistic perhaps.  But when I read both your comments and reread my original post, I thought to myself:  

"Gee, if there had been proper double left-turn blazes and we wound up going the way we should have, sure we still would have had to slash our way through even more of the &*$&@)#!! Anthony Wayne trail, but there wouldn't have been all the other aspects of that part of the hike that made it sort of...more memorable and worth writing about."

There's been more than a few hiking "mis" adventures that I've thought that way about in retrospect.  Even the ones that literally made me shudder or be downright fearful at times. 

I guess what my mother told me was true after all:

"What doesn't kill you, will make you stronger...or laugh like hell about it later!"

Mothers can be uncannily right like that sometimes. ;)



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