Friday, April 22, 2011

Be bear aware! An article for dealing with black bears.

Let's start with the bear facts...
  • Black bears are usually solitary animals that are most active at dawn and dusk.
  • Black bears have an excellent sense of smell and hearing
  • Black bears can run up to 35 miles per hour. They are strong swimmers and excellent climbers. Both adults and cubs will climb trees for food and to escape disturbances.
  • Black bears eat plants and animals. Their diet mostly consists of skunk cabbage, berries, wild cherries, acorns, and beechnuts. They also eat insects, small mammals, and dead animals.
  • Black bears are opportunistic eaters and will supplement their diet with food or garbage left out by humans.
  • Adult females average 175 pounds. Adult males average 400 pounds.
  • Not all black bears are black. They can be brown, light brown, and even blonde, white, and grey-blue.
  • Even during winter a black bear will leave its den to search for food at times.
  • Den sites include rock cavities, brush piles, open ground nests, and hollow trees. A bear will not eat, drink, urinate, or defecate in their den.
  • Breeding season is from late May to August, peaking in June and July.

Be bear aware!

 If you encounter a bear...
  • Do not feed or approach the bear.
  • Remain calm and make the bear aware of you presence by speaking in a calm, assertive voice.
  • Make sure the bear has an escape route. This insures the bear does not feel threatened and resorts to violence.
  • Make loud noises and look as big as possible to scare the bear away. If you are with another person stand close together and raise your arms above your head.
  • The bear may utter a series of huffs, make popping sounds by snapping its jaw, and swat the ground. These are warning signs that you are too close. Slowly back away and avoid direct eye contact. DO NOT RUN.
  • If a bear stands on it's hind legs or moves closer, it may be trying to get a better view or detect scents in the air. It usually is not threatening behavior.
  • Black bears will sometimes bluff charge when cornered, threatened, or attempting to steal food. Stand your ground, avoid direct eye contact, and slowly back away. DO NOT RUN.
  • If the bear will not leave head for nearby shelter. Remember that black bear attacks are extremely rare.
  • If a black bear does attack, fight back.
  • Report any violent, mischievous, abusive, or unusual bear encounters to your local ranger, fish and game warden, or the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Moving forward.

As I have posted earlier, I had been training for, and embarked on, what was supposed to be a 43 miles hike of the NJ section of the Appalachain Trail. Sadly, one day into the trip a member of my hiking group tweaked their knee and we couldn't go any further. I won't blame anyone because it is not the injured member's fault, but I was, and still am, very disappointed

I refuse to let this deter my adventures though! The day after I returned from the aborted backpacking trip I took a nice ten mile day hike to work out all that energy and to get a great hike. I learned something interesting on this hike: weather it's a flooded mine or a flooded trail, I always end up thigh deep in cold water...

Also, if you look through older posts you will find a minimalist backpacking set up. After modifying this load out a bit, I have come to a conclusion and will be fielding it this weekend. Check back then!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

T-Minus: 11 hours...

Tomorrow morning I leave with my hiking group to do 43 mile New Jersey section of the Appalachain Trail. I will be returning Sunday afternoon and will probably spend the rest of the day resting.

You can expect to see photos, stories, and more within the next few days after. Wish me luck!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Trip Report: 4/10/11 Geocaching, mines, and relics of the 1800's.

On a warm cloud covered day MB, JS, and I set out to have an interesting day on the trails. We headed off at noon to do some Geocaching and explore some of the abandoned iron mines and rail systems of the 1800’s in the region.

For those of you who don’t know, Geocaching is a form of modern day treasure hunting. It is a world-wide game in which someone creates a “cache” filled with all kinds of trinkets and a log book for you to log when you were there and what you thought about the cache when you found it. The cache is then submitted to the Geocaching website saying what the cache is by and a clue to its exact location, such as “in the base of a fallen tree, 20ft east of the mine entrance.” When you find the cache you take a trinket and leave one of your own that you brought from home. Many of the people who Geocache use GPS systems so they can program the desired cache’s coordinates into their GPS so they know when they are in the general vicinity of the cache. More can be found at

The first cache we went for was a cache the MB and I had tried in the past and never had found. The GPS system we were using that day was leading us in circles and gave us the run-around quite a few times. Talk about frustrating! This time out we were going in the complete opposite direction that we were going on our first attempt. The GPS took us across a clearing, over a road, up a small hill, a little bit to the west, and BAM! Right into the cut of a mine! GPS has redeemed itself….   for now.

After a quick search MB discovered the cache hidden in…. Wait… I can’t tell you that. We left our little treasure, JS got a free poncho from the cache, and we hiked back to the car. On our way back to the car we found an “adult magazine” in the unopened wrapper just lying on the side of the woods road. That just goes to show, you’ll never know what you’ll find while Geocaching…

Our next destination was a mine named Cranberry Mine. Before this hike I researched this mine and was really excited. It was a very large mine that was built into the side of the mountain so we didn’t worry about it being flooded. After its operation in the 1800’s it remained untouched until the park bought it, built a stone wall over the entrance and installed an iron door so it could be used for storage. Once Cranberry Mine was retired from storage the iron door was removed and it was open to the public for exploration.

When I was reading about the hike to Cranberry Mine it was made clear that it was accessible by an old mining road that was incredibly overgrown and hard to follow.

They weren't joking.
Hard to follow is an understatement. The first part we had to duck under fallen trees and evade thorn bushes but it was clear where the road was because of the depression it created in the ground. This part of the road then went down a steep hill, into a clearing, then up steep hill that seemed to be overgrown everywhere. We followed the map as best we could but had lost the road. Go figure. MB had left the GPS in the car so we did it the old fashioned, and my preferred, way: map and compass! We took a bearing and headed on our way. After a few minutes we linked back up with the mining road and continued along.

Cranberry mine appeared on a hill in front of us and was very impressive. It consists of two adits and a shaft at the top of the hill. The left adit goes back roughly fifteen feet then ends. The adit on the right has the wall with the open door built at the entrance. 

Cranberry Mine's two adits.
As we got closer to the mine disappointment fell over us. The open door was partially blocked by iron bars. Although it could still be easily entered due to the fact that intruders had removed the bars we decided against it. It turns out that Cranberry Mine contains bats infected by White Nose Syndrome, a fungal infection that has killed thousands of bats in recent years. A sign was posted that stated very clearly that the area was patrolled frequently and those who enter the mine would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We had to fight the urge to enter, turn around, and walk away. That was no easy task, but we did as the sign ordered.
Entrance to Cranberry Mine now closed
Sign warning visitors.

It didn't say anything about sticking the camera inside for a quick picture...
Some sources on the internet suggest that the mine may be reopened in the summer after the hibernating months but this has not been confirmed.

Afterwards we hopped in the car and drove to the next park over to check out the ruins if the Dunderberg Spiral Railway. The Dunderberg Spiral Railway was essentially to be an early form of a rollercoaster. The plan was to have tourists from New York City come up for the day and be loaded into two open-top railcars and ascend Dunderberg Mountain. Once at the top the railcars would stop and the tourists could get out and enjoy the scenery over the Hudson River. From there they would get back in the railcars to start their nine mile scenic trip down Dunderberg Mountain be powered only by gravity. Construction of the Dunderberg Spiral Railway (DSR) began in 1890 and was stopped in 1891 due to a lack of funding. In the one year of construction the workers created tunnels, cutouts through rock, and many graded sections which are still in excellent condition today, more than 100 years later. And all that was done with muscle and hand tools!

The trail following the DSR goes on and off the graded section taking the hiker to many points of interests. Most of the hike is a steep hike up Dunderberg Mountain rather than following the DSR in multiple circles around it. After setting out and beginning our hike we quickly came to one of the tunnels that the railcars were to pass through.

Ruin of the tunnel on DSR.

We stopped to look around and to appreciate the fact that many of men labored to build this all for nothing. At least they got paid.

MB looking defiant on top of the tunnel. 

This trail is ideal for moderate hikers because after the steep inclines and switchbacks you come to one of the DSR graded sections offering a nice flat walk along the would-be rail bed.

JS and MB making their way up steep section.
Flat graded section before an unfinished tunnel.
As we hiked along the graded section we came to an unfinished railroad tunnel cut into the side of the mountain. It had a ceiling of probably around 20 to 25 feet tall and was probably around 15 feet wide. I knew we were coming to it so naturally on the hike towards it I was excited. When we arrived we saw that it was flooded with water. This may have deterred some folks but this was just too awesome to pass up. How often does one get to venture into a relic of the late 1800’s? I looked at the floor of the tunnel and saw that it was mostly broken rock, unlike the flooded floors of mines which I find usually consist of seven feet of sunken leaves and are VERY dangerous. My urge of adventure was too much to overcome, it was decided: I was going in. I took off my fleece to insure that if I were to fall in I still had a dry insulating layer, double checked that I had a change of socks, unzipped the bottom of the legs off my hiking pants, put on my headlamp, and began to wade in.

Inside the unfinished rail tunnel.
The water was cold. It was so cold I could feel the muscles in my legs tightening, but it felt good to wade in water for it was the first time since I’ve done it since summer. The water came up to my knees and then started to reach up to my thighs. Then I remembered I left my bandana in my pocket and I planned to try my legs with it! I jammed my hand into my pocket to find a bandana that was wet…. only on the bottom. Phew…. I threw that to MB and waded further.

I posed for a few pictures and waded into thigh deep water where MB wanted me to come back. He had a reasonable concern for my safety that I understand. At least he was concerned, because I was definitely not. When I came out the warm air felt great on my legs that had a strange tingly feeling. As I dried off and got my gear together MB and JS found a Cache at the sight. We added a compass to the Cache and made our way back to the car.
Posing in the tunnel.
Venturing further before being called back.

Afterwards I was soaking wet and my legs were beet red. It was all worth it!
It was by no means a day of distance hiking but it was a long day of exploring and bushwhacking. A terrific day, doing something terrific, with terrific people. Gotta love it!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It is almost among us...

As most of you probably know, I am still a student. Although this has its drawbacks, it has a benefit most non-students envy: Spring break!

Ohhhhhhhhh what a wonderful spring break it will be! The first day, this Saturday, is the first day of trout season! I literally will be gone fishin'.

The following Monday is the day me and two buddies head up to the Shawangunks for a hike. One of my buddies going I don't get to talk to very often and he's on NJSAR so he always has some cool things to share. I'll let you guys know how that goes.

Then on Thursday the event I've been waiting for begins. The first backpacking trip since November! It will be a 43 mile trek starting at High Points State Park and ending at the Delaware Water Gap.

Wish me luck and safety and I'll do the same for you. Now get out there!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sorry Readers!

Hey all!

Sorry that I haven't been posting much lately, I've been busy with school, work, staying in shape, and on top of all that, enlisting in the US Army! Phew! Busy, busy, busy! Luckily I have been finding time to go on weekend hikes but I don't want to overload you guys with trip reports on hikes that aren't too interesting to read about.

However, I am going on a four day backpacking trip in 12 days. A few members of my hiking group and I are hiking 43 miles of the Appalchain Trail from West Jersey to the Delaware Water Gap. You can bet that I will write a trip report for that! Since that will be the first time I've backpacked since November I will also use the time to refresh my mind before I write my reviews on the Marmot Trestle 15 sleeping bag, Eureka Spitfire Solo tent, and the Kelty Trekker 3950 backpack.

Also within the next two weeks a friend of mine wants to take a trip up to the Shawangunk Mountains which should also be rather interesting. It's amazing how you can start in in North New Jersey and if you drive 40 or 50 miles north your in a whole different world. Good thing it's that way though, I need to get out of Dirty Jersey!