Another stay-at-home vacation day, another hike! Maybe it’s another sign of whatever mid-life-ish thing I’m approaching, but when I thought about stuff I could do today, like go to the city, or see an art flick, or wander around a used bookstore, or even survey the retail landscapes of northern NJ, I decided to pack the dogs in the car and try out a trail I’ve never walked. On the way, we made a stop at Rusty’s Place, our local pet store, to pick up some doggie-cleanup bags. I do not lead a very exciting life. (NOTE: if the Yankees had an afternoon home game yesterday or today, I’d have gone to the Bronx for that.)
Yesterday was Ramapo Lake; today was the Long Pond Ironworks state park (this area has a ton of Revolutionary War history). I had the idea, based on my trail map, that we â€” Rufus, Otis, and I â€” could hike on Monks Trail from the north boat launch in the Monksville Reservoir area down to the south one.Â According to the map, it looked to be around two-thirds of a mile each way (there and back), with some significant (but not hazardous) climbs. Most of the trail was pretty narrow, so it was a challenge to navigate all the rocks and tree-branches and keep the dogs from tangling in their leashes. It’s very rare that I’ll let one of their leashes go when we’re out like this. They’re pretty focused on the walk, but I’m afraid one of them (Otis) will see a chipmunk or something and take off after it.
They did a great job in fact, keeping a strong pace even when we made the one major uphill push. They panted. I was winded. But the weather was much milder than yesterday, and we were in shade for most of the trail, so they didn’t get too overheated.
The problem came at the end of the line, when we reached the south boat launch. I should say, “when we got near the south boat launch.” See, the map made it look like the trail opened up by that parking lot, but it actually never does so; it arcs away through the woods, with no actual exit/entry point at the boat launch.
This meant we’d have to break off the trail to reach the parking lot and the reservoir, so they could cool off. I didn’t want to turn around and go through another .66 mile of this stuff without giving them a break. Luckily, we found a semi-blazed trail that seemed to lead right to our destination. And then it stopped. Ten feet from the parking lot. Right above a short ravine filled with thorn bushes.
I made an executive decision, and that led to the three of tumbling down a short ravine and into a wall of thorn bushes, but we made it through that with a minimum of scratches and no yelping, remarkably. From there, the boys made a beeline to the concrete ramp of the boat launch, and trotted right into the water. I took my shoes and socks off and walked in with them, so they could get deep enough to cool down.
Well, Otis didn’t go too deep or bow down the way Rufus did, so I splashed water all over him to chill him out a little. I also spent some time pulling thorns and burrs from their fur. And feeling guilty. Once we finished up, I tried to figure out how we were getting back to our starting point. I couldn’t find any entry point to Monks trail, so I took the only visible trail, which I thought might lead down to our car or intersect Monks Trail. It wasn’t on my map, but it was very well-cleared.
Sadly, it didn’t work out. The trail led back out to the road we drove in on, more than a mile from the north boat launch. I wasn’t looking forward to walking with the dogs for along a pretty well trafficked road that had 6″ wide shoulders. Luckily, Rusty’s was only a quarter-mile up the road, so I brought the boys back to the store, and asked Chuck, the owner, if he could look after ’em for 10 minutes while I walked on down the road to get my car.
Chuck and I got the dogs into the Room Of Dog-Beds and put a folding crate against the door as a gate.
“Have they peed?” he asked.
“Yeah, all through the hike,” I told him. “Frankly, they’re exhausted and will probably just lie down once I’m gone. If you have a bowl, they could use some water, I bet.”
I thanked him and headed out. He told me they didn’t make a peep while I was gone.Â I know Petco or Petsmart or whichever chain store may be cheaper than Rusty’s, or have longer hours, but they’re no substitute for a local vendor who knows your name, and that’s why I go to Rusty’s.
I’m bummed out that we had to risk life and limb to get to the reservoir today, and incredibly thankful that Otis didn’t freak out when he hit the thorn bushes. He tends to yelp when he brushes against them while we’re on walks. On the upside, the boys were so pooped, they lay down moments after I started the car, and spent the 10-minute drive Conked Out.
There’s another route on the map that might work out better, but I don’t think it’d be dog friendly, so I’ll have to hit it on my own sometime. I promise to take pictures. Meanwhile, you can click on either of the pix or here to see the rest of this photoset.