Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stokes State Forest

Throughout my entire life, Stokes State Forest has remained my all time favorite place to visit that brings peace and renewal to my soul.

My father started taking our family there long before I had even been born. He was in the Civilian Conservation Corp when he was a teen. He and his fellow Corp members camped at this piece of land in Sussex County, NJ, and helped to develop it into the recreation area that it is today.

The whole family would pile into the car with a trunk filled with picnic food, and drive the fifty four mile trek to Branchville, NJ and God's lovely natural retreat. Once there we all helped carry the food and charcoal to the picnic area known as Kittle Field. We would then take our shoes off, and try to step from stone to stone and ford the creek, that borders the picnic area. There were swings and a play area, but we just wanted to play in the water. There is a lovely wooded path that leads to the falls of Kittle Field.

In the Spring the water that flows over the falls rushed rather quickly over the step like rock formations, but by mid-summer it was usually little more than a trickle. Boy, did we have fun then. We would walk down the falls as if they were stairs.

Near Kittle Field is Stoney Lake, which has a nicely groomed swimming area. There is also Shotwell Pond, and camping area. My dad always told stories of the Mastodon bones that he and his CCC crew found at Shotwell Pond while grooming these areas.

In 1972, and 1974 I had camped at the Shotwell Pond camping area. Both times we got rained out. The first time we camped we were in an old leaky Army tent, and the second time I was eight months pregnant with my eldest daughter, and we camped in a lean-to.

Tillman Ravine

Tillman Ravine is located in the south-west corner of Stokes State Forest. We always made time to cross Rt. 206 and visit Tillman Ravine during our trip. Travel down Strubble Road follow signs to Tillman Ravine. There is an upper and lower parking area at the ravine. We park in the upper area and hike down into the ravine over groomed trails, crisscrossing the creek on arched bridges. The trail ultimately leads to a water fall with a slightly steeper drop, than the one at Kittle Field. Then the trail leads upward to the lower parking area. We usually walked the road upwards to the upper parking area and our car.

Buttermilk Falls

Just out of the parking area we would either turn left to venture home on the rustic river route and visit Buttermilk Falls which is just down the road, or make a right back to Route 206 and visit Sunrise Mountain. Buttermilk Falls is on the left, right by the side of the road. In July of 1972 I actually climbed all the way to the top of the falls straight up the hill on the left of the falls as seen in this photo.

Sunrise Mountain

Once you have reached Rt. 206 you make a right onto Rt. 206 follow out to Culver Lake, make a left following signs that lead to the crest of Sunrise Mountain. The crest of Sunrise Mountain is one of the most frequently visited sites in Stokes State Forest. The mountaintop provides a breathtaking view at an elevation of 1,653 feet above sea level.

Once you have spent some time absorbing the above panoramic view, and start back to the parking area, hang a left and follow the trail to the pavilion that was built in the 1930s by my father's CCC crew. This pavilion is a shelter for hikers on the Appalachian Trail which runs through Stokes State Forest.

If you feel like taking in more forest beauty and time allows another jaunt, once you leave the parking area and come to a split in the road, if you make a right, that road leads to High Point State Park and another informative blog.

When I was a child I was sick with a sinus infection or virus every winter, and what seemed like every Christmas. As is the norm fevers usually run higher at bedtime. I can remember feeling so bad that I could not sleep, so I would imagine a trip to Stokes State Forest, and vividly picture the ride there, and the hike down to the falls of either Kittle Field or Tillman Ravine. The serenity of Stokes State Forest never failed at calming me into a peaceful pain free slumber.



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