Two weekends ago, I embarked on an adventure to Stokes State Forest, a captivating New Jersey state park nestled in Sandyston, Montague, and Frankford within Sussex County. The expedition was shared with my friends Chris and Walt, who had set up their campsites separately in the vicinity of Sandyston. Excitement filled the air as I coordinated a photographic hike to explore the forest.
Initially, our group consisted of five enthusiastic participants, but two decided to opt out on the eve of our expedition. Nature blunted our determination to brave the elements with sporadic and heavy rain throughout the weekend. Nonetheless, when I arrived at the meetup location, I introduced Walt and Chris to each other, and with decisiveness, we ventured deep into the forest.
The forest left a lasting impression when I set foot in it. Nature's spectacle was fully displayed, and lush greenery surrounded me. The air was sweet and damp, enriching the overall experience. Surrounded by green trees, I felt like a child in a candy store. Various hardwood tree species graced the landscape, including oaks, hickories, maples, birch, chestnuts, beech, sycamore, cherry, walnut, ash, elm, etc. While I am allergic to most, if not all, of these trees, the steady rain eased any concerns. Bryophyta moss and lichen, common in wooded or moist areas where it can thrive in the shade and dampness, adorned the base of nearly every tree I encountered, adding to the glamorous scenery.
We found ourselves caught in the midst of a torrential downpour with our cameras, tripods, and camera bag in tow. Swiftly, we collected our equipment and hurried back to the safety of our cars. Our hike had taken us quite a distance, and we were thoroughly drenched when we reached our parked cars. We exited our cars after the rain subsided. To our disappointment, Walt discovered a technical issue with his Nikon D800, which was displaying errors. Something was wrong despite his attempts to resolve it by removing and replacing the battery. I patiently waited, and miraculously, about 30 minutes later, his Nikon sprung back to life.
Our immediate objective was to find waterfalls, and thus, we ventured on the Tilman Ravine Trail. Although we hiked a short distance, the trail presented alternating peaks and troughs, creating a fascinating exploration trail. Ferns, likely part of the class Polypodiopsida, were displayed with their green fronds spreading out on the forest floor. With their straight trunks rising towards the canopy, the trees were a mix of deciduous and coniferous species common in temperate forests. I was greeted with many photographic possibilities upon reaching the waterfall. The many possible compositions left me momentarily indecisive as I stood there, absorbing the spectacular surroundings and pondering the perfect shot.
Tillman Ravine, located within the confines of Stokes State Forest in northwestern New Jersey, is the epitome of natural allure. This serene and picturesque haven in Sandyston, Sussex County, became the focal point of our expedition. The ravine beckoned us with its lush foliage, serene waterfalls, and captivating hiking trails. It is an idyllic escape into the heart of nature.
The ravine's defining feature is its dense vegetation, overlooked by towering hardwood trees and a diverse array of vibrant plant species. The lush canopy overhead created an atmosphere of tranquillity as we ventured deeper into this natural sanctuary. Beneath our feet, the forest floor was decorated with a tapestry of ferns, mosses, and wildflowers, enhancing the magic of the surroundings.
A central attraction of Tillman Ravine is its meandering stream, gracefully weaving its way through the ravine. Though smaller in scale compared to well-known waterfalls in other regions, the ravine boasted a series of charming cascades and waterfalls along the stream's course. These water features contribute to the ravine's natural splendour, providing a soothing backdrop for hikers and nature enthusiasts immersed in exploration. The pleasant blend of lush foliage, peaceful forest ambience, and the gentle melody of running water set the tone for our hike.
Navigating a network of well-maintained trails, we explored the ravine, providing Chris's daughter ample opportunities for adventure and discovery. The trails followed the stream, affording us occasional glimpses of cascading water and immersing us in the natural milieu. Though moderately challenging, the terrain added to the sense of accomplishment as we traversed the ravine's pathways.
Despite the looming threat of rain and the slippery rocks underfoot, Tillman Ravine is the kind of place that beckoned for repeated visits. Its charm and the various activities it offered left an indelible mark on me.