SOTA W2/NJ-010: Cushetank Mountain

I intentionally activated Cushetank Mountain in the late Spring: the Round Valley Recreation Area charges no admission before Memorial Day, it was not too hot, and most importantly, the number of bugs in the air was tolerable.

The set up is kind of odd: you need to enter the Round Valley Recreation Area off Stanton Lebanon Road, park in the South Parking Lot, and then follow a trail that wraps around the western and southern edges of the Round Valley Reservoir. The trail goes through a dam facility, a summer camp, and past a few houses before it turns towards a campground and the summit.

From GoogleMaps: The parking area (green marker) at upper left, and the summit (red marker at bottom).

My first dilemma was which way to go from the parking lot. There are signs pointing towards a scuba-diving area and it would make sense to follow the trail downward to the water’s edge, but that’s the wrong way. In fact, you want to walk uphill from the parking lot. Here’s a picture from the trail looking back towards the parking lot:

That trail heads up hill just a bit and then branches off towards the left and runs right by the booth at the entrance to the park. The path runs through a stand of pine trees and there is a bench up there that overlooks the lake. The path immediately dives down and continues southward.

At some points, the trail comes very near the road and various roads and driveways cross it at a few points.

Finally, the path starts heading downhill behind a large dam structure. Again, you need to cross a service road to the dam.

The trail runs between two parallel fences that border the dam.

After trudging up the other side of the grassy knoll beyond that service road, the path wraps around a bit and finally comes to a steep area where the path runs parallel to power lines. Here, wooden retaining logs form broad steps, and you can’t help but worry about how far down they are descending — realizing that this will all be uphill on the way back.

On the way up, the path diverges left towards the campground and right towards the summit.

The trail continues past some sparse houses and wraps around the hill towards the summit. At one point, the path divides and you’ll see a sign pointing left towards a camping and right towards the summit. Make the appropriate choice.

The summit isn’t too far past that point, and there’s a nice view of the lake including your parking spot, from which you are now separated by about four kilometers, but with a lot of ups and downs.

I set up an end-fed antenna, worked ten stations on 20m and another four on 40m and called it a day. I had gotten to the park around 12:30, and it took me about two hours to get to the summit. I didn’t really need to hurry as much as I did, but I was very conscious about the park’s closing time of 7pm EDT. I think they push it back to 8pm in the summer as the days lengthen, but since I had operated for about an hour and thought I would be more tired on the way back, I thought it would take more time for the return trip. As it turns out, the return trip was about the same duration as the walk to the summit. In any event, I’d recommend leaving enough time to have some margin to return to the parking lot prior to park closure.

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