I love Cheesequake State Park. I always have. I’ve been going since I moved to New Jersey when I was a teenager. I have memories of enjoying the Park with my family and then later on with my daughters, and some fun hikes with my friends. I think it’s a great location because it’s close to home so it’s easy to get over there for some much-needed outdoor time, especially during this never-ending pandemic.
I think it offers so many different things to suit so many people with all likes and abilities. There are bike and walking paths, open fields for frisbee and catch, or to enjoy a blanket picnic. There are groves of picnic tables in all types of settings, bird watching stands, playgrounds, a lake to swim in in the summer, plenty of shade for the warmer weather, camp sites, and, of course, hiking trails. Keep in mind there is an entrance fee from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
There are numerous trails with varying lengths ranging from .75 to 3 miles. They are all fairly easy with some inclines where you have to step down over rather large tree roots. Along the way there are some footbridges over streams of water, depending on when the last rainfall occurred. You also may encounter some steep steps to climb up or down depending upon which end of the trail you started from. The terrain varies from wooded to pine forest to swamp and can get muddy from time to time, again depending on current conditions.
We headed to Cheesequake in late October when the foliage was at its peak here in New Jersey. Due to Alan’s OCD, all of our hikes have to be at least 3.1 miles, so we planned on doing the Green Trail loop. The parking at the trial head was full so we had to park down by the lake and walk to the Yellow Trail to the trailhead and then begin the Green Trial from there. The Yellow Trial begins with a large flight of stairs and then through the woods only about a quarter of a mile to the trailhead. From there we followed the green markers. The trail is well marked for all of the colors (red, blue, green, and yellow). As you zig and zag, not too far in you come to the Nature Center. Years ago, I remember going with the Girl Scouts to the Nature Center and learning from the Park Ranger and watching the girls feed the squirrels. Due to the current Covid situation, it is closed.
The trail is fairly busy and in my past experience it usually is in the middle of the day. There are a lot of families and large groups that utilize the trails as they are easy to navigate and they are not too challenging. If you would rather have some quiet time, I would suggest going earlier in the day. It’s not wall-to-wall people but it’s not secluded either. If you’re the chatty type, or like to acknowledge every dog on the trail (I’ve had both as hiking buddies), then hiking in the middle of the day is for you. If you’re like me and don’t want to make new friends because you have enough already, then I would suggest that you go earlier in the day.
The remainder of the trail is easy to maneuver and picturesque. We passed a small pond, walked through a small section of pine trees, over some foot bridges, and through a beautifully wooded path. The drawback is that you can see and hear the Garden State Parkway and/or Route 34 traffic at some points along the trail but whatever, you’re in New Jersey so the Parkway is never far anyway.
The last ½-¾ of a mile is composed of paved road. This is where some of the trails meet and the road is used for driving to camp sites in that section of the park. After completing the loop and coming back to the trailhead, we then got back on the Yellow Trail so we can make our way back down to the lake parking lot. The trees were stunning in the Fall at Cheesequake and Alan even framed one of the pictures he took that day and gave it to me as a Christmas gift. It’s beautiful.
A word of caution…the restroom was not open when we went due to the pandemic but there was a port-o-potty available. I’m not squeamish when it comes to bathrooms like that. I’ve run dozens of races where the facilities are less than ideal so I don’t care. But Alan, on the other hand, has to make a point of taking a picture of how gross the bathroom was. Point being, go to the bathroom before going into the Park and wait to go after you leave the Park. I’d even say not to drink water so you won’t have to use the facilities, but then someone will blame me for their dehydration (insert eye roll).
Overall, I highly recommend a hike at Cheesequake State Park. I think it’s a great hiking introduction for kids and beginner hikers as it’s an easy one, especially if it is close to home so it won’t take up your whole day if you don’t have the time to dedicate an entire day to a hike.
So then we made our way to Federici’s in Freehold for pizza. I’ve heard about the pizza here for years and I think I may have even been there once as a teenager but I don’t have the best memory so who knows.
The restaurant is situated in downtown Freehold along a strip of various restaurants and shops which have outdoor dining during the warmer months and now in the days of Covid, they’ve extended it into the cooler months. It’s pretty busy since it is a Saturday at dinner time. We waited a few minutes for a table and are seated inside. The tables are socially-distanced and they have closed off many tables in order to maintain that.
It’s more of a restaurant then a pizza place. They have a full Italian menu offering pastas, salads, entrees, and pizza. If you take a look at their website you will read that they’ve been around for 100 year as of this year. So they must be doing something right. The server was friendly and attentive and we ordered a plain pie and didn’t wait more than 10 minutes for it to arrive at our table piping hot.
At first look, it looked like a bar pie-thin crust, nothing special. After waiting a few minutes for it to cool down I took a bite and it was good. Not great, but good. I tend to like a thicker crust. The sauce was ok and there was a lot of cheese…which I like but that does add to a lot of grease on your plate.
We ate almost all of it and only one piece remained. The server asked if we wanted to take it home and since I don’t like to waste food, and I never know when I’ll want a snack, I said “yes.” Now when you take home leftovers from a restaurant you usually get a foil container with the paper lid, Styrofoam container, or even a small pizza box. Well not at Federici’s. She came back with the check and a PIECE OF ALUMINUM FOIL! Are you kidding me? I just looked at Alan from across the table with a dumbfounded look on my face. Was this because of Covid? Was it a cost-cutting reason? I have no idea.
I have never been given a piece of foil to wrap my leftovers in. So like an idiot I wrap the slice in the foil while mumbling “wtf”. I walk out of the restaurant with a fxxxing triangular piece of foil swinging from my hand. Such a pretty restaurant and I’m walking out like this. I start to rant along Main Street exclaiming “What am I, A FXXXING ANIMAL walking down the street like this?!”
About a half a block down from the restaurant I was so turned off I threw the slice in the garbage. You can’t give me a container? Months later I am STILL carrying on about it. Come on. It’s ridiculous!
Unfortunately, once again, this pizza didn’t live up to the hype. Frederici’s only takes cash so bring your greenbacks AND your own Tupperware to take any leftovers home.