Nice New Jersey
You can’t write a post about New Jersey without thinking about Bruce Springsteen and his many famous songs. The Appalachian Trail in New Jersey is very enjoyable. It still has rocks, but the terrain is varied and interesting. I spent some of my childhood in Hackensack about 50 years ago. I remember skiing at Great Gorge and Vernon Valley ski areas. I had an uncle who had a small farm which was the family gathering place out in Hope. My first introduction to the Appalachian Trail was actually when my dad took me out to hike Sunfish Pond from the Delaware Water Gap. I never appreciated northwestern New Jersey as a kid.
The Rocks Don’t End, But Northwestern NJ is Beautiful
From the Delaware Water Gap, the hike uphill parallels a series of cascading waterfalls that lead you up to Sunfish Pond. Continuing by way of a side trail you come upon then AMC Mohican. It’s a great place to stop and have lunch. The sitting room has a fireplace, tables, and all the things you’d want in a nice woodsy retreat. The Kittatinny Ridge has a nice calming wind. The sun is bright with the colors being intense and ever-changing with the sun angles of the day. A lesser-known detail in NJ is that it has the most concentrated number of bears per acre in the corridor where the AT runs. The folks who take care of the shelters really do a nice job. The shelters are clean, the outhouses are stocked with chips for moldering, and every one where I stopped had a bottle of hand sanitizer.
Lots of Bears
After High Point State Park, the trail turns east and comes off the ridge. It straddles the NJ/NY state line and you actually cross it many times without really knowing. The final crossing is the one that is marked. When you drop off the Kittatinny Ridge you get to a swampy area. There are miles of boardwalk. Some are just 2 by 12s across 6 by 6 blocks, but some like the Pochuk boardwalk are miles of beautifully built and cared for strips of traditional cross-laid boardwalk that make the miles very easy. You have time to pick your head up from looking at rocks at your feet to see and listen to the birds and wildlife that are prevalent throughout the swamp. It sounds like the bugs would be bad, but we had a nice cool windy day which made the adventure essentially bug free. There was even a crew maintaining the boardwalk as we came through. The boardwalk is maintained such that you can see these crews take great pride in the camaraderie of their work. It can’t be said enough, but thank you to all the volunteers that put in this effort.
Beautiful Boardwalks But No Jersey Shore
Then you get to the Stairway to Heaven. A great Led Zeppelin song, and a rather big pile of big rocks. The climb is a pretty popular day hike as well as being the route of the AT. Be sure to load up on some apple cider donuts from the farm store at its base. It is definitely a four-donut climb. After the Stairway to Heaven, you’ve got more nice wooded areas and you’re up on a ridge, but the ridge is not small broken rocks like Pennsylvania. It’s long almost sidewalk-like rocks great for long stretches of hopping between big upturned geologic structures that you can walk across. The shelters are in nice locations and many have cold, clear mountain springs right at the shelter. The water is crystal clear, and probably rivals the many brands of bottled spring water that have been commercialized.
Get Ready for New York
I really enjoyed New Jersey. The only problem I have is that it does nothing to prepare you for the surprise of New York. But that is for another post. New Jersey really is underrated in its beauty. It is not “just an exit off the Jersey Turnpike” nor is it the perceived social media messiness of the Jersey Shore. Even though Bruce Springsteen is from central Jersey, my guess is that if he was an AT hiker, he would be very proud of his home state’s presentation of the Appalachian Trail.
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