We skipped ahead up the ridge about 25 miles from our previous end point for this next New Jersey hike. While there are great views and camping options on that bit, the mileage breakdown was a little unbalanced and I felt like we could do more miles in the time we had by choosing different sections. We will be back for the rest of section 4 and section 5 of course.
Like last time, we were doing this hike with our friends from Pennsylvania, and we chose the New Jersey section so we could meet halfway. Well, mostly… they live a bit farther out but New Jersey was still a good starting point. Once we finish Jersey with them we will start Pennsylvania and head more in their direction.
So after doing my usual research we decided to start just north of the Mashipaug shelter on Deckertown turnpike in High Point State Park. This part of the Kittatinny ridge north to the monument and the end of the ridge is all High Point S.P. There’s many side trails and camping areas as well as a large monument at the highest point in New Jersey. Like the monument atop Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts, it’s dedicated to veterans. There’s a large park office where I could have had my A.T. Passport stamped but quickly forgot in the midst of getting parked and on the trail with 7 miles to cover before dark and a later start then planned.
I had picked the lot at Deckertown Tpk because according to my (I guess outdated) map, you could park there overnight. So Fielden Stream and I waited for our friends on the lot at 284 in Unionville where we would end the hike the next day. When we found out they were running late, we offered a backpacker passing the road a ride into town when he asked how far it was. He got some water and snacks and we drove him back to the trailhead and found out we’d both be at the campsite that night coming from opposite directions.
When we found out we still had more time to kill we went to town again and got some pizza. Some other hikers were there and we offered them a ride back to the trail too but they had more errands to do so they ultimately passed.
We went back to the trailhead and waited for our friends and while we did a few trail angels came by and dropped off water bottles and snacks for hikers. The section south of here had plenty of water as it turned out but our first day did not and I don’t know how good the water supply was north of here. With all the swampy boardwalks around Pochuck Mountain and into Vernon I imagine that’s not water you want to drink as much or there might not be as much…
We finally got on the road down to the starting point, and when we parked and were about ready to hit the trail, we noticed the sign. No overnight parking! Now I know there’s a shelter .1 mile south so I could see why people might come here to party and so they’re having to discourage people from parking here overnight. But I guess it wasn’t a problem when they made the old map…
Luckily our ride karma was quickly returned when a ridge runner and another trail club volunteer showed up to pick up her car. Her car being parked there was the other reason we thought maybe parking was allowed overnight.
They told us we indeed could not park there overnight without risk of ticketing so they offered to follow us up to the hiker lot at the state park HQ to drop off our car and then bring us back. It was much appreciated and we finally hit the trail around 230pm. We had 7.1 to the shelter and another .8 straight up a steep hill and back if we wanted to see the monument too. We were a little nervous about time, though we knew sunset was almost 9pm this time of year. We beat feet.
The trail was easy at first but after some nice views east from a pipeline cut and then a broad rock face on the eastern side of the mountain it got harder. Sadly I should note that some hiker decided to use the bathroom on this beautiful spot and left lots of TP where they did their business and made no effort to clean it up whatsoever. Shame on you! How nasty.
We hit some good ascents and descents, some more rocky and steep than expected. The only water source for the 7 miles was at Rutherford shelter which is .4 off the trail and quite downhill and only 2.5 miles in. We made sure we had plenty of water before we headed out knowing this and managed to stretch it the whole way. There was a water fountain at the park HQ but we found out later it was not working. There were some nice westerly views as well across the Delaware into PA and the Poconos and Milford. Also far in the distance you could see the Catskill high peaks of New York. At this point we were not only just east of Pennsylvania by a few miles but also just south of the New York border.
We saw a few spots that were definitely homes to bears, though we did not see any of the famous New Jersey bears. I imagine we will in Shenandoah in a few weeks. At least I hope so! We also saw a few of the rare pink lady slippers, and passed through a lovely forest of ferns.
We debated several times going up to the monument because the trail was only .4 up to it from the A.T. But we had had a nice view of it coming up the trail and then had just been treated to the amazing observation deck about a quarter mile south of the junction and it had its own 360 degree views and one straight on to the tower. So we had a long break there and took in the views, and after a short wrong turn down a trail to the park beach we got on track and made it to the junction (we heard later there was a rattler just north of here we missed!) We also took a funny photo of me squishing the monument because why not!
Seeing as it was 730 pm and we had another almost mile to go, we decided to just head to the campsite and come back by car for the monument the next day. Besides, it’s NOT on the A.T. so we didn’t exactly cheat!
There were a good number of hikers at the campsite including a few who decided to take up a whole group area with their one centrally positioned tent. That kind of person really makes me want to go and set up both of our tents right next to them in the group area to teach them a lesson! BUT, we wanted lots of space anyway so we found two less level spots in the woods before the main camping area, and a broad flat rock to set up our camp kitchen. We set up our tents and I impressed myself and my friends by executing a perfect tautline hitch on one of their tent guylines when they were worried they’d trip over it at its current length. Once a scout, always a scout.
We enjoyed stories and meeting with thru hikers at the shelter and then made a nice dinner at our rock before going to bed a bit on the later side. As we were far from the other tents in our spot I don’t believe we were disturbing anyone. The forecast rain had moved back 3-4 days so we had a pleasant night and the sounds of the cascading brook below lulled us off to sleep. Its always nice when there’s a good water source at a campsite. But it’s even better when you can hear it.
In the morning we went back to the shelter and met another thru hiker and had breakfast with him. Turns out the hiker we gave the ride to was tented not far from our area but we didn’t see him as he got there and was already in his tent for the night when we arrived, and then in the morning he headed off before us. I only know it was him because I heard his bear bell again as he was leaving camp that we heard at the parking lot when we met him. The water source was a beautiful brook that crossed through the campsite and tumbled off the mountainside. We filled up and filtered again, had coffee and breakfast bars and hit the trail around 10. From there the topography is primarily flat with a downhill drop off the mountainside into the valley.
From there it cuts southeast and follows the NY/NJ line almost the entire rest of the way through NJ. There were 2-3 ups, and while not much in terms of elevation two of them were quite steep! We at least knew this was coming in the second half of our day’s hike. We did a lot of bog board walking, but these are not the famous boardwalks in all the New Jersey A.T. photos – that’s the next section north. But we did have one famous trail spot on this day’s hike and that was the Murray property. AKA the “Secret Shelter” of New Jersey. Fielden Stream pointed out that there is another which is in NY and is actually an old shelter the trail was re-routed away from at some point. And in that case is a bit of a point of contention because that’s one of the spots where you have about a 30 mile gap between the shelters.
This one is a building on a man’s property about 100 yards up a dirt road the trail crosses. He has a water faucet there and you can stay in the building which has some retro floors that kinda remind me of the black lodge in Twin Peaks! It had maps all over the walls of the trail and a nice large window. Apparently he has donkeys and many hikers claim to see them but we didn’t. There were a few other buildings and so I imagine one was their home. As we were looking around the place, the owner drove up and we chatted with him. He’s a backpacker and hence he offers this place for long distance hikers. He definitely preferred it be used by those needing a place to stay in between long days on trail. He took our photo for us and we moved on. We had no need to stay and wouldn’t want to take the space from those doing a truly long hike and were truly weary and needing to stop. Perhaps only if the weather was very very very bad…
We made our way up and over the big climbs of the day and finally we gave one of out friends a trail name. She had mentioned along the hike that she grew up on a farm drinking goats milk every day, and when we got going up the big hill, she literally ran up it with a full pack. When Fielden Stream and I caught up with each other at the top and I told her, she said we should call her Goat. And hence she was named! Our other friend did not get his name on this trip but he shall, and we have about 42 miles left to do in New Jersey… and then beyond. He wants it to come organically as much as we do so he’s willing to wait.
We reached the road around 2pm which is pretty much what I estimated. We had our feet under us a bit as it was day 2, and most of these were easy miles so we crushed it. We saw lots of chipmunks, squirrels, woodpeckers and a turtle laying it’s eggs on the side of the trail… (bad choice of spot!) We kept snack breaks that day to a minimum and held our appetites for a big meal in town after we got off trail.
We enjoyed greasy food in an old inn tavern in Sussex, NJ and then drove up to get our other car and see the monument at high point. It turns out we’d have some climbing to do anyway as the parking lot was about a quarter mile down hill from the monument. Our tired legs growled at us as we made the walk up in the hot sun with full bellies but the views were definitely worth it. At the moment we’re doing a weekend with them each summer to complete New Jersey, so it will be another 2-3 summers until we finish. I’m hoping we can do it in 2 and do an extra night and a few more miles each time to cover the remaining miles. Or maybe we can do both of those hikes in one season next year. I’m always thinking of the logistics! Either way, we had a great time again and this is a tradition we are all really loving doing together now.
We recently added a video of this hike to our channel. You can watch it here.
Miles day 1: 7.1
Miles day 2: 8.5