I have this thing about New Jersey. It’s not rational; it’s totally judgmental; and it’s only marginally grounded in reality. But – my apologies to anyone who might be reading from that fair state – I just hate NJ. To the point where, when I was 17-year-old, I refused to apply to any colleges there, solely because they were located in the Garden State (funny enough, all of the real jobs I’ve had in my adult life have been in New Jersey – oh, the irony…). To the point where, when the dean who recently hired me asked – with a healthy dose of disdain himself – why I’d want to live in Philadelphia, I almost said out loud, “Dude, you live in Jersey!” To the point where I break out in hives every time I think about driving up the NJ turnpike (okay, this last one isn’t true. If it were, I’d be in trouble, since I drive all the way up to turnpike for work now… but it about sums up my feelings for New Jersey).
So you can imagine my feelings when Brent and I made plans to hike the highest peak in NJ en route to his parents’ house in Western Massachusetts last week. I wanted to say, “can’t we just skip this one?”
But of course, you can’t hike the highest peak in each state without hitting New Jersey. So I gritted my teeth, put my feelings aside, and drove across the Delaware River.
High Point State Park (those New Jersey-ites are creative, aren’t they?) is in the Kittatinny Mountain Range, the northern-most point of the state, nestled in a little pocket between New York and Pennsylvania.
The park is in the point of that little triangle at the top of the map
It’s lush and hilly and, well, not all that New Jersey-like. Score! And when we got there last Tuesday, it was also covered in snow, left over from the storm that blanketed the northeast the day after Christmas.
We parked in a lot about a mile and a half from the peak, and after a quick look around, pulled on our brand new Kahtoola Microspikes (more on these tomorrow) and set off with dogs in tow for the War Veterans’ Monument, erected atop the 1,803 feet summit in 1930.
The snow cover made it difficult to find some of the smaller trails, but we could see the 220-foot Washington Monument-lookalike from the parking lot. So, instead of sticking to the road or following a prescribed route, we went off-trail and bushwhacked our way to the top of the ridgeline.
From there, we crossed the road-turned-snowmobile-track and quickly joined up with the Appalachian Trail, following it all the way to the summit.
Though it was worlds away from the “peaks” of Florida and Delaware, the hike up to High Point was relatively tame – until we got to the top.
As soon as we crested the ridge and left the protections of the woods, we were nearly knocked off our feet by the gusting wind blasts. The temperatures dropped dramatically, the dogs started running around in a frenzy, and I felt like I was about to fly over the railing. After a few quick photos, we quickly turned tail and made our way back to the comfort of the trails.
We took a different route down, sticking to the marked trails and skirting a frozen lake en route back to the parking lot.
We got back to the car a couple hours after we’d left it, peeled off our winter gear, and continued on to Amherst, stopping for lunch at Subway to reward the dogs for their efforts with a grilled chicken sandwich.
All in all, NJ’s high point far exceeded expectations. And while I’m not sure it did much to change my general impressions of the state, it proved to be a nice warmup for the next day’s adventure, a snowy trek to the summit of Massachusetts’ highest peak.
A preview of our trek up the 3491-foot Mount Greylock
A couple questions for those of you who use (or know) wordpress:
(1) Do you know how to embed videos without paying for their video program? I have great footage from the windy summit but can’t figure out how to upload it!
(2) Is there a wordpress equivalent to the blogger ‘following’?