Jody and I have set a goal. We haven’t set a time limit on it but I think it’s achievable within the next fifteen to eighteen months. We want to hike the section of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) that passes through New Jersey. Approximately 70 miles of the A.T. passes through Sussex County in the northwest corner of New Jersey. At the southern end the A.T. crosses the Delaware River at the Delaware Water Gap. At the northern end it crosses into New York at Waywayanda State Park just west of Greenwood Lake.
This is a significant goal for us. Three years ago this coming Columbus Day Jody broke her ankle while we were hiking in South Mountain Reservation. She was unable to work, drive, or walk without crutches for three months. God in His mercy did provide complete healing within those three months, thanks to two titanium plates, several screws, and the skills of a local physician and physical therapy team. She has all of the mobility and flexibility in that leg and ankle that she had before the break. Nonetheless, we have been reluctant to undertake serious hiking (or what we consider serious hiking).
Today we took a simple first step toward meeting that goal. We went for a short hike. A friend had recommended that we visit Hilltop Reservation in Verona as a good bird-watching destination. We downloaded a trail map, packed our day pack, and headed out. Hilltop Reservation is part of the Essex County Park system and is really little more than a woodlot with a network of trails. The trails do not seem to get a lot of traffic as they were seldom more than about 18″ wide in spots. A single afternoon would allow sufficient time to cover all of the trails and none of the trails is out of earshot of local streets, backyards, and businesses. It is still a pleasant place to visit. There are no comfort facilities or shelters as far as we can tell. It was not without its rewards in the bird-watching dimension: We saw three turkeys along the trail and an eastern bluebird along a public road adjacent to the reservation.
We would estimate that we walked about three miles on terrain that we would probably call moderate. Since we didn’t come upon any scenic vistas we have to settle for posting this goofy double-selfie.
Back to the Appalachian Trail. The goal that we have set for ourselves will almost certainly oblige us to cover the 70 miles in a series of day hikes on loop trails that follow the AT for only part of the hike. We are planning to do some backpacking and spending one or two nights at a time on the trail, but that raises the question of how to do that without having to retrace out steps to get back to our car.
We will post notes and photos from our progress toward the goal of hiking the New Jersey Appalachian Trail segment.