Now that the weather has warmed a bit, it’s time to get outside and find adventures in your own backyard. On the East Coast of the US, the Appalachian Trail (AT) spans 14 states and provides a little something for every hiker. From a slow, scenic walk to a more strenuous uphill, rocky climb, you can take a day, a weekend, weeks or months to walk in the woods.
Observe the moss and lichens, watch the trees beginning to bloom and see the shock of color bursting from flowering rhododendrons and azaleas. Smell the fresh, clean air and listen to the chirping birds instead of the blaring sirens of the city. Even if you don’t live close enough to the AT, a few google searches should help you locate a hike in whatever geographic region you live.
Since I managed to climb the highest mountain in Africa, I figured that I could do my first hike of the season to the highest point in New Jersey, the aptly named High Point State Park. Having lived in south, central and northern New Jersey, my previous failure to reach this peak is astounding. At 1,803 ft, it pales in comparison to Kili. But it’s worth a visit for the stunning views. Even if it’s not exactly on the AT, it’s touted on the website and a good diversion should you choose to take a longer hike nearby (restroom facilities will be appreciated).
You don’t even have to strain your calf muscles to achieve this peak. Simply drive up through the hills of northwestern NJ to reach the 220 ft monument made of New Hampshire granite and local stones that commemorates this site (not sure why they couldn’t come up with entirely locally sourced materials).
In season (Memorial Day through Labor Day), you can climb to the top of the monument. But you can also park there and then go for about a 2 hour hike through a trail along the ridge that leads you through the surrounding woods with emerging vistas of the Delaware Water Gap, Pocono Mountains, Catskills, lakes and valleys in the distance.
Should use choose the scenic trail, you’ll also pass through the Cedar Swamp, which on our visit was still covered in snow and a little ice from last week’s storm. [Footprints revealed that some chose to walk through the swamp instead of use the bridge. But since the snow and ice had already started to melt, we weren’t about to take that risk.]
In more seasonable times, there are picnic tables and grills near the Kuser entrance if you wish to have lunch and make it a full day. Dogs also seem to be permitted.
Wherever you choose to hike, let it be your chance to connect with nature. Get away from the traffic and stress of city life. So unless there’s rain in the forecast or you have horrible allergies, take a walk in the woods this weekend.
PSA: Clean up after yourself; that means take your trash with you and pick up any poo your pooch may leave behind.