Ok, first, a comment. Totals for this year, while accurate, are going to be out of whack compared to previous years. I got out on the trail much more this year – thank you pandemic, and looking for solitude – and the numbers do not really correlate or compare to prior years. However, the numbers are interesting none the less. And, I hope to get out about the same this year (hopefully more), so that will be a better comparison.
But, enough of comparisons, the reality is I traveled to many more destinations and got to see much more of this and neighboring states, and was able to experience more environments, sites and trails. So, without further ado, let’s look at some numbers.
2017 hikes: 12
2018 hikes: 10
2019 hikes: 5
2020 hikes: 23
So, right off the bat I went on (almost) as many hikes as the last three years combined.
2017 miles: 40.45
2018 miles: 41.54
2019 miles: 23.35
2020 miles: 149.57
And yep, more mileage than the last three years combined. In the beginning of the year I hoped to hit 100 miles. The shortest hike occurred in the Great Swamp Wilderness, when all but one trail were impassable due to mud. The longest hike happened in Brendan T Byrne State Forest and encompassed part of the Batona trail along with a ramble through a good portion of the forest. My sweet spot for hike distance seems to be in the 7-9 mile range. I don’t mind longer, and sometimes with shorter hikes I feel short changed.
New this year, total elevation gain.
2017 elevation: 2555 feet
2018 elevation: 3300 feet
2019 elevation: 2192 feet
2020 elevation: 17838 feet
I’m not even going to attempt commentary. In looking back through my notes I see hikes (in previous years) where I did not record elevation gain. And, I had some hikes this year that had more elevation gain than any of the prior year’s totals.
So, let’s look at my favorite hikes of the year.
Honorable Mention – Lord Stirling Forrest
I said on this hike’s write-up that I would be surprised if this hike was not in the top five hikes I took for the year. Well, I was pleasantly surprised. Lord Stirling Park was a great hike on an absolutely gorgeous day. I loved the boardwalks, especially the section that goes through the swamp. The only reason this hike did not place higher is I went bigger with some crazy views.
Come on, how can you compete with a hike that had some climbing, a walk by a lake, and an airport? This hike was taken on another absolutely gorgeous day at the beginning of the pandemic. I remember sitting by the runway eating lunch, and if it were not getting a little too crowded for my liking I would have stayed longer to watch the planes.
4 – Apshawa Preserve
What can I say? Again, another absolutely perfect day. Minus an airport, this park checked all the boxes for a great hike: scrambling, a couple of good strenuous climbs, a walk around a lake, cascades, and a waterfall. It’s also the site where I learned of the need for trekking poles.
Water crossing and rock hopping. Some good-sized scrambles. While not above tree line, a little exposure at the top. I thoroughly enjoyed this park on a journey outside New Jersey. The views were intense once I reached the ridge to the top of Schunnemunk Mountain. Of course, with the wind blowing as hard as it was, I’ll admit, I was a little uneasy. But, I had the place all to myself for a mid-week hike on election day – I saw ONE other person the entire hike (results not typical – it appears weekends are packed here.) And it was nice to get some good elevation.
For my money, this is THE view for New Jersey. And. You. Will. Work. For. It. Yes, the view at Mt. Tammany is iconic and a great hike to boot. However, the hike across the boardwalks and through the cow pasture are serene. And the climb up the mountain to Pinwheel Vista is one tough thigh-burning climb. But the payoff is totally worth it. I could have sat there for hours. For another absolutely perfect day, it got crowded – even during a pandemic. My only downside would be the crowds. That view, though, has become my Zoom background.
1 – Bearfort Ridge
I had trouble just picking a picture for this hike. And I probably don’t have to say it, but it was yet another absolutely perfect day weather-wise. Heck, you can see New York City in the picture. To me, this hike had it all: great elevation gain, some great scrambles, puddingstone ridges, a lake, views, views, and more views. It seemed after every scramble, or every turn, there was yet another fabulous view trying to outdo the last. Heck, the view overlooking Greenwood Lake is massive, and really, requires a panoramic lens. While this hike was not as crowded as, say, Stairway to Heaven or Tammany, it’s popular. But that doesn’t matter, I will go back to do this hike again. I can’t recommend this one enough.
So, those are my top five hikes for the year (and one honorable mention.) With 23 hikes there were some other great standouts: The waterfall at Schooley’s Mountain is extremely picturesque, and a good scramble to reach. Norvin Green State Forest has some great views and little something for everyone. The epicly long Stonetown Circular trail is a beast, with five mountains in almost 11 miles of hiking. Climbing to the top of New Jersey at High Point State Park was notable, even if I did blow out a boot at the end. A little closer to home, the swinging bridge at Princeton Battlefield / Institute Woods was fun to find and cross.
Where will 2021 take me? I have a list. My goal is to keep going upwards. And ever since being on Mt. Etna, I have a desire to climb volcanoes. But that’s probably a ways off. Of course, the pandemic will probably have a voice in where I actually end up.
Here’s to a great new year; with great weather, great elevation, great views, the open air, wildlife, a pack on your back and traveling blaze to blaze.,