It’s that time…where I look back on the previous year. And I am totally surprised by some of the stats. We lived through more of the pandemic, and that got me out to even more locations. I was certainly thankful for joining a group with the county Park System for two fantastic (and well led) trips out of New Jersey. I look forward to more trips with the group in the future.
And speaking of thanks, I am grateful for all of you that read these posts, send me email or comment on the posts. Looking at the stats I see hits from all over, which is nice, I haven’t figured out how to discount the bots.
Enough blabbering…let’s get on with it.
2021 was another great year for getting out and hitting the trail. And, I cannot remember too many days where the weather wasn’t great. There were a couple of days that were really hot and humid. And there were some great hikes in lower temperatures. My favorite days are those days with a striking blue sky and lots of sunshine. I’m finding I don’t mind lower temperatures as that drives off some of the humidity, bugs, MOSQUITOES and the like.
Let’s look at some numbers:
2017 hikes: 12
2018 hikes: 10
2019 hikes: 5
2020 hikes: 23
2021 hikes: 29
There are only 52 weeks in a year – and that’s if I’m looking at one hike a week. However, I foresee multiple hikes in a week in the future, I also foresee potential backpacking trips…I’ll have to consider how I’ll count multi-day hikes.
As for mileage:
2017 miles: 40.45
2018 miles: 41.54
2019 miles: 23.35
2020 miles: 149.57
2021 miles: 210.77
When I went over 100 miles, I really did not consider that I would come close to 200. I was pleasantly surprised when the spreadsheet indicated I surpassed 200. 7-9 miles a trip still seems to be the sweet spot, with shorter mileage fine if there is a lot of vertical. This past year had a bunch of trips in double-digits for mileage, and I had at least two that were shorter than 4.
Finally, elevation gain:
2017 elevation: 2555 feet
2018 elevation: 3300 feet
2019 elevation: 2192 feet
2020 elevation: 17838 feet
2021 elevation: 29480 feet (1 Mt. Everest)
Here was my big surprise. I had no idea I climbed that much – though on one or two days I’m sure I cursed it. It didn’t hurt that most of the hikes this past year were over a 1000 feet of elevation gain…and that stands to reason as there were 29 trips with 29000+ feet gained. However, I had a few trips that had almost no elevation gain (I’m looking at you D&R Canal and Pine Barrens.) 2021 set my record for highest elevation, at Indian Head Mountain (3564 feet.) Last year’s hike of Stonetown Circular still holds the record for MOST elevation gain in a single hike.
On to my favorite hikes. Doing more and more hikes means it is getting harder and harder to pick out clear “favorites.” I do write down my favorite hikes, and in my spreadsheet I assign a numerical rating. But, I could do the same hike twice and give it two different ratings (for all kinds of reasons) – and in looking through the data, I see have done just that. So, for this year, I’ll discuss some of my favorites.
One of my favorite pictures:
This was taken at the bat cave at Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area. My notes show that it was in the 90s on this day, but walking by the spur trail to the cave, the temperature easily dropped 10 to 15 degrees. And it was much cooler right up by the entrance of the cave. (If felt great to come back to this spot after the long hike in the heat. What a way to cool down.) The cool air rushing out of the cave instantly turned to fog. And I’m not going to lie, it was a little spooky. I was here in July….this would have been epic if it were the end of October. Other highlights to this hike was the hawk lookout and finding the old cemetery.
Probably my hardest decision is answering “what was the best hike?” That’s a tough question to answer no matter how you cut it. Best view? Most fun? Highest? Best scramble? I think I’ll go with: Not eaten.
Bear Swamp Lake’s namesake
I see a lot of nature when I’m out. I love looking for mushrooms. I had a close encounter with a bear on one of my Appalachian Trail hikes, at least according to some hikers coming against me. But this took the cake. I first made sure that there were no cubs around. Then it was picture time. We both were surprised the other was there. And after looking at me for a minute or two, he ambled off. But definitely, DAY. MADE. Sure, it might have been a different story if he were a few feet from me, or there were cubs. But it was the perfect viewing encounter. It was hard to finish the hike and concentrate on the surroundings. But it was totally worth it.
Indian Head Mountain
This was my intro hike to hiking with the county Park System. And what a blast. This hike is up there (excuse the pun) for hike of the year, though it’s tough to compete with a bear. While the hike didn’t have a bear, it did have great company, my highest elevation, grueling stretches of trail, and a great hike through the conifers along the top. At the top, it felt like you were hiking through a Christmas tree farm, it smelled that great. Climbing up the chimney was awesome, and just the right height not to bother me. This was my first trip into the Catskills, and it will not be the last.
New Jersey’s section of the Appalachian Trail
(locations beneath the picture)
I haven’t done ALL of the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey. There are a few sections I want to do, but (now) I don’t have the desire to redline the whole section in New Jersey. These pictures represent some of my favorite sections. New Jersey is famous for its rocks, so the picture from the Buttermilk Falls hike really stands out. I love the history of the trail, how it’s maintained, and the signs you come across. Currently, as in the past, I still do not have the desire to hike the whole trail as a thru-hike. Also, I did other portions of the trail out of state (for example, in Harriman State Park.)
Wrapping it up: The shortest hike was at Goat Hill Preserve, 2.43 miles, and fortunately done with another hike that day. The longest hike was the western side of Ringwood State Park, where I hiked 11.93 miles. Other fun hikes included the Lemon Squeezer in Harriman State Park, Storm King had a killer view, the view from the hill in the Pine Barrens, and Popolopen Torne.
2021 was a great year on the trails, and I look forward to an even better 2022. I have some hikes teed up already, I know I will join the county Park System for some hikes, and I’m looking to expand where I’m off too. Hike your hike, leave no trace, and keep hiking blaze to blaze.