2021 Analysis

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:

Probably one of the coolest non-viewpoint photo I’ve taken

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)

(Culver’s Gap to Sunrise Mountain)

(Rattlesnake Swamp trail junction)

(Raccoon Ridge)

Rutherford Shelter

(South of High Point)

……what???

(Buttermilk Falls towards Crater Lake)

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.

2020 Analysis

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 MentionLord 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.

5Kittatiny State Park

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.

4Apshawa 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.

3Schunnemunk State Park / Schunnemunk Mountain

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.

2Stairway to Heaven

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.

And…..

1Bearfort 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.,

2019 Analysis

If I was disappointed I didn’t get out much in 2018, then I would be surprised by my 2019 totals. There were too many extra activities in the summer of 2019 that prevented me from getting to the trails. Of course, the Jersey weather did not hold it’s end of the bargain.

2017 hikes: 12
2018 hikes: 10
2019 hikes: 5

5! That’s all my spreadsheet shows. Seeing that saddens me, especially after vowing in 2018 that I would get out more in 2019. Fortunately, that means I should be able to beat that number this year (and really, I’ve already been out once, so that’s a good start.) I can see the summer shaping up to be busy, but the spring should be a little easier.

2017 miles: 40.45
2018 miles: 41.54
2019 miles: 23.35

As expected, with less trips came less miles. I’m hoping this year to accomplish more miles and more verticle. In reality, that shouldn’t be too hard, as I’ve hiked most of the local parks and now have to drive further to find new trails.

Highlights from this year:

Hacklebarney State Park:  This was a fun hike by the Black River. While it starts out easy by the trailhead, there are tons of rocks along the river. I did this in the Spring, it must be spectacular with color in the Fall.

Bear Mountain State Park: Major Welch Trail. This was probably my favorite hike of the year. I loved the rock scrambling. This was a little bit of a drive, but oh so worth it. Pro Tip: Don’t do this on the hottest/most humid day of the year. Great views!

Of course, I have great plans for the year, let’s see what it brings.

See you on the trails!

2018 Analysis

With a few minutes of free time, and not being able hike for at least a month and a half; I thought I would look back on 2018. The summer of 2018 presented a bunch of challenges that did not allow me to get out and hike as much as I would have liked – between hockey tournaments, college visits, and plenty of adverse weather, I spent many a weekends indoors or away from the trails.

2017 hikes: 12
2018 hikes: 10

2017 saw me return to hiking and many of those trips were to the local county parks, I wanted to tick them off the list. 2018 saw me traveling more to locations out-of-county and on my list. However, the challenges listed above limited my number of trips in the past year. Weather was particularly bad, particularly on the Jockey Hollow trail when I ran into a deluge.

2017 miles: 40.45
2018 miles: 41.54

In two less trips I was able to essentially increase my mileage by a mile. Of note, 2017 was spent in County parks, for the most part; where this year I traveled to bigger parks with longer trails.

Highlights from this year:

Cattus Island: Ocean County park. My daughter and I hiked many of the trails here for a long day. We hiked it in May before the heat, humidity, and insects took over. Lots of great scenery, especially by the water.

Watchung Reservation: Sierra Trail. This was a great hike, 7 miles in length. The day was HOT HOT HOT. I had planned 11 miles, but ran pretty low on water. Lots of great views while up on the ridge, and probably my favorite part was hiking through Feltsville, the abandoned town.

Jenny Jump State Park:  An out-and-back. I liked the climbs, the walk on the ridge, Ghost Lake, the views from the lookouts, not seeing a bear (though I wouldn’t mind, from a distance), and not seeing ghosts. Lots of rocks here.

In 2019, I hope to get out more, expand the miles, and challenge myself with new, and maybe more challenging terrain. While I don’t have a bucket list, I do have plenty of trails I want to hike, both here and out of state.

See you on the trails.