Another year gone by already – well, that didn’t take long. And it’s apparently that time of year again to reflect on how 2015 was for hiking.
My hiking time this fall was a bit limited, especially due to a rather brain-draining graduate school project that I had to wrap up over the last few weeks. (It’s also the reason why the blog’s been a little quiet of late. So I beg your indulgence on that one, oh trail heads.)
All things considered, it was a pretty awesome year for outdoor pursuits. I got to take on a short chunk of the Appalachian Trail back in June, during a National Trails Day gathering up at Bear Mountain. Took a first run out on some cool multi-use trails, including the Columbia Trail out in western New Jersey and the Pine Creek Rail Trail out in central Pennsylvania.
A horse-drawn wagon tour comes down the Pine Creek Rail Trail at Darling Run.
Did you know that Pennsylvania’s got its own Grand Canyon? I wasn’t either, truth be told, before we came out there earlier in August. But this particular Grand Canyon runs north-south down Tioga County in the north-central part of the state, the result of glaciers having run roughshod over the area back during the Ice Age. The result is the Pine Creek Gorge.
Pine Creek was an important travel route in the area for a very long time; the Senecas had a well-traveled footpath along the creek banks. Starting in the nineteenth century, the Jersey Shore, Pine Creek and Buffalo Railroad (which connected to the New York and Central Railroad) ran down through this gorge along the banks of Pine Creek, as the region became home to a thriving lumber industry.
The train tracks, the stations and the rail towns are (mostly) gone now, but the rail bed still exists, repurposed as the Pine Creek Rail Trail starting in the 1990s. The trail and the two nearby state parks are all part of the Tioga State Forest.
A view of the river in the Lockwood Gorge. (Photo by Jeanne Roll.)
Happy May, trail heads. Now that I finally have that project for graduate school safely dispatched and out of my hair, I’m going to talk about a rail trail hike that I managed to squeeze in back in April.
“You’ve got to check this out for the blog,” my mother kept telling me over the phone this winter. “This” was the Columbia Trail, a rail trail that runs through a good chunk of Hunterdon County in western New Jersey – very close to where my mom’s family lived for a time and where my grandmother still hangs her hat.
People walk, sit and take selfies amid the hollies and other trees in the Chelsea Thicket on the High Line.
A few weeks ago, gentle readers, winter gave us one last flipping of the bird by causing it to snow on what was officially the first day of spring.
A wicked case of cabin fever had me craving a long and substantial walk, especially since I needed to start getting back into shape for longer summer hikes. But where to go? Most of the more rugged hiking trails I like to frequent were, after the first-day-of-spring storm, covered in snow. On top of that, I was facing the usual crunch of five million demands on my time.
Here’s how I managed it.
On the second day of spring, a Saturday, I had to go into New York to run a couple of errands. And there was a place in the city that I had been meaning to check out for quite some time – the High Line.
A bike mosaic on the northern half of the Shining Sea Bikeway.
So, what I was saying in my last post about how fall’s a really good time to go hiking, because the heat’s tapering off and the tourist crush is winding down?
A couple of years ago, the family and I went up to Cape Cod (our first time there, believe it or not) in the fall for four days of biking and sightseeing.
It was early on in the fall – late September, early October or thereabouts – so the weather was mild without being too warm. And we crammed in quite a bit – puttering around Wellfleet and Truro, a whale-watching trip out of Provincetown, and a good seafood dinner in Woods Hole for our last night there. And for the biking part of the trip, we did the Shining Sea Bikeway.
View from the trail entrance on Fairview Avenue.
“Is that the trail up ahead?” I ask the two bikers – likely a dad and kid – coming out of the woods on Fairview Avenue in Verona, NJ.
“Yes – right where we came out.” The dad looks over his shoulder back toward the woods.
“Cool – thanks!”
I’d had a co-worker recommend the West Essex Trail to me as a hiking spot of a weekend. My hiking time has been a little limited this summer, due to a sprained ankle that took a while to heal, plus the usual time-eaters (work, grad school). So, having a few spare hours on a recent Sunday afternoon, I drove up Bloomfield Avenue from Montclair to Verona, boots on and backpack in tow.
Categories: Biking, Hiking
Tags: biking, Cedar Grove, Essex County, hiking, Little Falls, Overbrook Hospital, Peckman River, rail trail, Verona, Weird NJ, West Essex Trail