Highlands Trail #6: Two Brooks

~6 miles (ish), 5 hours (ish), moderate-ish

Hike #6: See a new side of the highlands, where streams and evergreens run free.

Kicking it off with Rachmaninoff, dawg. So dramatic. Put this on in your car a few miles out from the parking lot, driving north on Clinton Road. Rockin.

OK, folks, this is the first of the backwards hikes. Meaning: I had no cell phone service in the parking lot, so I couldn't call a Lyft to the starting point. Rather than waste time troubleshooting the problem, I just started hiking. That means I hiked from the end point to the beginning. So, essentially the beginning was the end. This is yet another validation of all reality being amorphous. The point is if you try this hike, but want to try it the other way (going south on the highlands trail), follow all my notes backwards. I actually think I prefer the backwards route, as you won't start at Echo Lake, which is kind of meh in the winter. Like so, you can end up at Echo Lake, with some momentum from other parts of the hike.

I had low expectations for the Pequannock Watershed, having experienced it as an apex of dismalness the day before.  That's where my head was at when I started, but I was pleasantly surprised.

This is where you're going to park your car on Clinton Road, at Parking Lot #4. It is marked well with a "P-4". There are actually two parking lots marked "P-4", however, there is only one that is a proper parking lot. The other one is just a small area off the side of the road. Either way, park your goddamn car. And get out.

 surprisingly well marked, as long you are not going too fast on the road and blow by it

surprisingly well marked, as long you are not going too fast on the road and blow by it

Here were some wild turkeys that crossed the road on my way.

Start hiking here, you'll be following both the highlands trail and white trail for a bit:

 splat

splat

 yeah, yeah, we know, we're doing the whole thing

yeah, yeah, we know, we're doing the whole thing

The start of this hike was splendid, filled with mellifluous alpine spring music. Pine trees everywhere. Ferns and moss everywhere. Lots of marshland and muck, so make sure you have waterproof boots. 

 pine trees abound

pine trees abound

 muck

muck

First two checkpoints are the two brooks, heading southeast from Cedar Pond.

 this may be one of the two brooks, I am not certain

this may be one of the two brooks, I am not certain

So far, this is the most wildlife rich hike of the Highlands Endeavor. I heard woodpeckers and other birds often and also saw a lot of scat (translation: poop). 

Turn left to go to the fire tower. You can't climb the fire tower, so don't get giddy in anticipation.

You'll be connecting with the yellow trail for a while, going north.

Some cool rocks and trees you'll pass along the way to the fire tower:

 I never thought I'd say this, but these were just beautiful rocks

I never thought I'd say this, but these were just beautiful rocks

Go north towards the fire tower.

 scraggly, proud chestnut oak typical of the jersey highlands outcropping

scraggly, proud chestnut oak typical of the jersey highlands outcropping

The fire tower. There's not much to say about the fire tower. There are better and there are worse, as far as fire towers go.

It's not a bad place to eat brunch.

Head east and next checkpoints are crossing over the blue/white trail and white trail. 

 blue/white trail

blue/white trail

 white trail

white trail

There's a turn you need to look out for:

 don't daydream and miss this, like I did

don't daydream and miss this, like I did

If you see one of these, stick your nose in it, but check first for anything that might bite you. Real pine smell!

OK, it gets a little crappy for a while, following the road, first a right on Union Valley and then a left on Gould. I don't have a problem with roads per se, but the garbage on the side of them from our fellow humans is repugnant, a reminder of how the destructive force of man is inexhaustibly encroaching on the last remaining natural beauty in New Jersey. And you can put that in your pipe and smoke it.

 a road walk, grrrrrr

a road walk, grrrrrr

 garbage

garbage

 more garbage

more garbage

On Gould, you pick up the trail here:

Follow this and it will take you to the northwest corner of Echo Lake. I took a breather here and ate some quinoa/brown rice pasta with olive oil and grated parmigiano cheese. #thuglife

Old bear scat:

Keep going south along the lake until you reach the parking lot.

Order your Lyft from the woods. It might take a while. You are getting your car delivered to 223 Echo Lake Road. Call the driver to make sure he doesn't drive by.

Use NY/NJ trail conference map #116 for this.