Highlands Trail #8: Oak Ridge

~3 miles, ~3 hours, easy peasy

Hike #8: Take a breather, take it easy on yourself, and have time for a foot massage afterwards

First off, big thank you to my good friend Adria Jover for joining me on this hike, the first to participate with me side by side on the epic Endeavor expedition. He injected an unprecedented level of class and sophistication to the odyssey, bringing cloth napkins and aged Manchego to the lunch break, for christ's sake. 

Park your car at the end of Rock Lodge Pond (133-101 Rock Lodge Pond Road per Lyft), across from the house below. Call your Lyft. We got a car in less than 15 mins. You're going back to the best hiking parking lot of all time, right off Route 23 and Canistear Road. You'll need to cross to the other side to route 23 south and go a few 100 feet to find where the trail picks up again. Feel free to tell your Lyft driver to just drop you off on the other side of the road instead of having him/her bring you to the parking lot. I won't tell anyone that you didn't hike these few hundred feet on foot.

 Park across from this house. Do not bother the owners, they have nothing to do with your personal quest to dominate the Jersey Highlands.

Park across from this house. Do not bother the owners, they have nothing to do with your personal quest to dominate the Jersey Highlands.

 You'll understand this photo once you park your car across from the house above.

You'll understand this photo once you park your car across from the house above.

Let's get it on. This is the start of the trail on Route 23.

 Trail blaze off Route 23 south

Trail blaze off Route 23 south

 some brook connecting reservoirs in the background

some brook connecting reservoirs in the background

Adria gets a Highlands Endeavor Patch of Honor for being the best trash collector I've ever been with on a trail. He brought a dedicated plastic bag for this, which was so impressive. So much of hiking is taking in the beauty of the natural world around you: immersed in the continuum of nature, of endless life and death, and to be thankful for your moment in it. Not often enough do we think about how we can give back to it and contribute to others' experience on the trail behind us and ahead of us. One way is by leaving it cleaner than you found it. Adria Jover, I bow to you in complete homage, hombre.

 a wonderful humanitarian, a beautiful man

a wonderful humanitarian, a beautiful man

The hike is a quaint, charming one. A nice breather after Buckabear. There are a few short climbs, but nothing too challenging. 

Some more retaining walls along the way.

 retaining wall: a wall that retains things, such as mud and dirt and water and stuff

retaining wall: a wall that retains things, such as mud and dirt and water and stuff

A good view of Oak Ridge Reservoir to the east.  Grab a swig of water. Throw some nuts and raisins in your bocca.

Most impressive was this magical pine forest that just popped up out of nowhere.

 don't forget to look up from your phone

don't forget to look up from your phone

Adria got his first taste of glacial erratics.

 Hey, how did this get here?

Hey, how did this get here?

And I got my first taste of tree fungus. Do not try this at home.

 big bodied and oaky with a bit of fungus

big bodied and oaky with a bit of fungus

 Adria manhandling the crossing of these rapacious rapids

Adria manhandling the crossing of these rapacious rapids

Some checkpoints along the way will be the two roads that you'll cross over, both Holland Mountain Road and then Rock Lodge Road. 

Human roadside litter abundance, as usual. Adria and I discussed bringing a contractor bag next time to collect the larger items. 

 beer cans and other road flotsam

beer cans and other road flotsam

Among other impressive outdoor talents, Adria is a mushroom hunter or picker or whatever you call it. He spotted various mushrooms along this hike. One of them was called wolf fart. 

And here is the much deserved foot massage.

If you're really paying attention, you might be wondering why we were at Ryker Pond. Correct, it is not part of Hike #8. What happened was that Adria and I finished early and needed a good place for lunch, so we drove over to the lake. No need to dogmatic about sticking exactly to the plan, you know?

Use NY/NJ trail conference maps 116 and 126 for this hike.