Highlands Trail #10: Saffin Pond

Hike #10: ~4 miles, ~4 hours, moderate

Entered double digit territory (hike #10!) with the help of my friends and former Clarifai colleagues Shirley, Mike, and Jesse. Cruising in from Manhattan early Saturday morning, they made it to the rendezvous point (a few miles from the car drop off point) in less than an hour. Further proof that anybody in the tri-state area with the proper combination of grit, moxie, determination, and boundless love for New Jersey can follow this Endeavor guidebook for Highlands domination.

Despite an early morning thick layer of fog that ominously permeated the highway and forest, threatening visibility, the sky cleared and made way for a spectacular warm and clear day. You just don't know, folks. You just don't know what the day may bring. That's why you just have to go for it. Unless there are gale force winds forecasted. Then definitely stay home. [That happened yesterday.]

Drop your car off at the Saffin Pond parking lot on Weldon Road. Type Saffin Pond into Google Maps and go there. There is a port-a-john in the parking lot. You might want to use it after your one hour caffeine-laden ride from the city. Or you might want to wait until you take your Lyft to the parking lot at Mahlon Dickerson Reservation, where they also have a port-a-john, which I duly highlighted for you in Hike #9. Take your Lyft to the Mahlon Dickerson parking lot, also off of Weldon Road. Look for the sign, turn in. Can it get any easier?

Drop your car here:

 what it looks like at Saffin Pond parking lot, apologies for not taking a photo of the street sign

what it looks like at Saffin Pond parking lot, apologies for not taking a photo of the street sign

Drop your second car here or get yourself delivered by Lyft here:

 Entrance to Mahlon Dickerson parking lot from Weldon Road

Entrance to Mahlon Dickerson parking lot from Weldon Road

 Me, Shirley, Jesse, and Mike, pre-hike euphoria. So good looking, all of us. Mindblowing. No, Jesse is not posing. He normally looks like that.

Me, Shirley, Jesse, and Mike, pre-hike euphoria. So good looking, all of us. Mindblowing. No, Jesse is not posing. He normally looks like that.

AUTHORIZED DETOUR! Must go to the highest point in Morris County at a whopping 1,395 feet. If you are in Mahlon Dickerson Reservation and you don't go to the highest point in Morris County, what is the point? What is the point of you? The straight up dope is that there isn't much to see on this detour. It's just for bragging rights. I keep it real.

It's a little tricky to get on the white trail. Take the white trail going left (or west). This will go west, then north, then west, then north. Sounds complicated, but you'll get there fairly quickly. There is also an easier way, which is to take the blue trail west, spurring off of the white trail, but for some reason, we didn't do that. Most likely because we were chatting away. Follow your compass closely, so you don't waste time going in the wrong direction.

 field guide image of a white trail

field guide image of a white trail

 Go left here, assuming that's west. I'm pretty sure it is, but consult your compass. And the sun. And if those don't work, go with your gut.

Go left here, assuming that's west. I'm pretty sure it is, but consult your compass. And the sun. And if those don't work, go with your gut.

 bypass the pink trail, as tempting as it may be to go down it

bypass the pink trail, as tempting as it may be to go down it

You want glacial erratic? You got it.

 You're erratic too. Think of the glaciers that have passed over you, knocking pieces of you across mountaintops and valleys.

You're erratic too. Think of the glaciers that have passed over you, knocking pieces of you across mountaintops and valleys.

You want impenetrable fog? You got it.

 headless horseman type weather

headless horseman type weather

This is what you do when you reach the highest point in Morris County. It says 425 meters above sea level. Being French, Jesse seemed to understand what that meant.

OK, now quit dilly dallying around. Time to get back to what you really came for: the Highlands trail.

Go back to the parking lot and you'll find this:

 back to business

back to business

Head south on the Highlands trail towards Headley Overlook. Ah, feeling good again, back where we belong. Not for nothing, but these detours, like the one to the top of Morris County, don't mean much to me. I do them mainly to keep my many fans out there happy.  Being back on the highlands trail felt like home to me. A pep picked up in my step. I was on my way again, joined by my very capable compatriots, intimately bonding with 500 million year old rocks and the things that grow on them, under them, and around them.

Headley Overlook is a quaint place for a moment of peace and reflection, assuming there aren't crowds coming through at the time. We did pass a lot of people on the trail. 

 "Who am I? Why am I here? Hear me, fog? Show yourself, goddamn it! Réponds moi!"

"Who am I? Why am I here? Hear me, fog? Show yourself, goddamn it! Réponds moi!"

 seeing through the fog

seeing through the fog

Some fun rock scrambling:

When you intersect the white trailhead (another white trail, different than the one you encountered at the parking lot) , you are about halfway to Saffin Pond.

There are some picnic benches at Saffin Pond. A great place to eat lunch and relax. 

Eating lunch, observing Jesse consume his massive pile of spaghetti with olive oil, I was reminded of something the group had discussed early on when we started the hike. A few minutes in, they were commenting on how quiet the forest was, how there were no sirens blasting, no jackhammers pounding away. In these ten hikes, I had started to get used to it. I notice it less, the pervasive layer of calmness, as it has become my new normal. I now enter the forest with less adjustment, with less settling. There is so much less of that impulse to check my phone, my email, my instagram, my slack, my text, my digital drugs. Though fleeting quickly, I am immensely enjoying this moment in time of being less jumpy, less frenetic, and manic.  It has become more a part of me, which I hope will stay on with me forever.  

Despite all that, I still remain as addicted to my double espresso as ever.

When you are done with nourishing yourself and philosophizing, get back to your car at the Mahlon Dickerson Reservation parking lot.

And read about Mahlon Dickerson when you get there. And think about what it takes to have a forest named after you. And if that is something you aspire to. Or if you have bigger things in mind.

For this hike, get the NY/NJ trail conference map 126