~5 hours, ~5 miles, ~challenging
Day 1: Let's get this shiznits started.
You can get your coffee here, if you are headed up Route 17 North. And you don't mind Starbucks. Hard to get the perfect cortado right off the side of the highway.
When you get close to the trailhead, as usual, you will pass the parking lot five times before you find it.
The hike starts in New York State, which is not the best state in the world. The reason I chose this starting place is because I wanted to experience every inch of New Jersey, not shortcut it anywhere. So, it was worth the sacrifice of spending a small amount of time in New York. We call that good ROI.
Take Sloatsburg Road over the border, then go west on Long Meadow Road. Take a left on the road to Blue Lake. Trailhead comes up on the right. Welcome to Sterling Forest. Your job is to get to New Jersey as quickly as possible. The blaze is a red stripe. Don't ask why, on the map it is identified as the white trail.
Big ups to my pops for joining me on the maiden hike of the Highlands Endeavor and dropping me off at the very first starting point. Apologies to him and his new car for asking them to go down as busted up of a road as the one we took to Blue Lake.
When I was a kid, my dad and I used to go to this nearby arcade called Silver Ball in North Bergen. Believe it or not, this was when the Berlin Wall was still up. I remember one time on our way there, the snow was falling, the windshield wipers softly swaying back and forth, and we were talking about the Russians and maybe they weren't so bad and didn't want to annihilate all of us. My dad said he knew that at that exact time there was a Russian father and son having the same conversation, driving in the snow, talking about the Americans. We've had so many conversations over the years that have expanded my mind and horizons beyond measure. There is not a day goes that I don't feel an immense appreciation for this man who has instilled in me the sense that anything and everything is possible. Even for people from New Jersey!
This zig zags west for a while. Eventually, you'll hit two gates close to each other marked do not enter. Take the one on the left. I'm serious. Yes, just go right over it or around it. Keep going. You'll get to this:
Continue to follow this trail west. It will take you to the promised land: the highlands trail. It is marked by the teal diamond. You'll first see this when you reach it (go left towards Hewitt):
Zoom in. This is the NJ/NY state border. Kiss the ground. On the New Jersey side.
You're walking on Big Beech Mountain. There are some spectacular views.
You're heading south through the highlands region. It's rocky and upsy and downsy. Enjoy. This is what it's all about. See that water out there? That's Monksville Reservoir. That's where you're going.
Keep going south. You'll go down the back side of Big Beech and spend some nice time with the forest. Somewhere along the way, before you intersect with the yellow trail for the first time, there is an unmaintained old mining road to the abandoned Patterson Mine. I took it for a quarter mile and didn't find the mine and then gave up. Let me know if you have any better luck. Send pics.
Keep going south and pass by the yellow trail the first time, then converge with it the second time. This will take you to the Wanaque River, where you cross over a bridge into the Long Pond Ironworks, the home of ancient iron ore furnaces. Ancient for North Jersey, that is. 18th-19th century.
Some of them are as old as the revolutionary war. Others as old as the civil war. I imagined iron bars being made here that then went into guns and ammo for the wars. And you will too.
Check this place out. It is rad. Water wheels!
Not too far south from here, you can meditate on what your life has or has not become. I did.
Then walk past some old houses and huge very old trees, take a left on Greenwood Lake Turnpike and your car or pick up is here at 1334 Greenwood Lake Turnpike:
Starbucks here for coffee and checking your photos after your hike.
NY/NJ trail conference maps you'll need for this: 100 and 115.