~6 hours, ~7 miles, mild, not spicy
Ain't no party like a highlands party 'cuz a highlands party don't stop. We're having so much fun, we decided to double it up this time around. So, we're offering a 2 for 1 deal, combining hikes #13 and #14 in one glorious hike. You're welcome.
Park your car at 1 Shadow Hill Way, a very nice subdivision in Hackettstown. I put a note on my dashboard indicating that I'd gone hiking and would be back to collect my car by the end of the day. It was one of those quiet neighborhoods where an unknown car might get towed just for being unknown. Order your Lyft to the address above and go to Waterloo Village. It will take you about 15 mins to get a car. Big shout out to my driver Andre, who drove me two consecutive days. He also informed me that he told another passenger about the Highlands Endeavor. It is officially viral now, folks.
At Waterloo Village, start your hike where you finished the previous, as is the HiEnd protocol. Lucky you, you get to hike under Route 80. Listen for the birds. They like to frolic on this part of the trail.
You're going to link up with the Morris Canal Greenway Trail. There are some noteworthy historical stops related to the canal. It was built to transport Pennsylvania coal across New Jersey and in its heyday stretched 103 miles from Phillipsburg to Jersey City. According to the NY/NJ trail conference map, the Morris Canal was an engineering marvel for it's time. You can marvel at it yourself, with a bit of imagination and/or hallucinogens, watching the men with corncob pipes on the barges going through the locks and inclined planes.
The highlands trail and Morris Canal Greenway Trail will weave in and out and along Waterloo Road.
You're also walking along the Musconetcong River. Pay homage to the mighty musk. Old man musk. Ms. Musk. According to Wikipedia, human habitation in the Musconetcong Valley can be traced back approximately 12,000 years to the end of the last ice age. This should inspire awe. It should also inspire a heavy dose of shame for the cataclysmic amount of destruction we and our European ancestors have caused in only the last four hundred years.
Continue to head southwest.
If you smell something, say something:
Keep going. Turn left at the Christmas tree.
And don't miss this turn across the street.
Quick tip: always walk on the side of the road where the traffic is coming towards you. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but if someone is driving and texting and veers off the road, you'll see it and can dive into the bushes.
OK, it starts to get a little sketchy for a while. You know that feeling when you are walking late at night and turn down an unfamiliar street and the tingles run up the back of your neck. Well, that's the kind of neighborhood you are in, proving once again that humans are much scarier than animals. And that it doesn't have to be dark for you to get that feeling.
You need to go down this road. Unfortunately.
One of the houses had vinyl sheets covering the windows. What was happening inside that house? Perhaps Buffalo Bill knows.
Oh yeah and I spotted a noose too.
Risking your life on this part of the hike will pay off, I promise. Next up: Saxton Falls.
Yes, stop for yogurt and water at Saxton Falls.
This place is called Saxton Falls because it was once owned by Nathaniel Saxton. He sold it in the early 19th century for the benefit of the canal. I was going to give him a shout out, but decided against it. I mean, should he get a shout out for selling his land? I've submitted it to the board for review.
You're going to want to hang out here for a while. It's chill. It's just you and the dam and you can meditate with the hum of the falls in the background. However, as true highlanders do, I diligently resisted this temptation and stayed only 9.4632 minutes. Keep going. You are destined for much bigger things. Like Burger King onion rings.
Soon enough you are going to head straight south and link up with the Patriot's Path. Say goodbye to Allamuchy. Say hello to Stephen's State Park.
OK, it's time for you to stop taking and start giving. Be like Adria and pick up some garbage. You can find some bags here on a post by the river, right in the main part of Stephens.
Since we're all being honest here, I had to take a call while on this hike. It was my mortgage guy. We're trying to buy a new house. Blah blahing away on the trail, stomping and talking, I was reminded how everyday life can creep into anything if you let it, like mildew in your bathroom tiles. It's important to make the proper space for yourself. The space to blaze. If you don't ruthlessly make this space, you will always be that person who talks about if only. You know the if only people. If only I had this, then I would do this. That's a bunch of horse shit.
Stop by the information office at Stephen's.
Do like the beavers do.
This is why we hike in New Jersey. For these moments.
Keep following the Patriot's Path and Highlands trail symbols. Even when you are running low on steam.
Go under the power lines. Roadside garbage and bones are pervasive. Resist the impulse of disgust. Take it in. Take it all in. How does it all fit in? How do you fit in?
Fuck that shit. Turn left on Mine Hill Road, which then turns right.
Then turn right on Sand Shore Road. Walk by rows and rows of bleak corporate offices and warehouses. Be thankful it is not you. At least, it isn't you on this day.
Do something useful. Fill that garbage bag. And throw it in the garbage bin at Burger King when you arrive for your onion rings. It should be full by the time you get there.
Eat the onion rings at Burger King. Make sure to pour on the ketchup. You've earned it. Go to Naughright Road, next to Burger King, and head south. Yes, you can check your compass.
Turn right on Mission and take it the promised land.
For hike #13, which is Waterloo Village to Stephens, you'll need the NY/NJ trail conference map 127. For hike #14, there ain't no trail map. You big time now.
But have no fear, I've connected it to a roadmap. No extra charge.
Take a look at this too.