~5 miles, ~4 hours, it's all good
Highlands Endeavor Haiku:
Nowhere to eat lunch
standing by an oak, chewing
Food stuck in my beard
Decades ago, I saw these same exits on Route 80, back then heading west to Ohio then north to Michigan for college. What big dreams ran through my mind while exhaling cigarette smoke into the frigid winter air seeping through the cracked open window? I might have been thinking about being a millionaire at the upcoming turn of the century. Or being the next great American novelist, in the footsteps of Kerouac and London. Or, more likely, I was thinking about when I should stop to get the double cheeseburger and fries value meal at McDonalds. This was mandatory road trip food at the time.
Park your car at the southeast foot of Schooley's Mountain on Fairview Avenue, where it intersects with Patriot's Path. Phenomenal parking lot here.
Get a Lyft to 1 Shadow Hill Lane.
Bring a book: it will likely take you 20+ minutes to get a car. Once you get to your destination, the co-aligned Patriot's Path and Highlands trail, can be picked up on the corner of Spring Lane and Reservoir Road. You'll see the Highlands trail teal diamond right off the road.
This is not backcountry territory anymore. In fact, we probably left it a few hikes ago, but I refused to acknowledge it. Much of this land where we're hiking abuts private property, namely backyards with pools and soccer goals. The forest was quiet, but these houses I passed were even more quiet. With everyone off to school or work, they were desolate, An obscene amount of underutilized assets: big houses and big yards with most of the space unused.
I did not belong on the streets. The houses and homeowners did. Walking with backpack on cement, along manicured lawns, I felt like an intruder.
We used to go into the woods. Now the woods go into the houses.
Forgive the moribund tone. I will snap out of it eventually.
Sporadically, there are times you can still get lost in the forest. The mounds of leaves become rolling waves and you are bobbing along through a sea of brown.
And then this!
Enter the road territory. Turn left on Winay Terrace and right on Quail Run.
At least the Patriots Path is clearly marked with these posts:
Go by the school playground. Like, literally, you need to walk on it. Don't get arrested. Just keep going towards the street and keep your head down.
After the playground is the dead end that leads to the ballfields. I shit you not.
Your car is 2.5 miles away. Once you cross over East Springtown Road, you are at Schooley's Mountain County Park.
Do not make the wrong decision here:
Once you enter the park, you'll need to go up this hill here:
This below is a signal that you are going the right away. Pay attention to these types of signals.
Check it out. There is an overlook! What does it look over? Well, let's go see.
This is the bench at the overlook:
Spoiler alert! There is nothing to see at the overlook.
Falls! Gorge! Most difficult! Hells, yes. Detour approved:
This is the best part of the hike and it is not the highlands trail. It is the green trail and it will take you down the side of the mountain to the falls. Full disclosure: they are not really falls. This is a lie they put on the sign to make you did what I did, which is to go down the side of the mountain. All that being said, it's worth it anyway. There are some cool low grade rapids. Unless I totally missed the falls somewhere else, which is entirely possible and even likely.
Climb the mountain back up the green trail to get the highlands trail. Your car is close by. Go get it.
Sit in your car and play this. This one's for Elena.
Here's a map you can try. That's Reservoir and Spring at the top and Fairview Avenue at the bottom by the 4.2. Sorry about the flags, not sure why they are there.