On Sunday, June 18, 2017 I was lucky to have my son Mike to accompany me on a Father’s Day Appalachian Trail (AT) hike. The plan was to do New Jersey Section #3 which is a 9.8 mile section between High Point State Park and the Rt. 284 road crossing. We left my car at the small parking area off Rt. 284 and then Mike gave me a ride to the designated AT parking area off Rt. 23 just prior to the High Point State Park visitors center. After parking Mike’s car we followed a blue blazed side trail which intersects with the New Jersey State’s red colored Iris Trail which then joins with the AT trail as hikers approach the Rt. 23 road crossing. A light rain was falling and there was a lot of fog which blocked our chance to enjoy the three state view (New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York) which is possible from this vantage point on clear weather days. High Point, at approximately 1700 feet above sea level, is the highest point in New Jersey.
As we crossed Rt. 23, we were guided by these signs on our northbound journey.
The first mile of this trail had a two hundred foot climb on very slick boulders and rocks which made our foot plants very deliberate so we did not turn an ankle so early in our journey. We were enshrouded in fog but eventually reached this wooden observation tower.
I walked up to see the view but it was mostly more fog. There was a tiny opening in the visibility which permitted a small view of Lake Marcia which is next to the paved auto road leading to the High Point Monument which is a 220 feet tall obelisk and is a replica of the Washington Monument. This war memorial was built in 1930. The fog was so thick we could not see even one foot of the monument.
For those readers who want to know what the monument looks like, here is a photo of it from the official High Point State Park brochure.
Two tenths of a mile past the observation tower there is a side trail leading to the monument. We stayed to the right and kept heading on the AT. In a half a mile, we came to the side trail for the High Point Shelter. It had taken us one hour and thirteen minutes to travel the 1.7 miles to the shelter. Not exactly a blistering pace.
The shelter and area surrounding it were very neat. This shelter had a very long overhang past the edge of the sleeping platform which probably would keep sleeping hikers dry even during a rain storm. Mike noted the good masonry stone work done by the volunteers who constructed the shelter. I signed the register and cautioned any southbound hikers to watch out for the slick rocks.
There was a notice advising hikers that per Jim Murray, the Murray Shelter aka The Secret Shelter would be closed on 6/1/17. I don’t know if the note meant that it would be closed only on that day or for good.
As David “AWOL” Miller’s guide notes, this private cabin has been open for the use of long distance hikers for nearly 20 years. It is equipped with a tenting area, well water, shower and a privy. A little later, Mike and I noticed the entrance to this private site just a little west of the trail. I did not go investigate it but, in hindsight, I wish I had just to know if this was closed for good or not.
After a very short break at the shelter, we headed back to the trail. As we were turning right to continue north, we noticed a thru hiker who appeared to be packing up after sleeping the night in his tent. I called over to him to apologize if I had been talking too loudly but he said it was okay.
Three miles into our hike we came to our first road crossing, Greenville Road (Rt. 519). Mike noticed these little yellow colored markers stuck in the middle of the road.
I had never seen these before. My only guess is that these right angled markers were placed to help guide the future line painting crews on this recently repaved road and to provide some safety for drivers to see the approximate middle of the road.
We continued a fairly steep descent and crossed a series of streams, some of which had very little water. Our feet were grateful for the break from sharp edged rocks as we crossed a stile and walked along edges of hay fields.
We reached the five mile mark in a little over two and a three quarter hours when we reached Ferguson Road. When I approached this stile I noticed that in addition to the right handed turn blaze pattern, someone had taken the time to affix a small white painted arrow as well to help guide the hikers. You can see another directional arrow across the street as well.
We continued crossing more roads with some small little hills of about two hundred feet interspersed between the roads. We crossed a couple of footbridges similar to the one pictured below.
After passing to the right of a small pond, we passed the gravel driveway leading to the Murray “Secret” Shelter. We continued our descent and on one switchback Mike found this leaf that was all rolled up. It was unusual. It looked like a bug or worm at first.
We crossed Goldsmith Lane which was a gravel road and then Unionville Road before climbing a short two hundred foot hill. As soon as we hit the top of the hill we started the final descent toward Lott Road. As we were crossing Lott Road, we noticed the same northbound thru hiker we had seen near High Point Shelter. I forgot to say that he had passed us a while back. Anyway, he was sitting on a stone wall and taking a break. Since we only had a little over a mile left, and the stone wall was in a shaded spot, I wanted to chat with the hiker. His trail name is “Wave” and he intends to make it to Katahdin. He had begun hiking from Springer Mountain, Georgia in April. It turns out that he is from Cary, North Carolina and I mentioned that I had relatives living there. I gave Wave my cell number in case he needed some help during the next part of his hike in NJ, NY or CT. He appeared to be hiking alone so this would give him a life line should he need help. I explained that I had already hiked the rest of NJ, all of NY and most of the CT sections he would be hiking soon so I was willing to help him should he need some assistance. I asked him to text me to let me know when he finishes at Katahdin. I gave him a Cliff Bar-White Macadamia Nut- before Mike and I headed north to complete our day’s section hike. The last mile was uneventful as we descended a little further to the Rt. 284 road crossing. Mike took my picture under a nearby sign. I somehow got a blood stain on the front of my shirt. I surmise a branch scratched me through my shirt.
I have now hiked 156.2 miles of the AT [89.8 in New York (completed), 36.7 in Connecticut and 29.7 in New Jersey]. More section hikes to plan!