Jersey Girls in the Woods: South Mountain Reservation

It started with an innocent “Hey, let’s go for a hike!” Four hours later with nothing but drops in our water bottles, no food and an increasingly slow pace, Mr. Knightly sat down in the middle of the trail refusing to go on. My friend Nicole looked at me with a similar question in her eyes “When will this torture end?”

Two months ago I convinced friends Nicole and Meredith to come out hiking. We picked South Mountain Reservation in northern New Jersey because Meredith and I had already been to High Point recently and it was one of the only other hiking trails we could think of. I carefully mapped out a trail on a map printed off the internet.

Meredith leading the hike.

The hike started out swimmingly–well, once we found the trail head. Save for some mud, everyone was excited for a day out in nature.

Once we had fallen into a rhythm, hiking farther and farther from the parking lot, did the hike reveal itself for what it is: a really long walk in the woods. Nicole had not anticipated the rocks, inclines, overhanging branches, mud, lack of pavement and she was not pleased with the discovery. I had failed to include these details in the Upcoming Attractions at South Mountain  and now my hiking buddy was feeling unprepared. That wasn’t the only mistake.

Halfway into the trail we came upon a river crossing that seemed more intermediate than easy. There was no bridge in sight and the rocks intended for crossing were far apart from each other and slippery. We walked to one possible “crossing” and then backtracked to another. Neither crossing seemed straight forward, and both seemed so difficult for our abilities that we’d end up soaked in the river. Not to mention our Westie terrier with short legs. We saw one man across the river attempt to cross it, but we never saw if he succeeded. Minutes after we spotted him, he disappeared into the woods.

After checking our map over and over to figure out if, yes, we were supposed to cross here, we decided to take the plunge. Fortunately, it was not a literal plunge. All of us made it. Embarrassing video was taken. Nellie, who had been terrified during most of the trail, forged the river as if she had been born to do it. After crossing, she shook herself and swelled with pride.

We took on a 6 mile hike that day and didn’t pack any food. Not one power bar or fruit. All of us felt the tightening of our stomachs by the end of the trail. Even the dogs were hungry.

Hunger and surprises aside, all of us had a memorable day. On seeing the parking lot, we were all giddy with excitement. It wasn’t until the drive home that we considered our small victories. We forged a river! Finished a six mile hike! Found the waterfalls! Didn’t get lost!

South Mountain has some great features to experience such as a waterfall, reservoir, and several trail systems. We saw two waterfalls that day!

I would love to hike South Mountain again. Once I cross off a few other hikes on my list, I will return! As if I didn’t make enough mistakes during that hike, I forgot my camera too! These pictures are all courtesy of Nicole’s phone and if you’d like to check out her other adventures she keeps a health blog here.

Just keep hiking, just keep hiking.

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3 thoughts on “Jersey Girls in the Woods: South Mountain Reservation

  1. I have hiked South Mountain Reservation many times – it’s a pretty place. Now that I live in the southwest, hiking preparedness is much more important. If I don’t have enough water, I have big problems. As I talk to other hikers I get preparedness ideas – such as always being OVER prepared. We don’t get prepared for the hike we plan, we prepare for the unplanned. It’s much more critical in an arid climate such as ours.

    Happy trails!

    • I agree. Your hike of the CDT looked intense! Many of the New Jersey trails I’ve hiked so far are very forgiving to the under-prepared hiker. On the other hand, it’s a great place to learn and make mistakes. With each hike, I can see my pack becoming more and more practical.

      You too!

      • That’s very true, my pack has developed and changed over time. And now that it’s getting warming, I’m changing gear again. More water, shorts vs jeans, melting chocolate is out, and my camel pack vs my waist pack. Happy trails!

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