The plan was to join a group that advertised they were going to hike Schooley’s Mountain in Morris County, New Jersey. I drove about 90 minutes to get there. I had never been with this particular group before. I learned that they had a few members in their 30s, but that most seemed to be in their 60s or 70s. They announced that one of the men there had bad knees, hips, etc. and it was hard for him to hike up and downhill. But he had brought his bicycle and did fine on flat surfaces, so would we mind if instead of hiking up and down a mountain, we just followed a flat trail, so that he could join us (on his bike)?
Well, I minded, but I was not a member of this group, and just suffered in silence. As I’ve noted before, I enjoy mountains because the elevation change provides more of a workout, and also provides better views.
So we piled into a few people’s cars and shuttled to Ken Lockwood Gorge in adjacent Hunterdon County, where the drivers parked and we began hiking (or in one case biking) along the south fork of the Raritan River. For mid-February, the weather was unseasonably mild, probably in the 40s and 50s.
10:25 a.m.: The Raritan River is an important river in New Jersey, and this area is popular for trout fishing. As a hike, it is insanely boring.
Here’s a photo that shows the river and the “trail” that we were
following, which was a service road.
After about a mile or two, we exited the gorge.
We then began hiking along the Columbia Trail, advertised by Hunterdon County as a 7-mile greenway. This is a rails-to-trails project that had formerly been a railroad bed, specifically, the High Bridge Branch of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. The branch of the railroad was in service from 1876 to 1976, with the rails removed in 1980.
Local residents enjoyed placing plastic gnomes and assorted “gnome homes” along this trail. Some people on the hike thought that was charming, while I considered it to be littering.
The stone station and a bit of track remain at a town called Califon. A sign states that the founder of the town intended to call it California, as he had spent time there, but a sign painter ran out of room and abbreviated to Califon. A wooden station had been built here when the branch opened in 1876, but residents felt that the town had achieved a significant-enough stature by 1893 that they deserved better, and cooperated with the railroad to build this beautiful little fieldstone station that still stands.
An old building along the trail.
The Willow Grove Farm breeds Clydesdale horses and offers rentals for trail rides. I probably would have enjoyed that more than walking along the “trail.”
Another old building:
This cow looked as bored as I felt:
We walked through a forest of precisely spaced Christmas trees, which sounds fascinating . . .
. . . until one realizes that they were only about 3′ tall.
A few of the intrepid hikers (and biker) investigate a bridge that had recently had a new deck applied. We stopped here for lunch.
The bridge afforded a pretty view:
The Raritan River had recently flooded, and at least one homeowner decided to have his house raised to avoid future floods:
Another homeowner, where Columbia Trail crosses Middle Valley Road in Washington Township, has a collection of old cars that is slowly rusting away.
We finally returned to where I had left my car. I think the hike was only about 8.5 miles, but with the monotonous hike along totally flat ground, it seemed like a longer distance.