Ken Lockwood Gorge & Columbia Trail, Hunterdon & Morris Counties, NJ

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.

Raritan River, Ken Lockwood Gorge, Hunterdon County, NJ

Raritan River

 

Raritan River, Ken Lockwood Gorge, Hunterdon County, NJ

Raritan River

 

Raritan River, Ken Lockwood Gorge, Hunterdon County, NJ

Raritan River

Here’s a photo that shows the river and the “trail” that we were
following, which was a service road.

Trail beside Raritan River, Ken Lockwood Gorge, Hunterdon County, NJ

Trail through Lockwood Gorge

 

After about a mile or two, we exited the gorge.

Bridge over Raritan River, Outside Ken Lockwood Gorge, Hunterdon County, NJ

Bridge over Raritan River

 

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.

Columbia Trail, Hunterdon County, NJ

Columbia Trail

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.

Califon Station, Hunterdon County, NJ

Califon Station

 

An old building along the trail.

Old building beside Columbia Trail, Hunterdon County, NJ

Old building

 

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.”

Clydesdale on Columbia Trail, Hunterdon or Morris County, NJ

Clydesdale

Another old building:

Old building beside Columbia Trail, Hunterdon or Morris County, NJ

Old building

This cow looked as bored as I felt:

Cow beside Columbia Trail, Hunterdon or Morris County, NJ

Cow

We walked through a forest of precisely spaced Christmas trees, which sounds fascinating . . .

Christmas Tree Farm, Columbia Trail, Morris County, NJ

Christmas tree farm

. . . until one realizes that they were only about 3′ tall.

Christmas tree farm, Columbia Trail, Morris County, NJ

Raritan River, NJ

A few of the intrepid hikers (and biker) investigate a bridge that had recently had a new deck applied. We stopped here for lunch.

Bridge on Columbia Trail, Morris County, NJ

Bridge

The bridge afforded a pretty view:

View from Columbia Trail, Morris County, NJ

View from bridge

The Raritan River had recently flooded, and at least one homeowner decided to have his house raised to avoid future floods:

Flooded house beside Raritan River, Morris County, NJ

Flooded house

Another homeowner, where Columbia Trail crosses Middle Valley Road in Washington Township, has a collection of old cars that is slowly rusting away.

Auto graveyard, Columbia Trail, Morris County, NJ

Auto Graveyard

 

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.

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