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Most recent posting below. See other articles in the column to the right.

Hiking Basics

 If you are a starting hiker or somebody who goes only a few times a year, you may want to read this section before going into the woods. Please be aware that all advice here is based on my personal experience, and thus may not be appropriate to you.

Equipment

  • Shoes. Even if it is the middle of summer and 120 degrees outside, don't dare to go hiking in sandals! Actually, I would not hike in sneakers, either. Most of the terrain is rugged, with rocks sticking out of the ground, so you should wear high boots that protect your ankles at all times. i prefer boots with thick soles, as sometimes the rocks are pretty sharp and may be uncomfortable for walking upon.
  • Clothing. It's all up to you. I personally prefer long jeans even in the middle of the summer, a t-shirt and maybe a windbreaker. The jeans offer good protection against getting scratched in the undergrowth and against the occassional snake or two. While many people wear white t-shirts, I prefer something dark (mainly green) - helps a little if you want to approach animals to take pictures of. (Please note that park guides advise that you wear white clothing for your own safety.)
  • Food. All hikes I describe here take only a few hours, so food is not necessary. I tend to take an apple or two and a bottle of water. You may add a small pack of beef jerkey if you feel like it. However, don't forget to bring an empty plastic bag to store your trash in; many parks don't offer one.
  • Walking stick. This is one of the neverending debates - a piece of wood or a telescopic pole? I personally prefer a stick I found a while ago - it is more sturdy and offers more support. A telescopic pole is hard to adjust every five minutes, depending on whether you go uphill or downhill. You can change your grip on a wooden stick much easier, however.
  • Other equipment. I always take a map or a book describing the trail with me. Please check the bottom of the page for recommended literature. In addition, I have my camera, a few pieces of band-aid and an elastic bandage - those two can cover all your short-term needs. All is stored in a small, water-proof backpack. Once again, remember you are going to hike a couple of hours only.

Orientation

  • All parks offer maps with the trails clearly marked. If the maps are gone, ask in the information center. I tend to prepare my way before starting to hike, confronting the map with the park description I have read before. I pay special attention where the trail changes direction, where it looks like a hard climb and where other trails join it. If you want, you can make notes on the map.
  • While some parks are very bad at marking their trails, others are great. I always mantion that in my hike description, so you may want to check it if you don't want to get lost. While it is very hard to get really lost in New Jersey, I would highly recommend you stayed on the marked trails. It saves money and lots of sweat.
  • The system of trail marking is very simple, but powerful. Please look at the diagram below; it will save you a lot of time spent being lost:
A trail starts with three squares arranged into an arrow-like formation.
The standard sight for a trail is a painted square. Please be aware that sometimes mother nature plays tricks with you, so as long as it's not a square, don't consider it a trail sign.
Trail turns sharp to the left. Look for another trail sign in that direction. It is essential to notice this and the next sign, as failing to notice is the main cause of people getting lost.
Trail turns sharp to the right. The next trail sign should be clearly visible on your right.
The trail (yeah, you guessed it) ends. Look either for the next trail or for your car.

 


Recommended literature

  • Bruce C. Scofield, Stella J. Green, H. Neil Zimmerman. 50 Hikes in New Jersey : Walks, Hikes, and Backpacking Trips from the Kittatinnies to Cape May. Backcountry Publishing, 1999. My absolute favorite - a book that covers the fifty most interesting hikes to NJ, keeps you happy for at least a year ang dives you good introduction to many further hikes.
  • Glenn Scherer. Nature Walks in New Jersey : A Guide to the Best Trails from the Highlands to Cape May. Appalachian Mountain Club, 1998. A very good book, especially for more casual hikers. It contains many trails not covered by 50 Hikes.
  • Lucy D. Rosenfeld, Marina Harrison. A Guide to Green New Jersey. Rutgers University Press, 2003. Covers the biggest amount of hikes, but descriptions are short and sometimes copied (along with mistakes) from Nature Walks in New Jersey.
  • Scott Stepanski, Karenne Snow. Gem Trails of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Gem Guides Book Co., 2000.

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