Vernie Swamp, beautiful views across fields
Stupid climbing. I miss South Jersey.
Distance: 12.6 miles (12.4 trail miles on the AT) (26.1 trail miles total, and maybe another mile in side trails – 3 days)
Difficulty: 7 of 10.
Total score: 10 of 10
Terrain – Mountains, forests, swamps, streams, fields
Start – High Point Shelter – 41.31575,-74.65725
End – Pochuck Shelter – roughly – 41°16’5.60″N, 74°30’31.72″W
Parking – For our parking and shuttle plan, see our Day 1 plan
Markings – The famous white blaze.
Description: It would be impossible for me to give enough of a detailed description of the trail, so for that make sure that you purchase a trail guide. What I can tell you is that this was an awesome trip with a wide variety of different trail experiences for such a short trip, and I loved every minute of it.
For our first day’s part of this trip, please see Day 1- High Point Parking Area to High Point Shelter (2.7 miles)/a>
Day 2 – High Point Shelter to Pochuck Mountain Shelter
Distance – 12.6 miles (12.4 miles on the AT)
Up early and out early! We were on the trail by 7:30, on our way toward Pochuck Mountain Shelter, our home for the night.
A short 0.3 of a mile into our day, we crossed what was labeled as an intermittent stream. Except it had been raining pretty much for the whole month, to the stream looked quite healthy. We were prewarned that water for this whole section we did over two days could sometimes be rough, but we found plenty of it (although the water found in the valleys can be very contaminated).
At 1.3 miles into our day, we crossed Route 519, the first of many road crossings today. This point meant that we were now down off of the Kittatinny Ridge, which the trail had followed pretty much since it crossed into New Jersey. One of the fun things about this hike that that you’re now moving cross country between ridges, which makes for some interesting hiking!
Some stream crossings and a woods walk brought us another 0.8 of a mile (2.1 total) through the woods to a gravel road, Courtwright Road.
A short jaunt through the woods brought us to something I’d rarely experienced on the Appalachian Trail… fields! These continued for a good long ways, offering lovely views of the surrounding terrain. It also offered a new experience for me, using stiles to cross over fences. We also passed a lovely pond. At mile 3.3 for the day, we passed out of the fields and onto Ferguson Road (Mt. Salem Road in nearby New York). We turned right, walked a few moments, and then turned left back into the woods.
We traveled just over a half mile through a lovely patch of woods to our next landmark, the paved Gemmer Road (3.9 miles for the day), where we turned right, walked a short bit up the road, and turned left back into the woods.
The next stretch saw us cross several stream, most of them on bridges. We crossed another road, passed a pond with a concrete dam (right up against the trail), and entered some lovely fields, featuring some even lovelier views all the way back to the High Point Monument and, a few hundred feet later, views of the mountains ahead.
We then entered Vernie Swamp, which crosses over the muck filled wetlands on 112 little bog bridges. We had zero problems with bugs, and really enjoyed this stretch, but I’d imagine this area could be torture during the buggy times of the year.
We eventually end up at paved Unionville Road, which we’ll crossed. This marks 6.2 miles of hiking so far today, almost halfway!
A few more road crossings (Lott Road is the most run, as you’ll come out to a big pond) and some climbing brought us u to an old railroad bed at mile 7.7 for the day. This follows an old railroad line for half a mile. The blazes got pretty thin here in one spot, but you are on for a full half mile before the trail heads left off of the railroad right-of-way. You’ll know you left at the right spot, because you’ll see two posts marked “JC 73”. This stands for “Jersey City – 73 miles”, which is where this railroad originally went.
A short uphill, a big field, and 0.3 miles brought us to NJ Highway 284. This marked mile 8.1 for our hike today, as well as the end of NJ Section 3 in the guidebook (which we’d be hiking since we started our journey at the High Point hiker parking). Hooray! Only 4.3 miles left in the day!
In the next half mile, we crossed a stream, crossed a field, a crossed over Oil City Road. In the next 0.6 miles after that, we crossed some fields and ended up at my favorite view of the day, before turning back into the woods and coming down to a small private road, marking 9.2 miles for the day.
When you hit the road, to the right is a cluster of large red buildings, which I think is part of an old compound run by Standard Oil in the late 1800s. Private property, keep out!
However, the direction we want to head is left. You pass houses and cross the state line into New York.
At the intersection, you turn a right and continue along Oil City Road for 0.2 of a mile until you cross over the Wallkill River on a bridge.
At this point, we pulled over at the parking area for the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, picked a spot by the river, and enjoyed a well deserved lunch break (9.6 miles for the day!).
After a long lunch, it was time to play race the rain (actually, race the forecasted terrible, terrible, dangerous thunderstorms). It was back up onto the road for another 0.3 of a mile, crossing back into New Jersey, then turning right onto the Liberty Loop Trail at the National Wildlife Refuge.
The trail followed the edge of a big swamp for almost 3/4 of a mile, the hooked a left turn and followed the swamp some more for another half mile, then hooked another left and followed parallel to the first part of the swamp trail. After 1/3 of a mile, the trail turns right and reenters the woods. Again, a lovely spot in May, but could be torture from bugs and/or sun in the summer.
From this point, the trail went a little under a half mile to our final road crossing, Lake Wallkill Road, 11.9 miles for the day!
THERE IS NO WATER AT THE SHELTER!!!!!!!! However, there is water from a outside tap at a state owned house. We made a tactical error and climbed the driveway to get to the house. Don’t do that. Turn right on the road, turn left onto the trail, and climb up to the side trail to the house. MUCH better use of energy, because you won’t have to backtrack downhill like we did.
The not fun part is that this the worst climb of the whole day. The fun part is, when you stop climbing, you are only 0.1 of a mile sideways from the shelter (down a blue blazer trail. Not bad!
So the deadly thunderstorm never showed up, but we set up our tents, cooked and ate dinner, and spent the night hanging with a bunch of awesome guys, some of them thru-hikers, some of them just of for a few days or a few weeks. Guitars were played (thanks John Henry!), stories were told, and good times were had.
Pochuck Shelter – Small shelter, maybe for 6 people. Nice latrine. No water source at shelter (1/2 mile away, steep drop and climb back up). Tenting areas exist, but are more limited than High Point Shelter. Picnic table. No fires permitted in this area!
For the first day of this trip, see Day 1 – High Point Parking Area to High Point Shelter – 2.7 miles
For our final day of this trip, see Day 3 – Pochuck Shelter to Wawayanda Parking Lot!