Cold Climbing in Cat Creek, Day 2 • Hiking to High Point, NJ & Red Hill Fire Tower, NY • Driving through the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational Area • January 7, 2017
On our second day in the Catskills, we rose early, Curtis made a delicious breakfast, and we set off on our adventures for the day. We had made plans the night before to hike a few more peaks and hit a scenic area, and we were going to stick with these plans regardless of how cold it was. We find that it’s extremely crucial to not pay attention to the weather if we really want to go do something, so we tried as hard as we could to not look at that very small looking single-digit number right before our eyes in the car… It was only going to get colder the next day, so we HAD to do this now! Our day started with a 2 hour drive South — plenty of time to second guess ourselves, but long enough that once we made it to our destination, we knew we couldn’t just not do it after driving so far. Smart, right?!
Our first hike of the day was High Point in New Jersey’s High Point State Park. This was important to us because we enjoy hiking to State High Points, and High Point just so happens to be the highest point in New Jersey. What a clever name! I bet every other state wishes that they had thought to name their highest point High Point like New Jersey. Way to go New Jersey. 😛
The Appalachian Trail to High Point
However, before reaching our destination, we made a quick side trip into Pennsylvania because it was right across a bridge. Part of this diversion was to snag a new county, and also to grab a quick letterbox, but most importantly, it was Charlotte’s first time in Pennsylvania. Charlotte has now been to 28 states. Not bad for a 2 ½ year old puppy. 😉
After our quick diversion, we drove to High Point State Park and parked in the Appalachian Trail parking lot. Like many high points on the East Coast, High Point has a road that you can drive to the top, but of course, that is cheating in our book. We were determined to hike it no matter how short and silly that hike would be. Despite the hike being only 4 miles and the easiest high point we’ve conquered so far, we deserve some credit for doing it in 9º with ice on the trail and flurries in the air. We followed the Appalachian Trail towards the peak and then broke off on a half mile spur to the peak. This marks the fourth(?) time we’ve hiked short sections of the Appalachian Trail. We hiked it previously to the NH and MA highpoints and once again in the White Mountains. While hiking the AT isn’t necessarily one of our hiking goals (We would much rather hike some of the long distance trails out west) it’s always enjoyable to see these small segments. Despite the trail being easy, we went fairly slowly on our hike up, carefully maneuvering around patches of ice. We decided to walk down the road back to our car, which went significantly faster since we didn’t have to watch our footing the whole way down.
We did fine and were warm enough as long as we kept moving — it was a very pleasant walk to the top, and we had it all to ourselves. Just like the 5 state high points we hiked last year, it was very cloudy at the top and we weren’t able to see much. There’s an obelisk at the peak, and while walking back down the road we passed by a lovely lake and a playground. The road to the top was closed for the season, so we enjoyed a quiet walk back to our car. And that was that — our 7th state high point together (Charlotte’s 6th, my 9th). Easy, but still enjoyable and one closer to our goal. Curtis also found a nice flannel shirt along the way which he washed and claimed as his own, and he looks quite handsome in it if you don’t mind me saying. 😉
After our hike, it was around 1 and we still wanted to try to fit in another Fire Tower hike, so we drove back into New York and began heading West, driving along the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River area. It was beautiful, especially with icicles hanging from the bluffs on the side of the road, but we didn’t make any stops as it was cold and we still had quite a bit of driving and hiking to do before sunset.
Our next peak for the day was Red Hill Fire Tower. This fire tower peak is perhaps the most out of the way from where we live, for sure the southernmost, all on its own down a bunch of back highways. Despite it being cold and later than we’d like to start a hike (early sunsets really cut down on your ability to do multiple hikes in a day), we really felt motivated to get it done today. Thankfully the unpaved road was plowed most of the way to the trailhead leaving us with only an additional half mile road walk. Fortunately, the peak was neither exceptionally high nor exceptionally long. Even with the Hudson Valley rather snowless, the trail still had a fair amount although a previous snowshoer had done a good job at packing down the trail. I opted to wear snowshoes, but Curtis decided he didn’t need them. The hike up was rather uneventful and we made it to the peak in time to see some of the sunset colors. Of course that meant that darkness was fast approaching so we hurried back down to the trail, making it to the jeep just after dusk.
We then started our drive home. Somewhere along the way we got confused with the highways and ended up on a rather backwoods valley road. After consulting our atlas we concluded that we could still make it through the mountains and back to our cottage. Too bad it was dark out, as I’m sure the scenery would have been beautiful. More interesting was that the road we took was marked as “unimproved” on the atlas, although it was paved the entire way with many homes. Back in Arizona, an “unimproved” road meant dirt with rocks, one super sketchy ranch, and probably at least one bridge-less river crossing. Crazy how different those worlds can be.
We made it back home content with what we had done today despite the weather, and settled in with a fire going and a warm home cooked meal. As hard as it may be to get up and get going on a cold winter morning, the feeling of returning home having accomplished a lot for a day makes it so worth it!