Essex County High Point Trip Report

four areas at and near former County Sanitarium (660+ ft)

Date: January 1, 2001
Author: Dan Case

partial attempt

With the relaxed attitude of New Year's Day, I thought I'd give this five-area one a long-awaited shot. I hopped down I-287 and NJ 23 to see what I could do.

Lesson learned: Even easy walkups in suburban areas become a good bit more challenging with a foot of fresh snow on them. Because of that, I had to give up on two of them until it melts some or the weather gets warmer.

The overall geography of this area is somewhat complex. The former county sanitarium and the associated bumps are spread out across three or four different municipalities (Verona, Essex Fells, North Caldwell and Cedar Grove) that straddle a high area between the two ridges of the Watchung Mountains (one is called the First and the other the Second - I can't remember which) which also, further south, account for the Union County HP areas.

For convenience's sake, I've given the other bumps names to differentiate among them.

The Claridge House II bump (1 area 1 3/4 mile SE of Sanatorium)

This is my bet for true HP. Directions are as given by Mike Schwartz.

I would add to Mike's directions my memory that the people who live here (supposedly quite a few pro athletes, including Herschel Walker when he was with the NJ Generals of the USFL) are quite protective of this place, understandably when given the views they have for the rent they pay - and the security reflects it. Don't dare parking in the actual building lots, even if they are half as close to the high ground as the Block Advertising lot (and they have a lot of we-mean-business signs too). On a weekday you may be better off parking in the shopping center on Route 23 and walking up.

With that taken into account, follow the walkway between the pool and the building (not shoveled today) behind the building. There you will see the high ground at the fence. I found myself on bare ground that gave way to deep snowdrifts as I got closer to the bump on the fence line (recognizable by a bunch of blow downs across it) and I paid for not bothering to put my gaiters on but I got there all the same.

This bump spikes up pretty good from ground that is already pretty high to begin with. You can see the other three areas from here, and I did some crude leveling later on and determined that it is definitely higher than the Essex Fells bump and the Sanatorium area, but maybe not the North Caldwell bump.

It would be nice if this were the true HP bump, however, because the two buildings can be seen from many points to the east. At the fence one could see, through the trees, the ground falling away sharply to the flatter lands to the east, then rising up again to the Manhattan skyline. I've seen this area from the Brooklyn HP and from the Passaic County HP - it definitely is a landmark.

The Essex Fells bump (1 area 1 1/4 mile SW of Sanitarium)

I would add to Mike's directions a reminder that, at the top of the hill along Fellswood Road, you must turn left to stay on Fellswood - right is Fellscrest Road. In the sun, and with the quaint rustic signs the borough uses, you may miss it (I didn't).

Then, the water tower and cement building are on the right within a couple of hundred feet, although parking may be tight. Again I got snow down my boots but found the high ground behind the building's far right corner.

However, eyeballing suggested the North Caldwell bump and Claridge House II were higher.

The North Caldwell bump (1 area 1/2 mile SW of Sanitarium) and Sanitarium

There was too much snow at the end of Glenview; although I could see the tower through the woods I didn't think I could get away with parking there long enough.

With the snow creating a nice reason for people to go to the park and play, the North Caldwell police had closed off the last block of Courter and barred parking along the nearby streets. So I didn't take the hike up to the Sanitarium, either. You could really just park here and do both areas in a longer hike.

The North Caldwell bump looked like a contender, though. It has the advantage of being less disturbed than Claridge House II, but that area still looks pretty natural, too, and has the conveniently located rise that may just breach the 680 ft contour. Only a visit will make sure.

Most peculiarly, the ridge south of Claridge House I appeared to curve slightly higher, although the ground behind II was not visible for comparison, when viewed from some of the other bumps. Perhaps we could all be wrong.