Warren County High Point Trip Report

Date: July 3, 2001
Author: Dan Case

No need to amend Mike Schwartz's driving directions even though I came from the north (in which case the Walnut Valley Road intersection is a couple of miles south of Blairstown on NJ 94). It seems possible that, from that direction Mount Vernon Road, just off the short side road in the center (such as it is) of Blairstown, would be a shorter route to the generating complex's main gate.

The guard at the gate will take your license plate number, ask what you're going to be doing, warn you not to drive on the roads to the right which lead down to the generating station as they have security cameras, and give you a piece of paper with the area rules and two brochures about the plant and activities on the surrounding lands. The road is gated and closed to non-utility traffic at the picnic area. What Mike left out of his report was that, according to the brochure, it's a one-mile hike up that road (about 500 vertical feet or so, on top of that) to the reservoir fence line. Despite the huffing and puffing (we had plenty of time, but I kept a brisk pace as I did not want to run afoul of the 8 p.m. closing time) it was actually a rather pretty hike, enlivened by the many hermit thrush singing in the woods. Nevertheless, I was glad to have sort of over prepared for this hike. The stuff I brought expecting a walk of less than a mile to the HP turned out to be quite essential when doing a three-mile round trip.

It's easy to spot the gravel road, which bends off to the left (south) about a couple of hundred feet before the fence line. Again according to the map in the brochure, it's another half-mile to the fence corner (past one bend in the fence that isn't it). It's not so much a corner as it is where the road you have been following goes through a (locked, naturally) gate in the fence. The sign directing foot traffic to the AT and Sunfish Pond is red lettering on faded wood and is a bit hard to read from a distance. As you approach, you may wonder what's happened to the road, and where you're supposed to go from here. Well, put that off because the grassy trail (looks like an old ATV route) is obvious to the southwest, running away from the fence. It's very overgrown and almost threatens to disappear in some places, but can still be followed easily. I would say it actually takes about a tenth of a mile to reach the high ground in the 1,600' contour from the fence corner. The summit area is a patch of dense scrub oak, as Mike notes, but just before and just after it you can find breaks in it which can lead you around to the back where you have just enough room to shove through and stick your feet on as many boulders in this thicket as you feel necessary to claim the area.

Getting back to the fence corner for the other area, you will find, along the fence itself, a rutty use path occasionally blazed with yellow ribbons hanging from the barbed wire on the fence (which bends outward, and is at many times entirely too low for a man of my height). Sometimes it's a good tread way, mostly it's not, and it isn't maintained but it'll get you there. (I would love to know if the NY/NJ Trail Conference and the utilities have ever gotten together and had a powwow on making this more of a genuine trail.)

You can see the other area and the accompanying fence line itself from here. Don't be fooled into trying to climb the high open area with almost no trees but lots of undergrowth. It's not what you want. I would say about 0.2 - 0.3 mile of this is needed before you get to the substantial rise Mike mentions, an area where you abruptly climb about 20 - 30 vertical feet. This is the northerly bump. It can be topped quite easily. The high ground is almost right on the path, which gets wider here, in a grove of very young big-tooth aspen, a tree that surely flourishes elsewhere in New Jersey but I don't recall seeing, certainly not in these numbers. (As a pioneer species, it indicates heavy disturbance to this area in the last 50 years or so, obviously from the reservoir's construction.) Pushing in about 10 - 15 feet will reveal a medium-size white glacial erratic about 2 - 3' high that you can sit on and claim this area. Although you can see both areas from each other, it's kind of hard to tell which one is higher, at least by sight. Perhaps a hand level will be useful.

I was sorry I didn't really have the time to push on to Sunfish Pond, that landmark for AT through-hikers, but it probably wouldn't have looked pretty on a clouding-up, cool afternoon like this (the same weather, ironically enough, which made the hike doable).