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Musconetcong Gorge Preserve and Sweet Hollow Preserve - 02/26/2012

I had never hiked here because the reviews of the trails were not that great and there were not enough trails for me.  There used to be a map that was hard to follow because it did not show colors to match up to the blazing of the trails.  There is a newer map out now which does show the colors of the trails (although not 100% accurate, it's good enough) and it seems the trails have been reblazed.  There are lots of blazes - never had trouble following the trails.  There is also another trail that is not on the map that allows for a longer loop hike.  On the right side of the map is Pine Run.  There is a white rectangle blazed trail that leaves the teal/yellow/white trail and goes down a rocky gorge along Pine Run to meet up with the old rail bed which runs parallel to Musconetcong River.  It's slow going picking your way over boulders down this trail but scenic and kind of fun.  There are nice seasonal views all along teal/yellow/white ridge trail that will be gone once leaves come back on the trees.  Also, the teal Highlands Trail keeps on going beyond Pine Run over to Sweet Hollow Preserve.  It involves some road walking but mostly on quiet residential/farm roads with very little traffic so that wasn't bad at all and I was able to get a 10 mile hike out of it without too much backtracking.  Click here for more info on the hike.

A couple of things to note about the map:

  • The teal/yellow trail on the map is blazed teal diamond/yellow diamond/white rectangle
  • White rectangle trail along Pine Run to old rail bed not shown on map
  • The red trail on the map is blazed orange
  • The orange trail on the map is blazed blue
  • The dark blue trail on the map is blazed orange
  • The light blue trail on the map (the Nature Trail) is blazed dark blue/orange
  • The white diamond trail and white rectangle trail are 2 different trails plus there are some old white blazes along the rail bed

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Comment by Linda Frank on March 19, 2012 at 10:56pm

Did this Sunday w/only a couple of slight variations on your hike, Daniela.  (Thanks again for the great directions, btw).

Started off on the Blue/Orange and turned off at the White Switchback Trail uphill to the yellow Ridge Trail.  Glad we did the Switchback ascending as it was extremely steep (even w/the switchbacks), long, rocky, very slippery & wet.   

Morning fog kept most of the trail that way. Thankfully, the sun came out around 11:00am or so while we were continuing along the Ridge Trail, out to the end and on for the next 4 miles of the Highland Trail that included some road walking and ultimately looped back through the gorge.

That old blazed side white trail which hugged alongside one of the gorge waterfalls was nothing I'd care to repeat. :(  As you noted in your description, this was more a pick your way through random boulders straight down, than a trail and also included our first seasonal encounter w/two snakes as well.  Thank goodness for the relief of the railroad bed walk back to where we eventually ascended the Blue Trail (at the gate) towards the waterfall, rock hopped over to pick up the Highlands/Ridge Trail & back to the parking lot.  Roughly 11 miles because we did the Switchback.  

Curious weather day.  Started out foggy, cold, totally cloudy and ended sunny and somewhere in the 70's.  Makes one wonder what the heck to wear when hiking these days.  I start out in about 1/2 dozen layers and do a sloe striptease as the day progresses winding up carrying half my "wardrobe" on my backpack or tied around my waist.

Last week at Harriman, for example, I had the distinct, first-time experience of having to remove a pair of increasingly too-warm, silk long johns.  No, they were not "snap away" underwear. But rather had to be removed only once I removed my hiking pants & my boots.  This quick change was done in record time, balancing on one foot then the other, behind a rock w/DH as lookout and completed only moments before an AMC  hiking group of about 10 or 12 folks came by. Gave a real personal meaning to almost being caught with your pants down.  Actually, with pants off. ;-) 


Comment by Daniela Wagstaff on March 20, 2012 at 7:35am

As many times as I have played out in my mind exactly how one would attempt removing long johns while on a hike, I have yet to do it.  Now that you have provided the full mental picture along with potential consequences, I may never try it!  Besides, my lookout takes her job a little too seriously and perks her ears and looks like someone is coming even when the coast is clear so I would be in a total state of paranoia, fumbling around, oh, it would not be pretty.


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