52 Hike Challenge: Hike No.6 at Watchung Reservation, NJ

OK, I know. Where the hell are hikes 1-5? Well, truthfully I chewed over where to start off posting about this challenge. I never originally intended to write about each hike, but then once the spark lit up in my head I couldn’t put it out. So, here I am, starting at Hike No. 6.

I completed Hike No.6 only last Friday, on 9/2, so it’s still pretty fresh in my mind. Perhaps, I might go back and write about the hikes before this. Perhaps not. For now I will list them as follows: Hike No. 1 & 2 were done during my White Mountains trip in July, No.3 was at the Manasquan Reservoir, No.4 was at the D&R Canal with a Meetup group, No.5 was after a SUP lesson at a lake in Freehold.

And then there was No.6. On this Friday, the company I work for let us out early because of the holidays, so I made my way to Watchung Reservation to hike the History Trail there.


The History Trail is roughly 6 miles long, with 14 different signs detailing the history of the park and whatever remains of it at each spot. It was designed and created with the Eagle Scouts thanks to Robert Gruytch and volunteers.

My boots. We’re not on speaking terms.

I arrived at the park around 3 p.m., and realized pretty quickly I did not bring my trail running shoes. My hiking boots are unfortunately a half size too small, and I really didn’t want to wear them for anything more than a couple of miles. Sadly, since I keep them in my trunk and had only dressy sandals otherwise, I had no choice.

I stopped in the bathroom to fill up my water bottle quickly, and met a nice lady who was doing the same and also walking the history trail. So what did I do? Well, no, I didn’t ask to see if she wanted to do it together; I wondered after when it was too late if I should have. I have been trying to meet more new people who have the same passions as me. It seemed like a miss opportunity, but c’est la vie.

I’ve run the very first mile or two of this trail before (not very successfully I might add), so I already knew where to begin. I started my Fitbit Blaze up to track the walk (I wanted to make sure to finish in plenty of time before it got dark), and I’m a tech fan so tracking stuff has no other real benefit but to make giggle with geekiness.

Turns out, that was probably a good idea since it wasn’t too long into the hike I already got mixed up. Perhaps it was because I had walked this section twice before, and thought I knew it well already. Maybe that made me careless. But no sooner had I begun when I realized I was on the white Sierra Trail, and no longer on my History Trail.

Things were still looking good at this point.

The hike starts off pretty harmless and easy, with a slightly rocky path that varies in width. Bikers seemed to pass me by quite often. In my mind, I had a few pictures of some of the spots I noticed previously: the first of the history signs talking about the mining town, the opening to the mine, some twists and roots and turns that stood out for one reason or another, all bringing me to a beautiful little stream and a bridge.

Except somewhere between the twists and the bridge, I went the wrong way. I backtracked a bit, but was pretty confused on where I mixed up the spot. The other two times I’ve been this way I hadn’t even been concerned for a second which way to go; it had been obvious. How did I miss it now?

I kept going on part of the Sierra Trail in hopes I was (relatively) around where I thought it was, and would meet up with the History Trail. Lucky for me it did, and I found myself exactly where I was supposed to be at said lovely bridge area.



After a giggle at myself and some photos, I kept going. I was really loving the trail, and even the solitude I found hiking it alone. I breathed in the fresh air, with the green vegetation so close to each side of me I could smell the leaves and stems. Honeysuckles was the most obvious smell, or at least the only one I could identify. This trail was much more than a simple flat surface, like some of the easier parks. I found myself more than once saying how great this park was. The History Trail is a perfect combo between easy and yet still interesting enough to hike 6 miles of it.

At times it was quite narrow, and one section was even a little waterlogged so much so it made me second guess I hadn’t gotten lost into a creek. Blazes were painted on trees frequently enough, but there were times I only just managed to catch them since they weren’t always in an obvious spot.


My time goal was becoming increasingly difficult, as I kept stopping to take pictures and read the history signs. My little stint in the beginning didn’t help, either. When possible–and when I paid attention enough–I tried to keep my pace around 18.

I was making decent time when I messed up again. One of the history signs was off the trail, and the path actually continued on the white Sierra Trail. I didn’t catch it right away and just assumed the History Trail continued there. It was only for a minute or two, but it’s always frustrating to half to back track. Part of me is pretty sure they did it on purpose.

When it was getting close to 7 p.m., my stomach was yelling at me for not eating any dinner or bringing snacks; preparing isn’t always my strong suit. The end was near, but I was starting to get tired as well, and wishing I had something to nibble on. My feet were also pretty much regretting my hiking boots at this point.



And right on cue, just as you might suppose, I lost the History Trail one more time. Right back onto the Sierra Trail I went, so it could have one last laugh at my expense. This time it took me quite a while to realize what happened since I had been trying to hike steadily to finish up soon, and I had to backtrack a lot before finding the culprit. I misread a blaze sign at an intersection when deciding which way to go. Lesson learned: always double check you are doing it right. Cause you probably aren’t (at least if you’re me).






Finally, Lake Surprise appeared and I knew I was almost done, so I cranked up the speed in daydreams of food and coffee (which I most certainly was going to stop for directly after). I’m not ashamed to admit I love lattes as much as I love the outdoors. I was so excited for my cappuccino fix that as soon as I saw the playground and open park I proceeded to just walk towards it, not realizing technically the trail kept going to the right.

I didn’t really feel like going back to what little remained of the trail, so instead I just asked a couple what direction the Nature and Science Center was (where I parked). A short cut through  into the parking lot, and I was back at my Jeep. Even with skipping that last end piece I still managed to hike over the official miles, completing a total of 7.5 miles. Then proceeded to Dunkin’ Donuts, where I ate those miles back. 😉

Check back next week, as I will be posting each hike I do weekly! The days will vary depending on when I do my hike, but they will be here. I will be posting Hike No.7 on Monday as I completed this yesterday (9/7). Also, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram via @missjamiekaren and my hashtag for this challenge #missjamiehikes





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