Saturday, July 22, 2017

Highlands Trail, NJ - Otter Hole to Echo Lake

Highlands Trail - NYNJ Trail Conference (scroll down to paragraph that begins "in 0.3 mile" - this hike covers that paragraph and the next)
Norvin Green State Forest - NJ DEP
Pequannock Watershed - City of Newark, NJ

GPS Coordinates 41.04578, -74.35045
Otter Hole parking in Norvin Green State Forest.

North Jersey Trails Map #115 and #116 - NY/NJ Trail Conference
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7.1 miles (one way)
I had intended to hike about 4 miles then turn around at the Pequannock Watershed boundary since I did not have a permit this year but, well, those plans were foiled so instead of an out-and-back, this hike turned into an out-and-Uber.  The Uber ride was only $10.  Alternatively, you can spot a car at the Echo Lake Recreation Area (41.04639, -74.41024) if that car has a watershed parking permit.

It was going to be too hot for Shawnee so I went on my own and did a more difficult hike.
Most parks are open dawn to dusk and I am always there at 7AM and forget the sign says 8AM.  Oh well.
The trail starts off of the road, not the parking lot, so it's just a few steps of road walk before turning left into the woods.
On the blue trail.
Pretty soon that nice smooth gravel turns into boulders at the Otter Hole.
Waterfalls at the Otter Hole.
A short distance later, the Highland Trail comes in straight ahead and turns left along with the start of the green Otter Hole Trail.
Off to the left, a balloon in a tree.  Was it to high to reach?  I had to try.
I could barely touch it with my trekking pole but I was able to pull the branch down and untangle the ribbon.
Voila!  Balloon #34 of 2017
A leopard frog, I believe.
Green leaves to the right and the Highlands Trail continues with yellow to the left.
The trail becomes steeper ...
... as the views open up.
Female Scarlet Tanager
It was a hazy morning so the New York City skyline was hard to see in the distance.
On to the next view.
This indigo bunting was perched ...
... way up on top with views all around.
Continuing on.
The Highlands Trail turns left leaving yellow.
The Highlands Trail turns right on ...
... Otter Hole Road.
Gordon Lakes
Left on Crescent.
This is all quiet residential roads where Otter Hole Road was busy with speeding traffic.
At the end of Algonquin Way, the trail enters the woods straight ahead.
At this point I was probably on Pequannock Watershed property where a hiking permit is required but I did not see any signs so figured I'd go to Macopin Road or until I saw a sign, whichever came first.
Macopin Road came first so this was my turn around point.  Or so I thought.
Heading back when ...
... a short distance in I came up on a bend and almost ran smack into a bear on the trail.  It was too close to even take a second to snap a picture.  The bear stopped and did not take off so I had to back away.  There would be no getting back to my car this way.  I knew that if I stayed on the Highlands Trail I would reach Echo Lake and the watershed office in about another 3 miles so figured I would continue on and stop in the office to buy the hiking permit and figure out a ride back to my car from there.  The alternative was to road walk and they way cars zoom by on these roads that was a very unappealing thought.
So turning right briefly on Macopin Road and crossing over to the continuation of the Highlands Trail.
At Echo Lake the Highlands Trail turns left joining the white Echo Lake East Trail.
Echo Lake
Echo Lake residents.
The Highland Trail turns right on Echo Lake Road at the end of the lake.
Then right to the watershed office parking lot.
There is the office where one would purchase a hiking permit.
If it were open.  I tried to do the right thing by going in and buying one since I had hiked on watershed land.
It was 11:30 when I was there and the office was not open.
For penance I picked up litter in the parking lot while waiting for my Uber ride.
Nice young man named Thomas got me back to my car at the Otter Hole parking lot.


  1. Wow you had quite an adventure running into that bear! I stopped going on heavily wooded hikes by myself for that reason. I give you a lot of credit for going out alone in the woods. You got some great shots as always of birds and Echo Lake. Thanks for sharing! Joanne from NJ

    1. I have found that when I run into bears in the deep woods, they run. It is when I run into bears near homes or campgrounds that they stand their ground because they are not as afraid of humans. This bear was a short distance behind houses so Plan B it was for me!


  2. Have you condsidered the evaporative towels they sell on Amazon for Shawnee? I just bought a few (relatively inexpensive) and the reviews sound like they will help a bit. Here's a copy of one description on Amazon: "INSTANT COOLING RELIEF. WuJi cooling towel is made of Hyper-evaporative breathable microfiber mesh fabric, if you just soak, wring out and snap, it will become a chilling towel in a second, and the cooling effect will last up to several hours and you can easily reactivate it by repeating the same steps.
    EXTRA LONG & COMFORT. 40" by 12", decent size for your daily usage. Our microfiber mesh material towels won't dry to cardboards like the PVA ones. It is silky soft at any time, provides you with extra comfort while using as a towel, neckerchief, scarf, or headwear etc". I commend you for having Shawnee stay at home, the heat humidity and ozone is way too nasty for even young pets. There are too many bears in the Watershed area and many are, as you note, too used to people and then they lose their fear of people.

    1. Thanks for the info. They make a cooling vest for dogs along those lines, too. But it doesn't help having to breathe in that hot thick air so on those days, inside in the A/C it is for her.

  3. At least my literal face-to-face bear encounter on a single-track trail in VA ended (after what seemed like an eternity) with it scooting off into the thickets. Your Yogi seemed more determined to stand its ground - or worse- challenge you. I applaud your usual, quick-thinking smarts. As long as it's not told at bedtime, I hope this adventure is added to the many you already have to recount to the new Little Hike-ette! :)

    1. As I was originally going through the spot where I later saw the bear I heard something rustling in the tickets, enough to make me clang my trekking poles together to make some noise. On the return route when ran smack into the bear in that same area, I instantly knew it was him I heard earlier so the calculations in my brain said RETREAT! RETREAT! The bear did nothing wrong, I just felt since he seemed to he hanging in that area it was best for me to bow right on out. He might have thought I was pursuing him since it was encounter #2 within about 10 minutes. Ah yes, the tales I will have to tell the new Little Hike-ette, LOL!