A few months ago my employer offered me a job in New Jersey for a couple of years. After many late nights discussing the advantages and disadvantages for us and the kids, me and my wife finally decided it was an opportunity we would probably never get again and we should do it. And so it is that I am spending two weeks in New Jersey getting to know my new place of work and looking for somewhere for our family to live.
It has been a beautiful weekend - clear skies, sun, mild temperatures and snow on the ground in the hills in north New Jersey where I am staying. I have been surprised by just how much scenic countryside there is in New Jersey since it seems to be better know for its industry and beaches. The north part of the state has lots of State forests and recreation areas, which are basically large areas of forested hills between 1,000ft and 2,000ft high, dotted with lakes and cut by a few river valleys.
And there are lots of marked trails making their way through these forests. On Saturday I went for a short run up High Mountain (which slightly exagerates its 850ft stature), following the white and the yellow trails. The trails were mainly rocky singletrack through snow covered very quiet woods - surprisingly quiet seeing as the forest is only a few miles across and is surrounded by suburbs. On the white trail down in a valley my heart got going a bit faster I couple of times when I heard some sticks snapping nearby - the notice in the car park warning of bears had put my nerves a bit on edge. I met a couple of folk and it seems round here it is rude not to stop and have a good chat about things. The highlight of the run was being rewarded at the summit of High Mountain with a view of the skyscrapers of Manhattan about 15 miles in the distance. The sun was shining the wrong way to take a photo, but it was a good view.
This morning I met up with some of the guys from NJ Trailhead, an informal trail and ultra running group in north New Jersey. They arrange a weekly run every Sunday and this Sunday the run was at Ramapo Mountain (more like 1,200ft) and we did a nice easy couple of hours on some fairly rocky trails weaving and winding their way through the woods to a nice peak with a view and back past lakes and cabins. We were only about 25 miles from Manhattan yet the view from the peak was of rocky, forested hills stretching as far as we could see across north New Jersey and into New York state. Apparently there are marked trails through pretty much all of the forest we could see, which must make up hundreds and hundreds of miles of trails for me to explore over the next few years. The route we were running on was part of the Mountain Madness course, a 50km ultra held in September or October each year which is pretty much recognised as the toughest ultra in New Jersey because of the rough trails that it is run on. I might need to check when entries open.
Lifetime miles on NJ trails = 27; bears seen = zero. Long may it continue that way.
After the trail run in the morning I felt like a relaxing afternoon so caught a train for the one hour ride into NYC for my first every visit to the city - I couldn't help but swear involuntarily as I walked out of Penn Station onto the streets of New York for the first time. What a place.