Down the Trail: Taylor Ham? Pork Roll? Depends on which steps you take

Tom Quinn is in his 27th year as a geometry and calculus teacher at Northern Valley/Old Tappan High School. He was the Golden Knights’ girls soccer coach for 23 years and is in his ninth season as the boys golf coach. Looking to fill some time after leaving the soccer sidelines where he compiled a 271-162-24 career record, he took his first steps on the Appalachian Trail on January 1, 2019.

Quinn has now completed 173 miles from Fox Gap, PA to Gaylordsville, CT. He has walked the entire New Jersey and New York sections of the AT and will share some of his experiences, tips and tricks in our semi-regular Down The Trail feature.

A view of Sunfish Pond, which is the southernmost glacier pond on all of the Appalachian Trail.

Bergen County residents love the traditional “Taylor Ham Egg and Cheese” breakfast sandwich.  Other parts of NJ will debate this; Western NJ residents call it a “Pork Roll Egg and Cheese”.  As I continued Appalachian Trail section hikes throughout NJ, the Pork Roll / Taylor Ham ratio tilted toward Pork Roll as I moved west.  By the time I got to the Delaware Water Gap, Pork Roll was the obvious winner (but I still called it Taylor Ham).

The Delaware Water Gap is the beginning of the Appalachian Trail (AT) in New Jersey.  I highly recommend hiking either side of The Gap.  Walking down the Gap on the PA side, you get  terrific views of what lies ahead.  For PA hikers, it is also the end of a 229 mile AT journey through Pennsylvania for those who choose to take it.  The actual start of the hike in NJ is on the middle of the Delaware River Bridge on Rt 80.  There is a rectangle on the walkway that has the official starting point.  With trucks moving past going 60+ mph about 5 feet to the left, it’s a part of the hike I would not choose to do again if I had to!

Me, my brother Rob and friend Harry chose to complete a two-car, 9-10 mile hike that started at the Delaware Water Gap and ended at the AMC Mohican Outdoor Center in Blairstown, NJ.  This turned out to be a gem of a hike that I would definitely do again.  Viewpoints galore towards the end of the hike, and extremely peaceful in the beginning.

Park at these locations (start: Dunnfield Creek Natural Area N 40 58.288 W 75 07.532, and end: AMC Mohican Outdoor Center, Camp Road, Blairstown, NJ).  Parking spots at both locations can be scarce if you arrive later in the day.

Starting from Dunnfield Creek Parking the hike is a gradual, peaceful rise for the first 2-3 miles.  After about 20 minutes, you are completely removed from the hustle and bustle of Route 80.  There are many more trails around here to choose from (Blue Blazed Blue Dot Trail, Red Blazed Holly Spring Trail for example) that I also recommend.  These trails will keep you around the parking area.  The AT continues north at a steady climb for about 90 minutes.

The first highlight on this hike is Sunfish Pond, which is actually a glacier pond (southernmost glacier pond on the AT).  The trail continues right along the edge of the pond.  At this point, you might think you are no longer in NJ; you really are in the middle of nowhere.  The trail turns a slight left after the pond, and the hike begins on the Kittatinny Ridge.  The AT in NJ pretty much continues on the Kittatinny Ridge all the way up near High Point.  Terrific views start to appear on either side. 

After a mile or so on the Ridge is a section simply called “A large pile of Rocks”.  It is at this point where you can look to the left and see the Delaware River, parts of PA and views to the right give you the mountains, farmlands and small communities that dot the area. This is a big bird watching viewpoint in the fall (mainly hawks).  Arguably, it’s a strange name, but “A Large Pile of Rocks” may be one of the best views in NJ on the AT.

The trail continues along the ridge with slight up’s and down’s.  Terrific views on both sides are plentiful, occasional rock hopping dots the trail too.  It’s a neat part of the trail because, unlike New York, it’s a more level hike with continuing views of the valleys below you.  At least for the first part of NJ, you kind of get a little more bang for your buck.  The trail eventually meanders down the ridge to the AMC Mohican Outdoor Center, the end of this hike.  The Mohican Outdoor Center advertises bunkrooms for hikers, places to camp overnight, boating and other outdoor activities. 

AT hiking in the beginning of NJ gives you a great start.  If you are looking for a good place to go, you cannot go wrong hiking around the woods near the Delaware Water Gap.