Hiking New Jersey: The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

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Josh out on the trail down Mount Tammany.
I'm from upstate New York, lived in Alaska, and as a result, I've developed a general distaste for heat. I'm much more comfortable when it's chilly, and generally avoid any climate or activity that results in significant sweating if I can help it. Nevertheless, I spent this past weekend in unbearable heat and humidity backpacking around the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA) in New Jersey. 

A friend is training to hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim in a month, and asked if I'd accompany him and his dog on a high-mileage weekend. We kicked around a few options, and finally settled on combining day hikes we'd both done in the Water Gap. The initial thought was to climb Mt. Minsi on the Pennsylvania side of the Water Gap, head back to the car, and drive a few miles into New Jersey to hike more and find a campsite. I would do Mt. Minsi without a pack, as I'm not training for anything, then put the pack on in New Jersey.

As it turned out, we opted to spend all of Saturday hiking in NJ, both with our packs. I jokingly told Josh I didn't want people we passed on the trail to think he was carrying all the gear while I just had a Camelback on! We started with a climb up Mt. Tammany, which requires a 1250' ascent in 1.5 miles. I definitely wouldn't recommend doing anything like that to start. Our muscles weren't warmed up, it was 90┬║ and humid, and we were both exhausted after the ascent.

Our tents set up along Dunnfield Creek.
We descended down the back of Mt. Tammany and picked up the AT to Sunfish Pond, a beautiful little glacial oasis. It's quite acidic and can only support a few hearty species of fish and frogs. The hike to Sunfish Pond is 8 miles round-trip. By the time we arrived at our chosen off-trail campsite, we were both very much ready to call it a day. We'd made it just over 11 miles. I'd been snacking on trail food all day and couldn't manage to find the energy to eat the rice and tuna I'd brought. The heat and humidity had sapped all of our energy.

After waking Sunday morning, we opted to hike the three miles out to the parking lot and head home. But not without a stop for
pie and fresh local vegetables on the PA side! It was my first night in my new Big Agnes Emerald Mountain 3 tent, which is much too large for one person, but should be perfect for two with room. It was a cinch to set up, and looks pretty good in the woods (see right).

I was quite worried about dehydration and heat exhaustion the whole trip. I have an MSR Miniworks EX Microfilter, and pumped water as frequently as I could into my 1.5L Camelback reservoir, but I couldn't seem to drink fast enough. There's always a danger of over-hydration as well. But it takes time for your body to get used to expending significant energy in an extremely hot environment, and we probably overdid it a bit the first day. I was a little dizzy at points, which is never a good sign. Lesson learned, though, and I'll take it a bit easier next time

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