Jenny Jump! Spiders and Centipedes, oh my!
A rustic shelter nestled in New Jersey's Jenny Jump State Forest was my home for the past two nights. This long-awaited trip came at the perfect time as Jersey City had sweltering temperatures in the forecast. While the forest was also hot, being surrounded by greenery and giant trees instead of asphalt and concrete made the heat much more bearable. I'd been looking forward to heading to a cabin since before the COVID lock-down. This past April, New Jersey's cabins and shelters opened for reservations.
It turns out the shelter I rented was the oldest of the six available. While I knew they are all without electricity, I was not expecting the shelter to be as "rustic" as it turned out. There was a new picnic table and two benches inside, and obvious repairs had been made to some of the roof beams. The new wood was bright and fresh, supporting a roof that could likely use repair. The woods were damp and moist, and that moisture contributed to the decaying wood that left its aroma permeating my temporary home.
The wood stove worked perfectly and for what I needed the shelter for - a place to store my gear and crash at night - it was more than suitable. I would recommend, however, you come prepared to sleep in the main room. Just throw a tarp on the floor, remove a mattress or two from the bunk beds (two beds to a small anteroom on each side of the wood stove) and add another tarp. Then use an air mattress or your sleeping bag(s). Their is no electricity in these shelters, so be sure and bring lanterns and flashlights. You can charge your phone via an outlet in the bathroom - but I'd recommend bringing a power bank or two instead.
The cabin came with a few friends on the porch (see below) and bees were indeed busy frequenting the eaves through an opening above the front door. I asked a park ranger about bear activity, and she stated she lived in the area and had never seen a bear in the camping areas. The last time she saw a bear was on a trail back in 2016.
Thankfully, the shelter came equipped with not only a table and two benches inside, but also a broom - the perfect tool for shooing this spider away. I don't particularly mind Daddy Long Legs - but spiders like this give me the jitters!
He had some interesting company as well:
(Tent camping tip: Site 9 at the start of this trail is perfectly suited for a nice getaway campsite).
The centipede above sported cherry-red legs and his relatives were seen not only stretched out on sticks like this, but meandering around on the cabin's front steps or curled into a spiral on rocks as we hit the trail.
Deciding on the Summit Trail, shown in yellow below, I set out in the blistering heat making my way slower than usual. The beginning was near the comfort station (which, while clean, free for the most part of bugs, and complete with an accessible shower, was decidedly malodorous).
I liked that the trail markers at crucial points were clear. The blazes themselves were recently refreshed (painted, not luminescent).
The Summit Trail had wonderful views along the mountain's narrow ridgeline. Through the trees on either the left or right were steep drops. When the trees broke to display a view I was not disappointed - even the Delaware Water Gap could be seen to the west, and rich New Jersey farmland to the east.
A view from the first lookout area:
This valley to the east was created by glacial ice and it is not uncommon for interesting geological features to be noted on the trail. *Nearby in Independence Township four adult and one calf mastodon skeletons were uncovered in 1844! The remains were unearthed when a boggy portion of a farm was being drained. Exposure to air quickly deteriorated the bones, only one skeleton remains and it is now on display at Harvard.
Another viewpoint offered a look to the west where, in the distance, the Delaware Water Gap area is seen. This is a rest stop on the trail, complete with a park bench! But be careful when leaning back, it is in need of repair.
Wild roses and blueberry bushes were common as I walked along on this easy hike.
The trail was mostly level and not difficult, even when I turned off for a quick descent via the Spring Trail, shown in blue on the map above.
Until next time, get out and hike!