Episode 4 of The Hiking Diaries.
The plan was to hike to the top of the mountain starting on an old familiar trail – Echo Lake, to High Meadow, to Jack Frost and beyond.
I went with my friend Dot, again. And the dogs, of course.
Things didn’t go as planned. We were afraid we were going to run out of daylight. Unlike my usual hiking, this time we went late afternoon. So, sitting on a rock in our familiar pine forest, we pulled out the map, and decided to go back a different way. Here’s what we did.
I forgot to take a picture at the entrance to Echo Lake Trail. But here’s Echo Lake…
It really should be called Echo Pond. And it really does echo. As we were walking along we heard a man’s voice from somewhere along the pond. Turns out he was on a picnic bench on the far end, where we walked by as we headed onto High Meadow Trail. We told him we heard his voice echoing on the lake.
This is what you see once you go onto High Meadow Trail….
You can’t see it in this first picture too well, but there is a wire down across the trail. For some reason I don’t like this part of the trail. I don’t know if there is some funky energy around the wire, or what. But I just really don’t like this part of the trail.
Oh, and I don’t think they are working on fixing this. The sign is new, but the wire has been like that for years.
Here’s something, though, that has changed over the years…
You walk over this stone wall Columbus is standing on, and there is a HUGE tree across the trail. So huge that they cut a notch through it.
Here is Columbus, to give you a little perspective on its size. The thing that has changed is that when I first hiked this trail, that tree was standing. I even blogged about it on an older blog. It used to amaze me walking by this tree. I used to think about all the people who had walked by this tree besides me over all the years it was standing. I was so sad when I walked the trail and it was down. And I saw it down before they notched it. This trail is one of my regular hikes.
This is one of the reasons I like this trail so much. It’s worth passing through that one spot I don’t care for to reach this meadow. (I forgot to take a picture of the view, the other way! That’s okay, hike it yourself and be surprised.)
This meadow is full of old apple trees. Over the years, it had grown up and wasn’t really a meadow anymore. But a few years ago they cleared it again and put a little bench at the top where you can sit and look at the view.
This is the sign at the top of the meadow. Bicentennial Trail (it’s hard to read it on the sign) goes to the left and would take you to Pine Hill Trail. High Meadow continues on straight ahead.
Besides the big old tree that fell down, there were a lot of other cool trees along this part of the trail, and I took pictures of them!
That’s a big tree down to the right of Columbus, and two dead trees standing as sentinels straight ahead.
Even the trail marker was on an interesting tree!
I mean, really, this should be called Dead Tree Trail.
This part of the trail is steep.
Oh look, another dead tree!
And another, right at the trail junction.
We now went to the right on Jack Frost Trail.
Jack Frost Trail leads into my other favorite part of this hike. A pine forest!
This is the entrance to it.
And it appears the dead tree theme has extended to the pine forest. There were actually quite a few trees down. It made me wonder if that storm where people thought a tornado hit Princeton (the hail storm in August) actually did hit here. Or maybe not a tornado but some pretty high winds.
Right beyond the tree we sat on our favorite rock and planned our route back. Little did we remember (because I’d only hiked it once before) that we were entering into some steep hiking. Downhill. With two dogs. That I have to keep on leash or they’ll run off.
Let’s just say it was VERY slow going.
On the way back out of the pine forest, I noticed this fungus among us.
That doesn’t even look real! Yellow brains growing on a tree. Actually, it looks like someone sprayed some kind of foam on it. I have NO idea what this is. (Although I just went googling and it might be something called Heart Rot. Sounds awful, and appears it is. Seeing fungus like this means the tree is dying. So, good for the fungus, not so great for the tree.)
Okay, back to the hike.
Before we got to the steep part, the dogs did this:
Wasn’t paying enough attention. All I had to do was say Koda’s name, and she came back and went around the other way. Little Koda smarty-pants.
I pretty much tucked my phone away because I needed both my hands as we travelled down Jack Frost’s rocky slope. Here’s a picture from the bottom, looking back up. A picture really can’t convey the steepness.
We zigged and zagged and at one point Columbus really leaned into my leg pushing me back against a rock. Either he had a bit of vertigo or he was trying to protect me. Maybe he was thinking “heck, woman, what’s up with this? This isn’t fun.”
But then we go to some nice stuff.
That’s the shot in the other direction from the above hill one. Two bridges.
And look at all the leaves that have fallen. I love this.
We walked on and all of a sudden we were in a HUGE patch of Mountain Laurel.
Look at this leggy old bush. There are leaves way up at the top, high over our heads.
We hit the intersection of Jack Frost and Lower Link trails. We thought we were walking on Lower Link, but I guess that goes the other way.
More mountain laurel!
And then we hit Administration Road. This is the sign looking back into the trail we just came out of. That’s when we realized we were on Jack Frost, still. I’ll have to hit Lower Link Trail another day.
One last shot to leave you with. Full circle. That road leads back to Echo Lake. We kept going straight which brought us back to the car faster.
There was still plenty of daylight. Maybe we would have had time to go to the top. But it wouldn’t have been the same adventure.