Trans-NJ

After relocating to the east coast, I decided I should put some effort into finding some new places to explore. It’s definitely a different experience with the lack of public land being a massive detriment to exploration, but there is still a lot of fun to be had.

It started with a post on Expedition Portal and ended with a group of fantastic people enjoying a weekend exploring rural New Jersey.  We all met up at High Point State Park. After a quick detour inside to pay, where we were advised that we actually owed nothing since our route didn’t technically take us inside the park, we set out on our journey south.

We took a roundabout path through as many dirt roads we could find, with OverlandNYC running point. Our progress was brought to an abrupt halt when we came across a fairly large tree down in the road, completely blocking our route from shoulder to shoulder. Our lucky lead vehicle’s owner got to use his winch for the first time to pull the tree down the road – we were able to get enough room to safely sneak by on the side of the road. I’ve already ordered a snatch block and tree saver, which would’ve made this endeavor easier.
We continued via a winding route into Andover, NJ where we stopped at Pub 517 for lunch. I had one of the largest steaks I’ve ever been served at a restaurant; once we were all refreshed, we pressed on through a mix of dirt and pavement.
We also found a tunnel.
When we arrived at Spruce Run Recreation Area, it was pouring. Fortunately, the GX460 sharing my campsite was equipped with an awning! I ducked under that for a while until the rain finally subsided, displaying a majestic rainbow for our viewing pleasure.
Since I was alone in my truck for this trip, I didn’t bring a tent. I figured I’d either use the hammock that I’ve had for years and still haven’t used even once, or I’d sleep in the truck. Well, the weather made that decision for me. I am not a fish, therefore I slept inside. It was quite comfortable, with an Exped Synmat resting across my folded down second row seat and my Pelican case for 3rd-row support.
I slept fairly well, though I did wake up a couple of times to a bit more heat and humidity than I’d like, so I started the truck for a few minutes to let the AC knock it down to a reasonable level so I could fall back asleep. When morning arrived, the weather had cleared and everyone packed up to continue south. We spent a fair amount of time driving through beautiful forest, staying on dirt whenever possible.Entering the pine barrens, we found a large sandy playground and basically killed the rest of the day there.
As our sunlight was not going to last forever, we eventually headed to our campsite destination in the Brendan T. Byrne State Forest. I finally used my hammock! Next time, though, I’ll hang one end lower than the other…turns out a horizontal hammock is not quite ideal for comfortable sleep.
Our final day was a bit shorter – we decided to play around in the pine barrens instead of going all the way down to Cape May, which was the original plan. I began to fully appreciate the merits of Weathertech floor mats – they did a fantastic job of keeping my carpet clean. Turns out you pick up a lot of sand over a weekend!
We had our first casualty of the weekend today – a beautiful 5th gen 4Runner lost an upper shock mount. The initial diagnosis was that the upper shock nut may have loosened up, but it didn’t take too much time to determine that was not the case. After determining that it wasn’t going to fall apart, we pressed on. Shortly afterwards, this truck broke from the group and headed home for repair.
We stopped for lunch by a river. Numerous kayaks and canoes passed by – it was a beautiful day to be outside.
The weather held out for us for the rest of the trip. It was an absolutely stunning day.
We wrapped up the trip around mid-afternoon, so everyone would have time to get home and take care of anything that needed to get done before most had to go back to work on Monday. All in all, it was a successful weekend – and to top it off, as soon as I got home a friend mentioned that he had just bought a pressure washer and foam gun, and offered its use. Excellent timing!
I am already looking forward to the next trip. I’m considering NH, VT, or ME; if you have any route suggestions, feel free to let me know on Facebook!

Lessons learned:
1) Bring a spatula. Flipping grilled cheese with a fork is not ideal.
2) Bring recovery gear. Winches are more versatile combined with tree savers and snatch blocks.
3) Hang hammocks at a slight angle, not straight across.

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