For my 30th birthday, I wanted to hike 30k. I have come to realize that I have no interest in running 30k anytime soon (let alone 30 miles), and hiking 30 miles in one day seemed…too much. So I settled on 30k. While I knew how far 30k was, I didn’t dawn on me how long that would take. I’ve backpacked that far in college, but I haven’t hiked that far in a while. That being said, I was prepared and ready to do so.
For the 30k, we settled on Stokes State Forest in North Jersey. Initially, I wanted to go out of state, but with the pandemic, we couldn’t go further than 150 miles from the base right now. So Stokes State Forest in Sussex it was. We’ve been to Stokes State Forest a couple of times, and it’s always been pleasant.
Like many East Coast parks, Stokes State Forest is rocky but beautiful. There weren’t any crazy climbs, but we got views of several lakes and a beautiful view at the top of Sunrise Mountain. I used the Hoka One One Speedgoat Midi Shoe.
I’m an early riser, and I woke up around 5 am. We headed to the Firehouse Bagels in Branchville and stocked up on bagels. I got a Nova Lox bagel and coffee for breakfast. I think Firehouse Bagels is one of the best bagel places in all of NJ.
We were out and hiking by 6:18 am. As we passed the end of the trail, my husband said: yeah, we will probably be there in 8-9 hours. Then it hit me how long the hike would actually be.
The start of the Blue Mountain Loop is slightly hard to find in the summer because it’s overgrown. I was happy I wore long pants.
We started and ended on the Blue Mountain Trail in Stokes State Forest, but it was “only” 16.2 miles long, so we hooked into the Appalachian Trail as well.
The Blue Mountain Trail at Stokes State Forest:
The first few miles on the Blue Mountain Trail were quiet without much of note. It was early, the sun was rising and we were just hiking. We hit mile 5 around 2 hours and I had a UCAN Energy Bar.
After mile 5, we saw the first person on the trail. He stopped us to talk and it was like a scene out of the movies. He just kept talking and talking. Every time we tried to leave, he kept talking. Finally, after about 20 minutes, we somehow got away. When you talk to someone for that long, your motivation to hike much further dwindles.
The next few miles were quiet again. Around mile 9, we hit the “climb.” You hike up about 1000 feet of rocks. The difference in east coast hiking and west coast is its much rocky on the east coast. During our hike at the Stokes State Forest, we were always hiking on a rock bed.
Once we finally reached the top of the mountain around mile 10.5, we decided to stop and eat another bagel. It was nice to enjoy the breathtaking and panoramic view from Sunrise Mountain. The view encompasses the pastoral farmland of New Jersey to the East. Stopping to rest also reminded me we were just barely over halfway done. (If you want to just skip hiking, it’s only a short drive to the Pavilion and there is parking nearby).
The Appalachian Trail:
After hitting the peak of Sunrise Mountain, we headed towards the pavilions at the top and began on the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail runs from Maine to Georgia and is a well-known trail. It was busier and we saw a few more hikers (not really that many and I think in total we saw 15 people during the day). Behind us on the Appalachian Trail was a family with two giant St. Bernards and those dogs can hike! They were keeping a good pace for several miles.
The Green Trail:
After what felt like forever, we finally reached the side of the mountain and green trail around mile 14.5. I seriously thought it might never come. We stopped to relax and enjoy another beautiful view. The green trail went back to being rocky but manageable. By this time, I was tired. I realized how far we still had to go. We passed a few group sites and camping areas.
The green trail involved some technical downhills. Since it had rained a lot, some of the rocks were slippery, so we took our time and were careful.
Back to the Blue Mountain Trail at Stokes State Forest:
As we rounded the lake, we realized the trail was not open as initially anticipated. I believe there were a few downed trees. It was then we realized it was going to be slightly longer than 30k. Eventually, we made it back to the Blue Mountain Trail, where we power hiked to the end. Somewhere along the way, two people asked us for directions. We laughed and figured, “we looked like we knew what we were doing” because we had ten layers of dirt on us.
Finally, around 19 miles, we reached the car. I haven’t felt that successful or tired in a long time!
We hiked the roughly 19 miles in 8 hours. It was a lot of fun to spend my 30th birthday. I don’t have any plans to hike that far again for a while, but it was a fun thing to do. I highly suggest Sunrise Mountain and Stokes Forest if you’re ever in the area.
You can see more hikes here.
Questions for you:
What did you do for your 30th birthday?
What is the furthest you’ve hiked?