Planes crawled across the sky over Franklin Township, travelling to and fro Newark Liberty International Airport. I walked on the path cut into the grassland, encountered ice and swamp-like mud. I slipped and slid, twisted and hurt something in my right foot. But I didn’t know that at the time. Just a lingering feeling that I had overdone it. That something wasn’t right.
I learned about the Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve while perusing the REI online store. I was checking out the sales items and saw a link for the REI Hiking Project. Thirty minutes later, I had downloaded the Hiking Project app and looked at a list of nearby possibilities for a hike. I decided to try the Griggstown Native Grassland because it was close to home. A grassland hike would be different from my usual hikes in the Sourland Mountain Preserve.
I had rented a Fujinon XF27mmF2.8 pancake lens for a weekend trip to visit my brother in Charlotte, North Carolina. We had to postpone our plans, and while I was able to cancel my flight and hotel booking, I forgot about the lens rental. I felt I had to get some value from the lens, so I decided to put it on my Fuji X-T2 and bring it with me on my hike. With a ~41mm field of view on a 35mm full-frame sensor, the XF27mmF2.8 provides a field of view roughly equal to that of the human eye. On this hike, the photos would provide a “Khürt’s Eye View” of the hike.
I drove along Canal Road, and despite using Google Maps, I almost missed the preserve entrance. The entrance is via a narrow dirt road that winds it’s way around to the trailhead. Hikers have parked two other cars. I grabbed my stuff and walked over to the information shed to look for a map. I could not understand the map on the back of the shed.
I pulled out the Hiking Project app, which has GPS to pinpoint my location. One thing to note about using a GPS app on a smartphone. They are only accurate to about 50 feet. To increase accuracy, these apps often use cellular or Wi-Fi signals. The Hiking Project app uses the GPS information from my iPhone and the cellular signal to place my location on its map of the preserve. If you are in a location with a poor (or no) cellular signal, the hiking app won’t accurately place you on its map. Your phone knows your coordinates, but the app does not.
I got some information about the two gentlemen who were preparing to hike in the preserve. There was a small Blue Trail and a larger Red Trail. I decided to take the Red Trail.
The trails are not well marked. I walked across the wide grassland trail and felt a sense of openness. This is rare here in New Jersey. I walked across a bridge and around a path that took me to an abandoned shipping container. Ironically the words, Evergreen, were printed on the side. I continued walking and realized that I had just walked in a circle.
Remember what I wrote earlier about GPS and cellular signals? I consulted the Hiking Project app and realized I had walked off the trail. I walked back across the bridge and re-entered the trail. This part of the trail was very wet, soggy, and muddy. It didn’t help that the trail path is cut through the grass. I was walking on wet grass on top of wet soil.
I walked up this hill, slippery from water frozen into shoe prints leftover from another hiker. At the top was a park bench, and I stopped for a moment to take in the Sourland Mountain Range view. It looked so small in the distance.
I consulted the Hiking Project app and realized that I was almost done with the red trail. Ahead across large patches of ice lay the path to the Orange Trail. I slid my way across, slowly crawling to the other side. The path ahead was again soggy wet. Arriving at the fork in the path to start the orange trail I saw, even more ice and wet, muddy areas. I reconsidered my options. Take the exit path back to the trailhead or complete the orange trail. I decided I had had enough and took the trail back to the car.
It was 3:30 AM when I uploaded these photos. I was in pain. I couldn’t get to sleep because of the intensity of the pain. I uploaded the photos, posted a link on Frank’s website’s comments section, and went back to bed. This morning my wife took me to the doctor. I had a sprained tendon and will be wearing a boot for a few weeks.