I'm well aware that I'm late to the game in posting about my favorite hikes of 2022 more than halfway through 2023, but I'm beginning to work on moving old ideas out to make room for the new and I've been meaning to do this for a while. Plus, it only goes to support the feeling I've had that 2023 is moving faster than the preceding years...
Nevertheless, 2022 gave 2021 solid competition in terms of excitement, memories, and intensity. We struck a great balance of relaxation and strenuosity. Although we were still navigating strange waters as the effects of the pandemic slowly began to fade, 2022 felt more like things were truly getting back to normal.
This is a list of my favorite 15 hikes (or trips) of 2022. As was the case last time, the list isn't taking into account any specific metric, but simply contains the 15 hikes that I enjoyed the most for whatever reason.
Jay & Cascade - January 15/16, 2022
The weather reports leading up to this trip were filled with warnings of bitterly cold temperatures. The forecasters were not shy about predicting -20 degree temperatures and recommending people to stay indoors over this “very dangerous” period. Naturally, we had a lovely Airbnb reserved for this period and were intent on getting upstate to welcome in the new year on the mountains. Without a plan, Mel, Daniel, and I carpooled up to the Adirondacks with a slight disregard for the weather forecasts and a strong curiosity as to what hiking in these temperatures would feel like. We decided to keep our first hike short and climb Mount Jay on the first and coldest day of our trip. Sure, we found eyelashes, moustaches, and other hair freezing together, but with a few extra layers and a deliberate pace, it didn't feel too different from some of the other "warmer" cold weather hikes that we had done. Later that night, Brittany met us at our Airbnb for a night of celebration. The next day, after much debate about where to go and some procrastination as we relaxed in the cabin through the morning, we chose the short climb up Cascade instead of a long 15-mile day to head up Marcy. The day was 20 degrees warmer - bringing us to between 0 and 20 degrees - and the views from Cascade were prime winter shots. We spent one more night at the Airbnb. We woke up to snow falling, adding to the foot or so that already blanketed the ground, for our long, precarious drive home.
Beacon Bully Retreat - January 30, 2022
We met up with the full intention of completing a near 20-mile Beacon Bully route, heading up Breakneck and taking the long way to the fire tower. However, a good amount of fresh snow had fallen and a layers of ice were hidden just below the surface, making it harder to move at a decent pace and forcing us to change our plans. We wound up heading up Breakneck as planned, but taking it only as far as the Undercliff Trail. Despite our early retreat and the expected disappointment, the hike itself turned out more leisurely than expected, even as we navigated the slippery scrambles and broke trail at some points. This all made the few miles we completed more satisfying and gave us the rare opportunity to enjoy a freshly powdered Breakneck.
30+ Miler on the Long Path - February 13, 2022
Ever since I completed my first 30+ miler in March 2021, I had wanted to do another, I just wasn't sure where or when. In late January, I mentioned this to Spence and together we decided that we'd complete a 30-mile route along the Long Path. So, I parked my car up at the South Mountain Trailhead near High Tor and Spence parked his car at the Alpine Lookout along the Palisades Parkway. We'd hike from his car to mine. So, we took off in the damp, snowy morning and started walking north. After a few miles, it stopped snowing and the sky opened up a bit, making our day far less demoralizing. Along the way, we passed through picnic sites, parking lots, marshes, cemeteries, and small towns. Before heading up Hook Mountain, we were even able to warm ourselves with a hot cup of coffee and pastries from a convenience store, admittedly an absolute highlight of the trip. We arrived at the top of Hook Mountain while the sun was still up and got to take in the sweeping view before we were plunged into the darkness. At one point, as we climbed up the side of a less-frequented hill in the dark, a train blasted out of the shrouded tunnel, shook the ground beneath our feet, and blew its whistle. It was a surreal moment. Later, as we arrived near the top of High Tor, the glow of dozens of deer eyes ornamented the silhouette of the hill. When I slammed my foot down, they disappeared in a scurry. Finally, most memorably, as we arrived back at my vehicle after hiking for about 10 hours, I found the driver's side decimated. That's a story for another time, but driving home with the a door that wouldn't close properly as the car beeped its concern would stick with me after such an accomplished day. Overall, the 31.5 miles and 4500+ feet made for a long and satisfying, but not overly challenging, day and gave me new appreciation for this bit of the Long Path, especially when taken in all together like this.
Pop Ten - March 13, 2022
I still consider this one of my favorite hikes of all time. This was Pop Ten, our simple mission to scramble to the top of Popolopen Torne and run down to the bottom ten times in a day. A few weeks prior, Vanessa and I set out to complete Pop Ten, but we arrived ill-equipped for the very thin glaze of ice that covered every inch of the mountain. We had begun the attempt, but as we slipped and slid, we realized it would take us far longer than we wanted it to if we were to complete 10 rounds. So, we begrudgingly took the loss and vowed to come back with a vengeance. We called for reinforcements and came back for revenge. The group's spirits were high and we found ourselves knocking down climbs even faster than we imagined and although it was reportedly "freezing", the air was comfortable and the sun melted away the snow as we moved. On the last trip up, I carried a nice 20-pound rock up with me and added it to the memorial cairn at the top. This day remains one of my favorites because of the way I know how good it made everybody feel, because there was such a strong sense of camaraderie, and because when I think about it, I can still feel some of the good energy that I walked away with that day. It was about 11 miles and nearly 4300 feet of elevation, but we finished up early that day and everybody got the chance to bask in their post-hike glory at home as the sun went down.
Beacon Bully - March 27, 2022
This was the third Beacon Bully and it was the longest up to this point. However, we pushed through this 16.75 miles and 5000 feet of elevation and finished it up just as it started to flurry. It was chilly out, but in deep contrast to the snow we had found ourselves in for the few previous weeks, the dry ground made it easy to maneuver and our steady, deliberate pace made the previously daunting route feel easier than in previous years. Luis and Brittany joined us for part of the route and Vanessa, John, Bubba (in her one and only impressive appearance to date), and myself completed the route, climbing down Breakneck to finish.
Breakneck 6 - April 16, 2022
Back in March 2020, we started our series of Breakneck repeats with Breakneck Triple. Back then, with how formidable a challenge I believed it to be, I couldn't have imagined doing it 4, 5, or 6 times. However, that was exactly where were heading. In August 2020, Breakneck Quad. In May 2021, Breakneck Quintet. Then, in April 2022, we added one more trip and made it Breakneck 6. Vanessa, Daniel, and I ripped through these rounds and, yet again, finished earlier than expected. It was about now that I realized how much faster we had gotten over the years as I recognized that hikes like this would have definitely taken far longer just years prior. Anyway, the reason I won't talk too much about this is because we kick it up another notch later on in the year.
Devil's Path - May 21, 2022
We had been speaking about getting out for another Devil's Path in a day since we completed our last traverse in October 2020. Having completed it twice now, once in the snow and the once in damp rain and hail, I was excited to see how I would handle it in the heat on the cusp of summer. So, Daniel, John, Phil, Spence, and I arrived the prior afternoon and set up camp not far from the Prediger Road parking lot. We woke up prior to the sunrise and started to follow the red markers on our way to a break on Twin Mountain. When we arrived at Twin, we were happy to find a surreal cloud inversion, the tips of the surrounding mountains poking through. We stayed there for a while, taking pictures and chatting, before we began to move in earnest. When we arrived at Stony Clove, we avoided the mistake we made on our two previous traverses and we kept the halftime break short and sweet. The second half of the route was hotter and buggier, especially when we arrived at Buck Ridge Lookout, but by that time I was feeling too good from the beating to care. We finished it up within our time goals and for the first time I drove home from this route while the sun was in the sky. The day came in at 24 miles and 8300 feet.
Stonetown - June 4, 2022
There's nothing extraordinary about Stonetown. Sure, it's considered one of the "harder" hikes in NJ and it packs a solid 10 miles and nearly 2500 feet of elevation. We've done it with added peaks (as will be seen later in the list) so a trip here would generally seem pretty routine. However, this was the first time since 2017 that I completed the Stonetown Circular solo. Back then, I found myself dehydrated, somewhat lost, and struggling by the end. That original solo hike taught me several valuable lessons and this return to Stonetown made my progress over the years all the more clear.
North-South Lake Camping - June 25/26, 2022
There's a primitive camp site near North Point in the Catskills that I can confidently say is my clear and absolute favorite place to camp. On the edge of a cliff, it packs views for both sunrise and sunset and makes for excellent stargazing and night photography. Daniel and I stayed up nearly all night enjoying the fire and the cosmos - it was one of the most breathtaking and inspiring experiences I've had - before waking up for a 7 mile run nearby. Unfortunately, unaware I was suffering from Covid and beaten by the sun and exertion, the conditions knocked me out as I drove home and caused me to to total my beloved RAV4. However, Daniel and I both walked away without injury and life goes on...
Schunemunk Tour - July 9, 2022
In the wake of the accident and in need of a big day, we decided on Schunemunk Tour. I was joined by Spence, Vanessa, and Daniel for a 12 mile route on a properly sweltering summer day. This is one of my favorite mountains. Its location allows for distinctive views from a standalone position and the purple hue of the rock lends to the unique Schunemunk experience. On this day, as we moved along under the hot sun, I learned not to smear globs of suntan lotion on your face or you'll look like the Joker or some kind of ghoul. Anyway, great day with just enough exertion and brisket at Brother's Barbeque in Cornwall before heading home.
NS Lake Circular - July 17, 2022
North-South Lake Circular, made up of a portion of the Escarpment Trail, is a group favorite. Kaaterskill Falls, Artist Rock, Catskill Mountain House site, Sunset Rock, North Point, and more are all packed into this route. I remember this day fondly as the return of Brenda, who hadn't gotten out with us for a while, and we picked up as if we hadn't missed a beat. Mel, Brittany, and Vanessa rounded out the group and we enjoyed and absolutely perfect day on some of the finest mountains in the Catskills. The hike totaled 11 miles and 1850 feet of elevation and the views just keep coming all along the way. I also remember this day fondly for truly enjoying our breaks and taking our time to savor the scenery.
GOTH IV - August 6, 2022
This was the fourth Guardians of the Highlands (GOTH for short) which is composed of some combination of the peaks in Bear Mountain State Park including, but not limited to, Bear, Bald, Dunderberg, Timp, and West. In 2022, the route turned out to be our longest to date, coming in at about 19.5 miles and 4600 feet of elevation. I was joined by Spence and John on another very hot day and we raced and dodged storm clouds throughout. Near West Mountain, we heard a scream that sounded like that of a man being murdered. Shortly thereafter, we came across a rattlesnake hanging out on the side of the trail and we stopped to take pictures. Later still, we came across a man and his family near the shelter who asked if we saw the "horrifying" snake. We told him we had and showed him our pictures. Amazed, he admitted to being the man who, in his own words, "screamed like a little girl." Later still, when we reached the summit of Bear Mountain (about mile 18), we decided to enjoy some ice cream and cold drinks from the vending machines - a nice treat for such a long, grueling day. As we tossed back our newly acquired drinks and snacks, a religious group thought it would be a good time to recruit and ask us questions about our beliefs. Long story short, we may have looked quite susceptible to brainwashing at that moment, drenched in sweat and filthy after hiking for so long, but they were unsuccessful.
Bear Den, Colden, & Hurricane - August 29-31, 2022
With the end of summer in sight, we headed back up to the Adirondacks and spent a few nights at another great Airbnb. We arrived upstate and immediately hit Bear Den, where we were warned about an underground hornets' nest through online reviews and successfully avoided it. The following day, we hiked up Colden. I had previously summited there, but I had done it by climbing the Trap Dike and the slide, so this was definitely more leisurely. This also gave Lauren another High Peak to check off. As we pulled out of the parking lot, it began to rain, so our timing was perfect. The next day, the final of our trip, we headed to Hurricane Mountain. The previous day's rain had cooled things down and there was the distinct feeling of the incoming fall in the breeze. The trip gave us 22 miles and about 5500 feet of elevation gain.
Hudson Highlands Tour - October 8, 2022
So, the day of this Hudson Highlands Tour, we had originally set out to complete Sun Pop. Sun Pop is a route that we had been talking about for months since we completed Pop Ten in March. The idea would be to repeatedly climb Popolopen Torne all day from sunrise to sunset to see how many rounds we could all take and then enjoy dinner on top of the mountain as the sun went down. We set out this morning ready for upwards of 20 scrambles. After enjoying the sunrise from the summit, were on the road waiting to begin our 4th round when a military jeep pulled up and advised us that we'd have to stop hiking due to military training taking place in the area. "We're not sure how high they'll be shooting, but you'd probably be alright," we were told. So, we came up with the idea to do a tour of the surrounding mountains. The initial idea was to move to Bear, then Anthony's Nose, then Bull, Breakneck, and to end the night at Beacon for sunset. As it turned out, we cut out Bull and climbed Breakneck twice to make up for it due to time constraints, but we followed through. Vanessa and I finished the entire route, John and Spence stayed until Anthony's Nose, and Brittany met us at Beacon to end the day. On Beacon, we were able to clearly witness the sun descending into the horizon and the bright full moon rising into the sky at the same time for a surreal finish. Afterward, it was off to Cold Spring Pizza to regain some lost calories and to celebrate. The day wound up totaling about 20 miles and nearly 5000 feet. Sun Pop is still on our list...
Winaki Derby - October 29, 2022
We originally discussed doing this route in March of 2020, but the pandemic forced us to postpone, and eventually, simply forget about it. I'm glad we decided to dig it up when we did, at near peak NJ fall foliage. It was a really nice day for late October. Joined by Spence for the entirety of the route and Phil for half, we moved all day from sunrise to sunset to finish what would become a 28.5 mile route and about 6500 feet of elevation gain. The 10 rough miles of Stonetown Circular came after we had already hiked nearly 15 miles. It made that final push up to Roomy Mine in Norvin Green State Forest and over to Wyanokie High Point all the more grueling. I gained a deeper appreciation for these mountains as we connected seemingly unrelated trails to turn this into a big day.
Breakneck 7 - December 10, 2022
As I mentioned earlier, Breakneck 7 was the natural evolution from Breakneck 6 earlier in the year, adding 5 miles and nearly 1500 feet of elevation to its predecessor's totals. This time, Vanessa and I were joined by some new faces for the first few rounds before we were left to complete the rest of the route on our own. Originally, we intended on starting the day with a trip to Beacon fire tower, but we decided to save that for Breakneck 7.5. Instead, we added a route that took us to Bull Hill in the second half of the hike. Unquestionably challenging, mentally and physically, this felt like a victory to complete, especially as efficiently as we did. After having gone up the scramble 7 times already, taking every other possible route down, we ended by going straight back down the face, as has become tradition, to finish off the night. Then, back to Cold Spring Pizza for another celebration...
Questions about any of these routes? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org...