This place has been begging for a blog entry since before I even started blogging. I discovered Schooley’s Mountain Park this summer, about a month ago – when I was researching new local places to explore. My parents / younger brother aren’t as adventuresome as I am … (I’m basically the alien of the family), so this place (among many other nearby places) have never been explored despite living here all my life. Spending 4 years at school in NYC had me conditioned (aka spoiled) to go out and do things every chance I had because the city always has something going on. After graduating and coming back home, I missed that thrill – and was determined to find “hidden gems” of suburban NJ. This is by far the best gem I found this summer, and I think it currently holds the spot of “favorite happy place” in my heart. I often come here now on the weekends with my mom, but I’ve only taken two solo trips to the park: September 2 and yesterday (October 8). Those 2 solo trips were by far the best – and take the cake.
9/2/14 -- I knew that this place was magic from the second I laid eyes on it, and had actually hand-written a journal entry about it while I was there by myself for the first time. I don’t think any other trip topped this one. There’s a sense of wonder that happens when you see a place for the first time that just cannot be topped no matter how many times you revisit it. This day was also about conquering fear for me – fear of driving. Yes, that’s right – I’m 22 and suffer from a fear of driving. It may sound stupid, but after 4 years of basically not driving at all – it’s pretty scary to hop into a car again. This was the longest drive I did by myself all summer (approx. 30 min… which isn’t that long haha...) However! I still was really proud of myself because I got there in one piece and got home in one piece and did it by myself. It wasn’t a flawless drive, but I did it. On the way there, I nearly missed a turn and almost died. On the way home, I took a wrong turn and got slightly lost – BUT I stumbled upon this massive lake (which I later identified to be Budd Lake, I think). I pulled over to take a quick photo despite my camera being full. I made room for a couple shots because it was just too damn pretty not to. The sign said “NO TRESPASSING – MEMBERS ONLY” but… oh well. :D
Schooley’s is known for its 2 waterfalls and its overlook – and I was determined to experience both on my own. I had briefly seen the overlook before with my mom the day before, but someone was reading a book on the rock and I wasn’t able to get a good look. We were unable to find the waterfalls that day, and those were what I was most excited about finding. On 9/2, I woke up super early – determined to find the falls and spend the entire day there. I packed a few bottles of water, a banana, and a few slices of bread (ain’t nobody got time to make a sandwich when there are waterfalls to be found!) – I did not want to have to drive back home just to feed myself. I wandered a bit, and eventually stumbled upon the waterfalls after walking along the creek. It was a pretty rocky walk and the climb down to the bottom of the falls was steep, but it was definitely worth it. I ate my lunch near the water and dipped my feet in because it was a hot ass day. It was so peaceful and quiet and the only sound that could be heard was of the water falling. After enjoying several hours of the waterfalls and taking a million photos, I made my way to the overlook where I saw a whole family of hawks hanging out. I tried to snap a picture, but they flew away too fast sadly… :( Despite not being able to document it, it was a pretty awesome sight. I had never been that close to a hawk before. Also, they must be frequent visitors … because those rocks are plastered in bird shit. But hey, I don’t blame them – the view is worth shitting yourself over. This view is the best hiking view I know of / have seen – which may or may not be sad. I think it’s a pretty breathtaking view, but I haven’t been to many other places… haha. For now, I like to pretend I’m traveling to exotic places (despite being stuck in NJ).
10/8/14 -- Again, I woke up early with the intention of spending the entire day there. I packed a backpack full of all my stuff: a book to read (currently reading: “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed), my journal, my notebook, a towel, water, and my camera. I also packed my tripod because I wanted to take some self-portraits because I knew I wanted to include 1 or 2 in this blog post. I also packed lunch – bread and guac (because I live on guac). I love the drive to Schooley’s because it’s tree-lined and fairly straight driving. No one was following me, and it was great. 30 minutes is also a good drive, in my opinion. Long enough to think / daydream, but short enough that it’s not a hassle to take on. This time was a much smoother drive than the first, and I didn’t get lost at all. Of course it helped that I recently replaced my phone and the battery isn’t total shat (yet) – so I was able to use Google maps to guide me in case I got lost, but I knew where I was going this time and didn’t make any sloppy / wrong turns. The fall foliage made the drive even better, and the weather was perfect. The sunroof was open, and I obnoxiously sang to the radio giving no fucks if anyone could hear me or not. I quit choir in 3rd grade / I am the epitome of tone deaf.. but #nofucks. There’s no way you can sing to the radio while driving on a sunny 70 degree fall day and feel bad about it. I decided to stop at Alstede Farms because it was on the way to Schooley’s anyways. I bought a few apples, a box of apple cider doughnuts, and a pint of cold apple cider – all of which made their way to my “lunch” too haha. I ate near the upper waterfall again, then made my way down to the lower fall. I took a bunch of pictures again, and then - I dropped my iPhone 6 face down on a rock and… bye bye screen… #gorillaglassmyass. My heart stopped, and it was devastating. I think I sat there for a good half hour freaking out. Now that spot will forever remind me of the death of my week-old iPhone 6…. haha fuck. Shit happens, what can ya do? I dwelled on it for a bit and lost some time, but decided to make my way to the overlook anyways because I didn’t want to let it ruin the perfect day. I had wanted to read a bit more of “Wild” at this spot, like I did on Sunday, but the sun was starting to go down so I decided to just enjoy the view before heading home. At some point, I also somehow bashed open my middle finger and stepped in some animal shit. Despite all of that and the phone fiasco, it was a really good day.
I think solo adventures in general are some of the best adventures – and that is probably because everything you do is solely because you want to do it - and no one is there to tell you otherwise. There is a sense of freedom and genuine curiosity that takes place when you’re alone.
And with that, I’ll end this entry with a quote from my 9/2 journal entry:
”I’m so glad I went and went alone. I feel truly fulfilled. In every way. I found this place all by myself and got myself there and back in one piece. I got lost and found my way. There was something weirdly gratifying about getting lost. I got to experience / dip my feet into two waterfalls. I got to see a family of hawks. I got to experience the overlook all for myself. I got to experience so many beautiful things about life today – and for that, I am grateful.”