by Michele S. Byers, Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation
When it comes to mountains, New Jersey has peak envy. There just isn’t anything in this state we’re in that compares to the majesty – or climbing challenges – presented by iconic mountain ranges like the Rockies. But it’s not the size of the mountain that matters; it’s how you use them. And the advent of the New Jersey 1K Club proves it.
The New Jersey 1K Club (www.nj1k.org) is a newly-minted version of the “peakbagging” clubs traditionally reserved for loftier summits, like the Seven Summits (the highest points on each continent) or the fourteen peaks worldwide over 8,000-meters. Peakbagging is climbing all peaks higher than a set elevation in a defined region.
Think of peakbagging as collecting. Just as collecting deepens your knowledge of the collectables, peakbagging deepens climbers’ appreciation of nature and the mountainous landscapes they are traversing. And the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes with ticking a difficult peak off the list is just what collectors feel when they find an elusive or rare item for their set.
In other words… it’s fun!
So what do New Jersey peaks offer for bagging? Maybe nothing on the scale of Mount Everest’s 29,000 feet, but the state has 52 peaks that rise more than 1,000 feet above sea level, according to the 1K Club’s current list. If you stacked them, they’d beat Everest handily!
The highest point on the list is, well, High Point in Sussex County at 1,803 feet. Also near the top are Catfish Mountain in Warren County at 1,560 feet, Bearfort Mountain in Passaic County at 1,480 and Bowling Green Mountain in Morris County at 1,381.
But in the interest of full disclosure, some of New Jersey’s highest peaks don’t even warrant being named mountains. Five are known as “hills,” and there’s one “lookout,” one “rock” and a “benchmark.” You won’t strain your neck looking up at a benchmark, or need oxygen ascending a lookout! The lowest peak on the list is “The Tornfell” in Warren County, which squeaks in at precisely 1,000 feet.
The New Jersey 1K Club proves again the value of the state’s open spaces and natural lands. Many of the peaks on the list don’t have mapped trails, leaving climbers and hikers to the challenge of finding their own way to the top, through wooded areas, thickets, rocky ridges and more. It’s hands-on nature, rather than nature at arm’s length.
If we continue to preserve our natural spaces – including undeveloped mountains, ridges, hills and slopes – New Jersey has an opportunity to create something unique and special. Everest may be majestic, but there’s something to be said for a state with green spaces within walking distance of every resident’s front door. Even in such a densely populated state, it’s still possible. And if we want a high quality of life for ourselves, our neighbors and future generations, it’s necessary.
To become an official NJ 1K member, register at the website and start collecting peaks. Log in after reaching the top of each one and fill in information about your ascent. You can even post pictures of your conquests.
And I hope you will consult New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you would like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious land and natural resources.
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