100 start new year with High Point hike

WANTAGE. First Day Challenge Hike draws pre-Covid-sized crowd.

| 07 Jan 2023 | 03:40

About 100 people turned out Sunday morning, Jan. 1 for a 5.8-mile hike through High Point State Park in Montague.

John Rovetto, a New Jersey Search and Rescue volunteer who organized the sixth annual event, said it was the largest group since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

One factor that may have aided turnout was the weather: the temperature was about 42 degrees at 10 a.m., when the hikers set off, and the skies were clear.

The High Point hike was one of many First Day hikes at state parks offered by the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forests. Another was planned at Wawayanda State Park in the Hewitt section of West Milford.

Bill Diver of Kearny did the High Point hike a year ago. He was joined by Erick Basilio of Highland Lakes and Oliver Jahn of Wayne.

The men, who said they go hiking every weekend, carried trekking poles, which help them balance.

“It’s great for your knees,” Diver said. “It definitely helps going downhill and uphill. It gives you support.”

Jerry Scanlan of Hopatcong was doing his fourth First Day Hike, although some of the others were at different locations.

”I thought it would be a good idea to go on a First Day Hike,” he said when asked why he was there. “Healthy. Meet people. I like to hike.”

He has hiked the Appalachian Trail from one end of New Jersey to the other.

On Sunday, he said he was planning to just follow the crowd. “I think it’s going to be hard to get lost.”

Jen Volpe of Pompton Lakes joined her husband, Mike, on the hike.

For the past year, he has been training to join New Jersey Search and Rescue, a group of volunteers who help law enforcement find missing people. He has one more test to take before he is considered “mission ready.”

Several Search and Rescue volunteers were on hand to help guide and assist the hikers Sunday.

The Volpes also went on the High Point State Park hike held the day after Thanksgiving. About a dozen people took part in that event, they said.

Plans to do the hike Sunday did not deter some of the participants from celebrating the night before.

“It was a little rough getting up,” Mike Volpe said, noting that the couple had attended a New Year’s Eve party.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to the location of the hike. It was in the Wantage section of the park.