I participated in my first hike (two weeks ago; sorry for the delay) with a group - an all-women's outdoors club, so aptly called Adventures For Women. It went really well. The drive itself was quite a hike- an hour and a half. It seems all the good hiking is in North Jersey; not to mention I think that's where most of the members are from, so its where the majority of adventuring takes place. It was well worth it.
I have no idea about the exact mileage of the hike since I opted not to use my Spring GPS hiking app on my iPhone, as technology on the trail is sometimes frowned upon. My guess is we only did about 4 miles. I opted to go with a hike listed as "easy/leisurely" for my first adventure with the group so as not to make a fool of myself. I have to say I did leave slightly dissatisfied, but now I have a better idea of how the rating system works. There were 8 other women, and I was (by far?) the youngest. I generally feel more comfortable with people slightly older than me, so I didn't feel out of place in the least. It was nice to be with like-minded people who aren't concerned, at least for those four hours, with gossip, celebrities, work, school, or general superficiality. Not that I'm above all that stuff, I fall prey to getting consumed with the day-to-day monotony, but it was nice to spend a few hours with people, women no less, who wanted to discuss nature or simply just be silent for a little while.
Merrill Creek is a only a small attraction of the hike, as the creek feeds into a large reservoir that supplies water to the Delaware (I think). When the reservoir was built nearby farms and homes were flooded. As some sort of restitution, the powers that be preserved the surrounding areas as a state park for passive recreation. There's also a wildlife center at the park that houses two large stuffed black bears and other informative exhibits. The views (pictured below) were serene, but the overcast sky sort of dulled the landscape.
I have to say that area of New Jersey (near Phillipsburg) is downright stunning. Rolling hills and mountains in the distance surround the landscape of small farms and country homes. New Jersey gets such a bad rep (thank you, Sopranos). Honestly, I'm happy to let people believe we're one big armpit of filth. You just go on thinking that America, as long as it's keeping you and your industrialism and commercialism out. We have enough that, but the ares that are left more or less untouched should be preserved. I'll be happy if another shopping mall or drugstore never goes up again in New Jersey. Sadly, that's not likely.