The Appalachian Trail enters New Jersey at the spectacular Delaware Water Gap, crossing the Delaware River via the busy Interstate 80 bridge before climbing back up into the serenity of the mountains.

For the next 50 miles, the AT follows the ridges of Kittatinny Mountain, a natural extension of Pennsylvania’s Blue Mountain, but with fewer punishing rocks and a lot more views owing to the semiopen forests of oak and laurel.

Beautiful Sunfish Pond is the first natural water body encountered by northbound hikers. Beyond, the old Catfish and Culver fire towers offer panoramic vistas of this surprisingly wild and scenic corner of densely populated New Jersey.

After High Point State Park, where I took full advantage of the sandy beach on Lake Marcia as well as the snack bar, the trail turns east, closely following the New Jersey-New York state line.

At Vernon, I holed up for the night in a church hostel, and in the morning went next door to the diner with trail friend Doc to get a proper breakfast.

Halfway through my ham and eggs, I got up to use the restroom. It was then I realized I was in my underwear. Yes, I’d forgotten to put my shorts on. Granted, my underwear is black and looks like biking shorts, until you notice the fly.

Both Doc and the waitress had a good chuckle over my sudden horror. Doc noticed on the walk over but figured I knew what I was doing. Not quite, especially before my first cup of coffee. I’d never had eggs in my underwear before, except at home.

Near Greenwood Lake, the trail turns north and passes into New York atop the craggy Prospect Rock. I left the trail a day ahead at Harriman State Park, returning home to Maine for 12 days to see my lovely wife and celebrate our anniversary.

When I hit the trail again in late July, I walked right into a solid week of 90-degree temperatures and high humidity. The washboard terrain didn’t make the going easier, the rugged route offering lots of short but steep ascents and descents. One section was aptly named Agony Grind.

At midday, I stopped in for a break at the Bear Mountain Inn to escape the heat and enjoy some food and drink.

While there, I chatted with a young man working as a server. We talked about my hike, and he said he wasn’t sure if he could ever do something so big, that it seemed overwhelming. All he’d ever done, he said, was hike 50 miles once with the Boy Scouts.

I told him the Appalachian Trail was just a matter of linking together 44 50-mile hikes. He thought for a second, and I could almost see the light go on.

It’s all about keeping your feet moving forward, I told him, about putting in the hours each day. Simply do that, and the weeks and months and miles will take care of themselves.

Before you know it, you find yourself in New York, hardly remembering what you did before you started walking, and realizing how all too soon the journey of a lifetime would be over. And knowing that beyond the trail’s white blazes, you will never look at life the same again.

With that, a big smile came across his face, and I knew his AT gears had started turning.

My feet hardly touched down as I crossed the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River. At 175 feet, it’s the lowest point on the AT, but for me it was a real high point. New England lay just 50 trail miles north.

Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow Carey’s adventures in his Maineiac Outdoors blog at:

mainetoday.com/blog/ maineiac-outdoors