50in50by50 State #15: New Jersey
50K in 50 States by 50 Years Old
New Jersey— 55.73Km, June 2022
- June 23, 2022: 12.93Km in Bound Brook on the D&R Canal Path (photos)
- June 24, 2022: 14.96Km around Bound Brook and down the D&R again (photos)
- June 25, 2022: 27.84Km from Bound Brook to Duke Farms with the Freewalkers on a brutally hot day (photos)
New Jersey was our 5th state in 2 weeks. We’d spent a night in Connecticut, two nights in Pennsylvania, four in West Virginia, six in Maryland and only stopped off in New Jersey because it was halfway between Maryland and home. I had put in some decent miles in every one of our stops, while keeping a pretty stressful work schedule, and I hate driving. So I was wiped out.
We rolled in on a grey, rainy day through a part of town that needs a lot of love, and I was just over it. What could I possibly experience in New Jersey of all places that’s worth prolonging this exhaustion? The first night, I confess I laid awake trying to figure out how to cut the trip short.
The second day dawned at a perfect temperature and we decided to stay since we were already booked. On my walk to the D&R path I passed a dozen locally owned shops selling mouth-watering food — Peruvian, Colombian, Mexican, and Salvadorean are just the ones I can remember. It felt like the whole town was sitting around outside enjoying the weather and each other’s company. The D&R looked like something out of a fairy tale. I even managed a few miles of tentative jogging without hurting myself.
I think my experience is pure New Jersey — it puts up an unwelcoming or, at best, industrially efficient facade to the millions of tired travelers that slog down its expressways, saving its warm welcome and hidden treasures for people who stick around and give it a chance.
Where to get some distance in New Jersey
- The Freewalkers are very active around all parts of New Jersey, with a walk held most weekends. Even if you don’t join them, taking a look at the events list will give you good ideas of longer distance walks to take in and around the Garden State.
- The Delaware and Raritan (D&R) Canal State Park provides 70 miles of well-kept towpath for cycling, running, and walking.
Celebrating New Jersey’s Indigenous Voices
The Ramapo Lenape Nation have lived in what is now Passaic and Sussex Counties for more than 11,000 years. During the early years of colonization, a massacre committed by the Dutch, broken treaties and bloodshed pushed the survivors of this band into their sacred mountains, where they have remained. The Ramapo people feared relocation west, hiding their identities until relatively recently.
In the 1960s, Ford dumped toxic chemicals in and around Ramapo land, poisoning Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike. For many of us, the 1960s is ancient history — pre-EPA, pre-environmental justice. But the repercussions of these kinds of industrial actions linger to this day and largely impact low income and otherwise historically marginalized communities. The Ramapo have led and continue to pursue the fight to get this toxic site fully cleaned up for the benefit of all New Jersey citizens.
As a contrast to both the Ramapo’s history and the narrative from further south that all Cherokee were pushed, via the Trail of Tears, into Oklahoma, the Sand Hill people are descended from Cherokee who migrated north to join the Lenape. Their story is one of trade and industry, and carving out a precarious peace in an otherwise hostile climate.
There are no federally recognized tribes in the state of New Jersey, but the state itself recognizes three: the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, the Ramapough Lenape Nation, and the Powhatan Renape Nation. As of the 2020 Census, 1.6% of New Jersey citizens identified as American Indian alone or in combination with other races.
I have set myself a goal of completing at least 50Km in all 50 states by the time I’m 50. To acknowledge that I’m traveling on land that was stolen from others, I am donating $500 to the First Nations Development Institute for each state I complete.
Thank you for reading and supporting me on this journey. If you’re able to chip in — for your state, or for all 50 states — you’ll help me double the impact I’m able to make on my own.
If you’re from New Jersey or living there right now, please consider supporting the Ramapo Munsee Land Alliance, or donating to another local and indigenous-led organization.