Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Hikers Learn to Avoid Pitfalls of the Palisades

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Hikers Learn to Avoid Pitfalls of the Palisades

Article excerpt

Don't leave the trail. Always carry a cellphone. And if you see signs warning you not to go into a certain area -- obey!

These were just a few of the tips hiking and environmental experts had for North Jersey residents looking to venture into the state's parks and trails this summer. They were a timely reminder, given the rescue Monday of an Elmwood Park teen who became trapped in a waterfall while hiking in Palisades Interstate Park.

The park, named for the Triassic Period cliffs that overlook the Hudson River, has about 30 miles of trails in New Jersey. These trails range from easy strolls to challenging rock scrambles, and the park's website warns that first-time hikers are often surprised by the ruggedness of the terrain.

Despite precautions such as warning signs, falls in the park are not uncommon:

* In 2012, two people plunged to their deaths after they bypassed barriers near the cliff edge.

* In 2013, a Fairview man was walking in the park when he slipped and fell 60 feet into a rocky ravine. He was flown to Hackensack University Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.

* On Monday, police said, a 17-year-old boy was climbing the trails with friends when he began swinging from a tree. He landed on a rock, which gave way, dropping him several feet down a waterfall. Unable to move because of his injuries, he remained there until rescuers could come to take him away by boat.

The Englewood Cliffs Fire Department's rappelling team has already been called out three times this hiking season, which began around the beginning of April, Chief George Drimones said. They were asked to provide mutual aid Monday, but the request was later canceled.

"There's signs up there that say, 'Don't cross,' " said Drimones.

And yet, some people choose to ignore them: "I don't know why," Drimones said. "You get the same view from one side or the other."

The State Park Police advise hikers to tell family and friends when they will be traveling and when they are expected back, avoid areas where visibility is poor, and be aware of their location at all times. Visitors should dress in layers, carry a whistle or other type of noisemaker, and only walk on designated trails or paths, according to police. …

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