I initially tried to park at the lot the intersection of 511 and East Shore road, but the lot is overgrown it is clear that lot hasn't been maintained for quite a while now and the trailhead across the street was posted no trespassing. So I drove to the Ironworks Museum and started there. I wasn't sure if I could park there for hiking as there were signs hinting parking for the Ironworks site only, but the curator was outside and I asked him for permission and he said sure go right ahead.
There were some other people milling about the ironwork's ghost town but after that I didn't see a single person.
The 1st obstacle was the bridge over the Wanaque River being out. I was hoping it was re-build or after a summer of drought the river was fordable. The unfortunately the bridge is still out but luckily just a bit upstream the water was just low enough and rocks were just poking out enough to get across. This river is likely un-fordable at most other times.
Once on the other side, I continued to follow the Highlands Teal and Sterling Ridge blue dot trail to the summit. The trail is wide open and easy to follow, there's one long steep pitch which at the top is the 1st viewpoint to the south over the Monksville Reservoir. Continuing on, I passed the 2nd viewpoint which with the leaves still on the trees the view was limited.
The Big Beech section on this website mentions views to the east. Through the trees I could see there was a big drop off in that direction but I didn't see any herd paths leading to any views. So I continued on to the summit area and past it to the state line where I did the usual one foot in New Jersey / one foot in New York picture.
My initial plan was to go until the next viewpoints and maybe even make the Sterling Ridge Firetower, but after screwing around with parking and the bridge I decided to go back and use the time to find the true summit and the views to the east.
I went back and just off the trail I went to a rock outcropping that probably/hopefully was the true summit (there was cairn there, though it was rather small and sad).
Next I attempted to find the views to the east by bushwhacking off the trail to the ledges. The 1st two attempts failed as I hit the edge and there were still too many trees. The third time however was the charm as when I reached the edge, about 50 to 100 feet below was a ledge sticking out. A quick scramble down and there was a nice 180° degree from some unknown mountain (in New York?) with a radio tower in the North to the Monksville Reservoir to the south.
Also when I was on this ledge it started to snow!!! Just a couple flurries here & there and of course it wasn't sticking, but I was probably the 1st and only person in New Jersey to experience snow this season.
I climbed back up and bushwhacked back to the trail. I made a 4th attempt to find views to the east but found nothing. Then I decided to head back.
The trip back was a little slow through the steep part but mostly uneventful. That is until I was passing the last of the foothills before the bridge. On top I heard a coyote yipping about, but when I looked up, instead of a coyote there was this massive dire wolf, bear dog or hound of hell looking down at me. My heart sank into my chest; I went to grab my bear spray &knife but then I realized it was just a downed tree stump. I've seen my share of trees, tree stumps & rocks that looked like things before, but dam this one beats all. It look feline in the pics I took. The coyote continued to yip & yap about on the top of the hill (Maybe it was scared of this stump too) but I never did see it.
Surprisingly the river was easy to re-ford going back. I was worried the whole trip that I wouldn't be able to go back the same way I came without getting soaked.