Winter, 2020

Warm greetings and best wishes for an exciting season! This is our thirtieth year of exploration among the hills and valleys of Northwest New Jersey. We hope you keep the personality of the New Jersey Skylands near and dear when you need to freshen your horizon!

Here are some highlights from the region's calendar of events, along with some other suggestions for you and your family.

March 26 - April 3

Walks of Life!

Get your distance by following any number of paths and trails in Northwest New Jersey. Stretch your legs, breath fresh air and stay strong! Please remember that New Jersey state park offices and indoor facilities are closed, but you can access trail maps online.
You got the action, you got the motion!

The way to Tillman Ravine in Stokes State Forest begins on a narrow path through a dense stand of towering bare-trunked red and white pines planted by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1932, soon followed by Eastern hemlocks over 160 years old with high, delicate foliage with only spots of greenery among their mulch of needles and bark. The path heads down to the ravine and undulates along Tillman Brook where ferns and wood asters accompany the walker. Tree species change along the stream’s path with an attendant carpet of offspring: ash, beech, oak, hickory and sugar maple.

Boulder Hops and Star Gazing

Outcrops along Jenny Jump's Summit Trail yield impressive vistas
The ancient rolling terrain of Jenny Jump Mountain provides spectacular vistas of the Kittatinny Mountains and the Water Gap to the west, and the vast panorama of the Great Meadows to the east. A haven for those who love a hike and a good view, the Park promises special rewards for devotees of geology, astronomy, mountain biking, bird watchers, bass fishing, and all season camping.

Hikes, Bikes, and Tykes

Saxton Falls and Morris Canal lock.
Together, Allamuchy Mountain and Stephens State Parks include 9,600 acres in Morris, Sussex and Warren counties. Allamuchy Mountain State Park lies mainly on the uplands, rising to over 1,100 feet, while Stephens lies in the valley below, along the Musconetcong River. Despite being bisected by Interstate Route 80, there is plenty of space to find your own special spot in this picturesque and diverse landscape. Or immerse yourself in any of the fascinating historical aspects of the park that range from pre-historic to the industrial eras. More than 36 miles of old roads and trails connect these sites, weaving a tapestry of natural features that beckon any lover of the outdoors. More...

Hacklebarney Heaven

Hacklebarney State Park is 892 acres of glacial valley, with gorges carved by the Black River and two tributaries that feed it, the Rinehart and Trout Brooks. The dogs play and we talk in celebration of meeting in these Robin Hood woods. We stand on outcrops jutting over the river and gaze in awe at the grass, moss and seedlings living in the rocks brought here long ago. Walk on...

Take Out and Delivery Available!

Rise Above!

Landscape artist St. Clair Sullivan climbs the Red Dot trail to the top of Mt. Tammany every morning that weather permits. Each day he takes a photograph and emails it home to his wife, Rita.

The liberating prospects that normally arrive with the annual vernal equinox (this evening) now seem to portend a long and difficult season, one that feels much more like winter than spring. But it doesn’t have to be entirely cold, nor completely dismal. Beat feet and get your distance by following any number of paths and trails in Northwest New Jersey. You’ll a high concentration of those in and around the Delaware Water Gap. Go where you've never gone before!
  • Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DEWA)
    The Delaware Water Gap, one of New Jersey’s most impressive natural features, marks the entrance to the largest national recreation area in the eastern United States. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area surrounds much of Worthington State Park and extends 70,000 acres into Sussex County and across the river in Pennsylvania.
    The area proximate to the Gap contains somewhere close to seventy miles of trails which lead hikers to breathtaking overlooks, sublime glens and ravines, rugged outcroppings, ancient copper mines, and endless hours of adventure.
  • Worthington State Forest. Old Mine Road, Columbia 908/841-9575
    Some of the most rugged terrain and splendid views of northern New Jersey are found along more than 26 miles of trails within the park and over seven miles of the Appalachian Trail. Atop Kittatinny ridge, the glacial Sunfish Pond is a popular destination for hikers.
  • Appalachian Trail (AT). Rt. 80 parking area, Worthington State Forest
    Sunfish Pond
    More than seven miles of the AT within Worthington begins in a stretch to Sunfish Pond, then beyond to Millbrook Road with spectacular views.
  • Dunnfield Creek. Rt. 80 parking area, Worthington State Forest
    3.5 miles to Sunfish Pond through a gorgeous ravine, accentuated by serene pools and glorious forest, readily combined in a loop with the AT.
  • Red Dot Trail. Rt. 80 parking area, Worthington State Forest
    This 1.2 mile steady ascent traverses rocks and boulders leads to the top Mount Tammany with a panoramic view of the Delaware Water Gap at an elevation of 1,201 feet.
  • Blue Blaze Trail. Rt. 80 parking area, Worthington State Forest
    This 1.7 mile trail to the Tammany summit might be considered as a more gradual portion of a three-mile loop hike in combination with the Red Dot.
  • Karamac. Old Mine Road, Worthington State Forest
    Paralleling the Old Mine Road just north of the Gap, this former railbed along the river provides a short taste of days past in a beautiful setting, as one section passes through the site of a former resort.
  • Farview (Beulahland). Old Mine Road, Worthington State Forest
    An antique mountain road, the 1.3-mile trail heads up and over the mountain, passes by an old home site or two and eventually meets the Appalachian Trail.
  • Douglas Trail. Old Mine Road, Worthington State Forest
    A mile up the road from State Park headquarters is the trailhead for a 2.5-mile long uphill path named in honor of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas for his part in helping to save Sunfish Pond’s natural character.
  • Rockcores Trail. Old Mine Road, Worthington State Forest
    Earth samples, or cores, that were extracted by geologists lie along the trail.
    The 2.7-mile trail zigzags up the mountainside where still-visible borings were extracted to determine what rock layers lay beneath to test the mountain’s suitability for the ill-fated Tocks Island project in the 1960s.
  • Coppermine Trail. Old Mine Road, DEWA
    The 2-mile trail passes the Dutch mines dating from the 1600s for which Old Mine Road is named, through a hemlock ravine and stream, terminating at the AT, just south of the Mohican Outdoor Center.
  • Rattlesnake Swamp. Mohican Outdoor Center, Mohican Road, Blairstown
    Beginning at the old camp now operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club, the trail combines with the AT in a 4.8-mile loop around the Rattlesnake Swamp.
  • Van Campens Glen. Old Mine Road,, DEWA
    A short dirt lane leads to a picnic area from which hikers can follow the naturally sculpted streambed of Van Campen's Brook into the glen. Or continue to a small marked roadside parking area a little further up to hike down the glen. Either way will yield beautiful views along one of the nicest paths in New Jersey.

Rare Herps

When the first early spring rains come, thousands of salamanders, frogs and toads emerge from their winter slumber to make short stealthy migrations through the forest to breed and lay their eggs in vernal pools. The journey is often treacherous. (Photo: MacKenzie Hall)
As the season eases into milder temperatures at the onset of spring, all manner of creatures stretch their bodies and move more freely, searching for food and mates while they patrol their home turfs. Among these creatures are some of the most rare, interesting, and beautiful animals in the Garden State. Though they often go unnoticed or are misunderstood, reptiles and amphibians are vital to the balance of our fragile ecosystems—and some of them are in pretty big trouble.

Reporting for Duty

Newborns waste no time getting ready to join the herd at Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse where they (the cows) live outside, eating grass and being milked seasonally, and not indoors, being fed grain, animal by-products and hormones, and being milked to death. Happy cows make delicious natural cheese, the artisanal cheeses that Bobolink is known for. Take a tour this weekend and you'll find fresh Irish Soda bread at the bakery this weekend, just in time for St. Patty's festivities! 369 Stamets Rd, Milford (Hunterdon County) 08848, 908/86GRASS

My Summer Eduvacation

Peters Valley
The serene atmosphere at Peters Valley invigorates a diverse community of artists.
Does this weather have you dreaming of warm summer days? Start planning ways to make the best of them! How about a class at Peters Valley Crafts Center? One of only six craft schools of its type in the country, and unique to Northwest New Jersey, it has grown from a small artists' collective in the early 1970s to a nationally recognized center for craft education. Here's what happened one summer...

Schooley's Elusive Spirit

Mysteries of the woods
Running northeast for twenty miles from Glen Gardner to Lake Hopatcong, Schooley’s Mountain’s steep sides rise to a broad top between the Musconetcong River and, for most of its length, the South Branch of the Raritan. The mountain presents a dichotomy of striking scenes from the past, interspersed with groups of modern homes and stores. Heavily traveled periphery highways are connected by a web of narrow rural roads that still meander as they did when “horse power” meant just that. The mountain’s southern portion holds routes worthy of exploring, hamlets for artists to ponder, and natural areas for hikers, all shrouded in tantalizing lore that begs a historian’s query. Read on...

That's All You Got Old Man?

Photo by Dan Bacon
Father Frost is fading fast! Sputtering spurts of winter enveloped with warmer days, and the maple sap is flowing! Spring is only a month away!
The weeks ahead will be packed with events, so keep an eye on our calendar and watch out for our virtual efforts to keep you informed. Forge ahead and face the music!

A Silk Purse

The four-story plant built by Pelgram and Meyer on Monroe and Lincoln Streets in Boonton employed 500 people until it shut in 1927. It is now home to Kanter Auto Products.
For over two centuries a prolific iron industry wielded huge influence over the development of many Morris County communities. In particular, the forges, furnaces, and mines of Dover, Wharton and Boonton, all located along the banks of the Rockaway River, were intimately connected from the early 1700s through the heady times of the Morris Canal and the subsequent railroads. There are sites to see; take a look around!

Along the Western Front

Fort Ellison
This small stone building is believed to be the ruins of Fort Carmer, one of a line of forts from the French and Indian War.
Two decades before the American Revolution, the Royal Province of New Jersey prepared itself for the culmination of seventy years of bickering between the French and the English colonists. During the French and Indian War, the government was forced to take measures to protect New Jersey's northwestern frontier along the Delaware River from the increasing threat of marauding Indians, allies of the French armies. A line of forts and blockhouses were commissioned from Belvidere, in Warren County, through what is now the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, to Port Jervis, New York, with soldiers patrolling between them. Get out your hiking shoes, pump up your bike tires, or warm up the car and trace this line of forts!

Rumblings in the Railroad Earth

The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad’s construction of a line that altered the contour of both the landscape and culture of Northwestern New Jersey has been a source of wonder since the first shovels hit the ground near the turn of the last century. Nearly fifty years have passed since the last passenger train rolled on the high line tracks, but the story, which has continued through sometimes bizarre twists and turns, promises many more chapters. The Lackawanna Cut-Off’s saga still stirs emotions, and its future will be debated for years to come. Meanwhile, touring the Cut-Off, either all at once or in bits and pieces, is a worthwhile endeavor!

Touchy Subjects

Interactive exhibits at the Discover History Center help visitors confront the plight of the common soldier stranded for months during the Hard Winter of 1789-80.
At Morristown National Historic Park's Washington Museum, a new and entirely different approach at the Discover History Center invites visitors to jump into an arcade of history, a labyrinth of interactive exhibits with spinning roulette wheels and slot machine handles, each pleading for a touch, each with a purpose. Make it a President's Day destination for your family! 3 Washington Place, Morristown.

Cast Production

Serious fly-fishermen are almost as busy in February as on opening day in April. Winter is for preparation - the tying of flies. Fishing for trout with flies is like solving a puzzle. The current, the fish, the bugs under the surface and in the air all seem indecipherable. But slowly, with much patience, and relying upon an ever-expanding body of experience collected over a series of seasons, the code can sometimes, although by no means always, be broken.

Learning Lenape

For Archaic peoples, rock shelters, consisting of natural overangs or hillside depressions, were temporary stopovers that offered protection from the rain and snow. In winter they might have been closed in with windbreaks made from skins or brush.
The native people of northwestern New Jersey had no written history. In fact, they had no writing except for the use of pictographs, some of which were carved on stone. Much of what we do know about New Jersey's prehistory is a result of work done by archaeologists, or from early accounts by explorers and travelers, along with journals kept by missionaries and settlers in the 1600s and early 1700s. For over 12,000 years the Lenape and their ancestors occupied northwestern New Jersey, successfully adapting to climatic changes in their environment. But, after a little more than a century following European colonization, only a few Indians remained. Arrowheads, stone axes, pottery and other objects are still occasionally found in a farmer's field or along a riverbank, but only a rough sketch of a robust culture remains; we know nothing of the human deeds and dramas that occurred. More...

Points of View

Jockey Hollow
Although 10,000 winters before had taught native peoples how to adapt, the Morristown encampment of 1789-90 presented a supreme challenge for patriot soldiers. Walk up the hill at Jockey Hollow that held 200 soldier huts for the Pennsylvania Brigade in early 1790. Imagine staying there until it gets warm enough sometime in April to take off your down jacket, not to mention long johns. Imagine standing there without your shoes on, without even one of the huts on top of the hill for retreat from the incessant cold. Try to conceive of something important enough to keep you on that hill for the rest of the winter. More...
Visit the site of the Great Story, Morristown National Historical Park, and learn about the life of a common soldier during the winter encampment. Call 973-543-4030 for more information.

Life of Wiley

Coyote in Winter. Painting by John Mullane.
If rarely seen, the coyote is frequently heard. In the winter, during the January to March breeding times, listen for nocturnal howls when coyote are at their most vocal. They are happy to tell other coyotes, and the world, their location. Stop and listen. They'll fall silent all too soon.


For many, winter is a season for reflection. The challenge of the season strips away pretense, and offers a time for learning.
Everyday we see dramatic scenes of environmental disasters like the all-consuming fires in Australia and California, toxic drinking water, fracking debacles, pipelines invading sacred lands, the extinction of thousands of species every year. We nod absently to the evidence of climate change, seeming immune and panic-proof from the impending disaster, even as local communities continue to face the ever-increasing push for living space and devlopment in the name of "growth."

Today, the EPA will remove federal protections from more than half the nation’s wetlands, and hundreds of thousands of small waterways. "That would for the first time in decades allow landowners and property developers to dump pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers directly into many of those waterways, and to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects." (NY Times)

Communities all over the world have established the first global laws protecting nature. Close to home, Pennsylvania’s voters ratified, in 1971, the Environmental Rights Amendment to their state constitution, proclaiming their right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. Imagine a river taking her case to court!

You can help expand the body of legal rights in New Jersey to include nature

"The older tension in human affairs between conservative and liberal based on social orientation is being replaced with the tension between developers and ecologists based on orientation toward the natural world. This new tension is becoming the primary tension in human affairs."
- Thomas Berry

Warm greetings and best wishes for a new year marked by achievement and fulfillment! This will be our thirtieth year of exploration among the hills and valleys of Northwest New Jersey. We hope you keep the personality of the New Jersey Skylands near and dear when you need to freshen your horizon!

Cold Calls

Winter birds are a sight to see!
The shortened days of winter in the Skylands afford a chilly but unequaled opportunity to draw closer to nature and to enjoy the quiet that descends with the withdrawal of activity to the indoors. On these cold days, while local countryside vistas remain open and unshrouded by their canopy of leaves, the fields, forests, and woodlands of our region are prime for the pastime of winter birdwatching. More...


Winter Marsh. Painting by Al Barker.
2020! It is a nice round, pleasant sounding number. But as we embark upon a year that will bring inevitable political turmoil, and a decade crucial in the planet's survival as we know it, consider the work of author, philosopher, and cultural historian, Thomas Berry, long revered as a voice for Earth’s voiceless. In 1993, Berry wrote a paper that would later be revised, edited and included as a chapter in one of his major books, The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future. Take a few moments to sample the seeds of vision he planted, even while he grieved the terminal phase of Earth’s Cenozoic Era. Here are Thomas Berry's thoughts on the The New Political Alignment.

Season's Greetings!

Winter solstice: For a special treat, on the first day of winter, pull over into the grassy overflow parking area on Route 80 just across Dunnfield Creek. Look back, and, if you are here early enough, you will see the sun rise out of the middle of the Water Gap.
The winter solstice will officially greet the new season next Saturday, December 21. The celestial event seems to have inspired ancient people to observe the year's shortest day with carefully aligned markers on a sight-line that points to the sun's low point in the sky. The most famous of these is Stonehenge in England, but there are local monuments that may have had a similar function. On the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, overhanging rocks form a shelter perfectly placed to observe the sun rise out of the center of the Water Gap on the winter solstice. A large obelisk protruding from the earth near Haynesville in Sussex County might have been similarly used. And three “sighting stones” near Mt. Bethel in Warren County seem to align with the winter solstice sunrise. Along the shore of Mountain Lake in White Township is a large flat rock outcropping on which legend claims the Lenape stood in ceremony to “bring up the sun”. And Morris County’s 170-ton Tripod Rock resting on top of Pyramid Mountain suggests use as a "calendar site" long ago.

Close Encounters

Photo by Dan Bacon
Should you traverse any stretch of woods this winter, or even your backyard, alert eyes are usually rewarded. Bobcats thrive in habitats that merge open lands and forests. The most remote areas in northern New Jersey offer prime bobcat habitat. Many tracts of land still contain large areas of contiguous forest, and the bobcats introduced more than thirty years ago have apparently settled in. Bobcats are protected under the New Jersey Endangered Species Act. Hunters are not the problem, or not a significant one. But fragmentation, caused by development and traffic, seem to have constrained the local populations. Keep your eyes open and you might get lucky

Partners Du Jour

Lou Tommaso at LL Pittenger Farm in Andover provides grass-fed beef, chicken and pork for several area restaurants, as well as for the general public. The cheese and charcuterie board, a staple at James On Main restaurant in Hackettstown, utilizes the local charcuterie produced from Tommaso’s Berkshire hogs.
There is no formal definition for a "farm-to-table" menu, but diners usually expect that so-described selections are prepared with locally sourced ingredients supplied directly by farmers who have raised their crops or livestock without the use of pesticides or hormones. Is this just another exclusive food fad, or can it be part of a social movement towards a sustainable local economy in Northwest New Jersey? More...


A grand view of the New Jersey Highlands from Wawayanda State Park
The word “consider” has its origin in the early French word for star-like: “sidereal”. Its use suggested that important thoughts, judgments and decisions ought to take into account the perspectives of the stars. We might suggest that “Consider” now has an expanded meaning, the promise that with some corrections in our perceptions we might also be inspired to change our behaviors.
Many, many stories adorn the history of the Highlands. But what about the future? What are the significant challenges ahead for our cherished home? That question has an easy answer: climate change.

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