Autumn, 2022

Warm greetings and best wishes for a year marked by renewed health and sanity. Join us in our continued 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.

September 29 - October 5

OctoberFest!

Fall morning on the Beaver Brook at Jonathan’s Woods. Photograph by David Landry.
Events all month long in Northwest New Jersey’s Skylands add up to one giant celebration of autumn. Arts, harvests, history – pretty much everything that needs expressing is expressed this month, beginning in a big way this weekend. You'll find more about these events and much more on our calendar for this and coming weekends. Pick from a multitude of daytrip itineraries and watch out for our virtual efforts to keep you informed.

Meadow Walks

A walk in an autumn meadow — make it simple and bring just your senses! Look at the vibrant golden and purple wildflowers and luminous oranges of butterflies like the Buckeye and Monarch. Smell crisp and pungent aromas of Mountain Mint and Wild Bergamot seed heads. Listen to the song of our state bird, the Gold Finch. Or bring some gear like a camera and binoculars, perhaps a magnifying glass or loupe to bring your findings into close focus. Whatever your approach, make sure to take a slow ramble this fall.

Knowing Knowlton

This historic Ramsaysburg Homestead in Knowlton Township
The Paulins Kill meets the Delaware River in Knowlton Township where the rugged Kittatinny Ridge gives way to a fertile river valley, home to the Lenape and the earlier Archaic peoples for thousands of years. A gentle knoll along the Delaware first attracted European settlement in the early 1700s, culminating in the Columbia Glassworks a century later. Down river two brothers chose another prime location, complete with a tributary cascading from the mountains to power a mill and sustain the hamlet of Ramsaysburg. In the mid 1800s John I. Blair established the village of Delaware as a terminus for the Warren Railroad. Today’s modern highways once again bring visitors to the rural scenic landscapes and pristine waters of the Ridge and Valley, where a rich history awaits exploration.
Get to know Knowlton this fall!
You can start this Saturday (October 1) with Don Elliker in concert at the Ramsaysburg Riverside Amphitheatre. Or mark Ramsaysburg for this year's Explore Warren History Trail on Sunday, November 6. And a stroll across the Delaware on the Columbia walking bridge is a pleasure anytime.

Lake Art

Winona Parkway entrance to White Deer Plaza looks much the same way as on this old postcard.
To walk along the Boardwalk at Lake Mohawk in Sussex County is to step back into another time, a time when the pace of life was a tad slower and less complicated. While the Lake, Boardwalk, and adjacent White Deer Plaza are old, they are not ancient. The Lake is, in fact, man-made, dating from the mid-1920s. More...

Barn People

Keep your eyes open on your road trips this fall, and you might notice something like this classic Dutch-American barn just north of Oldwick village. This property is private, however the road is quiet, and you can stop and get a good view across an open equestrian exercise area.
One thing that most people are not aware of, not even native New Jerseyans, is that our part of the state has the greatest diversity of barn types perhaps in the entire North American continent. More than 150 years ago, they went truly ballistic with all kinds of barn building expressions. We are lucky to have this diverse collection of architectural history in our midst. Take some time, learn and enjoy them before they are lost. More...

High Society

Considering the social complexity of a hive, a beekeeper—a meteorologist, botanist and entomologist all at once—cultivates an appreciation for the natural world. Local honey is a treasure. Not only does it taste better than that made by commercial “big box” bees that eat one thing all their lives, but local honey also helps your immune system resist locally-induced allergies. There is a delicate light spring honey that comes from the flowers of oaks, willows and other big trees that border the fields. Darker honey comes later in the year, from late season wild flowers. Ask a beekeeper about the medicinal powers of honey, the magic of propolis, or his recipes for making mead, then sit back and listen.

Festibles!


Equinoxious!

Anytime is a good time for a walk through Mt. Tabor.
As the sun heads south across the equator, Northwest New Jersey will prove itself a popular stage for arts, crafts, natural and historical celebrations all season, as autumn arrives Thursday (Sept. 22, 9:03pm) with a schedule of colorful programs. Soft and mellow autumn days can be intoxicating. For now, at the equinox, day = night, but the balance begins to tip! So make sure to keep an eye on our calendar for this and coming autumn weekends.

Three Hundred Years of Solitude

The Solitude House stands as a testament to our collective history as a new nation, as well as testament to all those who persevered in the face of overwhelming odds to succeed.
The Hunterdon County Borough of High Bridge would on its face appear little different than any of the other many municipalities in New Jersey. However, the sign, “Settled in 1700”, which welcomes those who pass through this sleepy little town, implies a long abiding heritage: a story of the longest continually operating iron and steel company in United States and the workers who helped shape our country's history and destiny. Read about the Union Forge and walk the Taylor Steelworkers Historic Greenway...

Through the Farny Highlands

Split Rock from a kayak is a beautiful sight in autumn. Photo by Lee Sandstead.
A trio of Morris County reservoirs, each less than ten miles from the next, dot opposing sides of a triangle that frames sharply contrasting environments. Split Rock sits in one of Morris County’s most remote regions; Taylortown in Montville’s preserved mountains and woodlands, steps away from suburbia and Boonton near the busy intersection of Routes 287 and 80. An autumn visit to each or all promises ample leaf peeping vistas, woodland or urban hikes with water views and flashes of Revolutionary and Civil War history. Put this trip on your list this fall!

Water Marks

Islands of the Delaware are markers for the miles traversed on a float down the river, and for centuries of human history along its banks. By canoe, kayak, raft or tube, river trips are about perfect this time of year as the high water subsides and the summer crowds have abated.

Worth Noting!


Don't Miss a Thing!

As summer officially grinds to a halt, you might consider a drive through the western reaches of the Skylands in search of early autumn flavor this weekend. No doubt, fall is the most precious season. It looks good, especially with Northwest New Jersey's usual spectacular crop of fall foliage. And it tastes even better, thanks to the efforts all kinds of farmers. You never really know when autumn's gonna end, but you absolutely know what's coming behind it... SLUSH! Don't miss a thing this fall. It comes and goes so fast, so keep an eye on our calendar and watch out for our virtual efforts to keep you informed.

 


Trails, Tracks, and Taverns

The old mill complex in Little York.
Old roads and new trails in and around Hunterdon County’s Jugtown Mountain offer scenic options for fall explorers as they wander through historic districts, old hamlets, wooded roads, environmental preserves and county parks. The more you look, the more you see! Here are the details...

For the longest time

Grey Towers, a National Historic Landmark in Milford, Pennsylvania.
The story of Gifford Pinchot and his virtual invention of the US Forest Service is one worth knowing. His then revolutionary concepts for natural conservation are enshrined, not only in the vast stands of our national forests, but at his family's retreat, now a National Historic Site. Visitors to Grey Towers, in Milford, PA, will come to understand the importance of the Pinchot family influence on America's conservation ethics and natural resource management policies. You can take a self-guided tours throughout the extensive grounds anytime, or a guided tour of the mansion interior on Sundays, 11am, 1 and 3pm. Click or call 570-296-9630 for more information.

Heart Throbs

Canal path from Milford to Stockton in Hunterdon County
Strap on a helmet, pump up the tires and take a bike ride. Go it on your own, bring the family or join a club, but start pedaling folks, because there's no better way to work out the cardiovascular while observing the sights and sounds of Northwest New Jersey along a variety of specific trails and open road routes. Here are some suggestions from several bike enthusiasts -- among the more passionate hobbiests on earth -- about how to enjoy your wheels. Here are closer looks at some biking routes in Hunterdon, Warren, and Sussex counties. Or sign up for the Sourland Spectacular and save the mountain!

Power of the Pyramid

Its particular geography makes Pyramid Mountain, in Boonton Township, home to an especially wide range of wildlife. The rugged terrain harbors an estimated four-hundred types of native plants and is crisscrossed by thirty types of mammals and one-hundred varieties of birds and myriad butterflies. Take a walk on the Pyramid!

Hikes, Bikes, and Tykes

Deer Park Pond sits atop Allamuchy Mountain.
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 thirty-six miles of old roads and trails connect these sites, weaving a tapestry of natural features that beckon any lover of the outdoors. More...

Come and listen to a story...

See the Highlands Canal Boat recovery exhibit at Waterloo!
Waterloo Village, in Byram Township, was approximately half-way along the Morris Canal's 102-mile journey across the state, from Phillipsburg to Jersey City, and had all the components necessary to become a thriving canal town. Today, Waterloo Village is stuffed with stories -- one of the most remarkable is about the recovery of a lost Morris Canal boat which is now on display on Saturdays through September with the Canal Society of New Jersey. The Canal Museum is also open along with the Waterloo gristmill and visitor’s center, 10am - 4pm (Free). For more information, click or call 973-292-2755.
At the base of the Kittatinny. (Blaine Rothauser)
Summer is starting to fade and Labor Day is on the horizon. Don't be intimidated! Spread your wings and reach for the Skylands!

History You Can Taste

Garden State Heirloom Seed Society Museum.
Although they produce varieties of just about any fruit or vegetable you can think of, heirloom seeds are probably best known for the great tasting tomatoes that they grow. Heirloom seeds, which have been passed down over generations, not only produce the same delicious produce that your forbears ate, but also preserve the natural variety essential to a healthy system. Modern agriculture has already resulted in the loss of 75% of the world’s edible plant varieties. You can learn more about heirlooms and New Jersey's glorious farming past with a visit to the Garden State Heirloom Seed Society Museum, open this weekend, (August 27-28, 1 - 4pm) 82 Delaware Rd., Columbia. 908/475-2730

A Scene You Should Make

A public access launch for Swartswood Lake on Route 521 is quiet and remote, but leads to boatloads of fun.
The best known feature of the Stillwater area is probably Swartswood Lake, but there are myriad treasures throughout the rolling hills and three villages in that corner of Sussex County. The lake was a major resort in the early 1900s, and today's State Park maintains the lake as a popular destination.

Way Out Yonder

Do the boardwalk, Skylands style, across the Pochuck Quagmire Bridge and along a section of the Appalachian Trail in northern Sussex County, on the way from Pochuck Mountain to the trail on Wawayanda Mountain. Walk on...

As wild as its name, the land of "winding, winding water" is home to Indian shelters and some of the best bear dens in NJ, a lake to swim and boat on, great gobs of pudding stone to climb, rock to scramble, ledges for leaping, primeval forest, twenty miles of Appalachian Trail and so much more. Wawayanda State Park is a 16,679-acre garden-like jungle gym, a land of natural marvels and a dynamic showcase of human history. Its wildness survives us. More...

Wildlife Tracking

When you go for a walk, seek the not-so-obvious. Examining scat and peering through "runs" in the bush, listening to the warning calls of birds, or locating the area where deer slept the night before are the kinds of things that make a hike worthwhile. You need no destination or deadline, just wander. Look closely and you'll feel like you have lived an entire day in a single hour. More...
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Nowhere Fast

Have you ever followed a highway sign and gotten nowhere? Follow some directional markers off Northwest New Jersey country roads and that's just what you'll get. Unless of course you slow down long enough to take a closer look. A few older homes clustered together, a crumbling foundation, cemetery stones worn with time: these places tell stories worth knowing. Huntsville, in Sussex County, is such a place. There is no post office, general store, fire station, or church. Yet upon closer inspection, those old buildings hold clues to the town which once thrived. Step back in time, a mere fifty years, and the town of Huntsville exists again.

The Shape You're In

AT hikers look out over Warren County.
Got a couple of days coming to you? How about walking the Appalachian Trail through New Jersey? You can do this!

Skylands By Saddle

On the Paulins Kill Valley Trail
In a land crisscrossed by interstates, punctuated with traffic lights, and clogged with cars, it’s easy to overlook how much northwestern New Jersey territory you can still cover on a horse. Through warm summer months and into fall, you can explore rivers, streams, fields, and hills and enjoy remote views and vistas—all from the saddle. Across the Skylands region, a horse can take you where no car can—faster and sometimes farther afield than your own two feet. Exercise? Certainly. But also the pleasure of working with a 1,000-pound companion who can handle the footwork. Saddle up!

Watershed Moments

Mud Pond seen from High Rocks in the Johnsonburg Swamp Preserve.
Geologic record helps understand the human history and impacts of settlement and lifestyles in each of our watersheds, which take on regional characteristics of their own, connecting communities by a shared vital resource. The intrinsic appeal of their landscapes is enhanced by a heaping portion of openly accessible recreation facilities, either publicly owned or privately managed with the visitor in mind.
The Pequest River begins in Sussex County and flows thirty-two miles to where it meets the Delaware in Belvidere, Warren’s county seat. The river starts just south of Newton and ends in Belvidere where it empties into the Delaware River. In Warren County, it passes near Allamuchy State Park, Jenny Jump State Forest, Pequest Wildlife Management Area, and the Beaver Brook Wildlife Management Area. The watershed includes a wealth of remnants from Warren County’s agricultural and industrial heritage. Follow the river!

Paradise Lost, And Found

A mile-and-a-half north of Millbrook Village in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, you can turn off Old Mine Road and head straight uphill towards the top of the Kittatinny Ridge. Just below the ridge are a series of small lakes that define a haven for those looking for a place to get lost wandering through mountainside forest full of wildlife and open meadows surrounding crystal clear waters. But, the pristine aura at Blue Mountain Lakes yields scant evidence of the ambitious development for which it was created. More...

Rock A Bye Baby

The Rockaway Valley Railroad was about 25 miles long and lasted for about 25 years. It was constructed primarily to ship peaches, and although it also saw other freight and passenger traffic, Hunterdon County orchard owners were responsible for the railroad's commencement in 1888. Record peach crops kept the railroad afloat in the 1890s, even as the financial picture for the company clouded. Unfortunately, before the little railroad had an opportunity to turn a profit, the peaches were infected with blight, and the Hunterdon orchards passed their prime. The Little Railroad That Couldn't lives on, if only for hikers, cyclists and patrons of local lore. Take a walk and imagine the slow moving locomotive rocking back and forth on its way through the countryside.

Beguiling Bridges

The Rieglesville Bridge is elaborately suspended from four towers.
Going places? Cross the next bridge when you come to it, but not without considering its story and its style. A bridge’s context and charm can make your passage delightful.

Watershed Moments

Fishermen enjoy a greater variety of native fish to catch in the Musconetcong, including migratory shad. The valley remains much as it was almost three hundred years ago, its small settlements clustered along the sparkling stream; its cultivated fields stretching up the gentle slopes on both sides of the river. And the river itself, whose power has brought centuries of life and prosperity to the valley’s inhabitants, still rushes down to the Delaware, adding to an essential supply of potable raindrops for millions of people.
Geologic record helps understand the human history and impacts of settlement and lifestyles in each of our watersheds, which take on regional characteristics of their own, connecting communities by a shared vital resource. The intrinsic appeal of their landscapes is enhanced by a heaping portion of openly accessible recreation facilities, either publicly owned or privately managed with the visitor in mind.
Forming the southern Warren County border with Morris and Hunterdon counties, the Musconetcong runs forty-two-and-a-half miles through a wide valley flanked on the northwest by the Allamuchy and Pohatcong mountains, and Schooley’s and Musconetcong mountains to the southeast in Morris and Hunterdon counties, twisting and turning over the ruins of our past. Follow the river!

Take a Float on the Wild Side!

Heading upstream through the Refuge from Bassetts Bridge, the Wallkill is a corridor of beauty.
The Wallkill River shares with great rivers like the Nile and the Rhine the peculiarity of northward flow. From out of Lake Mohawk, it spills over a dam then becomes a stream, bubbling and rushing fast, seeming most determined to be free.

Big Bucks

If you like to hike in New Jersey, chances are you know Worthington State Forest. But few of the hikers, campers, canoeists, and nature lovers that visit Worthington realize that industrial pumps are responsible for the preserved wilderness and natural wonders that they enjoy there. Charles C. Worthington, a prominent and very wealthy New York socialite, sportsman, fisherman, and skilled rifleman, assembled this park in the late nineteenth century. He called it Buckwood Park. More...

Station to station

The Hunterdon section of the Columbia Trail includes occasional interpretive signs which relate the area's history.
Rail trails are a legacy of some of the many railroads that once thrived in northwestern New Jersey in an era when trains had names, each with its own character and personality. You don't need a whole lot of hiking know-how or aerobic virility to enjoy a rail trail. You can walk for miles without the struggle of an uphill climb or the danger of twisting an ankle on a protruding rock on the soft cinder dirt that makes up the surface of most rail trails.
While Hunterdon County's system of rails was not as intricate as farther north, where mining was more prevalent, the county was home to many spur lines used to transport passengers and products to charming villages and hamlets. Exercise for the body and mind!

 


Step Lightly!

Heading for cover off Old Mine Road. Photo by Bob Thompson
Nobody's gonna tell you they're cute and cuddly, or anything less than dangerous, but timber rattlesnakes are state endangered and protected by law. They are vulnerable animals. As part of a forest's ecology, they keep the rodent population down and in turn are eaten by hawks, owls, other snakes, and coyotes. They disappear in the hands of collectors, the jaws of predators, and the shovels of bulldozers. They die crossing roads. They die because their den becomes the home of homo sapiens. More...

Like a Finch's Feather

In the summer of 2011, Bob Romano submitted an essay, one of nearly fifty that we have published in the Skylands Visitor since 2005 for his regular column, Against The Current. He wrote about a thousand words describing his writer’s method, “all those hours set apart from friends and family, observing rather than participating, shut up in your room while the sun is shining and the trout are rising, your spouse calling, the children growing like weeds in an untended garden.”
If you've enjoyed Bob's work, you'll love his new book, River Flowers, especially this time of year. Its a collection of stories about wild fish, the places they’re found, and the men and women who seek them out. Contact him directly at magalloway@mac.com to purchase an autographed copy! You can go to his website for more information about his writing.
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