Summer, 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.

September 17 - 24

It's the universe, stupid!

Sunset On The Mountains (Allamuchy), photograph by Luisa Kazanfer from the 2020 Highlands Coalition Juried Art Exhibit.
The ineffable relationship between Sun, Earth and Moon, marking this planet from its beginnings, is the foundation of all human experiences of beauty and sacrifice, communion and community, which later emerged into our human consciousness and fulfillment. With the multiple shock waves of this year’s events, it could seem utterly naïve to hope that today’s adult decision makers could face the challenge of exploring a new cosmological perspective different than the familiar one of the past centuries. But that is exactly what evolutionary cosmologists like Brian Swimme, Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking have proposed by entreating and encouraging us to change our own inadequate perceptions of the world around us.
As the sun heads south across the equator, Northwest New Jersey will prove itself a popular retreat from the hard realties confronting our lives, as autumn arrives on Tuesday morning (Sept. 23, 9:31am). Soft and mellow autumn days can be intoxicating. For now, at the equinox, night and day are equal partners, but the balance begins to tip!. So pick from a multitude of daytrip itineraries and hit the road!

Mill Brook Days!

Blacksmith shop at Millbrook Village. Photo by Pat Abbott.
Millbrook Village, part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, is a re-created community of the 1800s where aspects of pioneer life are exhibited and usually demonstrated by skilled and dedicated docents throughout the village during the annual fall Millbrook Days. Like most everything else, this year's event has been canceled. Although most of the buildings at the site are replications, Millbrook has a real past. And you can still visit! A few of the old structures have survived the ravages of Mother Nature, and escaped condemnation to make way for the ill-fated Tocks Island Dam project in the 1960s. Although the project sealed the fate of this and other villages in what is now a National Park, the Millbrook Village Society has worked hard and consistently to bring the village back to life. You can't miss it along Old Mine Road.

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 36 miles of old roads and trails connect these sites, weaving a tapestry of natural features that beckon any lover of the outdoors. More...

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...

Rooms With A View!

Camping doesn't have to end with the summer. In fact campgrounds make a perfect home base for most outdoor fall activities such as leaf peeping, bird and wildlife watching, hunting and fishing, simply because they've got "location, location, location."
  • Camp Taylor Campground
    Camp Taylor offers a wilderness atmosphere with the security and services that public areas often lack, with access to a swimming lake and trails that lead hikers through strikingly beautiful forest to mountain laurel atop a 1600 foot ridge. Seasonal Sites, Tenters, RV rental, Cabins near the Delaware Water Gap. Home of Lakota Wolf Preserve. 85 Mt. Pleasant Rd., Columbia, 908/496-4333
  • Harmony Ridge Campground
    Outstanding family facilities near Culver Lake and Stokes Forest. There are over 200 sites and many activities to choose from; a large pavilion, playground, game courts, swimming pool, paddle boats. The friends and memories you make here will last a lifetime. 23 Risdon Drive, Branchville, 973/948-4941
  • Kymer's Camping Resort
    Trailer and cabin rentals and trailer and tent campsites with water, electric and cable TV hookups on 200 scenic acres. 69 Kymer Rd., Branchville, 800/526-2267
  • Delaware River Family Campground
    Enjoy raft, canoe, kayak or tube trips, trailer and tent campsites as well as trailer and cabin rentals. 100 Route 46, Columbia, 800/543-0271
  • Panther Lake Camping Resort
    Camp on a private 45-acre lake on 160 scenic acres where you can enjoy swimming, boating, fishing or just relaxing on a sandy beach. 6 Panther Lake Rd., Andover, 800/543-2056
  • The Great Divide Campground
    Private, family friendly campground with amenities for tents, RVs and seasonal guests. Fully furnished cabin rentals available. Heated pool, fishing & boating lake, playground, planned events and activities. 68 Phillips Road, Newton, 973/383-4026

Labor Day!

Farmer Joanie and a friend spin wool from the Jacob sheep that she raises at Jenny Jump Farm.
Love your work? You're lucky if you do. Here are some people that labor with a passion!

High Society

Christopher Tomlinson tends his hives.
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.

Wings and a prayer

MacKenzie Hall releases a young male Big Brown Bat on his maiden flight.
Photo by Bob Thompson.
Bats are a fascinating group of animals. They've been flapping through the skies for more than fifty million years and are still the only mammals on Earth that can truly fly. But they are largely misunderstood, and have had very hard times of late. In a big way, the White-nose plague swung the door wide open to understanding and appreciating bats. Even grade school kids now know that bats are important insect-eaters. And bats save crops from corn earworm moths, potato beetles, cucumber beetles, even stink bugs, reducing the need for chemical pesticides. Those are rather good reasons to want bats around. Read more!

One Track Mind

At the URHS rail yard and repair facility, Bill McKelvey stands in front of the Hickory Creek, a first-class Pullman car that once operated on the New York Central’s famous 20th Century Limited. Approximately forty historic railroad artifacts are undergoing restoration here, and William “Captain Bill” McKelvey knows each one inside and out, with his own Liberty Historic Railway organization (LHRy) funding a fair portion of the work.
A progression of relentless efforts to commemorate New Jersey’s abundant transportation heritage have found renewed focus at Boonton’s Grace Lord Park, where the mighty splendor of the Rockaway River gorge traces a forgotten industrial past.

Field Guide

Photo by John Parke.
The Wattles Stewardship Center in Port Murray, is New Jersey Audubon's model for blending environmental awareness, wildlife habitat, and agriculture. “Farmers are the stewards of the land,” says John Parke, Audubon’s Stewardship Project Director for Northern New Jersey. “It’s important that we work with them.” Parke works out of the Wattles Stewardship Center, which he helped establish and open in 2009. The trails, woods and fields are also delightful places to walk!

How sweet the sound!

Mark Simon with dobro-great Cindy Cashdollar and her .44 Special
It’s not hard to find a factory stamped, mass-produced resonator guitar. Were you in the market, however, for one of these amazing music machines, custom-made and tailored exactly to your tastes, you’d think that Nashville or Memphis would be good places to look. Or even Austin, Texas. But you’re best bet might be in Bridgewater, New Jersey, where Mark Simon makes both his home and the astonishing Terraplane resonator guitar. See how he does it!

Learning Hibernia

A forgotten cemetery high above today’s Hibernia.
Tucked between Rockaway Township's town of Hibernia and Split Rock Reservoir lies one of New Jersey's many multi-use Wildlife Management Areas. These tracts of land have been set aside for a variety of public uses including hiking, nature study, photography, exploration, fishing and hunting. Some also offer great opportunity to delve into some of the more obscure aspects of the area's history. Lovers of nature, history, and geology will all find something, laced with a bit of intrigue at Wildcat Ridge.

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.

Legstretchers

At the Sourlands Mountain Preserve on East Mountain Road in Hillsborough, three trails begin at the same Trail Head across the grass from the parking lot. Grab a map in the kiosk and enter the woods for this pleasant hike in Somerset County. Take the four-mile Ridge Trail, designated with a rectangular blaze. The blazes here are carved wooden plaques in geometric shapes. Walks are always easy at the trailhead, and this one starts with a smooth gravel/dirt path under tall trees.

Impressions

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...

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. First, a general guide to riding in our area, then a closer look at some biking routes in Hunterdon, Warren, and Sussex counties.

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.

Dogdom

A remnant of the Dodge Estate, in private hands for well over a century, is now accessible for public recreation.
Of all the things that Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge left behind—the thirty-five room mansion, hundreds of acres of prime real estate in one of the nation's wealthiest counties, a Fifth Avenue townhouse, enough sterling silver trophies and bronze sculptures to sink a small ship, museum quality paintings, and a forty-four carat sapphire, St. Hubert's Giralda may have been the one she valued most; a haven for unhappy dogdom. More...

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!

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...

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...

Meant For Meandering

The sheer volume of towns and municipalities in New Jersey is often cited as our state's major burden. But each of our 566 "domains" has a history that never fails to fascinate. Driving down the Mountain Lakes Boulevard through one of America's most expensive zip codes, 07046, is certainly dazzling. But for those who choose to explore, there is a story waiting -- one of plain old human fragility. More...

Liquid Wisdom

The Lamington River draws families, nature lovers, pet owners, and picnickers to its banks. Children splash through the rocky riverbeds. Birders amble along the shores. Fishermen enjoy hours of solitude on a precious stretch of public river frontage.
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