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High Point State Park

On Blueberry Hill

Story by Mary Jasch

I found my thrill walking the Monument Trail in High Point State Park recently. The path along the forested mountain top at the top of New Jersey at 1,800 feet offered me palettes of color and texture that only the shallow-soil ridges of High Point can. Golden vistas of New York, Pennsylvania and Sussex County await the woodland explorer seeking gorgeous views and an enchanting walk.


Spectacular autumn view at High Point, New Jersey's Everest, looks over the Delaware River. Photo by Donna Traylor.

I park at the Nature Center and enter the woods on the red/green blazed trail straight ahead. As I stride blithely along, my glances at the ground increase until I am studying the leaf litter adorned with brightly-colored fungi, acorns, critters, critter prints and other memorabilia of the forest. Mushrooms everywhere! A splash of bright red emetic Russula caps with white stalks contrast with brilliant green moss and tiny brown kiss-shaped mushrooms. The canopy of chestnut and other oak species, pitch pine, red maple and American beech stretches much of the 3.7 mile distance of the trail, as does the "Pigskin Poison Puffballs" (Scleroderna sp). They're little beige balls with dark brown warts, but cut them open and they look like a chocolate truffle. Beware! They'll make you sick. Sulpher-yellow clusters adorn a boulder near a chestnut oak with its chunks of bark you can reach out and shake hands with.

I descend on a quarter-mile stone staircase sculpted by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930s. The Corp delineated Monument Trail along the three-mile wide Kittatinny Ridge. Blueberries and huckleberries surround me; I eat as I go. Soon the staircase sweeps to the right, a grand gesture.

The forest is still. Where are the birds? I hear the gurgle of a stream ahead and a call of one bird, a long questioning trill. I wonder, who hears me?

As I hike through the berries, trails shoot off to the side that lead to majestic views. The undergrowth is filled with witch hazel shrubs with fuzzy leaves askew on their stems and small green nuts on the branches. Skinny mountain maples with green and white striped trunks and huge leaves decorate the edges. This is about its southernmost range.


Bear tracks! Under the footbridge! What's that crackling sound I hear? Photo: Mary Jasch

I begin the easy climb that seems to go the entire trail. How can a loop be all uphill? I leave the Chestnut Oak Forest and enter the Pitch Pine-Scrub Oak Forest that exists in only the highest elevations. Scrub oaks abut the path, living in the thin soil, and soon give way to blueberries that fade into the forest. There are bright orange mushrooms with sesame seed-looking scales and orange ones with dark stripes and some that look like chocolate hand grenades with spikes. Lots of mushrooms; lots of moss. Now tiny little orange shrooms with orange stems. The woods love red and orange in the fall. "Taste me" the mushrooms seem to say, the bright thick red ones and the large perfect creamy white ones.

The trail narrows and closes in, engulfing me in the lives of other species. Maybe there're bears here. My companion begins to make strange noises as a defense, but we soon emerge onto exposed bedrock and grasses, feeling safe in the open. Grasses are always in tough plant neighborhoods--I remember them along the roadways in Labrador and on cliffs near the sea.

Habitats quickly change along the trail as I enter a verdant garden of tall mountain laurel, and then again break through the trees onto a slope of grass and moss-covered rock outcroppings, scraped flat and scarred by glaciers. Port Jervis, New York in the blue distance is unveiled.

I check out the rotting stumps and trunks of dead trees. I see turkey tail mushrooms on a log. It has brown concentric circles on the top and since the growing margin is white, I know it's fresh. And it's a white-rotter--decomposes just about everything, till there's not much to give back to the soil.

On the downhill, I suddenly feel alone, almost lost, but soon the trail blazes reassure me. This is truly a wild path in New Jersey. Quiet. Close. Palpitating. Yet it's a short enough loop where you know you can't be lost. (The park naturalist has assured me she walks it alone frequently and has never seen a bear.) I come upon an unusual field of bracken fern, temporarily giving way to a regenerating understory of young chestnut oak, red maple and tall blueberry. I'm knee-deep in bracken fern now under a tight canopy, when not far away, the flapping of great wings stirs the woods. After what seems like a mile of uphill through familiar species, a peek through the trees reveals a familiar view--the unmistakable farms and valleys of Sussex County.

Then what to my wondering eyes do appear, but a grove of silver-boled trees! Illuminating! A closer look reveals thick white lichens on the chunky trunks of chestnut oak. The forest has a magical feel. Anything can happen. Is that a person I hear in the woods? No, it's the high-pitched whirring of bugs.

Although I feel the essence of timelessness in these woods, they are not older than a century. All but the highest ridges were farmed for lumber, fuel wood, crops, pasture or succumbed to fire or disease, favoring the growth of some species over others.

Soon the ridge narrows and the Delaware River and Sussex County both come into view. The trail flattens and begins a descent. Noises from monument restoration sails down the trail and I know I'm out of the woods. A short walk along the road leads to the red/green blaze marking the trail to the right through the woods and its final flourish--the boulder field, another testimony to the great ice sheets that once covered the land.

Monument Trail is the perfect walk for everyone. It's got everything in the fall. Blazing color of a mixed hardwood forest--yellow brilliance of American beech, the flame of red maple, and the russet shades of oaks. Mushrooms spring galore on the forest floor. Views to make you love New Jersey and an appreciation for mountains surround you. Let the stillness and quiet of this blueberry-clad mountain top forest on ancient rock fire your imagination!

High Point Lakes

Lake Marcia and Sawmill Lake are sister lakes in High Point State Park. Sawmill Lake is geared to overnight use and Lake Marcia's pleasures are offered by the day only.

Sawmill Lake has a wild look, manmade though it is. Once an Atlantic white cedar swamp, the lake was created by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) in the 1930s. The campsites, stone and timber bathhouses, stone fireplaces, and wooden tent platforms scattered throughout the site were erected by the CCC.

Take an easy walk around the lake on a narrow footpath that winds through campsites, crosses grassy areas made for sunbathing, limestone outcrops, tiny streamlets and pools of water with wetland plants and critters. On the hillside, the broken and scattered bedrock speaks glacier, and you can imagine it retreating, leaving rock and rubble in its wake. As you cross a built footbridge, there is a beaver dam to ponder. There are blackberry bushes, that in summer held fruit so ripe you could smell it in the air.

If you want to spend the night outdoors with a feeling of the wild, but like the comfort of other people nearby, Sawmill Lake is a good place to be. From a campsite you can hike, bike, fish and catch the fall show of colors. Or just lay back, close your eyes, listen to the sound of the rustling leaves and feel the wind on your face. But a word to the wise: call for a reservation, for all 50 campsites get booked every weekend in the fall when the nights are perfectly chilly for campfires and the days flame with color. After campsites close October 31, the lake remains open for fishing and walking.

There's great fishing here in the fall for native perch, sunfish, pickerel and bass, and trout stocked by the Division of Fish and Game, NJDEP. This 20-acre lake is the headwaters of the Big Flat Brook, one of the state's major holdover trout streams.


Glacial lake Marcia floats below High Point Monument. Photo: Mary Jasch

At an elevation of 1,570 feet, the 20-acre Lake Marcia rests on the crest of Kittatinny Mountain. It overflows into the Red Brook, then travels northwest to feed the Millbrook. The lake hosts activity during all seasons- swimming and sunbathing in summer, ice-skating and skiing in winter swimming, and nature hikes in fall and spring. For a fun walk around the lake, start at the beach house. Walk to the left along Kuser Road that leads to the Monument and the Atlantic white cedar swamp, one of the state's Natural Areas. The boulder-decorated stone wall adjacent to the road was probably built in the late 1890's with the High Point Inn, a summer resort. One can imagine wealthy vacationers arriving by horse and carriage on this lane, and parasoled ladies playing croquet by the lake. The romance of the lake includes its naming in 1855, after Marcia Smith, fiancee` of a state geologist.


Conglomerate talus slope is a fun part of the walk around the lake.

The footpath winds gently through native blueberry bushes--pick a few if there's any left, sweetfern--crush a leaf to sniff it's lavender-like scent (you'll know this knee-high shrub by its long scalloped edges)--and mountain laurel. Pockets of pearly-everlasting and sweet pepperbush with dried flower panicles dot the slopes--it looks like a garden. There are a few planted areas with tables for picnicking.

The walk is easy to the monument at the top of the lake. It's gilt in beauty and a sense of wild, even in this tamed place. I can feel its pull to a greater force than what I see.

Circling back, the trail traverses a talus slope with great slabs of quartz-encrusted conglomerate and some glacial erratics. Prepare to jump the rocks, or be light of foot and take your time, or turn around. There is no trail here, just well worn flat spots between the boulders.

Soon the trail eases with mounds of moss spilling like water around the rocks and blueberry. As I approach the beach, I feel like a shipwrecked sailor emerging from an ancient sea of fossilized and glaciated rock.

In the fall, the spring-fed, 50-foot deep Lake Marcia also invites fishermen with native species such as pickerel, bass and sunfish.

High Point State Park was dedicated in 1923 as the first State Park in New Jersey. With 14,218 acres of woodland on Kittatinny Mountain, it includes the state's first Natural Area, the Dryden Kuser Natural Area, the highest elevation cedar swamp of its kind in the world. Lake Marcia, a 20-acre glacial lake has a beach with lifeguards, bathhouse and food. In winter it's converted to a cross-country ski center. High Point Monument was built in 1930 and is dedicated to New Jersey's wartime heroes. The park was designed so that all land to the south of Route 23 North has overnight facilities, such as camping, and day activities are conducted on the north side, such as swimming and day hikes. There are over 50 miles of trails, including Monument Trail. There are cabins at Steenykill Lake and campsites at Sawmill Lake. There's fishing, boating, skating, picnicking, hiking, skiing, hunting, and the Appalachian Trail.

A drive for the weekend or day in the fall is a must, when the glories of High Point are at their height. As you near the top of Kittatinny Ridge on Route 23 North, the park office is on the left. Stop in for maps of trails and roads and good info from the staff before continuing into the park.

For information call the park office at: 973-875-4800

Comments

STUART MENOCKER
19 Aug 2014, 16:29
I LOVE HIGH POINT I LIVE RIGHT ACRSS THE BORDER IN GREENVILLE I CD SEE THE MONUMENT FRM MY KITCHN WINDOW..IM UP THR EVRY DAY IN THE SEASON I PARK BY THE OFFICE ON RT 23.. WHN IT ENDS ON SEPT 1 U CD DRV RGHT IN..OH ENJOY THE BEAR AT SAWMILL LAKE BHND THE PARKING AREA WHERE IT FACES THE LAKE SAW THE GUY CHWN ON A TROUT LAST WEEK... E AN MY DAWG ANGEL HIKE EVRY DAY..CMN UP JOIN US..LOL PEACE..HIGH POINT rocks...
George Knopf
04 Feb 2012, 20:38
We used to camp at Sawmll Lake ever year for two weeks or more. I was camping there at three years of age in 1956 with my family. We would camp on campsite #8 and we were normally up there for the 4th of July.At that time there was a beach and later on in years they had a lifeguard there. I learned how to swim and fish there. We used to swim across the lake to the beach. Dad would drive the car around and bring our towels. At the bottom of the dam on the left hand side there was a large rock, there were many small shiners there, but the biggest bass I ever saw lived under that rock. I never caught her.The blue trail was a yearly thing with buckets for blueberries. I remember the old water pumps and carrying water to the campsite. The year that the tree near campsite 15 parking space was struck by lightning. The none flush bathrooms and the trusties that would clean them. There were two bears in cages at the monument and a large lodge. I never saw the lodge till after it was closed down and the copper roof was ripped off, but my parents would go there and spend a night - to shower while friend of there stayed with us kids. My grandfather used to dig a hole near the rear of the platform on campsite 8 and line it with slip wood. We would go down the hill to the ice house and that would be his ice chest. Many a wonderful summer vacation was spent there. Campsite 8 was changed to a two day rental and we moved to campsite 10 or 11. Still remember conk out mountain and an old sweet shop in Port Jervis with the best ice cream sodas.
diana
03 May 2011, 12:13
i am lucky to live 10 minutes away from this beautiful place and i go there almost every weekend in the summer time to swim and relax and just enjoy the view
J from Ohio
18 Apr 2011, 20:42
When I was a girl scout in the early 70's, we used to camp at High Point. I have wondered if it would still be as beautiful as I remembered. Your many comments suggest that it still is. Appreciate and protect the beauty of New Jersey. J
Gary
12 Mar 2011, 14:29
I use to go to High Point all the time when I was a teenager. Now I live in Kansas. I haven't been there in almost 40 years, but I always remember it was a nice place to go and you always seemed like you were really in some wilderness, especially when I grew up in New Brunswick, N.J. If I'm ever in N.J. again, I will make it a point to go there again. When I was a teenager, you never heard of bears being in the area. Now I hear they are all over Northwest N.J.! High Point Rocks!
Cat Quinn
18 Feb 2011, 10:26
I am most lucky to live in the shadow of the monument. This is a gorgeous area of our state; with so many different wild creatures and plants.\r\nI wouldnt live anywhere else-its especially nice when the "fall tourists" go back to their building/people/highway packed part of our state!\r\nNo Bear Hunt!!
Kmac
01 Feb 2011, 18:43
Park did not close total rumor or mix up, highpoint country club did close, the golf course was run in to the ground by a development company looking to build on it and they went bankrupt.
Susan B
03 Nov 2010, 12:48
I accidentally moved to NC. I miss my FAVORITE PLACE OF HIGH POINT STATE PARK NEW JERSEY!!! Place to stay - Rolling Hills Motel is ok - central to Ringwood Manor and Skylands Park as well as the NJ Botanical Gardens. It is also close to High Point State Park. No, it is not closed! That was Corzine's ploy a few years back. Also - don't miss out on Swartzwood Lake (camping & fishing), Waywayanda (yes, that is its real name), Stokes State Forest, and several great ski areas in the area. check out visitnj.org and state.nj.us for more info. Except for property tax, I really miss the REAL North Jersey.
Norma
24 Sep 2010, 17:12
I just hiked monument Trail and part of the AT on Monday, September 20. I hadn't been there in at least 40 years (or more) and it is as beautiful as ever. I think this time of year is its most beautiful.
Mel
11 Aug 2010, 08:18
High Point is NOT closed, it never did close. There are so many rumors on sites just like this one. Go to the official website: njparksandforests.org if you want real information.
Brenda flynn
27 Jul 2010, 22:11
i just want to tell everyone how beatiful high point is.you should go there in August. when all the leaves have turned .you dont see that in fla.what a sight to see.
Kathryn
03 Jul 2010, 07:30
Went there once a year with family over summer vacation to hike up to the tower and have picnic lunches. Need to come back to NJ to go again to relive old memories and make new ones with my family.
Skylands Visitor
18 Jul 2009, 06:30
The High Point Country Inn: http://www.highpointcountryinn.com\r\nor of course you can camp
ana
18 Jul 2009, 05:30
If I plan to visit, would anyone recommend a place to stay so that I can better explore what hight point has to offer?
Kimberly Figgins
06 Jun 2009, 10:52
I have pictures of that old resort that was torn down in the 90s. I went to Warren County Technical school and we took a class trip there to take pictures and draw stuff. Anyway, I got up close to that old building and, being a teen, thought that place looked haunted or something. I do have a couple great pictures of it.
reesa
03 Jun 2009, 14:36
i love love love high point
francis
01 May 2009, 20:54
I have been looking for a good place to just lay and look at the stars but most places I have found close before stars are even in sight. I was wondering what time you close and what procedures we would have to follow once we got there.
getoutsideNJDOTcom
25 Feb 2009, 05:56
Erica Bier: I believe that the park closing chat you are referencing was centered around the budget issues during the summer of 2008. If you visit the wikipedia page for High Point.. or better yet the NJ High Point State Park page, you'll see that (as of right now) High Pint is "open". - Jeff from getoutsidenj.com
Erica Bier
17 Jan 2009, 13:50
They can not just close the state park. As many have said below me, it's been a tradition of my family's to go each year as the leaves change colors.\r\nDoes anybody know if anything has happened so far? I wanted to go up for photography sometime soon.\r\nWe can't just let this park close!!
Zach F
02 Nov 2008, 18:51
WOW, are you people serious? saying you hope its not gonna close? HELL NO THERE NOT GONNA CLOSE A PUBLIC STATE PARK!!! Really cmon be serious, and how did it come up saying its closing?
Arthur A.
01 Oct 2008, 14:45
More than likely our crooked NJ politians are probably selling out our park, with it's acres of woodland to some developers for some big time profit$ to line their pockets.
gary
03 Sep 2008, 19:03
Bon,take the blue dot trail just past campsite # 7. Its very rocky with some steep inclines. Takes about 20 minutes to a half hour to get to the top, depending on the shape your in. My family and I hiked it this weekend and you owe it to yourself to go back, You wont be disapointed.
TAMMY
07 Aug 2008, 15:49
NO - WAY SHOULD THIS PARK EVER BE CLOSED.THIS IS A PARK THAT IS LOVED BY GENERATIONS AFTER GENERATIONS.I,VE GONE HERE EVERY YEAR SENCE I WAS BORN.OUR FAMILIES ENJOYED THE BEACH AND ALL THE TRAILS AND MONUMENT.ALONG WITH THE SURROUNDINGS OF NATURE.NOW I HAVE GRANDCHILDREN AND PLAN ON SHARING THE PARK EXPERIENCE WITH THEM.I'M SURE WITH THE FEE (WHICH I HAD NEVER HEARD ANY ONE COMPLAIN)IS ENOUGH TO COVER A LOT OF THE EXPENSE TO KEEP IT OPEN.MYBE SOME DUG IN THE FUNDS?????CATCH THEM IF THEY DID..WASN'T THIS PARK MAINTAINED BY A GROUP OF PEOPLE (on good behavior) THAT WERE ON A WORK PROGRAM????\r\n\r\nTHIS PARK WAS A DONATED TO THE THE PUBLIC TO ENJOY FOR EVER.
Deon
03 Aug 2008, 18:45
Attention Everyone, I Need to know, really is High Point Really Closed???? \r\n\r\n Thank You\r\n
Jackie
31 Jul 2008, 20:40
If this park closes, I don't know what to say. It's a tragedy. We've lost billions of dollars in Iraq that is missing, unaccounted for and apparently not important to the Bush administration while we allegedly don't have enough money here in NJ to preserve some of the most beautiful treasures our state has to offer? Imagine what could be done with a little boost from federal assistance to the state, we'd actually see something worthwhile for our tax dollars.
Debre
14 Jul 2008, 10:42
Ive never been to High Point State Park. I just recently found out about it. It would be a real shame if it closed. How can nature be taken away from us it belongs to us. That just ridiculous.
JIM
13 Jul 2008, 18:28
WELL , NOW THAT IT'S CLOSED I CAN RIDE THERE OM MY A T V .
lorraine
08 Jul 2008, 05:24
as long as i can remember my family would join the american legions from all over in june for there services they held at the top of the momument for those who fought for our country, and here it takes one man (that pays someone to drive him around, money that could go towards our parks to drive himself first cut back)so our children can see the beauty of our land.with the gas prices constantly rises this might be someones only vacation why take it away?
Bon
01 Jul 2008, 08:40
I used to camp at Sawmill and take a hike that started behind a campsite, went up rocky incline, as I recall, to mountaintop overlooking Sawmill Pond. Is the trail still well marked? Which campsite does it start at? How long? Thanks for any info, It's been about 20 years and on a recent ride through Saw Mill campground doesn't seem to get the use it once did. Used to have a nice swim beach. Last time I was there the bears were very pesty.
Stephanie
27 Jun 2008, 05:15
High Point is open, they lake is open, 5.00 to get in during the week, 10.00 on weekends. The concession stand is closed at the beach but the bathrooms are open
Lois e Stickler
25 Jun 2008, 12:25
Is High Point closed???? We were hoping to go camping there again! Can you advise please?\r\n\r\nCan we at least hike there? I'm appalled!!!\r\n\r\nLois Stickler
Terri
15 Jun 2008, 07:37
It would be such a disgrace if High Point were to be closed. More than 3 generations of my family have been going to High Point as long as they can remember. This land was given to the state as a gift now you want to take it away. Talk about UNGRATEFUL!! If you take away a place like this think about where your children will end up. We all need nature and its education. Please keep the park open :)
John
04 Jun 2008, 20:49
Corzine sucks. This is what we all think of the idiot NJ governor who is going to let them close our trails.
Monica
21 May 2008, 12:52
Question, how can we reserve a picnic table in the park? My family would like to meet for a picnic mid-june. Can we barbecue and is there a fee?
ASHLEY
19 May 2008, 11:26
IM FROM HIGH POINT NEWJERSEY AND IT IS BEAUTIFULL
ASHLEY
19 May 2008, 11:25
IM FROM HIGH POINT NEWJERSEY AND IT IS BEAUTIFULL
Nancy
15 May 2008, 11:32
I have to say that my family is very sad that High Point is slated to close. From the time our daughter was an infant, we have enjoyed hiking there and have taken part in the educational hikes offered. It\r\nwill truly be a shame if this beautiful park is closed down; so many of us will miss the honor of being able to enjoy all that nature has in store at this gorgeous place. I know that we will miss it and I am sure we do not stand alone.
bill
13 May 2008, 03:35
Why the heck would they "close" high point park? \r\n\r\nBesides that, how can you close the woods? \r\n\r\n
bill
13 May 2008, 03:35
Why the heck would they "close" high point park? \r\n\r\nBesides that, how can you close the woods? \r\n\r\n
Anne Lutchman
27 Apr 2008, 16:19
I love this park because of its scenery, and its look out where u can see all over the state of new jersey and pen
Jeffrey Dupre
10 Apr 2008, 19:40
AS you probably know the park is slated for closure. Some believe it is only a political tactic by gov. corzine. If so the park could remain open for 2009. What you may not know is that the Stokes forest minimum security units sends two inmate details to the park to assist in maintaining the beauty of the park. We paint buildings, repair tables cut the grass, clean the bathrooms and yes we maintain the hiking trails. In the past four years we have cleared and widend six of the hiking trails including the monument trail. If you enjoy the park for its beauty and scenery please contact your state assembly and urge them to reconsider the closing of the park and the closing of the minimum security prison which all of the county's state parks rely on for assistance.

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