Spring, 2021

Warm greetings and best wishes for a year marked by renewed health and sanity. This will be our thirty-first 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.

April 8 - 15

Opening Day

Opening day of fishing season (Saturday, April 10). Shiny SUVs are parked beside beat up pickups and mud splattered Jeeps behind the local diner, where anglers stand shoulder to shoulder on the bank of the river that passes through our town. Most years, I’d remain at home during opening day; for me fishing has never been a team sport. But it has been an especially long winter, and so instead, I pass by the diner and drive out of town. More..
Early April water is cold, high, and fast, but even the most severe conditions cannot deny dedicated fishers their place streamside early Saturday morning, when a fresh and feisty generation of stocked rainbow trout become fair game. Six-hundred-thousand of them, to be more precise, each born and bred at the Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Education Center. Check our general fishing guide and see how to find ‘em, catch ‘em and cook ‘em. Whatever your preference, if you don't have it yet, you'll need to get your license.

Measures of Devotion

General Robert McAllister’s grave at Belvidere Cemetery
58,000 New Jersey men served in the Civil War. With reenlistments, the state would eventually receive credit for more than 80,000 terms of service. The legacies of McAllister, Hopkins, Bailey, Ryerson and other heroic figures from the Civil War are told by monuments, museums, and living history groups. Seek out their stories of triumph and tragedy.

Musket Memories

Among the battles and skirmishes to take place in New Jersey during the War of Independence, the Battle of Bound Brook was an early, though not crushing, defeat on the record of the Continental Army near what is recognized as the first Middlebrook Encampment.
This Saturday (April 10), a condensed, one-day version of the annual commemoration include free outside activities on the grounds, as well as limited tours of the historic, c. 1740, Abraham Staats House, General Baron von Steuben’s headquarters during the American Revolution. Marching, drilling, tactical maneuvers, and other special activities, special programs and tours and more round out the event, which is coordinated by the Friends of the Abraham Staats House. Please check the website for details and to confirm times.
For a less formal visit to hallowed historical turf, journey down to the northwest corner of Bernardsville, to a road named Hardscrabble, and the field where the New Jersey Brigade arrived in December 17, 1779 to begin the Jockey Hollow Encampment. Trails crisscross wooded knolls, open meadows, and streams through, not only Morristown National Historical Park, but the neighboring Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, the historic Cross Estate, and mysterious hillsides full of legends. More...

Hello Cruel World!

Vilma, a barred owl found by the side of the road when she was a year old, had a compound fracture of the left wing has no sustainable flight. She is known for her beak snapping during programs at The Raptor Trust.
Being born in spring isn't all sunshine and flowers. What happens to baby birds that fall from their nest, and what can you do if you come across an orphan or two? Although it's known for rehabilitating hawks, eagles, and owls, The Raptor Trust looks after all avian styles, young and old. Want to guess how many they've fixed over thirty years? Besides saving a homeless avian, you can also go there and see some amazing "rock star" raptors. More...
Many more dedicated organizations have open doors for animal refugees of all makes and models. Here's what they do and how to contact them....

Waterfall Hunting

Buttermilk Falls in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is bursting at the seams!
There are waterfalls scattered throughout the Skylands region, but nowhere so plentiful than in the Kittatinny Mountains, where streams find their way down steep slopes to the Delaware River. Within the Kittatinny range, which parallels a forty-mile stretch of the river in Warren and Sussex Counties, several waterfalls are only a short walk away from parking areas. Now's the time!

Best of Friends

The Wallisch Homestead in West Milford
Friends groups, as we know them in relation to many of our parks and precious historic sites, are surely bound by their commitment to community and stewardship. Always not-for-profit and volunteer driven, with the occasional paid executive director, Friends groups connect people to natural places, as well as to our heritage, while enhancing the role of public lands in local communities. If you’re look for things to do this spring, investigate the event schedules of dozens of Friends groups in Northwest New Jersey. Better yet, look into joining!

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...

Karamac Candy

You’re likely to be watched as you saunter down this old railbed.
A former railbed just north of the Delaware Water Gap provides a short but satisfying taste of days past in a beautiful setting. This short route is also perfect for those who are not inclined to hike longer, more difficult trails. A perfect spring warm up!

Grass to the Glass

With reforms in food policy we can reverse current trends that endanger the viability of small local dairy farming.
Many states have adopted regulations to allow consumer access to carefully produced fresh, unprocessed whole milk. New Jersey is the only state with a complete prohibition against distribution of “raw” milk, according to the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Here's why choices matter...

Plan Ahead!

Signs and Symptoms

Photo: Bob Thompson
It is still an underground movement, but don't be fooled! Spring will be mainstream someday soon. If you can't feel it every day, you can smell it. The "fresh" liberating smell on a walk through the forest in early spring is, for a biologist, the odor of gases emitted by billions of tiny organisms in the newly thawed earth, releasing nutrients vital to the approaching bloom of wildflowers. And you can hear it up in the trees where things are getting noisy. This Saturday, it's official. Go vernal!

Spring Babies

A barn owl chick poses in a hay loft after being rehabilitated at the Mercer Wildlife Center and before being returned to the nest box. (Photo: MacKenzie Hall)
Multiplication is the order of the season, and--rain, snow, sleet, or hail--the show must go on! Look and listen for the signs of spring and making babies!! Let your senses soak up the season — its fleeting beauty, warmth, scents, and most of all the peace and rejuvenation in its experience. More...

Seed to Stem

Roughly seventy true lettuce heirlooms and a mosaic of varieties, make this leafy annual of the aster family far from ordinary. It is great for you, delicious, accessible, easy to grow with varieties to harvest in every season in Skylands territory. Start now!

Bare Truth

Robert Lobe conceptualizes a sculpture in his "forest studio".
It won't be long until leaves are in full bloom. Hit the woods while the trees are bare and there's still time to look around -- you'll see things you might miss otherwise. For an artist walking in the woods along the Kittatinny Ridge, the earth gushes a torrent of shapes and forms, angles and curves, textures and light, all vibrantly alive, yet frozen in a rhythm of life far different than our own. Read more about Robert Lobe's sculpture from remote forest models at Harmony Ridge...

Calf Cuteness

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 Sunday, meet this little guy, get yourself some fresh croissants! 369 Stamets Rd, Milford (Hunterdon County) 08848, 908/86GRASS

Plan Ahead!

This Magic Moment

It might be an old song on the radio, a tree's aroma, or a dance with your dog. But someday soon it will occur to you that you might get through all this and better days are coming. And when your clock jumps ahead into a new season this weekend, it's time to get moving! The weeks ahead will be packed with adventure, so keep an eye out our virtual efforts to keep you informed.

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.

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...

In the Loop

Signs of the workings at Ford Mine remain around this pond in Jefferson, which, at the surface of a former shaft, reaches depths of several hundred feet.
Present or past, time in Jefferson Township is easy to enjoy. You can get a feel for northwest corner of Morris County and have a nice afternoon adventure on a loop more or less around Bowling Green Mountain, starting in and up the Berkshire Valley to Petersburg, over the mountain through Milton and Jefferson (town), and back through the Weldon Brook Valley along Weldon Road towards Lake Hopatcong. Drive it!

Both Sides Now

Stone lime kiln along River Road near Carpentersville.
Follow the narrow, twisting back roads along both shores of the Delaware River -- from Phillipsburg south to Milford in New Jersey, and Upper Black Eddy back north to Easton in Pennsylvania -- through countryside rich in local history and lore, old hamlets of which little trace remains, past quaint homes and natural wonders along the way.

Plan Ahead!

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 currently under construction, being converted to a condominium of residential units, maintaining and restoring the brick exterior and other features to retain its historical integrity.  
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!

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!

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.

Plan Ahead!

Hip Deep

Shoveled out? Now it's time to really dig the snow! If you have ever taken the time to hike, bike or ski in New Jersey then you know there are miles of unspoiled terrain to explore. What better time to do it then when the woods are blanketed with a gazillion pure and driven crystalline flakes?

The Cross Country Ski Center at High Point State Park, offers 16 kilometers of trails groomed for classical techniques and 40-50km of "make your own" back country trails through the remainder of the park's 14,000 acres.
Cross country skiing is only as strenuous as you want it to be, and it's easy to learn. For the very athletic-- mountain bikers and long distance runners-- cross-country skiing offers vigorous aerobic conditioning in an otherwise dreaded season of snowbound hiking trails and slush-clogged roadways.

Backcountry skiing at Wawayanda State Park
Back country skiing marries the skills of cross country and downhill telemark skiing (done at ski areas) in a joyous union that allows the skier to ski anywhere there is snow.
is perhaps an easier way to get out on the trails. Not only does it provide a cardio-packed punch of a workout, it is also a lot of fun! Snowshoeing is easy to learn, inexpensive compared to other winter sports, and poses little risk of injury. One way or the other, make your way across the New Jersey tundra!

Peace on Montana Mountain

The Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center on Montana Mountain in rural Washington Township in Warren County.
No story of American Buddhism would be complete without recognizing the passionate energy and devotion that the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center's founder, Geshe Wangyal, poured into Buddhism on this soil. One of the Skylands' most sublime settings, Labsum Shedrub Ling, as it's known in Tibetan language, is a tranquil, park-like setting, open to the public. This Sunday's (Feb. 7) Founder's Day is a celebration of Geshe Wangyal's arrival in the United States on February 5, 1955 and his ferocious efforts on behalf of Americans. This year's celebration will be virtual (via Zoom) and includes the recitation of prayers and a commemorative talk by TBLC Co-Director, Joshua W.C. Cutler. If you wish to attend this free please send an email to info@labsum.org for a zoom link one hour prior to the event.
Buddhism has seeped into American life with great flourish and has flowered into a vast array of forms. Introduce yourself to this very special place! For more information click or call 908-689-6080. 93 Angen Road, Washington, NJ.

Healthy Attitudes

Frank Dale (right) and Len Frank on an expedition to White Lake.
In 1996, Rutgers University Press published a book called Delaware Diary, a collection of episodes in the life of the river over two centuries of European settlement. The book’s author, Frank Dale, was undoubtedly as pleased as I was impressed by a profusion of positive published reviews. I was equally pleased when I shook Frank’s large hand at an event where he was selling autographed copies, and he eagerly offered his writing services for our skinny little magazine. After a long career in business, he had begun to write, mainly about Warren County history and outdoor recreation, which formed the basis for no less than twenty stories for our publication between 1997 and 2003.
Dale was completely committed to his craft. Soon after I met him, Frank suffered a stroke, and I visited him at his Panther Valley home where he was rapidly bouncing back under the watchful eye of his wife, Diana. The subject came up of relocating to Florida, where Diana wanted to move to be close to her children living there. Frank resisted. “Not me,” he said. “People go to Florida to die.” Frank spent several winters later in the environs of a campground trailer, with only a propane heater and thin metal walls to protect against the chilly Jersey winds that so many us yearn to escape at the end of our working lives. At age seventy, Dale was just getting started, rolling out a series of thirty-six booklets that made up the Warren County Chronicles, as well as another full-length book about bridges along the Delaware River. After each booklet was completed at a local printer, Frank would load them in his car trunk and take them to displays he had placed at dozens of stores and shops where patrons could buy them. They are all available at the Warren County Library, where Dale spent many hours researching his chronicles.
In between, Frank churned out stories on his vintage word processor for our readers about Warren County, and also about the wild and scenic Walpack countryside, the lower Musconetcong Valley, the http://www.njskylands.com/tnpequest, Tewksbury and Oldwick, day hikes on the Appalachian Trail, historic mills, the last of the old-time trappers, and dozens of profiles about historical societies and organizations throughout the region. Dale’s work always reflected careful research from primary sources, but his real talent was making history accessible to most anyone. His well-honed folksy style turned complex and sometimes obscure topics into easy, friendly reading.
In 2015, Frank finally retired to Florida. He passed away the next year at the age of ninety-one.

Walking Points

Jockey Hollow
Len and Erica Frank walked together for more than sixty years; solemates to say the least. They met in 1947 as members of a University of Wisconsin outdoor club called Hoofers, whose faculty advisor was the son of a contemporary of conservationist and Sierra Club founder John Muir.
Len Frank, another long time friend of Northwest New Jersey's heritage and outdoor spaces, recently passed away on January 17 at the ripe old age of 96. He introduced himself to the Skylands Visitor back in 1998 when he was about the age of about 72, a stage of life by which a good portion of us have hung up our serious hiking shoes. He wanted to tell the story of how the Paulinskill Valley Trail came to be. Len and his late wife, Erica, were important forces in that effort, and I had a hard time keeping up with them as they illustrated the captivating tale with a brisk walk along the former Susquehanna and Western railbed. Their attitude was infectious.
A few springs later, Len accompanied Frank Dale and I to White Lake for a fascinating exploration of another repository of Skylands heritage in a spectacular outdoor setting. The next winter, Len invited me along on a hike in search of the Peqest Furnace. We found it.

Points of View

Jockey Hollow
Although 10,000 previous winters 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 two hundred 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 at Jockey Hollow. Buildings are closed, but grounds are open. Call 973-543-4030 for more information.

Foggy Mountain Breakdowns

Although there may have been as many as ten plane crashes along the Kittatinny Ridge in Sussex and Warren Counties, few people are aware of them. Due to the very rugged nature of the area's mountainous terrain, some of the wreckages have never been completely salvaged, and pieces still lie there. For example, the scant remains of an old airframe, possibly from an early Army biplane trainer, rest close to the Appalachian Trail near the top of the mountain, overgrown with brush. Without modern instruments, the ridge could be treacherous for aviators. Read more!!

Digging Deep

Picatinny Peak rises above Picatinny Lake, once known as Clifford Pond.
The Cultural Resource Program at Picatinny Arsenal has documented dozens of historic and Native American archaeological sites that tell a story that spans centuries in the New Jersey Highlands. More...


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 California and Australia, 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 development, challenging our core values.
The new federal administration has quickly reinstalled some important environmental protections -- including revoking the Keystone pipeline permit; reversing rollbacks to vehicle emissions standards; re-enforcing a temporary moratorium on oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and re-establishing a working group on the social costs of greenhouse gasses. But it will remain essential to listen to the voices calling for adequate response to the present emergency, a major shift in our cultural attitudes. Michael Diamond, an attorney who formerly worked within the NJDEP, argues that our environmental laws and regulations are grossly deficient and fail in their constitutional duty to protect.

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...
The many rolling hills of the Skylands offer an abundance of viewpoints not otherwise visible in other seasons. Some intrepid hikers don't take to the trails until the branches are bare and the ground is frozen, in search of vistas from ice formations to sun glistening on a freshly fallen snow.

Farm and Function

Main gallery and event space downstairs in the farmhouse.
Adaptive reuse of historic structures that otherwise may have long disappeared from our landscape is gratifying. Farmstead Arts, located on the grounds of the Kennedy Martin Stelle Farmstead, is much more than a vestige of Bernards Township’s rural past. Today, the eighteenth century farmstead, which is listed on the Federal and New Jersey Registers of Historic Places, is a vibrant arts center and serves as a model for adaptive reuse of an historic treasure. Until the pandemic recedes, the art center has beefed up its online offerings with a gallery and classes you may find enticing. 450 King George Road in Basking Ridge, 908/636-7576.

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.

Well Said

A message from Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse: As we continue in the relative quiet consistency of our farm life, the contrast of our daily routine and the chaos of our times is stark. We are personally grateful for our community of customers, and celebrate every bite of our own food that we can share with you and enjoy ourselves at the end of the day. Staying calm is hard. Staying healthy is hard. We don't have all the answers, but we hope that our comfort foods have been and will continue to be part of the matrix of solutions on many levels. Our heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who has so generously donated to Circle Haven, or signed up for the Virtual Variety Show Fundraiser on January 28th! Thanks!
Order online or visit the farm at 369 Stamets Rd, Milford (Hunterdon County) 08848, 908/86GRASS

Star of Wonder!

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.
Seasons Greetings!
The winter solstice will officially greet the new season early Monday morning, December 21. Also on that date, the planets Jupiter and Saturn will appear to converge almost as one extraordinarily bright star in the evening sky, a celestial event that not occurred since 1226, four hundred years before Galileo built his first telescope. This conjunction of the two planets, which is also thought to have occurred in December of 7 B.C., is sometimes associated with the Star of Bethlehem that guided the Three Kings, traversing field, fountain, moor and mountain on their First Christmas journey.

But the planets only reflect the energy from our true star of wonder, the sun that lights up our lives and warms our hearts. The annual solstice 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.


Float beneath a cathedral of snow-covered trees and listen to the silence in VanCampens Glen, Delaware Water Gap NRA.
If you have ever taken the time to hike, bike or ski in New Jersey then you know there are miles of unspoiled terrain to explore. What better time to do it then when the woods are blanketed with a hefty layer of fresh fluffy snow? Snowshoeing provides an easy way to get out on the trails. Not only does it provide a cardio-packed punch of a workout, it is also a lot of fun! Snowshoeing is easy to learn, inexpensive compared to other winter sports, and poses little risk of injury. Read more...

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!


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