Ringwood State Park: Skylands


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Skylands, in Ringwood State Park in northern New Jersey consists of the historic Skylands Manor and the New Jersey Botanical Garden. The estate was built in the 1920s by a wealthy business man from New York.


In 1966, the State of New Jersey purchased the estate to form its State Botanical Gardens. The Manor is available as a venue for weddings and offers tours on Sundays from March to November.


The gardens are open to the public every day of the year and are on 96 acres in the Ramapo Mountains. They are maintained by the non profit Skyland Association.


I visited with a photography class. There was an event being held at the manor that day, so we explored the gardens, practicing with different settings on our cameras.


Location: 2 Morris Rd, Ringwood, NJ 07456

Designation: State Park

Date designated or established: 1966

Date of my visit: September 20, 2015




The Barnyard Sanctuary


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The Barnyard Sanctuary is a rescue center for farm animals. In many cases, they rehabilitate the animals and adopt them out to new homes, but many become permanent residents to live out the remainder of their lives in peace.


I toured the sanctuary with a photography group a few years ago (visitors need to make an appointment for a tour.) Tamala, the founder, showed us around and told us the stories behind some of the residents. Many of the horses were saved from being shipped off to Canada to be slaughtered for dog food. One of the pigs had been abandoned and found wandering near a rest stop on route 80.


All the animals seemed happy and well-cared for. In fact, Barnyard Sanctuary seemed like Disney’s Patch of Heaven farm from Home on the Range. They gravitated towards us as we walked through the pastures.


We watched a big mule socialize with a herd of miniature horses. Then, to our delight, they ran around the field.


In eight years, the Sanctuary has rescued over 3000 animals and cares for around 700 on a rented 15 acre farm with a bunch of volunteers. They are looking to purchase a larger farm nearby which would allow them to grow their own hay and care for more animals.


Location: 31 Stark Rd, Columbia, NJ 07832

Designation: Non profit animal rescue

Date designated or established: 2010

Date of my visit: 6/25/2016


Gateway NRA: Farewell Monkey


This post is not so much is not so much about Sandy Hook, which is one of the NPS units that allows dogs at certain times of the year. This is more of a tribute to our dog Monkey, who enjoyed visiting parks with us. She passed away after a sudden and brief illness this week and we are devastated.

In 2011, we rescued Monkey from an overcrowded kill shelter where she’d been held for 4 months without much hope of being adopted before her number was up. We nearly passed her by because her tag said she wasn’t good with children. But as she quietly wagged her tail at us while her neighbors barked, we had a feeling she might be our dog, no matter what the sign said.


And over the course of 8 happy years, we came to realize that she was the one who had adopted us. I am so grateful that we became her forever family.IMG_4169

On Monday night, I stopped by the animal hospital to visit Monkey where she was receiving a transfusion to get her strong enough for surgery. She stood up and wagged her tail at me which I captured in this clip. I hugged her and told her what a good girl she was and asked her to try to get better.


Early the next morning, Monkey took a turn for the worse. The three of us held her and loved her one last time as she crossed the rainbow bridge. I will miss her happy grin, her tireless defense of the perimeter from church people and woodchucks alike, the holes to China she was always digging and the way she looked out for all of us. Rest in peace my sweet, funny girl


Forgive my negligence in visiting your blogs or responding to your comments in a timely manner. I will get back to it soon and meanwhile, our regularly scheduled posts will resume tomorrow.

High Point State Park

View of the High Point monument from Lake Marcia 4/17/2015

Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

On the beach in June 2005

High Point State Park is in the Northwest corner of New Jersey in Sussex County. In the midst of the Kittatinny Mountains, the highest point in the state of New Jersey is there.


The most distinctive feature of the park is the monument marking the high point at over 1800 feet in elevation. It is an obelisk, like the Washington Monument, and was built to honor war veterans in 1930.


The land and monument were donated to the state by the Kusers. Anthony Kuser (1862-1929) was a New Jersey businessman with a rarely used summer home in Sussex County. He donated the property and funded the construction of the monument in 1923.

Mansion ruins 12/27/2014

For years, I lived minutes from the main entrance and we spent many summer days playing on the sand beach of spring-fed Lake Marcia. Afterwards, we would often drive up to the monument for views of the Delaware River and the Tri-state (NY, PA, & NJ) area.

At the monument 6/5/2005

I have been back in the off-season several times since moving away. It is a peaceful place to visit once the summer crowds have gone.

Steenykill 4/29/2017

The Steenykill Lake and boat launch are right off Route 23 on a dirt road. The view of the monument over the lake is great in the fall when the leaves turn color.

Steenykill 10/21/2004

Sawmill Lake is in the quieter section of the park, with a campground on one side. There is a dam at one end, resulting in a waterfall.

Sawmill 12/27/2014

Location: 1480 NJ-23, Sussex, NJ 07461

Designation: State Park

Date designation declared: 1923

Date of my visit: 12/27/2014

Sawmill 4/29/2017
View of the Delaware from the monument in December 2014

Thomas Edison National Historical Park: Phonograph Ranger Demo


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Every year, usually the first Saturday in June, the town of West Orange holds a street fair in conjunction with Edison National Historic Park to celebrate Edison Day. This is usually a fee-free day, with lots of demonstrations and talks given by volunteers and rangers.


I went up to the 3rd floor of the laboratory complex for a scheduled ranger talk. In the recording studio at the end of the hall the ranger talked about Edison’s invention of the phonograph.


Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in his Menlo Park laboratory in 1877. The prototype used a tinfoil covered cylinder with needles etching the vibrations into the foil.
Edison recited ‘Mary had a little lamb’ into his prototype. When he played back his words all present were astounded. The invention worked!


Under pressure from investors to get back to inventing the light bulb, Edison had to put his work on the phonograph aside. When it seemed that someone else was close to developing a marketable phonograph, Edison started working on it again.


He improved the cylinder from tinfoil to wax and then to an animal based material that was the precursor to plastic. Once on the market, Edison had to produce recorded cylinders for people to purchase. Artists came to the recording studio to produce cylinders.


However, Edison’s competitors moved from the cylinder to the record. Records could be more easily mass-produced and were less expensive. Eventually, Edison was forced out of the phonograph business.


After passing around some photos the ranger played a cylinder on Edison’s phonograph as a demonstration. Scroll down to the bottom to see the video.

Another of Edison’s many inventions

Edison NHP Posts:

Location: 211 Main St, West Orange, NJ 07052

Designation: National Historical Park

Date designation declared: 3/30/2009

Date of my visit: 8/18/2018

Telegraph Machine

Sea Girt Lighthouse


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Every October the NJ Lighthouse Society runs the Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey in order to raise funds for the state’s historic lighthouses and maritime sites. This year, we purchased an incomplete commemorative deck of cards at our starting point and then tried to complete the deck by collecting cards at each of the participating locations. There were 13 sites included in the challenge this year and I got to 5 of them on the Saturday of the challenge.


My last stop of the day was the Sea Girt Light. The 40-mile stretch of coast between Barnegat and Navesink was unlit in the 1800s and so Sea Girt was commissioned by the Lighthouse Board in 1888. Completed in 1896, it was the last lighthouse with an integrated keeper’s residence to be built on the East Coast.


In 1921, Sea Girt became the first lighthouse to be equipped with a radio beacon, furthering its usefulness as a navigational aid.


The light was deactivated during World War II and became a dormitory for the Coast Guard.


After the war, the federal government put the lighthouse up for sale. The Borough of Sea Girt purchased the property and used it for the town library and recreation center.


In 1981, the building was in need of repairs and the borough considered selling it. Concerned residents formed the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, an independent non-profit dedicated to restoring and maintaining the lighthouse.


The committee restored the lighthouse through private fundraising. They lease it from the town and conduct tours on Sundays from Easter through Thanksgiving and open the lighthouse for special events like the annual Lighthouse Challenge.


Lighthouse Challenge and related posts:


Location: 9 Ocean Ave, Sea Girt, NJ 08750

Designation: Museum

Date designated or established: 1981

Date of my visit: 10/20/2018


Ramapo Mountain State Forest


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Ramapo Mountain State Forest protects 4,269 acres in the mountainous region of Northern New Jersey. It is in both Passaic and Bergen Counties and is a separate park from the adjacent Ramapo Reservation.


There is a well-marked network of trails here. Lily and I set out to explore the easier blue (MacEvoy, named for the man who originally purchased this land to form a hunting club) trail to Ramapo Lake. There are also ruins of a ‘castle’ up a much more difficult trail and other sights to see in the park, but our time was limited as we arrived only an hour or so before sunset.


We parked in the lower lot on Skyline Drive, just off Route 287.  MacEvoy Trail begins at the end of this lot, just past the stone wall ruins. This is a popular trail and we saw several other hikers with dogs.


The path then leads up a rocky slope, alongside a stream that flows from Ramapo Lake. There are a few scrambles over boulders here and there.


We’d had a lot of rain, so the water was really ripping, with small waterfalls everywhere. (Scroll down for a video clip)


We’d only gotten about a half mile up when we came to what is described in trail guides as a ‘short rock hop’ across the stream. With the higher water volume, it was no hop, especially for a small cockapoo ( or a person trying to balance a cockapoo and camera while fording a raging river.)


Just ahead of us, a much larger Weimeraner was spooked and refused to cross the stream. So we turned back, content with the lovely, but short, walk through the woods.


Location: Skyline Drive, Wanaque, NJ 07465

Designation: NJ State Forest

Date designated or established: 1976

Date of my visit: 12/30/2018