High Point State Park

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

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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

Marblehead Lighthouse State Park


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Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie in Ohio is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the US side of the Great Lakes. Built in 1822 as a navigational aid on the Marblehead Peninsula, it is still in use today.  It had 15 lighthouse keepers from the 1820s until the signal was automated in 1958.

marblehead map
Map from Google

We were visiting friends who had a home in Marblehead. They took us out on the lake in their boat so we could see this famous landmark from the water. We could also see the amusement park across the bay in Cedar Point. Visitors can take tours of the lighthouse in the summer.


Location: 110 Lighthouse Dr, Marblehead, OH 43440

Designation: State Park, NRHP

Date established/designated: NRHP 1969

Date of my visit: 7/26/2008


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


Big Basin Redwoods State Park


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Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California’s oldest state park, established in 1902. Northwest of Santa Cruz, it is home to the largest stand of coastal redwoods south of San Francisco.


This is normally a pretty popular park with limited parking by the visitor center. But we visited in the midst of a stifling heat wave, so we had no trouble getting a spot in the early afternoon.


We stopped in at the visitor center to determine the best way to see the park given the 108 degree temperature. We opted for the Redwood Loop Trail, an easy half-mile loop with well-marked points of interest that begins at the end of the parking lot. The only other people we encountered on this trail were an elderly couple and a mom with a baby in a stroller. It’s a nice wide and flat path suitable for any ability.


As we ambled along, trying not to collapse from heat exhaustion, we stopped at the well-marked points of interest and read the placards.


We passed the ‘Father of the Forest’, a 2000-year-old, 250 foot tall redwood with a circumference of 16 feet.


We also saw the ‘Mother of the Forest.’ The Mother is not as wide as the Father, but is taller. She was once the tallest tree in Big Basin at 329 feet until a storm knocked off a portion, reducing her to 293 feet.


We stood inside the hollowed-out Chimney Tree to take in a unique view of the sky.


There are many other sights to see in Big Basin….waterfalls, varied habitats, ocean views, etc… But on this day, the short walk through the redwoods was experience enough for us. Being in the presence of these ancient giants is always a humbling experience and we were grateful for the well-maintained path through them.


Location: 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA 

Designation: State Park

Date designation declared: 1902

Date of my visit: 9/1/2017


Ringwood Manor National Historic Landmark District


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Ringwood Manor and its surrounding 479 acres became a national historic landmark district in 1966. Ringwood State Park is comprised of the Ringwood Manor district and the nearby Skylands Manor. The NJ Parks department manages the site and provides regular tours of the mansion. Photography is not allowed inside the house, except during the Victorian Christmas Open House.


The surrounding Ramapo mountains are rich in iron deposits. Iron mines and forges made this an area of strategic importance during the Revolutionary War and again during the war of 1812.


Ironmaster Martin Ryerson built the first 10-room section of Ringwood Manor in 1807.  The State Park has maintained some of this original section with the simple Washingtonian decor that the Ryersons favored.


The Cooper-Hewitts bought Ringwood Manor as a summer home in 1853. Peter Cooper invented glue, gelatin and the Tom Thumb locomotive. Together with his son-in-law A.S. Hewitt (a one-term NYC mayor) he founded one of the largest iron companies in the USA.  A.S. Hewitt married Peter Cooper’s daughter Sarah.


Sarah Hewitt built several additions onto the house over the years.


Ringwood Manor has 51 rooms, 30 of which are open to the public via a ranger-guided tour.


Mrs. Hewitt favored lavish French Louis XV design. She allowed her husband to decorate only three of the rooms in a more masculine style.


She was an avid collector of marquetry, china, etc… Her collections are showcased throughout the manor.


The grounds were patterned after European gardens the Hewitts had seen on their travels. They also incorporated into the landscape salvaged items, like Columbia University’s iron gates and the Cooper Union Institute’s marble columns.


There is a large iron chain in front of the house which Mr. Hewitt thought was the chain that was stretched across the Hudson River at West Point during the Revolutionary War to keep the British navy out.


He later found out that he’d been scammed, that the chain was not authentic, but Mrs. Hewitt perpetuated the rumor that it was THE chain, so there it still sits. There is also a cannon from the USS constitution in front of the house along with other iron antiques.


The Hewitts had six children. The two younger daughters stayed on at Ringwood and ran the iron mines after their parents’ deaths.


The youngest son, Erskine, was the last surviving heir and donated the estate to the State of New Jersey in 1936.


Ringwood State Park posts:
  • Ringwood Manor National Historic Landmark District
  • Merry Christmas from Ringwood Manor National Historic Landmark District
  • Victorian Christmas at Ringwood Manor (Coming Soon)
  • Skylands Botanical Gardens (Coming Soon)

Location: 1304 Sloatsburg Rd, Ringwood, NJ 07456

Designation: National Historic Landmark District, State Park

Date designated or established: November 13, 1966

Date of my visit: 12/8/2018, 8/26/2018, 3/5/2016


There is a trail behind the mansion that leads past some colonial era graves to this dam

NRHP: Museum at Barnegat Light


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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.


About midway through my day, I arrived at Barnegat Light State Park where I climbed to the top of old Barney and walked the Maritime Forest loop. A few blocks away is the Barnegat Light Museum, operated by the Barnegat Light Historical Society. The museum was a designated stop on the challenge, so I headed over there to take a look.


The museum is housed in the old one-room schoolhouse from 1903. It served as the town’s school until 1951 and was converted into a museum in 1954. It showcases the light’s original first-order Fresnel lens, as well as other lighthouse related exhibits.


The schoolhouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The grounds are maintained by the local garden club.


Lighthouse Challenge and related posts:


Location: 208 Broadway, Barnegat Light, NJ 08006

Designation: National Register of Historic Places

Date designated or established: June 6, 1976

Date of my visit: 10/20/2018


Año Nuevo State Park


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Año Nuevo State Park  is about 55 miles south of San Francisco on Highway 1, and is known for its elephant seal breeding colony. This is one of the world’s largest colonies for the northern elephant seal. The seals swim  an average of 2000 miles every year on their migration from the Arctic to Año Nuevo.


We were there on the very first day of what is considered ‘Juvenile Haul Out Season’, which begins after the April-August Molting Season. To see the babies, you need to take a guided hike with a docent during breeding season which is mid-December through March. The park is closed for two weeks at the beginning of December when the pregnant females arrive to give birth.


When it’s not breeding season, you must hike from the visitor center over about 3 miles of sand dunes to the seal viewing platform. We were concerned that my disabled cousin wouldn’t be able to do that hike with her cane and unsteady feet. I checked into the state park’s Equal Access program and was able to reserve a docent-guided tour that bypassed the sandy hike.


We arrived in the midst of a blistering heat wave, a little early for our scheduled tour. We perused the exhibits in the Visitor Center and watched the short film. The journey the elephant seals make each year is remarkable!


Then we boarded a van and our guide drove us on unpaved park roads to the Equal Access Trail. This is a quarter-mile boardwalk trail out to the viewing platform. Our guide walked with us, pointing out various flora and fauna along the way.


What a wonderful service this is for the disabled! We are so grateful to the park and our docent for providing us with this amazing experience. We learned a lot about the elephant seal life cycle and saw some huge bulls on the shore.

Location: 1 New Years Creek Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060

Designation: State Park

Date designation declared: 1985

Date of my visit: September 2017

Año Nuevo Island is just off the point and is part of the State Park and Reserve. The abandoned buildings are the remains of a 19th century light-keeping station.