Ramapo Mountain State Forest: Van Slyke Castle

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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.

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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 County Reservation.

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There is a well-marked network of trails here. I met up with a local hiking group in the upper lot on Skyline Drive. In my previous visit to this park, I’d begun at the lower lot.

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After hiking down to Ramapo Lake, we walked around the lake on the Blue trail and ascended the White/Castle Trail to the ruins of Van Slyke Castle.

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Once up top, we had great views of the NYC skyline, Ramapo Lake and another body of water.

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Van Slyke Castle was built in the early 1900s by two of Ruth Cole’s three husbands. Her second husband, William Porter began the mansion on Fox Mountain and called it Foxcroft. Porter died before it was completed and Ruth continued the construction, re-naming it after her third husband Warren Van Slyke.

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After Van Slyke died in 1925, Ruth lived there until 1940. The mansion was left to her family who sold it. It was then abandoned during a bitter divorce. It burned down in 1959, leaving behind the stone walls.

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We explored the castle ruins before looping around, past a water tower, to return to Skyline Drive.

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Ramapo State Forest Posts:

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Location: Skyline Drive, Wanaque, NJ 07465

Designation: NJ State Forest

Date designated or established: 1976

Date of my visit: 9/1/2019

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Harriman State Park: Jackie Jones Loop

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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.

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Harriman State Park, only 30 miles north of New York City, is New York State’s second largest state park. It encompasses more than 47k acres, 30 lakes and 200 miles of hiking trails.

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I explored this park with Take A Hike NJ! on a beautiful September Sunday. We chose a variation of the Jackie Jones Loop, a trail which passes through some ruins, ascends to a Fire Tower and a camping shelter before returning to the park road.

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After finding parking for the group at the trailhead, we followed the yellow blazes to the ruins of the Orak mansion. Orak is Karo spelled backwards…the mansion was built in 1923 by George Buchanan, an executive for the company that makes Karo corn syrup.

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After Buchanan’s death in 1939, the mansion was sold to the park. It was demolished in 1973.

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We continued on up the trail to the steel fire tower. Built in 1928 at the 1276 foot summit of Jackie Jones Mountain, it was renovated in 2018.

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It still seemed a little rickety to me as we climbed it to take in the surrounding views, but the little dog in our group made it up the 60 feet, so who am I to complain? From the top, the NYC skyline, the Hudson River and the lakes of Harriman State Park can be seen.

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Continuing along the trail after the tower, we climbed another ascent to the Big Hill Shelter. This is one of nine stone shelters throughout Harriman, for use by campers. This was a good place to rest before heading back down around the loop to our cars.

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Harriman Posts:

  • Jackie Jones Loop
  • Lake Welch (Coming soon)

Location: 54 Seven Lakes Dr, Sloatsburg, NY 10974

Designation: State Park

Date designated/established: 1910

Date of my visit: September 8, 2019

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Victorian Christmas at Ringwood Manor

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Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! Merry Christmas to my followers who celebrate and best wishes to all for a Happy New Year.

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Last year, my daughter and I visited Ringwood Manor for the Victorian Christmas Event. The Manor was built in 1807 and then purchased by the Cooper-Hewitt family in 1853.

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The 51 room mansion was donated to the state by Erskine Hewitt, the last heir of the family’s iron fortune.

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In December, the Women’s Club of West Milford decorates the first floor of the mansion and hosts an open house to raise funds for the park. There are also concerts on a few nights…tickets to the concert must be purchased in advance.

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Ringwood State Park posts:

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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

 

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This one of the original 10 rooms of the mansion built in 1807 and decorated in the Washingtonian style favored at the time.

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Sarah Hewitt was an avid collector of fine things, including marquetry as seen in the table, chairs and cabinets in this room.

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Ramapo Mountain State Forest: Ramapo Lake

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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.

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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 County Reservation.

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There is a well-marked network of trails here. I met up with a local hiking group in the upper lot on Skyline Drive. In my previous visit to this park, I’d begun at the lower lot.

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We followed the yellow Hoeferlin Trail which was a rocky descent from Skyline Drive to Ramapo Lake. Ramapo Lake is a man-made lake. It is 120 acres now and began as a 25-acre pond.

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In the late 1800s, it was known as Rotten Poel. Jacob Rogers, a locomotive engineer, bought this land in the late 1800s. He dammed the pond’s tributary, creating the larger lake.

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We continued around the lake on the blue MacEvoy Trail. We passed a house with a garden meant to restore native vegetation. Lily pads were blooming on the lake.

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Continuing around the lake we continued onto the white trail and our ascent to the Van Slyke Castle.

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Ramapo State Forest Posts:

 

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Location: Skyline Drive, Wanaque, NJ 07465

Designation: NJ State Forest

Date designated or established: 1976

Date of my visit: 9/1/2019

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Long Pond Ironworks National Historic Landmark District

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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.

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Long Pond Ironworks State Park preserves the historic village of Hewitt, which was a bustling ironworking community in the 1700s.

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I was driving by after a hike at nearby Jungle Habitat and noticed that the visitor center was open. I stopped in and chatted with the park ranger for a bit.

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This building was once the General Store and also a boarding house for the iron workers. It now houses the museum as well as the visitor center.

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The museum depicts life in Hewitt and showcases many iron artifacts from the period. The ranger told me one of the most precious pieces in the collection is the stove, made at Long Pond for George Washington.

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At the ranger’s recommendation, I took the self-guided tour of the village. The village map depicts the town as it was back then. Today there are less than a dozen structures still standing.

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Because of the water-power of the Wanaque River and the iron ore deposits in the Highlands region, Peter Hasenclever established his Ironworks here.

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Hasenclever also built Ringwood Manor which became home to the ironmasters of Long Pond for the next 120 years. You can read my previous posts about Ringwood Manor here and here.

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After following the path past historic buildings, some ruins and the river, I arrived at the furnace area. The original furnace is under a tarp and is one of the few colonial-era iron furnaces left.

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There are other furnace ruins, built during the Civil War by the Cooper-Hewitt family. These furnaces collapsed in an unusual manner, falling forward instead of into a pile a rubble. The ranger said it could be from people stealing the fireplace bricks (long ago) that formed the arches.

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In its heyday, Hewitt housed 500 ironworkers and their families, most of them German immigrants. The town had a church, a school and a post office. By 1882, the forges and furnaces at Long Pond had ceased operations as the industry shifted to coal power.

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Location: Greenwood Lake Turnpike, West Milford, NJ

Designation: State Park, National Historic Landmark District

Date designated or established: 1766

Date of my visit: August 24, 2015

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Ringwood State Park: Jungle Habitat

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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.

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Jungle Habitat was a short-lived Warner Brothers theme park in West Milford, NJ. It featured a drive through safari ride with exotic wild animals. When the park closed abruptly in 1976, urban legend had it that the animals were released into the woods.

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Twelve years after Jungle Habitat closed, the State of NJ purchased the land from Warner Brothers for $1.45 million, with the site being managed by Ringwood State Park. In 2007, a volunteer group called JORBA, began working with the state to create mountain biking trails on the 800 acre property.

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In 2017, The State rejected a bid to turn the site into a for-profit mountain bike park and planned to incorporate it into Norvin Green State Forest, which is also managed by Ringwood State Park. Name change ideas were requested from the community since Jungle Habitat is still copyrighted by WB.

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I toured Jungle Habitat recently with about 30 others with Take a Hike NJ. Nature has reclaimed the parking lots, animal enclosures and tram tracks for the most part, giving the place a Jurassic Park vibe.

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There is a well-marked red-blazed trail just outside the parking lot, but to see the ruins, you must venture in further to unmarked territory. I was glad to be with a large group of people as it would be easy to get lost.

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While exploring we encountered several mountain bikers and a couple of people walking their dogs.  But alas, we did not see the wolf packs or stray baboons of urban legend.

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Location: 109 Airport Rd, West Milford, NJ 07480

Designation: State Park

Date designated or established: 1988

Date of my visit: August 25, 2019

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Goosepond Mountain State Park

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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.

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Goose Pond Mountain State Park is a 1,706-acre undeveloped New York state park. The park includes five acres of man-made wetlands constructed by the New York State Department of Transportation as compensation for wetlands that were destroyed when the nearby highway interchange was built.

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The park is administered by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, but it doesn’t look like it is routinely maintained. The sign at the entrance to the nature trail is overgrown as is the trail itself.

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I stopped here with my dog while were in the area on an errand. We walked as far as we could down the nature trail before it became thoroughly choked with brush and wildflowers. We noticed some birdhouses that looked fairly new…the park is considered a bird sanctuary.

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According to the map at the entrance, when there is less vegetation, the nature trail is a loop with a boardwalk section at the far end.

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Location: 1198 NY-17M, Chester, NY 10918

Designation: State Park

Date designated or established: 1960

Date of my visit: 8/4/2019

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