Remnants of An Ice Age In Northwest New Jersey
(No, we're not referring to this past winter!) After being covered in snow and ice all winter, the spring thaw makes way for hikers to explore the Highlands region's many scenic trails. Just south of Route 80's exit 12 in Hope, New Jersey, is Jenny Jump State Forest. This wooded wonderland is an ideal location to stretch out your legs and start the hiking season. It's also a great place to get kids interested in the outdoors while learning about the local legends.
The landscape here, as seen from the Summit Trail, was formed from glacial activity more than 10,000 years ago. Starting from the forest office, off Shiloh Road, the Summit Trail climbs a short way up a moderate hill near the campground's cabins. You can see evidence of this area's icy past by examining the glacial striations or grooves, carved into the exposed bedrock along the trail. A brief hike brings you to a magnificent rocky outcrop overlooking the Great Meadows. Following the last Ice Age, this was one of the largest lakes in the state filled by melt-water. Today, it is a fertile, flat plain covered with sod and vegetable farms.
In addition, the level surface is home to Island Dragway, celebrating more than 50 years of racing fun for the family. As you continue along Summit Trail, you are afforded a dramatic view to the west of the Delaware Water Gap cutting through Kittatiny Ridge. Before descending on the Spring Trail, you'll also notice two large, unusual boulders that look out of place. These boulders, called glacial erratics, were transported about 20 miles by the moving ice sheet many years ago and were left balancing atop this mountain.
After returning to the forest office, take a side trip around the mountain to Shades of Death Road. On the north shore of Ghost Lake is a small trail that leads a couple hundred feet to the entrance of Fairy Hole, a pre-historic cave overlooking the lake. Please be respectful in the cave and notice the small stalactite formations on the ceiling; they've been growing slowly since the last Ice Age. This is no place for the faint of heart on a dark night. You might feel safer star gazing at the Jenny Jump Observatory nearby.
If you have any energy left, visit the historic town of Hope on your way home. A walking tour will introduce you to this Moravian village founded in 1769. Have a sit-down dinner at the Inn at Millrace Pond, the Mediterranean Diner or grab a bite to eat at Gio's Pizza before heading home. Be sure to return with your family in the summer and spend a day at the Land of Make Believe, which offers a water and amusement park for all ages.
Many adventures await you along the trails of the Highlands! For more information on all the Highlands has to offer visit www.highlandstourism.org