MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Nostalgia Tour Through Northern New Jersey

I got to revist places from my childhood last week when I was asked to work with the staff in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. That national park unit is less than a half hour from where I grew up and, most likely, is the first or second national park unit I ever (unknowlingly) visited as a youth. (Gateway National Recreation area, with the Statue of Liberty and Sandy Hook is likey my other contender). When I leared I would be revisiting Northern New Jersey and the "Gap," I immediately started to think of all the things I hoped to see and accomplish while there... now, back in DC, I can report I did most of what I needed to do... Childhood Janine would be proud of these accomplishments:

1) Growing up I always looked upon the sign for the Black Forest Inn and wondered what was in there. My dad claimed that place was off limits to children, it was an "adults only" dining establishment. Well, all these years later, I remained insanely curious. So, off a friend and I went to eat the yummy German food at the place where time stood still. It looks the same; the sign IS THE SAME. Its been over 25 years since I have laid eyes on it, and I was instantly taken back to the car rides where I ask "what is it like in there?" Little did I know that it was a maze inside - so many rooms. Still, I was giddy with excitement. I knocked over a glass of water in my enthusium. The waitress got a kick out of me as I told her that I have always wanted to eat here. I know I was babbling to her about growing up in the area. Don't know why, but I never shook that feeling that I needed to see it. I feel better now. It was fun. It was yummy. And I had an adult dinner DAD. HA!

2) Out near the Gap, there is a tourist site, Bushkill Falls. It is techincally not in the park, but it is clearly part of the part's water system... all the streams, creeks and brooks flow into the Delaware off the Poconos and Kittany Mountains. Its that area's watershed. Park history is sure to tell a story about how when that area as a "urban summer" getaway for the City, Bushkill offered easier access to see some of the area waterfalls. Me? I remember it for the colored trail markers. Growing up, when we would visit, we would look at the map of green, yellow and red and beg mom to do the red trail. Of course we were never allowed. The yellow trail has plenty to see and doesn't have a scary warning sign in front of it. We stuck to the yellow and we "liked it." I remember the roaring falls, the stairs, the boardwalks and the mist that kept you cool. It is a site, and I baulk at those that call it a tourist trap... it's not! Its very pretty. It stuck with me for 30 plus years. Of course I needed to revisit it. I was surrounded by falls in the Park, but it did not matter. I needed to hike that red trail. Score 2 for the "adult" on this trip.

3) Growing up, when we went to the Gap, it was typically to see the "Gap" - the place where the river makes this gorgeous turn through northern Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. If you don't believe Jersey is stunning, I challenge you to visit this area of the state and gap at the Applanchians, the hemplock forests and the river. There are no words for its beauty in the fall with the changing of the colors. Still, growing up, we really didn't hike... that is why Bushkill was ideal. So, while familiar with the river (heck, I grew up on one of it tributaries), I did not know the park as well as I should have. So before heading back, I took some time to explore... I visited the 1st and 2st highest waterfalls in PA. Park employees gave me great recommendations on other sites to see some falls. In total, I saw about 13 falls. I wandered through some amazing forests. I was able to learn about how 2 invasive species are reeking havoc on my home park. Get out and see it how, because if the hemlocks die, the entire ecosystem crashes. Oh, the wonders of that delicate natural balance.

4) And finally, headed back, I had to stop off at my neighborhood pizzeria for some truly amazing pie. I have been craving real pizza ever since I moved to DC. Sorry, but pizza is horrible here. And I ate at Carmine's of Netcong straight through my 20's. So, I ordered 2 pies and brought some to my father's house ... and humored him about doing all those adult things I was never allowed to do as a child!

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