TheHighpoint of New Jersey
AHighpoint Trip with a Jersey Boy
HighpointNJ (Mt Kittatinny)
TheSummit Obelisk of NJ Highpoint reflected in the ice of Lake Marcia
AHighpoint with a Native Son
Many think of New Jersey as 1) The most denselypopulated state in the US (1,189 people /mi.2 vs. 147 in NH), 2) Thestate with the greatest number of toxic waste sites (108), 3) The undisputedauto theft capital of the US – Newark outpaces #’s 2 & 3 combined, and 4)The home of Bruce Springsteen, Frank Sinatra and Tony Soprano. It is also theadopted native state of my Dartmouth roommate, Jose Fernandez – who moved intoWest New York, NJ in the late ‘60’s after fleeing Cuba with his family. Josebought into NJ completely – sporting an archetypical NJ hairdo, haberdashery,attitude and musical tastes when he showed up at Dartmouth in 1973. Best ofall, although the fair winds of fortunes fill his sails – nothing has changed –he remains, in his heart, a kid from the barrio in West New York – withauthentic style. This was also to be his first trip to the highpoint of hisnative state – in fact, the first trip to the high point of any state. The intersection between Jose and mountaineering has been the null set (to the best of my knowledge) since a spectacularly eventful trip up Mt. Cube on cross country skis in 1977.
The highpoint of NJ is imaginatively namedHighpoint, and is the highest point on Kittatinny Mountain – a big hunk ofmetamorphosed schist located at the northern most tip of the state. Route 23goes almost to the summit, which is a grossly overbuilt State Park sporting a number of large stone buildings and a summitobelisk built in 1928-30 to celebrate veterans of the Great War. There is asmall, surprisingly charming, spring-fed mountain pond near the summit – Lake Marcia – which the statestocks with trout. The summit offers 360 degree views, and the AppalachianTrail passes within ¼ mile of the summit. The vegetation at the summit ismostly scrub oak, and the Park reportedly supports the highest white cedarswamp in the world – I guess it’s appropriate that New Jersey’s Highpointshould sport a record setting swamp.
Accompanying us on the summit assault was Jose’strusty cock-a-poo Argus, who desperately needed a bath and insisted in sittingin my lap the entire trip – not that I minded, I needed a bath too. New Jerseyhas the densest road system in the US, and we sampled almost all of them as weslowly wandered toward the northwest – looking for the Highpoint.
Joseand Argus prepare for the summit push on Highpoint NJ
Josewearing his NJ climbing gear on the summit with our mascot, Argus
We drove all the way up to the Summit obelisk, whichwas privately donated to honor veterans of the State of NJ. The structure isbuilt of New Hampshire granite, and made me feel a little more at home seeingsome familiar rock. Governor John Corzine tried to close the Obelisk as a budgetcutting maneuver during his administration, but was soundly shouted down by achorus of veteran groups who hold ceremonies at the Obelisk every year. It isamazing how anyone could be so politically tone deaf.
TheObelisk honoring NJ’s Veterans
We hiked around the summit trails for an hour or so,before retreating back to the Isle of Manhattan. The views from the summitridge were terrific, and afforded views all over the country of the Ramapough Mountain Indians, orJackson-Whites as they are locally known. Mt. Kittatinny lies at the NW edge ofthe home territory of this group, which is a reclusive group of mixed NativeAmerican, escaped slaves, and fugitive/mountain whites. There are severalthousand Jackson Whites still in these mountains, and they were officiallyrecognized as a Native Group by the State of NJ in 1980.
Joseand Argus on the ridge hiking back to Highpoint
This part of New Jersey feels like a mixture of NewJersey and the mountains of North Carolina. The topography and vegetation feellike North Carolina, but the culture is clearly New Jersey. It certainlydoesn’t look or feel like the Super Fund capital of the US, but it’s clearlynot wild country either. On balance it was a pleasant way to spend a Saturdayafternoon, but I can’t wait to get back to some winter climbing in the WhiteMountains – assuming that winter decides to show up this year.