Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mount Hope Historical Park Hike, The Roadhouse, The Birdhouse, and North Jersey History: Tubes of Salvador Dali, Carl Jung, Jim Morrison, and Others

Mount Hope Historical Park one of 38 total Morris County Parks not to be confused with pretty lawns and facilities for families who want only an easy stroll, plenty of the parks do have facilities and some even lawns, but they have wild spaces and some of them, like the land behind the community of Mount Hope, have only open, undeveloped space. But the defininig feature of this historical park was once a busy magnetite iron mining operation. The Mount Hope Tract developed in 1772 by John Jacob Faesch, the property had been in use since about 1725, but Faesch speculated on the productivity of the land--deep underneath it, to be exact; one of the mine shafts penetrates 2700 feet straight down. The genius of the early settlers of New Jersey to locate iron and copper is something I would want to learn more about, and about how a 2700 foot deep shaft got dug. That's stone beneath the topsoil for a large part. Mining still goes on today worldwide but not here, the many shafts and processing sites all finished in 1958. I'm most fascinated in learning about how minimal technology engineered the process. Today, all I have to do is Google to get some information on that, although online information sources tend to be sketchy.

I know what they did 200 years ago is analogous to what some writers and artists--Salvador Dali, Carl Jung, Jim Morrison are names that come instantly to mind--do from inside their own heads deep into the stuff of existence too fine and subtle to have outward stability like rock, yet objective and real no less. Tough to penetrate also. The ordinary mind is resistant and wards off the imps that offer clues to otherwise. And the artist who chooses to go his way has to overcome barriers, on occasion has to fight for his life against influences that would in fact kill him. For all three men I mentioned and many others, the stuff had very high monetary value in return. No one travels deep within for nothing, unless they lose themselves in the process once and for all. If ultimate loss is not possible, I do know some pains intensify to excruciating levels no human being wants.

I consider myself fortunate not because I haven't felt any. Everyone who tries to do this tunneling within does get lost sometimes and the thrill of feeling death near assures that the intrepid pursuit of success has value, guarded as well as the primitives in Indiana Jones armed their tunnel to kill anyone who would take the gold artifact. If you get through, the situation reverses and you find influences first opposing you, now on your side as if character is transformed, just as all friendships are seductions at first.

Those successful keep healthy ties to the outer world just as healthy miners do. My family greatly enjoys these many outings we take. Especially while driving, the conversation goes even more places than we do in fact, particularly involving many historical sights as springboards. Most of the history in North Jersey is not registered as official. I am notorious for forgetting where I am driving as I talk, whether in North Jersey or elsewhere. We stumble onto the likes of the gas station preserved from the 1950's or 60's in Stillwater, NJ, by following directions not found on maps or GPS. 

The Mount Hope hike short, maybe a mile-and-a-half ensued. My wife wants to return to walk elsewhere on the many trails and see more yet. The only moderately strenuous section of trail did get me into a bind of comparing my lack of strength to how easily I climbed this past summer, but only for a few minutes today. I stopped, got out my camera and began to shoot. This gave me a specific motivation and walking became much more energetic. To have thought of another time only sapped energy. I needed to be right there and with my camera I was there. I asked Patricia how she managed, and she had no answer, not in any distress at all, however. Matt, of course, is an old mountain goat.

The sun nearing horizon, we got back on Interstate 80 and off at State Highway 15 exit. Having crossed the border into Sussex, I put on my George Winston (pianist), The Music of the Doors c.d. That's all we listened to as we explored; the music diaphanous and exquisite, we felt wonderful to be away from all the chincy commercial sounds. I get away from those each day, but rolling with the hills as light diminished today felt especially unique. We came upon the Homestead Rest restaurant serendipitously, none of us recognizing the place from any previous travels, checked the menu, and had headed back out to see Grinnel Lake and drive into Franklin, intending to return so long as we didn't lose our way back. I use no GPS. I can't stand those devices and insist on using my head. I never refer much to maps either. I like to tabulate county road numbers and the like in my head and project maps from my mental screen, view the way from a range over the miles and make my choices. I did the likes of this when I was seven, directing my mother successfully back to the way home when she got lost in Trenton. I felt like a little airplane looking down, like one of those Hummingbird spy drones our government is turning loose on the citizenry now. 

Having pulled back into the Homestead Rest lot, I felt proud of myself just a little for having returned a half hour later, just as I had told the hostess we would. Whether she would have remembered at all unlikely, we arrived perfectly on time even though we did have to sort out the route numbers we drove and make a diversion, no distress in that.

We discovered that a scene from the movie In and Out got shot at this restaurant; the scene presents the restaurant as the Roadhouse Bar. Tom Sellick, Kevin Kline and Matt Damon star. We had happened on the restaurant never having traveled that section of Route 94 before, we reckoned, besides that--maybe--my son and I rode past the previous summer, driving between Little Swartswood Lake and the Paulinskill River at Blairstown. If we did, we never noticed this steakhouse with the largest onion rings I have ever seen and eaten.

Good thing I shot the birdhouse. Certainly not the bird, not with a gun, that is, although who knows what Jim Morrison meant by that on An American Prayer, except to take the clue from his interest in film, "Someone shot the bird," might very well mean with a camera. Tell you this, that little owl could mean many things as a timeless symbol of philosophy, but it only happened at a place named "The Roadhouse Bar" for a movie. If you're privy to Morrison's interests, you know film was big for him, and "Roadhouse Blues" one of The Doors biggest hits. When I unlocked the car doors I had noticed this screech owl on the fence in front of the hood of our car, just staring at us and refusing to budge. I went straight to the trunk, opened it and got out my camera. Darkness had fallen after quite an afternoon of here and there on more levels than the physical. The photograph is below.

The Birdhouse photographed long before going to "The Roadhouse."

"Someone shot the bird in the afternoon dance show."

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