Saturday, November 21, 2015

Jockey Hollow Grand Parade Trail Hike

Angulated fence near Wick House

My wife and I hiked the Grand Parade Trail today in Jockey Hollow, actually part of Morristown National Historical Park. Many books are written on the crucial history lived out here, especially by the troops of George Washington, who suffered record cold during the winter encampment of 1779-1780, some of whom didn't make it. Washington himself was well-protected, I'm sure, though he was no stranger to the situation and profoundly concerned for his men.

I've read none of the books, unfortunately, though I would like to, and the Jockey Hollow Visitor Center has many for sale I have perused in some detail. My first experience hiking Jockey Hollow and Morristown happened back in 1973, when as a Boy Scout with Lawrenceville's Troop 28, we hiked a grueling 18 miles. I remember how tough it was, up and down hills.

Today, we hiked about three miles total, and though the day began for me with very sour feelings, waking at 1:15 in the afternoon after having stayed up to 4:00 a.m., once I got my camera out of the bag and photographed that classic wooden fence, all swiftly rose back in place for me, as the world suddenly made sense again.

For us, a real nice hike, and even though perhaps two tenths of a mile near the end of it made me feel very old, rather than youthful as I usually feel, I accepted the feeling as pretty accurate. After all, in five very short years--as years pass these days at my age--I'll be 60. So I may as well feel it on rare occasion. And then the sun angled upon us after we crested a hill and I felt vital, despite my left leg with nerves that fried from extreme sciatica, the leg feeling weakened as if the nerves simply can no longer support the muscular action fully. It's only after I've hiked a couple of miles that I feel this slight pain and unease. Done hiking, we opened the car trunk and chugged water, and upon arriving home, felt the world from a deeper sense of its peace, despite the association of Morristown with war.

Years ago, I took lunches in Jockey Hollow, while working for New Jersey's largest credit union. Doing this for about three straight years through all four seasons, developed a deep awareness of this land as hallowed ground, although I felt the affinity especially from November through winter. Land that is lush with flourishing summer life relates all too well the success of life in the present, but with the added sense of space late and very early in the year, we may know a deeper presence in the very absence of life. Usually, when we visit a place, we're only conscious of it in the context of the very thin strip of present time. But history is not just "past." Remains are in fact existential, and the present and future cannot, in fact, exist without the past. Past, present, future are what time is.
 Wick House. Here the Wick's lived...not really so long ago.
 Lots of fallen, cut trees on the Grand Parade Trail
 Kids are just as eager to meet new dogs, as dogs are.

 Approaching the Soldier's Huts from above. The four huts, of course, are model renditions. Since enough men camped here in the Hollow to fill a 400 by 300 yard space during the daily Grand Parade--a formality that kept organization intact--I wonder how many dozens of huts existed. 600 acres of forests were cut down entirely to build the huts and make firewood. 

Hut rendition interior.

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