Monday, April 25, 2016

Marble Mountain Ice Cave by way of Ken Lockwood Gorge

The Marble Mountain Ice Cave occupied my mind since this time last year, and I planed on hiking with my wife two weeks ago, diverted by necessities otherwise. The weather then cold and windy anyway, yesterday turned out to be a much better day. While walking our black Lab Sadie during a recent night, I realized we could take a roundabout way towards the Phillipsburg area by CR 512 from Bedminster, through Califon, and to the Ken Lockwood Gorge, thus giving me the opportunity to take some needed river photos with spring growth fairly minimal as yet, and also to show my wife where I want to teach her some fly fishing.

I thought we would just hang out near the trailhead accessible by Hoffman's Crossing Road, but once Patricia saw the opportunity, she wanted to walk back in, so we walked at least a half mile here altogether. Just a few of the photos I shot I've posted.

We accessed Interstate 78 by State Highway 31 and eventually rode onto CR 621, exiting U.S. 22 in Phillipsburg, the trail access parking coming into view quickly after about a mile. Marble Mountain in Warren County is a ridge flanking the Delaware River, the likes of which characterize the terrain all the way down to Lambertville and below. The trail gradient is pretty modest, but after hiking about a mile when we met with the orange trail to take us aside to the Ice Cave, we had ascended at least 300 vertical feet.

The Ice Cave is no natural cave, but the abandoned Fulmer Mine, active during the 19th century when tons of rich iron ore extracted remains something of a mystery, since no paper trail left behind for future historians tracks where it went to market. The New Jersey Highlands pocked here and there by such mines, most of the forest vanished into smelting furnaces, a massive project overall which included some copper and graphite mining among other minerals as well. How they hauled rock down off such ridges and mountains, I wonder.

Rather than turn around after our hike, I drove northward on CR 621 following railroad tracks and the river to the first right turn, a distance of five miles, perhaps. Eventually, we connected with CR 519, a road familiar to me. No GPS in my car, I hope this device never comes standard with any vehicle we buy. I like to use my sense of direction, not relying on maps, either. The county road I first became familiar with during the 1970's as a conduit between Hunterdon County's Locatong and Wickecheoke creeks, where we trout fished, 519 would have taken us back into Alpha next to Phillipsburg, so I turned left onto State Highway 57 and soon made a right onto CR 625, which took us through Stewartsville.

We enjoyed a nice view of Pohatcong Creek before getting onto Interstate 78.

The Ice Cave has snazzy information, set in front of a big fire pit.

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