NJ/PA: Pokin’ Into The Poconos

East Coast driving is stressful: bad roads, low bridges, insane drivers, toll booths, and more. The further we can stay away from adding packed traffic to our travels, the better to avoid this nonsense. 129 minutes to go 2.8 miles. WHAT?!

Thus, leaving Delaware and heading to Connecticut, we took an extremely wide berth around the major metro areas of Philadelphia and New York City, landing us in New Jersey. Not the Jersey Shore kind of Jersey, the trees-and-mountains kind of Jersey, AKA The Poconos.

“The Poconos” is one of those locations that has always seemed a little hazy, unclear as to its exact location and makeup. (See also: “The Ozarks.” Or, “The Sierras.”) Other than being a place where Bravo’s Real Housewives of New York go to their fourth homes in order to host a tiger-themed pajama party, The Poconos was a bit nebulous to us.

Turns out the Poconos, or Pocono Mountains, are a range in northeastern Pennsylvania. More specifically to us on this trip, the eastern edge of the Poconos is the “Delaware Water Gap,” with Penn on one side and New Jersey on the other side of the Delaware River, the longest free-flowing river east of the Mississippi. The 1,000-foot deep Gap has been carving a slice through these mountains for over 500 million years.

The National Park Service-managed site (our 79th! but who’s counting! we are! we love NPS sites!) is a 70,000-acre park that includes river recreation and 40 miles of scenery with waterfalls, hiking trails, and historical sites.

We were only here for a couple days, and 3 out of 4 in our group had been quite sick for days, so we didn’t have time to do a lot, but we did manage the signature hike in the Gap: Mount Tammany Trail.

A very steep, very rocky, hard 3.5-mile hike, you are eventually rewarded with views atop the 1,526′-tall peak. A portion of this trail also include the Appalachian Trail, so we are now up to an astonishing 12 miles of the total 2,190. Only 2,178 to go!

Surprise! Did you know New Jersey boasts the highest density of wildlife species per square mile of any state? As in, more than 325 birds, 90 mammals, 79 reptiles and amphibians, and 400+ species of fish. On this hike, people coming down had seen a mama bear with two cubs, but we didn’t glimpse them. Guess we’ll have to be satisfied with seeing a different species of New Jersey wildlife, whatever this thing is.

When we return to Delaware Water Gap, we’ll be sure to grab some of the other notables: Mount Minsi, Buttermilk Falls, and others in the Worthington State Forest. Having just a tiny bit of energy left, we instead did a 1-mile loop around an unusual park on the Pennsylvania side.

Friends and blog readers know we are suckers for weird places; that’s why I regularly receive emails entitled “I Thought Of You!” with links to places like The Poopzeum, “the world’s largest museum of fossilized poop” (thanks, Sigrid!). This particular weird place was billed as the “Stonehenge of Pennysylvania,” which let me tell you, is quite a stretch. (The BEST Stonehenge replica? Carhenge in Nebraska.)

Thor’s Gate

The “Celtic-inspired land of myth and mystery” is supposed to be a sacred place for reflection and renewal. But mostly it’s just a cute park with some cool rock structures.

Being a “megalith” park, it boasted 90+ big rocks scattered throughout, ok, eh, meh. But the uncut stone structures, now THOSE were cool, and worth the price of admission (free).

We expected more from a place with labels like Sacred Women’s Site, Faerie Ring, The Lands of the Water Lords, The Glen of the Temple, Ye Olde Stone Wall Path. But still, another memorable, weird place to add to the annals of Charming Adventures misadventures.

For sure there are lots of other must-see, possibly weird places in New Jersey, including Cape May, The Thomas Edison National Historic Park, and The Palace of Depression, a building made of junk in Vineland, New Jersey, by an eccentric former Alaska gold miner who lost his fortune in the 1929 stock market crash. Those will have to wait for another future visit. For now, we’re headed for the shores of Mystic, Connecticut, in search of Julia Roberts’ mythical Mystic Pizza!


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