The Highlands have the greatest concentration of glacial lakes on the Eastern Seaboard and are part of some of the oldest geologic strata in North America. The large contiguous forest with important migration corridors to which they belong extends southwest into Pennsylvania and northeast into New York and Connecticut. Isolated animal populations would inevitably lead to a weak gene pool. Yet it's so close to so many people. People who love homes with a view. Put a price on that. People need water. So many people need so much water. Put a price on that. And a water supply needs a watershed. New highways reduce distances and increasing prices nearer the city exert ever more pressure. We're running out of land, but can we afford to run out of water? By necessity, the recently passed Highlands Act attempts to address the problem. A council has been meeting and will soon issue a report that in its way will divvy up a huge area. What can be done where. Shall we say that plan is dreadfully anticipated? But then what are the alternatives?
Lake Hopatcong has three exits off I80 about two thirds of the way between New York City and the Delaware Water Gap. With the help of a small dam built to regulate a water supply for the now defunct Morris Canal in the 1830's, it is the largest in the state. Coming off the highway the first thing you see is an unused railroad station building, then the former steamship landing. This is Landing. The elevation is over 900 feet. Before roads encircled the lake, passengers would disembark the train to cross a footbridge over the tracks where boats would scatter their fare among more than forty hotels around the lake. Babe Ruth among them. Grand hotels. They're all gone now, traveling up the lake's west shore you may find a few remnants, their great lawns and golf courses now full of summer camps turned permanent residence. Some fine old homes and hundreds of grandfathered boathouses line the steep sided shore. A local curiosity is how you may have fifty steps leading down from the driveway to your house. First came the steamers, then the roads.
Cross River Styx, and by one of my favorite left and a right and then a right and a left routes I'll pass Bear Pond, once remote and favoured for picnics, a hairpin and a left and a right past Lake Lackawanna, right, and small Wolf Lake, then through Andover Furnace. Quality steel for the Revolution. White's Pond is usually full of birds in Kittatinny Valley State Park.
On to Lake Mohawk, the similarity of cottage design in the houses on the lake betray their early development as a summer retreat from the heat of eastern cities. By the dam at the end of the lake, the club and a small commercial district have the air of some fictional movie.
Then there's this street sign I'd always passed by, the name though seemed oddly out of place. Take a left on Edison St. and climb Sparta Mountain, first through a new housing development, large lots, all different but for the prominence of their front-facing "great rooms", and then into the woods. Finally it levels out, a puddled pullover on the right. There's a small monument, T.A.E.'s visage in bronze upon it. Footpaths lead through a maze of old industrial ruins, big rusted cog wheels of an iron age, and fenced deep pits. Other trails trek off into the mountain's wildlife management area. This was Edison, a town of more than 300 and the site of his pulverizing mines. An innovation. This venture failed, and he tried many, but Edison is still on the map.
I'm only scratching the surface here. There's days of trails to hike, mountains to climb, lakes to canoe, old railroad rights of way to bike ride, many places I've yet to visit in the Highlands. I've yet to spot a bobcat. Or icefish. On my way back to Hopatcong I pass through Mahlon-Dickerson, Morris County's largest park. The roadbeds of more old mining railroads are easy to spot. They lead down to the lake. At Great Cove, oreboats were filled, they'd pass through a lock by the dam, a feeder to the Morris Canal and on...to...
Yes, this is New Jersey. Too.

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