Railroad Suburbs
Madison has a lovely train station with classic stone architecture. A short ride will whisk you into Manhattan, though it's mid-morning now so pretty quiet. Storefronts of shops and restaurants fill a variety of buildings on the main street nearby and the sidewalks are busy. Same in nearby Chatham. But if you take my route, you'll drop on further down the ridge into some deep bottomlands. This is the Great Swamp, it's fortunate, you can find a heron rookery where an airport runway would have been. The last remnant of glacial Lake Passaic is now surrounded by suburbs. Pass through the swamp, then it's a long climb out the west side, the buildings, mostly residential, a white church at a small center, are much more spread out. This road will take you to Jockey Hollow.
Tall tulip poplar dominate these woods, with the rest of the trees closely spaced and of uniform age. Beneath a thick canopy you can easily spot stone walls rolling across the hills. Years ago these were fields. The small colonial red Wick farmhouse sits pleasantly among some fruit trees, it was here when George Washington's army twice filled the hillsides for a bitter winter encampment. George slept in town at the Ford mansion. The parade ground here is all wooded now where a plaque says troops received their morning orders, and deserters were shot. Tough times. At dusk, the deer are small, too many, the pickings are slim. Deer thrive on the woods' fringes, their ticks a menace for Lyme disease, and we're making more fringes.
In the hills, mixed along winding roads, woodlands, occasional fields, maybe a rugged stone dam, you'll find some fine old homes out here. Mansions even. Fine new homes too. I think the latest statistics rank Morris County as fifth in the nation for income, so it looks it. Suburb with the feel of some pleasant country. The original gentry. Summer cities were particularly unhealthful. Now some friendly country too.
Far Hills sits near the end of the line, the station antique with a comfortable cafe for java. Right across the street the large open fields of Moorland Farms will fill with tens of thousands each fall for The Race Meeting, a benefit for charity. Steeplechase. International field. Society. Fancy tailgating around the track. A major event, but for me as enjoyable is a more local fox trial. Fewer spectators, no fox, but hounds and rustic fences to jump on the open hills. Serious for the enthusiasts, a young woman is thrown when her horse balks at a gate, but it's easier to see the joy too, and mingle. The rider's ok.
Go out through the countryside, soon off state highways, and the county roads, onto small dirt ones around the sometimes old estates. Beyond the tall white fences it's just all so lush with pastures. Long and open. Seems ideal. June is beautiful. A Green Acres sign by a farm signals the future protection of that view. Development rights are publicly purchased and the program so successful that in Chester they're down probably to the last property. A horse farm will qualify as agricultural.
Towns here center again around their small churches and general stores, but jodphurs mix in the lunch line. Nary a quikmart. Antiques here and there too where a particular building provides the opportunity, or maybe an art gallery. And yes, lots of No Trespassing signs, but easy to respect. There are plenty of places to take a walk, along the Black River, by a restored mill, through a deep ravine tucked into the hillside.
And especially there are gardens, the legacy of an earlier day of high horticultural devotion. Greenhouses. Rock gardens. A hundred year old dawn redwood tree. Grounds like these receive a loving care with the help of a foundation or the state. Talk with the gardeners whose inner smiles seem to radiate the fortune of their avocation.

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