10 Cool Things To See On New Jersey Trails With Your Dog

"If your dog is fat," the old saying goes, "you are not getting enough exercise." But walking the dog need not be just about a little exercise. Here are 10 cool things you can see in New Jersey while out walking the dog.

GLACIAL ERRATICS

Pyramid Mountain is best known for its glacial erratics – boulders that were sprinkled across the landscape by retreating ice sheets from the last Ice Age. The most famous is Tripod Rock, a boulder various estimated at between 150 and 200 tons, that is suspended heroically off the ground by three smaller stones. Nearby notable neighbors include two massive monoliths: Whale Head Rock and Bear Rock, that with a little imagination does not resemble a recumbent bear. A short detour from the summit of the Tourne leads to a gravity defying glacial erratic called Nouse Cradle Balancing Rock. Clarence DeCamp named it in 1897 when he discovered a mouse nest in a nook in the rock. The 54-ton boulder is balanced on two points of a ledge rock and a hidden wedge stone.

PREHISTORIC BONES

At the Ghost Lake parking lot on Shades of Death Road in Jenny Jump Forest you can take your dog along a short, rocky trail along the lakeshore to a steep rocky slope. Here you will find a cave known as Faery Hole. The cave room has a flat floor and enough headroom for a Great Dane to stand on two legs. The opening was excavated in the 1930s by state archaeologist Dorothy Cross who recovered thousands of mammal bones, including the tooth of a long-extinct giant beaver. In Haddonfield, in the north end of the borough, is the heavily wooded Pennypacker Park where dinosaur bones were discovered in 1838 in a steep ravine carved by the Cooper River. When a full excavation was initiated by William Parker Foulke in 1858 nearly 50 bones of a plant-eating, duck-billed dinosaur were discovered. Haddonfield was suddenly famous as the site of the most complete dinosaur skeleton ever found. A small memorial marks the spot where Hadrosaurus Foulkii was unearthed at the end of Maple Street.

CAPE MAY DIAMONDS

The beach next door to Higbee Beach WMA is the similarly dog-friendly Sunset Beach, famous for its Cape May Diamonds. The "diamonds" are actually pieces of quartz crystals that have been eroded from the Upper Delaware River and been polished by a 200-mile journey of churning and jostling that can last a millennium or two. The stones, that can be cut and faceted to do a passable imitation of a diamond, are found in abundance here because the tidal flow bounces off a unique concrete ship that rests offshore. The Atlantus was built to transport soldiers during steel-short World War I. The reinforced-concrete ship worked but the recovery of post-war steel supplies made her obsolete and the Atlantus was being towed to Cape May to serve as a ferry slip when an accident dumped her on a sand bar where she remains today.

REVOLUTIONARY WAR RELICS

The trails at Morristown National Historic Park lead directly into reconstructed Revolutionary-era huts that you can explore with your dog. How many dogs do you reckon got the luxury of staying inside these huts in 1777 when more than a dozen soldiers huddled inside?

LOST UTOPIAN COMMUNITIES

In 1845, Daniel Felt founded Feltville as a small company village for workers of his specialty paper business, Stationer's Hall. Felt's "marbleized" paper was often used for book end covers. He created his town in the Utopian image of social reform that was popular in America in the mid-19th century. He constructed the buildings in a trendy Greek Revival-style. In 1882 Feltville became a middle class resort called Glenside, and the cottages were remodeled like rustic Adirondack cabins. By 1916 the resort was in decline as automobiles carried city vacationers well beyond the Watchung Mountains. The "Deserted Village" stands today and will be encountered on the Sierra Trail in Watchung Reservation.

UNIQUE MEMORIALS

Emilio Carranza Rodriguez was nephew to the founder of the Mexican Air Force, a war hero and his country's greatest aviator. He befriended Charles Lindbergh after the American completed the first solo flight across the Atlantic and then made the second longest non-stop flight from Washington DC to Mexico City. Plans were hatched in 1928 for a Mexican capital-to-capital flight. Carranza, then just 22 years old, was selected to make the attempt, carrying the pride of an entire nation in his plane, "The Excelsior." Haunted by bad weather Carranza was forced to navigate by dead reckoning and came down in an emergency landing in North Carolina. He continued on to Washington and New York City, where he was feted as a hero for accomplishing the longest flight ever made by a Mexican aviator. Preparations for a return flight to Mexico City were continuously delayed until Carranza could wait no longer. On the evening of July 12 he took off in an electrical storm and was never seen alive again. The next day his body was found near the wreckage of his plane, "The Excelsior," in the Pine Barrens where he crashed. Mexican schools collected pennies to pay for the stone monument on the Batona Trail that marks the location of his death. Post 11 of the American Legion from Mount Holly, whose members participated in the recovery of the body, still held a memorial service every year on the second Saturday of July at 1:00 pm to honor the memory of Captain Emilio Carranza.

CARNIVEROUS PLANTS

The prime attraction of the interior Cedar Trail Loop in Shark River Park is an Atlantic White Cedar bog where you can chance to see a carnivorous pitcher plant. The nutrient-challenged bog does not provide enough sustenance for these ewer-shaped plants so they must lure insects into a deadly trap for consumption by a cocktail of digestive fluids in the pitcher. Tiny hairs pointing down prevent the trapped insects from crawling out to freedom.

CRANBERRY BOGS

The cranberry is a native American fruit that was harvested naturally in the Pine Barrens for centuries. Commercial production began around 1835 in New Jersey and today only Massachusetts and Michigan grow more cranberries, named because its flower resembles a neck neck. The restored cranberry sorting and packing house at Double Trouble Park is the finest of its kind from the 19th century. The bogs are still producing and if you come in the fall you can see thousands of the buoyant berries bobbing on the surface; at other times of the year you will have to make do with looking at a few harvest escapees washing against the shoreline.

CLASSIC DUTCH ARCHITECTURE

Holmdel Park is an excellent place to study Dutch architecture from the earliest days of European settlement in central New Jersey. At Longstreet Farm is the oldest Dutch barn in Monmouth County. Dating to 1792, the barn is immediately recognized as Dutch by the high wagon doors placed in each end of the gables that slope near the ground. Surrounded by the park, but not in it, the Holmes-Hendrickson House is snuggled in a grove of trees. The red frame house was built in 1754 by william Holmes, who ignored the trendy trend of symmetrical Georgian house-building in favor of his traditional Dutch design.

OLD MINES

The landscape has been churned up form the mining operations at Mount Hope Historical Park bringing the minerals from the earth and leaving them on the surface. You can still find pieces of magnetite iron ore on the trails; look for small black stones with angular shapes that feel heavier than normal rocks.