Monday, March 28, 2011

Gneiss try: exploring New Jersey's Stonehenge, Tripod Rock on Pyramid Mountain

You could say that this week's adventure was our rock tour, as we directed our attention away from the birds to check out some freakishly big stones, right in Morris County.

Say "Pyramid Mountain" to folks in the know, and it's inevitable that Tripod Rock will come up. True to its name, this enormous boulder is perched on three much smaller rocks near the top of the mountain. Science tells us that the Wisconsin Glacier brought it to the mountain about 18,000 years ago, and that's just how it was left. It's possible that originally there was sand and other debris under the rock, and it eroded or blew away, leaving only the stones holding it up now.

Pyramid was still wearing healthy bits of snow from the inch or few that fell a few days earlier, so we ran into that and a bit of mud along our hike. That, however, was just one thing to consider when choosing where to put your feet on the trail.

Getting to Tripod, you get a full appreciation of just how much rock that glacier pulled in its path. After a leisurely walk on a fairly even dirt path, you run into a series of scrambles across and between stones of many sizes. I was beginning to regret having brought the binoculars, as I was having visions of them scraping against the rocks as the incline steepened. About two-thirds of the way up, you're finding footholds wherever you can, and perhaps even using nearby saplings as impromptu walking canes as your feet gain purchase on the next step up. In other words, it's a good workout. All told, you're about 800 feet above sea level by the time you get there, having parked the car at about 600.

The Rock is everything they say it
Tripod Rock. To give you some scale,
that's Ivan off to the side, a few feet behind. 
is: really big, and mysterious in its own way.  It and its cousins are known as glacial erratics, and even though the geologic explanation is totally plausible, it's fun to consider other ways that huge boulder may have been deposited on its tripod. Maybe it was aliens? Maybe the natives were freakishly strong? Maybe a Monty Pythonish god-hand descended from the sky to pluck it up like a pebble and set it down again? Just as interesting, there are two much smaller rocks perched similarly just a few yards away. They're arranged in such a way that on the summer solstice, the setting sun's rays shine directly between them onto another rock directly opposite and several feet away. Depending on who you listen to, this is either a natural occurrence and a spiritual energy vortex, or created by the native Lenape tribe as a way to mark the start of summer.

Sure, Tripod offers a nice vista to view the surrounding area, but it's also a great place to get silly pictures, too. I kinda thought that it looked like a big dinosaur head as we approached, as you might be able to see in the first picture. And for those with a bit of hammishness, there's always the chance to show off the results of all those hours at the gym, or even to take on the weight of the world, if you so desire.

Once I'd had a chance to catch my breath and get some of the cosmic waves, we hiked further along the Blue trail to a huge rock formation called Lucy's Overlook, named for the woman who led the effort to save the mountain from developers. Save for the right-of-way for a 500kv electric transmission line and the towers that hold it, the landscape looked blissfully undeveloped. It's definitely a good place to sit a spell and contemplate life and the universe without interruption.

Moving on from the overlook, we took a rocky scramble to a lower elevation and started running into muddy surface again (I'm going to be so thrilled when I run into a dry track!). A few narrow board walks crossed small streams and rivulets, and soon enough, we found the next mega-stone, Bear Rock. True to its name, it's a bare rock. Standing out on its own in a clearing in the forest, it's hard to miss. A smaller yet still sizeable stone rests behind it, perhaps having split off from Bear at some point in the past 10,000 years or so. The smaller one is climbable, giving you another perspective on just how big this thing is.

Farther along the path, there are remnants of a very old house foundation. Whoever built it made ample use of the local rocks, including a large but not enormous boulder. If you look closely enough in several areas of the park, you'll see old stone walls that may have been erected as long ago as the Dutch habitation of New Jersey. Soon enough, we were taking the stepping-stone path across a stream and walking in a clearing along the transmission right of way, gaining and losing elevation in the process.

Once back to the parking lot, we found the visitors center was open for visitation. It's a nice little place to get warm and find out about the flora, fauna and geology of the property, including the sandstone and quartz conglomerate or puddingstone unique to the area. "Gneiss rock," Ivan pointed out, gesturing to a sample stone the same color and texture as Tripod Rock.

Gneiss, indeed.

1 comment:

    (Morris County, New Jersey, c.1900 BC)

    Dr. R.M. de Jonge ©,

    The Tripod Rock site at Montville Township, New Jersey, consists of a man-made dolmen with a huge capstone, two big Marker Stones indicating Sunset at midsummer day, and a menhir (upright stone). It clearly is a site constructed by the megalith buil-ders of Europe when America was a colony of Egypt (2500-1200 BC). The monu-ment tells the story of the Egyptian discovery of America during the Fourth and Fifth Dynasties of the Old Kingdom. The site is dated to the Twelfth Dynasty, c.1900 BC.

    De Jonge, R.M., Website:


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