Ken Lockwood Gorge & Lake Solitude, Highbridge NJ
How it All Began
It was a beautiful Sunday at the end of April and the year was 1999. I was hiking in the Gorge, the Ken Lockwood Gorge. I can't tell you much off memory from this day because I was still in my mama's tummy. As my mother was hiking she felt her water break and being the strong, relentless women she is, finished the hike with my older brother and then proceeded to go and find my dad, who was fishing in the river. As my time to shine grew closer, my dad drove faster and faster down the highway to the hospital. Within 2 minutes of arriving, I decided to meet the world. I am a woods baby. I knew I was somewhere great that day and just wanted to become one with the woods, but my mom said "No, you better wait. The woods is no place for a baby to be born."
The Ken Lockwood Gorge has a special place in my heart. It has spoken to me throughout my life in various ways. When I was just a little youngin the gorge provided me with space to explore. I had my first explorations there, it is where I learned how to pick berries and not get pricked by the scary thorns, which birds and bugs make what noises, what a river otter was and those big scary birds called cranes, how to tell the direction according to the sun, which side of a rock moss grows on, and most importantly how to fish. My father taught me how to fish at a young age. I caught on to spin rod fishing pretty easily but my dad taught me something more special at the gorge, an art. Fly fishing. Before he taught me I'd watch him cast his rod back and forth as the line would glide over the the water and through the air. As he and I patiently watched the fly go down the river waiting for a bite, the time came. A huge rainbow trout would rise and eat that pretty little fly with that nasty hook in it. That moment brought so much joy to me even though I wasn't the one who caught it. I observed how happy my father was as he landed the fish and scooped it up in the net. He'd often yell "Hey Han, get over here." I'd come running over and he'd let me touch the fish's slimy scales. I was overjoyed and aspired to be like him one day. The other things I mentioned earlier such as which birds made which noise etc. my mother and or grandmother had a greater role in teaching me those things. We'd go hiking in the woods as my dad fished, my grandma would mock the bird or insect noise and my mom would say, "Hanarae what bird is that?" I'd tell her and she'd be so proud or if I didn't know, I would learn something new that day. We would often pick up feathers in the woods and I'd take them home and put them in my jar and I'd be able to name all of the bird feathers as well.
All of the above was physical things I learned. The gorge taught me many values as well. Those woods have shown my true simplicity. The simplicity of happiness and simplicity of the little things. Little things like the way the sun rays shined through the vibrant bright green leaves chilling on the deep brown bark covered trees and as you followed that sunbeam down to the floor of the woods you'd find some dead things, like leaves, but amongst those, you'd see the life. The life in those little ants who were just looking for some food and the fuzzy bumble bees rolling in that sweet pollen and somehow managing not to sneeze. The simplicity of nature and life in the woods taught me to pause, step back and enjoy the little simple things in life. The gorge has also taught gratitude and appreciation. I am beyond grateful for my parents and bringing to the place that forever will be my beginning.
My connection with the Gorge is actually pretty supernatural. When I am there, whether I'm actively doing something or I am just sitting on a rock in the middle of the river, I feel such a deep peace. As I breathe in the damp cold air I hear it, "Rae. Everything is going to be ok. No matter where you go in life I will always be here waiting for you to come back." I often have reoccurring dreams that are placed there. Almost like the universe and my conscious knows that was my beginning and how strong my connection is with it.
So by now, you're probably like, "Alright Rae, tell us where this is already."
Lake Solitude Parking: 40°40'21.3"N 74°53'09.0"W
Ken Lockwood Gorge Parking: 40°41'17.5"N 74°52'48.3"W
All locations mapped are: LEGAL
Here is the low-down on the locations:
Lake Solitude: The lake offers many things to the adventurer. One would be the lake itself. It is a shallow little lake, but it is quite photogenic and also serves as a home for fish. Fishing isn't always great there but is best when fly fished. There is a dam that creates the lake and underneath it is a man made water fall. It is great to swim in or climb, on hot summer days.
Ken Lockwood Gorge/ River: The river runs next to the trail after the parking lot. The river is absolutely beautiful and photogenic. I actually enjoy walk down the middle and climbing rocks or just finding a good swimming hole.
Trestle Bridge: A 290 foot long, trestle bridge which crosses the Raritan River 80 feet above Ken Lockwood Gorge. From the center of the bridge, the views of the gorge and the river tumbling over the boulders and ledges below are outstanding. It is considered by many to be one of the most picturesque spots in the state. There was an unfortunate wreck that occurred on April 18, 1885 when Engine #112 pulling 45 cars plummeted off a 60' wooden trestle into the South Branch of the Raritan River. The wooden trestle was replaced by steel piers in 1930 and is now known as the Ken Lockwood Gorge Bridge. The last passenger excursion occurred in 1935 and the last freight train ran on April 1, 1976.
This place has granted many stops for me and my friends. Not only is it a good leg stretch spot on the way to the Ken Lockwood Gorge, but the view is surprising. All it is is a drive up a hill off of Route 78, but it opens up so much at the top. Sadly there is a fence there now that didn't used to be. The view is mostly mountains, but if you look off to the right you can see more into the valley that the highway runs through. This isn't a spectacular overlook, but better than you'd expect.
This place has granted many stops for me and my friends. Not only is it a good leg stretch spot on the way to the Ken Lockwood Gorge, but the view is surprising. All it is is a drive up a hill off of Route 78, but it opens up so much at the top…