Or, I could have entitled this post something else.
Like Lookout here we come!
When I was a teenager, my best girlfriend’s parents were building a house in Pennsylvania. Northeast PA, to be correct. Damascus Township, to be specific. Abrahamsville to be laser-focused.
There were times I would go up with them for the weekend. It was about a 3-hour trek by car; we didn’t travel on any interstates or super highways. What I’m attempting to do here is to recreate that ride from where we started to where we ended up.
Why does this matter?
No particular reason, but I have had this tidbit in my brain for EVER so long, and just wanted to see it on paper. Because they were good days, and good times. Never to be forgotten.
We lived in Cranford NJ, a small community just west of the Elizabeth area. So we started our journey on Springfield Avenue in Cranford. Marlene’s father was usually the driver and he headed west on Springfield Ave. heading towards Westfield. There were Marlene and I, her sister Denise and her parents. We would pass by Geiger’s Restaurant, which is named something else these days, but back in the late ’60s it was a VERY popular place to go.
We would drive over Route 22 and would continue along until we came to Morris Ave. Making a left, we drove through Millburn and when we came to the area where the Short Hills Mall is now, we took Rt. 124.
People have crazy ideas about New Jersey.
They think it all looks like Exit 13 off the Turnpike. All industrial, and factory-ish. NOTHING could be further from the truth. Most of the state is one town after another, some small, some larger than others, some big enough to be cities.
Once we got onto Rt. 124, it was one of the prettiest stretches of the drive. This is Chatham NJ; money. Big houses set far back from the road, almost palatial-looking in their size and scope. Surrounded by large trees, iron gates and stone fences, some of these homes were the ones you dream about owning when you grow up.I never saw anyone walking there; only large windows with open curtains; a testament to someone living there, but unseen to us.
As we drove along we eventually came through Madison, driving past Drew University, the College of St. Elizabeth at Convent Station and Fairleigh Dickinson University. They are ALL located along this one stretch of road.
I remember driving into Morristown, which was a busy, bustling town even way back then. Lots of downtown streets and shops, cars parked all over the place, and a little small-town craziness to go along with our ride. We picked up Rt. 202 from here and headed north.
Then, we had to look for Tabor Road, which came along on the left. I remember one trip when Marlene’s mother drove us; (her father was in Indonesia on business for his company) and she missed the turn. Marlene alerted her mom and she quickly backed the Chevy up and turned left. Driving along Tabor Rd. we would always see a sign for Indian Lake. We would laugh about it because at the time “Indian Lake” was a big hit song on the radio. You remember the Cowsills?
From here I’m fairly certain we drove onto Morris Ave and wound our way northwest to Green Pond Road or Rt. 513 and drove here for miles and miles. No smokestacks or refineries here! Just trees, lakes, forests, and hills. Just towns like Hibernia, Camp Winnebago, (which I visited when I was really young), lots of ponds and reservoirs and lands set back as conservation areas.
Then, finally Route 23. A scenic back-woods you-can’t-believe-you’re-in-New-Jersey kind of road. This road just kept winding its way north and west. Nothing much to look at except for all of the woods and the occasional gas station. Quaint little cafes, ice cream stops, farm stands, roads which intersected and seemed to go off into nowhere.
This is the New Jersey that few people know of.
Where the woods seem to fade away into themselves, where there are no sounds except those of crickets and the wind whistling through the trees. Elevations are higher, slowly rising to over 800 feet above sea level, and quirky names like Papakating Creek and Lake Hopatcong can be found on the map.
Up through Hamburg, then into Sussex. Then into Wantage and High Point, NJ. Almost at the end of the state. Then Route 23 meandered into New York State at Port Jervis. I remember driving here where things got a little more city-fied, if there is such a word! We picked up Rt. 6 at this point, then drove through the Port all the way to its other side.
Once past the busy small streets of Port Jervis, we drove out onto Rt. 42 and then onto Rt. 97. We were still in New York State. By now, we had climbed to about 1000 feet above sea level, and it is one beautiful ride from here.
About four miles outside Port Jervis we would come to a place called Hawks Nest. This area is in the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, and is home to one of the twistiest roads you’ll ever find!
Don’t even attempt driving fast through here; you’ll either hit a massive stone outcropping or run the risk of toppling over the low stone wall which sits on the Delaware River side of things. Then, beyond Hawks Nest, you see signs for places like Sparrowbush and Pond Eddy. Then, Barryville and Narrowsburg.
Back in those days, I had NO idea that someday I wouldn’t live far from Barryville. There is a bridge there that takes you into Shohola, PA and if you follow Twin Lakes Rd, out to Route 6, a good 30-minute drive, I was ten minutes from there. 🙂
Speaking of bridges, we would pass a fair share of covered bridges back then. They hardly seem to exist anymore; so many have rotted away, others have been torn down to make way for a newer, more modern design.
Once we drove past Narrowsburg, we knew we were getting ever closer. Finally, we drove down into the little hamlet of Callicoon, NY. Back in the day, we always joked that if you blinked your eyes, you would miss it, it was THAT small!
A charming little place right on the Delaware, and I remember an A&P sitting near to a one-track railroad, a sweet shop with metal chair backs in the shape of hearts, and the Catholic Church which was then run by the Franciscans. It was called St. Joseph’s in those days, because we used to go to mass there. Outside was a small pond near the parking lot, and the Franciscans all wore long brown robes, heavy rope belts, sandals and had large wooden rosaries which looked as if they would make a lot of noise if they hit against anything solid. They also wore tonsures. (That’s where they shave the crown of their heads.)
It was in Callicoon that we would cross the bridge into Pennsylvania. Damascus, PA. A large township, and a very rural place. Driving along Callicoon Road, we drove a mile or so until we saw a rusted, metal sign on the side of the road that read simply “Abrahamsville”. Then, it was up Stone House Rd to Rock Run Rd. which back when I remember it, was nothing more than a gravel road in the woods.
A ways down the road on the left was the “cabin.” At the time it was nothing more than a 3-room house, but eventually it became a lovely Cape Cod home. I haven’t seen it since then, and don’t know how developed the area is now, but everywhere you looked were foothills and scenic vistas all around. Any time we went out to the front yard to get water out of the water pump, we could look across to an empty field;
Just around a bend in the gravel road was Marlene’s aunt and uncle. Their farmhouse was TINY by today’s standards, and they had an outhouse out back, a double. We only had a single at the cabin. And instead of veering left on the road, you went right, you came to Marlene’s paternal grandparents. Their house looked like something out of American Pickers, it was so stuffed with to the gills with possessions and old things they probably hadn’t used in years.
If you went out back and walked to where the woods began, there were little graves there; babies born way back when who didn’t live more than a day or two, or who may have been stillborn. You simply took them and buried them out back.
A beautiful area of Pennsylvania.
Simple farmsteads, little hamlets, hills over yonder, and green pastures for as far as the eye can see. Hilly, rural, pleasing in every way.
And that name “Lookout” I mentioned at the beginning of this post? Well, it’s a REAL place and there are REAL signs pointing the way to it! Not far from Galilee. Yes, Galilee. In fact, when we lived in Pike County PA we were not very far away from Lord’s Valley, another real town in rural Pennsylvania.
Isn’t that a scream!
You find it
On The Road to Damascus!
I simply had to write this. Just a story about traveling thru life. Do YOU have a favorite ride? It’s just another way to