A Few Northeastern NPS Sites

This spring, we were able to take a week off together and do a little East Coast traveling in our quest to visit every National Park Site.  We had spent a weekend up in Connecticut with family, so we drove from Connecticut to North Carolina, stopping at eleven National Park Sites!  I’ve broken up our trip into three different areas, so there will be three separate blogs.

Gateway National Recreation Area

The first location we visited was Gateway National Recreation Area.  Unfortunately, the visitor center at the Staten Island location was closed, but we were still able to wander around and look at Fort Wadsworth, which contains Battery Weed and Fort Tompkins.  There is a great view over the Narrows towards Manhattan – we could even see the Statue of Liberty off in the distance.

That evening we dined at arguably the best vegan Chinese restaurant – Veggie Heaven in Teaneck, New Jersey.  At the end of our meal, which was fantastic, we had a slice of cheesecake – so amazingly creamy it was hard to believe it was vegan.

Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park

The next day we set out early in order to see three National Park Sites – all in New Jersey.  The first was a new site, Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, which was established as a park site on November 11, 2011.  Some of you may recognize the falls from the TV show The Sopranos.  Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park is relatively small in size, but since it is a new park, hopefully they will be fixing up the parkland around the actual falls and restoring some of the area so that visitors can better enjoy the amenities.  The falls themselves are impressive, and we were able to walk across a footbridge over them.  Paterson Great Falls has been created to recognize the power of water in Paterson during the Industrial Revolution.  There is no visitor center yet, but we were able to visit the Paterson Museum.  There are some great exhibits there, including a locomotive built in Paterson and that was used to dig the Panama Canal.  I immensely enjoyed reading the story of how the mayor of Paterson “stole” this engine back from Panama years after the canal was completed.

Thomas Edison National Historical Site

Next we stopped at Thomas Edison National Historical Park. We both found much to admire as we traipsed around his former factories and laboratories in his West Orange compound.  We began our visit with a tour of the chemistry lab, which still holds many of the materials and chemicals that Edison was working with at the end of his life.  He had a large team of chemists, and believed in his employees working in teams to collaborate on projects – a process not too often used in his time.  We also were able to wander through his factory, where much of the original machinery and inventions are on display.  The music room, where he completed recordings of musicians, was very impressive, as was the massive collection of his inventions.  Edison’s personal library is also intact and wonderfully preserved.  We marveled at the volumes artfully displayed and at his desk, which is as it was left when he died.  We were also able to see the Black Maria, the moving building used to make motion pictures.  It is on wheels so that it can rotate on a track to catch the best sunlight during different parts of the day.  We were not able to tour Glenmont, his home, because we were there on a day the tours were not offered, so we’ll have to return.

Our last stop for the day was Morristown National Historical Park. We began by wandering around the visitor center.  This is where George Washington and his Continental Army spent the winter of 1779-1780.  Even though conditions were unbelievably horrific, most men remained with the army, training and readying themselves for the battle campaigns the following summer.  They managed to emerge stronger than before, because of Washington’s great leadership.  Though the men slept in cabins they built themselves, and subsisted on supplies that rarely made it to camp, Washington himself lived in the Ford Mansion for the winter – planning and readying troops.  We were able to tour the home.  Though most of it is recreated as it was when Washington occupied the house, there are still a few pieces of larger furniture that the park service knows were there when Washington was.  We also visited the Jockey Hollow area, and watched a great film on the history of the area.  NPS does a thorough and informative job with all the films in their visitors centers, and we always enjoy watching them for a concise view of the history of whichever area we are visiting.  There are tons of hiking trails in Jockey Hollow, and it would have been nice to have more time to wander around through the woods.

A very busy day!  One that ended with us feasting on vegan pizza at Via Roma – an Italian place that has a separate vegan menu. Such an exciting option for dinner after a long day of sightseeing!

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