Friday, April 18, 2014

Six Mile Run

Per the norm in the group dynamic, and seeking a break in the slowly dying months of winter, we were desperate to get out, simply put. The months not inundated by inches and feet of snow or other bouts of nonsensical precipitation and natural detritus native to New Jersey were typically prime for sating our wanderlust. My friends had plans to get out and, having not known that I was not scheduled to work, quickly invited me for the ride to a location, once again, hidden right before us.

Six Mile Run is a small portion of New Jersey, essentially a town (at least to the Census' standards) - if you are looking for it on a map, look for Franklin. You know me, my definition of "place" is typically tied to landmarks and personal stories (i.e. useless for public designation) so finding this place blind was an adventure. I was accompanied by Vinnie and Ivy and much to our dismay, Vin let us know that our missing traveling companion, Lexie, was usually the navigator to this open space. After stopping at a WaWa for a bathroom break, we tracked a parking spot (roughly) using our smartphones and were only ten minutes up the road. How are we so continuously lucky?

We found a roadside parking lot, not paved and essentially a patch of barren grass, appealing to our memories of Watchung and Baldpate. Almost immediately to our right was a small abandoned farm property. Promising not to spoil ourselves too early, we decided that we were to take a few trails before peering into the man-made structures. Vin promised us an abandoned mill property and a river view. He was not dishonest, but choosing the "red" trail, we ultimately wound up with a different fate.

If you have hours to spend hiking the various trails, there is a lot that Six Mile Run has to offer. In our visit, however, we chose the more-contained trails, which were equally beautiful and worthwhile. The trail immediately off of the parking area seems to encircle a growth of pine trees, which is beautiful, but dense. There exists a panoply of forks and trails branching off of this circle, every hundred or so feet. We were amused by Vin's lack of ample memory on these trails, because, simply, of how many there were. The trails we chose were incredible -- and if you asked us to retrace our steps, our eyes would probably glaze over.

You can find yourself in a dense forest of thin, eerie pines. Months ago, Vin sent me a video on my phone that showed tall, thin trees shaking and creating a horrific sound in the breeze -- we revisited this site. Per our typical exploration in our beloved home-state, we had countless times before witnessed both euphoric nature and the gut-pulling tinge of uncanny, side-by-side. Avoiding a young family of mountain bikers, we found an odd dump of items, mostly pertaining to automobiles and appliances. Tiptoeing over a motor-cage and a sheet of metal, Ivy was quickly stricken with an artistic vision of watching the broken television, a la Alan Wake or Twilight Zone and I was quick to oblige for snapping a few pictures. If only we were so artistic for the Monolith...

We were on the threshold of a large field that wound to the top of our periphery and horizon. It seemed as if it would go on for miles in every direction, golden wisps of growth reaching for the ends of the earth, a pinnacle of nature in this crushing grip of a state. Vin promised that he believed there to be a main road just over the hill, but I was too excited. I wanted to see unyielding fields... and we started running for the summit. We were (horrendously) disappointed by the site of a farm property and a road about a half a mile away, but the area was perfect. (We laughed to ourselves that the Lord of the Rings theme started playing as we climbed the great hill.) I would be lying, though, if I did not say that sitting on the top of the hill brought about this surreal sense of sublimity that I had been missing for months, or even years. As would be told in subsequent text messages, it had been too long for both Vin and I to engage in these adventures and day trips. Almost falling asleep in a vast and open field with my friends was something that was remiss from my life, especially after the unending winter that holds far too much purchase in my mind.

Regardless, we made our way back through the small dumping area (there were plenty of tires that had to have been dumped within the last few weeks) and back through the trails. We were tired, sweaty, and certainly dehydrated, but it was beautiful for the first time in months and we were enjoying ourselves. We found a small Hobbit bridge and Ivy took her shoes off to the enjoy the creek. It was a lovely area, but the gnats were in droves, and we did not spend too much time in that nook.

Bearing in mind our exhaustion, we returned to the car, and I suggested that we spend some time in the abandoned lot, because that was the height of our interest upon our arrival. We, yet again, abandoned the car and walked towards the property. Now, it was certainly a hidden gem.

It was almost as if it were a conglomerate of all of the "localized" lore we have found over the years. It was essentially an abridged version of the properties we found at Watchung, Baldpate, the Old Shipping Depot, and the Farmstead, but vastly exaggerated and all within the same two-hundred or so square feet. There were silos and greenhouses, all in varying stages of decay, along with wash-houses that were horrific with their accessories of forgotten women's shoes and archaic glass jars of sanitizing scrubs. A large, rusted weather vane stood prominently as the center of the property, and Ivy took no hesitation in scouting the locations (much to the chagrin of Vin, who desperately needed a bathroom). I kicked the long skeletal remnants of a snaking light socket and realized that we were in the rubble of a building standing long ago before we decided to circle back and around and enter the foremost house on the lot.

From the outside, it did not seem like much of a find: just your typical abandoned farmhouse. Take my word, however, when I say that this building was as much of a find, if not more, than our beloved Baldpate. The houses at Baldpate were special because of the nature of our findings there (of ignorance, mystery, and surprise) -- the house at this location at Six Mile Rune was an incredible building, of architecture and history.

The outside vastly undermines the integrity of the structure. It is surprisingly large on the inside and holds many hidden features, such as built-in cabinets and closets, and rises three stories high. A callback to our dear Uncle Pete's House of Leaves, the attic is accessible and surprisingly clear. The lack of influence of nature and reclamation lead me to believe that although the Six Mile Run properties claim ownership of 18th century structures, that this property itself was abandoned within the last forty years. If not complete ownership within that period, then the buildings were at least updated to that era before being claimed by the state park. If and when any new information comes my way, I will be sure to update this piece.

I shall let the pictures speak for themselves. For any future visitor, I would only cite caution towards any insect allergies, as we were there in early April and the large wasps were in great numbers, and I can only imagine what it would be like during the peak summer months.

Vin told us that the sites only get more incredible the further you go into the park, and perhaps we may dedicate a full day to the reservation at Six Mile Run. For now, these are the records of our trip, and I would still recommend the visit to anyone within driving distance. (Note: it warms my heart that this is technically a part of the Delware & Raritan Canal, a park system which has brought us so much activity and days out.)

Further reading:
Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park
Six Mile Rune Reservation - Wikipedia