All posts by darianworden

Under the Mountains

Vietnam’s Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is home to a number of impressive caves. I first heard about the place while reading a National Geographic article about Hang Son Doong, the largest cave ever discovered. While Hang Son Doong is still being explored by professional cavers and scientists, other caves in the area are open for tours.


The park’s namesake cave, Phong Nha, is a hole in the mountain along the river.


It is a big hole. Tour boats bring visitors a short distance into the cave.


It is also possible to kayak 1.5 km (about 9/10 mile) deep into the cave. Naturally, we opted for this route.


We paddled our two-person inflatable kayak past tour boats and the well-lit areas near the cave entrance. A park guide led the way while a tour company guide followed us. With the darkness surrounding everything outside our headlamps, it wasn’t easy to grasp that we were paddling through a mountain, surrounded on all sides by thick limestone.

Along the way we passed an artifact from the Cham civilization, a metal drum that had somehow been wedged into the cave wall.


At our turning back point, we got out of our boats and walked a short distance up through a chamber. Clambering over the steep rocks was made more challenging by the rubber sandals we had been issued for the trip – too short, too loose, and easy to slip out of.

Phong Nha is in the northern half of Vietnam, and the cave was used to shelter soldiers and supplies during the war against South Vietnam and the United States. There might have also been a hospital inside. It must have been pretty spooky to sit in a dark cave all day as explosions rumbled outside.


Once the American military found out about Phong Nha, it launched airstrikes against the cave. The attacks had little effect besides knocking some stalactites off of the entrance and leaving a number of shrapnel marks on the rocks outside.


Our trip through the cave was completed when we crossed from the staging area to the road on a small boat that leaned heavily to one side as the pilot bailed water out of it.

This area of Vietnam was an important link in the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a network of paths used to ferry supplies south to be used in the war against South Vietnam.

Vietnam had been partitioned in 1954 after the defeat of French efforts to re-establish the colony they lost during the Second World War. The partition was supposed to be temporary, but a strongly anti-communist government with American backing took control of the south, and the two sides soon headed for conflict. By 1959, increasing repression in South Vietnam and the subsequent rise in militancy among southern communists spurred the North Vietnamese government to action. Hoping to avoid open conflict with the United States, they began infiltrating military supplies along paths through the central highlands, often across the mountains of neighboring Laos. Southern communists who had moved north according to the 1954 agreement began to re-enter South Vietnam and lead communist insurgents.

The infiltration routes, which collectively became known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail, continued to be an important link in the communist military effort throughout the war with America (1964-1973). Rice paddies along the roads around the park still have holes from American bombs. There is also a monument to the trail’s role in the communist victory.


Transporting military supplies across rivers could be a delicate operation. We were told that trucks driving through the night would be concealed near the river before dawn. At night, supplies were brought across the river on pontoon bridges and ferry boats that were hidden in Phong Nha cave during the day. The Americans only figured this out after a night of dropping numerous flares over the area. Xuan Son, an important wartime crossing, is commemorated with a small monument by the road.


Phong Nha-Ke Bang contains a number of spectacular caves. Paradise Cave is well worth visiting. It might have impressed me even more than Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.

Our first few minutes in the cave had us walking through an area lit by electric lights. We were greeted by big caverns with impressive formations.


Soon it was time to turn on our headlamps as we headed off the walkway. We passed through huge rooms lit only by our headlamps. Much of the floor was covered in sand or clay. Apparently a large percentage of where we walked floods during the rainy season. Many of the areas remain wet and muddy throughout the year, so tourists are offered camouflage fatigues and canvas boots for the trip. After our experience with Vietnamese sandals we decided to stick with our own boots.

The flow of water and air created some formations that looked like the roots of plants.


Occasionally the floor looked like mud but was actually very smooth rock.


Some of the rock formations sparkle under light.


And what kind of adventure would it be without the occasional spider?


The whole trip was very exciting, but Paradise Cave really stands out for its huge room with a collapsed ceiling, about 3.5km from the main entrance. We arrived there around noon, when rays of sunlight shine down through the mountain.


Looking through the hole you can see the forest high above.


As a cloudy afternoon set in, we were put in a dim twilight. After a quick lunch and a dunk in a nice pool formed in the rocks, we headed back out of Paradise Cave.

We also took a short tour of Dark Cave, named its dark limestone. Like all caves, it is dark inside.


We swam through part of Dark Cave with lifevests on. We turned back where the rocks get really sharp, but experienced cavers with the right equipment could explore further. We did get to see a fossil in the cave wall.


If you’re up for some Vietnamese coffee or a relaxing cup of tea, the guy who found Hang Son Doong cave runs a cafe nearby.


Ho Khanh grew up in a village near the Phong Nha area. He helped sustain himself by hunting in the jungle after his father was killed in the war. On one of his days in the forest the young Ho Khanh found Hang Son Doong. He managed to find the entrance again in 2009 and guided a British caving team to their first expedition of the cave.

I was disappointed that Ho Khanh wasn’t around when we visited his cafe, but it was for a good reason. He was out on an expedition.

The rugged and heavily forested mountains of the region would definitely make it harder to find a cave entrance.


It is not easy to find maps of the area either. We were told that hiking without a guide is discouraged because there could still be unexploded ordinance in the jungle, and the narrow border region of the country has some military importance.


We heard a story of an old woman who still goes out into the jungle with a metal detector and her adult granddaughter to look for bombs. With a little knowledge the devices can be disarmed and their quality steel sold for scrap. This was apparently a big part of the region’s economy after it was devastated by the war.

But today Phong Nha-Ke Bang sits in a peaceful green countryside inviting visitors who are up for a little adventure.



Jenkins, Mark, Conquering an Infinite Cave, National Geographic, January 2011.

Moss, George Donelson. Vietnam, an American Ordeal, 3rd Ed. Prentice Hall, 1998. Establishment of Ho Chi Minh trail, 100-103. Routes through Laos, 240.

Phong Nha Farmstay

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, UNESCO

Revolutionary Adventures

Fort Lee and GWB

Independence Day is a good time to brush up on American history before heading to the grill and fireworks. But any weekend is a good time to get outside, and those of us on the east coast have a variety of opportunities for an American Revolution history adventure.

This July 4 will mark 237 years since the Declaration of Independence was issued as the basis for a new nation. America has faced many challenges since then, as the pursuit of liberty has been an ongoing project.

Walking around places where liberty was cried out by so many provides a chance to connect with the past and understand what it means today. Here’s a short list of places to give you some ideas. A few interesting sites can be combined with big hikes too. Keep in mind that there could be crowds or special events for the holiday.

Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia

This is where the big news happened in July of 1776. Today Independence National Historic Park contains a number of old buildings and exhibits including the original Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. It is a nice place to walk around.

Freedom Trail, Boston

Tensions between American colonists and the British government were rising for years before independence, and this was especially true in Boston. The city’s 2.5 mile Freedom Trail includes several sites that played a significant role in the Revolution.

Minute Man National Historic Park, Massachusetts

American rebels and British troops first fired on one another at Lexington, MA on April 19, 1775. After the skirmish, the British regulars continued to Concord to look for hidden weapons. A bigger fight took place at a bridge over the Concord River. As the British troops withdrew to Boston, they faced continuous harassment from colonial militia. The bridge over the Concord River has been replaced several times since the battle, but it still marks an important historic location within Minute Man National Historic Park.

Fort Lee Historic Park, New Jersey

Fort Lee was built in the summer of 1776 to obstruct the British navy from sailing up the Hudson (which was sometimes called the North River). It was abandoned in November as George Washington’s forces were chased out of New York and across New Jersey, during the times that try men’s souls when the prospect of victory for the Patriots looked dim.

Occupying a small wooded area on the Hudson Palisades just south of the George Washington Bridge, Fort Lee Historic Park is good for a stroll past fortifications, views of Manhattan, and signs that describe the traps patriots laid for British ships. There are a surprising number of deer for a place right across the river from Manhattan. If you are up for some serious trail time, the 356-mile Long Path officially starts in the park.

Washington Crossing State Park, New Jersey

One of the crucial early battles of the Revolution (and the subject of an epic, though not entirely accurate painting) was the Battle of Trenton in December 1776. Washington’s forces took boats across the partially frozen Delaware River on a stormy Christmas night to attack the garrison of Hessian soldiers at Trenton on the following morning. The decisive victory got Washington back into New Jersey and gave a major boost to the patriot cause. A number of trails and historic markers are available to the visitor in Washington Crossing State Park.

Bennington, Vermont

A trip to Bennington offers numerous hiking opportunities just outside of town, as well as a chance to see the tallest structure in Vermont, a 306 foot tower commemorating the Battle of Bennington. A little northwest of the town, New England troops commanded by Brigadier General John Stark turned back a force of British regulars in August 1777, leading up to the crucial Battle of Saratoga.

Saratoga, New York

Many places have a claim to be a turning point in the Revolutionary War, but the American victory at Saratoga was undeniably critical. The surrender of General Burgoyne to Horatio Gates on October 17, 1777 not only halted the British advance in the Hudson valley, but also showed that Americans could defeat the British in a pitched battle and helped convince France to formally support the American cause. A visitor to Saratoga National Historic Park will be greeted by rolling hills, a number of scheduled programs, and signs describing Benedict Arnold’s more glorious days.

Valley Forge, Pennsylvania

The site of Washington’s winter encampment from 1777-1778 boasts historical demonstrations and nearly thirty miles of trails.

Patriot’s Path, New Jersey

This 35 mile trail includes six miles in the Morristown National Historic Park, where Washington’s troops endured a harsh winter encampment from 1779-1780.

Kings Mountain, South Carolina

The site of a battle between American Patriots and Tories on October 7, 1780, Kings Mountain is interesting for several reasons. The victorious Patriots largely used rifles, which were slower to reload but significantly more accurate than the muskets their Tory enemies used. Thomas Jefferson called the battle “The turn of the tide of success” because it was the first major Patriot victory in the South after the British began their Southern campaign in the winter of 1778-1779.

Hikers will enjoy the trails in Kings Mountain National Military Park as well as other nearby opportunities. The Kings Mountain Hiking National Recreational Trail is a 16-mile loop through scenic parks in the hills of South Carolina and North Carolina. (Thanks to Zack for the tip!)

Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina

Brigadier General Daniel Morgan effectively used a mix of sharpshooters, militia, and regulars to defeat a British and Tory force under the dreaded Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens in January 1781. The battlefield does not include a lot of hiking mileage, but it was the site of a decisive victory in the Revolution and it is not far from Kings Mountain.

Yorktown, Virginia

The British war effort collapsed when General Cornwallis surrendered with his 8,000 troops to George Washington on October 19, 1781 following a lengthy siege by American and French forces. Much of Yorktown was destroyed in the course of the battle. The struggle for a favorable peace would eventually be won on September 3, 1783 after much diplomatic wrangling and a few minor battles.

Independence was achieved, but the outcome of the Revolution could only be settled in political battles over its meaning.

Head First Video: Cicadas

The 17-year cicadas are chirping up a storm in parts of New Jersey. Darian’s encounters with the harmless, but creepy, insects inspired this video.

For ten and seven years

They live underground
growing, waiting
Feeding on roots
sucking out the life substance

In the warmth of spring
they emerge

Growing from within
Splitting exoskeletons
They break out and blacken
Feel the swarm

They need to mate
before it’s too late
Restless males screech
Hear their call

In a month they will all be dead

They inject their eggs
inside narrow wood branches
The new spawn hatch
and go down into the ground

to return in ten and seven years
Ten and seven years

Communism in Hanoi

Helen and Darian had a great time traveling in Vietnam and Thailand in April. Over the next few weeks some of our adventures will be appearing on Head First.

One of the many interesting things about Hanoi was seeing how communist tradition and consumer life interacted.


There are plenty of communist symbols to remind you what the country is about. And there are plenty of places to buy them. One stall’s wares included a bust of Ho Chi Minh and a US Army sticker.


There are all kinds of shops in Hanoi. If you’re into busy urban streets, you’ll probably like the Old Quarter. It feels chaotic and overwhelming if you are not used to the road rules (or the humidity), but there is a kind of order that people seem to go by. It’s good to watch from a stool on the sidewalk/scooter parking zone while you enjoy a streetcart banh mi.


If you want to brave the traffic on a skateboard, a comrade can help you out.


But Lenin is not just a name on a skate shop. The Marxist revolutionary and founder of the Soviet state also looms over a park where people skate.


We found a less flattering monument nearby.


Across the street from the Lenin statue is a row of ATMs. As a functioning city, Hanoi has many places to do things with money.


Just down the street from this building sporting bank logos is a marvel of communist architecture.


A good place to get a handle on how Vietnam presents its history is at the military museum, across the street from Lenin. It is in a less-congested area of the city, where you will find broad streets, actual sidewalks, and embassies.


The tower in the background is part of a historic citadel that was overrun when the French took over Vietnam in the late nineteenth century.

Inside the museum is a large metal mural commemorating Ho Chi Minh.


But Vietnamese military history starts much earlier. One of the country’s early military heroes was Tran Hung Dao, who defeated Mongol invaders in the thirteenth century using the strategies of protracted warfare and guerrilla strikes. Vo Nguyen Giap, a history professor who would direct the military campaign against the French and Americans in the twentieth century, looked to the strategy written by Dao.


Dao is celebrated outside of the military museum too. A historical sign at Hoan Kiem Lake also commemorates his success.


Much of the military museum highlights the twentieth century struggle for a united, independent Vietnam, first during the Second World War (1939-1945), then against the French as they tried to re-establish their colony from 1945 to 1954, then against South Vietnam and its American supporters (1959-1975).

The military museum displayed some of the weapons used to resist the Japanese and French during the Second World War. They appear to include nineteenth century percussion cap muzzle-loaders.


Later the Vietnamese were able to use captured enemy weapons and weapons supplied by the Soviet Union and China. A number are on display in other rooms of the military museum, many accompanied by captions that list dubious numbers of enemy soldiers a particular hero killed with the gun.

Ho Chi Minh brought a couple of guns with him when he returned to Vietnam in 1941. They include a Mauser C96 pistol, a model carried by Winston Churchill, Lawrence of Arabia, and Han Solo. It was also popular in the Chinese underworld around the time that Ho Chi Minh lived in China, so that might be where he got it.


Extremely dedicated or unfortunate rebels were armed with anti-tank bombs that usually killed them when they exploded.


The classic spike-filled hole is also on display.


The yard outside is full of planes and vehicles, including captured American hardware.


In the center of the courtyard is a pile of wreckage from downed airplanes.


Behind the rubble are unexploded bomb casings and Soviet-made anti-aircraft weapons, including a very menacing missile.


If you have seen a lot of pictures or documentary footage from the Vietnam War, you might recognize this tank from the courtyard of the presidential palace in Saigon.


There were also exhibits commemorating anti-war protesters. I did not see the infamous photo of Jane Fonda sitting at an anti-aircraft gun.


It was interesting to see how the struggle for independence and nationhood was presented to Vietnamese and foreign visitors. Not surprisingly, war crimes and excesses committed by communist forces were not apparent at the museum. It is often difficult for a country to deal with the human costs of its founding, and as a country formed only in 1975, Vietnam is still in the infancy of writing its history. It seems like freedom of expression is gradually increasing as the country becomes more open and less militarist.

We were in Hanoi on the eve of one of its most important holiday weekends – celebrating the April 30 unification of the country after the surrender of the South Vietnamese government. It will be interesting to see how the country thinks about unification a few decades from now.


Ho Chi Minh figures prominently in Vietnamese history. He was born Nguyen Sinh Cung on May 19,1890 in a small impoverished village. His father was a minor official in the colonial administration who had been dismissed from service for nationalist politics. Nguyen traveled extensively by working on a ship crew.

Nguyen was driven by a strong sense of patriotism and a commitment to socialist ideas. While in Europe, he petitioned the victorious Allies at the Versailles Conference in 1919 to extend the principle of self-determination to Indochina, where his countrymen suffered under colonial exploitation. He also became a member of the Communist Party in France. After studying in Moscow and organizing Vietnamese exiles in China, he returned to Vietnam during the Second World War to get involved in the nationalist struggle, which was funded by the US government as an anti-Japanese force. He took his final alias Ho Chi Minh, “he who enlightens,” in 1943.


Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, at the age of 79. While he lived to see the Vietnamese communist forces take the upper hand politically, he would not live to see a united, independent Vietnam. Ho wanted to be cremated, saying “Not only is cremation good from the point of view of hygiene, but it also saves farmland.”

Instead, his embalmed body was put on display in a copy of the Lenin Mausoleum.


I suppose they could eventually cremate his body.

The mausoleum has a very formal changing of the guard ceremony.


We did not try to go inside the mausoleum. Presumably it was closed since there was no line to enter. We did go around the back, where a nice garden is filled with the sounds of Ho Chi Minh songs coming from speakers. It is kind of like if the Lincoln Memorial actually contained Lincoln’s preserved body, and speakers around it played songs about him. Kind of weird.


Many Americans in the mid-1960s did not understand that the Communist world was not a monolithic camp. China and the Soviet Union both provided technical and management assistance to North Vietnam starting in 1955. Yet Ho Chi Minh and other Vietnamese Communists were determined to remain independent actors, especially as it was clear that the more powerful communist states had their own geopolitical interests that did not always favor a strong, united Vietnam. Throughout the war with America and South Vietnam, the Vietnamese communists tried to steer a course between their big allies, even as Soviet and Chinese troops fought each other in border skirmishes in 1969.

By the end of the 1970s, tensions escalated between Vietnam and China. Tensions were heightened by border disputes between Vietnam and Cambodia that eventually resulted in Vietnamese military forces deposing the brutal Khmer Rouge, who were allies of China. Relations worsened when the Vietnamese carried out policies that especially burdened ethnic Chinese residents. The Vietnamese pulled closer to the USSR. A brief war between Vietnam and China erupted in 1979.

The enduring Russian influence can be seen not only in the sickle and hammer, but also in some of the products for sale. One toy store had a display full of Russian nevalyashka dolls.


The multi-ethnic character of Vietnam was noticeable at the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, which had exhibits on women’s life and marriage ceremonies for the numerous ethnic minorities of Vietnam.

The museum also featured some interviews with women who worked as street peddlers. One of them said she started working as a peddler after the family farm was taken for land to build a factory.

That seems a bit different from what this picture of revolutionary female farmers conveys.


Vietnamese land policy caused trouble as early as 1956. Land reform was a major issue in nations that were emerging out of colonization in the years after World War II, as large colonial and feudal landholdings based on political access had impoverished many rural workers. North Vietnam’s communist ideology and desire to industrialize energized their land politics. Landlords as well as relatively prosperous peasants who were classified as landlords by political cadres were dispossessed, beaten, imprisoned, and sometimes killed. A backlash resulted in the program being cancelled, prisoners released, and a public apology from Ho Chi Minh. Yet the communists were more responsive to the needs of rural people than the government of South Vietnam, which was a major reason for their success.

Of course, there is much more to Hanoi’s thousand years of history than the war that America lost and the political system that frightened Americans enough to send thousands of men across the world to kill and die to protect a non-democratic and poorly-run state with little popular legitimacy.

A good place to get a handle on the rest of Hanoi’s history is the Museum of National History. Unfortunately we did not get to see as much of it as we would have liked because the museum – the entire museum – closed for lunch and we did not have time to come back.

But we did see this epic painting.


The caption at the bottom was not readable in the photo, but it appears to be a picture of the Bach Dang naval battle, where the Mongol fleet was defeated in 1288.

And who doesn’t like epic paintings? Vietnamese folks are not that different from us even if they do some things differently. They use WiFi and eat the same Russian sunflower seeds that we can get in New Jersey. As long as you prepare yourself with advice from travel books and a sense of adventure, Hanoi is an excellent place to spend some time while exploring Vietnam.



Brigham, Robert K. Battlefield Vietnam: A Brief History.

“China and Vietnam: a timeline of conflict.” CNN.

Garthoff, Raymond L. Detente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan, Revised. The Brookings Institution, 1994. Sino-Soviet border clashes, 228. Soviet-Chinese-Vietnam relations and Cambodia war 661, 729, 767, 785, 790.

Moss, George Donelson. Vietnam, an American Ordeal, 3rd Ed. Prentice Hall, 1998. Tran Hung Dao, 8. Ho Chi Minh, 18-23. 1956 land policy, 91. Chinese and Soviet aid, 90. Communist war crimes, 280, 408.

“People and Events: Ho Chi Minh.” American Experience.

Along Mine Brook

A few miles north of the Delaware Water Gap lies a mining complex surrounded by legend.

The first thing the visitor might notice from the Coppermine Trail parking lot is a small shed built into the side of the hill. It stands out better in pictures with snow.

Pahaquarry Shed

The stone shed might have served as an icehouse in its day. Inside it has an arched ceiling and some odd graffiti.

Pahaquarry Inside Shed

The foundation of a large mill is terraced into the hillside nearby.

Pahaquarry Mill Ruins

The mill was obviously a large building, and this photo from around 1905 shows what it looked like when the mine was in operation.

Pahaquarry Mill NPS

Today the foundations are covered in moss as the stones are reclaimed by the forest.

Pahaquarry Ruins

The explorer should be careful around these walls, as there are plenty of opportunities for injury.

Pahaquarry Mill Top

A side trail along the brook leads to a mine entrance. On the way is a trench that might have been an exploratory working.

Pahaquarry Trench

Farther up the creek is an old adit (a roughly horizontal mine shaft).

Pahaquarry Mine Entrance

Unfortunately it is shut with a steel cage that makes me think of Jurassic Park for some reason. Looking through the cage you can see that it would be an exciting place to explore.

Pahaquarry Copper Mine

The mines here were worked in a series of stages from the mid 1700s until the early 1900s.

Legend holds that Dutch settlers, lured by Indian tales and a sense of adventure, first prospected for copper in the Pahaquarry area during the 1650s. They were supposed to have built a road over 100 miles northeast to Kingston (then called Esopus or Wiltwyck) to transport copper ore to the Hudson River for transport, as the Delaware river is not navigable by large vessels at this point.

A marker along Old Mine Road relates this story.

Pahaquarry Incorrect Historic Marker

However, as many historians have argued, this story is most likely not true.

Herbert C. Kraft makes a thorough case against the legend in his book The Dutch, the Indians, and the Quest for Copper. Kraft notes that there is no archeological or documentary evidence of Dutch mining in the area. The legend is based on a pair of letters that appeared in a journal in 1828. The dubious story claimed to present “traditional accounts” of a copper mine and a road to Kingston built by Dutch miners. Wishful readings of other sources have given the legend the appearance of historical truth.

Besides a lack of evidence, there are other reasons why the Dutch origin story is unlikely. The Minsi Indians who lived in the area did not mine or work with copper, so Dutch settlers a hundred miles away would not have heard of copper deposits from them. This is partly because the copper at Pahaquarry exists in low concentration in very hard sandstone – hard enough that the wrought iron tools in use in colonial times would not have lasted long. Even tempered steel drills were quickly worn out during a futile effort to make the mine profitable in 1901. Wagons used in the New Netherland colony could not have hauled the heavy rock very far, and there is no evidence that smelting facilities were built in New Netherland.

In addition, it would have been difficult for the Dutch to travel so far through hostile territory. Relations between the Dutch and Esopus Indians were hostile and broke into open war in 1655. While the Minsi did not wage war on the Dutch, they were friendly to the Esopus.

The situation stabilized somewhat after the English took over New Netherland in 1664. Limited mining at Pahaquarry probably began in the mid 1700s, though progress would have been stalled by the French and Indian War (1756-1763). The Minsi had started to leave the area by this point. They had signed an agreement with English settlers in 1713 but felt like they had been shorted because they disputed which tracts had been ceded and they expected to be allowed to continue hunting.

The Old Mine Road started at Kingston and gradually went southwest as settlers pushed farther into the interior. It finally reached the Delaware Water Gap in 1830 when the first road through the Gap on the New Jersey side was built. Presumably a small spur would have led to the mine when it was active, though the earliest mapped road to the mines was built in 1790 and required crossing the Delaware river a mile south of the mines.

Later mining ventures proved unsuccessful despite the expansive operations.

Pahaquarry Map

A new dam near the mouth of the Mine Brook was built around 1902. A few chunks of concrete sticking out of the ground were probably part of the dam.

Pahaquarry Dam

Another adit can be found up the hill along the Coppermine Trail. It has a surprisingly small opening.

Pahaquarry Upper Mine Hole

A sign next to this opening says that the mines were closed because humans might spread diseases that harm bats. Years ago the National Park Service gave tours of the mines.

Pahaquarry Mine Sign

The Pahaquarry mine property was bought by a Trenton Boy Scout council in 1925, and the last government survey, during the tough years of World War II, once again concluded that mining the area was not worth it. The federal government bought the land in the 1960s for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

The Coppermine Trail continues up the ravine on its way to the Appalachian Trail. The hiker can easily forget the busy complex below as the trail curves by narrow waterfalls and undisturbed boulders.

Pahaquarry Copper Mine Trail

Boysen, Robert L. Kittatinny Trails. New York – New Jersey Trail Conference, 2004. Pages 67-68.

“Dutch Colonies.” National Park Service.

“Hikes: The Gap and New Jersey.” Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, National Park Service.

Kraft, Herbert C. The Dutch, the Indians, and the Quest for Copper: Pahaquarry and the Old Mine Road. Seton Hall University Museum, 1996. Pages 43, 46, 68-71, 90-92, 96-101, 105, 116, 123, 155-157.
Map photo is from page 122. Thanks to whoever listed this book on the Wikipedia Pahaquarry page.

Muller, FL. “Old Dutch Mine.” Unearthing New Jersey, New Jersey Geological Survey. Vol. 5 No. 2, Summer 2009. Pages 8-9.

“The Dutch Mines: Fact or Myth?” Spanning the Gap, National Park Service. Originally published in 1988, revised in 2004 by Susan Kopczynski.

The Gap in the Endless Mountain

Stretching across the northwest corner of New Jersey is a ridge that the Lenape people called Kittatinny – the Endless Mountain. Kittatinny is part of an Appalachian ridgeline that extends from southern New York to Virginia.

One of the few passages through the mountain is formed by the Delaware River: a feature called the Delaware Water Gap.

Delaware Water Gap

Looking West from Mount Tammany, a point named for a Lenape chief honored for his diplomacy, the observer sees Mount Minsi across the water in Pennsylvania.

The climb up is fairly steep, and on a cloudy day you can see how high a 1500 foot elevation can be.

Minsi in Clouds

This area was once home to a branch of the Lenape known as the Minsi, whose name means “People of the Stony Country.”

Today, Interstate 80, a high-speed corridor from the Hudson River to points west, travels through the Gap. Numerous hikers ascend Mount Tammany all year.

A quieter and slightly longer trip to the peak can be made by taking the Blue Dot Trail.

Dunnfield Creek

Looking south from the ridge, the old Lackawanna Cutoff rail bridge over the Delaware can be seen. Trains that crossed this bridge would have then headed through the Gap.

Delaware Viaduct View

Speaking of the Lackawanna Cutoff, an astute observer can also find the top of the Paulinskill Viaduct peeking out over the treetops.


Kittatinny is a region rich in history. Today it still forms a boundary and a landmark for travelers going between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The best way to appreciate the mountain is of course by walking on it.



Boysen, Robert L. Kittatinny Trails. New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, 2004.

Hikes at the Gap, National Park Service.

Lane, Wheaton J. From Indian Trail to Iron Horse: Travel and Transportation in New Jersey, 1620-1860. Princeton University Press, 1939. (Minsi Name, page 15).

Norwood, Joseph White. The Tammany Legend. Meador, 1938.