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. PBS.org.

“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. http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/kingston/colonization.htm

“Hikes: The Gap and New Jersey.” Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/dewa/planyourvisit/upload/sb2Hikes-2.pdf

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. http://www.njgeology.org/enviroed/newsletter/v5n2.pdf

“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.

The Somewhat Deserted Village

Within northern New Jersey’s Watchung Reservation, a cluster of cottages in various states of repair mark the location of a mill town that became a summer resort.

Glenside Park Buildings

Native Americans called the region the “Wach Unks,” which means high hills. A number of Native American artifacts have been found around the village site, and it is believed the area was used for winter residence. The land was sold to white men in 1664.

In 1736, Peter Wilcox purchased a 424 acre tract from the Elizabethtown Associates. He soon established a mill along the Blue Brook.

Early settlers are buried on a hill near the village. According to a Park Commission book from the 1960s, all of the original markers had disappeared, but the head stone of John Willcox was recovered and put into storage to prevent it from being stolen again.

Watchung Cemetery

In 1845, David Felt bought about 760 acres with water rights along the valley. He chose the location because the water was considered good for making paper and there were already two mills ready for his use.

Walking through the area today, passing families enjoying some time outdoors and people leisurely walking their dogs, you don’t get a sense of how regimented life here once was.

Feltville Ruins

Felt considered the area “an ideal spot on which to found a village where the inhabitants would be removed from the temptations and sorrows of city life and would enjoy goodness, peace, and plenty.”

He set up housing for workers, but also subjected them to rigid rules on and off the job.

According to one account,

The owner of the village was a man of a strong, positive nature, cold and reserved, and he ruled the village people as far as he could with as much methodical strictness as he applied to his boxwood hedges and well trimmed cedar trees. All of his employees were compelled to trade at his store, and those who lived in his two large boarding houses had to keep within the strictest bounds. At seven o’clock in the morning the bell on the great barn at the ‘Mansion House’ rang for work to begin. At twelve and one o’clock it rang for the dinner recess, and when it sounded again the millwheel stopped and the mill hands came trooping out of the big door and climbed the winding paths beneath the trees on the bluff for their suppers. When night had fallen and nine o’clock came, the bell rang out again, and ill-fared the youth and maiden who were found strolling in the rocky glen or beside the rushing millstream, for a rigid rule was laid down that all in the village must be within doors when the last bell echoed through the darkened woods.

But Feltville would soon become a place of leisure. In 1860, David Felt sold the village and returned to New York City. Future owners failed to keep successful businesses. Mills crumbled and houses were abandoned as the place became a local curiosity known as the Deserted Village.

Abandoned Cottage

In 1882 the property was bought at auction by Warren Ackerman, who rehabilitated it as a summer resort called Glenside Park.

A brochure boasted that “The air is dry, clear and entirely free from even a hint of malaria.” Located on a wooded hillside a short carriage ride from a train station, the resort was largely successful until the mid 1910s. Its decline has been attributed to an increasing popularity of shore resorts and to the automobile making other places more accessible to people in the resort’s target market.

Glenside Park’s land was soon bought by a number of proprietors, then by Union County during the establishment of the Watchung Reservation in the 1920s.

During the Great Depression, the Park Commission restored the cottages and rented them for cheap to families who had lost their homes and properties. Soon all the cottages were occupied and a community identity was established.

Feltville Building

To this day, some of the cottages are private residences, outposts of habitation among nearly identical buildings making a slow return to nature.

Deserted Village of Feltville

The people who have lived in the places we explore had different reasons to be there. For some, the Feltville area was handy housing for a nearby job exploiting the resources of wood and water. Some spent winters there and others enjoyed the country air during the summer. For today’s visitors, the Deserted Village offers a chance to witness time and nature weathering old structures while on a nice stroll through the woods.

Feltville Sign in Watchung Reservation


Hawley, James B. The Deserted Village and The Blue Brook Valley. Union County Park Commission, 1964.

Highway Crossings

If you have traveled on Interstate 78 between the Newark area and I-287, you might have noticed driving under bridges with trees on them. These bridges link areas of the Watchung Reservation, a large county park split by the interstate.

One of the bridges carries no pavement at all.

Watchung Reservation and Interstate 78

The Watchung Mountains are a fairly low range in northeastern New Jersey. In the 1950s the region was characterized by rural towns and park lands. When the US government announced a plan for an interstate highway through the area in 1957, it began a long fight with local officials and conservationists.

The Watchung section of Interstate 78 was finally completed in 1986. The highway cut through the northern part of the Reservation, and bridges were constructed to serve as wildlife crossings.

Watchung Reservation Wildlife Bridge

As I was searching online for information about the Watchung Reservation, I found that the Wikipedia page on the topic said, “Land bridges designed to allow wildlife to travel safely between the severed parts of the Watchung Reservation were built, but they have failed and are largely not used by animals.[citation needed]”

That is a bold statement to make without citations. I figured that while I explored the area I should look for signs of wildlife. Unfortunately the previous day’s snow had turned to rain during the night, so it was not as easy as I hoped it would be.

I did find numerous animal tracks, which are kind of hard to photograph.

Tracks on Watchung Wildlife Bridge

There were several piles of droppings on the wildlife bridge.

Droppings near middle of Watchung Wildlife Bridge

Laying on the ground to photograph feces was a new experience for me!

Droppings on Watchung Wildlife Bridge

There was also a game trail that went all the way across the bridge through some bushes.

Game Trail on Watchung Wildlife Bridge

There are deer bones on the bridge too.

Watchung Deer Bones

Even hawks like the place.

Hawk in Watchung

“Largely not used” is a pretty vague statement, but it is clear that animals do use the crossing to some degree. There are plenty of downed tree branches in the area for anyone who would be interested in building a blind and sitting in highway noise and fumes for a few hours to observe wildlife.

West of the bridge without pavement is the old Nike Road crossing. It is named after the Nike missile base that used to be in the area, one of the many air defense installations that ringed New York and other major cities until the Nike system became obsolete. The Watchung installation, NY-73, was operational from 1958 to 1963.

Nike Road in Watchung

There is a gap between the road surface and the wooded shoulder of the bridge, which is a little spooky to look through and see tractor-trailers scream by below.

Gap in Overpass

The road makes a sharp turn and heads uphill.

Tire on Nike Road in Watchung

It would be a nice view if not for the incessant highway noise.

Nike Road Overlook - Watchung

A rusty fence topped with barbed wire is presumably a remnant of the Nike base.

Nike Road Hill

Near the top of the hill, the road curves back and ends at a residential neighborhood. But a side path leads to the grounds of a high school, near where the Nike radar installation stood.

While much of the Watchung Reservation is surprisingly quiet, the noisy parts have a few stories to tell. The federal government’s support for automobile and highway travel, its conflicts with locals about new construction, and the effort to accommodate or appease environmental concerns are part of America’s post World War II story just as much as the missiles deployed to intercept Soviet bombers. Taking the time to explore on foot gives you a chance to gain a new understanding of a place you might have driven through hundreds of times.

Watchung looking down to 78


“The Bunny Bridge of Watchung.” The Lostinjersey Blog. March 19, 2009.

Di Ionno, Mark. Backroads, New Jersey: Driving at the Speed of Life. Piscataway: Rutgers University Press, 2003. Pages 17-20.
Preview at Google Books.

“MISSILES in Mountainside — Nike Battery NY-73.” The Hetfield House, Mountainside Historic Preservation Committee, November, 2009.

Watchung Reservation Trail Map. Union County Department of Parks and Community Renewal. Bob Cosman, 2001, Updated 2010.

For more Watchung Reservation adventures, see the Head First post on Feltville and the Hidden New Jersey post on Surprise Lake and the Glenside Avenue overpass.

Exploring History.