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USA/Mid-Atlantic: Morristown, NJ

The Soldiers Camp

A Recommended Walk

 


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Time: About 2 hours

Distance: About 4 1/2 miles

Parking: There is ample parking at the park’s visitors center.

Viewpoints: The viewpoints are beautiful old forests, meadows, and the fields of an old farm. There is one view east to Manhattan, but it would take a very clear day to see beyond the Watchung Mountains.

Precautions: The trails are generally dry and well maintained, with some rocky stretches. Like anywhere in the woods of the Northeast, the only potential danger is the very remote chance you could encounter the only known poisonous snakes to live in the area, copperheads and rattlesnakes. We have never encountered one on countless walks and hikes in the region.

Trail blazes: The park has its own system of trail markings, which are sometimes referenced in these directions. The park maps make frequent reference to them.

Maps: The park provides a basic map and sells a more detailed version for people interested in further exploration. There are miles and miles of trails.

To Begin

Visit the visitors center, which is equipped with restrooms. Then continue past the visitors center toward an old field and orchard. This is the Wick farm, now part of the park.

Waypoint 1

Wick Farm from Waypoint 1At a three-way intersection, go right on a broad path that's mowed in summer. This is Elizabeth-Mendham Rd., a road no longer used that's one of the oldest in the region. The setting hasn't changed much since colonial times, when the Wicks farmed this land. You may wish to visit the tiny Wick House before proceeding, or stop on your way back.

Waypoint 2

Cross Jockey Hollow Rd., which is paved, and continue on the old road into the forest. To the left is the site of the encampment of Hand's Brigade. Down this old road, the men of the Pennsylvania Line mutiny stormed out of camp.

Waypoint 3

At the next trail junction, go left. You are now on the Grand Loop Trail, also known in this stretch as the Patriot's Path, marked by an odd-shaped black blaze on a white disk and by a plain white blaze. You soon come to the Connecticut Line on your left. Continue on the trail for some time, passing a well-marked intersection, two streams and another intersection. On Jan. 22, 1780, three men of the Connecticut Line were sentenced to be whipped for "breaking into a store in Morristown and assisting another soldier to get a ladder and steal a bucket of rum while on sentry duty." The trail is fairly level as it traverses the hillside.

Waypoint 4

At a three-way intersection, go right onto the Old Camp Rd. Trail, marked by a sign and blazed blue. This is one of the roads built by soldiers connecting the camp to a tavern on what is now Rte. 202, Mt. Tremble Rd. Go past an intersection, and continue on the trail to the right of a house.

Waypoint 5

View point in Waypoint 5Just past the house, go left onto a trail and uphill past a barrier into the woods leading to the Mt. Kemble Loop Trail. (There should be a sign marking it.) When you reach the loop trail, bear right on it. You'll see blue blazes again. In a short distance, arrive at a small break in the forest to the right. There's a pastoral view of meadow, forest, and hills beyond, marred only by the sound of traffic from Rtes. 202 and Interstate 287, out of sight in the valley below. On the hill behind you stood Stark's brigade, whose soldiers fought in almost every major battle of the war. If you explore the thickly wooded hillside, you'll see the remains of terraces and chimneys where the soldiers build their huts.

"The soldiers are destitute of both tents and blankets. Our only defense against the inclemency of the weather consists of brush wood thrown together. Our lodging the last night was on the frozen ground. Those officers who have the privilege of a horse can always have a blanket at hand. Having removed the snow, we wrapped ourselves in our great coats, spread our blankets on the ground, and lay down by the side of each other, five or six together with large fires at our feet, leaving orders with the waiters to keep it well supplied with fuel during the night. Notwithstanding large fires, we can scarcely keep from freezing."

Proceed on the Mt. Kemble Loop Trail. After a short while, you arrive at a driveway, where you see a house. Proceed straight past the house, ignoring a trail to your left.

Waypoint 6

At a trail intersection, go left past a metal gate, continuing gradually downhill on Mt. Kemble Trail. You pass several intersecting trails. Ignore them.

Waypoint 7

Continue on, bearing right slightly downhill, following the sign to the Grand Loop Trail. Bear left at the next intersection, continuing downhill and following blue blazes. Cross a small stream.

Waypoint 8

Just beyond the stream, go left, following white and blue blazes. Pass a small pond on your left, which features a bench on the opposite bank you might select for a picnic spot. This is a place to watch for birds.

Waypoint 9

Waypoint 9At the next fork, bear right on the blue-blazed New York Brigade Trail. Follow it for about 10 minutes to a parking area with restrooms, which is the site of the New York Brigade encampment.

Waypoint 10

Bear to the left of the restrooms. Cross a park road and a grassy median, then proceed down another park road marked "Do Not Enter." This is a very quiet one-way park road. There is a house and an old garage in a clearing to your right.

“The colonel, observing that the open and abominable practice of drunkenness prevails in his regiment without the least shame or restraint to the prejudice of good order and discipline, hereby strictly forbids any liquor to be sold in the huts belonging to the regiment by anybody whatsoever and orders the offenders to be confined and punished for disobedience of orders. The officers are requested to pay strict attention that the increasing disorder be prevented.”

Continue walking a short way down the paved road in the forest.

Waypoint 11

Grand Parade - Waypoint 11You reach a field with plaques marking the "Grand Parade."

At the place of execution set up on the Grand Parade, “two soldiers were brought to the gallows for the crime of robbery. One of them was pardoned under the gallows and the other executed. The poor criminal was so dreadfully tortured by the horror of an untimely death that he was scarcely able to sustain himself, and the scene excited the compassion of every spectator. It is hoped that this example will make such an impression as to deter others from committing similar crimes.” (It did not, but General Washington’s habit of pardoning men on the scaffold seems to have helped him increase his stature in the soldiers’ eyes.)

Proceed straight along the road to the edge of the meadow. Go right on a yellow-blazed trail, marked as the Grand Parade Trail. The sign points the way to the soldiers’ huts. The trail goes steeply up a small hill.

Waypoint 12

Reconstructed huts - Waypoint 12At the top of the rise, go left, following the sign to the soldiers' huts and the yellow blazes. The trail takes a jog to the left and to the right before arriving at the site of the reconstructed huts. You pass the remains of old huts in the forest to your left. Look for piles of stones marking their hearths. The trail descends toward the reconstructed huts.

Waypoint 13

After visiting the huts, proceed down the well-marked path through a meadow toward a parking area on the other end of it.

Waypoint 14

Cross the road onto a small meadow toward a small cluster of cedar trees and a small stone monument, following yellow blazes. Under this grove of cedar trees, locals set up a plaque in the 1930s marking the spot of a soldier cemetery where no remains have ever been found. Proceed past the plaque and continue following the trail into the woods.

Waypoint 15

Wick House & garden - Waypoint 15You reach a big intersection of trails. Proceed straight on the Soldier's Hut Trail toward the Wick House. You will soon emerge from the forest onto a paved road. Go left on a grassy path toward the Wick House. Jog left to visit the house and continue to the left around the house to the path at Waypoint 1, which leads back to the visitors center and your car.

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