As the leaves started to change colors and wanting to see the foliage around the state before all the leaves fall (they have since), I decided to revisit a place that I was exploring over the summer.
As I have said in previous blogs, I have never really gotten to know my own state and I was born and raised in New Jersey. I have wanted to see some of the far corners of the state and explore the back highways and roads and see some of the parks, beaches and historical sites that I have only read about but never visited. Along the way, I have visited many beautiful parts of the state and formed my own opinion of the ‘Garden State’. There is much more to see of the state than what is on the opening of ‘The Soprano’s” and the description of the state in most TV sitcoms.
Budd Lake and the surrounding areas are off Route 80 and in a section of the state near the Delaware Water Gap, a senic section of the Delaware River surrounding a mountain pass. During the summer, it is lush with trees but in the fall is when it show its true beauty. The leaves change colors at different times due to the species of tree. The effect is trees at various hues of green, yellow, gold and red at different points during the months of September, October and early November. By the second week of November, the show is over for New Jersey as the leaves have fallen.
I had never explored Budd Lake before and took a sunny, warm November afternoon after I had finished everything I needed to do at the house and took a road trip to the area. This is a section off the highway that most people do not venture unless they really want to see this section of the state or live or work here.
The road that lines the lake, Sand Shore Road, only takes you to a portion of the lake front, which is lined with beautiful homes and spectacular views. A lot of the homes looked liked former summer homes that had been winterized while others were new and much more elaborate reflected the money that is moving into the area.
It was a sunny day that reflected off the lake, which looks more like a catch bastion than a true lake. There were not the boat slips or yacht clubs that normally would line a lake but still there were some smaller boats lining the shoreline. There were small parks with views of the lake and as you entered the Budd Lake State Wildlife Management Area and Bog, the road moved away from the lake and it was mostly homes and woods and not much more to see unless you went into the park. Upon exiting, you are back on Route 46 West.
Route 46 West (I live off Route 46 East) is the highway that time forgot. It goes through many small towns being the main artery of the state until Route 80 was built many years later. It takes you though quaint small towns that have seen better days or long stretches of woods.
The first time I visited Budd Lake, I ate at a terrific pizzeria named Enzo’s Ristorante & Pizza at 382 Route 46 West, which I highly recommend (see review on TripAdvisor). The pizza there amazing and the service is excellent. They are very friendly and the pizza is just wonderful. Their sauce is full of flavor and is cooked perfectly. They also have a nice lunch dinner menu. I passed it on this trip unfortunately wanting to try another place.
After my tour up the lake, I doubled back to a small shore line on Budd Lake off Route 46 East and stopped and sat on a bench and just watched the day develop in the afternoon. It was something to just relax and look at the colors of the trees surrounding the lake. In the summer, this little park was filled with sun-bathers finishing their day but today I had it all to myself along with the birds who were looking for a handout.
I continued down Route 46 West and made a stop in the historical town of Hackettstown, the home of M & M/Mars. You would never know this was a corporate town of anything as the downtown seemed somewhat depressed. A lot of the stores were empty or filled with some not great shops. There were two terrific places that I found walking around.
One was Tracey’s Candy Shoppe at 210 Main Street (see TripAdvisor review), where the owners mother and talked when I walked in. They had set the shop up in one of the older buildings in town and the affect made it look like an old-fashioned shop from the turn of the last century. They had all sorts of candy from the 60’s and 70’s at not such 60’s and 70’s prices. They also had a selection of penny candies that were more than a penny. I found a Charleston Chew, that are still the most amazing candy. More of nougat than a bar.
The owner’s mother explained how they are trying to bring the downtown back with concerts and farmer’s markets. In its day, it must have been a nice downtown but some of these small towns off the beaten track have been affected by malls and the rerouting of the major highways. Still a classic little place like this, set up to look 1930’s has a place in the books. It had an interesting selection of candies and a very warm, welcoming feel to it and you should visit it when you are in the area.
Down the block, I found a Columbian bakery, Pan Rico Bakery at 183 Main Street, for a quick snack. They have the best version of an empanada that they serve with a chili hot sauce and for a $1.30 each, they are a steal. I ordered one of the beef ones which I ate going back to the car and it was well worth the trip inside as the sauce had some kick to it.
I continued my trip out of Hackettstown and passed the rest of the downtown and the surrounding neighborhood that had many beautiful Victorian homes that lined the streets as you exited town. It showed the money that once was in this town and the influence it once had in the area. Unfortunately unless you work for one of the major firms out here it must be a hard place to live.
I followed Route 46 West along the section that lined the Pequest River, a tributary of the Delaware River, to my true lunch destination, Hot Dog Johnny’s. Hot Dog Johnny’s, located on Route 46 West (see TripAdvisor review) is like Rutts Hutt in Clifton. It is an old roadside stand that people used to stop at on the way to view the Delaware Water Gap or needed to get into Pennsylvania. It must have been there since the 30’s and I had not eaten there since I was about ten when my parents took us kids there when viewing the Gap in the 70’s. The food has not changed.
Everyone must have had the same idea that I had because there was a line 20 deep after I got my food and sat at the outdoor picnic bench. What a view! The restaurant sits on the bank above the Pequest River and has the most beautiful view of the surrounding mountains where the foliage was a golden hue. The hot dogs have not changed in years.
They are still deep fried in peanut oil and are every bit the crunch they were when I was a kid. Still crisp and full of flavor and still delicious with lots of mustard and pickles on them. The fries are still crisp and well cooked and the birch beer is still ice cold. On a beautiful fall day overlooking the river and mountains, there is no place better to be. It was one of those relaxing afternoons to watch the view and listen to the locals talk about the upcoming election (Yes, Trump did win). I still could not believe the number of Trump signs on the lawns in this area. Totally different from Bergen County
After a lunch down memory lane, I continued on my trip down Route 46 West and I made a few stops at some of the farm side stands. Talk about a step back in time when you could find fresh cider and doughnuts and freshly picked apples by the side of the road and not worry about germs. I stopped at Marshall’s Farm Stand at 114 Route 46 (see review on TripAdvisor) for fresh cider and cider doughnuts.
Talk about a step back in time. It reminded me of places I used to go to as a kid that have since disappeared with suburban sprawl. I toured around the stands with shelves of fresh jellies and honey, sauces and salsa and arts and crafts. I found a nearly empty shelf of pies and doughnuts and not a sweet roll in site. The girl working the register told me that everything sells out so quickly and they had baked a second batch of everything.
I did grab one of the last bags of cider doughnuts for the trip home and freshly made cider that you rarely see any more. Most of it is processed in big facilities now not at farms. Their doughnuts were outstanding. All but two got home with me as I munched on them on the trip through the Delaware Water Gap. I had a lively conversation about the upcoming election and trust me, this woman said a mouthful as most people were right before the election. I said my good byes as quickly as possible.
My last part of the trip was Route 46 along the Delaware River which was still a blaze with color. The leaves were still in the process of changing and it was awash with yellows, oranges, reds and gold. It was quite the site. As much as I wanted to venture further into the Gap, there was really no time to walk around as you seriously need time to walk the trails. Still the afternoon of foliage was impressive.
I did take one more stop through Hope and Blairstown. I wanted to visit The Toy Chest at 335 High Street, a toy store that is in the small downtown section of Hope. Plus I wanted to see what the cemetery in Hope looked like this time of year. It is where the opening scene of the movie, “Friday the 13th” was shot. It looks more like the movie this time of year.
The Toy Chest was still open at 4:00pm and I had a lively conversation with the owner, who funny enough was from Little Ferry and had moved down to this section of New Jersey to be closer to his wife’s family. It is a great little store loaded with all sorts of games, plastic toys and action figures. There are a few more unique little stores along the strip but otherwise I just walked around a little and then got to Blairstown down the road for a quick drive through the downtown at twilight. It was a nice little tour.
The afternoon was a step back to a quieter time where people are not on top of each other and there is a slower pace. It really is another part of New Jersey not touched by time as the other parts of the state have become. It still is the New Jersey of my childhood.