Yesterday. Full sun, glittering sky. It started off with truly solid creative intentions. I got my coffee and was about to head back to my studio (the living room floor) when the car changed direction & went bound for the mountains. (New Jersey does have them!) "Just a wee drive on the ridge," I said, "then I'll go back." Up Skyline Drive I chugged. Hiking sign & the entrance to the trails caught my eye. Car stopped. "Just a little stroll," I said, "and then I'll go back." Beyond my coffee & journal I wasn't equipped for a hike. Think ballet flats. But I had finally dug up a decent map of the place and I had read intriguing things about a beautiful lake and an abandoned mansion nestled in the interior of the forest. And the mood was right, which made the usual gear & other requirements seem dispensable. Off I went. "Just to the lake," I said, "and then I'll go back."
The lake was indeed beautiful and I reached it easily -- though I had to stick to the map and color coded trees like gum. Some parts were flat and easy to navigate (old roads) but others I would have never known were trails if they hadn't been marked. This was not a place I wanted to Get Lost -- I just wanted the challenge of getting to the lake.
And now, with my ballet flats doing a surprisingly deft job of handling the minor rock climbing, I felt committed to keep on trucking. The vibe was good, and I didn't want to leave without finding the castle. Here it got tricky -- the ruins were up on a bluff and I wound up turned around a few times because there was not much of a path; it was essentially a matter of moving up and over rocks, hoping I'd keep seeing white marks on the trees, and hoping I wouldn't run into any unfriendly animals. Up and away I went from the lake.
And just when I thought I really was lost, I popped up over a stone wall and there it was, in the middle of nowhere.
This is the shell of the old Van Slyke Castle (also known as Foxcroft), built in the early 1900s, then passed along through family hands until it was sold in the late 40s, then abandoned, and eventually torched by vandals in the late 50s. (more about the history of the house here and here.)
I felt alone here in the most wonderful way, like a little girl in a fairy tale. It brought back every story I've read about children living in castles or stumbling upon hideaways -- The Secret Garden, The Velvet Room (which I just finished on Beth's recommendation), I Capture the Castle -- and I slipped into another universe while I wandered around the ruins, imagining the fancy parties and conversations and family dramas that took place here a hundred years ago.
Two hours later I was finally ready to go back to the studio-floor, satisfied and whole again.