Earth Day Outdoors

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This article by Carolyn Foote Edelmann was prepared for the April 16, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Earth Day Rings With Sound of Stones

It’s a little odd to drive along the highway with hammers

at your feet, odder still to walk into the woods carrying a hammer.

But there’s a purpose to it — revealed in tiny but unique Ringing

Rocks Park, Pennsylvania.

This 70-acre county park lies uphill from the Delaware River, above

the bridge at Upper Black Eddy. To reach it, take Route 32 (River

Road) to Bridgeton Hill Road; turn left on Bridgeton Hill Road and

continue until you see a sign for the right turn at Ringing Rocks

Road. The park soon appears on your right. Best to wear long pants

and long sleeves to protect against deer ticks. Wise to wear sturdy

shoes or boots. Remember to carry water — a pint per hour. Choose

your hammer — steel handle is best — and you’re off.

At the end of the short trail stretches a moraine of wan bald boulders,

almost blinding in bright sunlight. Carefully place your feet between

these giant’s cobbles. Part of the excitement is that you’ve never

been here. You don’t even know exactly what you’re looking for. It’ll

be something about clarity, something about pitch. And, yes, something

about being outrageous. You’ll get it, really you will. But expect

the unexpected.

Hold the hammer lightly, using fingers as fulcrum. Hammers with rubber

handles won’t do, and don’t let your own fingers muffle results. Let

the tool bounce, lightly. Yes, it feels silly, but hammer away. The

rocks will teach you. And, like life itself, some will be duds, others

thuds. Then, amazingly, you’ll be coaxing tones from stones. Exuberantly,

even in concert. Next thing you know, you’re hooked.

First, you’ll be rewarded with resonance, even echoes. Then, for no

apparent reason, your hammer will call forth a peal that would do

justice to the Liberty Bell. You’re caught up in the game, nearly

leaping from rock to rock, seeking the perfect tone. Next you go in

search of variations. Other ringers on distant fringes will work in

counterpoint. "The Anvil Chorus" will be born anew, out under

the skies.

Although the experience may be new to you, the park has attracted

devotees for more than a century. The Buckwampum Historical Society

of Bucks County reports that on a June day in 1890, Dr. J.J. Ott played

several musical selections for the group. "He was accompanied

by a brass band, but in the words of one who was there, `The clear,

bell-like tones he was playing could be heard above the notes of the

horns.’ There was one thing, however, that made the concert different,

Dr. Ott had put together an octave scale of `ringing rocks’ and was

playing on them by striking the boulders with a hammer."

There have been many myths concerning the origin and role in nature

of the three-and-a-half acre field of ringing rocks. Geologic evidence

indicates how the field was formed of diabase boulders which came

to rest, in a molten state, on the shale that now rests beneath it,

baking the shale into a nearly impervious hard rock or hornfels. The

diabase, or igneous rocks, contains high amounts of iron within the

mineral mineral composition.

Take care to protect and preserve the ringing rocks for the enjoyment

of future centuries. And don’t think of taking one home with you.

Word has it that, deprived of their fellow boulders, the rocks become

mute. Scientists cannot seem to agree on the reason. Geologic evidence

explains their ringing on site, but not their subsequent silence.

At least as you leave the rock field and set out for the falls, you’ll

have a new answer to the challenge, "When was the last time you

did something for the first time?"

Most of the time, the waters at Ringing Rock Park are

more of a trickle than a falls. But the walk to them is worth the

journey. The trail takes you through dense, mixed woods, with mighty

rocks of Stonehenge caliber looming on either side. Again, as in the

Sourlands, you can picture early inhabitants, the Lenni Lenapes, in

council in these stony circles. Some of the power, whether from native

elders or from the rocks themselves, still emanates. You could convince

yourself of shamans among these elephantine presences. You’d love

to be circled by them in moonlight.

Of course, you won’t. Because, up ahead, tall trees and downed trees

materialize — strangely light, even glowing. This, my fellow hikers,

is bear sign. From the height of the claw marks, I’d say young bears;

but I’m not an ursine expert. If the trees look seriously combed,

their vivid golden hue startling, someone in a thick fur coat has

been standing tall to scrape up an insect banquet not too long ago.

You may be surprised by the quality of bear sculpture. "Nature

raw in tooth and claw" is talented indeed.

Ahead, in a clearing, stretches something that resembles a terrace.

Once upon an aeon, it must have been a thunderous waterfall. Fissures

in dark gray rock hold quiet water and tannic leaves. People who have

hiked the Burren of Ireland say the falls area is eerily similar,

though lacking Eire’s orchids. Again the power of stones resonates.

Allow yourself a leisurely stroll to seek the elusive source of these

waters. Then return to the spillway, an exquisite and fairly unique

place to open up a backpack picnic, legs dangling over the precipice.

On either side you’ll be treated to the original "Water Music."

Off in the distance, new rock ringers are creating concerti from wild

sources. Someone in your party will be sure to refer to this as a

"Rock Concert." You won’t see the bears. You might hear a

hawk. Blue jays and squirrels most likely will protest your presence.

You will not be in a hurry to leave this privileged place, alone in

still and stunning beauty.

Some who I have taken to Ringing Rocks try to put its allure into

words. One said it reminds him of turning into his wooded driveway,

at the end of a long and satisfying academic day. Another friend was

taken right back to the earliest, deepest reaches of Chartres and

Mont St. Michel, where the sacred wells burst forth. Someone else

marveled at its "emptied fullness." All of this waits our

eyes and hammers, within about 45 minutes of Route 1 doorways.

— Carolyn Foote Edelmann

Ringing Rocks Park Bucks County Department of Parks

and Recreation , off Route 32, Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania, 215-757-0571.

Open daily dawn to dusk.

To complete a day’s outding, dining possibilities include Bucks

Bounty, a roadhouse with Indian motifs and superb crab cakes, interesting

beers and ales, on River Road on the right just below the Frenchtown


Back in New Jersey is the renowned Frenchtown Inn. In Stockton

you’ll find the hearty, homemade Miele’s. Or try the Stockton

Inn (more for atmosphere than food); "There’s a Small Hotel,

With a Wishing Well" was written here and the well is still here.

In Lambertville, the Swan Hotel offers divine salmon.

Top Of Page
Earth Day Outdoors

Saturday, April 19

Birds and Their Habitat Walks, Bucks County Audubon

Society , Visitors Center, 2877 Creamery Road, Solebury, 215-297-5880.

Guided walk through Honey Hollow Watershed. Rain or shine. Free. 7


Washington Crossing Audubon Society, Peace Valley Park,

Bucks County, 609-730-8200. Field trip to look for waterfowl, raptors,

and early migrating warblers. Free with preregistration. 9 a.m.

Spring Ephemerals, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve,

River Road, New Hope, 215-862-2924. Wildflower program, discussion,

and outdoor tour. Register $12. 10 a.m.

A Walk Through the Solar System, Stony Brook Millstone

Watershed , 31 Titus Mill Road, Pennington, 609-737-7592. For adults

and children age 5 and up, a walk through a 1,000-yard long scale

model of the solar system. Register. $8. 10:30 a.m.

Moonlight Walk, Whitesbog Historic Village, Route

530, Browns Mills, 609-893-4646. Moonlight walks of one to five miles

on the sugar sand roads of Whitesbog Village and surrounding bogs.

Preregister, $5 individual; $10 family. 7 p.m.

Saturday, April 26

Birds and Their Habitat, Bucks County Audubon Society,

Visitors Center, 2877 Creamery Road, Solebury Township, 215-297-5880.

Guided walk through Honey Hollow Watershed. Rain or shine. Free. 7


Washington Crossing Audubon Society, Helyar Woods,

New Brunswick, 609-730-8200. Look for migrating birds and enjoy flowers

at Cook College. Free, preregister. 8:30 a.m.

Wildflower Weekend, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve,

River Road, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 215-862-2924. Two full days of

wildflower walks, workshops, and programs. At 10 a.m. workshop led

by Miles Arnott, director of the preserve, participants create a May

basket with native plants. Also Sunday, April 27. Register. 9 a.m.

to 4 p.m.

Nockamixon Cliffs, Bucks County Audubon Society,

Visitors Center, 2877 Creamery Road, Solebury Township, 215-297-5880.

Walk along Delaware Canal and River. Register. Free. 9 a.m.

A Woodland Harvest, Stony Brook Millstone Watershed,

31 Titus Mill Road, Pennington, 609-737-7592. Exploratory walk through

field and forest in search of wild edibles. Register. $15. 9 a.m.

Spring Fling, Hamilton-Trenton Marsh, Roebling,

Spring Lake Parking Lot, Trenton, 609-895-5420. Join Central Jersey

Sierra Club and the newly formed Friends for the Marsh to pick up

debris alongside the walkways and waterways of this unique tidal freshwater

marsh, located in Hamilton. Participants to meet at 9:30 a.m. at the

Roebling Park parking lot near Spring Lake. Bring water. Wear sturdy

footwear. Debris bags will be provided. 9:30 a.m. to noon

Arbor Day, Stony Brook Millstone Watershed, 31 Titus

Mill Road, Pennington, 609-737-7592. Join the staff for tree planting

to provide a green legacy for future generations. Free. 10 a.m.

to 4 p.m.

Arbor Day Celebration, Delaware & Raritan Canal State

Park , Bull’s Island Recreational Area, Stockton, 732-873-3050.

Nature program on tree identification and a one-mile hike to see the

tulip poplars. Everyone can take home a seedling of the New Jersey

state tree, the Northern Red Oak. Free. 1 p.m.

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