PLEASE NOTE: I have been advised that some poison ivy or poison oak is now growing near where the box is hidden. It wasn't there in the fall. Please use caution when retrieving this box.
Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area - Lower Hibernia Road, Rockaway Township (Hibernia), NJ
DIRECTIONS: From state Route 23 south in Newfoundland, take Morris County Route 513 (Green Pond Road) south to the village of Hibernia. Park your car in the hikers parking lot located on the left side of Lower Hibernia Road at its juncture with Green Pond Road. From Route 80 W take Hibernia exit (Exit 37, County Rd 513). Go north on 513 off the exit ramp for about 3 miles. Look for a small side road called Lower Hibernia Road, on the right. The parking lot is immediately next to the road.
HISTORY: By 1776, Morris County was the principle smelting center of the United States. Rockaway Township had a great number of forges. For nearly 200 years, Hibernia was a major iron industry center in New Jersey. Mining began here around 1722 and continued intermittently until 1912. The Hibernia ore deposit was over a mile long and the largest in the state. The Hibernia group of mines was one of the most important ore producers in the eastern United States. The Hibernia Mine comprised the Lower Wood, Glendon, Scott, DeCamp, Upper Wood, Willis and Wharton mines of the early New Jersey Geological Survey reports, all of which operated on the Hibernia deposit. The ore body extended from the Beach mine, near New Road, northeast under the Hibernia Brook into the hill on the east. In 1765, the "Adventure Furnace", later known as the Hibernia Furnace, was built at Hibernia. The forges and furnaces at Hibernia and Mount Hope furnished the Continental Army with shovels, axes, cannon, cannon balls, grapeshot and other supplies. Even though there was a desperate need for soldiers in the Continental Army, the New Jersey Legislature adopted a resolution on October 7, 1777, exempting fifty men at Mount Hope and twenty-five men at Hibernia from entering the military service. These men were needed to mine the iron and produce the equipment needed for battle. The Hibernia Furnace was also known for its production of Pig Iron. The Hibernia Furnace had a high reputation and supplied many of the forges in Morris County. The Washington Headquarters in Morristown had one of these "pig" forges. In 1873, a tunnel was driven for 2,500 feet along the ore shoot to drain the upper workings. The entrance to the tunnel still existed up until 1987 and was covered by a steel plate. The portal was located across the valley behind the old Hibernia store. The tunnel is approximately 10 feet high by 15 feet wide and about 2,500 feet long and connects with the old stopes and shafts in some places. In NJ, hibernating bats will usually retire to caves or mines in the fall before truly hibernating during the winter months. Around the end of August thousands (as many as 30,000) of little brown bats retire to the Hibernia mine in Rockaway Township, one of the most important bat hibernacula in the Northeast. At that time, they will fly out at sundown to feed during the night and their mass exodus from the mine is truly a spectacle to witness. Today, the Hibernia group of mines is an extensive complex of structural ruins, tailing piles, and other mine related features that extend northeasterly up a rugged hillside and across its top. Slag dumps are present, adjacent to Hibernia Brook. A hike through this once flourishing iron industry center will reveal to the historical hiker a cultural landscape of enormous size, complexity, and change. The Hibernia mine is under the protection and management of the bat conservation office of the NJ Department of Fish, Game and Wildlife. For trail maps, visit: http://f.vanderburgh.home.att.net/imap/wcrtrails.html.
ESTIMATED HIKE TIME & DIFFICULTY: Approximately an hour, more or less depending on your fitness level. The majority of the trails traveled on are fairly difficult terrain. There are several steep hills to climb with loose rock and sand.
CLUES: Begin by following the white trail from the parking lot. You will pass some of the mine building ruins on your right. Continue straight until you reach a tree with double white hashes; follow the trail to the left. You will come to a small trail on your left – there is a tree with a trail marker with a picture of binoculars at this junction. Follow the small path to the left until you come to the tunnel entrance to the Hibernia mine. If you visit later in the afternoon, you might even get to see some bats fluttering around the iron gate that protects the shaft. After visiting the bat hibernacula, continue past a bench on your right until you come to the intersection of three other trails. Take the second trail on your left up a steep and rocky hill. Notice a flat rock terrace on your left. It’s a great place to catch your breath. Continuing up the hill, you might notice railroad cables sticking out of the ground on your right. These are other mementos left over from the mining era. At the fork in the trail, head left. At the top, you will need to cross a fallen log and follow the trail to your left. You should see another fallen tree on top of a rock pile. Look immediately to your left. Another smaller trail heads off into the woods to the left. Follow this trail until you come upon a spooky sight - Saint Patrick’s Cemetery, established 1869. Many of the plots belonged to immigrant mine workers. In recent years, the cemetery has suffered from vandalism. Several tombstones have been destroyed and several graves have been dug up. To find what you seek, you must explore within the cemetery – please remember to be respectful while doing so. Find the “V” in the middle. They will point you to a “rustic” grave marker just ahead. From there, wonder to the right until you find Jan’s Obelisk. Facing the Obelisk, turn your gaze approximately 45 degrees. Once you reach this “rock, away” to the fallen fence behind. After rehiding the box, you can simply retrace your path to find the parking lot again. If you do not want to look at the mine again, simply head straight down the trail, rather than bearing right on the trail marked “Bat Hibernacula”.