Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Tripod Rock

a black and white dog named Jolee looking up at Tripod Rock

Hello fellow readers, Last weekend, we visited Tripod Rock at Pyramid Mountain in Montville, NJ. Team members of Growing Hope assembled for an in-person walk through the woods to support Comfort Zone Camp’s virtual Grief Relief 5K fundraiser. Comfort Zone Camp is a bereavement camp for kids and young adults who lost a parent, guardian, or sibling too early in life.

a group of four woman and one man and a black and white dog below tripod rock posed as if supporting it with their arms

Team Growing Hope at Tripod Rock

Tripod Rock, a 180-ton boulder, is a remarkable sculpture in nature. Scientists call it glacial erratic when ice moves rocks elsewhere. The Wisconsin Glacier moved Tripod Rock over 18,000 years ago. Balanced on three smaller boulders, it’s far grander than the stacked stones we saw on trails.

“Why do hikers stack stones, anyway?” one of our team members asked.

Man-made stacks of stones are called Cairns.

a black and white dog named Jolee looking up at Tripod Rock Historically cairns function as trail markers to indicate a destination or which way to turn. Or to locate buried stashes of food or objects. Some say native cultures stacked stones to honor gods or in remembrance of the dead.

Its become a trend for hikers to stack stones arbitrarily, disturbing habitat, confusing hikers to head the wrong way; essentially, it’s littering.  Imagine the mess of things if everyone piled rocks. When you think about it, It’s right up there with carving initials into trees which harms them. Besides, piling stones is contrary to the outdoor ethics of “Leave No Trace.” Carry out what you carry in, do not disturb nature, and leave behind only footprints.

But there can be a place for stacking stones in your landscape. I joke with folks desiring or requiring a deer-resistant garden, “There’s no such thing as deer-proof except rocks.”

An Inuksuk is a Cairn built by peoples of North America’s Arctic.
a massive grey outcropping of boulders with an Inuksuk as a stacked stone bridge over a water feature with purple echinacea, lamb's ear and fountain grass in front

James’ Inuksuk- made into a water feature.

A few years back, I enjoyed working with James of Lake Mohawk, NJ, whose property has a massive natural outcropping. He had the idea of putting an inuksuk across a gap at the highest peak and trickled a hose with water along a crevice. An inuksuk is a cairn built by peoples of North America’s Arctic region; most commonly, they are stone set upon stone serving as markers. Some think they were assembled in such a way to resemble a human or cross.

We expanded James’ idea by creating a small stream tumbling down to a small reservoir with a pump to re-circulate the water. A perfect birdbath for our feathered friends enhanced by a surrounding garden of many native plants for habitat.

Getting back to our hike on Saturday— Parts of the trail were challenging, requiring creative maneuvering. We sat on boulders, moving from one to another on the steep parts, and accessed fallen branches as walking sticks. A wrong turn caused a double climb of a few steep rocky slopes logging 4.5 miles and raising $800—enough to send one grieving child to camp plus $200 towards another. Woo hoo to Growing Hope!

Preserving Nature & the Markers of History

When we returned to the truck, the Trail Supervisor, a volunteer for over twenty years, asked, “are you coming back or heading out?” I shared our roundabout route to Tripod Rock which leads to a chat that he knew how to topple the massive boulder. “How,” I asked?

“Only if you promise not to do it,” he said.

“Promise. I adore Mother Natures’ art.”

“It’s how they destroyed castles,” the Trail Supervisor said. If you build a big fire around one of the boulders to get it hot, then throw water on it, the boulder will crack, causing the boulder to fall. The logic makes sense, although I hadn’t heard the story of destroying castles.

But let’s preserve nature, leaving no trace of destruction, and keep the markers of history too, so we never forget them and, God willing, we learn and grow.

Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com (and your favorite Podcast App.)

Mary Stone hugging a sycamore tree with a certificate for Best Team Name Growing Hope for Comfort Zone Camp's Grief Relief 5K

Growing Hope receives “Best Team Name.” Here’s to Growing Hope (and hugging trees :^)

Comfort Zone Camp’s NY/NJ Region raised over $42,000 in the 2021 Grief Relief 5K!

a group of men, women, and tow dogs on a picnic with a Comfort Zone Camp Banner

Comfort Zone Camp’s NY-NJ Region celebrates raising $42,000 in the Grief Relief 5K!

More about Comfort Zone Camp

Link to information about Pyramid Mountain & Tripod Rock

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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