“Can you do tricks on those?”
“Can you do tricks on those?” called the girl again. She was with some school group. The gaggle of kids paid scant attention to the historian’s presentation about the Sandy Hook Light, where I’d paused to take a photo.
Running through a mental list of possible responses, I settled on “My trick is skiing on snow,” and double poled away at an easy pace.
Beyond jokes about the Turnpike, the tank farms and the Sopranos, the Jersey Shore is the image most people most people have of the Garden State. Swimming, surfing, sampling the music scene. I haven’t been in the ocean since I saw Jaws, but I’m always searching for a change of scenery. I took a day to roller ski the bike path at Sandy Hook on the fabled Jersey shore. Not only is the scenery nice, there are cool historical aspects to this part of the shore.
Six miles long and ranging from one-tenth to one mile wide, Sandy Hook is a barrier spit or island, part of the chain of barrier islands that protects the NJ coast. It’s part of Gateway National Recreation Area, which also encompasses units in Jamaica Bay NY and Staten Island NY.
There’s a paved bike path running the length of the park into historic Fort Hancock. Meandering from the ocean side of this narrow spit of land to the Sandy Hook Bay, there’s five to six miles of pavement in great condition. Once you get into Fort Hancock, there are some intersection choices as the bike path branches off into different directions. I didn’t get to explore everything in Fort Hancock on this trip.
In total, my guess is there’s six miles or a bit more of smooth pavement: Lake Denmark Road should be in such good condition. And while I wouldn’t base my training for the Whiteface Climb to the Castle on this place, there’s actually some modest elevation change. It’s not flat by a long shot.
You can roll south out of the park into the town of Sea Bright,; however, at the gatehouse, the surface changes from asphalt to cement. I checked it out, and it’s not friendly to ice points. I don’t recommend it.
If possible, I’d recommend rolling here on a weekday or in the off season. The admission fee is $10.00 per vehicle, so carpooling is key. On a summer weekend, expect the bike path to be crowded. But on a sunny Friday in June, there was no congestion. I encountered a few people walking or running, and cyclists of every persuasion from beach cruiser to type A masters roadie.
There are numerous parking areas along the roadside. Many have changing areas and open air showers, so take your pick. When I bring my family here, we park near Spermaceti Cove, where there was a lifesaving station from the mid 19th century until 1946. Today, it’s a museum.
Just north of mile two on the bike path, there are a couple of decommissioned Nike missiles. Along with a radar station, they’re relics of the Cold War. From the mid 1950s until Fort Hancock was decommissioned in 1974, there was a major Nike missile installation at Fort Hancock. Fort Hancock played a major role in coastal defense from the mid nineteenth century until 1974, and was also the army’s primary proving ground for ordnance. I neglected to photograph a sign along the bike path, something like, “Danger! Hazardous! Stay on the path,” warning of possible unexploded shells in the coastal woods.
Further north, Sandy Hook Light, in Fort Hancock, is the oldest operating lighthouse in the U.S. This site first beamed light to sea in 1764 to warn mariners of the treacherous shoals, and is still operational today.
After your workout, give yourself time to visit the Twin Lights of Navesink, on the mainland. Operational from 1828 to 1949, there’s now a great museum on this site.
If roller skiing isn’t enough, there’s a trail through the dunes and coastal woods where you can spot vestiges of the extensive anti aircraft missile launchers. Or you can stroll up the beach. If you go far enough, you’ll pass on to Gunnison Beach, which is, uh, clothing optional. That may be more people-watching than you care to do.
Next time I come down, I may bring my rocks skis for some beach skiing, but I think the beach slopes too sharply here for beach skiing to be practical. We’ll see.
It’s too far away for me to roll here regularly. But Sandy Hook is definitely worth at least one trip during dryland season.
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