My Lake Hopatcong Easter trip – A Trip to New Jersey
Before this Easter weekend, I hadn’t ever been to New Jersey, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’ve heard all sorts of cultural stereotypes about New Jersey most of my life ranging from Mob bosses, to Frank Sinatra to gaudy girls with big hair. In my perception, New Jersey has always been portrayed like New York City’s red-headed stepchild — its where they go to dump the bodies. While I couldn’t see why it was called the Garden State, as its license plate motto proclaims, there is an undeniable charm and atmosphere to the areas I briefly alighted. Perhaps once the leaves are back on the trees, I will be utterly captivated. Mostly, this is about my impressions of a place I visited very briefly, and yet, it left an indelible mark upon my soul and unsettles me even now, 250+ miles away.
I wasn’t given much to go upon as far as what to expect from Lake Hopatcong and I certainly wasn’t expecting to go to a town that looked like it was straight out of the 1940’s. Heralded as a major Northeastern resort from the 1880’s through the 1930’s, the town boasted some 40 hotels and rooming houses, the ghostly remains of many still haunting her shores. Summer cabins stand like aging starlets on tottering high heels of craggy rocks, long past their prime, propped up by newer admirers, the Johnny-come- lately from the last thirty years or so, crowd along the lake’s windy shores. Like everywhere else, lakefront property is at premium here. The lake has surely changed from an upscale resort to an unlikely town as urban sprawl sent New Jersians scurrying into the ‘burbs in the late 1960’s and 70’s in search of more affordable housing.
The cottages and cabins are like women with slightly bawdy pasts, their facade’s may be worn, but their eyes tell interesting tales from an era I’ll never know, and can only be guessed at from recounted stories. But they make me want to know more, as if I could somehow sit on their front porches and listen to them for hours reminisce about the people they once knew, and the innocent (and perhaps not so innocent) fun they once had at Lake Hopatcong. Back when life really was simpler than it is today, sans electronics and computers which now are used for work and playing games online, which you can even get help for from boosting sites as Elitist Gaming. A slower pace of life, that was more about living, than the frenetic race to wherever we all scurry to and from each day.
Saturday, we dined at the home of the grandchildren of one of Lake Hopatcong’s former mayors and still prominent Lake families. The house was an elegantly appointed summer cottage, decorated by the owner’s mother, who was a very talented interior designer. Living in well under 900 square feet, the two-story abode was as gracious, elegant and warm-hearted as anyone could ever hope. I only wish I could live that well in such a space. The meal and company totaling 6 of us, plus two other dogs besides my own little one, was incomparable. As the evening passed into night and slowly yielded to early morning, we reluctantly said our good nights and trudged back to what now seemed like a sterile hotel room.
Easter Sunday, we wandered around another portion of the lake. This time, really getting to see the true atmosphere of the place. Truly a little dilapidated and ramshackle, Lake Hopatcong is haunted. Haunted by her vibrant past as surely as the memories of fun summer still resonates across the lake and silently creeps into its many coves and summer cottages. It called out to me, and tried to wrap me up in sounds and lingering memories — beckoning me to a time long forgotten. Hoping that someone would want to revive the casual glamour it once took so for granted, like a young girl in her first blush with her own beauty. Surprised, and yet sophisticated enough to know that she has enraptured you for a moment in time.
It seems I entered a time warp of sorts, as I wandered down to a dock at the lake — it would not have been out of line if the spirits had conspired to evoke the sounds of the Jimmy or Tommy Dorsey orchestra wafting out of open windows, I could almost hear the rhythmic scratch, scratch, scratch of a needle on a record player. I could feel the specters of generations long past hovering in the fog over the lake. Local legend has it that the boarded up Northwood Inn was the local hangout of Frank Sinatra and his cronies. I half expected to see folks spilling out from the Inn onto the deck overlooking the lake, — women in beautifully fitted dresses and men in suits enjoying a cocktail and the sunset.So, again, I imagine, that when the leaves are on the trees, when the warm breezes have dressed up Lake Hopatcong in her summer’s finest apparel, more than ever, will the echoes of the past ring across the lake — but merely specters in the warm summer sun, reminding one of how families spent their summer vacations at Lake Hopatcong in style and grace.