I’ve often thought that Bruce Springsteen, my brother and Fort Lee are some of the only redeemable parts of New Jersey. Anyone who knows me knows I’m only half joking. My first trip to Fort Lee was in High School with the short lived Msgr McClancy Hiking Club. We took the subways north, walked across the George Washington Bridge and into the park. We trekked back, made it home but never scheduled another trip. None the less, that one adventure left a permanent mark in my memories and I always found myself glancing to the cliffs to the left as I drove across the GWB.
This was my weekend with my kids and as I drove to work Friday morning I thought about what we could do to keep us all out of trouble. James was sick and staying with his mother so it was just me and Jack. Always up for something, he was excited when we left Queens and headed north.
Fort Lee Historic Park is located at the original site of the American encampment during the Revolutionary War. Brave men stood their ground against overwhelming British forces in 1776 and allowed George Washington & his army to escape the area. It helped set the scene for the famous crossing of the Delaware a few years later, and eventually, the British surrendering. A Hundred and Fifty some odd years later they built the massive George Washington Bridge right next to it.
Jack and I walked across the bridge, tossing pennies off the side to see how long they’d take to hit the water. The enormity of the whole thing left Jack awestruck and he enjoyed being so high in the air until he realized the shaking he felt was caused by the traffic rumbling by. He suggested we walk back to the car and go to that wooded place I had told him about earlier.
The park was pretty much the way I remembered, made even more stunning in the beautiful fall colors. Jack played with a remote control truck he brought and I took some photos. We wandered along the paths and overlooks and reached the batteries which were once built by the soldiers defending these cliffs. Jack abandoned the car and found a way to scramble up to the top of them. I tried to explain why they were here but Jack wasn’t hearing it, until I mentioned George Washington.
“That’s his bridge!” Jack exclaimed. “Sure is.” I responded and tried to explain the harsh conditions that Washington and those early patriots faced to keep their dream of our freedom alive. Jack went along playing, leaping from embankment to embankment.
“This place is awesome!” He yelled to me. “Its just like I’m in poptropica!”
Poptropica is the online game that my son is currently addicted to. He and I spend hours together guiding his character through complex puzzles as he leaps and jumps along from building to building, over trees and rocks and whatever else gets in his way.
I looked around as Jack continued bringing his online universe to life. The beauty of this small slice of mother nature nestled on the cliffs over looking the George Washington Bridge was amazing. I wondered what it looked like through eyes two hundred and thirty years ago. I tried to imagine the conditions they faced. I thought about their bravery to lie their lives on the line for just the idea of freedom.
“What’s next dad!” Jack called out, bringing me back to present day. He ran off into the woods, and grabbed my camera and followed.