Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Shades Of Death Road

With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

Bert Gildart: For the past few days, our forwarding address in New Jersey has been: Shades of Death Road. Each time we’ve provided the address, the response has been an audible intake of breath.

“What did you say your address was?”

“Did I get that right?” “Is it really Shades of Death Road?”

Shades Of Death Road

Shades of Death Road

Shades of Death is a popular road sign, and yes, it’s true, some of our family members live here, specifically our grandchildren, and like all young children living under the shadow of such a name, they can tell you a number of legends associated with the name.

So, in fact, can many other people, as I discovered when I went into Hackettestown for a haircut. And because you keep hearing the same legend told in more or less the same way, apparently there’s some truth to the legends. But whether the legends are true, swiping the sign in midnight raids was so popular, that according to our grandchildren who have the fortune (or misfortune) of living along this road, the New Jersey Road Department has had to implement means of discouraging theft.

First, according to Kelsey, Kyle and Corey, who all know the stories, the department coated the pole with oil. When that didn’t work, officials created a one-piece structure made of hard metal, and that seems to be working, at least for the time being.

Ghost Lake Overlook Hike

Ghost Lake Overlook Hike

Shades of Death Road runs from Great Meadow to Allamuchy, and according to one legend this road, which is approximately five miles long, has its name rooted in murder. One tale relating to murder says that the original inhabitants of the area surrounding Shades of Death were an unruly band of squatters.

Often, men from this vile gang would get into fights over women, and the squabbles would result in the death of one of the participants. As the reputation of these murderous bandits grew, the area they inhabited was named “Shades of Death. ”Yet another legend is rooted in association with the marshy swampland which surrounds it.

Around 1850, an outbreak of malaria carrying insects was discovered near a cliff face along Shades of Death. As the citizens around Shades came to expect the yearly outbreaks of this terrible disease, they began to anticipate the annual spate of deaths of friends and family members which came along with it. Like any community, their landmarks, in particular this one road, came to reflect the morose attitude they had regarding these epidemics.“But whether or not any of these legends is true or not,” emphasized Chick, who is a third generation barber in Hacketstown, respected for his fellowship, “is something we may never know.”

Still, legends do what legends always do: they grow; and typical of areas with morose sounding names, other features also take on sinister sounding names, as did a man-made lake created by a small dam in the 1940s. Because of its association with Shades of Death and the ghostly apparitions of fog wisping over the water, the men who constructed the lake called it Ghost Lake.

Ghost Cave

Ghost Cave

While here with grandchildren, we decided to hike to a cave that was supposed to connect to Ghost Lake, which we did following a half mile walk. Kyle wanted to explore the cave, but we quickly discovered that despite the claim of a connecting passage, that it was not one we wanted to take. Keith and Katie, the children’s parents, say the passage does exist, but that it is narrow and includes a drop off, from which you must then scuba dive.

We all agreed that performing such a feat sounded as sinister as Shades of Death Road—and that we wouldn’t add any possible bodies to the still growing legend. In the meantime, we’re happy to let “Shades,” as it affectionately called, assume its rightful name among a pantheon of other descriptive names such as the Bucket Of Blood in Virginia City Nevada.

4th ed. Autographed by the Authors

Hiking Shenandoah National Park

Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.

$18.95 + Autographed Copy

Big Sky Country is beautiful

Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State

Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.

$16.95 + Autographed Copy

What makes Glacier, Glacier?

Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent

Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons

$16.95 + Autographed Copy

3 Responses to “Shades Of Death Road”

  1. Kelsey Connelly Says:

    Does this count as a comment bert? WE really miss you. I know bruce-(our nextdoor nieghboor)
    Will love the website on shades cause I love it Hope to see you in fall,If not next summer
    Love Kelsey

    P.s It was fun having you

  2. Cheryl Burket Says:

    Shades of Death Road:
    My family lived at Ghost Lake, Haunted Hollow in the 1960’s.
    The Cave has a name “Fairy Hole” named by the Indians. The cave gets narrow, then goes up, no water just bats.
    Ghost Lake is not a natural lake, the previous owners Leon Hull and Bill Crouse built them, there are 2 springs they took advantage of one near the cave the other towards the back of the lake. The State bought the property in the 1970’s and demolished all the unique buildings, we once had a summer there. We so much miss living there. Cher

  3. kate Says:

    its sept. 18th. 2:56AM. my boyfriend mike and i decided around 12:00 that we should go visit shades. i used to live off of it on heller rd but i never took the time to drive down the entire road at night. well, we got there at around 1am which, from the research we did after we got home, seems to be the time when things are most likely going to happen. anyway, as soon as we got onto shades, we hit some really heavy, short patches of fog. it was strange because, tonight was rather clear. we continued on and we passed lenape rd. i shared what little knowledge i had about that road at the time and we decided that it wouldnt be a good idea to go down it. i wanted to show mike my old house so we made the sharp right down heller rd. the farther down we drove… the worse our vibes became. shortly after passing my house, we turned around and started heading back towards shades. our vibes only got worse. we went under the rt 80 overpass and came to ghost lake. i
    didnt even need to tell mike we were passing it. he already knew. each patch of fog we hit, made our horrible vibes stronger. we started to think that something was in our backseat. there were no other cars on the road. we started freaking out and our stomaches dropped for no reason and we agreed that we needed to get the hell off that road. mike sped up and i told him that my legs were completely numb. they were tense, numb, immobile and burning hot. his upperbody was numb. there was a pressure on his chest that he couldnt seem to explain. as we continued down the road, i saw a figure. just a white thing, i dont know what, dart from the side of the road down a small hill. i flipped and mike admitted to seeing the same thing about 5 minutes before i did. i tried to explain it away as a reflection until mike told me that it definately was not. shortly after, on the same side of the road, the left, i saw a black solid mass slide across the side of a near
    by house. that was it for me. my heart had sunk and my stomach was churning. we agreed that we felt horrible. we had vibes that we couldnt shake even after we were far from the road. we came into the middle of hackettstown and we saw a cop car. we decided that we wouldnt be upset if he pulled us over. at least we would know that someone besides us was alive. the whole ride home we couldnt stop talking about how horrible of a vibe we had. we got home and did more research. we found ourselves nodding our heads to the other posts about mysterious thick fog, being there at 1am and having unexplained feelings of complete dread. thats our shades of death story. we’ll be going back soon.

    kate & mike