THE 300 STONE STEPS OF MORRIS PLAINS seem to be an enigma. Some believe the stairs were constructed by Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War, so lookouts could signal neighboring towns with a fire to warn them of British troop movements. Others claim the steps are the handiwork of Native Americans, and were laid well before the Continental Army used the site to spot Redcoats.
One thing is certain: The steps are so mysterious, no one in the town seems to know where they are. We stopped in the Morris Plains Police Station one cold winter day to inquire about their location.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” one officer told us, “but I’ve never heard of them.” We called the local town historian from the police station, hoping that she could head us in the right direction.
“The 300 Steps?” she said. “Oh yes, I know about them. If you’d like to stop by I can show you where they are on a map. Where are you now?”
We told her we were in the parking lot of the police station.
“Well, if you’re in the parking lot, you’re looking at my house. I’m right next to it!”
We took a few giant steps and were on her porch in less than a minute. Although she said she knew where the steps were, getting to them was not so easy.
“Well, you turn here and turn there, but you can’t get to it from here because the road is blocked off, so you have to go around to there.”
We just asked her to pinpoint the location and we’d find our own way.
“They are way off into the woods, deep in the forest. Our group is planning a hike to them in the spring,” she said. But at that point we were really only half listening. In our heads we already had one foot out the door, and one foot on the first of the 300 steps.
According to the location we were given, the 300 Steps were to be found right off Mountain Way.
We pulled into a parking lot near where we thought the steps would be found. There was a park there and a sign enclosed in a glhappy case that described the area. There were no clear directions posted on how to get to the steps, so we decided to just take the hike into the woods and see what we could find. Not more than 200 feet along the trail, we came upon the mysterious 300 Stone Steps.
“Well, I wouldn’t exactly call this ‘deep in the forest,’” said Mark M.
“Good thing we didn’t wait until the hiking expedition next spring!” said I.
“Start counting,” Mark said, as he began to climb. “1,2,3,4…”
The flat stones ranged from 1-2 feet in width and ascended the mountain in a zig-zag fashion. As we climbed the mountain, we could see why Washington might want to use this spot for observation. I would imagine in the 1700s the view must have been quite impressive.
As Mark got just over the summit he yelled back down, “I only count 268!” Satisfied with his math, I decided to take his word for it, and get myself off of that freezing mountainside. My foot slipped on an ice-covered stone and I proceeded to tumble down about 20 of the 268 steps. I finally landed on my shoulder, and heard a loud “crunch” sound. Ouch! Something didn’t feel right. Especially when I couldn’t lift my arm.
“Are you alright?” Mark yelled from the top of the mountain.
“NO!” I bellowed. “I think I broke my arm, Goddamit! These are the 268 steps to