Archive for the ‘The Seasons’ Category
“…unreconstructed and necessary wildness…” Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire
Enraged Osprey of Carnegie Lake, Brenda Jones
Michael Pollan in general, and his Botany of Desire, in particular, is one of those authors everyone means to read. I hear protestations of intention all the time, always tinged with a kind of wistfulness. Recently, Public Television gave people a visual taste of this man’s paradigm. For me, the visual alone never suffices.
I’ll go so far as to insist that Pollan is an author to re-read. His subject matter is so unexpected (apples and ‘cyder’, marijuana, tulips and potatoes) and his thinking so original. It’s worth taking Pollan in hand, even if you don’t give a fig about nature. Just for the privilege of journeying with him.
Fierce Flight (Great Blue Heron), Brenda Jones
And savoring his pithy phrases, such as “Plants are the true alchemists.” His lament that now, “It is as though nature is something that happens outside,… as if we are gazing at nature across a gulf.” As he sets out in a canoe in quest of Johnny Appleseed’s seminal (couldn’t resist) journeys, Pollan relishes trusting in the river to take him wherever he wants to go.
WILD DELAWARE RIVER, Brenda Jones
In my case, re-reading The Botany of Desire reveals a delicious (pun intended) emphasis upon the WILD.
Trenton’s Apple Bounty, cfe
People can and do tease me for prating of the WILD in New Jersey. In the first segment of The Botany of Desire, Pollan takes an even more unlikely tack — seeking the wild, as did Thoreau, through apples. One of his theses is that Appleseed’s success came because he was not peddling mere fruit, but ‘cyder’ to the pioneers.
West Windsor’s Apple Bounty — cfe
Michael sets the tone with phrases such as “A handful of wild apples came with me” (on his Johnny-Appleseed-Quest.) He insists that “sowers of wild seeds are to be prized.”
Cedar Ridge Preserve Meadow, cfe
Cedar Ridge Wild Mushrooms — cfe
Pollan laments that “we live in a world where the wild places where wild plants live are dwindling.” You’ve heard this line from me in ‘posts’ beyond counting, coupled with urgings to support your local land trusts, especially D&R Greenway, to preserve New Jersey’s wild remnants and to plant New Jersey Natives wherever we can.
Baldpate View, Ted Stiles Preserve, Brenda Jones
Let Michael define “the best of all possible worlds”: “WE’D BE PRESERVING THE WILD PLACES THEMSELVES.”
The next best possible world: “ONE THAT PRESERVES THE QUALITY OF WILDNESS ITSELF.”
Female Harrier Aloft, Pole Farm, Brenda Jones
Male Harrier, “The Grey Ghost”, in ice at Pole Farm — Brenda Jones
The generating thesis of NJ WILD is that the wild exists right in our own back yards:
Wild erupts with the whiff of fox along mown paths of The Griggstown Grasslands. This lovely lofty set of trails, with its compelling Sourlands and Watchung views, awaits but a mile or two north of me on Canal Road, before/beside Griggstown’s Causeway.
Fox Alert, Griggstown Grasslands, Brenda Jones
The wild surprised me last week In burgeonings of wildflowers, deep in the duff of the forest floor, on Bull’s Island in the Delaware. These petite fleurs lifted up the blinding waxy yellow of buttercups. 8 to 10 petals rayed out from yellow centers. These premature spring heralds were nevertheless inviting pollinators. On my hike, they seemed like pieces of eight flung onto the leaf-strewn forest floor.
Why call a delicate plant WILD? Because they arrived there on their own, blooming despite winter on the calendar, pushing through flood detritus that resembled the graphite dust of Thoreau’s pencils. A key quality of the wild is RESILIENCE — New Jersey specialty!
Sourland Mountain Rocks and Water, Brenda Jones
WILD in New Jersey, for me, requires Lenni Lenapes. The land was tended by these peaceful tribes, at least 10,000 years ago. Their vanished presence is palpable on many of my hikes, most especially among Sourlands boulders. Also on trails near Mountain Lakes House, and at Ringing Rocks just across Delaware at Upper Black Eddy. In each case, majestic boulders that render Stonehenge puny rest exactly where they were revealed by water wind and time, before time. The huge stones are frequently encountered in a massive ring. I FEEL Indian councils there, planning tribal actions for the season about to begin. Seasons which, for Lenni Lenapes, triggered travel either to or from hunting to gathering.
Mink at Play, Brenda Jones
In the Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown Marsh, the Lenapes convened with selected other tribes, before leaving central Jersey hunting grounds for Shore gatherings. This journey and the seasonal constellation of other indigenous peoples was triggered by natural phenomena. Spring’s took place when pickerel weed pierced still waters like arrows.
New Jersey’s Apple Bounty, cfe
Michael Pollan plants a wild tree in his own home garden. His hope - “that such a tree will bear witness to unreconstructed and necessary wildness.”
What can you do about wildness right now, as elusive winter gives way to spring?
Go in search of it.
Buy only native NJ species for your gardens.
Read Michael Pollan
well, you know….
REMEMBER, WILD IS ALL ABOUT HABITAT!
Rare Box Turtle, Camouflaged in Natural Habitat - Cedar Ridge cfe
Generously support D&R Greenway and other Land Trusts, preserving New Jersey’s wild wherever it exist.
Lake Oswego Peace — South of Chatsworth, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Desperately seeking the wild, I’ve returned to my Edward Abbey collection, making my way through his work and others writing about this literary rebel, this self-proclaimed ‘desert rat’. It is essential right now that I live for awhile with ‘Cactus Ed’.
I need his crusty refusals of ‘growth and development’. I require his ecstasy in the face of cactus and rattlesnake. My healing leg ‘walks’ with Ed in these books — in his red rocks and among his cherished junipers, occasionally coming upon desert primrose, respecting the ever-present spider and viper.
But enough of this prickly Paradise. I have my own. And it’s in our state - in the spirit of Abbey, I defy myself to define Paradise, because mine is in New Jersey:
Lake Oswego Summer, South of Chatsworth, Pine Barrens (cfe)
shared with one attuned person or blessedly alone, sometimes with camera
there is sand, and/or marshland
Afloat, Lake Oswego — (cfe)
long silken grasses are kissed and rearranged by very varied tides
birds are ever present or possible: on the ground, in trees, ruffling the leaves, troubling the shrubs. Birds are overhead. They pierce tidal flats. Wings flat out, they harry and raptor. Some murmur, some croak. Everywhere I walk, there are whistlings, whisperings and rustlings. I am ever on the lookout for rails and bitterns, whether I ever find one or not. A bird is downing two snakes in the time it takes to type this (as did a great egret at ‘The Brigantine’ some years ago). A minuscule pied-billed grebe gulps a January frog, as happened a few weeks back.
Thistle Shimmer, Lake Batsto (cfe)
back roads get me to Paradise — hushed roads, where I am often the only car. Road edges are dusted with sugar sand. Forest understory (which must contain evergreen and the luminous black jack oak), switches from laurel to blueberry to fern to pine seedlings and oakthrusts, and back again.
New Jersey Paradise is especially defined by its people - who live by the seasons and the tides. The Abbey in me asserts, “not by the clock; and, by God, not by the Dow Jones Stock Index!”
the roads that lead to Carolyn’s Paradise must hold a beauty of their own, for at least 2/3 of the way. Pine Barrens and Salem and Cumberland County provide such aesthetic conduits, away from commerce, to wildest nature
Idyllic Batsto Lake, Pine Barrens (cfe)
roadways and destinations involve freshwater, saltwater, varying salinities, peatwater, whitewater, the stillness of the bays darkling streams wind alluringly back under the dark pines, tugging at the kayaker in me
the regions I am exploring involve bogs and fens, spongs, groves and copses
rare plants lurk right around the next bend — curly grass fern, swamp pink, carnivorous flowers who must lure insects for protein due to the strange ph of soils in Carolyn’s New Jersey Paradise — sundew, pitcher plant — those ravenous ones… when least expecting it, I am to be knocked over by wild fragrance, such as sweet pepperbush, along the peatwaters of Lake Oswego south of Chatsworth rare lilies bloom in ditches as I drive goldenclub erupts behind a dam I would otherwise despise with Abbey - but it did create this ideal habitat for a plant I’d only known in the splendid nature books of Howard Boyd
Among the Rare Lilies, Brigantine Wildlife Refuge (cfe)
often in my wanderings to and through Paradise, I must come on mosses and lichens and occasional fungi. Although I long to devour each mushroom, this foraging remains virtual, ignorance being quite the barrier where these savories are concerned
Leeds Point - Hard-Shell and Soft-Shell Crabs cfe
quaint names are essential — alongside the back roads and out in front of farms, beside the waters:
“Troublesome Acres” “Heaven’s Way Farm” “Farrier” Dividing Creek “Bears, Bucks and Ducks” Shellpile Bivalve Caviar Ong’s Hat — some of these names go back generations and centuries, and only the locals may know how to find them, by a crumbling foundation or some domestic plant run wild in another kind of wilderness Applejack Hill’s name has been changed, for the tourists, to Apple Pie Hill — Abbey, are you listening? Applejack, of course, — talk about terroir!– was/is New Jersey Lightnin’ — each Piney tending his own still with attention, experience and a shotgun.
Sneak Boat Ready to Sneak - Leeds Point (cfe)
History must have happened in my Paradise — especially Native American and Revolutionary
Here a battle must have been fought and lost, such as the fiery Revolutionary fate of Chestnut Neck.
Here locals must have defied and overcome proud dazzlingly uniformed British, taking their ships and their stores inland from the coast, along the storied Mullica River - without which waters and watermen we would not have a nation today!
Clouds in the Water, Chatsworth Bogs (cfe)
Here salt hay must have been harvested by man and horse in the steamiest of seasons, and great whales tugged ashore and ‘tried’ for their various riches.
Here traitors must’ve conspired, smugglers rowed by night, bootleggers brought contraband ashore to sell and to imbibe.
Leed’s Point - Smugglers’ Haven - Living Fishing Port cfe
Here clammers still tug their rich provender onto deck and into seafood restaurants tethered to waterways, creaking boards hinting of sagas of old, as at Oyster Creek Inn at Leeds Point.
It helps that Leeds Point is the home of the Jersey Devil, whom I am still requesting to meet.
“Ready to Roll” cfe
Intriguing restaurants must be nearby. Farmers’ Markets must be open, and people must be selling the spring’s first asparagus, sliced from that meagre soil, at roadstands with a little box for the money for this treasure beyond price. Russo’s Market in Tabernacle must have its spicy applesauce apples outside in thick plastic bags, next to the honesty box, at the beginning of winter.
Only people who treasure timelessness and tranquillity need apply for such journeys.
A day in the Pines will require about 200 miles of driving, longer if we detour to Tuckerton, formerly Clamtown. Why Tuckerton? Because great and little blue and tri-colored herons may stud the grassy reaches, depending on the tide, as we tool along Seven Bridges Road. Because there’s a place along there, –out on a somewhat suspect roadway–, where one can stop for the freshest clams, unless one has wriggled them out personally, using one’s own toes. Because at the end of this road, (and HOW I LOVE Land’s Ends!), there used to be an island village, now sea-claimed. Here, in season, one can find the vivid oystercatchers in full breeding plumage, turning over the few rocks on the sandy approach to the bay.
Life of the Seasons and the Tides Leeds Point cfe
Because closer to town, one can happen to be there when evergreens are studded with black-crowned night herons, squawk-murmuring to one another as sun drops into autumnal waters.
Carolyn’s New Jersey Paradise has to include kayaking possibilities, for her physical therapist is promising ‘back in the craft’ by April. If so, there is above all the Wading River to paddle and many ‘liveries’ to make these delicate journeys possible. There is always the exquisite Barnegat Bay in Island Beach’s back reaches - those paddles used to be free, with naturalists leading us among the Sedge Islands. There a feast of shore birds includes black skimmers not only skimming, but doing their odd sand squiggle on their bellies, when it’s just too hot.
Black Skimmers in Flight, Brenda Jones
I deeply understand Cactus Ed’s passion for the sere landscape of Arches and Canyonlands. I relish, with him, the silence. I don’t have rock formations in my Paradise, nor the song of the canyon wren and the slither of sidewinder. His Paradise is red and pink and magenta and ochre and burnt sienna and irreplaceable.
Mine is mostly forest green, toasty oak, sometimes ruddy blueberry leaves, interspersed with limitless stretches of flooded cranberry bogs, throwing back the sunset. In the distance, there is salt tang. Close up, there is the sibilance of peatwater.
If Ed had known the Pine Barrens, –especially her crusty inhabitants–, I think he’d've approved. Maybe only if he found it before Arches and Canyonlands. He might’ve kayaked the Sedge Islands, and even boarded the restored oyster schooner down at Bivalve, and helped tug the sails into the sky while singing sea chanteys.
Revolutionary Massacre Site - Alloway Creek, Salem County — (cfe)
He’d probably hang out overnight, black flies and greenheads or no, on the sands of Reed’s Beach when it’s studded with courting, mating horseshoe crabs and whatever red knots and ruddy turnstones remain on our planet.
Bucolic Salem County, where Rebels Countered Redcoats and Prevailed cfe
Paradise — for Ed and for me — seems to require a dearth of humans. It need not be awash in critters, but there needs to be that ever-possibility. Even the new health of New Jersey oysters, “Cape May Salts.” Even the restoration of sturgeon to the Delaware River and elsewhere along this state of three coasts — once so enormous and plentiful that there is a mystery town still known as Caviar along the Delaware Bay.
An essential quality of Paradise, however, is that it cannot be explained.
So, inexplicably, I assert, New Jersey, especially South Jersey (and also Sandy Hook) holds varying versions of Paradise, all of them yours for the seeing. And none of them seasonally-dependent. Go for it!
Salem Preserved cfe
AND, ABOVE ALL, SEE THAT ALL VERSIONS OF NEW JERSEY PARADISE ARE PRESERVED!
Lest, like Thoreau, we find out we had not lived…
Autumn Shadows, Sandy Hook
NJ WILD readers will understand that I thought I drove through Monmouth County thoroughbreds to Sandy Hook in quest of birds in November of 2010. Mother Nature had other ideas.
Winds were wild and birds were few. Actually, I saw more birders than birds. Some I questioned concerning two nearly motionless grey and white raptors late in the day had been ‘at it’, as I often have, since dawn. They hadn’t seen ‘my’ hawks, and my descriptions weren’t useful enough for Scott Barnes to assist. He did merrily remember the April day Tasha O’Neill and I had spent on their hawk watch platform when he and his deeply experienced sidekick could not keep UP with the sharp-shin count!
What high winds and higher sun did to autumn colors surpassed my life experiences, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and even in Vermont.
Autumn’s Fence, Ocean,Sandy Hook
Yet, when the day’s photographs were studied, my favorites turned out to have to do with shadows.
Woodbine Shadows, North Lookout
It was a day of whitecaps on the tidal river, drawing parasailers and windsurfers, what I first witnessed in Provence and learned of as ‘planche a voile’. Plank with sail. Winter may be in the wings, enough that I had my down ‘cardigan’ zipped to the chin. Yet hardy waterpersons were nearly stripping, then slipping into glossy wet suits, from first light til last.
It was a day of blessed solitude, every pore open to Mother Nature’s gifts.
It was a day of dazzlement.
And yet, and yet, this afternoon, re-living Sandy Hook, bright shadows carried the day.
TRIUMPH OF SHADOW, NORTH BEACH
As a child, a favorite in my Childcraft book of children’s poetry, had to do with, guess what! - nature. The American robin was the not-very-imaginative state bird of my Michigan. So this ‘jingle’ really spoke to me back then, in little Lathrup Village, near Detroit:
The north wind doth blow
and we shall have snow
And what will the robin do then,
But sit in the barn
to keep himself warm
and hide his head under his wing
And what does the cardinal do ‘then’, do when north winds increasingly take over our world? A very brief answer from Brenda Jones is:
Brenda Jones Finds Cardinal Puffed Up for Winter
One of the most amusing/diverting/compelling aspects of my late-life hobby of birding is that one is always/always learning. Just when you get all the colors down, a first-year bird shows up and throws you back into uncertainty. Black-capped chickadee calls were easily mastered, and then the Carolina chickadee moved north with its more nervous vocalizations. Shapes were pretty much early in my learning process, for some reason. But, as you may have noticed, shape tends to change significantly on cold, let alone winter-windy days. Puffing their feathers adds air to down as ideal insulation.
Autumn 2011 Titusville Bridge, Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers may or may not know that my favorite season is autumn.
Even this year, when that segment of the year holds my hip replacement in the wings… the miracle which will ultimately return me to the trails and to the kayak, where I belong.
But this autumn, in New Jersey, is bare, barren and sere.
Leaves did not turn color - not even poison ivy, woodbine or wild grape. The more or less tarnished, and wild winds took care of most - whatever hue.
I’m asking and asking, “Without color, how do we know it’s autumn?”
In my Michigan childhood, we never had that color problem. Sugar maples were the flags of fall, on every side, not only in the kaleidoscopic autumn forests of northern Michigan.
Even so, it was never autumn until our mother read us the following poem. What is autumn to you, Dear Readers? What WAS autumn, in your childhood, wherever…?
TO BE READ ALOUD, preferably to children…
When the Frost Is On the Punkin
James Whitcomb Riley
NJ Wild readers know I used to write long and colorful nature articles for the Packet, for US 1 (Business) Newspaper and occasionally, West Windsor Plainsboro News. Jersey Sierran and New Jersey Countryside also published nature pieces of mine, back in the days when print journalism was thriving and free-lancing was an exhilirating profession.
Here’s a long story of those golden days, covering favorite near-Princeton walks, bearable on the blistering days. Be very aware, everyone, that without preservation organizations, such as D&R Greenway, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, Friends of Princeton Open Space, Montgomery Friends of Open Space, we wouldn’t have these dappled places to restore ourselves. Shall I dare to mention the cc word? - and flee catastrophic climate change!
Preserved land absorbs CO2 - but you all know that. I don’t know why the government does not.
Miracle-worker Brenda Jones inserted images for us, to convey visual enticement to our readers. I’ve walked these woods in all seasons, and could not name a favorite. What is yours?
“The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep”:
Cool Walks for Blistering Days
You’re psyched for a hike, but the Weather Channel reports temperatures over 90º. What to do? You’re in luck! The Princeton region abounds in sites offering cool walks despite blistering days.
It helps to get out on trails at first light or last. Birders and photographers know to choose times of low sun for best results. As the “Dog Days” of August approach, early and late become your best friends. Named for Sirius, the Dog Star, –which rises in that month–, I would watch the Provençals, gesturing furiously, castigate the entire season that they call “La Canicule”, (from Latin word for dog). In the South of France, this is a time of increased madness, of wildfires in pine and oak woods. For the entire interval of “La Canicule” 1988, firefighters camped out on our L’Observatoire Hill above Cannes — good chance to practice my French. No shade anywhere, then! Least of all in the charred (even the roots!) Esterel Forest, where I had become seriously sunburnt that January. As Global Warming creeps on its far-from-petty pace, this searing time could tempt you to bark.
In Princeton’s Dog Days the rule of thumb becomes, “Be out there when sun’s below treeline.” This is easy along the D&R Canal Towpath, which my employers, D&R Greenway Land Trust, were created to save for our overpopulated state. The canal was a vital commercial artery, now a New Jersey State Park. However, at all hours, in our mercifully wooded region, there are nearby hiking havens. Here you can literally escape heat, enhance fitness, experience wild beauty without absolutely wilting.
My benchmark for temperature relief is New Jersey Audubon’s Plainsboro Preserve. If I were giving Cool Stars, its beechwood haven earns the full five. Four, I award to Community Park North, — especially John Witherspoon Woods, thanks the vigilance and preservation successes of Friends of Princeton Open Space and the Princeton Garden Club. Three stars go to Shipetaukin Woods, just over the line in Lawrence Township, with its shy and melodious Shipetaukin Brook. Two Cool Stars are earned by our Towpath, –with the exception of areas along Carnegie Lake. (Its dredging removed venerable tree cover, so lakeside walks this time of year can feel like forced marches on a griddle.) Of course, the all-time best way to be cool near the towpath is to kayak along the canal, especially south from Princeton Canoe and Kayak on Alexander Road.
Lovely, Dark and Shallow, thanks to Brenda Jones
Your first steps, alongside McCormack Lake (former gravel pit, now waterbird heaven) are along its sandy entrance road, admittedly exposed to sun. A trail beckons to the left almost immediately. Take it to enter the beechwood. In any season, there is a significant ‘change in the weather’. Its moderation is a welcome 12 to 15 degrees, –cooler in summer; warmer in winter. In this enchanted forest gleam frail white Indian pipes. These saprophytes are haunting in the dappled dimness, plants that thrive without chlorophyll. Their dark ruddy relative, beech drops, erupt here and there, nourished by submerged long-dead beech trunks.
In the Packet’s glossy magazine, you recently were treated to a superb color picture and story, by Anthony Stoeckert, about the spirit behind Plainsboro Preserve, Sean Grace. Intensely knowledgeable about wild plants and wild creatures, with an artist’s sense for the beautiful (he sometimes leads sketching walks), there is no better guide to the gentle wilds of Plainsboro Preserve than Sean.
Plainsboro Preserve in summer is a place for atmosphere and escape, more than adding to your life lists of birds and plants. Winter is the time for the rarest of their 150 species of birds to take center stage. Threatened and endangered plants are proudly listed at Plainsboro, although seldom encountered on ordinary excursions. Maps and announcements at entry reveal a broad spectrum of guided family activities, including owl prowls and backcountry wildflower quests.
Trail blazes on trees are plentiful and clear. The white trail segues into the red which curves into the yellow, looping back to the white. Take them all in the ‘Dog Days’, with shade as your companion. Blue takes you out onto the peninsula in 50-acre McCormack Lake, the former quarry. There, you’ll hike among fragrant bayberry shrubs, above reindeer lichen and other green growing things you’d have to drive all the way to Island Beach State Park to discover. However, the peninsula is sun-exposed. (No swimming, fishing, dogs nor bikes in this Preserve.)
Directions - Scudders Mill Road East, off Route 1; North/left on Dey Road; West/left at light at Scott’s Corner Road. South/left into park at small sign on right. Open sunup to sundown, locked otherwise.
Community Park North, John Witherspoon Woods:
Here’s the place for woods truly “lovely, dark and deep”. They face you as soon as you lock your car in the parking lot. Trails lead north and south. North (near what used to be our Shakespeare Theatre) is more exposed. Blazes are sparse, but trails well utilized, so that you can follow your feet. This preserve can be very wet after continuous rain. South trail lifts you onto a paved road, toward Mountain Lakes House. In no time, you not only do not hear Route 206 any longer – you forget there is any such thing as traffic. You might even forget sun. Some days in Princeton, as in Provence, sun can be enemy, woods your only defense.
For darkest woods, turn right at pathways into John Witherspoon Woods. After crossing a stream or two, you may be blessed by the great horned owl (early or late), or the privilege of wood thrush chorus. Henry David Thoreau’s favorite bird, the thrush is becoming increasingly scarce in our region, as deer browse destroys its essential understory.
Evocative rocks outline well maintained, but somewhat rough, trails. Occasional water crossings are abetted by convenient logs and rocks. Trekking poles are useful, but not required. Inescapable sun does erupt on the road and in the gas line clearing. The large body of (dammed) water lures (too many) geese. Obvious trails wheel in all directions, granting profound escape from ‘civilization’, as well as from rays.
Directions - 206 North (toward Township Police Station); right/north jughandle for Mountain Avenue; right/west at large sign, into generous parking area.
Three trails diverge in a greenwood. Take center or left, both clearly blazed. Even at entry, edge-habitat birds abound. They are near and unbothered enough by your presence in this secret enclave that you can study them without optics. Inside the forest, sun is blessedly swallowed. You’re knee-deep in ferns, among jack-in-the-pulpits to your hips. Tracking, you read fawn tenuousness, stag certainty; you step between raccoon prints. Look for turtles and waterstriders along the winking creek. This is a small walk, but dense. Tree blazes tend to be few and far between. It’s near enough to Terhune Orchards that you can mosey on over there afterwards for cool and natural refreshment. Shipetaukin reminds me of [Spencer] Tracy’s praise of Hepburn: “…Not much to her; but what there is, is cherce.”
Directions - 206 South; west/right onto Province Line Road alongside Squibb; left/south on Carson; right/west on Carter –[only one car-length!] IMMEDIATE left/south into Shipetaukin. From Princeton, small sign cannot be read. Entry road is rudimentary, narrow.
The working canal and towpath ran from New Brunswick to Bordentown. The shadiest towpath stroll is from Alexander Road South, in late afternoon and evening. One can park under trees at Turning Basin Park, across from Princeton Canoe and Kayak.
Parking at the Quaker Bridge Road/Province Line Road South (alongside Nassau Park/Wegman’s Shopping Center) provides a mercifully silent walk. Evening is best, although always less shady than the Alexander South stretch. As you come out from under Province Line Road Bridge, a scene right out of French Impressionists unfolds. Our Canal could have inspired Sisley, Pissarro, Monet and the gang, especially near Auvers-sur-Oise. Rare birds abound here, although US 1 is so near – rose-breasted grosbeak, green heron, yellow-shafted flicker, evening grosbeak, great-crested flycatcher, hawks often aloft.
Be warned: The most sun-exposed stretch of the D&R Canal and Towpath is the one we know best, Harrison Street and on north.
Brenda Jones Captures Cool
Other shady opportunities include the Institute Woods (park and enter near the adolescent Mercer Oak, on Mercer Street south of town; or on Alexander near the Canal). Celebrated in birding guides, this nature mecca shelters wood thrushes, occasional pileated woodpeckers. However, severe deer browse has had its way with this understory, seriously reducing bird and wildflower populations.
North of town, Herrontown Woods and Autumn Hill Reservation beckon shade-seekers. Herrontown Road leads direct to Autumn Hill; take Herrontown Road to Snowden Lane to reach Herrontown Woods. Both preserves can be exceedingly wet after lengthy rain. Each offers cool density, intriguing rocks, towering trees and bird richness.
In John Masefield’s words, you may be “tired of brick and stone, and rumbling wagon wheels.” If so, seek out Princeton area woods, “full of the laugh of the leaves and the song the wind sings.” Even on blistering days.
http://www.canoenj.com/prince1.htm Princeton Canoe and Kayak
http://www.nynjctbotany.org/njnbtofc/shipetaukinwdstr.html Shipetaukin Woods Trail
http://www.dandrcanal.com/gen_info.html D&R Canal State Park
http://www.fopos.org/achievements.html Friends of Princeton Open Space re various outdoor ops available because of their vigilance in preservation.
http://www.njaudubon.org/Centers/Plainsboro/ Plainsboro Preserve
http://www.princetontwp.org/herron.html Herrontown Woods
http://www.princetontwp.org/authill.html Autumn Hill Reservation
http://www.princetontwp.org/instwoods.html Institute Woods
WHEN FAR IS NEAR:
April Scenes An Hour or So from Princeton
GO WITH FRIENDS
SHARE THE GAS
APPRECIATE NEW JERSEY
AND ALL OF THESE PRESERVED!
Beach Where Piping Plovers Will Soon Nest
Cape May Easter 2011
Reading Richard Louv’s newest book, “The Nature Principle”, on the reunion of humans with nature, I come across a phrase that describes all these years of NJ WILD for the Princeton Packet: NEAR IS THE NEW FAR.
Constable Scene - Spizzle Creek Bird Blind, Island Beach
This is the week I’ve first seen gas at $4 per gallon for regular, the week a friend paid $54 to fill her tank at a reasonable station.
Bluebell Enchantment April 30, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve
All along, I’ve been insisting, New Jersey is rich in nearby natural beauty. Maybe now, everyone will listen. Adventure, remember, is right around the corner.
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is just across our beloved Delaware River, in Bucks County, just below New Hope.
Trillium/Bluebell Apotheosis - Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve today
Island Beach is less than 100 miles from here, just below Bay Head, Mantoloking and Lavalette.
Surf Fisherman, Bay Head, NJ - yesterday
Sandy Hook is just over a new bridge from Atlantic Highlands.
Tasha O’Neill and I in Bahrs (Restaurant) Window Across Bay from Sandy Hook -
two weeks ago
Each offers something rare, something I require - land’s end. Above all, Cape May is land’s end, for humans and for birds in migration. Even the Cape May Bird Observatory is under 100 miles from my door. I do all as day trips, but stayed this time in Cape May at the dear Jetty Motel - from which we can walk the beach at low tide to Cape May Lighthouse and the Hawk Watch Platform.
When we climbed these steps, ospreys were everywhere, fishing madly.
Kettles of vultures swirled overhead.
Kettles of vultures swirled overhead
one mute swan settled onto her nest in the reeds
full breeding plumage of one great egret lofted on the wind
and one peregrine zoomed
The peregrine falcon is the symbol of my April - for peregrinations are wanderings. Short nearby nature journeys restore the soul, as I’ve written and written. Richard Louv repeats and repeats this mantra. Nature is no luxury. It is essential. The wild is neither remote nor extraneous. It, too, is essential. You can find wild nature in this state in a matter of minutes - even right along our Towpath. But a sense of adventure remains imperative.
Wouldn’t you think I’d been far, far from here? Instead:
Lenni Lenape Ancient Dugout Canoe
behind Bahrs Restaurant, on hem of Sandy Hook
wouldn’t you think I’d've been down South to find this sign last Friday?
FIRST ASPARAGUS OF THE SEASON
CAPE MAY COUNTY
We bought the asparagus from a woman who’d just picked it an hour ago on her farm.
Farmstand of Asparagus, Sweet Potatoes and Hydrangeas
Simple Seaside Supper at the Jetty Motel
New Friends Near Barnegat Bay, Island Beach - yesterday
New Fiddleheads Unfurl in Freshwater Pond near Ocean, Island Beach
Hopper Scene, Island Beach
Lobsterman’s Relic - Barnegat Bayshore, Island Beach
Island Beach is a true barrier beach, never built upon, pruned only by sea winds sometimes laden with salt, sand and/or snow. History is everywhere there - fishermen, brigands, frigates, smugglers, Indians gathering clams, early whalers - as in Cape May. Silence reigns at Island Beach. True Pine Barrens plants burgeon. Ferns unfurl magically in fresh peat water, only yards from the tumultuous ocean.
New Jersey WILD
On all of these nearby nature adventures, the spirit is renewed.
Majestic Trillium, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, this morning
NJ WILD readers know I tend to flee to ‘the Brig’ every chance I get, to find out from the birds what season it is.
A week ago, (yes, and again yesterday), I went to the wildlife refuge otherwise known as Edwin B. Forsythe, with friends new to the place. Afterwards, I ‘turned them loose’ in the Pine Barrens and they sent back images to share.
‘The Brig’ can be ‘lovely, dark and deep’, if one is lucky enough to get in there before the sun rises, molten and seemingly dripping, out of the sea and over its bays and impoundments.
We were somewhat later both weeks, due to the essential stop at the Bakery, for hearty real breakfast (eggs that taste like egg, homemade, hand-seasoned sausage patties, endless mugs of fragrant steaming coffee by a window giving onto Tomaselli [Pinelands] Winery and the historic Smithville Inn.)
The greatest gift of ‘the Brig’, for me, is surprisingly not its birds. Rather, limitlessness!
Dike Road Leads on Forever, by Sharon Olson
New Jersey readers will know that I am not making this up - that my drive down to meet fellow poet, Sharon Olson and her husband, Bill Sumner, at 9 a.m. was smothered in snow, flakes that quickened and thickened at the 206/70 traffic circle.
At ‘The Brig’, there was no more snow. However:
Lone Snow Goose, by Sharon Olson
We thought we were seeing the last snow goose, However, we were wrong. I heard the unmistakable musical muttering of hordes of snow geese. Sure enough, we turned a corner to
White Flecks, Snow Geese by Thousands, practically all the way to Tuckerton -by Sharon Olson
What do they know (about lands north of here) that we do not know.
This weekend, I photographed two snow geese at the Brig - the latest ever:
Last of the Snow Geese, April 9, 2011 (cfe)
April 9 View from Gull Pond Tower (cfe)
Another sense of Brigantine limitlessness.
Plus view of my trusty car, in which I proceed on all these jaunts, safely and comfortably, so I can share them with you.
Brooding Scene of Immature Red-tailed Hawk at Brig, April 9, (cfe)
From the Gull Pond Tower, we saw two (mute) swans at the nest, necks twining in a dance that leaves Swan Lake in the shadows. It may well have been their courtship - an aspect of swan behavior about which I know zero.
I don’t have the kind of camera that can capture distant swans, nor even do a very good job of this majestic raptor. He had all the presence of a golden eagle, clearly claiming this tree on Gull Pond Road, and the wide open spaces behind it over to Leeds Eco-Trail, for his new territory. We hope spring brings him a mate for life, to share the Brig’s bounty, beauty and safety. The red-tail opened and closed this week’s Brigantine adventure.
Great Egret in April Water by Sharon Olson
These images come to me through Sharon’s Picasa account — if anyone can tell me how to enlarge, I’ll be glad to learn. It was a treat coming upon so many great egrets and some greater yellowlegs. In each case, nature wasn’t generous enough to provide other versions (of egrets, of yellowlegs), so we could be absolutely sure of that ‘great’ appendage. I did recognize the song of the greater yellowlegs, however, so we were pretty sure about these singletons on sandbanks.
Here’s Brenda Jones’ Brigantine Egret in Full Breeding Plumage at Brig
With great egrets, one can tell them from snowies because the ‘greats’ move with great serenity and dignity, as do great blue herons. Snowies (whose distinguishing field mark yellow feet are usually hidden in water) move about nervously, stirring up bottom-dwelling nourishment with those ‘golden slippers.’
Three Views - The Mirror, the Impoundment, and (arrggh!) Atlantic City! Sharon Olson
The rear-view mirror reminds me to look back, to marvel that these two new friends took to birding, well, like ducks to water.
Learning the vivid and unique shovelers early on, they took great delight in coming across and calling out the perfect name, from then on. Shovelers are russet and green and blinding white, with spade-like beaks that literally shovel under low-tide mud to find their favorite delicacies.
We were treated to elegant, spiffy (quiet) brant, a red-winged blackbird or two (there should be hundreds, and even the females by now. We did not see (they fan their tails) nor hear their territorial ‘okaleeeeee’ because there weren’t enough blackbirds worth territorializing about!
They were good about opening the bird tally (available in the Edwin B. Forsythe/Brig’s new Visitor Center, and vigorously remembering and marking each species seen. They also took time to fill out the visitor query form, being from Connecticut. Bill explained, “Figure they don’t get too many from our zip code…”
I’m not a lister (as in one who will go anywhere, pay any price, bear any burden to see and tally rarities). I’m a thousand times more interested in finding creatures of New Jersey who migrate through our state, and the occasional accidental. I’m not going to Costa Rica nor even to the Platte for cranes. If I find them at the Brig, or in Salem and Cumberland, that’s another story!
Having new birders fill out the tally afterwards cements all they learned, giving them those species as permanent impressions for all time to come.
I’ll End with the Red Knots, by the late Theodore Cross
whose splendid waterbird images we showed at D&R Greenway Land Trust last year - only weeks after his impossible death
we should be seeing throngs of red knots soon
under the full moon of May
along all-too-slender Reed’s and other Delaware Bayshore beaches
but whom we may no longer see because we have destroyed their sole nourishment
the horseshoe crabs
Sharon Olson’s crisp view of the Horseshoe Crab Alert
at the end of Seven Bridges Road
near the Cousteau Society
in a former Coast Guard Building
if enough of those horseshoe crab signs are posted and heeded
the knots and the turnstones could return
in the meantime, knot populations are down 75%
because of human greed
Only Connect is a mandate I usually honor.
I’ll alter it on this subject:
FRUITS OF HABITAT PRESERVATION, COURTESY OF BRENDA AND CLIFF JONES
Essence of Spring - Robin at Hobler Park
NJ WILD readers know how Brenda’s stellar work enriches this blog, year-round, from the beginning.
Beaver Close-Up, from when we met
When I met her, Brenda and her faithful “field collaborator” husband, Cliff, all three of us seeking the beavers of Mapleton (between Princeton and Kingston.)
You may not realize that Brenda’s art has now graced the 1900 barn walls of D&R Greenway Land Trust in two art exhibitions- Birds Bees and Butterflies, and now, Born of Wonder: Childhood and Nature. You may stop by on business hours of business days to see her art in our Marie L. Matthews Galleries, and to purchase it to take home.
One of her Baltimore Oriole Pictures - it’s pulling snagged fishing line for its nest
Brenda’s first gallery appearance was in Birds Bees & Butterflies. She brought nine works, tried to take home three at the end. However, someone had seen her Baltimore oriole, so she had to ‘turn right ’round’ and bring it back, with new art for the current show. We sold many of her early works twice (she’d make prints and have her uncle frame them.) The first work to sell at Born of Wonder, Childhood and Nature, was Brenda’s of the great blue herons feeding their great blue offspring! We sold a painting from this show for four figures last night at the Poetry Walk; and most of the art in the Upmeyer Room was sold at the April 8 opening. However, the art will be up and available through July 15.
Mocking Bird this week at Hobler Park
And you’ve had the pleasure of her artistry, free, all along!
Diving Kestrel, right near home
Brenda and Cliff go on nature quests, beauty quests as often as they possibly can. She sends them to me, and you are the richer for it.
American Kestrel From the Back
Spring finally came to Brenda and Cliff this week - look at these amazing images, from Hobler Park (right here in Princeton at the corner of the Great Road and 518! - I’ve written about it for you - the images of Hobler that I find could be states away, Ohio, for example, plain and sturdy barns and silos, acres of wildflowers, and no Princeton in sight! It’s a great place to go in autumn because high, oddly enough. The light stays longer at Hobler. From Heinz refuge down below the Philadelphia Airport. From Baldpate Mountain (in our state, and D&R Greenway’s had a hand in the preservation and stewardship of that land and those trails, under our new Chairman of the Board, Alan Hershey, who so energetically also heads New Jersey Trails.
Yellow-rumped Warbler, formerly ‘Myrtle’
With such simplicity, such memorable images arrive:
Here are the latest photos.
Kestrel & Mockingbird–Hobler Park
Hermit Thrush, Snapper Turtles and Yellow-rumped
(formerly called) Myrtle Warbler–John Heinz Philadelphia;
Robin & Groundhog–Baldpate
Enjoy, Everyone! cfe
Hermit Thrush at John Heinz Preserve, near Philly Airport
Brenda and Cliff have the gift of being in the right place at the right time — as when this majestic representative of ancient times, decided to take a stroll. It seems early for egg-laying journeys, but who knows? The snapper knows…
Snapping Turtle at John Heinz
We can relax now - Brenda and Cliff have brought us spring!
As has every Preservationist, such as D&R Greenway Land Trust and allies,
who does whatever it takes to save scarce New Jersey Land.
It has taken us/D&R Greenway 23 years to preserve 23 miles (and counting).
23 miles of HABITAT!
Hermit Thrush of John Heinz Refuge
reportedly Henry David Thoreau’s favorite bird and birdsong
WHAT IS SPRING TO YOU?
What with snow, rain, sleet, hail, gales and floods, I am in serious Towpath deprivation. Only a few hours ago, I saw our little Griggstown Causeway and the Blackwell’s Mills Causeway highlighted in orange on the Weather Channel, as sites for the Millstone River flood stage to be reached and even passed.
Many nights this week, I drove warily home — eyeing remaining inches between expanding waters and that fragile Towpath barricade. If the waters enter the canal, they cover Canal Road, and I am left high, if not dry. For ages after floods, the path becomes too skiddy for my comfort. In ice, it’s out of the question.
How normal it used to be for me to walk the Towpath many times each week. I know cool sections for the blazing days; and where to catch the slightest breeze across still water. Over the years, the Towpath has revealed best walks to escape cold winds. She’s divulged the parts holding most light for post-work walks. Once my sister and I made Thanksgiving for two, put the turkey in, walked to the dam and back and the feast was ready.
Now, I can’t remember the last time I set foot(e) upon that cushiony “Trail Between Two Waters.” That’s the name of one of my Towpath poems. Good thing no editor’s waiting for poetic material from me this winter!
Homesick for the Towpath, that’s my reality.
Let’s peek at some April picture, see why I am pining:
WHAT I REALLY MISS - KAYAKING ON THE D&R CANAL!
Here’s an early April walk toward Lawrenceville, below Quaker Bridge Road, ultimately through the jungley bits to Brearley House. The closest I’ve been to that storied site lately is wearing my dark green cozy sweatshirt: I DIG HISTORY AT THE BREARLEY HOUSE. I’m big on memories, but memory is not enough!
EVEN A LATE SPRING BRINGS TOWPATH BEAUTY
At D&R Greenway, last week, Jim Amon, our Director of Stewardship, called me from ‘high in the Sourlands.’ He was out monitoring trails, every sense attuned to laggard spring. When I answered, Jim exclaimed, “Just the person I wanted to reach! Can you hear them?” Silence… “Hear whom, Jim?” “Wait, I’ll walk a little closer. But not too close. I don’t want them to stop…” And then I heard that miraculous clicking, what I’ve sometimes described as Tom Sawyer dragging a stick along the picket fence, very fast. “The wood frogs!”
WOOD FROG EGG MASS, SOURLANDS, SPRING 2011, JIM AMON
Appropriate, this privileged exchange just now. Without Jim Amon’s serving as head of the D&R Canal Commission for three pivotal decades, we wouldn’t have this treasure. Jim’s vigilance preserved its beauty, purity (our drinking water), generous sight lines. His determination and persistence resulted in that that glorious metal virtual canal bridge soaring over US 1 in Lawrenceville.
In those days, no one would have faced down developers so stringently as Jim, forbidding metastases of McMansions at the hem of the canal, our “Ribbon of Life.”
DO WHATEVER IT TAKES to preserve the D&R Canal Commission, in beleaguered New Jersey, everyone!
Nobody’s ever called up and given me wood frogs, although friend/ornithologist, Charlie Leck, did report first redwings in the Marsh the week before. I’d begged him in D&R Greenway’s lobby, “Charlie, what’ve you seen that’s spring?”
Jim Amon took a superb photograph of wood frog eggs, laid during a recent (tardy, if you ask me!) warm rain. I’ll try to download and upload for you. The first time I ever met wood frogs, who make that clickety sound for a mere two weeks usually, was on this Brearley House walk. A stranger kindly and eagerly told me what was creating our watery chorus.
The Way to Brearley House from D&R Canal and Towpath below Quaker Bridge Road
I DIG HISTORY AT THE BREARLEY HOUSE
LIVING HISTORY - BREARLEY HOUSE
I love walking my Illinois sister, Marilyn, to this site. Michigan, where we grew up, was founded in 1837. Neither she nor I ever lose(s) the thrill of finding dates that begin with 16- and 17-. And we don’t have to drive to Salem and Cumberland Counties to find those dates designed into the bricks of venerable houses.
WHAT EYES HAVE SEEN WHAT SIGHTS THROUGH THESE OLD PANES?
Easy answer - nearly barefoot Colonial soldiers in winter, making their way on mud-turned-to-ice, after the two victories at Trenton, to their next victory at Princeton, January 3, 1777. Without that handful of days and that ragtag-and-bobtail army, we wouldn’t have a nation. Their determined feet trod the grass I walk, seeking Brearley images.
OUR CANAL - AS BEAUTIFUL AS FRANCE - ON THE WAY TO LAWRENCEVILLE
Without Jim Amon, and others I’ve described as “ardent preservationists”, the entire towpath could be desecrated as it is near Quaker Bridge Road.
Stay vigilant, everyone. Preserve the D&R Canal Commission. And walk this magical trail, even in laggard spring.