Archive for the ‘Delaware River’ Category
Rainbow Before Sandy, The Berkshires cfe
NJ WILD readers know, at October’s wild end, I was led to the Berkshires, in Western Massachusetts. i was only to stay two days. My purpose was to hike in wooded hills and re-experience the finest arts at the Clark Institute, the Williams College Museum and Bennington’s, As complex 2012 wound down, mountains, art and limitless vistas had become more essential than usual.
Sandy had other ideas.
Green Mountain Trees Await Sandy cfe
My brief mountain getaway stretched to more than a week, with no heat or water in this Princeton dwelling, and major trees down along routes I needed in order to return home.
Long-time friends from corporate America laughed in unison when I referred to myself as a refugee. But what else are you when you can’t go home?
The mountains had many messages for me, which I assiduously reported in my journal.
Sandy Approaches Williamstown cfe
Above all, ‘Sandy’ is far too trivial a name for a natural event of that magnitude. Even though this Storm King lived up to its moniker, burying Jersey Shore cars well inland in sand like blizzard drifts.
Though cradled in the Green, the Berkshires, the Catskills and in the shadow of Mt. Greylock, this Jerseyan was haunted by a Shore town’s name, “Sea Girt.” Girdled by the sea. I do not know the fate of that oceanside haven, but it probably is not good. The truth is, we could change the name of New Jersey to Sea Girt.
NJ WILD readers have ‘heard’ me all these years, insisting, “It’s not Mother Nature, Folks. It’s US!” This has now been demonstrated to the entire world, irrevocably, inescapably. On the heels of a political campaign in which catastrophic climate change and environmental perils, let alone carbon footprints played no role.
Are we facing the truth now? Or are we all caught up in REBUILD and THE NEW NORMAL?
What ‘Sandy’ revealed was the fate of all our coasts.
What Sandy scrawled was the signature of sea-level rise.
Vanishing glaciers mean more water in oceans, which means more ‘fuel’ for storms whether rain, snow or wind.
Where I Read Storm News, Williamstown: The Chef’s Hat cfe
In the mountains, reading local papers and the New York Times, welcomed like a local, comforted as the refugee I had become, the scariest reality had to do with my beloved trees. One estimate, early on, was that we lost, in those few Sandy hours, 2 million trees. Think “2 million carbon sinks” everyone, two million living, breathing entities that used to absorb the CO2 we insist on pumping into the greenhouse called Earth.
What the mountain newspaper asserted was, “This was not a storm of floods nor even of winds — this was a case of trees-turned-weapons.”
Sandy Fury North Williamstown cfe
Drive anywhere, without even leaving Princeton. Toppled tree roots tower over dwellings of increasing magnitude. Even Morven itself is dwarfed by roots of the downed conifer in its front yard. Get out of the car to meet friends in the most privileged enclaves. Hear the tumultuous ripple of ‘tarps’ over roofbeams. Try to speak and hear above the roar of chain saws and tree-devourers.
Calm Before Storm, Bennington VT cfe
Sandy is no respecter of history, pedigree, address, or life station.
Years ago, I completed Tom Brown’s Tracker School. Ralph-the-Seneca was one of the participants, needing to learn Indian ways, especially foraging for wild foods, as intensely as I did. Ralph had been brought there to teach us the art of bow-making. At the end of making fire, Ralph took me aside, in the opening of a sturdy barn. “We are poisoning Mother Earth,” he intoned solemnly, back in 1983. “And she will do what any healthy animal does under those circumstances. She will vomit us out.”
Although I was far from Tracker School and our beloved Jersey Shore - in fact, from New Jersey’s three unique coastlines — that battered Shore, the Delaware River and the Delaware Bay, i experienced Ralph’s prophecy’s being fulfilled.
Climate change has never been a factor of ‘belief’! It’s here, now, big-time. Are we big enough to face it?
Spotters on the Cape May Bird Observatory Hawk Watch Platform cfe
Actually, it’s more like “Cape May For Two Days”! And yes, it was MORE than worth it.
Those two days centered upon the Cape May Bird Observatory [CMBO] Hawk Watch Platform.
After stopping at CMBO to renew my membership, and pick up a super-comfortable strap for my binoculars, I headed for the lighthouse and the Platform, even before checking into my motel room.
Helpful Cape May Bird Observatory Personnel on Hawk Watch Platform, cfe
CMBO maintains “counters”, “spotters” — professionals of highest caliber, who spot and count birds zooming past in autumn migration. The Platform fronts upon a pond. always graced by swans and frequently dive-bombed by peregrines.
Sunset Swan, Brenda Jones
I immediately recognized the silhouette and mellifluous voice of Pete Dunne, head of CMBO, author of wit, wisdom and experience, and yes, bon vivant. Also, natural teacher. So many facets of my birding knowledge have been inserted or polished by this man, over the years, at sunrise and sunset, and sometimes at 20 degrees with 20-mph-winds. I was overjoyed to reconnect, after my year plus of hurt-hip-induced absence. Pete, watching me walk, exulted, “We live in remarkable times.”
He went on to prove it by mentioning, “I was informed by phone about the nighthawks.”
Here and there, spotting scopes were trained on the skies.
But these pros of the Platform don’t need optics. A black spot miles away can be differentiated, as in Cooper’s or Sharp-Shinned Hawk, and they’ll even tell you how they can tell. Something to do with frequency of flapping. Pete: “It it were a Sharp-shinned, it would’ve flapped by now.”
Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Brenda Jones
But I say, these spotters, these CMBO mentors, are attached to birds by senses which have not even been defined, let alone located. Senses which go beyond eyes and even beyond Swarovskis.
Brilliance is a big part of being on the Platform. And fellowship. I hadn’t realized that (this concentration of) birders are family; that I had missed them to such a high degree.
There’s always humor, and even humility. At one point, Pete said, with a shrug in his voice, “Haven’t a clue….” There was a pregnant pause, followed by, “… bird.”
At the same time, in my two visits that day, early and latest, I was part of a bald-eagle count approaching 30. Even more importantly, –as I learned at early light the next day–, a 268- kestrel day.
There was a bare tree set among cedars, as studded with kestrels as a Christmas tree with ornaments. Every one vivid. Every one fluttering. These raptors swooped out, over and over, –not unlike flycatchers–, in quest of insects, one after another. And kestrels can hover — I never knew that. So vivid that they seemed iridescent, even spangled. What a privilege to be surrounded by them.
American kestrels have been ‘fewing and fewing’ in recent years. Their sacred edge habitat has been increasingly devoured by what others deem progress. I forgot to ask Pete, why there were/are so many right now. But this is one time when why doesn’t matter. Only beauty, power, rarity and presence.
Among the other numbers on Monday (departure day) morning were 109 osprey. Osprey were everywhere Sunday evening, often ‘packing a lunch’ - fish in talons, aerodynamically situated so as not to interfere with flight. 17 sharp-shins. 10 Coopers. 30 Merlin. 5 Peregrine Falcons. and so forth…
I even spotted a tern I didn’t recognize, which Erin-of-CMBO eagerly identified as a Forster’s. She trained the Swarovski scope on this single bird at the end of a wooden dock-like structure to our right. “Only Forster’s terns have that black eye patch now. They’re really fun to identify in autumn.” As David Allen Sibley puts it, “Black eye patch of non-breeding plumage distinctive.” This Platform is where Sibley ‘earned his wings’, with Pete and Clay Sutton, his co-authors of Hawks In Flight, about to be re-issued. All three will be at the Cape May Birding Weekend, to talk and sign this re-issue of Sibley’s first book, before his NYT best-sellers, The Sibley Guide to Birds, and The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior.
Usually, white shrubs and vines surrounding the Swarovski-sponsored Platform are filled with monarch butterflies this time of year. There were fewer than I’ve ever encountered of these orange-and-black long-distance fliers. Even so, I was welcomed to the Platform by one which nearly landed on the bridge of my nose.
Icy yellow, with a tinge of chartreuse, or key-lime pie, the cloudless sulphur butterflies seemed more in evidence here and among the bayberried dunes of Higbee Beach.
One of the butterfly magnet shrubs has the lovely name of High Tide Plant. Elder is another name for it. I’m sipping St. Germain liqueur, late this night, as I bring Cape May back to memory and to life. Pretending I’m a butterfly, nectaring on the elder plant from whose flowers this French specialty is crafted.
I hear Pete observe, “That eagle looks like he’s about to leave for Delaware.”
American Bald Eagle, Brenda Jones
Delaware is very near, here where our River meets the ocean, and the Cape May Lewes ferry carries cars, birders, bicyclists, hikers and just plain tourists from one state to another. The ferry is a grand place for seeking out seabirds who “come to land only when nesting.” (Sibley)
I reluctantly leave the Platform because it’s time to walk The Point. Newly crafted ‘boardwalks’ (they’re not real board) lift birders off the marsh-scape, into the realm of warblers and other treasures. Somehow, they’ve conquered phragmites to an enormous degree, those towering invasive rushes that drive out all the native plants the birds need, not only in migration. In the place of reeds is a meadow or a prairie of New Jersey wildflowers. The air is fragrant with (the invasive) autumn clematis, tiny white starflowers spun along tangles of vines. It’s more interesting than honeysuckle, with mimosa ‘notes’.
Colors on all sides of me include a pinkish bronze (wool grass, which is really a sedge); purple asters; white asters; seaside goldenrod, white ‘rose’ mallows, white boneset, pink marsh mallow, white dotted smartweed, mistflower, wild ageratum, purple gerardia, etc. etc. etc.
I don’t know all these plants - a fine naturalist, the plant equivalent of Pete Dunne, was sitting on a bench and eager to teach me every single species, in English and in Latin. Carl Anderson. He explained that the bayberry-like plants were wax myrtle and hybrids of wax myrtle and bayberry — the leaves on the latter are broader and darker, and bayberries were definitely in the minority. Bayberries are essential fat/fuel to migrant birds. I felt like Alice In Wonderland, having drunk whatever and shrunk to be smaller than most of these flowers.
Birds were few, because it was mid-day. Fish crows ringed the beige lighthouse like a crown of thorns. A single egret minced about the edge of a pond. A sound I never knew, or maybe ever heard, turned out to be a single kestrel in a naked tree just above my head. The closest I’ve ever been to a kestrel.
Kestrel at the Pole Farm, Brenda Jones
Morning dawned with a beach walk among black skimmers beyond counting, followed by another couple of hours on the Hawk Watch Platform.
Black Skimmers in Flight, Brenda Jones
Sky Full of Skimmers, the Jetty, Cape May cfe
From ten to twelve thirty, Monday, I floated on the boat, The Skimmer, among Cape May marshes. We were in quest of rare birds there, too. What I best remember is a series of large turtle heads in Turtle Creek, and a very rare Tri-colored Heron before we turned back to the dock.
Leaving for home was almost unbearable.
All the way north on the Parkway, I would hear those Platform phrases, “Over the cedars.” “Really soaring.” “Got ‘im!”
The line I’ll remember most is Pete Dunne’s description of yesterday, to a fellow ’spotter’ who also writes a blog: “Here’s the first line for your blog, Mike. If you weren’t here yesterday, slay yourself now.”
SALEM COUNTY’S BUCOLIC HISTORY - ALLOWAY CREEK cfe
NJ WILD readers know my favorite places to travel are the wild ones of New Jersey, –especially central and southern–, particularly near water, salt and fresh.
Often in quest of birds, rare yet plentiful.
You also know that the places I choose are havens on many levels.
However, I may not have emphasized enough that one can visit NJ WILD sites, even on major ‘Holidays’, without crowds.
Hancock House Historic Outbuilding - Revolutionary Site — cfe
If you pull up NJ WILD, it has a search feature. Write in ‘Brigantine’ or ‘Pine Barrens’; ‘Sourlands’ or Sandy Hook; Bull’s Island, the Delaware River, Island Beach, etc. You’ll be given a string of posts on their wild beauty, and directions are often part of the saga. For deepest solitude, plan birders’ hours — first light and last light.
In general, Take The Pretty Way, the back roads.
Salem Preserves — cfe
Tomorrow, a friend and I will launch her new Prius into Salem and Cumberland Counties. We’ll be treated to golden stretches of marshland; to shimmering rivers with splendid Indian names, such as the Manumuskin. We’ll ride on and laugh at the sound of Buckshutem Road. We’ll wonder, as you always must down there, where on earth will we eat? Of course, there’ll be the freshest of Jersey Fresh produce on weathered stands in front of farmhouses of other centuries. Of course, we’ll slide coins into Trust Boxes, as we settle agricultural jewels into our sustainability bags to take home.
We’ll see rare birds, especially eagles. Salem County held our only productive eagle nest during the grim DDT years, which my county (Somerset) is about to reinstitute, as it ‘adulticizes’ mosquitoes in the week ahead. Now, I am not kidding, in Salem and Cumberland Counties, we could see more eagles than we can count.
American Bald Eagle Floating - Brenda Jones
Osprey Claiming Nest, Brenda Jones
Cabbage Whites Nectaring — Brenda Jones
Especially ditto purple martins, but they had all left the Brigantine the last time I was there, weeks ahead of schedule. Theory is that our drought hinders the insect population to such a degree that martin migration is over. I’ll know tomorrow. If not, there could be hundreds of thousands of them, bending the marsh grasses, then darkening skies, along the Maurice River.
Alloway Creek, site of British Massacre of Colonial Soldiers, Salem County — cfe
Look up these sites, and find them for yourselves. There won’t be anyone else on most of the roads to the unknown, actually usually forgotten, Delaware Bay.
Salem County, Tranquillity Base cfe
When both branches of the Millstone River, at #518 and Canal Road, show more pebbles than water
When you can see white rocks, like rip-rap, ringing islands and fringing land along the Delaware River
When the Mississippi River, in an aerial view, is more beige than blue - with surf-like curves of blonde sand like corn-row haircuts and her barges cannot carry full loads, and their pilots describe “the new river”, “the unknown” river when the Mississippi has turned from “The Big Muddy” to “The Big Sandy”
When a meteorologist shows you a pie chart that is 90% hot red, 10% blue - (pie chart representing the year 2012; blue sliver cold extremes; all-conquering red being heat extremes) and she terms this a mere “anomaly”
It’s time to face the C-words: CATASTROPHIC CLIMATE CHANGE.
When Terhune Orchards reports most fruit crops coming in one month early at least
When any farm stand showed you that our strawberries not only began early, but finished bearing early
When corn was head-high by the Fourth of July, some even tasseling out, now browning, then blackening with ceaseless drought
It’s time to admit “the times are out of joint” weather-wise, as we have been warned for decades, re our ceaseless unremediated carbon emissions
When there is no more soft rain, but only monsoon-blinding-downpours on the heels of waterless weeks
Pollan and Hansen and Gore have alerted us for decades that extremes are the toll we pay for carbon excesses
When hours of thunder and lightning don’t even dampen paving stones out my study window
When trees along local highways, in July, sp0urt yellow brighter than highway stripes and it’s not flowers
It’s time to FACE IT
Not only is the weather severely out of balance in our time — it may well be past the famous tipping point.
What we are experiencing on all fronts is the logical outcome of runaway consumption, ice-cap melt, glacial melt, and so forth and so on, ad infinitum the sky IS falling and nobody’s drawing correct conclusions, let alone turning excess around
As your NJ WILD reporter, I cannot rhapsodize about nature, today, let alone insert pretty pictures.
Nature is turning into a corpse before our eyes, and we’re talking about the equivalent of curls and manicure upon a corpse.
Yes, I’ve been to what’s left of her beauty, a forest here, a river there, kayaking on the canal.
I feel no better than Nero, fiddling while my beloved Nature burns, sometimes quite literally up in flames…
Who is doing WHAT to turn this around?
(to paraphrase Pogo re meeting the enemy) — There is extinction on the menu, and it is us.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT?
When a Manhattan friend takes the bus to Kingston, what is the greatest contrast you can provide? One, for sure, is kayaking - which we did the next morning, along the D&R Canal.
Kayak Central, Princeton, Brenda Jones
Her welcome-to-NJ contrast, however, was to head straight west into Hopewell, up Greenwood Avenue, turn left at the red barn, head into and beyond Ringoes and Sergeantsville to Rosemont and over to the Delaware River. Such a brief ride, for such a major transition — and all in golden afternoon light.
Bull’s Island Fern Grove, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Walking Bull’s Island is always a treat, moored like a verdant ship in the middle of my beloved Delaware. Its trails and woods are frequently inundated, needless to say. This can make for very soft trails, cushioned by charcoal-y basalt from the bottom of the river. Floods, of course, bring nourishment and new species — some blessed, some not so blessed.
Bull’s Island Footbridge, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Friday evening, after a quick trek over the silvery footbridge to the Black Bass and back, –interstate hiking–, we entered the woods to a chorus of cedar waxwings. Masked and certain feathers gilded, there is no more handsome bird in my lexicon. Leaving sunshine for dapple, we were suddenly surrounded by the wood thrush’s liquid ascending, then descending notes. My friend is accustomed, from Catskill stays, to veeries near woodthrush, and soon we were awash in veery magic.
Cedar Waxwing, Brenda Jones
On either side, ferns rose, — not fragile and furtive as those I usually encounter. But feisty, even aggressive. Some were taller than we are! The Alice in Wonderland sensation was appealing. My friend then decided we were “in Jurassic Park without the critters.”
Veery, Brenda Jones
One creature we did find, a handsome toad who seemed the monarch of the glen. He was not atall ‘afeard’ of humans — sitting there, permitting our presence in his territory.
Lowering light gilded every leaf, especially super-sized jack-in-the-pulpit plants and fading Mayapple.
Mayapple Profusion, Bull’s Island, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
All the while, the river coursed alongside, deceptively quiet, a welcome change from her Manhattan life and even the bus ride out here.
A superb dinner at the Carversville Inn was not only gastronomically superior, but also time travel. In that case, the mid-1800’s surrounded us, as palpably as if we had stepped through ‘the veil.’
Home brought us through fields where some corn is already hip-high, well before the Fourth of July, and silos gleam and preside like church steeples. Sacred farm structures from other centuries were the norm most of the way back to Princeton.
Yesteryear’s Barn, Carolyn Foote Edelmann
All of this in our beautiful New Jersey. Help preserve it — especially her farmland and o, save that river, in every sense.
Your local land trusts do this for you, but we (as in D&R Greenway) require your support. It’s taken us 23 years to preserve 23 New Jersey landscape miles and many waterways. Help move preservation forward, every way you can.
Fog Along the Delaware, Brenda Jones
And get out there and enjoy the unique unpeopled beauty that is still ours, in the beleaguering 21st Century.
January’s Short-Eared Owl, Pole Farm, off Cold Soil Road - Brenda Jones
When one is firmly instructed, regarding a cane, “Don’t leave home without it,” how can one access the wild?
When I was still in post-op mode, ‘extending the surgical leg’ and ‘building core strength’ became the heart of the matter of my odd life.
It occurs to me that others, without even having met the knife, may hesitate to set out on New Jersey Trails. Even though I’ve been raving about them all these years, in NJ WILD and in print; even though you can go onto NJ TRAILS.org and discover super hiking spots in most counties in our state.
If you’re a beginner, or a somewhat reluctant returner to trails, where might you start? Where might there be gifts for you, without the daunting? If weight loss is mandated, and diet isn’t enough, where might you slim and strengthen, while being delighted by New Jersey Nature?
I’ve decided to list nearby trails that have turned me back into a walker, even though trails that climb are still verboten. I’m setting out with prescribed cane and friend’s arm. I have now been given official permission to set out alone, with my two trekking poles for balance and trip-protection. None of these is far from Princeton, as you well know.
Bluebird in Full Cry, Brenda Jones
All hold gifts. Give them a whirl. I’ll see you out there!
My first trail adventure was the Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown Marsh. (www.marsh-friends.org). There’s a flat road that circles Spring Lake, formed by a spring even before the land became sacred to Lenni Lenapes. As those who read NJ WILD know, even though I could barely make 1/4 the lake road on that first forasy, we were greeted by a raft of the tiny white-billed coots on the lake; one stately swan; an unidentifiable flock of migrant birds against the lowering light; then a descent of silent geese into jungley waters to our right. We barely made it in and out before sundown that time. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!
Today, that friend and I are heading back to the Marsh to do the entire lake road. Those who can cross over the bridge into wooded areas of the Marsh are in for treats beyond counting. Even with its watery name, the trails are dry and waterproof footwear is not essential. In the Marsh in all seasons, I have found owls in the daytime, fox dens, and owl pellets. Directions are on the Friends for the Marsh web-site.
Fox Listening for Vole, Pole Farm, Brenda Jones
My second trail excursion was the road alongside the quarry that is now a lake at Plainsboro Preserve. It’s a broad flat expanse, with a sacred beechwood on the left and a shimmer of water hiding the former industrial might of this site. In winter, rare ducks stud the lake surface. Inside the beechwood, the temperature is ten degrees warmer in winter, cooler in summer — because of the microclimate. I only ventured into the beechwood this time, because that trail is rough underfoot for ‘the surgical leg’. In season, probably June, the beechwood hides exquisite secret plants, the frail white Indian pipe, and the ruddy almost invisible beech drops. On our road, my friend and I were surrounded by bluebirds, like the house-cleaning scene in Snow White in my childhood. We both yearn to return for bluebird blessings.
Numbers never matter to me - so I don’t know which treks were the footbridge over the Delaware River, from Bull’s Island to the Black Bass Inn and back. That luminous, windswept stretch was the site of final hikes with the leg that very nearly refused to work. I have now accomplished it twice and merrily, in full sun and exuberant wind, above the river I fought so hard to save in the 1980’s from the dread and all-conquering PUMP. There is a fellowship of the footbridge that is a joy in any season. Taking others inside the Black Bass to encounter the real original zinc bar from Maxim’s is a thrill for all my francophile friends. The food is delightful and the riverside setting cannot be topped.
One could even push someone in a wheelchair along the footbridge. It’s necessary to enter on the Jersey side, usually — few parking places in PA. They don’t cherish their towpath and canal as we do… There’s plentiful parking at Bull’s Island, and many (rockier, rootier, not yet for me) trails which are a joy, especially in spring, when I have encountered trees on the Island with more warblers than leaves.
The Sourlands is full of trails, again to be found via NJ TRAILS.org. I have twice now been privileged to hike the one off Greenwood Avenue, (north from Route 518, Hopewell, at Dana Building.) Once, that earthen road was used to carry out the boulders now preserved, to turn them into gravel to build New Jersey Roads. Now the roadway leads ever inward, among boulders that bring Stonehenge to mind. The overstory reveals beeches and tulip trees, the occasional shagbark hickory. The understory is brightened and softened by mosses and ferns. The air is alive with the sound of visible and invisible watercourses.
On Saturday, children’s voices rang ahead and behind us on the trail. I wanted to find Richard Louv and tell him, In the Sourland Mountain Preserver, there are children in the woods, and they are laughing and even splashing, in January!
Sourlands Trail in January, Brenda Jones
This coming weekend, I’ll try Griggstown Grasslands, newish preserve off Canal Road, where I live, just south of the Griggstown Causeway. We’ll drive up the steep entry and take that long earthen road, weather permitting. There are lovely grasslands there, tended for the sake of birds who require especially in nesting season. At Griggstown Grasslands, as we did on Saturday at the Sourland Mountains Preserve, I can pick up the welcome whiff of morning’s fox, who had obviously been assiduously marking his territory.
Foxy Close-Up, Brenda Jones
I’m not currently essaying the D&R Canal and Towpath, because of too many storms and floods - fearing too much unevenness underfoot(e).
No, I haven’t made it to the Pole Farm, yet. This has been officially designated an Important Birding Area, and holds wild treasures in all seasons. There’s a road, there, longer than all I’ve described here. The short-eared owls should be soaring at dusk, foxes ever-possible.
The moral of this post is, even tethered to a cane, the Princeton region is full of the wild. It’s easily accessed and will enrich you beyond measure.
And keep an eye on the skies around Carnegie Lake - ‘our’ American bald eagles should be courting and nest-building as we ’speak’.
American Bald Eagle, Millstone Aqueduct, Brenda Jones
How fortunate we are to live in WILD New Jersey…
Upon reading “Her Idea of a Beautiful Day”, in My Story As Told By Water, my first thought was, ‘Well, what would be MY idea of a beautiful day?’ Its subjunctive question immediately appeared - ‘What is YOURs?‘ – readers of and cherished commentors upon NJ WILD–, what renders a day beautiful in your life, at this moment in time?
My Story as Told By Water is a riverine memoir by David James Duncan. This man is a modern bard, in prose and diatribe, of the endangered American West, –particularly its rivers, especially of its salmon. Over and over, Duncan teaches, “As salmon go, so go the rivers.” And the indigenous people whose lives since time immemorial have depended upon the rivers and their creatures. With salmon and salmon people go the state, the region, the nation and ultimately the globe. Especially here in the east, we do not GET it about the peril of and the implications of industrial murder of salmon.
Sunfish, Baldpate Mountain Pond, Brenda Jones
Edward Abbey taught us first the evil of dams. David James Duncan blows on Abbey coals. My Story As Told By Water is my favorite title of the genre, the way Dickens’ “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” is my favorite opening line of any novel. Young Duncan fell in love with water using a garden hose in his childhood driveway. His first love was abruptly relinquished for the real thing, when the boy fell INTO his first trout stream, discovering crawdads and fish. Duncan’s chapters tango between ever increasing passion for natural waterways, and fury at all who would destroy them. His rage and eloquence increase exponentially in our era of greed-enthronement.
The boy describes having been stunned by his grandmother’s rabid devotion to her job as a real estate agent: “Her idea of a beautiful day was one that increased the likelihood of her selling a house.” Nature, to Duncan’s grandmother, “had an unwashed, unsaved ring to it.”
Needless to say, “a beautiful day” to this author involves water, usually fresh, with the promise of fish. David James Duncan forces me to consider my own definition of a beautiful day. The instant answer is any day with friends, sharing nature with the perfect blend of passion, knowledge, and curiosity. Remarkable food is often involved, and frequently art. But if I had to choose but one factor for “my beautiful day”? NATURE.
I was frankly stunned to discover that “my beautiful day” need not be fair. “A beautiful day” to me is something that hardly ever happens any more — a time of long soft soaking rain. Gentle in quality and quantity, lowering a scrim over the harsh world. Rain that whispers, at most sizzles. This precipitation is neither so white and stiff as was my bridal veil, nor so dense and weighty as Jacqueline Kennedy’s widow’s veil — which cast a pall over my life, and was first worn in the impossible aftermath of this very day, November 22, in 1963. The most beautiful day to me now, in New Jersey, in the year 2008, is rain that tiptoes along the thirsty earth. It simply nourishes seeds, –without dislodging soil, let alone removing pebbles. A beautiful day’s rain never topples trees because of both quantity and intensity, without even factoring in damaging wind. What I require now is rain as it was before global warming.
Lately, as NJ WILD readers know, I’ve learned to be out in what the Brits call “a mizzle of rain.” There’s a blessing in it — tactile, even spiritual. I may prefer the days of rain and fog because they soften the impossible harshnesses of the 21st Century. You also know, nature is my church, and the Towpath and Canal in particular. David James Duncan says it better: “Church became a place where I waited for rain.”
“Pine Drops” hold the rain, by Lauren Curtis
Farmstand Bounty, cfe
NJ WILD readers know my passion for farm markets. What you may not realize is my nearly phobic reaction to supermarkets, with a couple of exceptions (Wegmans being one). What I view with enormous horror is those Weather Channel scenes of people madly buying milk and so forth before storms. So this week’s Category 2, then 1 Hurricane tenses me in ways not shared by most.
On Friday, inadvertently, I found the ideal solution to readying for a storm. Drive over through Hunterdon County to the Delaware River, have a lovely breakfast at Miels, then head upriver and downriver on the Pennsylvania, then New Jersey sides.
Our river has never looked more tranquil - to the point that rare houses were mirror-reflected in nearly still water. Along her edges floated necklaces of rhapsodic people, in flamingo-pink, buttercup-yellow and hot blue tubes.
What does this have to do with hurricane-prep?
Along the way, stop at every roadside stand. Pick up absolutely vine-ripened solid round tomatoes, in a crooked shady lane in front of a McMansion, of all things. No one tends this roadside stand - there is an honor box. There aren’t even prices. You just decide and tuck in your money. You can also buy white eggs and ice-green squash.
At another tiny stand, gather field bouquets enriched with hardy zinnias in pinata colors.
Next to a huge bright green and yellow tractor, choose between white corn and yellow corn from a man who writes your purchase down on a piece of paper with a pencil.
Try to find water for your fellow explorer in a country store next to a brook and the Pennsylvania (pretty much abandoned) version of our canal. Have the cheery proprietress say, “Water? Of course! I had 8 delivered this morning!” It’s not even noon, and her waters are all gone. Revel in the peace of a part of the world where 8 gallons of water is a lot.
Stop beside a high wiry bridge back over the Delaware, which you hope won’t be threatened with the dire rains about to be our fate. Enjoy the hand-painted signs: CORN, PEACHES, TOMATOES, FLOWERS. Choose onions with Pennsylvania dirt still clinging to the roots. Pick up a couple of tiny, rosy, fresh garlic that will probably squirt you when you cut it, the way it does in France. Get some huge heirloom tomatoes under a hand-scrawled sign that says, “BEAUTY ISN’T EVERYTHING!” As you choose your peaches, tell the woman of the stand that, to you, all heirlooms are beautiful.
Interstate Walkway - Bull’s Island Footbridge cfe
Drove slowly south on the NJ side to Bull’s Island, and walk that dazzling footbridge over the hushed Delaware.
Think what drama is in store for your beloved river.
Stop at Maresca’s in Seargentsville, so Emil can cut you four tiny filets, three to freeze; then medium-slice his home-smoked bacon and impeccably wrap each collection of meat in real waxy brown butcher’s paper. Relish his smile and that of the woman (his daughter?) who is so helpful, who finds you their freshly gathered eggs; their fresh mozzarella; praises (so you buy it) their olive oil; and admits to having baked the biscotti and the apricot-centered tiny butter cookies.
Sergeantsville Reflection, cfe
All the way home, know that, in addition to the flavors and the vibrant health of the foods you’ve gathered pre-Irene, you will be savoring these memories.
Brenda and Cliff Jones spent 5 hours in the historic town of Roebling, absorbing and photographing restored and preserved industrial realities — She surprised me by taking and inserting these images, to give you the flavor of my sister’s and my River Days.
The Expansive Delaware, by Brenda Jones
The Delaware River came to our rescue on a day of high clouds and implacable sky. My Chicago sister, Marilyn, wanted an ocean adventure. But it was not in the cards. Always blessed in our sisterhood, Marilyn and I wring together days out of each year, despite miles, our intense professional lives, and increasing airport-discouragements. The last NJ WILD readers heard of our memorable time together was when Marilyn lured me west to take that splendid Twilight Steamboat upon the Mississippi, at the height of autumn floods.
Now, her main wish while here was a day at Island Beach, threading tall dunes studded with bayberry and beach plum, holly and heather, trekking west in white silk sand rimmed by a weathered split-rail fence to Barnegat Bay, then east and upwards to the electrifying Atlantic herself. But it was not to be.
A detail not known to Midwesterners such as we, until viciously experienced, is that you cannot visit Atlantic beaches when there’s a land breeze. Our I.B. Day was forecast as, and proved to be, just that. W/SW, 5 to 10 mph. Dawn showed more of the same, actually from Maine to who-knows-where. Land breeze, to inform landlubbers from elsewhere, means hordes of biting insects, starting with black flies and descending to voracious mosquitoes. Once, on my way to the Spizzle Creek bird blind at I.B., the legs of my (foolish, yes, we admit it) guest and I, who had neglected to wear long
pants, were covered with ravening mosquitoes as though we were wearing black tights. You’ve heard of “once bitten, twice shy.” Try 2000-bitten… We started trembling, in what we later learned may have been a form of anaphylactic shock from insect venom.
No WAY was I taking my sister to feed the insects of Island Beach.
What do you do in New Jersey, when its shore is inaccessible and unacceptable?
Seek that other noble body of water, our Delaware River. It’s possible to
take 295 South to the Roebling exit, and begin there to follow history and that exquisite tidal water from near to us, as we did, all the way to Riverton, above Camden.
Winking and splashing, ‘Del’ made her way to the sea, leading two Great-Lakes-blessed Michiganders, hungry for ‘big water.’
Delaware River as Playground, by Brenda Jones
Ours was a day of intriguing and evocative houses — from those of riverboat captains presiding above Delaware banks in Riverton to rows of enlightened workers’ housing created by the Roeblings for those who turned out their impeccable wire rope to sustain bridges from Brooklyn and Washington to Golden Gate.
The game was to stay as close to the Delaware River as possible, all the while moving south. Early on, I learned that Monday is not the best day for randoming about along the river. Every lunch op was closed with the exception of the handsome, reliable, vibrant Madison Pub in Riverside. It’s the oldest continuously operating pub in New Jersey, spiffed to the nth degree, and legendary for hamburgers of Angus as memorable as anything I’ve had with my sister in Chicago.
In most river towns, all of which used to be connected under canvas, when the Delaware was our only ‘highway’, one must enter at the top, then drive one-way south, to stay along the banks.
Facsimile Streetlights at Roebling River Line Train Station
by Brenda Jones
Burlington is redolent of centuries far before our revolution, including a replica of the office where those who managed West Jersey [when we were The Jerseys], regularly convened. Brick sidewalks vie with cobblestones to bring back the sights, sounds and footing of yesteryear. Tipped tombstones tantalize with names, dates and stories weathered by centuries.
My favorite is Riverton, with its row upon row of tidy homes, each with its own unique, family-tended garden. Its green Victorian yacht club is worth the journey, as are captain’s homes with widows’ walks which rise in consummate stateliness all along the river.
Roebling Inn, which rents apartments! Facing Delaware River, by Brenda Jones
Man has perpetrated vile depredations upon this shimmer of water. When I moved to New Hope, in the early 1980’s, shad were rare. Wise riverside dwellers and their honest politicians, such as Peter Kostmayer, managed to have as much as possible of the Delaware named Wild and Scenic. This ended much pollution and brought back the shad, in droves. I attended the first Shad Festival, honoring that miracle of restoration and preservation.
My sister and I walked on water this week, over the Delaware, from Bull’s Island to the luminously restored Black Bass Inn on the Pennsylvania side. That entire day, we experienced the the river as playground - kayakers, swimmers, bobbers and floaters/tubers, from morning through late afternoon.
Each of us has been forced into a measure of cynicism about the world in general and America in particular, in this century.
In New Jersey’s (South Jersey’s) river towns, –normally explored on the light rail River Line, this time by car–, cynicism was replaced by awe and honor. Venerable buildings remember when Ben Franklin printed currency near where we parked our car in Burlington; where Abraham Lincoln (Blue Anchor Tavern, Burlington) ran a campaign. Restored row houses in Roebling are still redolent of the enlightened corporation that made the world better on level upon level. During the Great Depression, workers were not charged rent! Now, people work in Philadelphia and commute to Roebling on the River Line.
The Spiffy Swiss River Line Train, which connects the River Towns, by Brenda Jones
Our drive south, echoing the time of clipper ships, frequently piqued by warning signals of the spiffy River Line Light Rail, restored not only hope but even joy, in our amazing country. Appropriate, hard on the heels of the Fourth of July.
Over and over, we had to scrap the day’s plans, quite literally choose another path.
Over and over, miracles came our way.
The past is alive and well and living in the River Towns.
New Jersey is a master at restoration and preservation.
Gate to the Roebling Works, without which we wouldn’t have
Brooklyn, George Washington, Golden Gate and Riegelsville Bridges
by Brenda Jones
The trouble is, everyone always thinks our state is just that industrial morass I had to traverse to pick up and return my sister to Newark Airport…
Cherish New Jersey.
Realize her many miracles of restoration and preservation.
Fog Along Delaware, Brenda Jones
This just in - good news and bad news, from Michael Redmond just now, Packet Lifestyle and Time Off Editor, who knows how I AM about NJ nature!
Rejoice in the wisdom of our state, NJ WILD readers. However, write Governor Christie to insist he sign this crucial legislation.
Do whatever you can on any and all fronts to preserve her wild spaces, including RIVERS!
See how our government protects these polluters of our sacred spaces!
bolds mine, as usual
“I’m just wild about natural destruction” cfe
American Bald Eagle Successful Dive for Fish, Brenda Jones
And No One Mentions Effects of Fracking Chemicals Upon Fish in Delaware, etc…
June 29, 2011
NEW JERSEY STATE LEGISLATURE FIRST IN U.S. TO PASS BILL BANNING DANGEROUS GAS DRILLING TECHNIQUE
Trenton, NJ - On Wednesday, in an unprecedented and pioneering move, New Jersey’s state legislature became the first to pass a bill to enforce a statewide ban on a controversial gas drilling technique known as fracking. The legislature was unanimously in favor of the bill, which passed the state Senate 32-1 and the Assembly 56-11.
“Today, New Jersey sent a strong message to surrounding states and to the nation that a ban on fracking is necessary to protect public health and preserve our natural resources,” said Senator Bob Gordon (D-Bergen).
“Any benefits of gas production simply do not justify the many potential dangers associated with fracking such as pollution of our lakes, streams and drinking water supplies and the release of airborne pollutants. We should not wait until our natural resources are threatened or destroyed to act. The time to ban fracking in New Jersey is now.”
Fracking involves injecting water, sand and toxic chemicals deep underground to break up dense rock formations and release natural gas. Opponents of fracking cite the high potential for water and air pollution as a leading reason to ban the practice. Over 1,000 cases of water contamination have been reported near fracking sites.
Baldpate Mountain View, Brenda Jones
(at least Baldpate itself is Preserved!)
Public opposition to fracking has escalated in recent months, with concerned residents and environmental and consumer advocacy groups campaigning against the practice in New Jersey and the surrounding states. Gas companies have been ramping up plans to drill in the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation which extends up the East Coast. Fracking operations in Pennsylvania alone are expected to create 19 million gallons of wastewater.
“Fracking is a man-made disruption to the environment, many times on large-scale proportions,” said Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Bergen). “We’ve already seen a number of eco-casualties from this practice in surrounding states. It would be irresponsible to leave the door open for this practice to be pursued in New Jersey.”
“The New Jersey Legislature is taking the pro-active step of preventing contamination of our drinking water and environment, the only sure way to protect our residents from fracking pollution. This is a great day for the state’s present and future generations”, said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
According to Food & Water, at least 61 localities across the U.S. have passed measures against fracking. On June 16, the Trenton City Council passed a resolution calling for a statewide ban, and earlier this year, Highland Park, NJ became the first town in the country to call for a state and national ban on fracking.
“New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s signature is all that is necessary now for this critical and timely statewide ban to go into effect,” said Jim Walsh, Eastern Region Director of the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch. “If he approves it, New Jersey will be the first state to stand up against the devastating environmental and public health impacts of fracking, which have wreaked havoc on other states across the U.S.”
In the Midwest, where fracking is increasingly common, residents have reported complications ranging from headaches and blackouts, noxious odors in the air and sudden blindness and hair loss among their livestock – concerns which led those living in Dish, Texas, a town located near 11 natural gas compression stations, to hire a private environmental consultant to sample the air. The consultant found that it contained high levels of neurotoxins and carcinogens, including benzene.
A 2011 Cornell University study found that the process of fracking also releases methane, which according to the EPA, is 21 times more damaging greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Similarly, a study released by researchers at Duke University in April found methane levels in shallow drinking water wells near active gas drilling sites at a level 17 times higher than those near inactive ones.
“This bill is a great victory for clean water in New Jersey and we believe it will be a national model,” said Jeff Tittel Director NJ Sierra Club. “We hope this bill sends a message to the governor to oppose fracking in the Delaware Basin and protect New Jersey waters.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. House and Energy Commerce Committee determined that 14 oil companies had injected 780 million gallons of fracking chemicals and other substances into U.S. wells between 2005 and 2009. This included 10.2 million gallons of fluids containing known or suspected carcinogens.
The companies, however, are not required to disclose the chemicals in fracking fluid, which they claim should be protected as a “trade secret”. They are also exempt from seven major federal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act.
Scientists at the Endocrine Disruption Exchange who tested fracking fluids found that 25 percent can cause cancer; 37 percent can disrupt the endocrine system; and 40 to 50 percent can affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems.
Earlier this month Food & Water Watch released a report entitled The Case for a Ban on Fracking. The report reveals that the natural gas industry’s use of water-intensive, toxic, unregulated practices for natural gas extraction are compromising public health and polluting water resources across the country.
The Case for a Ban on Fracking is available here: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/reports/the-case-for-a-ban-on-gas-fracking
A map of municipalities that have taken action against fracking is available here: