Archive for the ‘Tranquillity’ Category
Pine Barrens Peat Water, Mullica River cfe
Between drought and development, it is hard for others, even for New Jersey natives, to credit our slogan, “The Garden State.”
NJ WILD readers know, I celebrate New Jersey’s wild beauty wherever and whenever I can find it, even right in my own (near Rocky Hill) rocky hilly foresty yard.
But sometimes, I must go far afield, gulp great ‘draughts’ of New Jersey Beauty.
As. recently, to and from my cherished ‘Brigantine’ - Wildlife Refuge, otherwise known as Edwin B. Forsythe.
The blessings of visiting ‘the Brig’ are beyond measure, starting with the long silent even winding drive through the Pine Barrens to Smithville and Oceanville. Due east of those tiny pre-Revolutionary towns stretches the 8-mile dike drive among bays and impoundments, rare birds at all times and in all seasons.
Come along with me on last week’s spur-of-the-moment, if not even desperate, flight to beauty.
Queen Anne’s Lace, Mullica River, Pine Barrens cfe
Beyond the dock, fortunate kayakers make their way up the Mullica, without whose Revolutionary waters and watermen, we wouldn’t have a nation:
Mullica Kayakers, cfe
Cloud-Studded Salinity-Managed Waters of Brigantine cfe
FIDDLER CRABS, OUT FOR LOW-TIDE LUNCH, Brig cfe
NEW JERSEY BEAUTY - CLOUD MAJESTY Brig cfe
There were great egrets everywhere, like archangels at the Nativity, as well as black-bellied and American golden plovers, ibis beyond counting, a few skimmers not skimming, and osprey families everywhere we looked — some feeding young, one ‘mantling ‘ - waving mature wings to cool the immature!
Successful Osprey Family, The Brig cfe
Duck and First Marsh Mallows of the Season cfe
Glossy Ibis and Marsh Mallow, Brig cfe
Wild Flowers (water lilies and Sagittaria) and Cranberry Bogs Near Chatsworth, #563,
The Empty, Beauty-Bracketed Route Home cfe
As you can see, beauty and wildness are with you every step of the way to and from ‘The Brig.’
(”The Pretty Way” will have no cars to speak of, even on major holidays. Route 1 South to 295 South to Columbus Exit to 206 South to Carranza Road/Tabernacle to 532 (stop at Russo’s for fresh-made cider doughnuts and very local produce). 532 east to 563 South to (I forget the number -[579?]) left to New Gretna below Chatsworth Route 9 South, moments on GSP, Exit 48 Smithville, back onto Route 9 South below Smithville to left turn to Forsythe Wildlife Refuge after fire station, Lily Lake Road. See Noyes Museum of Art while down there. Eat breakfast at The Bakery in Smithville; any time at Smithville Inn, and Oyster Creek Inn at Leeds Point, if it’s open when you’re there…)
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…
Cape May Lighthouse, NJ
Titmouse in Snowstorm, Brenda Jones
NJ WILD readers know, my favorite time to be anywhere is off-season. In 2009 I had chosen to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Cape May.
My key birding/hiking/art and travel buddy, Janet Black, and I had this urgent need to flee the commercial madness which had come to overwhelm this once sacred season. The fiercest concern, on all channels during this week’s blizzard, was not health or safety - but o, dear! — people can’t get to the malls! Christ was not born to turn balance sheets from red to black.
We went to seek the elemental, even the primal.
I, personally was starved for limitlessness.
We both needed birds, — handsome birds, large birds, unexpected birds, birds dealing boldly and successfully with elements, putting humans to shame. Birds making us catch our breath over their beauty, their fearlessness, their deft way with the wind. Somewhere out beyond the first lines of waves, long-tailed ducks were bobbing and feeding. Sometimes, if we were very lucky, elegant gannets arrowed right over our heads, or threaded their way above the crests.
Yes, we knew the trails, the hot spots, from Sunset Beach to Cape May Point to Higbee Beach. We’ve put in our time on and near the hawk watch platform, normally abuzz - it would be still for Christmas.
Cape May Bird Observatory post captures their Hawk Watch Platform post-blizzard
We knew where to hike (from the jetty to the light) in a benevolent season, when we were sometimes accompanied by ruddy turnstones, living mosaics hopping along beside us as we stride.
We knew where the peregrine stooped (’stooped’ is the birder’s word) upon tasty prey, from an anachronistic bunker to a freshwater pond, as sedate mute swans ignore the entire drama.
Killdeer and Snow
from Cape May Bird Observatory post, post-storm
We knew where monarchs clustered in autumn, on a shrub called “high tide plant.” We had favorite dune trails where we’d seen loons visibly change their plumage before our eyes.
But neither of us knew what Christmas meant at New Jersey’s Cape, let alone what it means to the birds.
We packed foul weather gear - we’ve used it before for Cape May Birding Weekends of 20 mile an hour winds and I swear 20 degrees, although it couldn’t have been - it was the end of May…
We packed our binoculars and our Sibleys - well, they’re always in the trunk. Being writers, books and notepads went first into those suitcases. Janet’s memoir vied with her poetry. My NJ WILD held pride of place - no competition for it, these days, not even from the poetry muse.
We both fled the Victorian, sought out the rustic, the local, and above all, the maritime and the avian.
Down at the southernmost tip of New Jersey, at the birds’ jumping-off place to cross the Delaware Bay, the prime activity would neither be shopping til you drop, nor counting down to Christmas.
Out on the windswept beaches, spirit would be near at hand. Shore birds would do their Holy Ghost thing.
Though we did not see the Christmas star, something was being born. I called it Hope.
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
The First Thanksgiving Painting, Jean Louis Gerome Ferris
Brenda Jones’ image of Geese Overhead echoes Charles Goodrich’s signature phrase
Fellow poet, Penelope Schott, sent me this delightful essay from someone else wise and wild in her new home town, Portland, Oregon: Charles Goodrich.
I e-mailed Charles, receiving merry permission to share his (diatribe, polemic, or just plain delicious excursion?) with NJ WILD readers. I relish his unique sign-off/signature - don’t you?
Charles knows what to do on the days of Thanksgiving. That feast did not come into being so that people could shop. At 4 a.m. in beautiful New Jersey, people could be out tracking in a wood, following a river, coursing over the bounding main, seeking wild creatures– not elbowing aside other frenzied humans in mad excesses of materialism.
Wise Indians talked surviving Pilgrims into setting aside days of thanks for the harvest, much of which would not have been in hand without the steady assistance of the so-called savages.
Thanksgiving is meant to be a celebration of gratitude. In the wild world, gratitude can be engendered by watching wild turkeys, in this case, battling - rather than fighting off fellow shoppers.
Brenda Jones’ Battling Turkey Cocks
Here is a fellow nature enthusiast, engendering thankfulness the real way.
Thank you, Charles, and I look forward to your new book, GOING TO SEED: DISPATCHES FROM THE GARDEN, due out in April from Silverfish Review Press.
Charles suggests, “You might also want to check out the website of the program I work for, the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word. We sponsor a couple of writing residencies and a bunch of other events and programs that you and your readers might find interesting: http://springcreek.oregonstate.edu/
Keep up the good work there in the Garden State. I know there are precious pockets of wild nature in your midst. Glad to know you are helping folks toward the great remembering.
geese overhead, mice in the compost,
Use Charles Goodrich’s web-site, to track down other thoughtful musings. Meanwhile, take a stroll in wild Oregon with this fine thinker and writer.
Deep in the brambles, a winter wren scavenges insects for her supper, talking to herself in buzzing little syllables. Otherwise, things are quiet in the woods.
It’s the day after Thanksgiving, signs everywhere of recent feasting. Beside the river, a scrubby willow has been clipped off, the clean impression of beaver teeth indented in the stump.
At the base of a cedar, a fresh owl pellet, chock full of white bones and gray fur.
And here, in the center of the trail, splayed out in artful array, the scrub jay’s wings sail on through a scatter of gray and blue breast feathers, right where the fox left them.
I’m sure it will be a busy day at the mall. There are supposed to be bargains galore.
I can believe it, because the catkins of the wild filberts are already an inch long. And now the wren flits to a branch above the trail and scolds me for undisclosed offenses. Prosperity abounds!
Winter Sparrow by Brenda Jones
Spring Creek Project
The challenge of the Spring Creek Project is to bring together the practical wisdom of the environmental sciences, the clarity of philosophical analysis, and the creative, expressive power of the written word, to find new ways to understand and re-imagine our relation to the natural world.
Pine Barrens Wild Water, cfe
It won’t surprise NJ WILD readers that, for this reader/writer, there is no such thing as too many nature books. The best gift yet arrived last week from sensitive friends, another book case… Most of the ones in my home, however, I have read and re-read, highlighted, underlined, quoted and read again.
For all these full bookshelves, there are never enough nature books for yours truly. One of the nice things about working at D&R Greenway Land Trust is that we have a nature library upstairs. You might think I’ve devoured every page between covers on nature subjects, due to both passion for and insatiable curiosity about Mother Nature in all forms. However, in the course of filing new books in our D&R Greenway library, I discovered two that have nourished me in recent rainy times. One is a compilation of early writings by women on what was then called “Birdwatching.” Report on that experience to come…
A Place in the Woods, by Helen Hoover, was new to me, although I’d read her The Gift of the Deer in the early years of my long-ago marriage. Helen and her husband, “Ade”, “took to the woods” without so much as a wilderness survival course, and precious little familiarity with cooking. They lived there in all seasons between the years of 1966 and 1973. This was not simply Minnesota (whose bitter winters, one entire month without thermometer’s ever rising above ZERO, daunted me as a bride and new mother), but NORTHERNmost Minnesota.
Tantalizingly near to my beloved Lake Superior, these two spent little enough time in or on the lake, most of it in their log cabin and/or summer house, surrounded by towering evergreens. Everything seemed to go wrong, including a bear in the cellar on Helen’s first day alone in the house while Ade made his way to a remote town for mail.
Interestingly, their spirits rarely flagged and their love evidently increased. As did their competency.
Her husband’s pen-and-ink drawings recreate that rugged Eden, even in this, another century time. Helen herself was driven to begin writing articles and books because everyone they’d left behind with their sophisticated Chicago professions kept asking when they were coming home.
For the Hoovers, the woods were home. As for me, here in this Princeton woods, –mostly deciduous but some white pines–. Unlike Helen and Ade, I don’t need all my Tom Brown’s Tracker School skills in order to thrive.
Reading the words of Helen Hoover reminds me why I work for D&R Greenway and why I write these blogs for the Packet and Princeton Patch.
The author declares that their challenges, –especially in winter–, “brought us deep awareness of the strength and courage to be drawn from the steady renewal of the forest.”
Keep preserving New Jersey lands so that we, ourselves, in this region, in this state, may be steadily renewed.
Helen Hoover goes on to reveal [as NJ WILD readers know from earlier posts about, for example, the fox whose snow-tracks delighted me in the worst of last year's ceaseless blizzards,] “helped us understand, within our human limitations, the living creatures who shared the land with us.”
Helen Hoover evokes the past which NJ WILD readers are accustomed to hearing me lament: “In those early days before the power line, lights went out and boats came in early, so that summer nights belonged to the murmur of wind in the pines; the patter of rain; or the booming of thunder; the lonely, lovely voices of the loon.” Even in daunting northern Minnesota, there was quiet summer magic to remember and to miss.
In New Jersey, there are still places where quiet reigns. I write to you about them as often as I can: Salem and Cumberland counties, always; back-bay Cape May; anytime on the Towpath, especially south from Quaker Bridge Road and over toward the Brearley House. The Pine Barrens even on major Holidays. Island Beach, Sandy Hook, especially in but not limited to winter.
Keep on supporting your local land preservation organizations, so that pine-clad, sand-drifted, bird-shadowed, water-blessed New Jersey can continue to exist.
We don’t have to go to northernmost Minnesota to find the wild. We have it right here. PRESERVE IT!
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
Upper Raritan, Fly Fishermen’s Paradise - Ken Lockwood Gorge, Tasha O’Neill
GOOD NEWS - FIRST TIME IN MORE THAN A CENTURY: Upper Raritan to Run Free
Dear NJ WILD Readers,
To give you a sense of the magnitude of this preservation miracle, I share Tasha O’Neill’s glorious pictures of Ken Lockwood Gorge on the upper Raritan.
It’s grand in winter in the Gorge. Virtual trips can be made by Googling Ken Lockwood Gorge and feast your eyes on vodka-clear waters, dancing between moss-garlanded black rock walls. Pretend you’re as deft, graceful and successful as all those fly fishermen.
Imagine that our hands are tenderly releasing wild and wily trout into untroubled Raritan waters. This is a dream that can now come true.
I recently watched NJN Special, Along the Delaware, showing the grace of fly fishing in the upper Delaware River. Scenes of artful sportsmen are interspersed with those peaceful kayakers, to the overhead carols of red-tailed hawks… Now, The Delaware’s sister, Raritan, can give forth wild bounty.
For once, humans are making amends to our beleaguered earth.
In the meantime, support your local land trust, such as our D&R Greenway Land Trust, founded to preserve land near the Delaware & Raritan Canal and Towpath. Keep in the forefront of your consciousness the beauty and peril (development/poisoning of waterways) of our beautiful unsung state… Do everything in your power to expand preservation miracles such as this one.
And, go walk the Gorge in all seasons. You may be inspired to paint masterpieces, as have some of D&R Greenway’s key Artists of Preservation.
The NJ DEP has secured an agreement that will open up a large stretch of the
The removal of the dams, financed and carried out by El Paso, will open up a
The settlement marks an important first step in what the DEP hopes will become
The fish to benefit most from the removal of the dams are American shad,
Additionally, the dam removal will make it easier for kayakers,
For more details on the settlement and the stretches of river involved, visit
Salem County - Summer Central
NJ Wild Readers know that every so often, I need to run away from home. Not far. Still New Jersey.
You know, I take the dappled roads, to watery reaches, to peace and beauty, where traffic does not exist and there’s no such thing as road rage. Instead, peace surrounds me on all sides.
One of my favorite destinations is idyllic Salem County on the Delaware Bayshore. There, I ride alongside healthy crops, even the soybeans higher than my knees. In Salem County, my favorite signboards, the ones trumpeting PRESERVED FARMLAND are the norm, not the exception. On the Delaware Bayshore, I take every road that says NO OUTLET, because the outlet is the Bay. Or a marshland. Or a meadow. Or a swamp. Or a forest. Or a fisherman’s haven.
I wrote about the fishing haven, Fortescue, last week. Today, I’m lonely all over again for Salem county vistas and history.
Salem County Perfection
In Salem County, there doesn’t seem to have been any drought.
“Beneath the spreading XX Tree…” Salem County - No Drought Here!
In Salem County, peace reigns.
Salem County Peace –Alloway Creek
In Salem County, water is a constant companion.
Salem County - Alloway Souvenirs of Yesteryear
In Salem, history throbs at any crossing; above, alongside and below any bridge.
Hancock’s Bridge Pilings
Over this bridge rushed furious Redcoats, smarting from a recent defeat at a nearby bridge. Whipped into fury over having been conquered by our ragtag and bobtail army, they burst into the idyllic Quaker home of Mr. Hancock, slaughtering right and left, soldiers sleeping the sleep of the just after their recent victory. The Brits did not take kindly to being outsmarted by ordinary people fighting for liberty. Hancock House is open almost every day of the year, where Alicia, the Ranger, will tell the proud sad tale anew, and guests may walk from room to room and floor to floor, even on the Fourth of July, pondering what it takes to win through to freedom.
Hancock House’s Majestic Facade Belies Massacre…
Summer shadows bless Hancock House today, reminding us to pay any price, bear any burden to remain free of tyranny. In this house, the sleeping soldiers sacrificed that which our Founding Fathers were willing to barter for liberty - their lives, their fortunes - but not their sacred honor.
Hancock House - Where Summer Shadows now Whisper Peace
From this peaceful waterway, belligerent redcoats came.
Past an herb garden bearing these very varieties, soldiers rushed, bayonets at the ready.
Salem County Held Swedish Dwellings Such as This, Before the Advent of Quaker brickwork.
Quaker Brickwork Includes Initials of Mr. and Mrs. Hancock and 1734 Date
In Salem County, The Past Lives On
In Salem County, PRESERVED FARMLAND SIGNS Greet Travelers at Any Bend in the Road
Before or after watery wanderings and farmquests, I wend my way into beautiful downtown Salem, which is being courageously and assiduously restored by proud and determined residents.
Jewel in Salem’s Crown is the Salem Oak. Under this majestic tree, the founder of this town negotiated with and paid the Indians of the region for his land. This was unusual even then.
Now that we have lost the Mercer Oak, this may be the most famous tree in New Jersey. It has the shape ours once bore on Mercer Street, purportedly beneath whose boughs General Mercer, though bayoneted, conducted the Victory of Princeton.
To my eyes, the Salem Oak looks healthier today than the last time I was there. What do you think?
Salem Oak - New Jersey’s Most Famous Living Tree?
Across the road, travelers may refresh themselves at the Salem Oak Diner. Even though it has some exotic red-leafed tree on the cover that bears no resemblance to any oak of any species or era. Even though it has red white and blue flags over it now, to urge people to come there.
Under New Management
They never USED to need to urge us. I found out the reason for the changes — why there’s no longer a grilled corn muffin on the menu. Why the motherly and venerable waitresses who know their way around what used to be a unique menu are no longer there. Change comes to Salem County. The first owner was ill, and sold it to a long-time waitress. She kept the old spirit, the heart of the town, the place where all the locals gathered and the many lawyers of the region knew they could come for reliable meals in the middle of complex cases. The waitress sold it to what the Germans call ‘auslanders’, what Cape Codders call “people from away.” Why that should change it, I don’t know. But it did. The food’s ok. The spirit of Salem, however, is no longer palpable inside. There are few enough restaurants in the region, that you might as well stop there if you’re feeling a bit ‘peckish.’
But no longer will the people at the next table plunk down a bottle of ketchup as a poet friend and I finished ordering our food. “For breakfast?!”, we queried. “Oh, you’re not from around here…”, they realized. In other words you didn’t either grow the tomatoes or pack them when Heinz reigned above Salem fields….
They Still Have the Weekly Specialty - Made by a PA. Dutch Cook - one day a week!
We’re Not Only the Garden State - Where the Diner Capitol
The Salem Oak Diner IS real…
But Salem is also known for preservation of its vital farms — Learn from them!
Help Yourself Heaven - Salem County, New Jersey
NJ WILD readers know what has to happen, “when the world is too much with me, gathering and spinning…”
I must take myself off to New Jersey beauty and solitude, in this case some of our Land’s Ends.
Thursday morning, I ‘flew the coop’, heading to the Delaware Bayshores. It was a scintillating day upon which to snatch a bit of Labor Day Weekend, before it officially opened to the rest of the world.
90-some miles from my Canal Road door, Salem and Cumberland Counties beckoned. In a matter of hours, I had made the most of our least known ‘maritime provinces.’ A few pictures follow - other posts are ‘brewing’…
Enjoy scenes of tiny Fortescue, on the Delaware Bay. Those waters knew a storm was in the offing. Humans did not. Sunbathers and fishermen fringed the last stretches of New Jersey land, as though sun and summer would last forevermore.
“Old Fisherman Crossing, Creek Road.”
When I’m near signs like this, I know ‘I’m not in Kansas any more.’
Fishermen’s Quest — Higbee’s Marina, Fortescue
Gull Heads into Pre-Earl Winds
Sun and Summer Last Forever
Fortescue Stilt Houses — Horseshoe Crab Heaven in Late May
The Brooding Bay Knows Hurricane Earl is Coming
Fortescue is birders’ heaven, especially in spring - when horseshoe crabs tumble ashore to lay eggs by the millions. This narrow strip of sand, –along with a handful of others along the Delaware Bay, including Reed’s Beach–, must nourish the last of the red knots, surviving ruddy turnstones, laughing gulls beyond counting.
Arctic journeys await knots and turnstones. If they cannot fatten sufficiently on these delicate sand bands, these shorebirds either cannot reach their breeding grounds, or cannot breed when they arrive.
We don’t see these rarities in obvious swarms in autumn migration. This year, they face the peril of oiled marshes surrounding the battered Gulf of Mexico.
Salem County is mostly agrarian, then, abruptly maritime.
A handful of hours in her green, then along her sand and blue reaches refreshes, me as though I’ve been away for weeks.
Give the Delaware Bay a try. Nobody seems to realize -
New Jersey is the only state with three coastlines…
On my way back to the ‘mainland’, and on over toward Cumberland, I stop at a Help-Yourself farmstand for pristine, luminous produce.
It’s because of Salem and Cumberland that New Jersey remains the Garden State. Keep them that way.
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LAND TRUST, such as D&R Greenway, which has preserved over two thousand Salem acres recently, keeping New Jersey GREEN.
Art and Freshly Harvested Tomato on my D&R Greenway Desk
Produce Fresh from Bill Rawlyk’s Farm for Staff at D&R GReenway’s Kitchen
Bill Rawlyk Blueberries One Hour Old -
on bench in D&R Greenway’s Meredith’s Memorial Garden
The Barn in Princeton from Which we Save Land in Seven New Jersey Counties