Archive for the ‘The Jerseys’ Category
Peaceful Delaware, accessible by The River Line, Riverton cfe
It’s a flawless Saturday in June, the kind of just-washed morning that simply requires an excursion. Luckily, a friend and I have one all planned. Debbie and I meet at the Light Rail Line station in Bordentown, because it’s nearby, pretty, free and safe. I particularly treasure the miracle of waiting at the River Line Station, studying the nearby Delaware, sparkling, enticing — the reason for for this train.
Artisanal Tiles Tell the Story of Each River Town Riverside cfe
Once upon a time, commerce in New Jersey (and across-the-Delaware Pennsylvania) took place under sail along this glimmering and capacious body of water. Today, Debbie and I will hop aboard, with our validated two-hour tickets tucked in a handy pocket, in case some official might ask to peruse them. The beautiful weather puts us in such a dreamy mood that we don’t care which way we go - north or south. Whichever train comes first. There are printed schedules on the walls of each shelter/station, showing that trains arrive (like clockwork - well, they were built by Swiss), and you never have long to wait for the next one. When your ticket runs out, which it will, no big deal - our tickets were 70 cents — because of our venerability! — others are probably $1.50 or so, and each ticket grants two hours of light rail magic. The trains have hooks for bicycles, so people can bike to the train, train far and wide, lift up the bike and bike off again. Terribly civilized. Terribly European, it all seems to me. But it’s actually very New Jersey. A reason for great pride in our state.
Ready to Roll, on the River Line cfe
What arrives is the northbound train, to Trenton. We know not to stick the little purple tickets into the validation machines until we see the beaming headlight of the Little Engine That Really Can! Brightest Blue and Sunflower Yellow, these zingy Swiss two-ended, two-engined trains zing up and down from Trenton to Camden and back all day and a little bit into the night, carrying people to new jobs and restored towns all along the route. After a certain hour, the tracks revert to carrying freight. Until the next morning, and the next round of commuters.
I’ve watched a woman in medical attire intensively studying all the way from Camden to Trenton. This day, we would be across the aisle from a young exhausted mother, who managed sleep the whole way with babe in arms, –modern madonna, modern pieta. Her slumbrous child was wrapped as in some ancient land, but in a blanket decorated with tiny soccer balls. I’ve listened as greetings conveyed to new arrivals with the eagerness and delight of family reunions. The train serves as a kind of moving neighborhood. I’ve heard youngsters practicing their drumming from Camden to Trenton, where a competition awaited. I’ve taken the train myself twice, though unsuccessfully, to try to enter Whitman’s house in Camden, to see the room where our legendary poet who changed poetry forever wrote, entertained visitors, even died. But the house is not open when I’m there. Nevertheless, it was important to make the pilgrimage.
Inside the River Line cfe
Today, Debbie and I luxuriate in a timeless sojourn, beginning with north through the Marsh (The Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown Marsh). Here I’ve hiked, relished birding walks with Ornithologist Charlie Leck and Lou Beck of Washington’s Crossing Audubon, as well as legendary bird author/artist David Allen Sibley. I’ve relished wildflower journeys with Mary Leck, emeritus professor of biology at Rider. Here we’ve scouted for beaver-breath at 20 degrees, curling white and frail above their scattered-looking lodges, Here I’ve found the great horned owl nest although so well hidden in its tangley vines, just before sunset. In the Marsh I’ve followed dawn’s fox tracks. We could tell when he was sauntering, hunting, just going back home in light fresh snowfall. I’ve kayaked the creek we now begin to cross, Crosswicks, then nipped off onto Watson’s Creek and strange encounters under highway abutments, where cave swallows have made the most of all that concrete. Ultimately, we’d emerge in wetlands (freshwater tidal) belonging to egrets, herons (green and blue), wood ducks that look like Picasso designed them, owls being mobbed by ferocious crows, and American bald eagles themselves, nesting again in the Marsh where he belongs, now that DDT is behind us and them.
All of this in the heart of New Jersey’s State Capitol. And nobody knows its there. But you can ‘to and fro’ through the magical Marsh on New Jersey’s enlightened River Line Train.
Turning south, I find an egret for Debbie off to our right, where the Marsh gives way to the Delaware herself, and pickerel weed at low tide is standing tall as toy soldiers, the water a long long way from those bright green pointy leaves. In the afternoon, full moon tides having come back in, big-time, those leaves are nearly submerged.
Swiss Designed River Line Car at Station cfe
The train is cool but not cold, its windows large and gleaming. I like to sit the same way the train is going - with an engine at either end, half the passengers are always riding backwards, not my favorite way to travel. A written led display and a formal woman’s voice announce each new station. Roebling arrives, coming back to life after its years as one of the first company towns, much of its amazing industrial might still in situ, and a new museum being spiffed up off to one side of the tracks.
River Line tracks arrow straight through the center of these Delaware-side towns, these former ports, these formerly abandoned villages. Evidence of New Jersey’s industrial past is on either side, sometimes still thriving, sometimes thriving anew, sometimes in ruins as evocative as Tintern Abbey.
We puzzle over the large abandoned building beside the Riverside tracks — a few years ago, it had been festooned with signs promising condominiums there by the train. There’s the Madison Pub beside the train stop there, just below the eagle statue with the River Line train painted on its back - mixed emotions here… Madison Pub, I was told, has been there since before Prohibition - medicinal purposes only, I guess. Now it has more than doubled in size, fed as it feeds passengers on the River Line.
But our goal is sleepy little Riverton, almost to Camden. Flower-bedecked, Victorian-restored, it’s a newer town than 18th Century Burlington, but their histories are equally palpable. We’ll lunch at Zena’s, right beside the track, noting that the train comes at 7 after and 37 after the hour. But first, a stroll.
Flower-Bedecked Riverton cfe
‘Down By the Riverside’, Riverton cfe
Shorebird Breakfast, Riverton Yard cfe
Riverton Yacht Club, on the Delaware cfe
Moored in the Delaware cfe
Riverton Yacht Club Through the Sycamores cfe
What Used to Be — Riverton, Restored cfe
Rooftop Garden, Riverton cfe
Zena’s - our Mecca cfe
I’ll save the story of our superb lunch, the ride back north, our sojourn in Burlington - which was the capitol of The Jerseys when we were two provinces separated by Province Line Road — and our antiquing in the building where many-masted ships were formerly repaired, for another day.
If you can’t wait - take the River Line right now. Any time. Any direction. For a day you will never forget.
In childhood, parents scorned people who were “going to the dogs.” I somehow managed to avoid that fate. However, on February 6, I’ll be going to the eagles.
As this and many other photographs prove, Brenda Jones is master of eagles — ‘our’ American bald eagles, ‘our’ successful nesting pair of Princeton. Sometimes, though, a birder needs more than a pair. This is what I would have had, along with many hundreds of other eagle enthusiasts, all weekend in Cumberland County - were it not for heavy weather. An e-mail announced the cancellation of the Festival.
We can still celebrate their remarkable restoration to their so-natural habitat in the Delaware Bay Region. So do read what I’m missing. Do head south in Jersey soon to see these handsome parents in their most important role
And do thank Brenda not only for alerting me/us to the cancellation, but also for convincing the Packet to work magic and return our ability to enter images into NJ WILD!
** UPDATE **
THE CUMBERLAND COUNTY 2010 WINTER EAGLE FESTIVAL HAS BEEN CANCELED
THE FESTIVAL WILL NOT BE RESCHEDULED THIS YEAR
This is the time of courtship for the great birds. The vital season of breeding, of eggs being laid in enormous scraggly nests on top of majestic trees. This is taking place everywhere up and down the superb rivers that lead to the Delaware Bayshore– the Cohansey. the Maurice. the Manumuskin — some of my favorite words upon earth. And all of them officially named “Wild and Scenic” - what could be better?
At Cumberland County’s Winter Eagle Festival, most birds on the wing will be our nation’s symbol. Many will be carrying shimmering fish, aerodynamically positioned, gathered in dramatic plunges into those splendid rivers, transported to their mates, their nests, their very futures.
At Cumberland’s Eagle Festival, yes, it can be twenty degrees with twenty-mile-an-hour winds. And every shiver will not be due to cold. A great many will be occasioned by awe at the sight of yet another pair of American bald eagles.
Part of my rapture will be caused by being surrounded by avid birders — every one still possessing a sense of wonder, which expands by leaps and bounds, every early February, where eagles dare. A lot of them are familiar faces, for we also share the autumn ritual of riding up the Maurice and/or the Cohansey in quest of purple martins by the hundreds of thousands, surrounded by more eagles and ospreys than even the experts can count.
The place is the Mauricetown Firehall on Noble Street in Mauricetown (locals pronounce it Marhstown, as though spoken through a partly melted marshmallow.) If you ask for More-ees-town, the gas station attendant on Bukshutem (I am not making this up) Road will NOT give you directions.
The time is 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., followed by an owl prowl on Turkey Point. The phone number for information is 856-453-2177. The registration fee is $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for 12 and under. This munificent sum will bring you hours of information indoors, to weigh against hours of memorable wild nature outdoors. [www.co.cumberland.nj.us] And vendors of optics and gear, bird books and statues, paintings and pamphlets about conservation organizations winning the fight against pollution and destruction in this most populated state.
Registration will give you a map to treasure for all time, with every known Cumberland County eagles’ nest clearly marked. That treasure map will guide you over bridges and across marshes and down so-called dead ends and past many more than seven swans a swimming and God knows how many buffleheads a buffleing.
Each destination will hold CMBO experts aiming electrifyingly superb Swarovski scopes toward nests that hold the fate of eagles in New Jersey. In a very short time, you’ll learn to tell from her motions whether or not the female is sitting on eggs!
After the day’s lectures, you can tiptoe along Turkey Point trails for a 5 p.m. owl watch. I’m not sure whether owls are guaranteed but they might as well be, because those CMBO (Cape May Bird Observatory) Leaders have an uncanny sense for discovering and showing YOU how to discover the invisible.
Literal early birds can join the legendary Karen Johnson for the 7 a.m. Turkey Point walk. Mid-day hikers (mid-day for birders) may follow Steve Eisenhauer on the 10:00 a.m. Bald Eagle Trail Walk. People who haven’t had enough can return to Turkey Point Sunday Morning for the Sunrise Walk - $6 for New Jersey Audubon and CMBO Members, $10.00 for non.
At Cumberland’s Winter Eagle Festival, in the Mauricetown Fire Hall, if you can tear yourself away from the eagles, you can hear Don Freiday of New Jersey Audubon/Cape May Bird Observatory talk on Birding Fieldcraft and Gear for Better Birding. You can learn what Federal De-Listing means to eagles in general and New Jersey’s in particular, with Kathy Clark of New Jersey Endangered Species. You can take virtual journeys all over the Cape May birding region with experts (especially on owls!) Pat and Clay Sutton, and buy their newest tome, “Birds and Birding of Cape May” and have them sign it. At Cumberland County’s Winter Eagle Festival, you can relish the humor and expertise of Pete Dunne of New Jersey Audubon/CMBO, who has moved so many of us into the big leagues, birding-wise, starting with his irresistible articles in the New York Times New Jersey Section a few decades ago.
There are usually regional foods for sale in the fire hall, cooked by Cumberland County locals, hardy folk. I remember one breakfast of chowder, doughnuts and coffee, and that menu is not likely to change. There’s a chili supper afterwards - the last time I partook of that, I swore never again. Maybe they’ve improved. If you know birders, you know food is generally the last thing on their minds. Not mine, however, as NJ WILD readers well realize.
Not long ago, there was but one eagles’ nest in our state, in Bear Swamp, through which I’ll be driving in a few days. That tragic nest held two adult eagles, whose eggs always broke under the sitting birds, shells fatally thinned because of DDT. A combination of the banning of the dire chemical (thanks to Rachel Carson) and clever removal of the fragile eggs (dummy eggs left in place - otherwise the female would wear herself out laying replacements) brought about the miracle of more nests than we’ll have time to find, which is today’s reality.
The fragile eggs were incubated. The chicks were brought back to the parent pair, and the miracle began.
Any time you can see more eagles than crows, that’s miraculous.
Most people don’t even realize that New Jersey has three coasts - the Atlantic of course; the Delaware, some realize, but the Delaware Bay is a mystery. A wild mystery. So are the eagles.
[Today I found new Gore-Tex mittens, inner liner gloves, and some sort of magical hand warmers and feet warmers at a ski shop in Doylestown. I have three different items of headgear by the charmingly named Turtle Fur - a cowl that pulls up over the head; an ear band; and a flat out hat that keeps ears toasty in all weathers and winds. All in a beautiful shade of aqua. My hiking boots and binoculars are always in the car. My camera's in the front hall, with lots of extra batteries. One remaining quest - wind-pruf Polarfleece (copyright) outer pants -- regular Polarfleece may not do the trick in those winds off the Bay.]
I have my usual room reservations at the dear and impeccable Country Inn in Millville, down tree-lined, swift-moving Route 55. Their front lobby welcomes with a roaring fire, a bowl of apples, and books you can borrow and just bring back the next time you come. Room rates, especially with AAA cards, are bearable and their included breakfasts hot, lasting, early and generous. It’s still a half hour down to Mauricetown, across aforementioned Buckshutem Road.
After I check out on Sunday, I can visit the spectacular Wheaton Glass Museum in Millville, major center of the New Jersey glass industry since manufacturing was an act of treason in East and West Jersey.
But that’s another story. Right now, I am fixated upon eagles. Join me.
FROM THE CAPE MAY BIRDING HOT LINE JUST NOW
SHORT-EARED OWL sightings include 4 at Turkey Point, 2 at Newport Landing Road, 2 at the end of Ragged Island Road (all in Cumberland County); and one at Jakes Landing Road. These were observed on Saturday January 23, 2010 during CMBO’s Winter Marsh Raptor Survey, which also recorded 127 NORTHERN HARRIERS and 38 BALD EAGLES, mostly adults, at 15 sites in southern NJ.
Short-eared Owl chasing Northern Harrier Hawk
Seeing my dear friend, Penelope Schott, formerly of Rocky Hill and of Griggstown, finding something more interesting than Mt. St. Helens this week, I ask NJ WILD readers and myself, “Who am I to call NJ WILD?”
Actually, I claim that right because I’ve made the Pine Barrens my own. Because I’m in love with sugar sand and bayberry, pygmy pines and curly grass fern. Because people try to scare me about the Jersey Devil when I’m down there wandering around, getting lost on purpose, alone - and by George! I silence them when I insist, “I WANT to meet him!”
Bordentown resident, Joseph Bonaparte, [--Brother of Napoleon, former King of Spain and of Naples, star of an NJN special I couldn't get on my Comcast and I don't know why --] Joseph saw the Jersey Devil in the 1800’s and wrote of it to friends and colleagues abroad. What’s good enough for Joseph is good enough for me. I’m WAITING…
I call NJ WILD because everyone at D&R Greenway works so hard to preserve open space, beginning 20 years ago with the Towpath, morphing over into the Sourlands, and now racking up 1900 acres at a clip in Salem County. Because it’s taken us 20 years to save 20 miles, and we’re full speed AHEAD! And now we’re providing stewardship, which involves removing invasives. Now we’re growing native species in our hoop house to restore the forest primeval… with deer fencing… Come see The Edward T. Cone Grove…
When I worked in Corporate America, people thought it WILD of me to hike the towpath alone. The D&R Canal and Towpath. The Towpath you can’t get into Princeton from College Road East without crossing.
I praise NJ WILD and no one can stop me.
However, this is what my cherished friend and fellow Cool Woman Poet, Penelope Schott, who now lives in Oregon, was doing a week after her mother’s funeral - doin’ the what comes naturally out west… o dear now THAT’s WILD!
Mt. St. Helens is in the background… But to this quirkily original and passionate woman, something is more important than that famous mount.
What’s WILD to you?
Welcome Proof of Spring
NJ Wild readers know that my mandate is to open eyes to natural beauties in our own back yards. This is a frank plea that we open our hearts to New Jersey - far more beautiful than many a state, and, yes, filled with wild experiences for those with the seventh sense: APPRECIATION!
You know my paradigm is preservation — appreciation can fire us all to save every inch of open space, green space left in our most populous state.
With this in mind, my morning challenge on my 7-mile commute [from Canal Pointe at Route 1 and Alexander to D&R Greenway Land Trust, (Preservation Central) off Rosedale Road,] was to chronicle spring. Without even getting out of my car because I didn’t have time:
Getting into my car at Canal Pointe, ‘first flowers’, [according to Botanist, Mary Leck, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor at Rider, and my favorite flower mentor,] filled maple trees with spurts the color of cranberries! I was given, not seas incarnadine, but trees incarnadine.
On Yorkbridge, leading out to Canal Pointe Boulevard, a haze of gold suffused every witch hazel tree, putting Cellini to shame. I had not noticed the link between haze and hazel. Nature as punster…
On Province Line Road, [--which I've convinced myself was a Lenni Lenape trail before it became the official boundary between East Jersey and West Jersey before the American Revolution--,] I passed “lavender blue, dilly dilly” all along the road. It seemed as though someone had spilled a bucket of celestial waters that had not yet seeped into earth. Except the ‘water’ was a profusion of crocuses. My first of this season.
Moments later, an ancient stone wall stood proudly, –protective as a hen with chicks-, above toughly delicate white belled flowers. That swathe could have been a veil worn by a Medieval monarch, married in a cathedral with a very long nave. The fabric of this veil was essence of snowdrops. Read the rest of this entry »
Chief Joseph, Nez Perce, Wisdom-Keeper
My little sister, Marilyn, and I were acutely attuned to Indians who had preceded us in Michigan, particularly summering at Lake Leelanau and Traverse City, then north to Naubinway and the Keewenaw Peninsula. We thrilled to Indian names of towns, creeks, roadways and landforms. Unlike Thoreau, Marilyn and I did not find arrowheads everywhere we walked.
But, particularly in a canoe or a small boat, on limpid wooded rivers of the Upper Peninsula, rowing over to and back from Tahquamenon Falls, we could sense Indians’ silent presence on all sides. In those days, virgin forests were frequent, one of my most cherished named after my favorite poem, “The Hiawatha Forest.” Even as little girls we knew that Indians’ absolute right to these regions had been profaned by miners and lumberjacks and all those soldiers with their primitive wooden forts.
It wasn’t popular in childhood, in Michigan, to be on the Indians’ side. I was the only girl in the entire theatre who wanted Indians to win, on the few Saturdays when someone’s mother could take us to a Western movie in a nearby town. (Ours, Lathrup Village near Detroit, had no store, no library, no post office, so certainly no theatre!) I never understood why everyone in those movies cheered the brutal usual outcome. I was not on Custer’s side. I waited a long time for Dances With Wolves. Read the rest of this entry »