Ahhh, Thanksgiving! Autumn draws to a close with a harvest feast. Now thoughts turn to the holidays and the coming winter: shopping, caroling and celebrations, cold and snow and ice. The long dark season approaches. So naturally on Turkey Day, we went to… the beach!
Not just any beach though. Sandy Hook, the Far North of the Jersey Shore, in sight of New York City’s towering skyscrapers. Unexplored territory, as far as I was concerned.
On the trail to the tip of Sandy Hook. Sandy Hook is a peninsula nearly 6 miles long and part of Gateway National Recreation Area. It juts out between the Atlantic Ocean and Sandy Hook Bay, at the entrance to New York Harbor. A variety of habitats comprise Sandy Hook. Glad to see some late fall color in the sand dune and shrub thicket.
More dunes. Other habitats in the park include grasslands, ponds, maritime forests and saltmarshes.
FUN FACT: Sandy Hook is a peninsula, but furthermore it is a sand spit. The Jersey Coast runs generally north-south. But the mainland at Highlands New Jersey takes a sharp turn to the northwest. This change of direction is called re-entry. The longshore current which has been carrying sand northward reaches this point and dissipates, dropping its sediment load.
Longshore drift continues to carry sand along the sand bar in the direction of breaking waves. Soon an above-water spit forms. Vegetation takes root and grows, establishing a stable peninsula. In the lee of the spit, salt marshes develop. Wave refraction (the change in direction of a wave) occurring carries sand and sediment around the end to form a hook. Hence, Sandy Hook!
At last we reached the point. It was a gloomy day, but still picturesque. A gloomy day at the beach beats a good day indoors. Winter will be full of dark, cold, gloomy days. We have found the beach to be the perfect antidote. Visiting the Shore on Thanksgiving is like getting a vaccination against the malaise of winter.
The beach at the point was a treasure trove of shells. Shells upon shells upon shells. Those smaller shells aren’t just resting there, folks. They’re attached to the shells below them.
I could have stayed here for hours beachcombing through the shells. Alas, my companions had other priorities.
Over on the Atlantic side of the spit a long sandy beach lines the shore. The only thing different than other beaches along the Jersey Coast is the view of New York City in the distance. (See top photo.) Oh, and the thin layer of teeny tiny pebbles covering the sand.
Brant along the Shrewsbury River at the southern end of the park. The brant is a small goose that hangs out near oceans. Adult brant have black heads and wear a white necklace at their throats.
Spermaceti Cove is one of several coves on the Sandy Hook Bay side of the spit. A trail led to a boardwalk across the marsh.
The tide was dropping. In one of the nearly dry channels, we spotted this cloud of fish. They’d been left stranded by the outgoing water in a small pool, with no way out. How many fish do you think there are?
Here are a few of them, up close and personal. They were quite small, maybe an inch or two long.
Some of them appeared to have dark stripes or blotches.
I really need to learn more about fish.
Next to the pool there were other critters afoot, who had written their tales in the open book of sand. A heron had been here, and a raccoon, and at least one fox. Bet the fishing was good, for those content with hors d’oeuvres.
Cedars, hollies and marsh grasses.
Spermaceti Cove from afar. Blue water, white sand, green trees. Who can think of winter with a view like this?