Snow Scenes

160127_PA Glendale Park Snow_7972acaWinter can be such a drab season. Everything is bare and brown. There’s no green anywhere, save for the invasive vines that are so obvious at this time of year. Trips to the Jersey Shore and the Pine Barrens (evergreens!) break up the monotony. But it takes a good snowstorm to really shake things up. Suddenly all those bare brown branches are sugar-coated and the ground is clean crisp white.

After our January blizzard, I went walking every day to enjoy the snow. There’s a local park with a trail that parallels Darby Creek. Of course I took my camera along.

160127_PA Glendale Park Snow_8101acsWhile I was watching the wildlife, the wildlife was watching me. I’m pretty sure this is a Red-tailed Hawk. I’m out of practice identifying birds. Been spending a lot of my time with plants and pebbles.

160127_PA Glendale Park Snow_8044acsSnow-covered rocks in the stream – Mother Nature’s cupcakes.

160127_PA Glendale Park Snow_8227acsMemories of summer days.

160127_PA Glendale Park Snow_8320acsCarolina Wrens are tiny birds with BIG voices. I usually hear them long before I see them.

160129_PA Lancaster Farms Snow_8582acsSame storm, different location. Lancaster County barn.

A couple of weeks later Don and I went to the Pine Barrens on a Thursday to look for, what else, pebbles. On the following Saturday, Don, Robb and I were concerned that our chosen destination for the day would be too icy. So we debated an alternative. Don suggested a return to the Pines. I said “But, Don, you know the Pines got 4 inches of snow Thursday night, right?”

“Nonsense,” he replied “my family drove the Atlantic City Expressway right through the Pine Barrens yesterday and they said there was no snow.” So that’s where we went.

160206_NJ Pines Penn Forest Snow_9672acsUm, Don, no snow? What’s all this white stuff on the roads?

160206_NJ Pines Penn Forest Snow_9650acsWe tried to drive to Apple Pie Hill. I’m pretty intrepid on the sand roads, but not when they’re covered with snow and crisscrossed with icy truck tire tracks.

Eventually we turned back, and opted for a short walk in Penn State Forest. The white snowy roads were the perfect complement to the evergreens against crisp blue sky.

Pine cone icicle.

160206_NJ Pines Penn Forest Snow_9603acsThe perfect shelf for a miniature moss garden. Look very closely for the red moss sporophytes just at the left edge of the snow.

160206_NJ Pines Penn Forest Snow_9772acsAhh, the essence of the Pine Barrens in any season. Pitch Pine cones, snow frosted.

160206_NJ Pines Penn Forest Snow_9705acsPerfectly lovely photo of snowy pine boughs, photo-bombed by Robb.

160206_NJ Pines Penn Forest Snow_9780acsWe are trying to learn about geology, and the identification of rocks. It’s a tough thing to learn on our own without experts to guide us. We’ve had an ongoing argument about whether the pebbles we see in many places are naturally occurring rocks, or from fill placed by man. Don had a point to make in that debate.

160206_NJ Pines Penn Forest Snow_9668acsOur boot prints. From left to right: Kim, Robb, Don. The sizes are deceiving; my foot is smaller than the guys’. Really it is.

160206_NJ Pines Penn Forest Snow_9696acsOur “short” little walk didn’t go at all as expected. Mistaken shortcuts took us far beyond the bounds of Penn State Forest into unexplored territory. The Pines are a mysterious place filled with unmarked sand roads, and even Pines veterans can find themselves bewitched and bewildered. We ended up having to retrace our path; though we were certain of the route back, we were grateful for the confirmation of our boot prints. We left at noon, and hours later found ourselves back at the car, hungry and thirsty.

160206_NJ Pines Penn Forest Snow_9824acsJust in time to see the sun set on a lovely day in the snowy Pine Barrens.

Unexpected Color

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9318acsIt was too early for fall foliage yet, not in this neck of the woods, and these were the wrong woods, for that matter. The Pine Barrens are made up of pines, for gosh sakes.

Pines are evergreens, they don’t come in any color but green.

151010_NJ Pine Barrens_8953a2csYet there we were in the Pine Barrens, admiring Lady Autumn’s jewelry, the subtle red and gold gems sprinkled amongst the green. Atsion Lake (top) and Whitesbog (above).

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9302acsSapphire skies over Atsion Lake.

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak mc_2964acsAutumn reflections where the Mullica River meets Atsion Lake. While pitch pine and Atlantic white cedar trees are the predominant conifers in the Pinelands, deciduous oaks like black jack, post and scarlet oak are common, as are shrubs like blueberry and huckleberry in the low heath layer.

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9360acsThe Mullica River, looking upstream.

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9345acsI am quite sure that some of Lady Autumn’s aquatic attendants reside in this wooden cave.

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9472acsI am quite sure that I could quite contentedly reside in this wooden abode.

151010_NJ Pine Barrens_9019ac copyNot much color in this particular photo, at least not the kind we were hoping for. This is a cranberry bog at Whitesbog. New Jersey is one the top producers of cranberries in the country, and they are grown in the rich wet environment of the Pine Barrens. When the time is right, the fields are flooded; the cranberries float to the top to be harvested.

Acres of cranberries like a vast sea of crimson; that’s what we were looking for. We were too early.

151010_NJ Pine Barrens_8998acs copyThe cranberries were still on the bushes!

151021_Bladderwort at Harrisville Pond _6888A touch of summer remained on Harrisville Pond. Scattered here and there were some lingering bladderworts. These carnivorous plants float on little pontoons. Below the surface dangle tangled masses of thin leaves, and numerous tiny bladders. The bladder is a vacuum trap. Prey such as aquatic insects and other small organisms brush against it, and the bladder sucks in both water and prey.

On Harrisville Pond, bladderworts are abundant in late summer. We were lucky to find some still in bloom in October.

151014_NJ Atsion Lake Kayak_9484acsSunset on Oswego Lake.

151021_NJ Harrisville Pond Kayak_6871acsHarrisville Lake bedazzles with ruby, garnet and topaz gems amongst the emeralds. Lady Autumn’s finest jewels provide some lovely and unexpected color in the Pine Barrens.

Pine Barrens Ramble: Into The Woods

Pine Barrens Marthas Furnace_3343 aSo what is the Pine Barrens anyway, and why is it barren?

Pine Barrens Harrisville_3340 aThe Pine Barrens is a vast area in the southern New Jersey coastal plain, sandy and heavily forested. It was called “barren” by early European settlers, who found that the crops they planted wouldn’t grow there because of the acidic, sandy soil. The area is by no means an ecological desert. Oak and Pitch pine thrives there, including the rare pygmy Pitch Pine, and there are orchids, carnivorous plants and numerous other plant species. Amongst the forest are boggy wetlands, and tea-colored rivers. Here too are blueberry and cranberry growers, ghost towns, and preserved historic villages.

Like Batsto, which I visited with friends not long ago. Our intention had been to take a guided nature walk led by a friend of Don’s, but we arrived to find it had been cancelled. So we went exploring on our own.Pine Barrens Harrisville_3295 aThese are the ruins of the paper mill at Harrisville, one of many ghost towns dotting the Pine Barrens. Most of it is enclosed with chain link fence. While Ned and I were figuring out how to shoot over the fence, Don and Robb found another vantage point. (Wink, wink) There was just one wall left standing – but it was a really cool wall!Pine Barrens Harrisville_3314 aWe then decided to take the trail to Martha’s Furnace ourselves. Why, is anyone’s guess, as you’ll see in a minute. The trail was my first taste of hiking in the Pine Barrens. The sand road wound through a forest of predominantly pitch pine. The soft white sand is known as “sugar sand” for its consistency. I could hear lots of birds, but didn’t have much luck seeing them in the dense trees. And no bears!Pine Barrens Marthas Furnace_3359 aWe did find an Imperial Moth (above) that was so still, the boys mistook it for a leaf. Then they thought it was dead. (It wasn’t.) We also spent some time with a Fowler’s Toad, (below) wearing Toad Army camouflage. I was the one to find both of these creatures; maybe my wildlife spotting skills are improving.Pine Barrens Marthas Furnace_3426 a

Pine Barrens Marthas Furnace_3371 a

Pine Barrens Marthas Furnace_3397 a2At a couple of points the road ran down to the Oswego River. Definitely my favorite part of the trip. The dark brown water gets its color from tannins from the cedar tress combining with iron in the ground. Looks like you are canoeing in a tea cup!

Martha is another ghost town, this time centering on a bog-iron furnace. Years ago the state surveyed the ruins, and then buried it and fenced it in. So, of course, when we got there, there was nothing to see but a mound of dirt covered with weedy shrubs and trees inside a fence.

Actually, if the scheduled walk had happened, we’d have had a knowledgeable naturalist to show us numerous interesting plants and critters. It was never really about Martha itself.

Pine Barrens Marthas Furnace_3439 aHere’s Don trying to figure out why we came. Well, the walk was nice.

Even on our own, my first taste of the Pine Barrens whetted my appetite for more.Pine Barrens Marthas Furnace_3395 Conservation Piece: In 1978, the Pine Barrens became the country’s first National Reserve, when 1,100,000 acres was designated the New Jersey Pinelands National Preserve.  The area comprises most of seven counties, three state forests, and two National Wild and Scenic Rivers. The Reserve was created to protect not only the natural beauty of the area, but its history, folklore, and unique culture. The place continues to be largely rural, and may be the closest New Jersey gets to “wilderness”.Pine Barrens Marthas Furnace_3382 a

Coming Thursday: The Stars and Stripes Forever

Pine Barrens Ramble: Batsto

Pine Barrens Batsto a_3198Wander deep into the heart of the pine woods of New Jersey, and step back in time.  Here lies Batsto Village, a NJ Historic Site that has been restored to its 19th century glory as a bog iron industrial town. From the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s, bog ore was taken from the banks of rivers and streams, turned into iron, and used to make various household items. After the decline of the iron business, Batsto enjoyed a short heyday as a glass-making town.

Pine Barrens Batsto Ore Boat acs_3184The remains of an ore boat used to transport raw bog iron to the furnace.

Pine Barrens Batsto Sawmill_3232 aA sawmill operated at the site for over 200 years.

Pine Barrens BatstoBlacksmith Wheelwright_3208 aBlacksmiths, wheelwrights and other tradesmen had important roles to fill in the life of the town.

Pine Barrens Batsto Corn Crib_3218 aFarmers raised the grains and animals that fed the village. Above is the corn crib. The piggery, below was used to slaughter and process pigs. The water needed flowed from a tank in the tower to a processing tub.Pine Barrens Batsto Piggery a_3190

Pine Barrens Batsto_3270 aThe Village houses consisted of single and duplex cottages dating to the early 1880s. They housed the village workers and their families.

Batsto CollageAround town (clockwise from top left): Water pump, outhouse, wagon and wheel, tools in the blacksmith shop, a mill stone from the water-powered Gristmill (1828) which ground wheat, corn and other grains.

On our recent visit we enjoyed exploring the various buildings and imagining what life was like back then. Pretty spartan living!

Compared with industrial areas today, it’s hard to believe this little collection of wood and stone buildings was considered a state-of-the-art industrial center back then.

I was particularly taken by the wonderful textures and patterns of the weathered wood. And the very funky shape of the corn crib!

I took a moment to wander down to Batsto Lake, drawn as always by the siren call of water…Pine Barrens Batsto_3230 a

Interested in learning more? http://www.batstovillage.org/default.htm

Coming up: Pine Barrens Ramble: Into the Woods