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.

Watery New Horizons: Part II

141030_Lake OswegoLaunch_124522acsOh, the places we’ll go!

No longer tied to the land, limited in our vision to the edge of the shore. Now the whole watery world opens up before us, and we are free to explore each cove, each inlet, each river bend. Wildlife, once skittish, will meet our gaze with fearlessness and dance for our pleasure. Oh, the places we’ll go!

141009_New Kayak _132554aYup, I finally got my own kayak. Here she is still in the store. She’s officially a “Pungo” model, but I have dubbed her Calypso, in honor of explorer and conservationist Jacques Cousteau.

141011_New Kayak_9248aReady to go home. The first thing everyone says is “It’s the same color as your car!” As if I would get anything other than blue. Blue, the color of the clear sky, azure butterflies, bluebells, and blueberries. Blue, the color of water…

Oh, the places we’ll go!

Like Lake Oswego in the Pine Barrens, for Calypso’s maiden voyage on a cool but bright October day.

141030_Lake Oswego Kayak Launch_2080aUnlike friends Don and Robb, I chose a hard-shell kayak over an inflatable model. No PUMPA-PUMPA-PUMPA for me. I just have to lift a 50 pound boat onto and off my car. That turned out to be easy. Reaching the tie-down straps, however, is another story. Nice to have a handy-dandy stepladder available.

141030_Lake Oswego Kayak Launch_2094acsA journey of a thousand miles begins with a single paddle stroke.

141030_Lake Oswego Kayak Launch_2096acsI had the lake to myself. Unfortunately, finding a warm calm day on a weekend to get the three of us together had proven impossible. On Launch Day, Robb was at work. Though Don accompanied me to the lake, he declined to paddle.  Something about a new book. No worries. I enjoyed the peace and solitude and the chance to get to know my new craft.

Oh, the places we’ll go!

130615_Pine Barrens Marthas Furnace_3371 aAnd where might we three voyagers go? Why, there’s a world of possibilities! We might explore the Oswego River downstream from the lake that shares its name.

131026_Pine Barrens_9849aThe tea-colored water of the Mullica River in the Pine Barrens looks inviting…

130615_Pine Barrens Batsto_3230 aAs do Batsto Lake and River.

Oh, the places we’ll go!

130927_OC 51st Street_5847 aThe Jersey Shore is a treasure trove of bays, marshes and tidal creeks to explore, like this creek near Ocean City.

140422_HNWR Ducky_9986 acsOf course I want to explore Heinz Refuge on Darby Creek. The guys had already ventured out in their itty-bitty blow-up tub toys. On the canoe launch, their mascot awaited their safe return.

140511_Nockamixon Fishing Pier_8239 acsLake Nockamixon beckons, with Haycock Mountain looming on the watery horizon.

With the approach of winter, it’s likely that this would be my only trip with Calypso this year. But come next spring, I will be ready for adventure at the first hint of warmth.

For now, I have dreams, dreams of paddling…

Around the bend and out of sight, with a whole watery world shining on the horizon.

141030 Lake Oswego Kayak Launch_2097 acsOh, the places we’ll go!

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