Tag Archives: pine barrens

Candlelight Labyrinth and Night Hike

Two years ago, I celebrated Christmas and the winter solstice at a candlelight labyrinth. (See my blog entry of January 5, 2014.) This year I walked another candlelight labyrinth. It was offered on the beach at Brigantine. The weather was cool and windy, and the moon almost full. Lovely!

Two nights later I discovered another activity that offers the same sense of peace and opportunity for reflection. I walked a Pine Barrens sand road at night! It was closer to home and required no coordination of schedules.

What got me out into the Pine Barrens at night, on Christmas Eve, no less? I’m married to a naturalist/ecologist. Happily, he studies LOCAL ecosystems, not the rain forest or tundra, so he has research sites in our back yard (literally) and within a few minutes drive from home. Christmas Eve was warm and wet, so he invited me to join him looking for moths.

As usual, we took the precaution of notifying the property owner. We don’t want to be mistaken for “prowlers”! Then we stepped into the woods.

Finding moths requires the use of flashlights, and we were suitably equipped, but it was bright enough to walk without them much of the time. We were prepared for rain, but the weather was changing and the clouds broke up. We were treated to occasional moonlight, sometimes quite bright. We couldn’t resist taking photos with our cell phones, trying for the artsy black and white effect.

I wore rubber rain boots, which allowed me to feel the path beneath my feet. At a slow pace, I found walking in the darkness comfortable and safe.

What reminded me of the labyrinth was the fact that the paths we followed were sandy and often quite bright. After an hour of rambling, I felt adjusted to the darkness and pleasantly calm.

It wasn’t a great night for moths. My husband collected a dozen or so. But that’s what makes natural history interesting. You don’t know what you will find! We heard peepers (really shouldn’t be there in December), geese (barking like dogs) and other birds we couldn’t identify.

I highly recommend a night hike when you have the opportunity. In the Pine Barrens, if you are lucky enough to be here!


Birthday Greetings to JHD

Dear Joey,

Happy Birthday! I wish you health and every kind of good fortune.

Thank you so much for inviting us to share memories from age 25! OMG, that was 40 years ago! We’re not just talking pre-internet, we’re talking pre-microwave.

Age 25 was the year I (unexpectedly) stopped moving around. In the previous seven years, I had lived in three states, attended two universities, occupied two dorms, three apartments and three houses, and spent eight months in Europe (another apartment, another dorm, another house and many cheap hotels).

So I did NOT expect, when I moved to New Jersey, that I would stay. I was offered a job with a time limit of five years. But here I am! No regrets. I live in “the other New Jersey”, aka South Jersey or the Pine Barrens. I’m out in the country, surrounded by blueberry and Christmas tree farms, and wonderful farm stands brimming with fresh fruits and veggies and flowers.

Age 25 was the year of my second career change. At 23, I had abandoned chemistry to work in environmental regulation. Two years later, I moved to New Jersey to teach at what was then Stockton State College. Stockton was new (founded in 1970), small and willing to overlook the fact that my only teaching experience had been running Freshman chemistry laboratory sections.

I was part of Stockton’s last “expansion class” of faculty, hired into a new teaching line, so I could make up my classes as I went along. I taught in an Environmental Studies program, one of the country’s first, among academics from fields like ecology, hydrology, geography, geology and forestry. I was the “dirty side” environmentalist, teaching about pollution of the air and water, and about solid and hazardous waste management.

In New Jersey, I met most of the people who have become lifelong friends and companions, including my husband. I met Quakers and attended my first unprogrammed worship, joining that denomination years later.

Can I offer you any advice from my forty-years-older perspective? Nope! Forty years is two generations. You are growing up in a different world, facing different challenges and equipped with different training and tools.

I wish you joy and love and adventure and safety! Take care, and please keep in touch!

“The Pine Barrens” by John McPhee.

The Pine Barrens was published the year I graduated from high school, 1967. Eight years later, I moved to New Jersey, to an the southern border of the Pine Barrens. When I arrived, the area was in a state of accelerating controversy. State and federal legislation was proposed and eventually passed (1978) to restrict development in the  central “preservation” zone of the Pine Barrens to one house per 20 acres, and in the “protection zone” (where I live) to one house per 5 acres. Very little new business or industry would be permitted. It was a bold land use initiative.

McPhee’s non-fiction, highly descriptive book was referenced by all and sundry, supporters and detractors alike. It probably helped the supporters of the new legislation more. The last chapter detailed the proposed developments that might radically change the Pine Barrens – a major airport, industrial schemes and sprawling suburban housing developments.

Change has not entirely bypassed the Pine Barrens, but much of the central Pines area is unchanged. I often wander in the new Franklin Parker Preserve near Chatsworth, one of several big conservation tracts. More and more people recognize that the Pine Barrens are not “barren”, but rather are a valuable natural resource.

One of my most recent ventures to the area was on the day before Superstorm Sandy was to arrive. It was a breezy, cloudy, tense day. The cranberry growers had their crews working like maniacs, a busy and colorful sight. Giant semis were hauling away cranberries by the ton. If the forecast rainfall of 5 or more inches came, the cranberry crop and the cranberry bogs themselves were at risk. Ultimately, the storm did little damage in the Pines.

Ironically, some people have turned against the use of the term Pine Barrens. They think it sounds unpleasant, and prefer the term Pinelands. But John McPhee fixed the term Pine Barrens in my brain, and that’s how I will continue to refer to the area I now call home.