Saturday, May 2, 2015

History and River Outing Long Valley to Hampton New Jersey

Today's outing with my wife intended to explore Teetertown Ravine. If anyone knows how to get to it or if you know it's no longer available to public access, please comment and let me know. New Jersey Skylands Visitor is the guide to New Jersey Highlands history and access, Bob Koppenhaver an amazingly informed man who has written scads of excellent articles. ( But though the information I gathered on the ravine got us fairly close to it, I'm sure, it remains as yet to be experienced.

First, we stopped at Washington Township Museum in Long Valley. At least I think that's the name. It happens to be open Sundays 2-4, so we plan on a return someday. Just to the right and behind the museum are the ruins of Old Union Church, right there on Fairview Avenue in town. Pastor Muhlenberg, who introduced Lutheranism to America, led the congregation when the church opened in 1794. Considering the enormous institution Lutheranism is today in America, this free-standing rubble is a marvel to stand inside and contemplate.

We drove on looking for Sliker Avenue, stopping at Schooley's Mountain General Store for a 50/50 iced tea and lemon, and water for Sadie, our black lab. We sat at a table outside; I went into the trunk for my camera to get a shot of skunk cabbage, which is about at the stage of growth I'd expect around April 10th.

We never found Sliker Avenue leading to the ravine, nor did my Hagstrom map locate it, though it's on the map, just not there in reality. I doubt a GPS would have helped and I sort of hope to get through life without ever bothering with one of the devices. We pressed on through Penwell and stopped at Changewater, enamored by the river and Warren Railroad Company's Changewater Trestle, dismantled in 1960, year of my birth. This stripped railroad ran between Scranton, PA, and Hampton, NJ, from 1862-1959. Realizing I've never slowed down for Hampton before, we decided to pay the town a visit, first passing very slowly through New Hampton, admiring buildings on the historical register, one or two of them late 18th century.

Hampton hardly hosts any businesses, but the early 20th century homes are adorable. Once known as Hampton Junction, coal provided big business. We wound up in the northern reach of Glen Gardner, stopping at a homemade ice cream shop across Route 31 from the family farm owning the business. We sat outside in 75-degree sun and basked awhile, then headed back north to New Hampton, stopping at Lebanon Township Museum and finding it open, a quilt artist's reception winding down, warm invitations for us to join in and enjoy punch and snacks. Lots of Lenape artifacts, instruction legers from the 19th century, a coca cola trinkets display that's impressive, old schoolhouse desks, antique farming equipment and of course amazing quilts filled this 1825 schoolhouse. The mandala pattern of the blue quilt reminds me of 20th century depth psychologist Carl G. Jung's artwork created as he struggled to come to grips with profound inner experience.

We absorbed the friendly atmosphere and contents of the museum. I felt especially impressed by the down-to-earth frankness of a local farmer and how his ties to the earth obviously seem to give him a very healthy character.

Stopping at Point Mountain and hiking in, we didn't attempt the steep, rocky final climb. Trish wore sneakers, for one thing, but in any case, she's done attempting the likes of that. Ever since she tore meniscus in her right knee, she doesn't want to risk it.

And then we drove back through Long Valley and into Chester Township, stopping to eat dinner at Old Mill Tavern at the Black River.

Old Union Church
The Names of the Buried at Old Union Church 

Schist Boulders Beneath Point Mountain Along Trail

She Seemed Unaffected by Chilly Musconetcong River Water
A Long Valley Farm
South Branch Raritan River Long Valley

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mucking Around the North Branch Raritan

With the amber polarized glasses I used for redfish on South Carolina Lowcountry flats, I saw a swarm of trout near the timber photographed. I sat down to rig up my fly rod, when I saw a bald eagle swooping over the river between tree canopies. Naturally, once I suited up in waders to approach from the other side, I expected some action. I tied on an olive beadhead Wooly Bugger, since none rose. Temperatures cooled off today. The relatively heavy beadhead made casting with my 2 wt awkward, and none hit, so I switched to a little #16 beadhead nymph and casting improved dramatically, but no takers. None of the bait fishermen upstream had any, either.

I walked out, then went back in with my camera to get some shots midstream. And then I grabbed my stuff and headed downstream to a nice fast cut with enough depth to hold some trout. Nothing doing, I took a break with the camera. This got my juices flowing. I thought of the best time I've had on the North Branch Raritan here at AT&T World Headquarters, with my son during summer just mucking around, yet with a full presence of curiosity and many rewards in myriad discoveries of simple, ordinary nature, which--once we opened up to things--we found absolutely loaded with food for the senses.

This evening I got to thinking about the relationship between given nature and manmade development. I only touched on the thought. Since I landed a new job and today worked independently again at last, filling a role out there in the world, I naturally imagined what it might be like to be a developer, viewing land as something to clear cut and build on. And rather than my being a radical environmental type who feels this is always bad, I thought about how our need for taking nature and suiting it to ourselves also implies the need to know the nature we take.

I don't pity everyone who works behind walls all day, because some find plenty inspiration, challenge, and mental stimulus at desks, though I've witnessed many who don't. Get outside when you can, I offer. After all, everything we produce is nature rearranged, which isn't to say this is bad--as some radical types have claimed...want to live in a cave? It's to suggest that nature as is, is worth contemplating, immersing senses in and exploring. After all, studies show strong evidence that every original mind--the sort that finds ways to rearrange nature in new ways--spends time in nature just playing around with it, wondering and wandering randomly.

Dusk falling, I meant to pack it in and leave. I saw a second splash rise at the same spot, so I broke off the nymph and tried to tie on an Adams dry, failing to get the line through the tie loop without enough light. So then I packed out. Two youngsters stood where I had left them at the first spot I tried.

"Catch any?"


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Chilly Day Fishing North Jersey

Someone should write a song, "Endless Winter." Here it is almost May and unopened tulip buds remain in New Jersey. Forsythia blooms normally gone by now, peak now with florid yellow. Fred and I fished a North Jersey lake and pond next to it. I wore a fleeced jacket and remained a little uncomfortable. When we left, my hands felt stiff from cold.

I began with a Husky Jerk. A pickerel--probably the pickerel I caught a little while later on a shiner--swiped at it twice, visible in clear water. Fred tossed a plastic worm, fishing slow on bottom. I gave in pretty quick to the dozen large shiners I bought just in case. Last year, we fished here on a much colder day in the middle of April and caught bass after bass out in 15 feet of water on shiners. Curiosity impelled me to see if the likes might happen again, though they did not.

The hike to the pond stirred energies that had flattened with little response from the water to awaken feeling. The single fish had struck about eight feet down, and before it fought with the typical one-line direction of a smallish pickerel, I hoped for a big bass like last year. I managed to catch another small pickerel and a slab crappie in the pond. When the braid line began to produce a little wake on calm surface, sort of slipping away at a snake's pace, I felt a familiar twinge of excitement, grateful for it whatever the mystery having taken the shiner would be. No six-pound bass like Fred caught in this pond last summer, the crappie satisfied enough.

A while later, Fred succumbed to temptation and rigged his rod with a bobber. Soon I suggested we go back to where we started. The water we presently fished rather shallow, any fish for yards around could sense our shiners by their sensory lateral lines, and nothing more happened. The spot felt right, a sort of cove-like curvaceous end-of-a-pond, and if water warmed, it likely would have been better fishing.

Back at my favorite lake spot, Fred angled his bobber here and there a few times. I live-lined my bait, casting deep and setting the rod down as I shot photos before I suggested we go home.

"Why don't you try one more," I said.

Fred had rigged to live-line. It didn't take long before he caught the only bass of the afternoon and evening.

Nice outing. Always good to catch up with a friend.