Monday, May 9, 2016

Natirar Hike and Photography: Mother's Day Special

Usually I make the suggestion on where to go, although sometimes an offhand reference to someplace I speak of gets tackled by Patricia. More often than not, a place she picks from my brain becomes a family tradition. Such as Hot Dog Johnny's on Route 46 near Buttzville, NJ. My idea to bring her along with Matt and me to fly fish the Flatbrook on Memorial Day weekend years ago, we've headed up there every one of those weekends since, and a few years ago, I mentioned Johnny's and she riveted upon the idea. I felt she would, once I thought of it, but I also wondered why I hadn't thought of going there with her three years before. Well, go figure. A guy in the habit of selecting spaces that fulfill his own interests...can be a little slow about thinking of those that suit others.

Not today. Mother's Day, my wife reserved full rights on where to go. She didn't want to go far, but she did want to go someplace she feels is special. When she told me this will be Natirar, immediately I thought of getting some river photography and whole-heartedly agreed on her idea. I admit I'm selfish. If I don't see some advantage in whatever I do, I'm just not inclined to be there, and very often when things aren't going my way, I find out how to turn events in my favor--in others' interest too. Best of all, things mutually work out for two or more of us together, and while--as you can see--I shot some pictures today, I knew I couldn't spend a whole lot of time at it, and although I went into my closet and reached to get the waders, I told myself, "What am I doing?" I let them be. It wouldn't have been appropriate to put them on for better river position with my tripod on her day, and even when we recently visited the Ken Lockwood Gorge, I didn't go that far.

Natirar used to be the famous Walter Ladd estate, named in 1905 after the river--actually the North Branch Raritan--that flows through near the Far Hills/Peapack, New Jersey, border. Natirar is Raritan spelled in reverse. Originally, the estate comprised about 1000 acres, and today it's a Somerset County Park of 491 acres, which seemed to draw about that many people today. It's a thriving, very popular park that includes an expensive restaurant. Situated in the Highlands, just three miles to the east and a little south, our home is on the Piedmont.

We came to hike, and I suppose we walked as many as three miles, perhaps not quite more than two, but we walked for nearly an hour-a-half, though we stopped to sit on one of the benches provided along the way, relax and talk. As we set out beyond the river, I got to thinking that my favorite hikes entail regions of the Highlands wilder and less crowded. In fact, I usually pick spots where we might see two other people during our entire outing. More than once, we've seen no one else. When we hiked Marble Mountain recently, we spoke as freely as the space around us existed entirely as our own, but as we began arduous walking today, I felt put off by so many others.

And then we reached the belly of the hike, the midway regions, and I paid peculiar attention to a group of people ahead of us; they obviously enjoyed a very nice time, speaking just as freely as we had on Marble Mountain. I felt like a suck, groping for some way out of my silent discomfort. All of a sudden, I began to talk. I can't recall what about and that doesn't matter.

Two or three minutes into conversation, I realized I'd done it again. I had dug myself a little hole on a bad premise, as if a place full of people out-of-doors isn't as good as a place that doesn't attract many, a place that doesn't have the same sort of prestige, but about which I am a snob because I know wilderness quality trumps the sort of trails grassed over with mown sod.

And now? Once again, I had taken a wrong turn and reversed the polarity. I guess that means I'm bipolar, but then that's a good thing, because I can always find my way to a better place.

We came home just in time to meet Matt after he came home from work, and Patricia looked into movie possibilities. The latest movie about Ernest Hemingway seems too cheap to bother with at all. We don't like a Nobel Prize winning novelist getting made into some sort of superficial action figure. So she decided on Sing Street, an independent film showing in Montgomery about teenagers starting up a rock band, really about the same principle poet Rainer Maria Rilke challenged artists to take up. Going all the way, never settling on halfway. The 15-year-old takes his 16-year-old girlfriend and they leave home for good, crossing from Ireland to Wales, England, in a little boat of about 17 feet and 50 horsepower to start life anew.

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