“Paradise enow…”: Wells Mills Preserve / Pine Barrens

It’s always a treat when someone says, “Carolyn, I have a place I’d like to take YOU to hike!”  Fay Lachmann, –British-born–, has proven her friendship in a myriad of ways.  Many of them had to do with various rescues around the hip operation, and in other challenging times.  My first post-op Thanksgiving meal…  “Carolyn, it’s not about the sheets,” as she helped this unbendable one make the bed Friday after Friady.  Last week, Fay insisted on going right back to Wells Mills together, when she had only just taken her own hiking group there the day before.

Fay’s voice held uncharacteristic wispy notes, as she tried to explain why.  Finally, she simply stated, “Well, it’s about laurel.”

 

Laurel and Old Cedar Wells Mills

 

I could probably end this blog post right here.  The mountain laurel is at peak in the New Jersey Pine Barrens right now.  Even though there isn’t a mountain for miles.

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Fay Lachmann Cedar Woods Wells Mills early June 2017

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“The woods are lovely, dark and deep…”  Some of the other lines from Frost’s masterpiece were also true, as in “.,..miles to go before I sleep…”  Enchanted miles in a woods that comprised almost totally of Atlantic White Cedar.

This wood was everywhere in South Jersey when that land was discovered by whalers settling Cape May in the 1500s.  Other explorers were naming shore areas Egg Harbor, for example, because beaches were covered with shore bird eggs.  In the 1700s, white cedar was used for shingles — as house siding and for roofs; for fence posts; and most urgently for casks carrying the tannic Pine Barrens teak water on whaling voyages.  In cedar, teak water stayed fresh for three years.  White cedar casks also protected wild cranberries for sailors, who otherwise would have perished from scurvy.  Such usefulness doomed cedar back when we were East Jersey and West Jersey, except in Wells Mills.

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Laurel and Cedar and Pine Wells Mills

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Towering cedars raised their lacy greenery, inky against fresh clouds.  Frail laurel blossoms leapt for the sky.  Here and there, a rough-trunked pitch pine announced to the forest primeval just exactly whose forest this is, anyhow.  A pine cone or two on the sugar sand trails foretold the probable future.

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Canoeists on Wells Mills Lake

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Silent canoeists hugged the far shore, of a tranquil lake that resembled finely pleated silver lame.  Anything or anyone could’ve emerged out of it, — a mermaid or The Lady of the Lake of Arthurian days.

A single dazzling swan sailed just out of reach of the paddlers.  A family of geese included a huge pale barnyard goose in the middle of five young — a switch on the Ugly Duckling Story.

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Rarities at Wells Mills early June

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Exceedingly rare plants burgeoned at points where peatwater streamlets entered the glistening lake.  If I am understanding my Audubon Field Guide to North American Wildflowers correctly, this is (misleadingly named) Common pipewort.  “Bog or aquatic herbs with crowded head of tiny flowers and long, leafless stalk.”

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Rarity Wells Mills

And this is purportedly Northern Pitcher Plant:  “a carnivorous plant with a large, purplish-red flower.”  Audubon does speak of “an umbrella-like structure.”

Laurel at Peak Wells Mills June 2017

But mountain laurel carried the day — laurel and friendship.

RECUPERANT’S POEM — P.T. yet again…

Foot(e)bridge to Bull’s Island from Lumberville, Pennsylvania, in another season:

Table View Black Bass Autumn 2010

NJWILDBEAUTY readers must be wondering at my long silence in this blog.  Normally one of my most gratifying creative outlets, ==and a major part of my mission to urge people to pay attention to Nature, enjoy her, and save her–, doing a blog has been the farthest thing from my mind since February 18.

That day, a meniscus (right knee; we have four – what is the plural – menisci?) tore for no obvious reason.  Pain sharp as the venomous bite of a striking snake zoomed up and down my right leg, which then refused to work.  My chiropractor and my co-writer friend, Pat Tanner, had to meet me at my car at his office and my home, near Pat’s, to pry me out.  Or I’d be there still!

A meniscus has very little blood flow — therefore, it is prone to tearing, and not prone to healing.

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cfe kayaking I B b and wh IMG

Barnegat Bay – Birding by Kayak – Heaven on Earth

In 2011, I set foot(e) into physical therapy with Princeton Orthopaedics, to return to the world and especially to kayaking, after my brilliant hip replacement with Doctor Thomas Gutowski.  My physical therapist – which process I have since insisted is as important as the surgery — was the perfectly named John Walker.  He’s the miracle worker, who took me kayaking upon Lake Carnegie four months after the surgery.

John knew that Dr. Gutowski had asked my surgical goal – (did you know there was such a thing?–) at our first meeting.  Dr. G did not laugh when I immediately announced, “To return to the kayak.”  In fact, he discussed my paddling preferences, later inserting a kayaker’s hip.

John Walker then strengthened all those long-underutilized muscles around the new joint — through three lengthy weekly sessions for a very long time.   One spring day, I confessed, most shamefacedly, that I’d planned to kayak that weekend, but had been afraid to do it alone.

[I, who do everything alone, like move to Manhattan straight from my convent school; like managing a Test Kitchen at 21 years old at the corner of forty-second and third; liuke move to Provence so I could spend my fiftieth birthday on my balcony overlooking the Mediterranean.]  But I couldn’t face LEAVING the kayak alone, no matter how blissful my paddle may have been.

Confession led to John’s saying, “That’s because we’re to do it together.”  And we did.

There wasn’t a soul on that lake, that still April evening.  We paddled through a Tiffany landscape complete with mountains (Watchungs?) I had never seen from the towpath.

As sunset approached, a great blue heron marched toward us at the forest edge.  That normally vigilant bird was not the least disturbed by our presence, since kayakers are part of the water.

Brenda Jones — Disturbed Great Blue Heron — Trenton Marsh

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Never, however, did I consider entering those physical therapy doors again.

Guess what — we have to heal this meniscus tear and prevent any in the other three.  I have been returned to John to work on hamstrings and glutes.  I protested this week, “Those strange names are not part of my upbringing.  I don’t want glutes!”

“Carolyn,” John explained, in his traditional avuncular manner, “You HAVE to have glutes.  Especially for hiking…”

OK.  So now I don’t even have time for yoga.  Just glutes, hamstrings and core.

I’m sharing my newly relevant protest poem from five years ago.

Yes, it’s a blessing to be back in John’s capable hands.  He and my wondrous Hopewell chiropractor, Brandon Osborne, chronicle and celebrate improvements I am too dense to perceive.  Progress is being made.  But those rooms and those contortions used to seem like being kidnapped to go on the road with a circus!

With their vigilant approval, I was back on the alluring foot(e)bridge over the Delaware to Bull’s Island twice last weekend. Pileateds and phoebes announced spring.

Next foot(e)prints – The Sourlands Trail off Greenwood Avenue.

But I do not take back my discomfiture over all those months, following those strange directions:

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JUXTAPOSITIONS

 

in this

room full of premature blossoms

I perform exercises

on the heels of ‘total hip replacement’

 

March sun suffuses whiteness

that one day should be pears

as I am handed stretching bands,

assorted weights, one bolster

and a ball

 

here, serious playthings promise

flexibility, stamina, gait

— and possibly– kayaking

 

relentlessness conspires

with absolute lack of privacy

throughout my fitness attempts

 

outside, blossoms yearn

for pollinators’ essential arrivals

 

inside, –completing yet another

“two sets of thirty”–

I perceive flowery profusion

through a tall bright curve

of ivory spinal column

 

vertebrae and blossoms

my new reality

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

 

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Dappled Sourlands Trail, off Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell

Dappled Sourlands