PRESERVED BY NATURE, Yet Again

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that I have learned to flee the irretrievable past, especially on holidays.  Today, the day after Christmas, I had the privilege of guiding two friends, –Willing Hands with me at D&R Greenway,– on their first exploration of Plainsboro Preserve.  This day fulfilled my inexplicable passion for visiting summer places in winter.   Come with us — via Internet images, to a quarry that’s been turned into an unexpected haven.

Day is Done Plainsboro Preserve

My two favorite regions are its beechwood and the peninsula.

plainsboro-preserve snow scene from Internet

Deeper and deeper, –although so near Route 1–, we moved on glistening leaves into timelessness.  We had no snow today, rather ice crystals and iced puddles and ice-signatured ponds and ice stars caught in moss and ice swirled with milkiness as though in an art nouveau gallery!

Our long silent trek through that wilderness of chinchilla-grey trunks held mystery, allure palpable to all three of us.  A few nuthatches in the underbrush made no sound, save their soft rustling.  We were glad to be beech-surrounded, for it kept this weekend’s wild winds from cheeks and noses, everything else on each of us being fully protected from elements.

Normally, the beechwood, –being a microclimate–, is 10 – 12 degrees warmer than the rest of our region in winter; that much cooler in summer. For some reason – [but of course we are not to implicate global warming] this entire forest –with one or two welcome exceptions==, had dropped all leaves now.  As in maybe yesterday.  Not only dropped them, but turned them the pale thin cream color they usually attain right before mid-April drop.  April 15 is a long way off — when the trees need a burst of acid fertilizer to bring forth healthy crops of beech nuts.  What this early leaflessness means to squirrels and other forest dwellers, I do not know.  We did not really experience the temperature protection, possibly because this beechwood was bare.

Even so, off-season magic and beechwood magic persisted, enhanced as two white-tailed dear tiptoed just to our right, revealing no alarm at our very human presence.

DCIM101GOPRO

One is most aware of McCormack Lake, former quarry, almost step of one’s explorations of this unique Preserve.  Too near, lurk shopping centers and major organizational sites and whirring highways and too many condos and homes, and not enough farms.  But the lake rests in this forested setting, like the Hope Diamond.  I’d rather SEE this lake than the Hope Diamond.

Bufflehead Dapper Princeton Brenda Jones

The quarry lake was the deep smoky blue today of Maine’s October ocean.  Winds were ever-present, wrinkling its surface until it resembled the cotton plisse fabric of childhood.  We’d chosen the Preserve for the lake, , hoping to find winter ducks in abundance.  Perhaps six small distant ones could have been buffleheads in size and coloring (varying proportions of black and white.)  But ‘Buffies’ are diving ducks, and in all the time we walked the peninsula, we never saw them do anything but float like rubber duckies in a large blue bathtub.  But they were charming and winsome, and their very distance-blurred field marks added to the magic.

land's end Plainsboro Preserve peninsula onto quarry lake

[Tip of the Peninsula, recently ‘refreshed’, with welcome stone slab bench.  But this scoured look is not the norm for this Preserve.  Above our heads was a (seemingly never utilized) osprey platform.  I always fret and had told them in the Audubon office that ospreys require a smaller, lower feeding platform.  They do not eat their catch in the nest, for the scent could lure predators to their young.  No feeding platform — no active nest, in my experience…  Even so, it’s a magical place to sit and let the lake and all those unbroken reaches of forest speak to you.  This is not osprey season, anyway!]

Beaver Brenda Jones

Brenda Jones’ Beaver in D&R Canal Near the Fishing Bridge

The most exciting part about the peninsula to me is that it preserves Pine Barrens flora on both sides of what is now “Maggie’s Trail.”  Crusty lichen, cushy bitter green moss, cinnamon-hued oak leaves, paling sands.  Think of roadsides in Island Beach, and you have that cushioned crustiness on both sides along Maggie’s Trail.  Today, we had to deal with oddly ever-present sweet gum balls.  Not only not Pinelands, but also way ahead of schedule.  Hard to walk on – more difficult than on acorns peppering Berkshire trails in autumn.   Sweet gum balls normally drop around Washington’s Birthday.

beaver close-up Brenda Jones

Brenda Jones Beaver Close-Up, Millstone Aqueduct

Everywhere we looked, along the main entry road and all the way to the tip of that peninsula, there was fresh beaver activity.  Cascades of golden curled chips seemed still to be quivering after beavers’ midnight snacking.  Everything from whip-thin birch saplings to hefty white oaks with burnt-sienna leaves lay strewn like jackstraws on either side of Maggie’s Trail.  Some trees had lost only a few smidgens of bark.  We wondered whether parents bring young to teach them to gnaw a few bark inches at a time.  Then the creatures with the largest incisors take over.  Of course, we didn’t see them, because beavers are nocturnal and we’re not!

Plainsboro Preserve Trail early spring

For most of our trek, there was no sight nor sound of anything human — quite literally, my idea of heaven.  Soughing, –the voice of wind in treetops–, was our companion throughout — somewhere between whispering and humming.  Occasionally, a distant train whistle reminded us that centuries exist — not exactly the 21st.

Ice was everywhere — in the leaves, under the leaves, within the moss, turning puddles on the main road into a gallery of art nouveau and art deco designs.  I had no camera this day, knowing I would need both hands for trekking poles with the ground itself that frozen.  Sometimes, the absolute silence was broken by tinkle-crackling of invisible ice beneath leaves.

Plainsboro Preserve Fulness of the Empty Season

These pictures I have culled from the Internet, therefore.  I hope they convey some sense of this haven lying so near to U.S.1 and Scudder’s Mill Road: (left on Dey, left on Scott’s Corner Road.)   Enjoy them and let them lure you over to Plainsboro’s gem.  There are wondrous child-centric programs through NJ Audubon at the handsome center.  And a worthwhile nature-item gift shop.  Bird feeders attract backyard birds near the building.  Bluebird houses and what seem to be owl houses stud the landscape hither and yon.

Plainsboro Preserve Leaflessness and Lake

MIddlesex County provides this history – I remember far more exciting realities about the former quarry, and something about space, and quarrels with locals who did not want to give up hunting and fishing rights.  I provide this for those who need logistical information.

Tranquillity Base, PlnsPrsrv credot Harrington

But for me, microclimate effect or no, Plainsboro Preserve is a journey of the spirit.  I could hardly believe the temperature on my front door as I returned this afternoon — less than twenty degrees.  For all those hours, we’d been warmed in ways that have nothing to do with mercury…

 Plainsboro Preserve in Early Summer via Middlesex County Site:
A scenic view of the lake located within the Plainsboro Preserve.

​The Plainsboro Preserve is a cooperative project between the County of Middlesex, Township of Plainsboro and New Jersey Audubon Society.   In 1999, 530 acres of land formerly owned by the Turkey Island Corporation and Walker Gordon Laboratory Company were acquired by the County and Township.  Middlesex County purchased and owns 401 acres and provided a grant to the Township of Plainsboro for the purchase of an additional 126 acres.  In 2003, the County purchased 126 acres of the former Perrine Tract to add to the Preserve.   The Township added additional land to grow the Preserve and currently maintains responsibility for management of the County-owned portions.

At over 1,000 acres, the Preserve supports a diverse array of habitats and the 50-acre McCormak Lake, with over five miles of hiking trails for hikers, birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.  The New Jersey Audubon Society manages the Preserve and a 6500 square-foot environmental education center, providing year-round environmental education opportunities. 
For more information on hours and programs, please visit the New Jersey Audubon Society at their website.

The Plainsboro Preserve is adjacent to the Scotts Corner Conservation Area that provides hiking, bird-watching, photography and nature study opportunities.

Location: 80 Scotts Corner Road, Cranbury, NJ  08512
GPS Coordinates:  DMS 40° 20′ 57.28″ N; 74° 33′ 25.53″ W
Facilities: NJ Audubon Environmental Education Center; Parking Area; Bathrooms; Hiking Trails  
Plainsboro Preserve Sign courtesy of Novo Nordisk 
Advertisements

PROVINCETOWN DOES HALLOWE’EN: Tricks and Treats and One From Chatham

Words are superfluous, as you stroll Commercial Street with us.

NOBODY does it like Provincetown!

Provincetown Bride

Provincetown Bride

Spider Pumpkin at The Lobster Pot

Spider Pumpkin at The Lobster Pot

Provincetown Does Hallowe'en

Provincetown Does Hallowe’en

Provincetown Sculpture

Provincetown Sculpture

Provincetown Ghost Tours

Provincetown Ghost Tours

Chatham Does Hallowe'en

Chatham Does Hallowe’en

And Treats:

Cafe and Treatery

Cafe and Treatery

Ice Cream Parlor Chairs

Ice Cream Parlor Chairs

Purple Feather Treats

Purple Feather Treats

Coffee with Jamaican Rum; Bittersweet Belgian Chocolate -- Worthy of the Journey!

Coffee with Jamaican Rum; Bittersweet Belgian Chocolate — Worthy of the Journey!

Nature Treats, in Ciro & Sal's Courtyard

Nature Treats, in Ciro & Sal’s Courtyard

“Friendship… blendship…” Hunterdon County Farm Supper at Summer’s End

Rawlyk Farm and Pond View at Evening by Jeanette Hobban

Rawlyk Farm and Pond View at Evening

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that one of the key joys of my life now is the intensity of friendship, especially among people with whom I have (1) helped save the planet, particularly wild New Jersey; and (2) birded!  Especially birded under trying conditions and won through.

Towering Joe Pye Weed, Rawlyk Farm, by Jeanette Hooban

Towering Joe Pye Weed, Rawlyk Farm

You’ve read about “The Intrepids” in these ‘pages’, especially in the teeth of that Nor’easter a year ago in Island Beach – (you can search for Island Beach in Archives and re-read that adventure.) This is a night when no one needed to be intrepid — a time of exquisite fellowship, merriment — a treasured reunion, in a place significantly restored for Nature’s purposes.

Restored Outbuilding, Rawlyk Farm, by Jeanette Hooban

Restored Outbuilding, Rawlyk Farm

Recently, Bill Rawlyk created a nearly impromptu farm supper on his (he is third generation) Hunterdon County farm.

Tiger Swallowtail in Heaven, Restored Rawlyk Farm, Hunterdon County

Tiger Swallowtail in Heaven, Restored Rawlyk Farm, Hunterdon County

Scott Sheldon, who had invented the role of Director of Development at D&R Greenway some years back, was in town for a rare visit.  Jeanette Hooban, my cherished ex-office mate at the same establishment, drove me out there immediately after work on a weeknight.  Unbeknownst to us, dear Mary Penney, now head of Bucks County Audubon at Honey Hollow, and her delightful, hail-fellow, well-met husband Geoff, came over after their workdays to surprise us.  Edith Rawlyk, (Bill’s very sweet mom (who used to create home-made pies, especially from blueberries of the farm, and send them in with Bill, Edith, who worked often at my side on complex logistical matters) was sitting in a wooden rocker on the porch as we arrived, smiling that smile we all cherish.  Bill’s at Open Space Institute now, merely saving the Delaware River Valley.  Jeanette brilliantly manages events for Princeton’s Senior Resource Center.

Why Preserve Grasslands, by Jeanette Hooban

Why Preserve Grasslands

As I’ve written before, we’ve all been in the trenches together.  Any moments we can snatch in these complex 21st-Century lives are beyond price.  That night with Bill and his Mom on the farm was simply magical.

Friendship Among the Grasses, by Jeanette Hooban

Friendship Among the Grasses

Summer was at peak.  Bill manages for grassland birds, not only towering flowers, but also ponds, vernal and otherwise.  Once a chicken farm, now it’s a sanctuary, for humans in our experience, as well as for the four-legged, the winged and o, what do the Indians call the snakes and the turtles?

Queen Anne's Lace Reigns at Rawlyk Farm, by Jeanette Hooban

Queen Anne’s Lace Reigns at Rawlyk Farm, Punctuated by Buttonbush at the Pond

You all know my own enthusiasm for food (stretching back to having been Director of the Test Kitchen at Tested Recipe Institute, at 500 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, in my twenties).  And that my friends, including The Intrepids, share this enthusiasm.  It will give you some idea of the magnitude of these friendships, that the food, though perfection, was secondary.

Sitting on the rhododendron-surrounded bluestone terrace, catching up, while Bill grilled everything from salmon to hot dogs, sipping Scott’s wine or Geoff’s and Mary’s beer, as sun lowered and the breeze rose, was perfection.

The privilege of eating in a farm kitchen in this day age can neither be described nor measured.  Shrimp appeared and disappeared.  As did various exotic cheeses which had come from far from Hunterdon County.  Tomatoes were sliced and festooed with lively basil.  Bill has the farmer’s perfection touch with corn.  Once out there, he took something to the cornfield, which boiled the water as we picked and husked the corn.  This wasn’t quite that rural, but the foods were divine.

There was laughter.  There was rue.  There were hopes for the future, and plans for birding jaunts — it’s time to celebrate Jeanette’s autumn birthday again.

Our impromptu farm supper couldn’t have been better, and we are the richer for it, forever.

Tiger Swallowtail Where and When it Belongs, Restored Fawlyk Farm, by Jeanette Hooban

Tiger Swallowtail Where and When it Belongs, Restored Fawlyk Farm, by Jeanette Hooban

Truly Wild, Rawlyk Restored Flowerland

Truly Wild, Rawlyk Restored Flowerland

Wild Beauty, Pre-Supper Walk, Rawlyk Farm

Wild Beauty, Pre-Supper Walk, Rawlyk Farm

January Stroll: Fleecydale Road, Carversville, PA

Despite glowering skies and spitting snow, fellow birder/photographer Anne Zeman and I set out across the Delaware this gelid day.  Our first goal was a superb meal at the Carversville Inn.  Our expectations were, if anything, surpassed, as we celebrated her birthday.  Pull up their menu and order anything on it — especially the Diver Scallop wrapped in apple-smoked bacon, the Paillard of Salmon coated in minutely crushed almonds, the Mushroom Ragout, the Bisque of Seafood, the salad of darkest greens and burnished golden beets with piquant goat cheese that must be aged…

Carversville Inn, Decorated for Christmas

Carversville Inn, Decorated for Christmas

Carversville is a town that time forgot.  NJWILDBEAUTY readers know my passion for time travel, and this is some of the best there is.

Carversville Home

Carversville Home

Carversville’s Post Office is also the domain of one of our region’s most legendary caterers, Max Hansen.

Max Hansen's Timeless Sign

Max Hansen’s Timeless Sign

Inside the P.O., there is a charming modern interpretation of Van Gogh’s Postman.  The original is at the new Barnes in Philadelphia.  The P.O. Postman may be in the back room, depending on how much other art is on display in this unique setting.  Ask for it!  You can also buy splendid lavender products from Carousel Farm near Doylestown.

"Come and Set a Spell"

“Come and Set a Spell”

Despite it’s being January 16, when we entered the Inn for our superb repast, there were two men, without coats, intensely conversing on these appealing benches.

Inside the old grocery, the new Max center, you’ll find very helpful people.  They simply know they are serving excellence, eager to assist you in your culinary needs and desires.  I was in quest of dessert for a Sunday Stroll ‘n’ Sup here, and was able to buy half a Key Lime Pie.  It’s gorgeous.

Max had strolled into the Carversville Inn, just as we were finishing our flourless chocolate creation with homemade dark caramel sauce.  He is renowned for everything gastronomic at the Michener Museum of Doylestown, and frequently for Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve’s “Black Tie and Muck Boots” Gala, held when the bluebells turn fields and stream banks to floral oceans.

Fleecydale Road Sign

Fleecydale Road Sign

We began to stroll Fleecydale Road, somewhat like Lombard Street in San Francisco, as the sign above attests.  For reasons never explained, it has been officially closed for years.  We met people out for January strolls, of many different ages and accents, one even with a cane who put us photographers to shame, pace-wise.  All were grinning ear-to-ear, gracious to these strangers.

HIstoric Carversville Sign -- We strolled between mill ruins and spring houses, and near the 1830 home of Mr. Carver.

HIstoric Carversville Sign — We strolled between mill ruins and spring houses, and near the 1830 home of Mr. Carver.

Bucolic Fleecydale Scene

Bucolic Fleecydale Scene

Fleecydale Road is one of America’s corniches.  Having lived in Provence in 1987 and 88, I have had my share of corniches: moyenne, haute and I forget the other one, inferieure?  Princess Grace starred in To Catch a Thief, zooming along corniches in a dashing convertible, with the dangerous, handsome cat burglar.  She also died in a crash on one, which is all too common in the hills of Provence.  Trying to describe the circuitous roads that surrounded me, that were my only way to and from anywhere, I’d tell my family, “It’s as though someone dumped a plate of cooked spaghetti from on high, waited for it to solidify, then told you to drive the strands.”

Anne Zeman and I, out for nature, out for air, out fully to experience January as her birthday year unfolded, walked America’s, or shall I say, one of Pennsylvania’s, corniches.  The curves are gentler on foot, and beauty and history more accessible and apparent.  All along we were serenaded by the creek – is it the Perkiomen?

Equally accessible are the shocks of this 21st Century — stunning reality of the dread PIPELINE (this one proudly claimed by a Texas firm), when you come upon them at eye level, in the midst of beauty.

I showed NJWILDBEAUTY readers the horror of PIPELINE pipes at Heinz “Refuge” (there is NO REFUGE from PIPELINES) down near the Philadelphia Airport a few weeks ago.  Many months ago, I showed you the ones on either side of the D&R Canal and Towpath, a STATE PARK, our DRINKING WATER — south of Alexander Street in Princeton.  They’re along the Great Road in Princeton, near some of our finest schools, teaching the leaders of tomorrow.  They’re on roads between tiny Lawrenceville and tiny Pennington, in the midst of farm fields, near residences of Cherry Hill, Cherry Valley — nowhere is safe.

In the midst of bucolic beauty, we came to these:

PIPELINE!  Coming soon to a neighborhood near you...

PIPELINE! Coming soon to a neighborhood near you…

TEXAS PIPELINE - Texas doesn't care what habitat it destroys, what beauty it ruins for all time, let alone what it does to the health of people who've lived here since the early 1800s...

TEXAS PIPELINE – Texas doesn’t care what habitat it destroys, what beauty it ruins for all time, let alone what it does to the health of people who’ve lived here since the early 1800s…

See what the PIPELINE abuts and scars.  Walk with us:

The Long and Winding Road called Fleecydale

The Long and Winding Road called Fleecydale

HISTORY IS AT RISK HERE, AT THE HANDS OF PIPELINE MOGULS

HISTORY IS AT RISK HERE, AT THE HANDS OF PIPELINE MOGULS

A MAGNIFICENT CREEK IS AT RISK HERE, WHICH FLOWS STRAIGHT DOWN THROUGH FORMIDABLE ROCKS TO THE DELAWARE RIVER AND THE SEA

A MAGNIFICENT CREEK IS AT RISK HERE, WHICH FLOWS STRAIGHT DOWN THROUGH FORMIDABLE ROCKS TO THE DELAWARE RIVER AND THE SEA

AND WONDERFUL NEIGHBORS WITH EXQUISITE TASTE, WHO THOUGHT THEY'D FOUND SANCTUARY ON FLEECYDALE ROAD

AND WONDERFUL NEIGHBORS WITH EXQUISITE TASTE, WHO THOUGHT THEY’D FOUND SANCTUARY ON FLEECYDALE ROAD

"Baby, It's Cold..."

“Baby, It’s Cold…”

If Ice Could Speak, or Sing...

If Ice Could Speak, or Sing…  This is the beginning of an Aria

Determination:  Anne Zeman and Ice of  Fleecydale - Ice Fleece...

Determination: Anne Zeman and Ice of Fleecydale –           Ice Fleece…

Just-Fallen Beech Leaves

Just-Fallen Beech Leaves

Berries and Ice in Fleeting Sun

Berries and Ice in Fleeting Sun

New Growth in Winter

New Growth in Winter

Oak and Lichen

Oak and Lichen

Outbuilding of Yesteryear

Outbuilding of Yesteryear

Sandy Remnants -- yes, very serious damage here, far west of and far above the Delaware River

Sandy Remnants — yes, very serious damage here, far west of and far above the Delaware River

Fallen Monarch -- Sandy Victim

Fallen Monarch — Sandy Victim

Not how close together those tree rings are.  One would need a micrometer to measure its growth.  Slow-growing trees are the strongest.  Ash is legendary for slow maturation, and it used to be the only wood for baseball bats.  This once towering majesty is still imposing, no match for Hurricane Sandy.

Strong Reflections - very unusual in a fast-flowing creek

Strong Reflections – very unusual in a fast-flowing creek

Last light on a venerable outbuilding

Last light on a venerable outbuilding

Determined Woodpecker - Probably a Red-bellied

Determined Woodpecker – Probably a Red-bellied

Pleased Photographer, Anne Zeman, as Fleecydale Stroll Ends

Pleased Photographer, Anne Zeman, as Fleecydale Stroll Ends

Road Sign, Fleecydale Road and Old Carversville Road, PA

Road Sign, Fleecydale Road and Old Carversville Road, PA

Whatever you can do, wherever you live, put the brakes on these PIPELINE PROMOTERS.

Remember that splendid son, “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land.”

It is not the PIPELINE PROMOTERS’ land.

They MUST be STOPPED!

Homesick for New England Mountain Village — Williamstown

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that my friend, Deb Hill, and I spent a splendid almost-week, doing hikes and art among mountains, in the very old Berkshires of Massachusetts.

Now, wrapped in winter, it is difficult to credit the vividness of memory.  Here, come along on our very first stroll, under extremely changeable skies, along the streets of Williamstown, and out Route 2 toward but not in North Adams.

Beckoning Fence, near Water Street, Williamstown

Beckoning Fence, near Water Street, Williamstown

Sometimes, New England itself seems like a dream.  But then I return, and it’s more real than ever – poised against the sterilities of the 21st Century.

Maple Splendor in 'a mizzle of rain', Williamstown

Maple Splendor in ‘a mizzle of rain’, Williamstown

Red Bench, Williamstown Stroll

Red Bench, Williamstown Stroll

Porch Rockers, "Come and Set a Spell..."

Porch Rockers, “Come and Set a Spell…”

Autumn's Last Gasp

Autumn’s Last Gasp

Glow, Williamstown

Glow, Williamstown

Autumn in the Rain, Williamstown

Autumn in the Rain, Williamstown

Hobson's Choice Restaurant, Water Street

Hobson’s Choice Restaurant, Water Street

Beer Kegs outside Water Street Grill

Beer Kegs outside Water Street Grill

Water Street Grill Sign and October Skies

Water Street Grill Sign and October Skies

Water Street Grill Bacon Bleu Cheese Burger

Water Street Grill Bacon Bleu Cheese Burger

Water Street Grill Salad Caprese

Water Street Grill Salad Caprese

Water Street Grill Steak and Bleu Cheese Salad of another day...

Water Street Grill Steak and Bleu Cheese Salad of another day…

Water Street Grill Lemon Raspberry Genoise!

Water Street Grill Lemon Raspberry Genoise!

Williamstown Bank

Williamstown Bank

Wild Oats Healthy Local Sustainable Food Market!

Wild Oats Healthy Local Sustainable Food Market!

Wild Oats Radishes (yes!) and Cauliflower

Wild Oats Radishes (yes!) and Cauliflower

Wild Oats Brussels Sprouts

Wild Oats Brussels Sprouts

Wild Oats Abundance -- Cabbages for Kings

Wild Oats Abundance — Cabbages for Kings

New England Splendor, Williamstown

New England Splendor, Williamstown

Time for a Change, Coming Down from the summit of Mt. Greylock

Time for a Change, Coming Down from the summit of Mt. Greylock