CAPE MAY CALLING

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Beach Walk to the Light, Cape May

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that The Intrepids are prone to stealing the last glimmers of summer, by going away toward the end of October.  Jeanette is determined to wade, even to swim.  With any luck, newly prospering humpback whales and/or clusters of minke whales will migrate alongside our beachwalks, beginning Monday.

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Storm at Sea, Cape May

This October flight pattern  stranded me up in the Berkshires, while Sandy roared his/her impossible way throughout those distant mountains. Next-door North Adams lost power for days.  Somehow Williamstown was spared. I spent that week marooned, but warm, unlike my Princeton neighbors.  My days were spent reading thick books and watching a weather station of mere words typed — not even a commentator, not a picture, not even of Mantaloking’s destructions.

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Stormy Williamstown

For there was no way for me to come home from my three-day runaway to wild beauty of the mountainous type for nearly a week.  Driving back roads home, trees were down on all sides, and I never knew what literally lay ahead.  But nowhere on that interminable route was as ruined as Princeton.  Police cars spun blinding lights on the tarmac of familiar gas stations, for people were at each others’ throats over necessities.  It had been rather blessed, being stranded between the Berkshires, Green Mountains, the nearby Catskills.  That kind town took me to heart as a refugee.  That multi-houred drive home brought me not surcease, but power outage at home, after all that.  Tasha O’Neill and Alan McIlroy took me in, wrapped me in wool, gave me a warm supper in their twinkling greenhouse.  To this day, I rue my blase assertion, in a cafe about 2/3 of the way to Williamstown, hearing the owners talk of the coming storm: “Oh, don’t be silly.  There aren’t hurricanes in mountains.”

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Mount Greylock Vista as Storm Nears

Other Octobers brought returns to Williamstown with Jeanette Hooban and Carolyn Yoder, followed by last year’s sentimental journey to Cape Cod.  This year, Jeanette found us a bright (probably modern) Cape May Victorian home to rent, a block from the sands.  This means the three of us can stroll in quest of birds, at this time of key raptor migration, at first light and last.  The weather’s to be good.  The birding spectacular.  A friend came to work today to loan me her Swarovski optics, –a king’s ransom in monetary value, and beyond price in bird details that will be evident for me as they only are with those phenomenal lenses.  Also beyond price in terms of trust and friendship.

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The Faithful Gather on the Cape May Hawk Watch Platform

Carolyn Yoder, my co-author of the book on Stuart Country Day School’s fifty years of excellence, is driving us.  Jeanette found the ideal setting, at a price even I can afford.  [Basically less than a night at a normal hotel…]  Jeanette’s bringing wine.  I’m bringing breakfast muffins from Lawrenceville’s phenomenal Gingered Peach bakery.  Cape May will have a bakery, but it won’t hold a candle to this!  My Cape May Bird Observatory Membership is in good order, so we’ll have access to all the latest migratory information; as well as certain birding sites only available to members in good standing.

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Skimmers Return from the Open Sea

Carolyn’s never been to Cape May.  Jeanette, I think, never overnight.  I’ll be the site-and-restaurant guide.  You all know there is nothing I cherish more than leading enthusiasts to new nature experiences.

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Cape May Irresistible, Even in Winter                 (from Internet)

We’ll do Back Bay birding on the Skimmer (pontoon boat with naturalist staff), and walk Reed’s Beach at leas one dawn when there’ll be warblers collecting and facing the dauntless challenge of Delaware Bay.  The birds, of course, are the true Intrepids.  The hawk watch platform should lend irresistible raptors, as well as the resident peregrine.  There’ll be wild swans on ponds tucked in among the dunes, and a black one has been recently sighted.  We could also find loons in those jewel-like pools.  We hope for squadrons of skimmers zooming in from the sea, and maybe even new whales and late dolphins.

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The Peregrine’s Bunker, near the Hawk Watch Platform

NJWILDBEAUTY readers may remember about the adventures of Tasha O’Neill and Alan McIlroy, last Christmas Day.  I would be groping upward from Cape May; and they downward from Princeton, in fog so thick we could not see the hoods of our cars.  Our destination was the Brigantine Wildlife Refuge near Smithville, otherwise known as Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, where we have a festive Christmas picnic ever year.  Tasha pooh-poohed my dawn proposal to call our off our plans: “There’s so much fog, I can neither see nor hear the sea, and I am inches from it.  We’re not going to get any birds!”  “Carolyn,” insisted wise Tasha, “this isn’t about birds.  It’s about fellowship.”  Of course it was:

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The Christmas Red-Tail at the Brig,                          taken by Tasha O’Neill

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Tasha O’Neill and Al McIlroy in the Christmas Fog at the Brig, 2015

And fellowship will be the core of this journey, beginning Monday for the week. Three friends-of-long standing, who cherish the same things with the same passion, will stretch their wings together in setting new to two of them.  Anything could happen…  but, probably not an October hurricane.  I had remnants of that last weekend at ‘The Brig’, so that birds could not fly and we couldn’t see the sitting ones without open rain-smeared windows, so that wind-driven rain soaked us in the car.  We earned our birders’ stripes that day.  But this coming week will be easier.

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Where the Warblers Meet the Bay — Reed’s Beach, Cape May

And, o, yes.  October is an ‘R’ month.  We are traveling to the home of Cape May Salts, my favorite oysters after Wellfleet.  I told my colleagues at work this afternoon, “We’ll be o.d.’ing on oysters.”

Here’s to adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

Clearing After Storm — Bennington, Vermont; Green Mountains; Apple Barn

As New Jersey skies increasingly disappoint me, –resembling the inside of a vacuum cleaner bag–, my heart and memory leap back to the Berkshires and the Green Mountains.  OK, I’m this big New Jersey booster, but I’ve had it with gloom.

This is how Vermont skies looked, immediately on the heels of a Nor’easter.  Deb and I headed over to Bennington from the Cozy Corner Motel, along Route 7.  The Apple Barn is a key ritual of my trips to this region — for a cozy family place, with unbelievable vistas, and the best aged Vermont cheddar of my life.  Ditto mountain apples.  Baked goods aren’t bad, and the maple syrup is worth of the journey.

However, I’m giving you a feast for the eyes:

Clearing after Storm, Apple Barn, Bennington VT

Clearing after Storm, Apple Barn, Bennington VT

Apple Barn Crops

Apple Barn Crops

Apple Barn Picnic Table

Apple Barn Picnic Table

To the left, at another picnic table, a family was having a lovely outdoor feast, when the rain had hardly dried upon our windshield.

Bear and First Peeks of Sun

Bear and First Peeks of Sun

Monarch of the Apple Barn

Monarch of the Apple Barn

Spent Sunflower, Magnificent Even in Death

Spent Sunflower, Magnificent Even in Death

Harvest Time

Harvest Time

"Nothin' but Blue Skies, From Now On..."

“Nothin’ but Blue Skies, From Now On…”

"The Party's Over..."

“The Party’s Over…”

"Who Has Seen the Moose, Neither You Nor I..."

“Who Has Seen the Moose, Neither You Nor I…”

One time, when I was alone at Cozy Corner and at a corner cafe in Bennington, I was the only person in there who had not seen the moose.

They do to moose what Hopewell just did to oxen:

Moose of Route 7

Moose of Route 7

A few moments later, at a mansion near the Bennington Monument, we came upon this artistry.

Bennington Spectre Awaits Hallowe'en

Bennington Spectre Awaits Hallowe’en

Even the gloomy isn’t gloomy in this neck of the woods.

Can you see why I feel, it’s always beautiful in the Berkshires and Bennington?

Autumn, the Impressionist — Berkshire Trails, October’s End

Clark Art Institute Trail, Cattle Guard, late October

Clark Art Institute Trail, Cattle Guard, late October

NJWILDBEAUTY readers adventured along with Deb Hill and me in stormy weather, spooky weather, which I conveyed to you for Hallowe’en.  But there WERE moments of sun, even on grey days, and an entire afternoon of sun on our final day.  We walked four hours on Clark (The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute) Trails, beginning at the Stone Hill Center.

Ferny Welcome to Clark Trail

Ferny Welcome to Clark Trail

We lunched sumptuously, the norm, at the Water Street Grill.

Bacon Bleuburger, Water Street Grill

Bacon Bleuburger, Water Street Grill

Then we walked the sun down on the Hopkins Trail, managed by Williams College.

Hopkins Trail Birch Glory

Hopkins Trail Birch Glory

Every moment of our time in Williamstown, we were surrounded by mountains.  It was as though we were the fulcrum of a watch, every numeral a blue/black/purple mountain.  This is my most essential landscape, a place of absolute nourishment, a sense of being cradled against the slings and arrows of outrageous anything.  I hope these scenes work their magic for you.

Essence of Berkshires, Clark Trail

Essence of Berkshires, Clark Trail

We were up to our knees sometimes in leaves of Cezanne hues, noisy and crisp, and covering up acorns by the dozens, which can act like ball bearings!

Cezanne at the Clark (Trail)

Cezanne at the Clark (Trail)

Cezanne Beside Us and Overhead and Underfoot

Cezanne Beside Us and Overhead and Underfoot

Sometimes, the forest’s palette took us back to pre-Renaissance — we found the scarlet/crimson of the legendary Ghirlandaio bought by Sterling Clark, and inside the nearby classic white museum.

Autumn / Ghirlandaio

Autumn / Ghirlandaio

Rapt on the  Clark Trail

Rapt on the Clark Trail

There was sorrow, on the Clark Trail:

Mourning the Downed Birch

Mourning the Downed Birch

And Mystery!  What an appropriate mushroom for almost-Hallowe’en!

Mystery Mushroom, Clark Trail

Mystery Mushroom, Clark Trail

And moments like spring, at the end of October:

Spring Green in October

Spring Green in October

Clark Trail Fern Grove

Clark Trail Fern Grove

Purple Majesty with Spring Green Meadow

Purple Majesty with Spring Green Meadow

Even the morning dew was memorable, on the Clark Trail.

Morning Dew, Clark Trail

Morning Dew, Clark Trail

Autumn surprised us with the pinks of the Clark’s storied Renoirs:

Autumn Steals the Pinks of Renoir

Autumn Steals the Pinks of Renoir

The birches were the masterpiece of this walk.

Clark Trail Sun Birch Williamstown

Gold was the predominant hue of this adventure.

24-Karat Grove, Clark Trail

24-Karat Grove, Clark Trail

Cairns said farewell:

Crossroads Cairns

Crossroads Cairns

Hopkins begins with a fence, then rises and rises up into the Berkshires.  From its crest, one sees many mountains, including Greylock.  The sun was our taskmaster that day, so these are lowland views on two Hopokins trails.

Don't Fence Me In, Hopkins Trail

Don’t Fence Me In, Hopkins Trail

The Clark’s legendary Impressionist masterpieces have serious outdoor competition!

Hopkins Trail Entry Scene

Hopkins Trail Entry Scene

Lure of Hopkins Trail

Lure of Hopkins Trail

New Growth, Hopkins Trail

New Growth, Hopkins Trail

We realized, coming upon many new evergreens, on Clark, Hopkins and the Bennington Museum Trail, that deer in our (New Jersey) region deprive us of this luminous experience.

The lesson of the level of majesty we discovered and discovered in the Berkshires is the importance of preservation.  Support every referendum and land trust that saves open space in your region.