A tale of adventure, exploration, and rain

Well, that book that I mentioned in my last post has made quite a day for my dad and I. It talks about several places in the barrens to explore, most of them by car (unfortunately). However, one of the few places that mention a possibility for bikes is called the Chatsworth to Carranza Loop. This route takes you out into the middle of nowhere to Apple Pie Hill--don't ask, I can't explain the name--which is the highest point in south Jersey at 208 feet above sea level. Considering that the majority of this area was at one point under water, that's pretty high.

This is the view from the top of the hill. As you can see, we are just about above most of the trees. I was thoroughly awed at the view. My mom would have been scared witless at the next part of the hill...

...the fire tower.

Atop this hill is, as I say, a fire tower. For those not in the know, these are used by the state forest people to watch for forest fires during the dry seasons. You can climb the stairs, and my dad says you used to be able to get into the watch box at the top, but from all the vandalism on the tower itself, we figure the trapdoor up was locked for a good reason. People had visited the tower recently as evidenced by the smashed pumpkins that had been dropped from the top. There was also a computer monitor and a radio. It made me kind of mad. The pumkins aren't so bad, since they'll rot away and provide some nutrients into the soil (and possibly make some pumpkins next year...?), but the electronics will be there for a very long time.

This is my dad's trusty little Rav from about the middle level of the fire tower's steps. I don't have any pictures from the top because it was damp and quite cold. My hands were wet and frozen from holding onto the steel railings on the way up. The orange and white bit on the left is one of the corners of the tower. They really are just long bars of steel welded together in a flexible sort of manner. They have to be able to bend a little and sway with the wind, which can get very strong up there. I don't mind going up when it's steady, but once it started to shake, I think I'd be down those stairs in record time.

The path down from the hill we took to get out to our next destination was a little round-about, since the map provided in the book only shows the roads that the author talks about and fails to show the other ones in the area (there are several and most of them end up in the same place). We tried a couple of times to get to something other than Ringler Ave, which is the road to take up to the hill, and after a few tries we (read: my dad) managed to figure out where to go. My sense of direction back there is aweful, since I've never been there. The road we were on, sandy though it was, was very hard-packed for something that deep in the woods. It will be a good place to take bikes on, since the soft sand isn't as common on that road. On the way, we saw something the pine barrens are famous for:

pygmy pines!

These are they. There were two huge fields of them on either side of the road we took. They only get to about three or four feet tall. These are all fully-grown trees. Don't they look like little christmas trees? I thought so, because they're all so short and fat. And everyone knows the fat trees are best for Christmas, because you can fit more presents underneath them--I mean, you can cram on more cheesy m&m ornaments from fifteen years ago. Right, mom?

(For years and years we had about six of those ornaments that come on top of the plastic m&m tubes you find a christmas time. I think we finally got rid of them two years ago.)

After the cute little mini-trees, we found the railroad tracks we had been searching for. They're old, having been abandoned a long time ago. These tracks run through almost the entire strech of the pine barrens and used to be referred to as the "Jersey Central," though now I think that term has been passed on to something a bit more high-tech and speedier than the old steam engines that used to run up and down those tracks from Camden to the coast. After the tracks, we managed to make our way to Speedwell-Friendship Road, completely bypassing Chatsworth and Speedwell itself, which are the suggested first and second stops of the route, respectively.

Going down that road, we were really confused because the way the surface was reflecting the light it looked paved, but it was covered over with sand. So our theory is that it's paved, however poorly, and the sand has been washed over it. On the way to the Carranza Memorial, we ran into what we think is a branch of the Wading River, which was home to some really pretty bog-spots.

If you're wondering about the ripples on the water, yes, it was raining. Not hard, but just enough to be a nuisance on the trip. We spent a good deal of it in the car, though, so that's not so bad. It was very cold, though, and that made me have to pee quite badly. I survived.

My dad and I want to borrow my uncle's canoe and go paddling down here one day, but I'm not entirely sure that's legal. He says we can pleade ignorance, but I don't think that will work. Oh well. We'll take a canoe trip on the Atsion or something during the spring, when it's a little warmer.

Way down Speedwell-Friendship Road is a dirt crossroad supposedly called Washington-Speedwell Road (it has no marker, so I'm not really even sure which crossroad it was) which should supposedly take us to a very old cemetary with only two gravestones left, and the site of a place called Eagle Tavern.

We skipped there, too.

We drove right through Friendship and onto Carranza Road after crossing over the railroad tracks again (remember, this is a looped trail) and made it, after a long drive, to the Carranza Memorial. This is a large stone plinth placed at the site a Mexican pilot named Emilio Carranza crashed his plane on a goodwill flight between Mexico and Washington D.C. in 1928. The children of Mexico saved up all their pennies to pay to have the memorial made and carved. It was then dismantled and sent to the US, where the Mt. Holly American Legion reassembled it and now they hold a service there on the saturday closest to July 12th (the day he crashed). Apparently, each block of the memorial represents a section of Mexico. I have no pictures of it to share that I took, but enjoy one that I pulled from Google.

From there, we took a trail that led us back towards Apple Pie Hill. There are a few sections of it that would make my poor beat up mountain bike weep in horror, but after driving through it, my dad looked at me and said, "Okay, so we walk our bikes through that." Thank goodness. We crossed through one of the Batona Trail campsites, as well. The Batona Trail is some sixty miles long and travels through the pine barrens. It's quite an accomplishment to brag about if you've hiked it. It's hiking and biking, too--you can only drive on certain parts of it. On the way, we ran into an unidentified body of water.
We really aren't sure exactly what this place is, but we stopped, got out, and looked around. I found a sort of grown-over path down so we pushed through the undergrowth and managed to get about four or five yards away from the edge. We stopped there because it got very marshy and we were beginning to sink. My dad and I don't like wet feet very much.

On the way home we stopped at an asian grocery store and picked up some panko bread crumbs for tomorrow's dinner. I got some barbecue pork buns (mmm....love 'em) and pocky, which is 99cents a box there. A far cry from the $3 a box most other retailors sell them for.

In other news, I am officially done at Under the Sun; my last day was Friday. I now work part-time at both the pet store, in the mornings, and borders in the afternoon/evenings. I fear for my sleep and lazy time, which will be drastically lessened by working both of these jobs, but I need the money and if my mom could do it for two years, I can hang on too.

The pet store is hard work, I have to admit, and cleaning up dog poop is no fun, but I love them all (except the new yorkies that bark so loudly and high-pitched I always think they're killing each other when the wrestle). I have fallen in love with our Italian Greyhound puppy, despite all my warnings to myself that I CAN NOT come home with a dog. Mom will kill me. Hobbes would probably attack me in my sleep. Besides that, he's $979. After a month, when I get my discount, he'd be $700-something, but that's still too much. It's a shame, because most people think we have puppy-mill dogs, but they aren't. Well, okay, some of them might be, but most of them we get from breeders who were trying to get a certain characteristic and failed. That's why they cost so much.

Last night was my first night at the book store, and I have to admit it was very easy. I haven't worked a register in a good two years or so, so it took a couple of tries to get going, but it's not so bad. I'll be working mostly in the calendar kiosk (which isn't actually a kiosk right now, but whatever) and hopefully they'll keep me on past the season. I really hope so, because I'd take the book store over the pet store in a heart beat if I didn't need the money.

Ah well. It's 10:30 and I have to get up at 6 tomorrow to open the pet store, so I have to cut this off. It's been a long post, I know. Strange for me, isn't it?

"I'm the regal type. That's not a posture you learn in school, dear, it's the way you look at the world."
-Mae West

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