Videos about the New Jersey Pine Barrens / Pinelands

These are not my videos, but I want to share them.

Across the south of New Jersey, there are 1.1 million acres of pine forest. From the northern part of Ocean Country down to Cape May, the Pinelands National Reserve occupied 22% of the state’s land area and is the largest body of open space on the Mid-Atlantic Seaboard between Moston and Richmond. Additionally, 45 percent of the region, or around 493,000 acres, are owned by the public. However, a part of this reserve is of particular note, sourcing several urban legends such as the Jersey devil. This is the story of the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

A good synopsis of the myths and legends of the Pinelands. I like hanging out in the Pinelands at least once a month, and I do not find it creepy at all. Well… maybe the ticks are creepy (but they’re everywhere in Jersey). I like that the author covered the Emilio Carranza Memorial in Tabernacle, NJ. Spoiler: Ben Franklin started the Jersey Devil myth by calling his New Jersey publishing competitor the “Devil Leeds”. You must admire a person clever enough to vex a great mind like Franklin.

Deep in the New Jersey Pine Barrens are ruins of two sites right on top of each other – the old Fries Mill settlement dating back to 1770, and the ruins of the New Jersey Silica Sand Company from 1915. Let’s hike out there and see what we can find.

I enjoyed this video quite a bit as it reminded me of my own Pinelands explorations. Don’t swim in the blue lakes of the Pinelands. They are old sand quarries, and the water is not buoyant enough to support a human, so you will sink and likely drown.

Enjoy a tour through the Pine Barrens. The presenter is Bob Sprague, a native orchid expert.The presentation focuses initially on the native orchids of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, and the specific conditions they thrive in. He introduces other unusual flora of the area and many of their pollinators. While this replaces the actual tour originally scheduled, the macrophotography will give viewers a clear closeup of blooms all at their peak, and a naturalist’s introduction to other flora and fauna.

The Pinelands are famous for their unique plant life, especially orchids.

The ecology of rare and unusual plants of the New Jersey Pinelands, including orchids, carnivorous plants, and locally restricted plants such as Knieskern’s beaksedge. The talk will include potential threats to local populations and general habitat characteristics that are important elements of plant conservation.

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Asbury Park Art Murals, Wooden Walls Project

The featured image at the start of this article is from 2018 and features art by Mike Shine, Porkchop, and Haculla.

I lived on the Jersey Shore from 2008 to 2020, and during that time I was a frequent visitor to Asbury Park. My town (not Asbury) already had a beach and bars. I went to Asbury for the culture: live music, record stores (Groovy Graveyard & Holdfast (RIP)), and art. In the 2000s murals began to appear around town, accompanying its rebirth and the rise of music venues like Asbury Lanes. Many of the murals were attributed to a local artist named Porktomic aka Porkchop, whose art is frequently shown at the Asbury Park art gallery Parlor Gallery. The murals amplified the total vibe of the town. There was all this great music happening, great galleries, music & antique shops, great bars, and interesting people — and the murals provided a cinematic backdrop for it all.

A mural by Porkchop on the Baronet Theatre

Photo taken in 2009. Both the mural and theater are gone.

Art on the Baronet Theater

Octopus Flapper mural by Porkchop inside the Casino building

Photo taken in 2011. This mural still exists, but it is hidden behind plywood.

Octopus lady in the Casino building.

The town and its murals attracted the attention of national artists. Around 2011, world-famous Shephard Fairey (best known for Obey Giant stickers, and the Obama Hope poster) put up murals in the boardwalk area and the Baronet Theatre wall, celebrating punk rock heroes.

Portraits of Joey Ramone, John Lydon, Joe Strummer, Glenn Danzig, Ian McKay, and Henry Rollins by Shephard Fairey (2011) on the Fastlane.

Both the mural and the Fastlane are gone.

Punk Rock greats

Wooden Walls

The Wooden Walls project was established in 2015 to bring more artists and murals to Asbury Park. Wooden Walls is responsible for murals and art projects along the boardwalk on iconic buildings like the Casino, the Stream Plant Building, the Carousel House, and some low-key wooden buildings like the Sunset Pavilion.

Now that I no longer live near Asbury Park, the murals give me a reason to return, particularly in the fall and winter when the beach crowds have diminished, and there is more time to focus and enjoy the art uninterrupted.

A mural by Pau Quintanajornet

Photo taken 2016. You can see that the artist is in the process of completing the mural. It is on the Sunset Pavillion along the north side of the boardwalk.

Pau!

Boombox Saint by Dylan Egon

Photo taken 2017. It is on the Sunset Pavillion along the north side of the boardwalk.

2017 02 25 Dylan Egon

Ruthie & Andre by Porkchop

Photo taken 2017. It is on the Sunset Pavillion along the north side of the boardwalk.

2017 02 25 Mermaid

“Sea Pegasus” (my name for it) by Mike Shine

Photo taken 2017. This one is about 50 feet wide. It is on the Sunset Pavillion along the north side of the boardwalk.

A detail of a painting by Porkchop inside the Carousel Building

Photo taken 2018.

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ONEQ mural on the side of the Carousel Building

Photo taken in 2019.

2019 07 15

Whimsical frog mural by Matt Crabe

Photo taken in 2023. It is on the Sunset Pavillion along the north side of the boardwalk.

2022 10 01

An OBEY sign by Shephard Fairey from 2011.

Photo taken in 2023. This mural has faded and becomes a “ghost sign”. You can see it from Ocean Avenue North.

2022 10 21

A new Octopus Flapper by Porkchop

Photo taken 2023. It is on the boardwalk’s south side and blocks the Casino entrance. Her sister is boarded up inside the Casino building.

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This article is part of a three-article series on Asbury Park, including Asbury Lanes (Asbury Park, NJ) The Best Years and Photos from Asbury Park, New Jersey from the 2000s.

 

09 29 2012 Pins

Asbury Lanes (Asbury Park, NJ) The Best Years

This story and accompanying photos represent the best of years of the Asbury Lanes bowling & music club from my personal experience from the years 2006 to 2015. No doubt you have your own experience, lore, and opinions about the Asbury Lanes — those are yours, these are mine. This story is a continuation of my story about Asbury Park.

Around 2006 my Monmouth County friends began raving about a club in Asbury Park called Asbury Lanes. It was a bowling alley where bands played on a stage erected in the center of four lanes, it also had a bar, a kick-ass DJ, and a restaurant that served sushi, grilled cheese, and tater tots. And it was a short walk to the beach — what more could you ask for? Coming off the afterglow of the culturally resonant Big Lebowski movie, the nostalgia of a post-mid-century bowling alley, combined with great music, comfort food, and comfort drinks, the Asbury Lanes was like a big hug from 50% of everything I loved.

Photo: Asbury Lanes (9/29/2012). Like most Jersey Shore businesses, the Lanes look the brunt of hurricanes, nor’easters, and rowdy humans. It was not rare to see a missing letter on the wall, a missing part of a sign, or an abandoned U.F.O. on the lawn.
09 29 2012 Asbury Lanes

Repairing the sign (5/12/2012):
05 12 2012 Asbury Lanes

I saw and heard at least 100 bands at the Lanes. Shows performed by The King Khan & BBQ Show, Peelander-Z, Quintron & Miss Pussycat, and Fancy Space People were the most memorable. The King Khan’s shows were so phenomenal and mesmerizing that people would put their phones in their pockets, and dance. This was the era when a crowd would stand still as statues and film concerts with their cell phones. When a band was so good that the phones disappeared, that was a great band.

Aside from these hyper-unique national bands, indie rock bands like Electric Six, Supersuckers, and the Horton Heat, and local favorites like The Obvious and the Ribeye Brothers played memorable shows there. (Visit Setlist.fm for more Asbury Lanes shows).

Aside from music, The Asbury Lanes was home to the first two Asbury Park Comicons, a Big Lebowski festival, a Troma movie festival, D.J. dance contests, Sex Toy Bingo, garage sales, and many art shows curated by Lanes manager Juicy Jenn, who also co-owns the art gallery Parlor Gallery and runs the Wooden Walls mural art project.

The Door, starring the father of Milk & Cheese, Evan Dorkin (9/29/2012). This photo was taken during Asbury Park Comicon 2.
Evan Dorkin at Asbury Park Comic Con 2 09 29 2012

The Bowling Lanes (9/29/2012). A “Dutch angle” or “drunk about to fall” shot.
09 29 2012 Lanes

Pick your shoes (3/3/2012):
03 30 2013 Shoes

Bowling balls (9/29/2012). The Lanes had dozens of balls to choose from, in classic black and a myriad of spacey, swirly candy colors.
09 29 2012 Balls Blue

Disco balls (10/25/2011) are also spacey and colorful, but for floating above the lanes, not rolling down them.
10 25 2011 Disco Balls

The Bowling Pin Art Show (9/28/2008):
09 28 2008 Bowling Pin Art

Jucifer (7/27/2015) was one of the loudest bands I saw at the Lanes (I think Mr. Payday was the loudest band I’ve seen).
07 27 2015 Jucifer at Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park 1

The Obvious (10/20/2009) were local favorites back in the late 2000s.
10 20 2009 The Obvious

One of the members of Peelander-Z hiding in the crowd (8/15/2010). Peelander-Z is equal parts Power Rangers, a Japanese game show, and a power-pop-punk rock band.
One of the members of Peelander Z hiding in the audience

Fancy Space People (10/25/2010). Fancy Space People are part psych-rock, glam rock, space rock, and shiny glitter body suits. Not a cult.
10 25 2011 Fancy Space People

The floor plan as I remember it from the 2006-2015 era.
floorplan

Sadly, Asbury Lanes has been under new ownership and management since 2018. I have not been there since 2015.

Get wrecked

Photos from Asbury Park, New Jersey from the 2000s

This article represents my personal experience of Asbury Park. No doubt, it lacks information, contains errors and hyperbole, and does not match your personal experiences and perspectives.

In the late 1980s, I developed an obsession with music. Once I could drive, I became obsessed with seeing music shows. I collected band t-shirts, wheat-paste posters, ticket stubs, and wristbands. I met other people with these obsessions. We formed tribes and went to shows in New York City, Philly, and throughout New Jersey… Trenton, New Brunswick, and Asbury Park, a Jersey Shore town, known for its music venues. Most touring bands went from New York City directly to Philly, but on rare occasions, they took the hour detour to Asbury Park to play a gig.

Asbury Park has a rare mix of music venues that attract touring bands and the Shore (which is the total experience of New Jersey’s beaches, bays, boardwalks, boating, birding, bars, art, clubs, casinos, amusement parks, restaurants, shopping, fishing, surfing, hotels, motels, lighthouses, and any other type of fun that can be had within a narrow strip of land, sand and surf from Laurence Harbor in Raritan Bay to Fortescue Beach in Delaware Day). Over the years Asbury has had good times and bad, but it has always had a beach and for the past 50 years, at least one club (the Stone Pony).

I first discovered Asbury Park in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that I went there for shows. Sometimes the Stone Pony, the Rock Horse, the Saint, but mostly the Fastlane aka Fast Lane 2 (I don’t know why the name changed). Over time, my brain has blended all my experiences into a single meta-experience that goes like this: a car of 4 to 5 rowdy neer-do-wells, an hour on the New Jersey Parkway, maybe tolls were paid with Necco wafers, at night, cold, fourteen degrees Fahrenheit, arrive in Asbury Park, rumble down roads that are more pothole than asphalt, park, avoid zombies, see the show, run down to the beach, run up and down the ramps of the seemingly abandoned Howard Johnson, run back to the car avoiding zombies, leave. Unlike New York City or even New Brunswick, there wasn’t much of anything to do in Asbury in the 1990s besides see a show. No murals by internationally famous artists, no groovy record shops, no pizza joints or dive bars, no pinball arcades — not even a place to get a coffee for the long drive home. In the early 1990s, there were just a few music clubs, the smell of the sea, the crash of waves, the CLANG CLANG CLANG of the dangling beams of the rusting skeleton of uncompleted construction, and looming, massive and lifeless buildings like Berkeley Hotel, the Convention Center and the Casino. Everything seemed to crumble, rust, mold, pool, peel, flake, gasp, and occasionally scream.

Madam Marie’s (4/29/2006). I’m pretty sure she’s been around forever.
Madam Marie's

I don’t know why, but in the early 2000s, Asbury started to change. Friends started talking about a new club called the Asbury Lanes (which needs its own article), a hybrid bowling alley/punk rock club/diner next to the Fastlane. Businesses opened up on the boardwalk and in the Convention Center, local artists decorated the town the murals, and ALL my friends were excited to go there — not just the punk rockers. The town still looked rough and rusty, but for every ounce of cynicism there was an ounce and a half of hope, and the town changed.

“The Debris by the Sea” (4/29/2006). This sentiment changed over time, and in different ways for different people.
where the debris meets the sea

This is the wreckage of a large building by the oceanfront that was never completed. 4/29/2006.
Wreckage

If my memory is correct, this scrap pile was the second attempt at a building in this location.

This is The Stone Pony, with the Phillips Seaview Tower in the distance (4/29/2006).
Stone Pony

Both are essentially the same as of 2023. The Pony is about as no-frills as you can get. As long as I can remember it has been a single-floor stone building painted white. It has a stage inside and outside. It has clean bathrooms with a guy who will help you dry your hands.

This is The Casino, viewed from the neighboring town Ocean Grove (4/29/2006). Over the past 20 or so years the Casino houses art murals by local artists Porkchop and Bradley Hoffer and serves as a portal between Ocean Grove and Asbury Park.
Asbury Park Casino

What I see is brick, molded concrete, oxidized iron and copper, plywood, and the cover of the Bruce Springsteen album inspired by the town, Greetings from Asbury Park.

This part of the Casino building was demolished… probably because it was falling apart and too close to the sea.
Asbury Park Casino

“LIQUOR” Building (1/25/2006). It was blown up on 12/31/2009. I think it was at the end of Cookman.
Liquor Building

Though it looks like an ancient temple, this Asbury Park Steam Plant building powered the automated boats of Wesley Lake (4/29/2006):
Tower of sacrifice

And this might be what it looks like inside (10/29/2010):
Inside

This is the box office of the Baronet Theatre (3/29/2009). The Baronet was next to the Fastline 2 aka the Fast Lane, a music club, which was next to the Asbury Lanes.
Baronet Theatre
More about the Baronet Theatre.

This was the alley between the Fastlane and the Baronet Theatre (10/16/2008). There was a couch wedged in there and sometimes people wedged in there.
the space between the Fastlane and the Baronet

This is a photo of Asbury Lanes from 10/29/2010. Not sure what happened to the bowling pin sign. Hurricane Earl? Read more about it: Asbury Lanes (Asbury Park, NJ) The Best Years.
Asbury Lanes

2006 to 2015 was my favorite era of Asbury Park. It had a perfect mix of music venues, art, bars, multiple record shops, and a place or two to get coffee. Now (2023) it’s not quite as perfect, but it’s still worth visiting once a month or so. If you do go, I recommend the art murals by the boardwalk, Parlor Gallery (art), Groovy Graveyard (records), Silverball Museum (arcade games & pinball), and Bond Street Bar.

More to read:

An insightful article about the Wonderbar and the early 2000s era of Asbury Park.

Setlists for the Fastlane.

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum (Ogdensburg, NJ)

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum, located in Ogdensburg, New Jersey, offers visitors a tour of an old zinc mine, a large mining and mineral museum, and an opportunity to collect fluorescent minerals from a dump of rocks left over from mining operations. If you have an interest in mining, geology, rock collecting, or New Jersey history, it is worth a visit. Ogdensburg, and Franklin to its north, are internationally known for the variety of fluorescent minerals and the New Jersey state mineral Franklinite, which is a non-fluorescent zinc ore.

Note the variety of colors found in the rocks a the bottom of this photo. Even in daylight, these massive rocks are colorful — under a shortwave UV light, even more so.

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum

One of the entrances to the mine is on the side of the mountain. The mountain is named Sterling Hill.

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum

The mine is a half-mile deep, but it is mostly filled with water. The tour guide takes you only through the top levels of the mine. There is no danger of falling to lower levels and drowning. But just imagine falling into a pool of water as deep as the Empire State Building in total darkness — not that’s a horror movie!

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum

Look down a corridor and you’ll see mining equipment and a room where explosives were stored. Along the tour you’ll see mannequins handling assorted mining equipment like drills and jackhammers, setting dynamite charges, and riding an ore elevator.

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum

Two large slabs of rock fluorescing orange and green under shortwave ultraviolet light. The walls of the mine behind the slabs also fluoresce. Most of the orange is calcite and the green is willemite, although these are not the old minerals that fluoresce these colors. Under white light, calcite is usually white to gray, and willemite is red or green.

Fluorescent rocks. The Sterling Hill Mining Museum

This is the “rainbow room” portion of the tour, featuring an anticline of green, orange, purple, and green again fluorescing rock, with a large pile of loose rocks of differing colors in front of it. Not to be missed! In the museum, there are many rooms of fluorescing rocks to explore.

Fluorescent rocks. The Sterling Hill Mining Museum

Dynamite was used to break through the solid rock of the mountain to create tunnels and get the ore down to a liftable size. The museum has an impressive collection of detonators that were used to trigger explosions from a safe distance.

Dynamite plungers. Fluorescent rocks. The Sterling Hill Mining Museum

A bust of a happy miner with his mining lamp surrounded by actual carbide mining lamps. Originally miners wore hats fitted with candles.

Happy Miner. Fluorescent rocks. The Sterling Hill Mining Museum

Safety first! Some mine safety cartoons from the mine tour and museum. I smacked my head on the walls of the mine a few times, so be careful. 🙂

Danger. Fluorescent rocks. The Sterling Hill Mining Museum

Warning, Fluorescent rocks. The Sterling Hill Mining Museum

CNJ railroad tracks in the woods (Atsion, NJ)

The Central Railroad of New Jersey, and its famous train “the Blue Comet”, split the New Jersey Pinelands, connecting southern New Jersey and Atlantic City, to central New Jersey, and distant locations like Scranton, Pennsylvania, and New York City. The rail only functioned between 1929 and 1941, but its remnants can still be found today in Pinelands locations like Atsion, Chatsworth, and Manchester.

Often, when I visit the Pines, I stop at the Atsion Furnace, which was once used to make iron. The spot is used by kayakers to launch their boats into the Mullica River.
Atsion Furnace

Walk south from the furnace and you’ll find Washington Road. Washington Road becomes Railroad Avenue. It has potholes large enough to consume a mid-sided sedan. The sand road is colored gray from the ashes of forest fires. Forest fires are a common occurrence in the Pines. Fire-resistant trees like pines and oaks thrive in the area.
A dirt road with Hyundai Sonata sized potholes.

Walk along the road and you’ll come to railroad tracks. The tracks have a patina of rust but they’re still firmly spiked to their wooden ties, which are now nestled in a bed of pine needles, soil, and moss. Weeds, and periodically trees grow between ties, making it all the more fun to imagine a massive blue locomotive flying along the rails.

Follow the tracks to the north, and you’ll come to a bridge where the rail crosses the Mullica River.
CNJ bridge in the woods

This is a view of the bridge from the side. Try to imagine a huge train racing by overhead.
The CNJ bridge from the side.

Very little graffiti on the bridge — rare for New Jersey.
Graffiti under the bridge

More places where you can see the rails:

New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge

The Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey is the closest thing New Jersey has to the Cannonball Run. You have two days to visit 10 land-based lighthouses, 3 life-saving stations, and 1 museum. At each location, you collect a souvenir (postcards, pressed pennies). Collect all the souvenirs and you win. If you plan your trip well, you can do it in one day. If you take your time, tour each museum, and climb each lighthouse, you will need both days — in fact, you might not make it if you spend too much time enjoying each location.

Bring extra money for souvenirs and donations for each lighthouse. Most lighthouses feature collectible pins commemorating the location.

I took the Challenge in 2019 with my friend Cat, an expert tourist & photographer. We took breaks to take photos of New Jersey landmarks, like Wildwood’s neon signs, gleaming chrome diners, and oddities like the cement champagne bottle in New Gretna.

I think I could have completed 2022 in one day if I hit the first location at 9 am, instead of 1:50 pm. If you can find out when each location opens or closes, and you start at either Sandy Hook or Tinicum, you can make it. The hardest part is having to navigate tiny shore towns with 25mph roads, then drive back to a major highway, and then back into a tiny shore town. The Jersey Shore is like a fractal with seemingly infinite twists and turns to get around bays, rivers, inlets, swamps, and places where the road just stops.

The Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey is worth taking, whether you just want to challenge yourself & our vehicle, you want to experience New Jersey shore history, or you just want to spend a few fun days with friends.

Tinicum Rear Range Light (Paulsboro):

I finished 2019 at this location and started there in 2022. This lighthouse is across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. It is worth climbing for the views of Philly and the surrounding industrial & shipping areas. It looks more like a cannon than a lighthouse.

Tinicum Rear Range Light

Finns Point Range Light (Pennsville):

This lighthouse is across the Delaware River from Wilmington, Delaware. Like Tinicum, it looks like a cannon or smokestack.

Finns Point Range Light

East Point Lighthouse (Heislerville):

East Point faces Delaware Bay with Cape May to its east. It’s relatively short for a lighthouse and is in danger of shore erosion. Maybe it should be lifted a story if the ground beneath it can support that. This location is the hardest to find parking.

East Point Lighthouse

Cape May Lighthouse (Cape May):

One of the four (Cape May, Absecon, Barnegat, Sandy Hook) lighthouses that look like a classic lighthouse: tall, white with some color and a light at the top. This lighthouse is the toughest to get to because of the maze-like, 15mph local roads.

Cape May Lighthouse

Tatham Lifesaving Station (Stone Harbor):

I ended day 2 of 2022 at this location. I spend an hour here checking out their lighthouse & war museum and historical murals painted by a guy named Thomas.

Tatham Lifesaving Station

U.S. Lifesaving Station 30 (Ocean City):

I ended day 1 of 2022 at this location and then spent the rest of the day on the Ocean City boardwalk, which was still open. I got some of the saltwater taffy, thick-cut fries, and coconut macaroons that Ocean City is famous for. I should have gotten some pizza, but pizza is a gamble when you have a 2-hour drive home.

U.S. Lifesaving Station 30

Absecon Lighthouse (Atlantic City):

A classic lighthouse.

Absecon Lighthouse

Tuckers Island Light (Long Beach):

This one, I believe, is a replica. It features a museum and a gift shop.

Tuckers Island Light

Barnegat Lighthouse (Barnegat):

Maybe the best-looking Lighthouse in New Jersey (arguably Sandy Hook is more interesting).

Barnegat Lighthouse

Barnegat Light Museum (Barnegat):

Look for the seagull note where it sits.

Barnegat Light Museum

Squan Beach Lifesaving Station (Manasquan):

The antenna next door is impressive, as are the dedications on some of the benches surrounding the building. This one is a lifesaving station, which housed men and boats for saving people from shipwrecks.

Squan Beach Lifesaving Station

Sea Girt Lighthouse (Sea Girt):

Another of the short lighthouses.

Sea Girt Lighthouse

Navesink Twin Lights (Highlands):

This one is impressive in form and worth climbing for the view of Sandy Hook & Sea Bright. It looks like a military fortress. It is difficult to get a nice photo featuring both towers in the same photo. Parking is limited and the winding drive up to the lighthouses is a single-lane road.

Navesink Twin Lights

Sandy Hook Lighthouse (Highlands):

I started 2019 here. I think its shape makes the Sandy Hook Lighthouse the most interesting lighthouse in New Jersey. The entire Sandy Hook park is a former military area with forts, cannons, and missile launch pads. It’s worth visiting during the spring and summer.

Sandy Hook Lighthouse

Parlin Sayreville Amber and Pyrite Fields (Rockhound Zone)

Someday this field will be condominiums or apartments. It is one of the largest parcels of undeveloped land in the second-largest county, in the most densely populated state in America. It is completely surrounded by condominiums and apartment complexes, and a small park. Viewed on Google Earth, it looks like a dirty piece of bread surrounded by the winding tunnels of an ant farm.

“Everything in the middle of Nowhere in the middle of Everywhere”

Big Field

On the ground though, and until the day it gets developed, this field is one of the most magical places in New Jersey. Like most open fields, you’ll find a menagerie of birds and bugs hanging out on weeds, reeds, flowers, and small trees. There is plenty of life here. Below the flora and fauna, you’ll find soil that’s a mix of stones, sand, and clay. If you dig below the surface into the gray-beige clay you’ll find glittering chunks of iron pyrite, and black lignite (coal) that still resemble the trees it formed from. Amongst the sticky clay, sparkling metallic stones, and prehistoric chunks of carbon, you’ll find tiny prices of amber. Yellow, orange & copper-colored transparent pieces of tree sap that once dripped from the trees that are now coal. If you find a large enough piece, you might find an insect forever trapped in its golden embrace.

For decades scientists, academics, and rock hounds have known about this location and tunneled through its clay thousands of times. All the best amber specimens are likely taken, or trapped forever under a neighboring condo complex.

But, for now, you can still go there, and find a lot of clay, a little coal, pyrite, and amber if you look hard enough.

A shallow hole was dug in the gray clay-rich soil.

Amber Pit

A deep pit in the clay.

Amber Pit

Tiny chunks of amber are found amongst the clay, pyrite, and lignite. Insects are found in larger pieces.

Amber

FeS2 is a mineral formed by bacteria from iron and sulfur. Pyrite and Marcasite forms are present in this location.

Pyrite

Lignite coal resembles the wood it was formed from.

Lignite

BlueBerriesinHand

Blueberry bushes in an old cranberry bog in the New Jersey Pine Barrens

You’ll find three signs within 100 feet of the entrance to just about any park in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. A notice about Spotted Lantern Flies, a warning about Lyme disease-carrying deer ticks, and a warning about rattlesnakes. Sometimes a warning about black bears as well. Spotted Lantern Flies are a threat to plants, but not people. Lyme disease, not treated early, can make your life miserable. A rattlesnake bite can kill you. A bear can eat you.

You know the risks, and how to mitigate them. Blueberries for the low price of 100 fly bites.

Apply tick repellant, and check for ticks after your hike. Don’t step on or near a snake. Make noise so the bears know you’re coming and avoid you. Don’t pet bear cubs or snakes.

Or, simply stay out of the Pine Barrens.

Snakes!

What the signs won’t warn you about is Deer flies. I can’t think of a more annoying pest. More annoying than mosquitos. Imagine being surrounded by a cloud of tiny needles that fly down and poke your face, neck, hands, arms, and legs, over and over again. The summer of 2022 was bad. Late spring & early summer was hot, and the flies were grotesquely plentiful. I had to hold my hands up by my face, like a boxer, and continuously swat them away. As my arms swung in front of me, dozens of flies bounced off my hands and arms. It was like fighting a ghost made of hundreds of thumbtacks. My face is tingling just thinking about them.

So I learned about Deer flies and bought a hat with mosquito netting and a long-sleeve shirt treated with pyrethrum.

Potential life-altering, and insanity-inducing threats aside, the Pines are a beautiful and mysterious place worth taking risks and fighting the occasional amorphous cloud of flies.

Cranberry bogs — especially those reclaimed by nature — are a beautiful sight to see, especially near sunset on a day when the air is still, and the water mirrors the sun, sky, and trees. Yes, plenty of flies too.
Bog

Take a quiet winding trail or dirt road around bogs, slow streams, and through groves of pines and oaks. Where will it take you?
Trail

Maybe the trail takes you to an abandoned grove of enormous blueberry bushes, where you can feast like a king until your lips & tongue are indigo, and your eyes and mouth widen with ecstasy, allowing the sun, and visions, and flavors of the blueberry bushes flow into your mind as a glorious memory you can always go back to, to lighten up a dark day.
BlueBerries

Or maybe the trail takes you to a serial killer riding a bear using a rattlesnake for a whip, coming straight for you. Because they’re running from a massive cloud of Deer flies.

Yum or None & Done. Make the choice. Bear the flies to get the berries.

Emilio Carranza Memorial in Tabernacle, NJ

Captain Emilio Carranza was a world-famous Mexican pilot, in the same league as Charles Linburg. In June of 2028, Emilio embarked on a goodwill trip to the United States, flying to Washington D.C., and then New York. Tragically, on July 12, 1928, on the return trip from New York to Mexico, his plane crashed in Tabernacle, New Jersey. Since then a memorial has been created in his honor in Wharton State Forest. It’s relatively easy to get to; just head take Rt. 206 to Medford Lakes Rd to Carranza Rd.

The monument stands in the middle of a forest clearing:
Carranza Memorial

Each side of the monument features a unique message or design honoring Emilio or his heritage:
Carranza Memorial Detail

A photo of Emilio from an informational poster near the monument:
Emilio Carranza

I visited the monument in July, and it was surrounded by many floral wreaths honoring Emilio:
Emilio Carranza Wreath

Official New Jersey State Park Service website