Laurence Harbor Beach, yesterday and today

I visited Laurence Harbor Beach, (New Jersey) on 12/30/2022. Unfortunately, it was high tide, so beach combing was “slim pickings”.

Laurence Harbor Beach today:
Laurence Harbor Beach

Here’s a postcard from the first half of the 20th century of the same beach:
Laurence Harbor Beach

Laurence Harbor is good for rounded brick chunks, bathroom tiles, and bay-tumbled stones. There is also some nice gneiss, but it is part of the sea wall, so don’t remove it. The sea wall at Laurence Harbor needs to be rebuilt. There’s a lot of erosion.

Finding nothing interesting on Laurence Harbor beach…

As usual, beach combing on Cliffwood Beach was better for beach combing. Neither beach is good for sea shells, but they’re good for weird rocks and human debris (old coins, bricks, railroad spikes, ceramic electrical insulators):

Green basalt with crystals:
Green Basalt

Ironstone with an interesting pattern:
IronStone

JB Pines

Jamesburg Park Conservation Area, Disjunct Pine Barrens

Jamesburg Park Conservation Area is a rectangular park in Helmetta, East Brunswick, and Spotswood, New Jersey. The part in Helmetta is well-manicured, and family-friendly, with a lake to kayak & a playground for kids. The part in East Brunswick is the gritty, sandy, muddy, get-ready-to-dodge ATVs in the woods part. That’s the part I like. Interestingly, the park is part of a  disjunct region of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, specifically called the Spotswood Disjunct Pine Barrens area. Disjunct means it’s geographically disconnected from the rest of the Pine Barrens. Middlesex county, home of East Brunswick, is New Jersey’s second-most populous county — so it is surprising to imagine any forest that has not been raised and replaced with tracts of beige condominiums & McMansions, let alone something exciting as sandy-soiled pine country.

Pitch Pine Cone

People familiar with the better-known Pine Barrens in south Jersey will recognize many of the same plans and animals in Jamesburg park. Fowler’s Toads, wild blueberry-like plants, wintergreen, oaks, ticks, and of course Pitch Pines.

Sandy Soil

The geology is also similar: sandy soil, pure sand in some places, quartz pebbles, and plenty of bog iron/limonite.

Limonite

The roads in the area have so many pot-holes, it’s like gray Swiss cheese, or maybe the Moon. Single-lane Locust Ave (East Brunswick) has a spacious rock parking lot near a trailhead. Here’s a map of the trails. I parked there and entered the most challenging part of the hike — the Red trail — a sloping trail festooned with ankle-rolling stones, and toe-busting roots.  No obvious pines at this point  — mostly deciduous trees. The Red trail transitions to the Yellow trail, with leads to the White trail. Once on the White Trail, known as the Pitch Pine Loop, it’s clear you’re in the Pine Barrens. The ground becomes golden-white sand, and oak and pine trees are abundant, as are the blueberry-like berries, striped wintergreen, and plentiful mushrooms found in Pine Barrens of Burlington County. In spots the soil transitions from sandy to red/brown soil, quartz and bog iron are abundant, but mica schist and sandstone can also be found in places. The overall hike reminds me of Hartshorne Woods as much as the Pine Barrens. Hartshorne contains 4 major geologic formations (Shrewsbury Member of the Red Bank Formation, Hornerstown Formation, Vincentown Formation, and the sandy, gravely, iron-formation-rich Cohansey Formation shared by the southern Pine Barrens). Jamesburg Park features just one (the sandy Magothy Formation), but it transitions through a few soil types, and Magothy isn’t known for the abundant iron I see in Jamesburg. I wonder if more than one formation is exposed in the area.

A word of caution about the park: there are a lot of ATV and dirt bike riders on the trails. Listen for their motors and get ready to hop off the trail when they approach. If you have a hearing disability, come with a friend who can listen to their engines.

High-tension wires border the park on the southwest side. Also a favorite area for ATVs.

High Tension

On the north-east side of the park there’s some kind of foundation, covered with graffiti eyes:

Eyes in the Woods

Pretty but parasitic plants living off trees in low-nutrition soils:

parasitic

Four YouTube explorers to follow for New Jersey content

I try to get out into the wilderness of New Jersey at least twice a month. Mostly the Pine Barrens, but every county in Jersey has great places to hike, discover and explore.

Here are four inspirational YouTube content creators who specialize in exploring the parks and woodlands of New Jersey:

cherri400

Cherri400 has videos of just about every park or woods in New Jersey. What to learn about a park? Check out her videos. I found her channel while looking for Pine Barrens “blue hole” information. “Blue holes” are sand pits that fill in with water. She posts new videos at least once a week.

Here’s her video Our Search For More Blue Holes in the Pine Barrens.

The Wandering Woodsman

I found the Wandering Woodsman’s channel while looking for Pine Barrens videos. He posts new hiking and camping videos from Pennsylvania and sometimes New Jersey, almost every day. My favorite videos are when he visited the Pine Barrens.

Harrisville ~ Ghost Towns of the Jersey Pine Barrens:

DD Explores

DD’s video about the Hibernia Bat Cave inspired me to explore it myself (my article). Like the Wandering Woodsman, DD explores New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Great videos to inspire your next trip.

Rustic Ventures

Rustic Ventures also specializes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. She posts a few times a month, and has some great Pine Barrens videos. Her video about ABANDONED BUNKERS in NJ Pine Barrens inspired plans for a future trip for me. I’m familiar with the bunkers in Middletown, NJ, but not in the Pines.

New Egypt Flea Market

New Jersey has many well-known flea markets (aka “boot sales” or “swap meets”), including New Egypt, Englishtown, Collingswood, Golden Nugget, and Columbus.

The New Egypt Flea Market Village has the most character of all the Jersey markets. While most markets have one or two year-round buildings and vast parking lots filled with tables and tents, New Egypt is comprised of a village of tiny, colorful houses, each with its own unique personality and goods for sale. It’s a stew of hillbilly, hippy, gypsy, rock n’ roll, Americana, and rural charm. You’ll find well-curated shops selling music, toys, antiques, homemade soaps, dried flowers from the Pine Barrens, coffee, and more (see the merchant list). You won’t find as many of the “dollar store” type items like off-brand batteries, cell phone cases, crew socks, and cheap sunglasses that dominate other fleas.

The entrance to the New Egypt Flea Market features weathered signs that look like they were last painted in 1969 with paint left over from a swimming pool (or my Dad’s old station wagon).
Entrance to New Egypt Flea Market

The day I visited there was a car show and a rockabilly concert. The guys from Weird New Jersey had a table to sell their magazine, patches, and stickers.
Classic Car

The wood-carved pig caught my eye. Now I’m hungry for Pork Roll. There’s a place next door to the flea market that resembles Barter Town from Mad Mad where chainsaw bears, eagles, and other beasts are made.

Wooden Pig

Balloons made of old vinyl records on the side of a music shop:
Record Balloons

The Abandoned Hofheimer Grotto in Warren, New Jersey

Long story short: there was a guy named Nathan Hofheimer who had a copper mine in Warren, NJ. When the copper mine gave up all the copper it could, Hofheimer filled it with water and surrounded it with a semi-circular, multi-level structure made from rocks pulled from the mine, creating the impressive and eponymously named, Hofheimer Grotto. More info about the copper mine on Mindat.org.

Grotto Plaque

Grotto

The Grotto is currently the property of Elks Lodge 885. It’s open to the public and can be found at 99 Bardy Rd, Warren, NJ, nestled in the woods on the Elks Lodge property.

Sadly, the Grotto has fallen into disrepair. People throw tires, shopping carts, picnic tables, and every kind of trash you can imagine into the Grotto orifice — masks, vape cartridges, dental floss picks, blue bags filled with canine excrement, beer bottles, pizza boxes, Monster energy drink cans — it’s all in there. On top of the garbage, the Grotto is overgrown with all manner of weeds, including the thick-trunked Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), which attract the lousy Spotted Lantern Flies that parasitize them. The water in the Grotto is stagnated and green. It doesn’t smell bad though, which is good.

Regardless of the decay, the Hofheimer Grotto is worth checking out. I climbed its Roman coliseum-like structure and chilled for about 30 minutes. Greeted dog-walkers as they entered the park. It was nice.

South-east of the Grotto, you’ll find the Hofheimer Cemetery. I found the Mausoleum, which was totally desecrated, slathered with spray paint, and had a collapsed roof. I walked the nearby trails and saw some mounds that looked human-body-sized.

Hofheimer Cemetery

So what can be done?

I’ve read that part of the problem is getting power to the Grotto to power lights and a fountain to keep the water from stagnating. Allegedly, Warren Township and the Elks need to cooperate on this, and they can’t agree on a path forward. Maybe, solar to make everyone happy? Then get a team of volunteers from the Lodge, a wood-chipper, chainsaws, and a dumpster, and get rid of the brush. Pump put the water. Fix or put in the fountain. Put in some lights. Rainbow LED fountain lights. Make it safe for families. Fix up the cemetery. I’m willing to help.

Hibernia cave

Hibernia Bat Mine Mine in Hibernia, New Jersey

Nestled in a hillside in Hibernia, New Jersey, you’ll find the Hibernia mine (mindat.org page). In the 18th and 19th centuries, New Jersey was a top location for iron production. In the south there was bacteria-created “bog iron”, and in the north, in places like Hibernia, magnetite, magnetic iron ore, was torn from the bellies of mountains.

Map of The Hibernia Mines

It took me a while to find the mine. The trail, starting at the trailhead at Green Pond Road & Lower Hibernia Road, forks in several places. One path leads to the graffitied ruins of a building, one leads to a pile of mine tailings, one leads to more ruins…

Hibernia  ruins

… and the top of the mountain, and one — the one you want — that heads toward the mine. Starting from the trailhead, I think it’s the second fork on the right; you walk up a hill and when you see what looks like the back of someone’s backyard, take the train on the left. When you get near the cave, you’ll feel the air get colder. There’s a wood platform on the left and on the right the final path to the mine.

As you get closer…

Approaching Hibernia Mine

And closer to the mine entrance, you’ll notice the air coming from the mine is very chilly…

Hibernia Mine entrance

Freezing cold, in fact.
Hibernia Mine a chilly 30 degrees

The mine is sealed off to protect it, and the bats who live there, from vandals and ne’er-do-wells. Though you cannot explore inside, what can be seen from the outside is visually impressive, and the cool air is a refreshing treat on a hot summer day.

Geologically speaking, you’ll find all kinds of interesting rocks in the park surrounding the mine: massive glacial erratics, purple & white “pudding stone”, pink granite, magnetite, biotite, milky quartz, and lots of banded, and some folded, gneiss. Migmatite, maybe?

In terms of hiking and discovery, throughout the park, you’ll find the collapsed entrances to mines, piles of tailing from mines, a cemetery for miners, stone ruins of building used to process ore, massive bear turds, and plenty of beautiful New Jersey nature.

Cliffwood Beach used to have cliffs made of prehistoric wood & amber

Cliffwood Beach, a community in Aberdeen, New Jersey, used to have cliffs made of prehistoric wood called lignite & amber. The cliffs have been covered with rock and concrete to prevent erosion, but if you’re patient, you’ll eventually find some lignite, marcasite, and even amber on the shore. Other than lignite and marcasite, I’ve found siderite, fossils, blue crystals, jasper, green basalt, almost-clear quartz pebbles, and human artifacts like electrical insulators and old bricks. Unlike the New Jersey beaches along the Atlantic Ocean, Cliffwood Beach is a beach of Raritan Bay. Don’t expect big waves, a boardwalk, or the cast of the Jersey Shore. Do expect some interesting rocks and artifacts.

Mindat page for Cliffwood Beach.

Lignite with Maracasite:
Lignite with Maracasite

Whale Creek
Whale Creek

Cliffwood Beach: plenty of rocks, clay, and old iron from buildings and boats.
Cliffwood Beach

Iron-stained quartz:
Iron-stained quartz

Fossils:
Fossils

Walking around Hammonton, New Jersey

Hammonton, New Jersey is a large, rectangular town located in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. It is known as the blueberry capital of the world. I found it interesting for its microbrews, in particular, Chimney Rustic Ales. Their purple Wave Water is unique and tasty.

Wave Water

I only spent an hour in town, but a walked a few blocks and liked what I saw.

Unusual architecture:
Hammonton, NJ

A good antique/collectables store: Vintage Betty’s.
Vintage Bettys

Ghost signs:
Ghost Sign

This sign:
Welcome to Hammonton NJ

Cow chairs:
Cow Chairs

Batsto Village in the New Jersey Pine Barrens (Jersey Devil?)

Batsto Village (website), located in Wharton State Forest in New Jersey, is a preserved and restored village that once manufactured iron and glass. The village contains many well-maintained 19th-century buildings, a museum & gift shop, the Mullica River, and Pine Barrens hiking trails. History & nature — something for everybody. There’s also a connection to the Jersey Devil.

Batsto Mansion:
Batsto Mansion

A large sample of the bog iron that was used for iron manufacturing:
Bog Iron

The Mullica River is dammed at the site of the village to power a mill (or two). The Mullica is a favorite of kayakers, but maybe not at this exact location. It was previously known as the Batsto river.
Mullica River

The nature trails are loaded with opportunities for naturalists and photographers.
Mushroom

Batona Trail