More Proof It’s a Very Small World

I ran away last weekend. I am soooooo tired of being stuck in my house. My house is lovely (despite the renovation), my cats are lovely (mostly), and I love all the convenience. But I have found that my personality is not a good fit for being housebound every day, all day. Every where I look I see something that needs to be fixed or something that needs to be put away or something that needs to be cleaned. It’s not even so much a question of needing to talk with other people – I’m on video conferences a good part of the day and the contractors always exchange pleasantries. I need the outdoors, a change of scenery, fresh air, and nothing for which *I* am responsible! I hopped in the convertible, top down, and headed OUT.

Since I’d been down the shore only 4 days earlier, I headed west this time, towards the Delaware River. There are many cute stores in Lambertville, one in particular delights me – A Mano. There is a restaurant in New Hope, The Landing, with a wonderful view of the river and great cocktails. My plan was to drive to Lambertville, park, wander about, catch a cocktail and a nosh in New Hope and then head back home for dinner (I had been promised burgers on the grill!).

A Mano was all I hoped it would be – a present for me and one for my adorable grand-niece, and lots of ideas for if when the renovation is done. Prezzies in hand I crossed the river to New Hope, but not without the obligatory mid-bridge selfie (my son got that picture). I wandered into several stores looking for an ankle bracelet – I’d lost my wonderful white & teal turtle bead one. I found 2 that would suit the same slot as the lost bracelet, and some guest towels for the bathroom. I realized it was 3pm and I was hungry – I’d not eaten all day. I went to the Landing which was PACKED – a 45 minute wait for a table. If I could find room at the bar, however, I could sit there and get a drink and a snack.

I was lucky and there were TWO empty chairs at the bar, despite 3 people standing right by them. If you are a group of 5, you can’t chat very well if everyone is seated at the bar. There was a couple sitting on the 2 seats by the wall, and I took the empty seat next to the woman. You know I’m gregarious and when the woman started adjusting her hair I smiled and said “you look great”. We started chatting. And chatting. It turned out they were from the town next to my hometown. I had to drive all the way to New Hope to meet neighbors??? Too funny! Then she asks me “do you know x?”. I nearly fell off my chair. I stared at her and said “That is my SISTER. WHO ARE YOU?????” Who is she? She’s Lu- she cuts my sister’s (2 other friends’) hair. She said that I sound like my sister, have the same head gestures, hands, mentioned where my/our mother lived, loved the now-defunct Sugarloaf Craft festival. Lu was sure x and I were related. *laughing and laughing* All the way to PA and I end up next to my sister’s hair stylist. It can be a VERY small world! But SO much FUN!!!

Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Atop the Kittatinny ridge

Doesn’t that title sound EXCITING???? IMPRESSIVE? Don’t my son and I sound healthy/virtuous/outdoorsy??? Well, we DID hike over 6+ miles on the Appalachian Trail when he came east for Passover in April. The amusing part was that we had not intended to hike the AT at all. We ended up there by accident. Okay, not accident – stubbornness by the elder side of the expedition. But as the REAL Park ranger said when we made it back to our car: “Now you can tell everyone you hiked the Appalachian Trail.” πŸ™‚

I have a few books on hikes in NJ. I looked through the books and picked out several hikes that I thought we might be able to do in April, when the weather is not too hot and not too cold but could turn out to be either. My son made his choice from my subset. We had Passover seders on Friday and Saturday night, Sunday was for recovery. Monday we had tickets to go to NYC to see Daniel Craig in Macbeth. We HOPED we were going. A few days before Passover it was announced that the cast had Covid and performances were cancelled, re-opening Friday night. Saturday. Sunday. Sunday night it was posted that the Monday performances were cancelled.

The weather was more cooperative on Tuesday than Covid was on Sunday, so we set out for the Mohican Outdoor Center in Warren County (north western NJ). The book described a nice hike starting near there, approximately 4 miles easy/moderate hiking on the Coppermines and Kaiser Trails. We had all day to walk, so we were sure we’d be alright. I should have done all the internet searching BEFORE the hike that I am doing NOW to show you the trails and information. *grin* Because then we would have been on the correct trail.

Not doing my research first was not my only mistake. When we hike in AZ we are SO GOOD about having all the water we might need, and any other accessories (sun screen, clothing, protein bars, etc). I don’t know why the same reflexes did not kick in for me in NJ. Because I was relaxed about being in NJ? Because it was April and cool? Because the trail was “easy/moderate”? We did NOT read the book description first, we did NOT bring enough water, we did NOT wear the right weight clothing. You’d think it was the first time we’d ever gone hiking. We had 2 water bottles, not our usual 4. We did have hats. The book warned that the weather in the mountains could get cold quickly, so we were in jeans. But it was April and sunny and the jeans were just too hot and confining for hiking. I didn’t have any protein bars either. We stopped for breakfast on our way north, which is what kept us going when we ended up hiking for 4+ hours.

We found the Mohican Center with no trouble. There were a few cars pulled off on the side of the road near a little wooden bridge, but we kept going up the very bumpy lumpy road until we found the lodge. There was a young man sitting on a car bumper by the Park Ranger vehicles. He was on his cell phone. We parked near him and wandered over to the lodge, which was closed. We had our book and the page/map marked. We probably should have actually read the book, not merely looked at the picture, because it gave explicit directions (walk x # of feet to the bridge, look for this, etc.) for finding the trailhead and how to proceed. The sign board did not. You can see there was a warning about rattlesnakes. I don’t know how many times we’ve seen warnings in both NJ & AZ about snakes, but we’ve yet to see a single snake, rattled or otherwise. I’m not sure if I regret that absence or I am grateful or both. πŸ™‚

We could see from the book that the actual trail was down the road from the lodge (we must have passed it on our way to park) but I, being the social, outgoing, neurotic person that I am, wanted to confirm it. πŸ™‚ So I interrupted the young man, who I assumed (yet again a huge mistake) to be someone official, and showed him the book/map and asked him where we’d find the trailhead. In hindsight this was NOT a wise move. He looked at the map, made a few assumptions of his own, and then told us that the trailhead was down the road, turn LEFT at the bridge, not over the bridge, and up the hill onto the trail.

That agreed with where we thought we should be heading so we walked down the road. As we neared the bridge an elderly gentleman (yeah, right, so maybe he was around my age – he LOOKED older than I) got out of his car and greeted us. We explained what we were doing and he told us to turn right over the bridge. I did NOT have in MY hearing aids and really could not understand the gentleman all that well, so I assumed (bad move) that he could not hear US all that well either. πŸ™‚ Can you play the ominous music now? We said no, up the hill, he said no, over the bridge. My son and I exchanged confused looks, thanked him, and turned LEFT, across the road, not right across the bridge, and headed up the trail.

So this is either when we still thought we were on the correct trail or our joyful faces when we realized we were calling it quits and heading back to the car. πŸ™‚

I will spare you the details of the next 4+ hours. Here is the Readers Digest version (do people even know what that phrase means anymore???). The old man was right (obviously). I should not have interrupted/trusted the young man, who assumed we wanted the AT, not the Coppermine. We hiked up the Kittatinny ridge, looking feverishly for the branch to the right as described by the map and the young man, who added that it would be hard to see if we were not looking. We kept trying to make what we were seeing match the sparse description on the map. We glimpsed what we thought was the Delaware River. It could have been. We were high enough and the trees were sufficiently bare that we might have been looking at the Delaware.

We had a lovely view of what we thought was the Paulinskill Valley. Or was it the Kittatinny Valley? And oh em gee. Unlike hiking in AZ mountains, we kept seeing the same darn tree and the same darn rock and the same view of the same valley, just a little further south. It was all the SAME. I have almost NO photos because every time I picked up the phone to take a shot it looked exactly like the last photo.

View to the valley. It was pleasant the first 10 times. πŸ™‚

And the trail markings are NOT like AZ. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, however. The trails we do in AZ are aimed at not losing any inexperienced, novice hikers. There are signs at every branch, clearly marked forks. At least that’s true for where we’ve hiked. In NJ on our two mountain hikes (I haven’t told you about last September yet) we followed white triangles and yellow rectangles and blue squares, all of which could be ANYWHERE – on a tree, on the ground, on a rock. We kept asking ourselves whether we’d missed the branch to the right to get on the Kaiser trail. Oh yeah, we’d missed it alright. πŸ™‚

an interesting branch. seriously – i was hard pressed to find anything photogenic.

We knew we missed our trail because enough time had passed that we should have seen the hydroelectric plant and found the turnoff to Kaiser Trail no matter HOW slowly we might have been proceeding. It was warmer than we expected. We were bored. We were running low on water. We were experiencing a major letdown. We broke out of the woods into a clearing with a fire tower. NOT on our map at all. There were school-age beings there, obviously hiking, some climbing up the fire tower, others lounging about. We asked them if they knew about the trail. They did not (big surprise not) but that their teacher was coming up the road (other direction from whence we came) and she would know. So we kept going. This part of the trail was wide enough for trucks/SUVs. It was also extremely muddy and rutted.

These rocks were the trail. This is on our way back home. Heading out I was extremely stressed at having to cross them. Perhaps you can see the drop to the left off the ridge. Going back the perspective was different enough that the drop was less obvious. And I knew I’d navigated it safely once already.

We did encounter the teacher, who had a map, and shared it with us. We learned we were at the Catfish Fire Tower. I think. Quite honestly I was so turned around, and I’m still having difficulty figuring out some of these online maps, that I doubt I’d actually place money on being at Catfish. But since it’s the only fire tower on the AT in Warren County, that’s probably where we were.

You can see our trail at the bottom – the star is the fire tower

As we stared at the map, and realized how we were nowhere we hoped to be, we realized we had only 2 choices. First was to turn around and hike back the way we’d come. The second was to find the Rattlesnake Swamp trail parallel to the way we’d come and go back that way (In hindsight we realized that the young man thought we were taking the Rattlesnake to the main trail). That looked longer and, to be quite honest, we were both really done with the AT and the Kittatinny mountains at that point. We had less than half our water and we were hot, tired and hungry. We turned around and hiked back.

Ah, if we only turned RIGHT over the bridge. This is what it looked like on the bridge. πŸ™‚

It was boring. It was uphill the whole way. Do not ask me how it could have been uphill the whole way home when it had been uphill the whole way out. It was. Every time we paused and looked ahead, it was an incline. I promise you that at almost NO point were we ever aware of walking down, but every time we looked ahead it was UP. The first hour of this hike was good. I confess that the last 3+ hours are probably NOT going into our top 5 hikes. πŸ™‚ Next time we turn RIGHT over the bridge.

The pleasant (yet taunting) sound of Yards Creek – had we turned RIGHT over the bridge. πŸ™‚

Cruising NJ

D&R canal, taken from the towpath in Lambertville, NJ

By now you’ve probably realized that I like driving about NJ, especially when the weather is warm enough for the red convertible with the top down! I took a week of vacation in September, just before Rosh Hashanah. I convinced my sister that she needed to join me in our car when I went cruising. “Our car” requires an explanation before she jumps in here. πŸ™‚ It is true – the car is part of our inheritance from our mother. Yep, our 80+ year old mother drove a red convertible. Obviously we both wanted the car once my mother stopped driving, so we put both of us down as owners. The truth is that we each have the car for approximately half the year. I have it from April through October, and my sister has it November through March when it is wintering in her garage. *grin* What? You don’t think that is equitable? *shrug* Works for me!

Beautiful purple berries along the towpath

Back to the storyline here… My first day off we decided to head to New Hope, PA to check out the fun stores there and have lunch along the Delaware. To get to New Hope we pass through Lambertville, NJ first. Lambertville has lots of fun stores and restaurants as well. We made a sudden decision to stop there first. I made the last possible turn before heading over the bridge to PA. We parked the car on one of the main streets and began to walk.

D&R canal, from Bridge St, Lambertville NJ

We didn’t get very far. We were parked in the first spot from the corner. We turned the corner and we were at the 5 and Dime, also known as A Mano Galleries. Quoting from their website: “A Mano, Contemporary Craft Gallery, in Lambertville, NJ,  is known for its unique collection of jewelry, pottery, home decor, hand-painted furniture and local artisans.  We carry products for men, women and children, specializing in American crafts.” This store is SO MUCH FUN!!!! It was like being at some of our favorite craft shows. As you know, there have not been any craft shows inside or out since the beginning of March. Walking into the 5 and Dime was like coming home. It was filled with all sorts of fun and beautiful items, functional and decorative, things that could be worn, things you could sit on, things you could display. I have no idea how much time we spent there. I DO know how much money I spent, because I fell in love with a hand-made copper and metal watch. I love watches. I’m not one who lives with her cell phone in one hand. I like to put it away and use it when I need to do something. I’d much rather have a beautiful watch on my wrist for checking time. And now I do. πŸ™‚

Sounds like my life πŸ™‚

We were laughing and chatting with the proprietor, Carla Riley. Her personality alone made being there worthwhile. Besides my watch I found a robe. I mention this because I’ve been needing a new robe for months, if not longer. Nothing I saw in the department stores appealed enough to buy. I love this robe. This is exactly the robe I wanted – a floral pattern, the right length, the right material. As we all say nowadays – “it” must bring you joy. This robe brings me joy LOOKING at it, and even more wearing it. Joy is good. I also found a sign that now hangs in my breakfast room. It seemed to summarize my life quite well.

Bull’s Run Recreaction Area, Raven Rock, NJ

We cruised about a few more shops, including a thrift store. I believe my niece now has a nice pair of boots. πŸ™‚ One of the requirements for lunch was that the restaurant must serve cocktails. Many restaurants had been recommended to us, but only one met the cocktail requirement – Lambertville Station. They were set up for outdoor dining (including having moved the ‘front desk station’ outside. We got a table outside, along the canal. (The Delaware & Raritan Canal is between the Delaware River and the NJ shore line.) We had a lovely lunch, then strolled back to the car, walking along the canal tow path. Many private properties border the tow path, with beautiful gardens, and porches. Most are screened from passersby by trees, hedges and fences, but you catch tantalizing glimpses as you walk.

From the pedestrian bridge, Lumberville, PA, looking South towards NJ (Bull’s Island)

We did indeed finally drive over the bridge into PA, but we weren’t hungry and we were “shopped out” so we kept driving. I recreated my June escape, crossing back to Stockton, NJ at Dilly’s corner, and then heading north on Rt. 29 to Bull’s Island Recreation Area in Raven Rock. I showed my sister the lovely green area along the canal, and we went out on the foot bridge. She loved it as much as I do. As daughters of an engineer, we are both fascinated by locks and enjoyed reading the details. After that we tried to “get lost” in Hunterdon county. *grin* I had a paper map in the car (we also both LOVE maps) and I told her to navigate us home without getting on any road that had more than 2 lanes. There were definitely times I was humming the theme to Deliverance because some of the roads we found were, well, less than 2 lanes. πŸ™‚ Ultimately we made it home (safely) and agreed it had been a great day.

Delaware River, looking north, NJ on right, PA on left

Down to the River

Delaware River, looking north
Delaware River, looking north towards PA

With Apologies to Bruce Springsteen:

I come from central New Jersey
where sister when you’re bored
They bring you up to meet in shops where you’d eat
But now there’s social distance and I can’t meet with my friends
I drove out of this borough to where the state line ends

I drove down to the river
And along the river I rode
Oh down to the river I drove

In my red convertible
on twisty winding lanes
I traveled through new jersey, and I was grateful for the lack of rain
The sun shone down so brightly
my heart began to soar
No traffic delays no tolls to pay
No sand dunes, no windy shore

That day I drove down to the river
And along the river I rode
Oh down to the river I drove

I woke up completely cranky on Saturday. I don’t know why. My suspicion is that I was going through challah withdrawal. Every Friday night since March 13 (with the exception of Passover of course) I have had a fresh-baked challah, courtesy of my brother-in-law. As I mentioned before, he’d had a fever for 2 days last week, so we did not all get together for dinner. No challah!!!! I can’t think of any other reason why I’d wake up cranky on a beautiful Saturday morning.

IMG_3496
Delaware & Raritan Canal, Raven Rock, NJ

I tried to work my way around the ‘crank’. I took care of the cats, finished a book. I wanted to work in the garden but it was sooooo humid!!!! A real NJ summer day. Temperature expected to get up in the 80s and humid humid humid. I was hoping that maybe I could find some outdoor event but of course everything is still cancelled. I tried to “accomplish” something so I’d feel less cranky. I ironed ALL of my tops that needed ironing. That made me feel self-righteous as well as productive. Back in the old days, children, people use to work in OFFICES (a collection of rooms and desks and chairs in a building). When we worked in an office, we used to have to wear nice clothes, because other people would see us – head to toe – NOT just see our head and shoulders. Back in those days, my husband used to do all the ironing. I would do all the laundry (washing and putting away clean folded clothes) and he would do all the ironing and folding of clean clothes. When the Change occurred, and people no longer worked in offices, people stopped wearing nice clothes for work. Since my husband only has phone calls, and never F2F visits or even video conferencing, he didn’t need nice clothes. He stopped doing the ironing. While this was fine for him, it did ultimately leave ME without any nice presentable (ironed) tops. I was lucky that the iron still functioned. I’ve already written about my difficulties with the iron. THIS time I made sure I had plenty of water to keep the beast hot. πŸ™‚

wise couple living the life at the D&R Canal
Wise couple living the life at the D&R Canal

I was so empowered by the ironing that I felt I could tackle changing the battery on the phone line box. I don’t feel like taking a picture of it. I don’t know what it’s called. It’s where all the phone lines come into the house, and it has a battery in it. For several months now the battery warning light has been on, the replace battery light has been on, and periodically the unit emits a piercing beep. My brother-in-law came by to look at it a few weeks ago to help me figure out what battery I needed to order. I ordered it, it came and it sat there, next to the unit. That didn’t seem to be sufficient because the unit kept beeping and the lights stayed on. Finally I opened the unit but the battery had weird-looking connections so I shut it again and left the battery a little closer. Saturday morning I decided to be brave and strong. I changed the battery. The red warning lights all turned off and there hasn’t been a beep since then. πŸ™‚ Victory!

Lumberville-Raven Rock Bridge 2
Entry to Lumberville-Raven Rock Pedestrian Bridge from Bull’s Island

I was still cranky. It was hot and humid but I figured by this time of day (it was after noon)the beaches would be full. I NEEDED to MOVE. I didn’t really care where I went, as long as it was away. I grabbed my beach bag (which has towels, and hats and stuff for being out in the sun) and got in the convertible. πŸ™‚ Top down. πŸ˜€ I headed west, towards the Delaware River. It’s not the shore, but it’s a nice drive (if you don’t take the highways) and maybe, just maybe, something along the river would be open. I was craving a chick cocktail. There is a restaurant in New Hope, PA (The Landing) that makes great cocktails.

The drive was wonderful. I wasn’t too hot because of the moving air. It doesn’t feel humid when the air is moving past you. When I got to Hopewell, I saw that one of the restaurants appeared to be serving food in front of the firehouse. I’d met a woman who lived across from that restaurant and we’ve texted a time or two. I texted her to see if she wanted to meet at the firehouse. I figured I could always turn around and go back if she wanted to get together. As long as I was stopped, I texted friends in Titusville to see if they wanted to meet up along the river, since I was nearly there. Well the friend from Hopewell now lives in Pennington (not all that far but she’d only just moved and was still trying to bring order to her life) and the friends from Titusville were all the way NORTH with family. πŸ™‚ No matter – I kept heading west.

Lumberville-Raven Rock Pedestrian Bridge
On the Lumberville-Raven Rock Pedestrian Bridge, looking towards PA

I crossed the river in Lambertville, into New Hope, PA. New Hope looked very open to me. As I crossed the bridge I could see folks at the outdoor tables of The Landing. People were walking along the main street, and shops were open. I could see people dining at other outdoor tables. I almost stopped – I actually pulled over into a parking spot. Then I decided that if I GOT a cocktail, I really shouldn’t keep driving the twisty, winding 2-lane roads I love. I didn’t feel like shopping alone, either. To be honest – it was simply wonderful driving the car, looking at the countryside, the trees, the canal, the river. Besides, trying to find a legal parking spot in New Hope is nearly impossible. I pulled out of the spot I was in (it wasn’t legal but I hadn’t turned off the car) and got back on the road. For those who know the area, I was driving north on Rt 32. I got up to Dilly’s Corner, which has the bridge back across the river to Stockton. I turned onto the bridge and noticed Dilly’s was OPEN! When I reached Stockton I turned around, because I thought a chocolate milkshake would be perfect. I drove BACK to Dilly’s. They were only taking online orders or phone calls. I had my phone with me, but it seemed like an awful lot of work for a milkshake. Got back in the car and went back over the bridge, and headed north on Rt 29.

folks living the live at Black Bass Inn, PA
Folks living the live at Black Bass Inn, PA

You can really see the river between the trees from that part of the road. It was lovely. I passed a small parking area for accessing the river. It was full. I passed another one – Bull’s Island Recreation Area. I thought – why not stop? I turned around and went back and parked the car. It was LOVELY. There is a boat launch, access to the Delaware & Raritan canal, forest, and a pedestrian bridge to PA. Of course the bathrooms and recreation area and visitor center were all closed due to covid19. There WAS a park ranger sitting at the entrance. Poor fellow – even in the shade it was a bit humid. The boat launch into the river was closed, but there was a smaller launch into the canal. I saw a couple sitting in chairs, near the canal. They’d obviously come for the day – chairs, books, food. What a brilliant idea. It could have been me – I carry folding chairs and a table in the car. πŸ™‚

Jersey shore of the Delaware River, Bull's Island
Jersey shore of the Delaware River, Bull’s Island, from pedestrian bridge

The pedestrian bridge was great. It is the Lumberville-Raven Rock Pedestrian Bridge. It says it is toll-supported but I saw no toll. πŸ™‚ I guess that means that tolls on other roads and bridges help support this one. I could stand in the middle and stare at the water. I did that. It worked, because when I closed my eyes that night to go to sleep, what I saw was the river. *huge smile* Across the bridge is the Black Bass Hotel with dining. I could see folks at the outdoor tables. It looked lovely. We’ll have to get back there and enjoy some fine dining ourselves. I relaxed, took pictures, and then got back in the car. I was trying to decide if I should continue north up to the Delaware Water Gap or if I should begin to head east towards home. I’d been out for about 2.5 hours at that point and while I wanted to keep going, I knew that sooner or later I was going to need a bio break. Furthermore it was a good 40 minutes or so to the Gap, at least the way I was going. From the Gap it’s an hour back home IF I take the highway and I was trying to avoid getting on any highways.

Delware River looking towards PA
Delware River looking towards PA

I continued up to Frenchtown, which also looked somewhat open, although not as open as New Hope. (Lambertville did NOT look open.) After Frenchtown I cut east, heading towards Whitehouse Station. I did cheat finally at Whitehouse Station and got on the highway to head home. All in all, by the time I got home, I’d spent 4 wonderful hours out in the fresh air and sunshine, enjoying New Jersey. AND I saw my first butterfly of the season!

first butterfly of the season
first butterfly of the season – that was as close as I could get. black with blue markings. Guessing it was a Black Swallowtail