Saturday, October 28, 2006

Pausing along Cedar Creek

Since high school I've visited Cedar Creek a number of times to camp or canoe, but more recently to try my luck with a kayak. The 17 mile trip through the meandering tea-colored water lasts about 4 hours and offers glimpses into the acres of cedar swamp and pine barrens habitat that comprise Double Trouble State Park in eastern Ocean County.

Last weekend I visited the park on foot for the first time to explore the trails and the historic village that preserves a cranberry farm and sawmill. Wandering through the woods I came across this view from the floodgate at the Mill Pond Reservoir. A group of kayakers had stopped for lunch as I passed by on my way to the white cedar swamp on the far side of the reservoir. According to my bird books, the area has nesting Wood Duck, as well as Black-throated Green and Black-and-white warblers. I'd never seen any nesting birds, other than Tree and Barn Swallows and Purple Martins, during my summer paddles down the creek. The barn swallows are ubiquitous and nest under the many small bridges that cross the creek.

For the most part the water is very gentle and slow; well suited to someone like myself who isn't entirely comfortable in a tippy vessel on the water. My last visit 2 summers ago was my first time in a kayak, rather than a 2 or 3 seater canoe, and I can say that I much prefer paddling alone in a kayak to struggling in a canoe because I am so uncoordinated. That visit was the first time that I hadn't tipped and dunked into the water at least once! In most places Cedar Creek is very narrow and curvy with overhanging branches that like to grab onto the unsuspecting paddler and send you into the cold water.

I especially like the many places to stop and rest along the way. Most of the trip is through dark woods, but suddenly you come upon an opening like the reservoir or a marsh before heading back under the dark and close trees. There are many shallow places with sandy beaches that invite a break for swimming and snacks. All of my trips on the water have been with a group that seems most concerned with getting to the end, rather than pausing along the way. That last visit stands out in my memory because it was made with my coworkers; among them Kathy -she who loves Turkey Vultures - and we paused often to take in the view or to swim. We arrived at the pick-up point at least two hours behind the rest of our group, who thought we had gotten lost somewhere along the way. We both were puzzled that anyone wouldn't want to get lost, for an hour or two, in such a peaceful and beautiful place.

10 comments:

Susan Gets Native said...

Sounds so great, to drift lazily down such a pretty vista. Some people only see the destination, and they don't enjoy the journey.
I SO want to come visit New Jersey (never thought I would actually ever SAY those words!). Your blog has shown me that NJ isn't all factories and petrochemical plants.
:)
(The word verification tonight was "pohjxe". Sounds like a town in New Mexico...'Sorry, I can't stay. I'm on my way to PO-JIX-EE.'"

Sandy said...

Looks fun, and you must have more more active friends than I do!!
Great shots and views of the foliage.

samtzmom said...

Wow Laura... you amaze me, and I enjoy living vicariously though your many adventures! I would be terrified in a tippy kayak, but would have done exactly as you guys did... taken my time and enjoyed the view! Isn't that what life is all about??

MojoMan said...

Cedar Creek sounds wonderful. I'd love to pause along the way and hunt for birds and plants (And maybe a Jersey Devil) that might be unique to the area. I'll have to put it on my growing list of places to visit.

Floridacracker said...

I am so ready to add a kayak to our collection of two canoes. It'll have to wait as long as there are three teenagers to feed and college tuition bills.
Cedar Creek sounds like a delightful place.

bunnygirl said...

You always do such cool things, Laura! I've paddled around a small lake before, but 17 miles is quite a journey!

It sounds absolutely lovey.

(And Susan, thanks for mentioning your word ver. I'm always looking for imaginary town names for my novels, set in the Southwest!)

vicki said...

I much prefer a kayak to a canoe- they seem more relaxing, comfortable and stable. I can actually focus on something other than staying afloat in a kayak. My daughter and I did a women's outward bound type trip about 5 years ago along Alaska's Inside Passage- such a trip!

This sounds like a delightful trip along Cedar Creek. This time of year is a great time to see waterfowl. Wood Ducks are wonderful ducks with somehwat peculiar nesting habits. We have some along the river here in Chicago- I was surprised when I first saw them. Thanks for the link to Double Trouble, too. I'm still trying to find a link to The Larch for you. :-)

bev said...

Cedar Creek sounds like a wonderful place to go paddling. Autumn is also so nice for canoeing or kayaking. The water is usually so very clear and bright leaves float on the water or carpet the stream bed. I tend to dawdle along in my canoe unless it's getting late in the day and I have a long way to go to the put-in. Sounds like your kayaking friends are like some of the people in a hiking club I once belonged to -- always seeming to be racing to get to the end of the outing!

LauraHinNJ said...

Blogger is even eating my response to comments now!

Bev: I'd imagine that water to be very cold this time of year! The people who were out were wearing what looked like wetsuits to me.

I don't understand the mentality of people to be in such a hurry. Maybe they're not so interested in hiking or kayaking (or birding, for that matter) as a way to enjoy the outdoors, but see it as more of a sport, to be competitive about?

Vicki: I'm such a klutz I have to really concentrate too. A kayak feels much more stable, although it doesn't look like it would.

I would love to hear more about your trip in Alaska!

Bunnygirl: I think most of the miles are in the twists and turns. I really had no idea it was that far until I saw it on a map.

LauraHinNJ said...

Susan: Should I do a commercial for NJ or what? ;-)

Sandy: Ha! This trip was *by invitation only* - I think I would have dunked and left for drowned most of my coworkers if given the chance!

Not you Debbie, of course. (In case you're reading this)

Samtzmom: Yes! What's the point otherwise?

Mojoman: I think the NJ Devil lives way south of Cedar Crek (at least I hope so!)