Weekend in NJ – Monday Oct 8

I took a day off on Monday Oct 8 (my company doesn’t have Columbus Day off) so that we wouldn’t have to leave the wedding early to come home. We’ve left weddings in New Jersey on Sunday before, but this one was farther from home and there were more people Arlene wanted to have plenty of time to visit with than other occasions; and I had vacation time to use up anyway.

We figured that there was enough time to spare that we could go up to Stokes State Forest for a couple of hours before we got on the road. Millie and Joel took their car, and we took ours since that was more or less on our way home — at least, going back to their house would have been much farther than going home directly from the excursion.

Stokes is up in the northwestern corner of New Jersey, near the Delaware Water Gap. Arlene grew up in New Jersey and doesn’t like to hear people knock the state, which many people who know New Jersey only from the New Jersey Turnpike do. The turnpike passes through lots of depressed urban areas, polluted industrial areas, littered marshlands, and other modern ugliness. When people drive from New York to Philadelphia or points south and only see that part of the state, they’re not going to love the scenery. Northwestern New Jersey is a different story, as beautiful as much of New England, Pennsylvania, and upstate New York. It was a pleasure to drive through there on the way to Stokes and on the way from Stokes to the highway.

Arlene and Millie wanted to see if cabin nine, where they had spent summer vacations in the ’50s, was still there. It was. It, along with the other cabins, had been modernized, with electricity and running water. The door and latch looked familiar. There were concrete steps up to the door, rather than wooden steps that Arlene thought it used to have. Lake Ocquittunk was of course smaller than it looked to Arlene as a child, and the swimming area didn’t seem to be there any more. The water was low with the drought we had had all September.

We drove up to the parking area near the top of Sunrise Mountain. A large bird, we thought a grouse, flew across the road just in front of Millie and Joel’s car.

It’s only a few hundred yards up the trail (the Appalachian trail!) from the parking area to the top of Sunrise Mountain. When we had been there once a few years ago in the spring we looked off the steep side and saw vultures soaring below us in the valley. There were vultures soaring like that this time, too. More exciting, there were two knowledgeable hawk watchers. They pointed out sharp-shinned hawks which were coming by frequently enough that there was almost one or more in sight. They spotted a peregrine falcon also, which is a very good bird in anyone’s book. Besides the hawks, there was almost always a monarch butterfly in view. I saw many of them migrating from my window at work last year, but hadn’t seen so many this year.

The fall foliage was beautiful, as good as we had seen it in New England up to that point (though we later had a gorgeous weekend in Maine the 20th and 21st of the month).

On the road again, we found a great public radio station, WPKN from Bridgeport CT, at 89.5. They seem to have mostly music, and are very proud of having no format and no underwriting. It’s like a college station, but not run by college students. I’ve been wondering for years what the difference is between underwriting statements on NPR stations and messages from sponsors. Of course, there are lots fewer underwriting statements than messages from sponsors on commercial stations, and they’re each shorter and less annoying, but still, it’s hard for me to accept NPR as noncommercial. This one is. The thing that struck me the most about it, though, was hearing the DJ say, “this recording has a special meaning for me, because we were listening to it the first time I smoked pot.” I mean! Right there over the radio.

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