It is the height of summer in New Jersey. For most of the past week, temperatures have been exceeding 90 degrees, and humidity has been the heat’s steady companion. If you want to avoid the heat by laying low, binge watching your favorite shows on Netflix, drinking plenty of iced beverages, and sitting beneath the nearest fan, no one would blame you!
However, when it comes to road trip adventures, my wife and I are not deterred by the dog days of the summer. Instead, we slather on the sunscreen, fill up (several) thermoses with water, grab our sunglasses, and head out to continue our explorations. While we originally had thoughts of taking it easy this weekend after our long trip to the Adirondacks last week, those plans quickly changed. With comments of “Hey, do you want to go back to that park we visited?” and “Remember that sign we saw on the highway for that place we wanted to check out?” and “You know, I’ve always wanted to see that!”, our weekend quickly booked up with new adventures.
So come along then to a park that’s becoming a new favorite, a cool bird sanctuary, and a historic port city in central New Jersey.
Our Days of Adventure (and Heat!)
Raritan Bay Waterfront Park
On a hot July afternoon, my wife and I decided to take walk along the Raritan Bay in the town of South Amboy. From the banks of the Raritan Bay Waterfront Park, we had a cool view of Great Beds Light. Eagle-eyed readers might remember our previous visit to this park earlier in the spring.
As we walked along the bay, numerous gulls swooped overhead. While I’ll often go to great lengths to identify birds in this blog, I realize that I all too often will see a seagull and simply write, “Oh, that’s just a gull.” In reality, there are actually 54 different gull species (via Wikipedia). This is the black-headed gull.
A relative of the seagull, the common tern is noted for its pointed wingtips and a forked tail.
Taking our eyes away from the birds of the sea, my wife spotted this monarch butterfly resting in a shrub near the beach.
If your car breaks down, you call a tow truck. But what happens if you own a boat and it runs into trouble? You call a tow boat! As we were walking back to the car, we spotted this tow boat maneuvering to assist some boaters in distress. Just like AAA does for your car, BoatU.S. offers towing services for your boat – $90 for a year-long membership for freshwater assistance, and $165 a year for saltwater towing. Given that a tow boat will typically charge $250-300 per hour for a rescue, towing insurance makes sense! Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary
On a hot Saturday morning, we set off for Morristown, to visit the Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary. Operated by the New Jersey Audubon Society, the sanctuary provides a protected habitat for more than 200 species of wildlife (via New Jersey Audubon).
After a 45 minute drive, we arrived at the sanctuary. Although parking is limited, we had no problem finding a space, as most people were probably heeding the excessive heat warnings. Not us, dear reader, not us! We brave snow, rain, heat, and gloom of night to bring you these posts!
The welcome center of the preserve is practically one with the forest! We stopped into the center to grab a map and orient ourselves to the sanctuary. Unfortunately, the viewing platform at the top of the building is closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
We began our trek by hiking down Dogwood Trail, one of four primary trails through the sanctuary. The trees gave us welcome respite from the mid-morning sun.
Were we entering Jurassic Park? This ominous-looking gate appeared a short distance into the woods. It turns out that it is designed to keep deer from intruding upon the more environmentally sensitive areas of the preserve. Visitors are asking to kindly close the gate behind them.
Although we had a lovely time hiking through the woods, I would offer one suggestion to the sanctuary – that signage on the trails be improved. My wife and I, at this point, would consider ourselves intermediate hikers. We’re certainly not experts, but we can manage a trail and navigate unfamiliar terrain well. We found the trails of the sanctuary to be less-than-ideally marked. Although there were a few large signs (pictured), actual trail markers on trees were few and far between.
The 80-mile long Passaic River passes through the sanctuary. Although a far cry from the roaring lower sections of the river such as Great Falls in Paterson (that we visited a few years ago), this stretch of river was peaceful and beautiful.
At one point, we emerged from the forest into a clearing near the Vernal Pond, and were rewarded with this beautiful red-tailed hawk in the sky above us.
As I tracked the hawk with my camera, my wife pointed out something else high in the sky above it…
There were two red-tailed hawks flying together. We learned later that red-tailed hawks will often fly in pairs, but this was the first time my wife and I had ever seen more than a single hawk in the air.
Then, a third red-tailed hawk emerged from the tree line. The hawks were not only putting on an aerial performance, but also calling to one another, their shrill, high-pitched calls easily heard by us far down below.
The aerial display was absolutely magnificent. After five minutes of their performance, the hawks departed. It was sheer magic.
Ducking back into the forest, we spotted a somewhat smaller airborne creature… this eastern tiger swallowtail was feasting on some wildflowers.
One area where the sanctuary gets an A+ is the use of boardwalks to provide easier walking through marshy areas of the trails. Step off the boardwalk in this area, for instance, and you can feel yourself begin to sink. Overall, the sanctuary is a great place to visit, and while there are special events that require paid tickets, admission to this beautiful spot is free. I would highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area!
As we were leaving Morristown, we made a couple quick stops before heading out of town. Our first was to this statue of General George Washington. The Continental Army camped twice in Morristown – once in 1777, and then again in the winter of 1779-1780.
We also stopped by Ford Mansion, which served as Washington’s headquarters during the difficult winter of 1779-1780. Longtime readers of the blog may remember my previous visit a few years ago. We stopped by as part of a new challenge my wife and I are attempting to complete (more on that below). After an enjoyable morning, we headed home and got ready for our second day of exploration. Perth Amboy
Our next destination was the historic city of Perth Amboy, located on the Raritan Bay. Native Americans of the Lenape people visited this site, calling it “Ompoge,” which means “level ground.” Later named by Scottish settlers as “New Perth,” after one of the men who financed the settlement, the original Native American name stuck, transforming over the years from “Ompoge” to “Amboy.” Eventually, residents in the late 17th century split the difference and settled on its final name: Perth Amboy (via Wikipedia).
Our first stop was to the Proprietary House, the home of the British-appointed governor of New Jersey. This is the last surviving such building in any of the original Thirteen Colonies. Did you know that Perth Amboy was once the capital of the colony of New Jersey? Originally, the eastern half and western halves of New Jersey were governed separately, and Perth Amboy was the capital of East Jersey. When the two colonies were united in the early 18th century, the capital would alternate each year between Perth Amboy and Burlington (the former West Jersey capital). This arrangement would continue until 1790, when Trenton was made the state capital (via Wikipedia).
William Franklin, the last governor of New Jersey appointed by the British king, resided here until his arrest. If his name sounds familiar, it is because he was the estranged son of Benjamin Franklin (via Wikipedia)! Unfortunately, the Proprietary House is closed due to COVID-19, so we will definitely come back for an in-depth tour once it reopens.
Our next stop was to Sadowski Park, a gorgeous stretch of land beside the waterfront. International Park, a section of Sadowski, features monuments to Casimir Pulaski, a Polish immigrant who served under George Washington, a bust of Nicholas Copernicus that was erected on the 500th anniversary of his birth, and a monument to Juan Pablo Duarte, one of the founders of the Dominican Republic.
In front of the Duarte monument is a plaque that commemorates the Scottish immigrants who established the settlement that would eventually become Perth Amboy. While doing research for this post, I discovered several interesting facts about the city… including that the first African-American to vote in an election under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution did so in Perth Amboy (via Wikipedia). In honor of that event, March 31st in New Jersey is celebrated as Thomas Mundy Peterson Day – fascinating stuff!
With access to Raritan Bay, which leads to the Atlantic, Perth Amboy has long had a connection to seafaring.
Numerous signs throughout Sadowski Park tell of the history of Perth Amboy. One that immediate caught my eye was this one for Great Beds Lighthouse!
Look familiar? We saw Great Beds a few days before when we visited the Raritan Bay Waterfront Park!
We were apparently visiting these herring gulls during lunchtime.
This Great Egret was standing on a small jetty near the shore, searching a tidal pool for fish.
We were close enough that I thought I’d have a decent change of photographing the egret taking flight. We waited, and waited, and waited… and just as we were about to leave, my patience was rewarded.
Turns out, he was only hopping from the rocks onto the shore, for a better vantage point for his hunting. No matter – I was thrilled with the shots!
After giving me a little air show, the egret resumed its hunting for its next meal. The Great Egret is the symbol of the National Audubon Society. The society was originally founded in 1905 to stop the slaughter of millions of egrets each year, as their white feathers were particularly valuable as decorations for hats (via Audubon).
Hanging out on the beach isn’t just for humans – these swans were getting in on the action too! Did you know that swans mate for life? These are beautiful birds, but do be careful around them – they are highly protective of their young, and will attack anything that gets too close to their nest (via Wikipedia).
It was a fun day exploring a new city – neither my wife nor I had ever set foot in Perth Amboy before today, and there is still lots more to see! Meanwhile, the Accord had a pretty quiet week after its Adirondack trip, but it handled today’s trip with ease. I think the blend door motors in the dashboard (they control the flow of air out of the vents) are starting to wear our. They’re making an audible, intermittent clicking noise. I’ll wait until it gets a bit more consistent, and then have it addressed. Otherwise, all seems well at 176,299 miles. Onward! Updates
A Scavenger Hunt, New Jersey-Style.
A new challenge awaits my wife and I this summer! NJ Monthly magazine is holding a scavenger hunt – find 36 different locations around the state, take a selfie in front of them, and then upload them to the NJ Monthly website. We have currently completed 4 of the 36 – 32 more to go! Meanwhile, I am also doing my own version of the challenge – parking my car in front of the location and taking a photo (I mean, c’mon… are you surprised?). My mom was kind enough to let me use her HR-V to go to the Peter Mott House, a former stop along the Underground Railroad in Lawnside, NJ, that is one of the eight scavenger hunt locations in southern NJ. When we have completed the challenge, I will write a post detailing our adventure. Stay tuned! Fit for Print
I am a fairly active member of some online Honda (and Jeep) vehicle owner forums. I have met some really interesting people through them, and recently, one of them completely knocked my socks off. Another member was joking that some of my car photos looked like they were from a brochure, so a very talented member brought that idea to life. Check out this cool mock-up he created in Photoshop!
The next morning, this was waiting in my inbox – he had truly gone overboard with these. So cool! Although the creator told me that no public acknowledgement was necessary, I say thank you, kind sir! (I mean… it’s totally cool, right?). And if you’re curious, these are the locations featured, clockwise from top left: Sag Harbor in Long Island (NY), the Stone Pony in Asbury Park (NJ), Donaldson Park in Highland Park (NJ), a road outside Provincetown (MA), a rest stop in Remsen (NY), SHI Stadium at Rutgers University in Piscataway (NJ), and Cape May (NJ). Wrapping Up
While this blog has featured its share of long-distance road trips, some of the best adventures can happen less than an hour from your front door! Raritan Bay Waterfront Park is open daily from 6:00 am – 8:00 pm, and admission is free. The
Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary is open Friday and Saturday from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm, and Sunday from 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm. Admission is free, although do bring money for the excellent gift shop in the welcome center! Finally, Sadowski Park in Perth Amboy is open daily from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, and is also free.
As always, thanks for coming along on yet another journey down the open road ahead.
‘Til next time.