Independence Day Reflection

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I’m waiting.  Am I waiting for a cure?  Am I waiting for political harmony?  Cooler weather?  Or am I waiting for Godot?  With temperatures in the high 90s the past few days, I’ve been inside most of the time.   Brief early morning forays into the garden, harvesting, staking, weeding.  Not too long.  Kwait’s dog has been with us since they are at LBI for a few days.  So I’ve stayed in the house with Tosh while Diane takes Nala for a morning longer walk.  The AC is on, but it has a hard time keeping up with the heat.  It’s July 4; a holiday; independence; barbecues; fireworks; a celebration freedom.  Why am I waiting?

There have been several feel good, let’s bury the hatchets, stop arguing politics, we can get along, listen and trust each other articles that I read.  I strain, yes, that would be good.  But . . . but . . . I don’t feel it.  Independence, freedom for me is having control.  It’s a bad trip if I’m in the hands of fate, circumstances, or other people.  I’ve been struggling with my medical issues; will I be able to; do this; go there; can I do what I want?

Our political climate leaves me feeling powerless.  In the 1960s, I was a 20 year old who thought our country, the world, was ripe for positive change.  Equality, equity, independence, more freedom.  Sixty years later; I repeat, sixty years later we have Trump and company.  They are rolling back civil rights, environmental policy, worker protection, the safety net for the poor and disabled, affirmative action, women’s rights, gay rights and the list goes on.  Our Allies are our enemies; dictators are our friends.  And somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of Americans like it.  I don’t feel very independent, free or in control.

The Declaration Of Independence

” No taxation without representation.” One in a list of complaints the American colonists had against the British government in 1776, listed in the Declaration of Independence.   If I was a Pennsylvanian then, I suspect I would have been on the side of revolution, independence, and freedom.  I’ve tried today to reconcile that spirit with my current “I’m not in control feeling.”  It’s not easy.  But I’m hopeful.

There was some garden harvest today.  I enjoyed reading an Irish book, “The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty” recommended by Trish O’Connor.  I dealt with my medical issues.  And I thought about things. I don’t have answers but I will wait, hope and yes, prevail.  Maybe I am still independent; maybe I’m free. Maybe.  Damm it.  I am.

 

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Retirement Five Begins

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I’m amazed. I’m beginning my fifth year of retirement. Year 1 was great; year 2 found me hospitalized;  recovery in the third.  C-diff put me down for months beginning last July.  Fortunately there’s been no recurrance. But it led to a pretty uneven, sometimes rocky year four – relapse and recovery, I’ll call it.

I could call it “The year of the wood stove.”  From October through March I built a daily fire burning over a cord of wood.  Many afternoons were spent in front of the stove with a book or late afternoon nap.  The year could also be labeled, “The year of the new dog.”  Nala came in November.  She is a medium size black rescue from Alabama (we’re not sure, Border Collie?  Labrador?).  From the beginning she was easy going, calm with minor bad habits.  She even gets along with CheCho, the cat.

 

 

With Nala it’s been “The year of walking.”  I’ve been walking fairly regularly since retirement on the canal behind our house.  A mile has been the typical walk.  Diane walks Nala locally in the early morning but likes to take a late morning or afternoon longer walk.  She drives somewhere.  I skipped most cold days in winter but with Spring weather I have gone more frequently.

 

 

We might go somewhere on the Delaware Canal. In New Jersey there is Washington Crossing State Park, Goat Hill Overlook (above Lambertville), Baldplate Mountain, Fiddler Creek, Rosedale Park (with a dog park), Mercer Meadows . . . We also go to the Delaware and Rariton Canal near Stockton, Prallsville Mill or Bulls Island.  A ranger at Bulls Island recently guided us to a huge dog part in Horseshoe Bend State Park in Frenchtown.  It’s a long ride but a nice outing. Closer to home is Core Creek and Tyler Parks.   We might do some of this walking self-motivated but it’s necessary when you have a dog.

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Some days we include food shopping as part of our outing.  There is always NonSuch Farm outside Doylestown.  We sometimes do much of our weekly shopping there.  A great selection of local vegetables, fruit, dairy, meats, breads and snacks.  On a longer drive to Peace Valley Park, we will go to Tabora Farm, fantastic bakery, and good take out sandwiches to eat at Lake Galena.

In New Jersey, there is Blue Moon Acres outside Pennington.  Their micro greens are famous but the market stocks all local product from Griggstown pot pies, to cheeses, produce, honey, and preserves. They also run some classes and special events.  In Hopewell we go to the Brick Farm Market. They have a good take out deli and backery, meat and cheese counter and some local products.  Near Titusville is Gravity Hill Farm, a small market featuring their produce and plants, they also host Roots to River Farm (New Hope) and the Farm School.  Diane and I, Jenny, Eli and Viv have all taken cooking classes at the Farm School.

We also go go several seafood markets, Nassau Street, Buckingham and Heller’s in Warrington.  We took several trips to Island Beach State Park in early Spring.  It was cool and windy but we can take Nala on a Beach walk; we’ll sit in the sun for a while, then drive to Point Pleasant’s Shore Fresh Seafood Market, local flounder, local scallops.  The best.

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Food adventures include our “weekly” lunches out.  The Pineville Tavern is a standard.  I recall going there in the 70s after working with John Paglione on the Daniels’ farms — milk cows, chickens and hay.  No craft beer then; did we drink Bud?  We try to find new restaurants.  The Blue Bottle in Hopewell was a great surprise.  Don’t let the plain track house fool you; the food is excellent.  We also really enjoyed finding Under the Moon in Lambertville, Spanish, some tapas.  Inn of the Hawke and Marhaba were also new in Lambertville.

We also rediscovered several local restaurants this year.  We returned to the Lambertville House and Earl’s in Lahaska (closed due to a fire). We would go back to both.  The Brick Hotel in Newtown was the subject of a TV expose.  Hard to imagine returning there but we read that the restaurant had a complete make over and new owner, Rocco’s at the Brick.  The porch was delightful on a sunny winter; food was great.  We went back with Pagliones.  In the 1970s the Washington Crossing Inn was a favorite.  But it changed hands and we stopped going.  This Valentine Day we returned to an excellent meal and great server.  Similarly, in the 1990s, Bowman’s Tavern ( a different name) was a favorite. Their wood grilled pork was one of my early retreats from a vegetarian-chicken menu.  It’s back on our list of good nearby lunch spot.

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Doctor appointments and the theatre provide reasons for eating in Philadelphia.  We tend toward lunches the past few years.  Talula’s Daily is near my doctor’s office.  We’ve gone to Jones and Amada after appointments.  The Plough and the Stars and Amada after shows at the Arden Theatre.  Had a lot of Garces gift cards and thought we should use them given his financial troubles.  Our only evening meals this year were Cafe Bombay in Bristol, Mica in Chestnut Hill and several nights out at the Yardley Inn.

 

 

Our big meal out was a 50th anniversary party brunch at the Black Bass. Several sites were considered and several guest lists developed but given my medical issues, it was delayed a few weeks and just immediate family were invited.  Jenny organized everything and it was a fantastic afternoon. Fifty years; difficult to imagine.

We went to fewer theatre shows this year.  Last June during our trip to Long Beach Island we saw Footloose — an afternoon performance in the reopened Surflight theatre. Lots of slow walkers, canes and several wheelchairs as we join the afternoon theatre goers.  We also saw A Doll’s House at the Arden; but nothing at McCarter.  Our Christmas play was taking the kids to see Annie at the Walnut.  We also took them to Peter Pan and Snow White at the Arden.  Eli has been going since he was four and we realized that he is probably outgrowing children’s theatre.  Similarly he and Viv now order off the adult menu.

We did a lot less traveling this year. Last June as mentioned, we spent four nights in Long Beach Island.  The Victoria Guest House was located on the common in old Beach Haven.  I recently read a Time article, “Why doing nothing is the most important thing you can do.”  Relaxation, total leisure, hanging out, is important to health and mental well being.  So often we are driven by the work ethnic.  Even “vacations” can be driven.  LBI for us was “doing nothing.” We sat on the front porch or our second floor private porch.  We wandered the neighborhood, sat on the bay or the ocean.  We swam in the Inn pool.  There were plenty of close restaurant choices.  We had dinner at well known Black Whale and Parker’s Garage. But the best meal wasz in a quieter classic Italian, Stefano’s.

On a rainy morning we went to the New Jersey Maritime Museum. Quite worth the time.  But our real find was across the street — Polly’s Dock and Clam House.  The bayside signage caught our attention but surprise, a few picnic tables on a dock with tourist fishing boats and teenage boys hanging about. A family was ordering chicken nuggets.  I was worried.  But on the limited verbal menu was a bucket of clams. Wow.  Memories of buckets we ate in Boston.  Delicious.  Unfortunately we didn’t know it was a BYOB; a cold beer would have been great.

 

 

 

In July we drove to Geneseo, NY to visit Kate and Jerry Alonzo.  Jerry is a Boston College friend and was the best man at our wedding.  He was also visiting us the night Jenny was born. Long, close connection.  Jerry is a semi-retired judge, woodworker.  Our first major activity was viewing a show of his work, featuring a large piece on Justice.  Jerry gave a fantastic tour of the exhibit to a class of special education students.  We walked and ate along the Erie Canal, went to a lumber yard where Jerry buys some good wood.  Drove around Rochester and walked downtown Geneseo. Visited the local Trappist Monastery where Jerry has built some pews.  We saw their new sleeping trailer but rain stopped any attempt to take if for a spin.  Diane and I thought we might buy one but aren’t sure now. Could I handle it? Meals at the house were great, Jerry is also a solid cook.  Unfortunately my C-dif started on the first night, had no idea what it was.   Although I functioned ok during the day, nights were bad and I lost my appetite.

We left for Ithaca, NY where we had reservations in a Hampton Inn.  C-diff was taking its toll.  We visited Cornell’s Ornithology Lab.  I was surprised, only a small museum and one walking trail.  More a place for research and scholarship.  We explored a bit of the Finger Lakes but my appetite was gone and was glad when we headed home.

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My primary care Doc, Sullivan from Yardley Penn prescribed an antibiotic.  It didn’t work; he didn’t respond to calls.  The C-dif improved; or did it.  At the end of the month we drove to Cape Cod.  C-Dif returned with a vengeance.  I spent several days with minor beach trips, lots of sitting around the house, no appetite.  After a week Diane and I decided to drive home.

One of my surgeons ordered stool and blood tests.  I got a call.  Go to the ER.  I was dehydrated.  Went to Saint Mary’s.  My stay was ten days.  The only silver lining was my search for a new GP.  I found a functional internist, Val Koganski, not with Penn but I think the man for me.  I signed up for his conserge service. Blood work and long office visits, I’m  now taking a variety of supplements.  But I think it’s helped, restoring energy and quality life.  Will see how our relationship plays out.

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Seeing Jerry Alonzo in Geneseo, in his woodworking shop, creating, showing, even selling,  makes me pause, think, what am I doing?  Maybe “nothing” isn’t really enough.  Then there is David Sears, retired teacher, painting and doing nature sculpture.  He’s carved out an new life in Maine.  Phyllis Gallagher, retired from Holy Family for several years is shooting pictures, making and attempting to sell canvas prints.  Read two of Bill Pezza’s books: “How Bristol Won” and “Homegrown.” Bill has continued to write and is an amazing town activism.  What am I doing?

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We didn’t take any trips in the Fall or Winter.  I looked for B and Bs with fireplaces but the cold weather seemed to keep us in Yardley.  Finally we decided on a trip to the Brampton Inn in Chestertown, MD in May. We’d stayed there years ago; it was on my radar due to room fireplaces; and had a dog friendly collage next to the main inn.  Chestertown was a town I once thought we might purchase a second, then retirement, home.  Delaware river flooding washed away the idea.

The Brampton cottage was perfect, if expensive.  Nala could run free on the extensive grounds.  Turkeys, rabbits, deer, snakes, turtles, small birds, even an owl joined her.  We used the cottage kitchen for take out.  Breakfasts in the main house were fantastic.  Nala went to several restaurants.  The first was Shaffer’s Canal House in Chesapeake City.  Very friendly.  Soft shells in season.  On our day exploring Rock Hall (with Taylor’s we charted sail boats there in the 80s) we ate at the traditional Waterman’s Crab House.  Instead of cracking crabs, we had soft shells. A favorite since I read “Beautiful Swimmers” by William Warner in the 1970s.  Actually had them three times on this trip.  We took several drive-walk explores in the area.

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Our first trip for Retirement Five was a week at Town Bank in North Cape May.  Diane found a dog friendly fenced cabin and beach.

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The C-diff aggravated my fistula.  So in addition to 10 days in the hospital and follow ups with my cardio Doc and surgeons, I went in for a minor fistula related surgery.  Recovery ate up the fall and then the cold winter.  The year of the wood stove.  To my surprise I only read about 25 books.  I started on the four foot stack of film books (for years I taught a course in American film and American culture).  As I had done with my photography book collection, I intended to read and then sell.  Although I reduced the stack, it still looms high.

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I also continued my “re-read” program.  Memoirs and travel were favorite choices.  “Colors of the Mountain,” growing up during China’s cultural revolution.  “Bella Tuscany: the sweet life in Italy,” one of Frances Mayles enticements to visit Tuscany.  “The Hungry Ocean: a swordfish Captain’s journey.”  Linda Greenlaw, a woman boat captain; good read.  “On Mexican Time” by Tony Cohen, another couple living outside the U.S. and writing about it.  “The Last Man in America” by Elizabeth Gilbert was strange biography of Eustace Conway, nature enthusiast, frontiersman, pioneer. Then there was Michael Pollen’s “A Place of my Own” an account of his building a small private room/cottage in his backyard.  And Tony Horowitz’s “Blue Latitudes: boldly going where Captain Cook has gone before.”  There is a genre of retracing the steps of famous travelers. A good topic for another blog.  “Once Upon a Town: the miracle of the North Platte canteen” by Bob Greene did inspire a blog discussing when Trump believed “America Was Great.” He’d love Greeene’s writing.

There were some new books. A selection: “Draft No 4: on the writing process” by one of my favorite writers John McPhee.  “Paper: paging through history” by Mark Kurlansky, another book in the single object genre.  “Mr. Dickens and his Carol” by Samantha Silva was a Christmas gift novel that I enjoyed.  Another gift was “The Reporter’s Kitchen” by Jamir Kramer.  I journaled that I need to re-read it.  A very difficult read was “The Old Wierd America” by Griel Marcus.  It’s about Dylan and The Basement Tapes but not having the music made it hard to follow.  Finally about the only local history book I read was “Philadelphia: finding the hidden city” by Joseph Elliot and others.  I had hoped it was get me back making my Philadelphia explores but it hasn’t happened yet.

I watched about 40 films in retirement 4.  Most were classics; some inspired by the film books I was reading.  In june it was “The Wild Bunch” (1969) followed by “The Sweet Smell of Success”  (1957) and “On the Waterfront” (1954).  Then the 40s with “The Lady Eve” (1941) and “On the Town” (1949).  Many of the movies were watched from Turner Classics on my I-Pad; some were a Netflix disc or streaming Amazon.

Many of the movies like “The Great Santini” (1979), “Bell, Book and Candle”(1958), “White Heat” (1949),  “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” (1973), “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951), “Run Silent, Run Deep” (1958), “Back to the Future” (1985), “Spirit of Saint Louis” (1957) and “Midnight in Paris” (2011) were movies I’d seen before.

Some were new to me, like “Mozart’s Sister (2010), “Becoming Jane” (2007), “Jackie” (2016), “Sense and Sensibility” (1995), “Peyton Place” (1957), “Paterson” (2016), ” Home Alone” (1990).  Sometimes a book or stage show leads me to a movie, watched “Under the Tuscan Sun” (2003).

There was “To Have and Not Have” (1944), “Action in the North Atlantic” (1943),  and a new Bogart, “In a Lonely Place” (1959), discovered due to director Nicholas Ray.  Also watched Ray’s “Bigger Than Life” (1956).  Enjoyed “Hugo” (2011) and “Harvey” (1950).  Current politics led me to “All the Kings Men” (2006) and “All the Presidents Men” (1976).

A few are among my favorites “Beckett” (1964), “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962), “A Thousand Clowns” (1965) and in December, “The Lion in Winter” (1968).  I also rewatched most of Ken Burns, “Vietnam.”  Another blog topic. “Dunkirk” (2017) was one of the only new movies I saw.

 

 

 

Retirement year 4 is hard to rate.  C-diff took its toll.  We didn’t travel much but enjoyed many local walks, wood stove afternoons.  I wrote about fifteen blogs, read and watched movies.  I journaled regularly. The garden last summer produced even though I didn’t have the energy to maintain it.  This year we added more raised beds and the garden has been doing great.  With help from our neighbor, Chris Thomas, I’m planting more frequently, but fewer plants, learning about insect and weather damage. Our “greens” harvest is extending into the heat of summer.  I did some baking throughout the year.  We visited with Eli and Viv fairly frequently.

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So what are my goals for retirement, year 5?  I should buy a Nikon and start taking more photographs.  I need to become more independent, take my Philadelphia field trips.  We should plan a longer trip — maybe involving a plane flight, Caribbean, Southwest, Seattle?  There are house projects and organizing, selling that we (I) need to address.  I had hopes to begin volunteering somewhere; it needs investigation.  Finally continuing the grand kids contact, reading, walking, cooking, eating well — all the daily routines that make retirement great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gardening

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Gardens were not a part of my first hand experience growing up in Bristol, PA in the 50s and 60s.  We lived in an apartment. There were of course many in Bristol with yards and gardens but not my immediate family.   My Uncle Joe Porfirio (he didn’t Anglicize his name like my grandfather) had a large typical Italian garden on Monroe Street.  Once or twice a year, his daughter Mary would host an all day Sunday Italian picnic.  I’m sure some servings came from the garden.  “Mange, mange.”  We ate and drank all day.

On Mill street across from our apartment, Mr. Mignoni had a back yard garden.  He even had a fig tree which he toppled and buried each year.  When my cousin Bill was cleaning out their house, he offered us Mrs. Mignoni’s canning equipment including dozens of jars (some 2 quarts).  We had them until I disposed of them after a Yardley flood.  There were many other Italians in Bristol with gardens; I don’t remember any in in the Irish neighborhood.

My first experience with gardening was in the early 1970s. At first it was a small flower garden when we lived on Canal Street.  Later it expanded to vegetables when we lived with John and Barbara Paglione outside of New Hope on Old York Road.  We were “back to the earth” not a commune (only 2 couples) but an intentional living community.   John and I were working on the Daniel Brothers farms in Pineville.  Of course we would have a garden.

We borrowed or rented a Roto-tiller.  The yard was big and sunny.  We planted tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, lettuce, cucumbers. There is a photograph of Barbara with a huge bundle of beautiful beets. We tried carrots, potatoes, even corn. What we didn’t grow, we bought in quantity from local farms.  Corn — 100 ears — in a burlap bag from a local farm.   We canned enough tomatoes to last a year (Mrs. M’s jars).

When we moved to Yardley I established a small vegetable garden along the side of the house, railroad tie logs, lots of manure fertilizer.  I grew some crops for several years.  In the back Diane had an herb, flower garden.  Some things never change.  But preoccupied with work, Borough Council and other volunteer organizations, I stopped.

 

 

About fifteen years ago I started gardening again.  About the same time I began making bread, something I did regularly when we lived in New Hope.  Back to the earth, part two, maybe.  I did the required tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, maybe some lettuce.  The railroad ties were gone and no gardening for a few years.  Then I started and the garden area expanded to about 3O0 square feet.

About 10 years ago, we had to remove a large oak in the back yard. More sun; a new garden about 30×20, 600 square feet. Last year I put several 18 inch high 4×4 raised beds in the front. This year I added more.  Currently have a total of 8. Both years my neighbor, a professional gardener got leaf mold and mushroom soil to fill them. Actually in the first year she planted them to show off her gardening business.  She also installed a watering system.

 

I’ve had great harvests the past six or so years.  Sometimes 300 pounds of tomatoes.  We can or freeze.  Some are delicious heirlooms.  We eat peppers but I freeze them to use throughout the year, scrambled eggs.    Sometimes I pickle cukes and/or make sauerkraut from cabbage.   Most years we have lettuce salads daily through June. This year it will last till at least July.

This spring I planted several varieties of lettuce, kale, spinach, bok choi, radishes, swiss chard, peas,  fennel, koholrabi, and beets.  Much more green than we can eat.  My sister Liz, Jenny and friends have been helping.  Also I have tomatoes (maybe 25 plants, this year), peppers (several varieties), beans, several types of eggplants, squash, and cucumbers.  Some years we’ve had sunflowers, pumpkins, or winter squash. Actually the pumpkins and squash have some years sprouted in our compost heap.  Last summer I planted Long Island Cheese pumpkins but they took over the back garden when we went to Cape Cod in July-August.

Several years ago I planted rhubarb (died out) and asparagus, it was great last year but seemed to have died out this year.  Traditionally I haven’t paid a lot of attention to blights or bugs.  Neighbor Chris is helping me.  I just bought a sprayer and pyrethrum organic insecticide and she’s recommended a copper fungicide for tomatoes plants.  Chris has also guided me in planting less, caring more, and increasing variety.  I think it’s taking hold and improved harvests are coming.

Gardening is work. The raised beds do make it a bit easier.  There is the soil preparation and planting, weeding, harvesting and usually preserving.

But it is so rewarding.

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Travel: Town Bank, North Cape May

 

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It’s June 7, 2018, about 8 a.m.  I’m sitting in a unpainted, worn rough, grayed rocking chair on a deck facing Delaware Bay.  We’re staying at 219 Shore Drive in the back cottage.  It’s North Cape May, NJ — more specifically Historic Town Bank, birthplace of South Jersey, established 1635. There are nearly a dozen boats,  varying sizes and speed, most moving north up the Bay.  Gulls fly back and forth.  ” Aaake, aaake, aaake.”  Then silent.  Mockingbirds flit from chimney to tree.  There are some small black birds and mourning doves — “whooo, whooo.”  Dolphins regularly pass and there is a steady stream of walkers, joggers and cyclists on the new shore road and sidewalk.  Many are seniors like us.

This is our third morning.  And we have an easy routine.  Awake about six.  Morning ablutions, pills, coffee, email, electronic paper, check stocks and weather, journal.  Just like home. Diane takes Nala, our black, part border collie, lab maybe, Alabama rescue for a short walk.  She sits with coffee in a small enclosed porch with sun and bay view.  I sit on the outside deck.

 

We all break for breakfast about 8 or 9.  Then take a walk.  The road and sidewalk are pristine, construction finished about a week ago.  There are some smaller older homes like our white picked fenced cottage and main house.  Many are newer, larger, brighter with landscaped lawns, second floor decks, garages.  Some are rentals.  Although a lot of people pass; it’s still off-season and there are many empty homes.

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We can walk north or south on the thirty to fifty foot wide sandy beach or the sidewalk.  A newly planted low dune separates them.  Going north we pass the Harpoon restaurant, the only commercial property on the street.  Wasn’t opened until Friday and was so crowded, we couldn’t get seated.  In front of the cottage the beach is dog friendly but a block away signs warn no dogs Memorial Day to Labor Day, 11 to 4.  Traveling with Nala makes us totally attuned to dog friendly places.  The internet provides some guidance.  This morning I discovered an article, “How dog friendly is Cape May?”  The conclusion was mixed.  Although some B and Bs and restaurants with outdoor seating allow dogs, they are banned from the central mall area, the boardwalk and town beaches.  There’s a dog park but we haven’t looked for it; Nala can run free in our fenced yard.

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If we decide to walk north on the sidewalk, it and the street ends in about 1/2 mile.  A property cuts down to the beach — intrigued I asked a  local who was washing his car.  He explained that Cox Creek ran there and historically fisherman drove whales up the creek to be processed.  Although the end is of the creek now flows through pipes, the property owners retained rights along the creek down to the bay.  Road ends.

This morning we walked north on the sidewalk for about 3/4 mile.  Nala had one encounter with another black pup who was runnng free on the beach but came up to see her.  The owner ran following, calling for his dogs return, apologizing to us, finally separating them.  A friendly encounter.  I posed Diane and Nala for a picture and an elderly woman on a bike stopped and offered to photographs all of us.  I accepted since we have few recent “family” pictures.  Mailed it to Jenny.

 

We have walked along the beach.  It’s near the end of horseshoe crab egg laying season.  Dozens of crabs can be beached.  The larger are females and some have crawled along leaving a trail; some have burrowed into the sand to lay eggs; others are stranded dry until the next high tide.  The Delaware Bay is a stop off point for birds flying north.  The crab eggs allows them to gorge and gain weight for the rest off their flight north.  Although Red Knots, Oyster Catchers and others can be seen on some beaches; so far, ours have been mostly laughing gulls.  We try to remember markings to distinguish specific species.  Otherwise the beach is pretty clean.  There were no more than a dozen people on the beach during today’s morning walk.

As we left our local historian the other morning, he asked, “you a neighbor?”  I responded, “no just renting up the street.”  He quipped, “Retired, so your not on vacation, just traveling.”  I liked the distinction.  Vacations can be so frenetic, must see, must do, only have a week, maybe two.  Travel is slower, nothing specific to see, to do.  More a serendipitous explore.  Just living.  Yes, we were traveling now.

No rush. What should we do? I look at possibilities and plan but . . . today we decided to just take our beach chairs and sit in front of the cottage.  Not a person in sight, just birds.  We sit for an hour, a bit more.  Birds, small bay waves, ships in the distance, the sun.  It’s noon, plus.  Should we go out for lunch or raid the refrigerator.

 

We lunch on leftovers.  The blue fish from the night before stilll tastes good.  About 1 o’clock we leave tor the Cape May National Refuge. I’d read a chapter about birding here.  It’s a 20 minute drive, south — some of these roads are becoming familiar.  Google maps lead us to a beach access point in the refuge.  Nala could have come but she’s probably happily resting.  We walk.  Mainly laughing gulls. There are a few terns, dowitchers, and maybe a ruddy turnstones with them.  All gouging on the horseshoe eggs.  We drive a few miles further to Reeds Beach, mentioned in the book.  There is an old marina, a rock jetty, lots of yellow blooming “prickly pear” cactus.  Further along are dozens of small turtles sticking their heads above water.  Several  roadways are signed, “turtle crossing.”  Not sure but possible loggerheads, found in southern Delaware Bay.  And there are more flocks of gulls.

Each day we debate, dinner out or in the cottage.  This day we decide to buy seafood and eat at the cottage.  We head back toward Cape May.  We stop at Cape May distillery.  Two years old.  I like to support local breweries, wineries and now there are distilleries.   Rum is their speciality.  I buy a bottle of “Barrel Rum,” after tasting several.  Their Blueberry was actually rated high on Yelp.  The night before we stopped at Nauti Spirits distillery and bought a bottle of vodka and Willow Creek winery provided us with a bottle of white (Wilde Cock) and red (Baccus) — expensive but the property was quite manicured, very exclusive looking.

Before buying seafood at the fish market at Fisherman’s Wharf, we stopped at Beach Plum Farm (next to Willow Creek winery).  Another upscale, expanding enterprise. There were gardens, a trail, small kitchen for breakfast and lunch, some produce and gourmet items.  We bought some jars of preserves, granola, and delicious small turnips to go with dinner.  At the Lobster House we got scallops and some clams casino.  We had a nice dinner at the cottage and watched a blue sky  sunset.

Vacations tend to limited, a brief escape from the regular —  usual work.  Traveling can be, should be more footloose, longer, just living in a different place.  For years I used the expression “Nantucket time.”  For ten years (yes, it was basically a vacation) we visited the far away Island. In the first few years we did a typical tourist vacation on Nantucket. After that we “traveled” and on day one we were totally relaxed.  One of my get to sleep dreams is sitting outside our Nantucket cottage, listening,  watching song birds and listentig to chimes, enjoying a cup of coffee or glass of wine, sitting on the beach, buying local seafood and a blueberry pie, bike riding, beach sitting, historic explores.

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Retired now I try to constantly be on “Nantucket time.”  At home or traveling, enjoy the everyday, the simple joys.  This week at Cape May we spent a lot of time on the cottage deck.  Ironically we were directly connected to home, up river to Yardley, about 140 miles.  One afternoon I recalled sailing on the Gazelle out of Philadelphia.  I was at the wheel that morning, guided by a pilot who left at Lewes, DE.  We continued out of the bay into the ocean, sails up, while I was still at the wheel.  Amazing. Now I’m watching the ferry head to Lewes.

Travel can involve the familiar and the unfamiliar.  This week we returned to the Lighthouse Park at Cape May Point.  We spent a week nearby about ten years ago.  Even took a bird walk with Peter Dunne, Audubon Society New Jersey, writer, birder.  This year we took a 1 1/2 mile walk through woods and marsh.  Familiar territory.  The National Refuge and Reed’s Beach were new territory. Lunch with Nala on the deck at the lobster house was familiar; Louisa’s Cafe off the square was new ground. So was the Beach Plum farm were we walked and then lunched from their kitchen.  A beautiful farm reminiscent of Stone Barn along the Hudson in NY.

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Louisa’s downtown was good but our great dinner this trip was at the Black Duck on Sunset toward The Point.  It was recommended by Barbara Rillings.  My duck confit app was amazing and for a main I had pork belly and scallops, with mashed sweet potatoes and broccoli. Wow.  Diane had salmon — not local but quite good. We shared a strawberry shortcake.  For our last day at the cottage we found H and H seafood between Cape May and Wildwood.  We bought prepared shrimp for lunch (lots of our garden greens left) and flounder and clams casino for dinner.

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We drove a bit in downtown Cape May.  Diane went in a shop and I bought some Cape May peanut butter.  But we were happy hanging out, walking, eating well, bird watching, and sun soaking.  On the weekend we watched the Cape May Triathlon.  Saturday, swimmers jumped off the ferry and swam past the cottage to the ferry landing, 3 miles.  Sunday although delayed due to fog, they swam, ran and biked. Probably over 1,500 entrants.  Pretty amazing.  We were at the mid point.

Monday morning we packed the car.  Walked Nala.  We drove back roads, stopping at a park and historic site. No hurry.  We weren’t on vacation; just traveling.  Time now for some home time until our next travel.

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Some  more photographs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reading and Religion

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Several days ago one of my sisters dropped off a manila envelope from a distant relative. Her daughter found a book inscribed to me, “Love to Vincent, February 1956, Mommie.”  On the bottom of the cover was “Vincent Profy, Jr.  130 Mill St. Bristol, Pa.” The 188 page book, “Father Marquette and the Great Rivers” by August Derleth, illustrated by H. Lawrence Hoffman was part of a series, Vision Books.

I think mom gave be a subscription to the Vision Books.  They were mailed to me periodically.  Each featured the story of a “great Catholic.”  A promo for the series stated, “Vision Books are an exciting new series especially designed to acquaint boys and girls from eight to sixteen with they lives of great Catholic lay figures, martyrs, and saints. Vision Books will inspire and instruct. Their lively telling, their readability, and their historical accuracy make them unique.  These colorful action-filled life stories combine scrupulous fidelity to facts with high entertainment value.”

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I was eight years old, in third grade.  The gift from my mother represented two things very important to her — education, specifically reading; religion, specifically Catholicism. I attended a Catholic elementary school, would be sent to a newly opened college preparatory school, and was expected to attend college, probably Catholic.  I became an alter boy and very briefly considered a religious vocation.  I read the Vision Books and many other books from the local, later school libraries.

I recognized the book, the series and its author immediately.  A check online and I discovered there were 30 Vision books, I think I had about a dozen.  I recognized several titles. And Deluth wrote over 100 books including one on Thoreau and several featuring Solar Pons (a Sherlock Holmes pastiche) that I read.  I decided to re-read “Father Marquette.”

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Jacques Marquette’s story in the book echoes an online biography.  He joined the Jesuits as a teen.  Wanted and was eventually sent to Quebec for missionary work.  He learned many native languages, helped establish several missions. His most famous accomplishment was the exploration of the Mississippi River with a Canadian-French trapper, explorer, Louis Joliet. They encountered many Indian tribes. Joliet was driven to find the mouth of the river; Marquette driven to preach Christianity to the natives.  They turned around in Arkansas, before reaching the mouth due to concerns about unfriendly Indians and the Spanish. But they were convinced the river emptied into the Gulf providing a river connection between the Great Lakes and the Gulf Coast and provided a report and maps of their exploration.   The French would soon begin to control what became known as the Louisiana territory.

 

“Father Marquette” was a quick, easy read. The writing isn’t great but not bad.  It’s fascinating to read about the various tribes, some of their customs, food, dress, peace pipes and their encounters and reaction to the French, and missionaries.  I likes the geography and canoe explore. However for me missions to convert heathen natives is at least culturally insensitive and at times contributed to the destruction of native cultures.  Ironically Holy Ghost Prep, the high school I attended (and worked at for 40 years) was operated by a missionary order, The Holy Ghost Fathers or Spiritans.  Although professing to spread the word of God, they also claimed to totally respect indigenous cultures. My undergraduate college was Boston College, a Jesuit institution.  Probably positives and negatives associated with their extensive missionary activity.

I can thank Mom and Dad for encouraging me to read and succeed at school.  And although I have serious reservations about organized religion, I’m glad they gave me the background.  And it was fascinating  finding Father Marquette after over 60 years.

 

 

 

 

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River Road: Bristol to New Hope

 

 

“River road”  — conjures up a shaded, tight two lane, winding road running parallel to a scenic River.  There must be hundreds of river roads. Growing up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, our River Road follows the Delaware River.  Many associate it with Yardley or New Hope.  I’ve actually followed the river from Philadelphia — past industrial buildings, parking lots, railroads, parallel to interstate 95 —  Delaware Avenue, Tacony Street, then State Road to Croydon and Bristol.

 

I grew up on Mill Street in Bristol Borough about 70 miles from Delaware Bay, 22 miles from center city, Philadelphia.  The river was our back yard.  Let’s start our River Road tour in Bristol at Mill and Radcliffe, heading upriver. On our right is the King George, a colonial era inn and tavern.   Yes, General George Washington was a guest, as well as Presidents John Adams, Madison, Tyler and Filmore.  We’ve had many family dinners at the King George.  The enclosed porches in the rear have great river views. Although I thought it overpriced for a few years, the current owners have restored the qualily at acceptable prices.  During my high school years, the parents of a close friend managed the Inn (it was called the Delaware House for many years, Americans not wanting to hear “King George).  The family lived in rooms on the second floor; an invitation to dinner and we were served by a waitress.  John’s mom and dad were working, kitchen and bar.    We liked playing pool in the historic bar.  It was there that I last saw and talked my grandfather Profy. He was having lunch.

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Next door to the King George is the Bristol Riverside Theatre. Growing up it was the Bristol movie theatre.  I saw my first films there.  By 1970 it had become an “adult” movie house catering to a gay audience.  Diane and I home from the Peace Corps were living in the family apartment two blocks away.  Weekends there were frequent disturbances between straights and gays.  As I called the police I assurrred Diane, “it wasn’t like this when I was a kid.”  The Grundy foundation bought the building in the 1980s and a great regional theatre was born drawing New York talent.  I think the first production we saw was Pearl Bucks’s “The Good Earth.”  More recently, “Lost in Yonkers” and “Workings” based on a Studs Terkel book.  Anything we’ve seen has been a solid production.

Across the street is Annabella’s Italian Restaurant.  It’s very good Classic Italian, recently featured in the “Main Street — Small Business Revolution” program.  Another place for family celebrations; in fact the Profy’s are related to the owner, Robert.

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In Bristol, river road is Radcliffe street.  There is about a mile of historic houses.  My first introduction to local history, was reading Doren Green’s “Old Homes on Radcliffe Street.”  I knew families and had friends that lived in some of the homes.  It’s a book I need to reread.  One of the nicest homes is the Grundy mansion.  Joseph Grundy was the owner of a large woolen mill in town (the distinctive clock tower, a Bristol logo) and a United States Senator.  When he died in the 1960s, he established the Grundy Foundation which immediately built the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library.  Situated next to the Grundy mansion on the river, the library is a fantastic community resource for the town and county.  In addition to its collection of material, the library sponsors a variety of community programs.

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Continuing up Radcliffe we pass St. Mark’s RC Church, established in 1846 I thought the oldest Catholic Church in the county but recently learned it’s the second; the first in Ottsville.  Up the street, on the left is Cesare’s Restorante, a family classic Italian, another place where our family has had many gatherings.  Pizza is fantastic but also check out the homemade biscotti.  On the edge of the borough line at Green Lane is industrial property — ship building during WW I and airplane construction during WW I.  Nestled in the complex is the Radcliffe Cafe, a classic local breakfast hangout.

 

Leaving the Borough we continue through Bristol township, the village of Tullytown into a desolate area at a bend in the river.  US steel was located here in the 1950s; now its Waste Management with huge mounds of fermenting trash and garbage.  It’s also the location of Pennsbury Manor, William Penn’s country estate.  As a kid we would visit the historic property but interpretation was extremely limited.  I do remember that there was a brewery.  Penn made beer.  Today the State does a better job of interpretation; there are several “living history” events including Holly Nights in early December — with crackling fires, candles, carollers, and mulled cider.

There isn’t a road close to the river but it’s possible to continue north-west to Pennsylvania Avenue which goes into Morrisville Borough.  The “Trenton Makes; the World Takes” bridge is on the right.  Here Route 32 is truly River Road although the Road name will depend on the municipality.  The next bridge is the 1884 Calhoun Street bridge construcked by the Phoenixville Bridge Company.   It’s about five miles to the Yardley Inn on the corner of Afton Avenue and downtown Yardley.

 

Since 1977 we’ve lived on N. Delaware Avenue (River Road) several blocks above the Yardley inn. Founded in 1832 as the White Swan, the Inn is an award winning Bucks County restaurant; survivor of the historic floods including three in the early 2000s.   In recent years, Chef Eban Copple has started a restaurant garden, foraged wild plants like ramps, and buys local when possible.  We eat at the Inn several times a year.

In the block before the Inn is Charcoal BYOB ( formerly Charcoal Steaks and Things) the local hangout that has gotten solid reviews from the Inquirer food critic Craig LeBan. A detour on Afton to downtown Yardley is worth the trip.  Enjoy Lake Afton, fishing and ice skating. The picturesque carpenter Gothic building is the “Old Library,” now the home of the Yardley Historical Association.

There are a number of downtown restaurants including the Continental Tavern and The Vault — a micro-brewery. The Continental offers decent pub food and a lot of local history.  Possible a station on the Undergroun RR, Frank Lyons, the current owner has been conducting some pretty sophiscated archaeology.  He’s unearthed a large hidden room filled with bottles (many from the prohibition era) and other artifacts.  A serious historian, he displays many findings in the bar and restaurant.

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Yardley is also a good place to start an explore of the Delaware Canal State Park.  It began in Bristol and continues for sixty miles to Easton.

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Back on River Road we’ll pass the Yardley boat ramp.  At the next stop sign, we will be in Taylorsville, Washington Crossing Park.  There is a visitor center with a replica of Emmenuel Leutze’s painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”  The original became controversial during WWII since Leutze was German and the river in the painting was the Rhine.  Displayed for a few years in the park it was eventually returned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.  A copy replaces the original. There are a number of historic buildings on the 500 acre State Park, opened for tours and special activities.  Decades ago we had a colonial cooked dinner in McConkley’s Ferry Inn. Unfortunately the park service has been less ambitious in its offerings.  The big event is the reenactment of Washington Crossing the Delaware on Christmas.  We’ve attended several years.  Weather and river permitting, reenactors cross the river in reproductions of the historic Durham boats that the Colonials used.

IMG_2751Just above the Park is David’s Library of the American Revolution.  It was founded in 1959 by Sol Feinstone, an immigrant in love with the revolutionary freedom.  The library is used by amateur and professional historians.  I’ve had several interesting days with pencil and paper reading about the Revolution in Bucks County.  They also present lectures and field trips. I took one following Washington’s route to the battle of Trenton.  During our first year of retirement, Diane and I attended a workshop on using the library for genealogical research.  Of equal interest was a presentation by the owner- founder of Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania’s s rye whispery distillery which is located in the old Grundy mill in Bristol. Fascinating history and tasty samples.

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We cross a red camelback bridge over Jericho creek, the crossroads of Brownsburg and arrive at the upper end of Washington Crossing State Park.  In the early 1900s there was a plan to create a greenway between the Crossing and Valley Forge.  What a grand plan but it never happened.  At this end of the Park is Bowman’s tower on a hill overlooking the river valley.  Growing up we would picnic in this area, climb the hill and then climb steps to the top of the tower.  Wow.  The state closed the tower for years and when it finally reopened about a decade ago there was an elevator and admission fee.  Some weekends in high school I drove an O’Boyles ice cream truck to the base of the tower and sold ice cream all day.

IMG_2740Also located in this section of the park is the Thompson Neely house, the house of decision where Washington made his decision for the Christmas crossing.  On the creek is a small grist mill — opened in 1976 for the bi-Centennial, closed for decades and only recently reopened.  Another great attraction at Bowman’s is the Wildflower Preserve, an interpretative center, trails, one of the best wild flower preserves in the country.  Diane and I frequently go to their annual native plant sale.

Growing up my close friend’s father, Doctor Romano brought us to bird banding programs at a house on the park grounds.  It was my first exposure to “birding.”  Many years later walking in the park I saw this large, yes, “woody” woodpecker.  My jaw dropped.  A park employee identified the bird, ” oh, that’s our Piliated Woodpecker.”  It’s my only sighting of one.

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Recently we had lunch at Bowman’s Tavern at the base of the hill.  It was a favorite in the 1990s (I was reintroduced to pork cooked on a wood fired oven after many vegetarian years) but as happens it changed hands and we stopped going.  We had a great meal and put it back on our list of not far from home spots for lunch.

 

 

If we take a left on Aquetong Road at the edge of the park, we will pass the home and workshops of George Nakishima.  During WWII, Nakishima, an architect, was in a concentration camp for Japanese.  A Bucks County architect sponsored him and brought him to Bucks County where he opened a furniture workshop studio.  He became one of the foremost furniture makers in the country.  I discovered Nakishima in the 1970s and have visited his studio several times.  I’ve seen one of his altars —  a huge oak table — in Saint John the Divine in New York City.  There is a studio in Old City Philadelphia that carries his work.  Although he died years ago his style and tradition is carried on by his daughter.  I am the proud owner of a Nakishima piece, an irregular polished piece of wood with holes for pens or pencils. It was a gift to our New Hope friend, Ragna Hamilton, that I inherited when she died.

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We can continue on Aquetong Road and enter New Hope from the back or return to River Road and on the New Hope.  The Aquetong route will take us past the old mill where Jim Hamilton lived in the 1970s.  Jim, a former New York set designer and owner of Hamilton’s Grill in Lambertville died several weeks ago.  For several years we rented a house nearby on Old York Road with John and Barbara Paglione.  It was our back to the earth, intentional, communal living years.  Hamilton’s Grill in recent years has been our go to restaurant for special ocassions.

There’s a lot  in the New Hope area and up river.  But we’ll end this explore here and return to this River Road trip another day.

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Walking the Dog

Do you remember Rufus Thomas’s hit ” Walkin the Dog.”

Walking the dog
I’m just a walking the dog
If you don’t know how to do it
I’ll show you how to walk the dog …

 

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The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith the Grateful Dead and many others did covers.  I remember reading once that we should walk like a dog, slowly, using our senses to be aware of everything.  Since my medical issues I’ve been forced to walk a slower pace.  I walk the dog.  I’ve long been a fan of Thoreau who wrote in “Walden” about the wilderness as a tonic for body and spirit.  And just recently discovered a Japanese practice.

“Forest bathing—basically just being in the presence of trees—became part of a national public health program in Japan in 1982 when the forestry ministry coined the phrase shinrin-yoku and promoted topiary as therapy. Nature appreciation—picnicking en masse under the cherry blossoms, for example—is a national pastime in Japan, so forest bathing quickly took. The environment’s wisdom has long been evident to the culture: Japan’s Zen masters asked: If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, does it make a sound.”  Walking the dog.

A part of Diane’s reason for having a dog is that it forces the walk.  Although I believe in a daily walk, there were quite a few cold winter days that I skipped.  Diane had not choice; Nala, the rescue we got in the fall is her project.  For Diane a walk isn’t around the yard or even just along the canal in back of the house.  Most days she drives to a different place.  Since the weather has improved I’ve joined in fairly regularly.

 

Goat Hill Overlook outside Lambertville was a challenge for me.  Most of my walking the past 8 months have been on the canal.  It’s generally level.  I was pleased that Goat Hill didn’t present a problem.  The view of New Hope, the river and Lambertville is fantastic.  Nala loves it because the area is “dog friendly.”  Users accept and let their dogs off leash.  We discovered Goat Hill about 6 years ago. Having lived in New Hope in the 1970s and explore the countryside we were amazed that we were unaware of the trail.  Then I discovered it’s only been a public trail for a few years.  We began to hike it regularly, there is a gravel road and a cliff path through forest and rocks.  Our best trip was in late summer several years ago when we picked 12 quarts of blackberries (at $5 a pint, that’s over $100 in berries).  We ate them fresh, made preserves, pies, and juice.

 

The next day we decided to go to the 121 acre Fiddler’s Creek Preserve (Hopewell Township).  Although we live in PA, we’ve found many trails and paths across the river.  Check out the website of the NJ Trail Association.  Much of this particular land preserve was part of a lumber mill complex owned by the Titus family (Titusville is down the road).  This day we walked in a large fenced area that is being reforested with native species.  The fence is deer protection.  It’s another area where Nala can run free.  She and we love it.  Spring was been slow coming this year but we enjoyed a warm sun as we worked our way through the field.  In the same area we could have walked in a ravine along the creek.  We did this a few weeks ago when close friends, the Pagliones, were visiting.  And across the road is the Baldpate preserve.

 

On day three, we drove just above Stockton to Prallsville Mills and walked along the Delaware and Raritan canal towpath. This part of the canal is a feeder that was originally built to supply water to the main D and R that runs from Bordentown, through Trenton to Raritan.  The feeder begins at Bulls Island Recreation Area where there is a foot bridge across the river to Lumberville, PA.  We head toward Bulls Island from Prallsville but didn’t make it all the way — it’s about 3 miles.  Unfortunately on the towpath, Nala must remain on leash.  Despite a halter she will pull particularly if I am walking ahead.

If we made it to Bulls Island, we could have treated ourselves to some snacks or lunch at the Lumberville General Store across the street from the Black Bass, a favorite riverside restaurant.  We settled on the towpath and the Prallsville mill complex.  Originally this early industrial village had a saw mill, linseed oil mill, grist mill, and grain silo. Today the complex hosts art and craft shows, and a variety of community activities.  The canal from Bulls Island to Trenton is 23 miles.  Some sections are better walks than others. Then there is the section toward Bordentown and north to  Trenton.

 

The next day we decided on Rosedale Park above Pennington (Mercer County).  This is a favorite for Nala.  There is a small dog and a big dog park.  No membership or rules. But we skipped the dog park and walked around the lake (only a few cormorants) to a forest path that leads to Willow Pond.  Rosedale lake area is part of Mercer Meadows, 1600 acres with four bodies of water and miles of trails.  What’s great about walking in NJ, they seem to connect areas.  A warming sun, we find a bench and sit for a while on Willow Pond.

We found most of these parks, preserves, trails when we traded I-95 for back roads when driving to Princeton.  We also found several interesting restaurants and farm markets.  In Hopewell there is the Brick Farm Market, a few tables, deli and prepared foods, bakery, cheese and meat department, some packaged goods, fruits and vegetables.  They also opened a restaurant.  Blue Moon Acres in Pennington is a micro – green farm originally in Buckingham, PA.  When they expanded to Pennington, they began growing rice and the market sells “all local.”  There is produce, honey, jams, cheese and meats, some packaged goods.  Almost all local.  Walking the dog can easily turn into lunch or farm market shopping.

 

 

Our next walk took us to Bulls Island.  In the 1970s, I camped there with HGP scouts.  Today that area is closed due to a disease attacking Ash trees.  There are a lot of cyclists taking the D and R Trail toward Stockton (we were on it a few days previously).  Instead we decided on a nature trail between the river and canal.  The chilly weather warmed as the sun rose reminding us it’s spring.  The last section of the trail is cobble stones.  Why?  Interesting but hard to walk on.  It ends at a dam or wall separating the canal from the river.

At the visitor center, a ranger explains that the cobblestone path was used by a quarry.  It wasn’t totally clear but sparked a local history interest.  The center also had several brochures and maps of areas we could explore.  When I told the ranger I was walking the dog, she recommended Horseshoe Bend Park a few miles west.  There was a big, very big dog park.  We headed there.  She was right.  Walking trails, rural dog park.  What more could we ask for.  Lunch actually.

We continued on to Frenchtown, the bridge to PA and down river to  the Lumberville General Store.  Although Nala seems fine in the car after a walk we decided on an order and car picnic.  Unfortunately the sandwiches were bland, mundane.  We expect more when we are walking the dog.

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