After the Trek: Terhune Orchards

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This article by Carolyn Foote Edelmann was prepared for the

October 22, 2003 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Harvest Time

Quick! Name a forest.

Tsongas. Arden. Fontainebleau.

No, right here in New Jersey.

Try Shipetaukin.

I am not making this up. Named for a shy stream that wends its way

through Revolutionary sites, alongside Lawrenceville’s historic

Brearley

House and through green reaches behind Terhune Orchards, Shipetaukin

Woods is an evocative venue for a morning’s hike. Three steps out

of its apron of meadow, in under the opulent forest canopy, you could

think yourself in the wilds of New Hampshire. Three roads diverge

in this rich woods, any one of which promises delights you would think

you would have to drive hours to attain.

This little gem is ours to enjoy because of the foresight and

generosity

of the Lawrence Township Conservation Foundation, Green Acres

programs.

The woods have been dedicated to permanent recreation and open space.

"Open" in the sense that this prime Princeton-area real estate

is not defiled by concrete, let alone McMansions. However, Shipetaukin

is truly "lovely, dark and deep." If you arrive early enough,

you may be treated to the eerie sight of fog in the hollows. The only

sounds that resonate are from tardy crickets and cicadas, making their

frenzied last stands before "the North wind doth blow."

I have hiked Shipetaukin in all seasons. Its height and density

provide

welcome relief in the summer’s "dog days." Spring ephemerals

(these are the early flowers that bloom only until the canopy leafs

out) can sprinkle my path until I’m convinced I’ve strayed into the

flower-strewn Unicorn tapestries so beloved at New York’s Cloisters

museum.

In fall the trails are alight with pillars of startling crimson

berries,

autumn’s bounty from hefty Jack-in-the-Pulpit. The green phase of

this fascinating plant was up to my hips in July. Perhaps my favorite

excursion was walking Shipetaukin’s short loops with a blizzard in

the wings. I knew it wouldn’t take me long to get back to my trusty

car. Meanwhile, I wanted to hear what the woods had to say before

snow. It spoke fluent woodpecker. Underfoot were arrays of vivid

feathers

— proof of the skill of Shipetaukin’s resident hawks and owls.

How do you find this woods? I take Route 206 south from Princeton

to Province Line Road. A right on Province Line takes you west,

alongside

the Bristol-Myers Squibb corporate headquarters, turning (slowly)

south onto Carson Road. Carson ends at Carter. A quick right and an

immediate left take you into this preserve — but the sign faces

people coming from Hopewell. If you reach Cold Soil Road, you have

gone too far. Park in the minuscule space allotted for cars, then

walk into the meadow (where Christmas trees will be sold in December).

On a tree to your left you will see small red and yellow blazes

marking

the trails. You begin your walk through a profusion of goldenrod.

These bountiful plants bob with goldfinches and common yellowthroats

in breeding season.

Inside the woods, simply follow frequent red or yellow metal blazes.

Improvised new silver squares hold blue arrows, which also lead to

some interesting and memorable features. Trails are effectively

tended,

yet hiking sticks are not be amiss for crossing sinuous waterways.

Some stream points are blessed with stones well placed for your

progress.

In some places, you’re on your own — expect to ford the water.

Almost immediately, you find yourself knee-deep in ferns — both

the sensitive (which crumples first at frost, though it looks big

and tough) and the New York, surprisingly delicate. Curling tree bark

curves on high, showing you how shagbark hickory got its name.

Remnants

of squirrel feasts are everywhere. The trail is imprinted with fawn

timorousness, stag certainty. (Yes, in Tracker School, we were taught

to identify deer gender from such marks.) If it has been wet, you’ll

set your own feet among raccoon prints.

On a recent autumn sojourn, I was treated to saucy

meadow

daisies, feisty brown-eyed Susans. Within Shipetaukin’s green reaches

cluster the frail white wood asters revealing that essential light

penetrates in these spots. Pink spurts of smartweed erupt on all sides

— sure sign of the ground’s "wet feet." Virginia knotweed,

otherwise known as Jumpweed, has reached perfect ripeness. Tiny white

spurts of summer blossom are replaced with ivory-to-tan seedlets.

You can make the ready ones jump by running quick fingers from bottom

to top of the wire-thin stem. Their popcorn effect makes hiking

companions

laugh out loud.

After this summer’s incessant rains, Shipetaukin Woods has become

Fungus Central. Brown and white turkey-tail garnishes fallen logs.

Smaller tobacco-hued bits glow as though lit from within. White

feathery

fungus sports green striations. Mushrooms of all forms, sizes and

shapes burst from dark ground. I long to taste every single one, a

passion few companions seem to share. Contemplating, yearning, I am

startled as a sizeable doe, already in her charcoal brown winter coat,

thunders past.

If you look very closely, you may find Indian Pipe. This elegant

saprophyte

does indeed resemble white clay pipes used by Native Americans, as

well as our own colonists [who would politely break off a bit before

passing the pipe to another]. Although I have found this shy plant

at Ringing Rocks in Pennsylvania and our own Plainsboro Preserve,

it’s pretty rare. Completely lacking in chlorophyll, it is nourished

by all that’s rich in very old, very long-dead, usually underground,

fallen trees. There’s something fairy-like about their curvilinear

appearance, a definite feeling of being blessed by coming upon them.

Nearby, in a beech grove, a miniature forest of red-brown

"twigs"

stretches out on all sides. Beech drops are equally unique — also

hemi-parasites, nourished as are the Indian Pipes, by a fungal bridge

to their essential beech roots. This time of year, beech drops sport

fat fleshy bulblets — actual flowers. Those on top open, to be

insect-pollinated. Those along the stem pollinate themselves. This

subtle plant is a study in biological complexity.

Evergreen groundcover curves away from the trail on both sides,

something

I would have "killed for" in my gardening days. Winterberry

is tiny, hardy, vivid green with electrifying scarlet berries, which

stay on to feed critters in winter. There is an autumnal spiciness

in the air, welcome and unwelcome at once.

We’re early enough to hear an owl I barely know, a screech perhaps.

Flicker rattle accompanies us: these gilt-winged woodpecker relatives

are frequently seen in Shipetaukin. Jays protest our intrusion. The

eponymous creek that is usually a ripple becomes a barrier — and

everything looks amazingly different.

Spiky sweet gum balls litter the path. Tulip tree leaves (shaped like

tulip flowers) flutter down, buttery against toasty oak leaves already

on the trail. We encounter tiny spiky tufts of princess pine. Neither

royal nor a pine, rather, this is an ancient member of the moss

family.

We are NOT delighted to step across a spent hunter’s cartridge —

how can this be, in this sacred grove? As if to echo our displeasure,

a catbird whines in the greenbrier. It is so silent, otherwise, that

we are startled by nut-thuds.

Woodland mushrooms amaze with their variety — one set looks like

a careless milkmaid spilled dollops of cream. Another group is coolie

hats. Something else is a cluster of rusty speckles. This collection

mimics the oak leaves among which it rises. The prettiest resemble

cinnamon on cappuccino foam.

Top Of Page
After the Trek: Terhune Orchards

We’ve taken three metal-blazed trails and one

silver-with-blue-arrow

trek, replete with signs of early fall. Time to head over to Terhune

Orchards for my favorite post-woods rambling ritual — chilled

cider and warm donuts. As we enter, a little boy tugs eagerly at his

mother, crying out, "Neat-o! It smells good, Mom!" A woman

leaves the picking garden with arms full of yellow blooms. Even bees

sound thunderous after the silence of Shipetaukin.

Everywhere families are choosing apples, studying immature guinea

fowl, not feeding the (overweight) dogs, and eagerly riding on

four-legged

creatures. This tiny farm is teaching modern people, not only

children,

where food comes from. A radical concept that the owners — Gary

and Pam Mount — achieve with aplomb. Merriment is everywhere.

But we’re en route to the "Barn of Legend and Lore." Replacing

the haunted barn of yesteryear, this complex and artistic display

by long-time farm employee Elaine Madigan teaches more about the

history

of New Jersey in 20 minutes than I’ve learned since moving here almost

30 years ago. Straw figures and bright murals in primary colors fill

in the blanks for this not-quite-native history buff. Who knew there

was a Jersey Giant — a woman named Ruth Goshen who stood

7-foot-9-inches

tall? She actually toured with P. T. Barnum’s troupe

A group of kneeling figures replicates treasured Lenni Lenape

forerunners.

A teepee fire winks and glows, seeming to warm male and female natives

gathered among their gourds and corn. Although simple in execution,

this replica conveys the power of these unique people as effectively

as do the more complex (and permanent) replicas up north at Waterloo

Village.

A Garden State beekeeper tends to his peaceful hives. On another wall,

the Battle of Monmouth roars to life — Molly Pitcher courageously

doing her cannon thing, above the splayed body of her felled husband.

I wonder if I ever taught my girls about this brave woman, cannonballs

contrasting oddly with her delicate Colonial dress. Many other

families,

in the barn with us, will not leave such a gap for their offspring.

On some fall weekends, the farm brings in a reenactor to play the

role of the legendary Molly Pitcher.

Blackbeard the pirate, musket at the ready, gloats over

his chest of booty. Silver platter, delicate china, flashy jewels

and pieces of eight glitter in the half-light. The ghost of

Blackbeard’s

lovely daughter hovers over a lighthouse meant to represent our famous

Barnegat. General George Washington crosses the Delaware anew —

ice floes so effectively contrived as to make us feel chilly on a

sun-splashed October day.

A silvery sphere with running lights and almond-eyed critters

recreates

the saga of Grover’s Mill, when the whole world believed Orson Welles’

creative fiction to be true. We have been forced to become accustomed

to political bamboozlement, but that Martian "invasion" of

65 years ago still resonates to this day.

I was lured here because the exhibit celebrates the Pinelands’ Jersey

Devil. Spending as much time as I can at Brigantine Wildlife Refuge

and adjacent Leeds’ Point, I know this saga of disgruntled Mrs. Leeds.

The woman cried out — as her 13th child burst into the world —

"Devil take `im!" Legends agree the boy sprouted wings, a

tail, horns, and hooves. They disagree as to whether he spurted out

the window or up the chimney. Every `Piney’ knows, the Jersey Devil’s

been appearing to folks ever since. I’ve even written a

counter-legend,

"Jersey’s Angel" — set in pre-Revolutionary times, around

the Battle of Chestnut Neck. I had to see how Madigan would treat

"my" Devil.

You enter a piney enclave. Real boughs lend fragrance. Convincing

though fake pines are stapled to the walls to create that wooded

atmosphere.

Logs support Pinelands’ endangered species — such as a snake (corn

snakes and rattlers are still not protected effectively enough), and

a frog (Pinelands tree frogs lure naturalists from everywhere). The

Devil himself looms overhead, stunning in majesty. I never thought

I’d call a satanic figure beautiful, but this one is. His satin horns,

tail, wings, and especially hooves are the hue of the black wine of

Cahors. The fabric shimmers and his eyes gleam. He’s irresistible,

actually. But then, whenever Pineys taunt me, hanging out down there

alone, "Aren’t you scared of the Jersey Devil?," I answer,

honestly, "No, I’m looking for him." Well, I found him at

Terhune Orchards.

On the opposite wall is a chalked rendition of "Ol Blue Eyes"

plunking away at a honky-tonk piano, straw hat on the wall —

Hoboken’s

delight, and after that, the world’s.

Children exclaim as they discover the State Dinosaur: Hadrosaurus

foulkii; state fish: brown trout; state insect: honeybee. Who knew

we were the largest grower of eggplant — though our famous

tomatoes

are sprinkled all over the center of the New Jersey map on this wall.

Together in one climactic display are our State’s true legends: Thomas

Edison and Albert Einstein. The "Wizard of Menlo Park" and

the Forgetful Genius of Princeton stand before a curious light bulb

and a blackboard full of convincing formulae, not limited to

"E=MC2."

I realize why I had to experience these lores and legends. I am one

of those who thinks New Jersey is the most fascinating place. Even

so, in Terhune’s Barn of Legend and Lore, I find new reasons for pride

and delight.

Harvest Festival, Terhune Orchards, 330 Cold Soil

Road, 609-924-2310. Barn of New Jersey Legends and Lore; live music,

apple and pumpkin picking, maze, and pumpkin painting. Saturday

and Sunday, October 25 and 26.


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