Corrections or additions?
This article by Carolyn Foote Edelmann was prepared for the
October 22, 2003 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Quick! Name a forest.
Tsongas. Arden. Fontainebleau.
No, right here in New Jersey.
I am not making this up. Named for a shy stream that wends its way
through Revolutionary sites, alongside Lawrenceville’s historic
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
of the Lawrence Township Conservation Foundation, Green Acres
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
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
In fall the trails are alight with pillars of startling crimson
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
— 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,
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
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
yet hiking sticks are not be amiss for crossing sinuous waterways.
Some stream points are blessed with stones well placed for your
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.
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
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
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
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,
If you look very closely, you may find Indian Pipe. This elegant
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
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,
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
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.
We’ve taken three metal-blazed trails and one
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
creatures. This tiny farm is teaching modern people, not only
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
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
tall? She actually toured with P. T. Barnum’s troupe
A group of kneeling figures replicates treasured Lenni Lenape
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
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
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
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
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
"Jersey’s Angel" — set in pre-Revolutionary times, around
the Battle of Chestnut Neck. I had to see how Madigan would treat
You enter a piney enclave. Real boughs lend fragrance. Convincing
though fake pines are stapled to the walls to create that wooded
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
On the opposite wall is a chalked rendition of "Ol Blue Eyes"
plunking away at a honky-tonk piano, straw hat on the wall —
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
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
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
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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