Walk Among Nature Within A Short Drive Of Cape May, New Jersey

I am pleased to introduce my son-in-law, Ken McCarron, who is an enviromental consultant, and the author of this post. He lives in Denver, Colorado with my daughter, Becca. They have two dogs, Konza and Lexi. 
The wind it blew from Sou’sou’east,
It blew a pleasant breeze
And the man upon the lookout cried:
“A Light upon the lee!”
They reported to the Captain and
these words did he say –
“Cheer up my sailor lads,
Its the light on old Cape May.
(Traditional sea shanty from late 1800’s to early 1900’s)

Cape May, New Jersey is well known as one of the country’s oldest vacation resort destinations and claims to be America’s first seaside resort. Known for its rich maritime history, Victorian style architecture, restaurants, and beautiful beaches, Cape May attracts visitors from all over the world. In a county with only about 95,000 permanent residents, but with summer weekends where the population can grow to 800,000, finding places to escape and walk among the wetlands and trees and enjoy solace from the crowds can be difficult. However, Cape May is also a favorite destination for many birdwatchers and there are many natural hideaways just a short drive from downtown that can help soothe the weary vacationer. The locations that are presented here are ones with easy access and well marked hiking trails, with the farthest being only about 25 minutes travel time from the beaches, with most much closer.

Cape May, New Jersey

South Cape May Meadows

A very short drive (1.4 miles/2.25 km) from downtown off of Sunset Blvd, is The Nature Conservancy’s 212 acre (0.86 Km2) South Cape May Meadows. With an estimated 90,000 visitors a year and the close proximity to town, this may not be the least crowded location, but the ease of access and convenience allows for a nice easy side trip from shopping. There are two miles of trails, scenic overlooks, observation platforms, and other places to relax and explore the nature of the Cape May Peninsula. However, this is a preserve for wildlife and not a park, so there are no provisions for picnicking or recreational activities (no swimming, bikes, or pets) other than observing nature. Information about the refuge area and a trail map can be found at the Nature Conservancy website 


Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek

 Another short drive from downtown is another The Nature Conservancy site, the Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek. Located about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from downtown, take Seashore Rd north until you come to Wilson St and take a left. There is a parking area just over the railroad tracks on the west side of the property. Unlike South Cape May Meadows, this preserve does have provisions for picnicking and recreational activities such as biking, although trash containers are not provided so please carry out what you carry in. This 180 acre (0.73 km2) area of recovering farm fields (now wildflower meadows), upland forests, and wetlands was originally slated to be developed but was protect in 2013 through the generosity of the Garrett family. There are about 4 miles (6.4 km) of hiking trails that take you through the different ecosystems to picnic tables and shelters, bird blinds, arbors, and wildflowers, to help you escape and relax from a day at the beach or shopping. Information about the refuge area and a trail map can be found at the Nature Conservancy website

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge Office  photo credit Damon Noe and the TNC

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Part of the national wildlife refuge system for the United States, Cape May NWR was set aside to preserve key habitats for wildlife, but they also provide an opportunity for recreational use such as hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing, environmental education, photography, and hunting. The Cape May NWR system is made of up of multiple land tracts broken up into three units and encompassing over 21,200 acres (86 km2): the Delaware Bay Division, the Great Cedar Swamp Division, and the Two Mile Beach Unit. The Two Mile Beach Unit is located just a short drive east (5.4 miles / 8.7 km) from downtown near Diamond Beach. This is a nice place to spend an afternoon, especially on weekends during the summer when the Friends of Cape May National Wildlife Refuge often present Free Family Nature Walks including special walks to observe the ghost crabs and mole crab beach habitats. Information can be found on the Friends of Cape May National Wildlife webpage along with other activities 
The headquarters office and visitor contact station Cape May NWR is a longer drive from Cap May, about 14 miles (22.5 km), however, there are more opportunities for longer hikes and a chance to see more of the county as you drive some of the less traveled roads. The Cape May NWR website provides details about hiking trails  and activities  within the three units. In addition, the Friends of Cape May National Wildlife Refuge also present some activities and walks at Kimbles Beach near the visitor contact station 
Directions to Two Mile Beach Unit: Go north on Lafayette St (109) and turn right at Ocean Dr., then in about 4.7 miles (7.6 km) turn right at USCG Entrance St. and follow this road until you see the Two Mile Beach Visitor Center on the left; the parking lot is on Two Mile Beach Access Rd. Watch your speed as you travel on Ocean Dr. towards Diamond Beach, the police like to park just before the entrance to the preserve.
Directions to Cape May NWR headquarters office and visitor contact station: It’s about a 14 mile (22.5 km) drive from Cape May to the visitor contact station (24 Kimbles Beach Road, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210); take Seashore Rd north for about 7 miles (11.2 km) and turn left at South Delsea Dr., go another 6.6 miles (10.6 km) and turn left at Kimbles Beach Rd. and the headquarters will be on the left in a few 100 feet.

Scenic Sunday

This photo was taken at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on the Uncle Jim Trail in June 2008. You can see the charred tree trunks from a forest fire that burned all the way to the edge of the canyon, and the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona in the distance.

For more photos from Scenic Sunday, click here.

Hiking The Cape Final Trail

I am don’t normally have Wednesdays off, but this week I traded days off so one of my co-workers could spend time with visiting family members. Since my friend, Gaelyn from Geogypsy was also off, we decided to go for a hike.

(The beginning of the Cape Final Trail)

When she asked me where I wanted to hike, I had originally suggested the Arizona Trail. The part of the Arizona Trail that goes from the entrance station of the North Rim to the developed area is 12 miles. She thought was too ambitious for me, and she was very right. I don’t know what I was thinking! So, we hiked the 4 mile round trip of the Cape Final Trail instead.

(A Horned Toad hiding in the pinestraw)

We got started bright and early at the crack of 10:00 a.m., and got to the trail head about 11:00 a.m. To get there, you drive up the Cape Royal Road until you see the sign. There is a small dirt parking area there. We got out of the truck, and tried to take pictures of ourselves, but my camera didn’t do so great. Finally, we were on our way.
(Fire burned a hole between the trunks of these two Ponderosa pines, but they are both still living)

The trail starts off on a gentle incline, through Ponderosa forest. It is rocky, which makes walking a bit hazardous until you get used to it. Although I took enough water with me this time, I think I wore the wrong shoes. Next time, I’ll wear my work boots for the support they give.

(the view from the edge where we ate our lunch)

And speaking of water, it was a hot, dry, windy day out there. I was surprised by the number of visitors who were out there hiking with NO WATER AT ALL! People were out there hiking with children, carrying NO water, no food, no nothing.


The views up here are some of the best in the canyon, but I say that about every trail I go on. I keep telling people, “I can’t see it enough!” Every eyefull of this place is gorgeous.

(More ponderosa forest)

After eating lunch, we started hiking again. The trail turned to the right, and went up and down through ponderosa forest again. We didn’t meet many people on this trail, unless one of had to use the bathroom. But, every time I started to go visit Mrs. Murphy, I’d see someone coming down the trail.
(Gaelyn on the edge.)

At last, we made to the end of the trail. The views up there, again, were amazing, gorgeous, fabulous, every way you looked was a new and different wonder!

(precariously perched pile of rocks)

There were quite a few people up at the top. We had to step around people to get to the view points. We rested some more, and took lots of pictures, before turning around to hike back.

(Notice the layer in the rock–Gaelyn says it an ancient algae layer. I say gorgeous!)

We walked out on top of this overhang, which is where Gaelyn is standing near the edge in a previous photo. I still can’t get my head around how all these layers were formed.

(Me on the way down, at the Cape Final sign)

I have heard lots of people say they are afraid of heights, but I am not. I love going close to the edge and looking over. Last year, I was talking to a visitor, who said it was not that she was afraid she might FALL, it was that she was afraid that she might JUMP! I had never heard that before. So, if it were you, would you be more afraid you would fall, or that you would jump?

Remember Whensday

This photo is not the best ever made, but it is of me and my daughter, Becca in April 1989. She was the only girl in Girl Scout Troop 147 who wanted to go backpacking. I found a council sponsored two day trip hiking the Appalachian Trail near Cleveland, Georgia. We went to two evening training sessions, where they taught the basic things we needed to know about hiking, and gave us a list of what to bring.

I was a little apprehensive about it because I was not the most athletic person even way back then. But, I hiked for two days, carried my own pack and part of tent, and even climbed down a root ladder about 80 feet! Our guide got us lost, and we wandered around for a couple of hours in mountain laurel that was taller than me. We finally got to the place we were supposed to be to meet our ride back home. I was really proud of myself, but alas, this is the only picture that survived.

To see more Remember Whensday photos, click here.

The End Of The Trail

I have been doing some hiking here at the Grand Canyon. You may recall my trek out to Widforss Point, the day we went on the Uncle Jim Trail, or the Cliff Springs Trail. But the mama of them all, the one true test of a hiker here at the Grand Canyon has not been mine to experience until today. I am proud to say I am no longer a virgin to the North Kaibab Trail, the one that the rim to rim hikers take. So, OK, I didn’t go very far. You have to start somewhere, everyone does. Today, my friend and co-worker, Sally along with the campground host Bob, and I went to the first bend in the trail.

(Sally and me on the North Kaibab Trail)

Sally and Bob have hiked the North Kaibab before, so they knew I could do this little piece of it. And I am very grateful to them for encouraging me to try it, and for going with me today so that they could be my “brains” and make me turn around when they knew I would want to continue.

(Bob the camphost on the trail)

They called it the “500 Steps” because from that bend in the trail, it is about 500 steps to the top, to the end of the trail. The going down was very easy, but I have to tell you, I felt every pound of the fat on my body going back up. Next week we are going to go to the Coconino Overlook. I can hardly wait!

(me at the end of the trail)

Autumn On The North Rim

Yesterday I forgot to take my jacket with me when I went out to the entrance to go to work. I’ll never forget again. As I drove in I could see the storm coming. It started raining, then it got cold, so I made a fire in the woodstove. A while later, the rain stopped and it warmed up, so it was too hot in the building. Oh, well. Live and learn.

After the storm, the sunset was gorgeous. I saw some deer cross the road, then come running back to cross again. I wondered if there was a coyote out there. There has been one hanging around in that area for a couple of months. The people coming through the gate have told me they have seen it, but I have not caught even one glimpse of it yet.

Today, we drove out to the Kaibab National Forest, down to Forest Road 610. The aspens are almost at peak color, the sun was shining, and the sky was full of big puffy clouds. It is amazing how big the sky is out here.

The road started out pretty smooth, but the last four or five miles were pretty rough. We passed an area where fire workers were cutting underbrush and stacking it. There were at least seven trucks out there. They do a great job of controlling the fuel wood so that if a fire were to be started by a lightening strike it would not spread far or burn too hot.

This last picture was taken from the beginning of the Nankoweap Trail. The drive out to the Nankoweap Trailhead was about 13 miles. We had planned to hike a little way down that trail, but it got steep really fast, and we know our limitations, so we turned back. We were a little disappointed because we wanted to go out there, but it is always best to be safe.