I had the most amazing experience on my e-bike. I rode 33km from Rocky Hill to Port Mercer, all along the scenic Delaware and Raritan Canal Park Trail. It was a blast!
I had planned to take my e-bike out for a spin once the weather improved. Cold weather and uncomfortable mornings in early May had made me hesitant to go cycling. However, when I woke up on the weekend and checked the weather, I was relieved to find a wonderful forecast of warmer weather and clear skies. I couldn’t miss this opportunity, so after enjoying a hearty breakfast, I ensured my helmet and trusty Xpremium bicycle were in good condition. Then, I set off towards Rocky Hill.
Years ago, Bhavna and I embarked on a winter walk along the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Trail from Griggstown Lock to Kingston Lock with a group organised by the Montgomery Friends of Open Space. It was an invigorating walk in freezing weather. On a few other occasions, we also walked from Kingston Lock to Millstone Aqueduct and once from the Millstone Aqueduct to the Harrison Street Bridge. Simple pleasures.
My previous rides on the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Trail were shorter, so this time I aimed to go a little further. My plan was simple; ride from Rocky Hill to Kingston Lock, take a breather, capture some photographs, and then continue to the Millstone Aqueduct and footbridge. However, upon reaching the footbridge, I wanted to push on. I told myself I would go as far as Lower Harrison Street. Crossing the footbridge, I carried on.
When I arrived at Lower Harrison Street, I questioned myself, “How far can you go?” I worried about going too far, becoming too tired, or experiencing low blood glucose that would require Bhavna to come to my rescue. I checked my camera bag to ensure I had enough jelly beans to manage potential hypoglycemiahypoglycemia1. Feeling confident, I continued my journey.
I crossed the Washington Road Bridge, then the Alexander Road Bridge near Turning Basin Park in Princeton. Each time I reached a bridge, I wondered, “How much further can I go?” By crossing the Alexander Road Bridge, I had mentally committed to continuing to Port Mercer.
Port Mercer, a hamlet in Lawrence Township, owes its development to the opening of the Delaware and Raritan Canal in 1834. Before the canal’s construction, the area mainly consisted of agricultural land, primarily located further east and centred around Clarksville along the Trenton-New Brunswick Turnpike, known today as US Route 1. Prominent families like Clark, Gordon, Applegate, Phillips, Arrowsmith, and Forman owned extensive estates and farms close to Brunswick Pike.
The canal’s inauguration brought the residents a new avenue of transportation and economic opportunity. Alfred Applegate, an enterprising individual, seized this chance and established a store near the present-day bridge crossing, adjacent to the newly constructed canal bridge house. Over time, the store changed hands, with notable figures like John A. Crater and Charles Mather taking charge. By the 1850s, the canal hamlet thrived, featuring a cluster of homes, a post office, an inn, a steam-powered sawmill, a coal yard, and a turning and delivery basin.
The name “Port Mercer” emerged from the basin’s significance. It served as a loading and delivery area, facilitating direct transportation and the exchange of goods with larger markets in Trenton and New Brunswick. Additionally, it established connections to major cities like Philadelphia and New York City.
The ride to Port Mercer was a simple yet invigorating experience. The air smelled crisp and clean. I enjoyed witnessing everything that makes the Delaware and Raritan Canal Park Trail so fascinating - birds, turtles, humans walking dogs, paddle boats, and wildflowers. I even caught a glimpse of a snake. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride there and back again, with paddle boats gracefully gliding through the canal.
A sense of contentment washed over me as I made my way back. The ride offered a blend of adventure and tranquillity, for which I felt grateful.
I documented the ride on Strava. The round trip covered a distance of 33.98 km and lasted a little over two hours. Perhaps next time, I’ll venture all the way down to the Brearley House.
I have Type 1 diabetes and manage my blood glucose with insulin. Hypoglycemia is always a concern. ?
Matt and Jean are renting a home until the construction of their new home in Lewes is completed. Last summer, they invited us to Lewes for a relaxing weekend getaway and to show us their new home town.
Jean and Matt recently moved from Montgomery Township to Lewes, Delaware, to build their dream home. Lewes is a coastal city, with a rich history and an abundance of attractions and beaches. It is for these empty nesters the perfect location to start their next chapter of life. They are excited to put down roots in this community and become a part of its culture. They are renting a home until the construction of their new home is completed, and last summer, they invited us to Lewes for a relaxing weekend getaway and to show us their new home town.
Lewes is a charming coastal city in the mid-Atlantic state of Delaware. It is known for its rich history dating back to the colonial era. Before Europeans settled in Delaware, the area was home to the Lenni Lenape (also known as Delaware), Susquehanna, Nanticoke, and other first nation cultures. With a history dating back to 1631, it is not surprising to find many homes in Lewes of historical and architectural interest. Lewes is a popular tourist destination attracting visitors to its historical landmarks, Victorian-style homes, beautiful beaches, and seafood restaurants. The city is on Delaware Bay which offers various water activities like fishing, boating, and kayaking. Lewes is also home to the historic Lewes Lightship, a museum ship that reminds us of the city's maritime heritage.
Lewes is direct across Delaware Bay from Cape May, New Jersey. There is no bridge or tunnel between the two coastal towns. A ferry service between Lewes and Cape May is the only form of transportation for those who want to cross Delaware Bay. The ferry provides a convenient way to travel between the two destinations, with frequent daily departures and arrivals eliminating the need to drive around the bay or take a longer route. Our original plan was to stay in Cape May Friday night, enjoy dinner on the waterfront, and then take our car onto the ferry Saturday morning. The ferry would have offered us a scenic and historic journey across the bay, offering gorgeous views of the coast and the surrounding waterways. But when I learned that it would add two hours to our trip, we decided to drive through Philadephia. That was a mistake.
We left our home in New Jersey on Saturday morning, arriving in the early afternoon, a bit later than planned. We encountered what we later learned was the weekend Delaware and Maryland shore traffic. Matt and Jean had prepared a delicious meal to enjoy on their backyard patio. We chatted for awhile about their move to Lewes and the people they had met. Bhvna and I learned how to manoeuvre around their two large dogs, who didn't seem too keen on having visitors.
After lunch, Matt and Jean took us downtown to show us some of their favourite spots. I packed my digital and analogue street photography kit, my Fuji X-T3 and XF27mmF2.8 R WR lens, and my 40-year-old Minolta XD-11 loaded with Kodak Portra 160 and attached my MD Rokkor-X 45mm f/2 lens. As I've mentioned, the XF27mmF2.8 R WR lens, with its APS-C "perfect normal" field of view, is my favourite. A close second is the 35mm perfect normal MD Rokkor-X 45mm f/2.
I alternated between capturing my day with the digital or analogue camera1. There were several historical places of interest (e.g. Zwaanendael Museum, Colonel David Hall House) on my photography shot list. Still, I wanted to be considerate of our hosts' plans for the afternoon. We didn't visit the inside of any of the historical attractions.
The streets of Lewes were crammed with people shopping at local boutiques, enjoying ice cream cones, and strolling the waterfront. The harbour was filled with boats of all sizes, from kayaks to yachts and speedboats, and the cries of the seagulls could be heard overhead. Matt and Jean wanted to show us Lewes Beach, so we walked across the bridge to Lewes Beach. As we crossed the bridge, I photographed the Keen Lady IV.
The Keen Lady IV, a well-known luxury motor yacht, is docked on the Lewes side of the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal near Fisherman's Wharf. I was told that the Keen Lady IV symbolises Lewes' commitment to preserving its maritime heritage while embracing modern luxury and style. The presence of the Keen Lady IV, surrounded by historical landmarks and seafood restaurants, adds to the city's feeling of leisure and luxury.
Walking east along Savannah Road, we arrived at the Bayview Avenue entrance to Lewes Beach, packed with people. It was a primarily cloudless and sunny day in July, and I think the beach was ideal for some people to enjoy the weather. The beach is surrounded by several local shops and restaurants, making it a convenient spot for a full day of fun.
We then walked back to her car, and Jean drove us through Cape Henlopen State Park over to Cape Henlopen Beach. We were driving through Cape Henlopen State Park, and the road winds through lush greenery and towering trees. I saw several lookout points which must provide incredible glimpses of wildlife and nature. Jean told us that Cape Henlopen State Park offers visitors a diverse range of hiking trails. From easy, flat walks along the beach to challenging, rocky climbs through dense forests. Jean mentioned that the Seaside Nature Trail is favoured by photographers seeking to experience the park's unique coastal ecosystem. The trail winds through dunes and wetlands, providing opportunities to spot various bird species and other wildlife. As we drove along, I kept thinking, "I need to come back for a longer visit and exploration".
As we approached Cape Henlopen Beach near the end of Post Road, the scenery changed to dunes and ocean vistas. Jean parked, and we stepped out of the car to soak in the beauty of this pristine beach. The smell of saltwater and the sound of crashing waves filled the air, inviting us to go for a swim. I wanted to spend some time relaxing on the sand and enjoying a peaceful moment, but the weather was too hot for Bhavna, especially since we walked around quite a bit. We returned with Jean and Matt to shower, take a short nap, and freshen up before dinner.
We dined near the dock at the Harbour Restaurant at Canal Square, a fine dining restaurant located on the southwestern bank of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. The restaurant offers a unique dining experience with views of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, which runs through Canal Square. The menu featured fresh seafood, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options. The atmosphere is elegant and warm, and the staff are welcoming. I am sure the restaurant is a popular choice for special occasions, romantic dinners, and intimate gatherings. Jean and Matt are regulars.
The next day, Matt and Jean had planned something special. After breakfast, we met with Matt's sister, her husband, and some locals Matt and Jean had befriended. We started the day's adventure with a Birding By Boat scenic boat ride on Cape Water Tours for a tour along the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal. The boat left the dock, slowly moving past the docked Keen Lady IV before passing under the Savannah Road Bridge.
The boat moved even slower as we approached a control device that helps regulate the flow of water in the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal. This device is designed to control the water level in the canal, ensuring that it remains at a safe and stable level for boats. Our captain explained that the device consists of several components, including gates, valves, and pumps, which work together to regulate water flow. The gates are opened or closed to allow water to flow in or out of the canal while the valves and pumps control the water's pressure and volume. Passing through the gate required our boat to accelerate rapidly as we passed through. Our experience captain got it through unscathed.
I wish I had known what Jean and Matt were planning for the weekend. I would have rented a super telephoto. We could see the picturesque landscapes of the historic waterway and surrounding wetlands and marshes. The canal, which runs through the heart of Delaware Bay, is a haven for a diverse range of bird species, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and migratory birds.
Our captain, Captain Madie Voshell, was also our tour guide. Her friendly and personable demeanour made the experience even more enjoyable. She provided insights and information about the history and ecology of the area. She pointed out various birds and conveyed insights into the birds' behaviour, habitats, and migration patterns. The boat ride was enjoyable, but I wish I had known. I would have rented a super telephoto. I want to come back and do this again.
The Lewes and Rehoboth Canal is lined with a mix of historical and modern waterfront homes, each with its unique character and style, offering a glimpse into the lifestyle of the people of the Delaware coast. I assume that, like Princeton, many homes have been passed down through generations and have been well-maintained, preserving their classic architectural styles and vintage charm. Some homes have been updated with modern amenities, while others retain their original details, such as shingle siding, wraparound porches, and stained glass windows.
Bhavna and I talked about what it must be like living along the canal surrounded by lush greenery with scenic views of the wetlands and marshes, creating a peaceful and serene environment. Many homes have private docks and boathouses, allowing residents to enjoy the water and all it offers.
Our tour took us down to the area near the Henlopen Acres Marina on the border with Rehoboth. Our captain turned the boat around, and we got to experience the canal for a second time.
Bhavna and I want to go back to Lewes at some point. While driving around, we saw several condos that may be available for early and late summer rentals on Airbnb. Bhavna doesn't like being outdoors in the summer heat.
After our boat ride, we walked to Irish Eyes Pub & Restaurant for lunch. We sat outside despite the heat, enjoying conversation and the sounds of the gulls overhead.
We would have stayed into the evening, but I ran into an urgent medical challenge. I had miscalculated the amount of insulin I would need for the weekend. The cartridge in my "t:slim" insulin pump was nearly empty, and I estimated I would run out of insulin in a few hours. I explained the situation to Matt and Jean, and we hurriedly packed our things and left for home. Bhavna drove as fast as possible, but the insulin cartridge was empty before we were halfway home. My blood sugar started to spike, but luckily we made it home before it entered dangerous territory.
The X-T3 made sharper and more colour-accurate photographs than the analogue kit. ?
NOTE: I started writing this post in January 2021, abandoned it only and completed it today.
I moved the blinds aside and peeked out the window. I wanted to do this, but the air looked cold and windy. I enjoyed this off my to-do list, and I needed a sense of accomplishment.
I dressed rapidly in the dim light and said a quiet good morning to Sir Alphonso Mango. The younger cat always waited eagerly for me at the bedroom door. Alphie was still hungry. He ran past me as I walked downstairs to make coffee.
I had packed my gear into sling bags the night before but then unpacked them to use my Fuji X-T2. My camera gear was in a messy pile on the floor. I would bring one digital and two analogue cameras on this trip and four lenses. My digital kit included the Fuji X-T2, XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, and the XF27mmF2.8. My analogue gear was the Minolta XG-1 with MD Rokkor-X 45mm F2 and Pentax P3n with SMC Pentax-A 55mm F2. I also packed extra batteries for the Fuji, my diabetes kit, and some snacks.
The kettle was boiling, and Alphie had eaten his breakfast. The coffee bean grinder made an awful racket. Alphie didn’t like the noise, so he rapidly left the room. I inhaled the sweet odour from the coffee grinds and began my coffee-making ritual. I had a leisurely breakfast of avocado on toast, then put my photography gear into the car.
I’ve been remiss in starting my Honda Accord once a week to keep the battery fresh. More than once, I’ve turned the key only to be disappointed with the silence from the engine. But not this morning. Maps provided directions while U2’s Joshua Tree album flowed through the car audio. I was on my way.
Driving to the Edinw B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge starting around 10 AM, I met with very little traffic, perhaps made even less than typical because of the pandemic shelter-in-place rules. The federal government built the I-195 highway to connect the northern section of the Jersey Shore with Trenton. There are exits near Jackson for the Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park and Jackson Premium Outlets, but most of this road is non-descript. My exit point was at New Canton, an unincorporated community located along the borders between Robbinsville Township in Mercer County and Upper Freehold Township in Monmouth County.
As I made the turn onto Sharon Station Road (aka County Route 539) and began the longest section of the trip, I looked up at the mostly cloudy skies, and I wondered whether it would blight the day’s field trip. County Route 539 (CR 539) extends 87.42 km from Main Street (aka U.S. Route 9) in Tuckerton to CR 535 in Cranbury Township. This portion of my drive took me through decreasing residential development and into the densely forested Pine Barrens before an interchange with the Garden State Parkway. This was the most boring part of the drive. The cellular reception was terrible on this narrow one-lane county roads lined on either side with "sugar sand" and with nothing to see except the tunnel of pine trees. I was happy when I saw the exit for the Garden State Parkway.
This section of the GSP is more scenic than most, passing through wetlands and tributaries of the Mullica River. I took the exit for New York Road, an extension of Route 9, passing through two towns, Smithville and Oceanville, with uninspiring names, before turning off onto Lilly Lake Road, par of the long entrance to the refuge.
The air is dry and chilly when I arrive at the Admin Building And Visitor Contact Station and remains that way during the trip. The gusty winds are forceful, pointing to some tricky conditions for photography over the next few hours.
Only two areas of New Jersey classify as wilderness, Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The Brigantine National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1939, and Barnegat National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1967. In 1984 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service combined both to create the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Although the refuge consists of more than 39,000 acres, less than 7,000 acres in the southern division in Brigantine qualify as wilderness.
The visitor centre was closed due to the pandemic. I walked around the building, looking for a map of the refuge. Several trails are available, but I chose the woodland trail and started my hike in my haste to make good of my limited time here. The scenery was dull, but I continued the intersection to Great Creek Road. I'm not lost, but I am not where I want to be. Which direction takes me to the wetlands? I stopped a woman walking her dog, and she points east along Great Creek Road. When I got to the end of Great Creek Road, I realised my mistake.
The large trail through the refuge is a one-way loop road, Wildlife Drive, and is best taken by car. I walked along the Gull Pond Road back to my car, hopped in and started driving slowly on Wildlife Drive. But I was immediately distracted by the view of Atlantic City in the distance and pulled over at the entrance to the Leeds EcoTrail.
I set up the tripod on the boardwalk, but the sunlight was coming from the southeast, and with very few clouds in the sky, making exposures was complicated. I captured a few shots and returned to the car.
Back in the car, I turned onto Wildlife Drive. The road is unpaved and uneven and very dusty, and the speed limit is 15mph. The road is wide enough for two cars side by side but also has pull-over areas. A motorist can leave their cars but cannot step off the road for fear that one might disturb the animals that live here. I, of course, forgot that rule, but a stern-looking woman in an SUV reminded me as she pointed her binoculars in the direction of a large grouping of American black ducks.
I captured the following photographs on the forty-five-minute drive around the loop road. I was sure I would see more birds, but April to July are probably the best months to visit the refuge, not January and November.
I focused my attention on landscape photography. Setting up the camera on the tripod was tedious. I tend to focus on getting my composition right, and I blocked the road a few times. There seemed to be more cars with birdwatchers and photographers than when I started the drive.
Seventy-eight per cent Of the refuge's 47,000 acres is saltmarsh. Saltmarsh is considered one of the most productive land on earth, twice as productive as even the richest farm fields. This makes salt marshes an essential nursery for young fish and a great buffer to the upland coastline for nor’easters, hurricanes, and strong waves. It is also a nesting habitat for coastal songbirds such as Salt Marsh and Seaside Sparrows and feeding grounds for many ducks, geese, herons, and egrets.
Most of the salt marsh appears to look the same, and that is because only a few plant species, which are specially adapted to tolerate saltwater, are capable of growing here. A mould attacked and killed eelgrass in the 1930s, causing a rapid drop in the brant bird population, but all It seemed like all I could see was grass.
I had a roll of Rollei RPX 100 in my Minolta and alternated between exposing a few frames and shooting on my Fuji. But the winds grew stronger and colder, and the sun started to set. Photography became more challenging. I returned to the visitor centre, quickly ate the lunch I packed, and headed home.