Photos from a Geocaching Adventure

5 11 2010
Melissa Morris

My favorite photo of the day...it reminded me of looking through a stained glass window.

For those of you who may have been curious to know how my geocaching adventure went on 10-10-10, the day that Groundspeak was hoping to break the record for the number of caches in one day, there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news first: the cache I attempted could not be found and unfortunately, that means it did not count for the day’s total number of caches.  (Because I went online to www.geocaching.com and logged the cache as unsuccessful, the creator will check it out and either take it down or fix it for future geocachers.  This happens sometimes, but is not too common.)

The good news:  I had a lot of fun looking for the cache and was able to get some great photos along the way.

Melissa Morris

The cache wasn’t too far from my house, so my journey was on foot.  It was an absolutely beautiful, clear day.

Melissa Morris

Of course, any geoacaching adventure is subject to a hike through overgrown or difficult terrain.  Here, I am snagged by some thorny flora.

Melissa Morris

I’m pretty sure that this is where I should have found the geocache.  I’ll check back on the website in a few weeks and see if it’s been updated.  It would be nice to complete the cache now that I know where it should be!

Melissa Morris

Before giving up and heading home, I took a moment to look around.  As usual, the geocache had taken me to a beautiful and scenic destination.  Yup, this is New Jersey.

~Melissa

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Go Geocaching on 10-10-10

6 10 2010

On Sunday, 10-10-10, Geocachers all over the world will be setting out to break a new record!

the Geocaching logo from http://www.geocaching.com

Here’s the official plea from the folks at Groundspeak (the company that runs the geocaching.com site): We want to see how many geocachers can go geocaching on a single day! We’ve chosen 10-10-10, since the date represents 10 years of geocaching and 10 years of Groundspeak in 2010. Bring your friends, bring your family, bring your worst enemy (if that’s what it takes) and let’s see if we can beat the previous record of 56,654 accounts logging on April 18, 2010. Even one log counts since we are counting how many accounts log a cache rather than the number of caches logged.

I’m actually really curious to see how many New Jersey caches we can log in that day!  So, whether you are an avid geocacher, or this will be your first cache, plan to go geocaching in New Jersey this Sunday, 10-10-10.

You can read all about my very first experience geocaching here, and check out the official geocaching website here for more information.

After your cache on 10-10-10, come back here to NJ Outdoors and leave us a comment about it!

I’ll be posting my 10-10-10 geocache here as well!

~Melissa

(You can keep up with all of Melissa’s latest adventures through facebook and twitter.)





Tubing Along the Delaware

23 09 2010

Melissa, during her first tubing experience on the Delaware River.

Sometimes, a day out on the water calls for no boats at all.  All you need are some good friends, an inner tube, and a couple of hours to float lazily along in the sunshine.  (Well, sunblock, a camera, and some snacks for your journey are also good to have!)

This summer marked my very first tubing experience.  I went with friends (who had all been tubing at least once before) and it was really nice having them with me to show me the ropes.  (No pun intended!)  We drove over to Frenchtown, NJ along Route 29 and got on the river just a little north of the historic spot where George Washington crossed.

The late August morning was on the cool side and I have to admit I was pretty nervous about the idea of committing to several hours of sitting in a tube, immersed in what potentially could be really cold water, but my fears were quickly alleviated.  The water was the perfect temperature – just warm enough to be comfortable, and cool enough to be refreshing – once we got going and were directly in the sun.

Just one of the peaceful views of the day.

Since they had gone tubing once before without connecting to each other by ropes, my friends strongly advised that we tie together for this journey.  Tying the tubes together is not necessary by any means (and there were plenty of points along the way where we intentionally detached ourselves) but it was really appreciated by a beginner like me to know that I wasn’t out there completely on my own.  We kept just enough slack so that we all had our space, but could quickly and easily get to one another when anyone found themselves stuck on a rock or branches.

Being experienced tubers also helped my friends plan ahead and bring a “cooler tube” along with us.  This cooler held 60 quarts and kept our water bottles and lunches cold and dry for the entire trip.  It also served as a pretty nice foot rest (and almost like a little coffee table for us to gather around and chat for a while).  Those who go tubing and don’t have (or don’t want to bring) a “cooler tube” can find  a floating restaurant in the middle of the river that serves hot dogs and hamburgers.

The "cooler tube" that also served as a coffee table.

As we floated along the river, I sat back and enjoyed the view of the lush trees and some of the wildlife in the area.  There were plenty of birds flying above us and gathering along the sides of the river to entertain us as well.  It was a serene and peaceful experience – most of the time…Toward the end of our approximately six mile float, we hit some waters with a little more speed and activity.  The good news is, that I actually got pretty good at manuevering the tube by this point, and it was a lot of fun to float through the “rapids.”  Tubing is definitely something that I’m looking forward to trying again next year!

The "rapids" near the end of the trip.

If you’ve never been tubing before or want to consult with some experts before you go, you can check in with the folks at Delaware River Tubing for some suggestions and resources.

~Melissa

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Photo Essay on Bradley Beach, NJ

16 08 2010

When we think of travel, we often think in terms of visiting new locations and exploring the unknown.  However, travel can also be exciting when we return to a special destination.  This summer, that special travel destination for me has been the beach at Bradley Beach, NJ.

Early this summer, after getting to Bradley Beach around 9:00am and staying until about 4:00pm, I was hooked.  I’ve been back to this beach numerous times – more so than any other beach.  (Actually, more so than most other places this summer.  My usual quest for new adventures has given way slightly in order to soak up as much of this seasonal opportunity as I can.)

Morning is my favorite time of the day – no matter where I am.  Waking up with the entire day ahead of you is a feeling that can’t be matched at any other part of the day.  So, relaxing on the quiet beach, sipping a cup of coffee, with views like the one above, is the perfect way for me to start my day.

Since visiting the beach is a special treat for me, I like to watch the people who live nearby and are lucky enough to make the beach a part of their daily routine (like the man in the picture above).  Some local people run or take their morning strolls on the beach along the water.

Even when the beach gets more crowded here, there is still a certain sense of calm.  I like to feel that I have space around me when I’m on the beach.  I think it’s nice when you can’t fully hear anyone else’s conversations – they’re just background noises – and the only sounds you hear clearly are those of the waves.

A fun thing about sitting on the beach is that though you don’t move, your view constantly changes.  The tide ebbs and flows, ships and boats pass by, planes fly banners overhead, and clouds continuously dance in the sky.  It’s like a never-ending show put on for you as long as you want to stay and watch.

Of course, seagulls are part of the beach experience.  (I don’t mind them – as long as no one nearby is feeding them!)  Their curiosity amuses me when they walk the perimeter of my belongings, checking out the situation and looking for food.  And when you have a camera with you (as I do), whether soaring though the air or grooming themselves on the beach, they make pretty interesting subjects.

This year, I’ve done most of my summer reading on Bradley Beach.  Once my coffee is finished and I’m settled, I can easily get lost in a book for a few hours.  It seems somewhat ironic though, to think of a travel destination as a place you go to only to intentionally leave once again through a book.  But really, reading books in many ways is similar to traveling, and like a special travel destination, when we’re really lucky, we come across a book we want to visit over and over again.

If you’re interested in spending the day on Bradley Beach, a daily pass at Bradley Beach costs $7 per person and since there’s about half the season left, beach badges are $35 (the full season was $60).

~Melissa

This article was first published with The Jersey Girl, August 14,2010.





Roasted Eggplant from the Princeton Farmers Market

2 08 2010

Lauren convinced me (with her post about the Red Bank Farm Market) that the best way to get out of my cooking rut this summer – or rather, my complicated inability to “want to find the time to cook” – might be to go out and pick up something new at a farmers market.  As crazy as it may sound, it actually worked!

I visited the Princeton Farmers Market which has relocated this year to 55 Witherspoon Street (right in front of Witherspoon Grill and next to the Princeton Library). Local vendors are at the market from mid June through October from 12:30 to 2:30 every Thursday.

After wandering around for a while, looking at bright and beautiful flowers and tent after tent of produce and prepared foods – getting hungrier and hungrier each minute, I came across a variety of eggplants from J&L Farms.  The way the eggplants vibrantly spilled out of the barrels toward me, I knew right away that they were just the inspiration that I needed to get back into my kitchen.

Locally grown eggplant from J&L Farms.

Eggplant may not seem that “new” or “inspiring” to most of you, but for someone who doesn’t typically like eggplant (me!), it was a food that I had never cooked before.  Besides, the pretty, round eggplant were so different looking, I just had to see what they were all about.  I purchased an eggplant, asked for instructions on the best way to cook it, and went home to try it out.

Aren't they just so pretty?

My instructions for cooking this round eggplant were as follows:  Cut off the top and bottom of the eggplant.  Lay it on its side and cut slices about 1/2 an inch thick.  Marinate and then grill.  It sounded easy enough to me!

Eggplant sliced and ready for the marinade.

For the marinade, I decided to make my own.  (Partly because I didn’t have a pre-made one in the house, and partly because I wanted to use some of the locally grown honey that I bought the same day from Tassot Apiaries, Inc.; see how well Lauren’s trick is working?)

I made the marinade by combining the following ingredients.  (Please keep in mind that all measurements are approximate – inspired or not, I tend to only use exact measurements when baking!)

  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon jucie
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tbs of olive oil
  • 1 tbs local honey
  • few splashes of lite soy sauce (for color, mostly)
  • pinch or so of each: tarragon, dillweed, basil, and black pepper

Ready to sit in the fridge for a few hours.

I let the eggplant marinate for the afternoon (I also added a sliced onion).  Though my instructions were to grill, I didn’t put the eggplant directly on the grill.  (I was a little afraid that the marinade would make the vegetables stick.)  Instead, I lined a tray with aluminum foil and roasted them on the grill that way.  They were absolutely delicious.

Since this was such a success, the next time I’m at a farmers market, I know I’m definitely going to pick out something new to try again!

The final dish of eggplant and onion!

Has anyone else tried Lauren’s trick?  What have you experimented with from a farmers market in your area?

~Melissa





Go Take a Hike

9 07 2010

Walking is like breathing.  For most of us it’s something that we do without much thought or effort.  And for most of us (who rely on our cars to get everywhere) it’s probably not something we do enough of.

Walking around my neighborhood at sunset.

If I had to list my all-time favorite things to do, as strange as it might sound to some people, walking would be at the top of the list.  I love going for long walks (partly because they’re pretty good, low-impact workouts) any and every  opportunity I can get.  I try to get at least one long walk in each day and will walk to local stores and to friends’ houses whenever possible.  Even when I reflect on my travels, some of the best memories I have involve walks of some sort – hiking trails, zipping through crowds of people in cities, or strolling leisurely along beaches.

I’m pretty lucky to live in a neighborhood that’s quite conducive to scenic walks.  The landscapers in my development do an amazing job of grooming and pruning the beautiful flowers, plants, and trees on the grounds.  We have lots of winding, shady streets to walk on and a nice path that cuts through an open field and a wooded area.

Only walked a few feet from home, but suddenly I feel like I'm on vacation.

This all being said, I’m really interested in learning about new places to take walks or hikes.  What are some of your New Jersey favorites?

~Melissa