Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Pine Barrens of New Jersey

The Jersey Devil of the Pine Barrens: Survivor of the Jurassic age or result of an unholy union with the Devil?

Guitar players learning how to flat-pick at Albert Hall, near Waretown

Aerial view of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey

A concert in Albert Hall

A big fat cat belonging to the owner of the General Store in Chatsworth


A house in Chatsworth

The General Store in Chatsworth

A music store in Mount Holly that sells folk music instruments

Think New Jersey, and most outsiders think of ugly oil refineries, the derelict bridges and pot-holed roads that connect it to New York, and crime-ridden towns like Trenton and Camden, all in all a not too flattering image of the State that calls itself "The Garden State". Some parts of New Jersey such as the sea-side resort town of Cape May in the South,the rolling hills of Vernon near the border with New York, and towns like Lambertville and Frenchtown along the Delaware river bordering Pennsylvania still retain their charms; but by and large most people would not consider New Jersey a tourist paradise. However, many people do not know of the Pine Barrens, an area 1/5 the size of NJ, about 1000 square miles, that is as remote and unpopulated as parts of Maine and upper New York State. This area of sandy soil and pine trees has an unique ecosystem and an even more unique population. It is protected as a heritage area by Federal law which ensures that it will remain as it is. Through the years, many who have chosen to abandon the urban jungle and its stress, and many who need the space and quietness to pursue their artistic inclinations have gravitated to the Pine Barrens. Painters, poets,potters, musicians, naturalists are abundant in the Pine Barrens. In Waretown, on the edge of the Pine Barrens, you can visit the Albert Hall for regular concerts that feature the mountain music of the Piney's ,with their guitars, fiddles, and banjos. In the small town of Chatsworth which is famous for its Cranberry bogs [swamps], poets gather at the Buzby's General Store for poetry readings and and potters and other handicraft makers go there to have their works displayed. See http://www.pineypower.com/buzbys.htm The Pine Barrens is also supposed to be the home of the Jersey Devil, a half-human creature reportedly sighted intermittently by over 2000 people for the last 260 years. "There are many different versions of the birth of the Jersey Devil. One of the most popular legends says a Mrs. Shrouds of Leeds Point, NJ made a wish that if she ever had another child, she want it to be a devil. Her next child was born misshapen and deformed. She sheltered it in the house, so the curious couldn't see him. On stormy night, the child flapped it's arms, which turned into wings, and escaped out the chimney and was never seen by the family again" A web site dedicated to proving that the Jersey Devil exists is Dave Juliano's http://theshadowlands.net/jd.htm
As I drive along the deserted twisted roads that form a network connecting different parts of the Pine Barrens, there is an eerie feeling that I am being watched by eyes hidden amongst the Pygmy Pines and Oaks. There really is something strange about the Pine Barrens

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