Friday, February 20, 2009

Sandy Hook and Fort Hancock

I try to see the beauty in all things, people and places-even in New Jersey, but this has been hard. I live in northern NJ, having just recently relocated here. The first 28 years of my life I spent in the Carolinas, where beauty is easily found. For roughly the past 10 years I have bounced around the country,living in various places and somehow managing to find beauty even where it is scarce, Baltimore for instance. New Jersey has been a challenge, so much so that I had accepted my fate. Then it hit me.

Every so often I get a craving for salt-not in the form of chips and pretzels, but in the form of water and air. I don't know why but every so often I have to get to the ocean for no particular reason. Well, actually I do know why.

My earliest memories are of days spent on the South Carolina Coast. My family had a trailer there, where we would spend weekends and summers. I recall the smell of steaming oysters in the dead of winter at a place called Morse's. Morse's was the warmest place in town and one of the few places open in the winter. They served oysters, clams, hush puppies, tea and beer. That was it. Place mats were newspapers and I don't recall seeing any plates.

In the summer my brother and I would spend all day playing in Murrell's Inlet, catching whatever we could with our cast nets and rods and reels. Sometimes my mother would take us down to the beach at Garden City for the day. At night we would try to catch the tree frogs that attached themselves to the side of our trailer. Going shrimping with my parents was the most fun, though.

My brother and I would eagerly watch from the bank as my parents held onto poles at opposite ends of a seine net and pulled it through the black waters of the Inlet. We could not wait until it was hauled ashore for use to pick out all the shrimp and toss back the various other creatures, who were unfortunate enough to be in the path of the net.

When I got a little older my father bought a boat and fished offshore. He took my brother and me on short trips offshore. Unfortunately for me, I was prone to seasickness and got sick on every trip for years. It was not until I was a grown man that I began to understand why I kept going out on the boat, in spite of the seasickness, but that is another story for another time.

Eventually, the trailer was sold and later we moved to North Carolina and the long days and endless summers on the South Carolina coast became faded memories. However, it was not long before I began to crave salt again.

I spent my undergraduate years at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, North Carolina. My choice in universities was logical at the time; it was close to the beach. There I learned to surf and to SCUBA dive. I spent many days drinking beer with buddies and girlfriends on Wrightsville Beach. There was more than one time when a group of us found ourselves immersed in its warm, phosphorescent waters late on a hot summer night. I also spent some cold winter days alone, walking down that same beach.

So, salt has been in my blood for a long time. I find that if I don't recharge myself with a salt fix, then things are not quite right. Well, I had that feeling and pulled out a map. I have a pretty good sense of geography for most of the East Coast, except New Jersey. I honestly never expected to be living or traveling here, but I knew the Atlantic Ocean was close and at this point was going to take what I could get. I needed to see the water.

The first and closest place I came to on the map was Sandy Hook. It is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area and home to the oldest operating lighthouse. It looked promising. So, I grabbed my camera hopped in my truck and drove 20 miles get my salt fix and see the Sandy Hook Lighthouse. When I got there, well, I finally found beauty in New Jersey.


Anonymous said...

If I could relive just one day, it would be a winter's night at Morse's opening clams for you!

Anonymous said...

And If I could relive just one day it would be fishing with you and your brother on the "Wedunnit".

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to find the beauty of NJ and capturing it in your photos. I spent 2 wonderful years with my father on Officer's Row at Ft. Hancock in the 60's before the fort was closed. That peeling green railing was part of a screened-in porch. I never fully appreciated the Hook's wonder until many years and postings later. It did my heart good to go down memory lane, albeit sadly.

An very old brat, Sharon