Dan and Hannah Hike to Pinwheel Vista on the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey

Max at ten days

Max at ten days

Maxwell Archer Rawding has arrived!

Hannah and I are bee-lining it from Maine through JERSEY to Virginia to see Owen Daniel’s little brother Max, who is five days old today.  As grandparents, we now have more time, energy, and moolah to really enjoy our grandkids than we had when we were parents ourselves.

Owen and Max with Omi and Boppa

Owen and Max with Omi and Boppa

Why just the other day at an elementary school Spring Fling of carnival rides and petting zoos, we saw cotton candy for sale.  With their Omi and Boppa (our grandparent nicknames), Owen and Max are going to enjoy the good life at the end of a cotton candy swirl.

Goshen Plaza Diner, New York

Goshen Plaza Diner, New York

With 550 miles of driving through the maw of the monster (traffic in the Northeast) ahead, we find a hike along the way to break up our trip to the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Having grown up in nearby Fair Lawn, JERSEY, I am coming home to love a state I couldn’t wait to leave when I was 18!

Leaving home in York at 520A, we travel 250 miles on Interstates to the Goshen Plaza Diner in New York for our pre-hike breakfast; it’s just 15 miles from our trailhead at Wawayanda (pronounced by the locals as Way-Way-On-da) State Park.  Wawayanda is Lenape for “winding waters.”

Good times at the Goshen Plaza Diner

Hannah knows breakfast!  Good times at the Goshen Plaza Diner

The Goshen Plaza Diner is a classic New York diner with booths, shiny metal interiors with mirrors everywhere, and veteran waitresses.  At 10A we easily score a booth and Susan, with seven years of experience and diamond ear studs, warmly welcomes us.  Though I love pancakes when eating out, I find that I am still hungry an hour later; that just won’t do when hiking.  So it’s two eggs over easy, home fries, and rye toast for me while Hannah spices up her breakfast with four strips of crispy bacon.  Susan is cheery and engaging in a JERSEY sort of way, which is a good thing.  In fact, a very good thing.

9G Wawayanda Park sign

After breakfast in New York we cross into JERSEY and turn right to enter the near empty parking lot on this mid-May Thursday (no one is collecting the $10 admission fee for out-of-state vehicles).  Changing into hiking boots, we find the blue blaze trail (side trail) is immediately in front of us, just three tenths of a mile from the white blazes (signifying the main trail) of the 2,180 mile Appalachian Trail (AT).  I wasn’t much of a hiker as kid but growing up in JERSEY meant baseball, basketball, and tennis all the time with the guys in the neighborhood.

AT map 2

Setting foot on the Pinwheel Vista trail, we make JERSEY #10 of 14 states that we’ve hiked on the Appalachian Trail.   (Going from south to north, it’s Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  I think of the 62 miles of the AT in JERSEY as an easy going, mellow part of the trail.  BTW, JERSEY guys can be easy going, mellow themselves.

Easy-going Jersey guy

Easy-going Jersey guy

The nine-mile round trip Pinwheel Vista hike through the rolling mountains of JERSEY has its trees that are not fully leafed out.   But today’s spring green is a most pleasing-to-the-eye forest color.

White blazes of the Appalachian Trail

White blazes of the Appalachian Trail

Setting out at 1120A, we are shooting for a rockin’ three miles per hour pace to complete the nine mile hike in around three hours.  What’s the hurry sister and brother, you may be thinking.  We have an evening motel reservation in Newark, Delaware, which means we’ll be traveling the length of JERSEY during the afternoon commuter rush hour when we finish the hike.

Hannah by the puncheons through the boggy part of the trail

Hannah by the puncheons through the boggy part of the trail

With drizzle and a thundershower in the forecast, we find the well-marked trail moist but not too sloppy and messy.  And then voila, we see a hiker with a huge pack and I greet him with Are you a thru-hiker (meaning he’s hiking the AT from Georgia to Maine in one calendar year).  His trail name is Captain Cook; he’s, in fact, is a section hiker hiking a part of the AT; in his case he is going from Pennsylvania to Vermont this time.  Still looking for a trail name myself and with no nautical experience, I find his trail name doesn’t bring me any closer to finding one for myself.


The red spotted newt on the trail.  “He” is an intermediate terrestrial version, as “he” started in the water and the adult form returns to the water.  This stage is called an “eft”.  (Thank you Patty P for this information.)

The red spotted newt on the trail. “He” is an intermediate terrestrial version, as “he” started in the water and the adult form returns to the water. This stage is called an “eft”. (Thank you Patty P for this information.)

An hour into our hike, we spot an athletic looking hiker with a back pack who acknowledges he’s a thru-hiker, having left Springer Mountain in Georgia on his way to Mount Katahdin in Maine.  His trail name is Sloth, which he says, when we ask, is an inside joke.  Way inside for this lean and fit college student (University of North Carolina) is no sloth; since late February, he and his buddy have completed 1350 of 2179 miles of the trail.  Maybe irony in a trail name is the way for me to go?  Dancing Dan?  I think not.

9 D on trail above stream VCU

Soon his buddy Rameses (trail name) comes by.  Rameses is the animal mascot of UNC.  Just as athletic, Rameses says this is one helluva way to spend a spring semester and he doesn’t have to pay tuition.  Like the Mormons on missions and the British with their gap year, these young men have stepped away from their university studies to take an unconventional path.  Maybe a college nickname as a trail name might work for me?   Sun Devil Dan?  Nah.

Cable secures this bridge during high water

Cable secures this bridge during high water

Feeling a time crunch to find Pinwheel Vista, we know the geography of JERSEY is not our friend today.  We have some 220 miles to our motel in Newark, Delaware (pronounced New-Ark) going through the belly of the beast of JERSEY traffic.  We have been had for dinner by the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike before.  We keep up a good pace on the trail and are looking for the blue blaze side trail to Pinwheel Vista.

9F river on trail

Approaching the 90 minute mark of the hike and still seeing no blue blaze marking to Pinwheel Vista, we find ourselves heading down the other side of the mountain!  That is not a good thing!  We are supposed to be at a vista.  And then we meet Stephanie and Heather, college girls from JERSEY, who are hiking up the mountain from the opposite direction.  When we ask if they have seen any blue blazes to Pinwheel Vista, they shake their heads no.

Blue blaze trail to Pinwheel Vista

Blue blaze trail to Pinwheel Vista

Retracing our steps, they help us find, in literally 100 feet, the massive pile of rocks indicating the Pinwheel Vista turn-off; its blue blaze hidden behind the leaves of a newly greening small tree.  We had walked right by it!  In 100 yards we are looking over the valley to the Pochuck Mountains on this quite humid and threatening-to-rain day.

Dan and Hannah at Pinwheel Vista

Dan and Hannah at Pinwheel Vista

A quick look and then it’s time to turn for the trailhead.  With a purposeful, steady pace, we cruise through the forest.  I’m so fortunate to be married to someone so athletically fit who can cruise (and likes to!) along the trails in the mountains, over the streams, and through the woods.  (You can sing that last sentence to the tune of Jingle Bells.)

Meeting the two college girls from JERSEY who went to college at William Paterson University (where I spent a summer in 1969), I just may have my AT trail name: Jersey!

Enjoy this one minute video heading for the trailhead at Wawayanda State Park.


Rawding boys

Leaving Wawayanda State Park by 320P, we are no match for late afternoon JERSEY commuter traffic.  What is normally a three hour trip to Delaware takes us five hours.  Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you.  So sayeth Davy Crockett.

Molly with her sons, Owen and Max

Molly with their sons, Owen and Max

No matter, for tomorrow we will see our six day old grandson Max and his what’s-happening two year old big brother Owen.

Hurricane Sandy Update from the Owners of the Beach Haven Motel on Long Beach Island, NJ

I emailed the owners of the Beach Haven Motel where we stayed days before Hurricane Sandy to let them know I wrote about them on my blog and to see how things are for them on Long Beach Island.  This is their email response.   Dan

Hello Mr. and Mrs. Rothermel,
     Thank you for the kind email and even kinder report on our motel.  The storm was a real experience.  We’ve lived here 65 years and this was the worst storm we ever had.  The motel suffered 28″ of water in the first floor rooms and office.  We left the island on Wednesday after we lost electricity, water, sewer and gas services.  We have flood insurance and have started to repair and rebuild the damaged rooms.  We hope to have the second floor open by around December 1 and then add additional rooms as they are rebuilt and refurnished.  Believe it or not we have a lot of calls for the roooms due to FEMA and others that need them to rebuild the island.  We would rather not get business this way as there is a lot of displaced persons around here.   In any case we are safe and sound and are working every day to get back to normal .  Again thank you for your kind remarks and for thinking of us.  Regards, Bill and Dennis Flynn
PS  Coming home from Virginia this spring, Hannah and I plan to return to LBI and spend another night at the Beach Haven Motel.

Dan and Hannah Visit Long Beach Island (NJ) Just before Hurricane Sandy Blows In

Just five days before all hell broke loose, Hannah and I were standing on Long Beach Island looking north,

Looking north on Long Beach Island

then south on the expansive beach of white sand on the Atlantic Ocean.

South view of beach

We had no idea this would be ground zero for Hurricane Sandy’s fury in the coming days.

You see, as a child, I went here with my family to Beach Haven on the Jersey shore each summer.  A couple hours down the Garden State Parkway from our home in Fair Lawn, NJ, Long Beach Island was where we walked the docks seeing the yachts and pleasure boats that were alien to our life in the suburbs.  So when heading for home in Maine after visiting our daughter Molly’s family in Virginia, we decide to break up the 500+ mile trip home and head to Long Beach Island for the overnight.

Escaping north from Washington early on a late October Wednesday morning, we watch a ten mile backup on the opposite side in Maryland as we thankfully sail north out of harm’s way.  Off season driving on the I-95 corridor is often easy and in three hours we cross through Delaware and are heading East through the Pine Barrens of southern Jersey.  Truth be told, the Pine Barrens have quite a few oaks.  Jersey highway 72 is a straight shot to the coast and few cars travel with us this autumn morning, long after the tourist season.  Parallel to the highway are sandy trails, meant for four wheelers, not bikes or for walking since the sandy terrain would be too “mushy” for enjoyable riding or walking.

Route 72 in southern Jersey

Crossing the one bridge onto Long Beach Island, we are looking for Surf City.  (Surf City  [1963].  The Jan and Dean classic about two girls for every boy.  Does it get much better than that for a teenage boy!)  We turn north on Long Beach Boulevard looking for a motel.  What we find are vacation homes upon vacation homes packed together on this barrier island within yards of the Atlantic Ocean.  Heading north to Barnegat Lighthouse, we rarely see a motel or restaurant as we sail through Surf City, Loveladies, and Harvey Cedars.  Don’t you love a town called Loveladies?  In late October there are very few people in an area;  it is easy to imagine the congestion that we wouldn’t want to be within 100 miles of in the summer. The island reminds me of coastal Florida: very flat, wall-to-wall vacation homes, wide main boulevards with easy side street access to the beach, and sand everywhere.  No more than 100 or 200 yards wide, this barrier island stretches nearly 20 miles from Barnegat Lighthouse south to Beach Haven.

Hannah at Barnegat Lighthouse

At Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, we see fishermen on the jetties and look out to the next barrier island north where the residents have no idea that their Seaside Heights will be in ruin within the week.

Hannah on beach trail by Barnegat Lighthouse

The park has a ten minute trail through the pines that Hannah negotiates with her one crutch as she rehabs after fracturing her tibia while water skiing.

Beach trail at Barnegat Lighthouse

At this time of year, this would be ideal biking weather for us to ride along the wide shoulder roads with very little traffic.  The beaches are extraordinary and made for miles of evening walks, lovers hand in hand.  Alas we’ll return when Hannah is fully ambulatory.

Still looking for a motel, we punch “motels” into our GPS; many that are listed are closed today, two weeks after Columbus Day.  We pass empty houses on an island with 10,000 full time residents, 150,000 in the summer.  Most of the 10,000 must be hiding today.   Okay, it’s 3P and they might be working.

We see a sign for low rates at the Seashore Motel.  $60 sounds pretty sweet.  I step out of our Hyundai and proceed to the office door.  Asking if there is a room, I am met by a mid-40s woman who tilts her head and acts surprised that I want to see a room.  A min-red flag.  She says there’s a first floor room to our right which is open; we find the room with two double beds, fridge, microwave, and modern TV.  Looks fine, but something doesn’t feel right.  Since it’s the first place we look at, we decide to look at two more motels and see how they compare.  Back into the car, I know what’s wrong instantly.  The woman never smiled.  Big red flag.  Someone in the service industry who doesn’t smile at customers is not a good sign.  It’s off season and rooms are hard to rent.  What other unfriendliness and inattention will we encounter if we stay?

Haven Beach Motel

Further south on Long Beach Avenue, we pull into the Haven Beach Motel.  Immediately engaging Gaelic Dennis Flynn who says he’s got a room for $45. When I ask if we can have a room away from the road, he hands us a key for the room farthest from the road on the second floor.  Smiles all around.  How hard is that?  The room is delightfully open with two full beds, Wi-Fi, flat screen TV, fridge, sitting table and microwave.   Our search for a room is over and we will spend the night here in a room that goes for $170+ in- season.  Tonight only three of the 18 rooms will be rented.

With no Subway in the area, we opt for dinner from the Acme Market five tenths of a mile away.  It turns out we are 40% of the five people in the grocery store’s ten aisles.  Leafy romaine lettuce mixed with potato salad for me, cottage cheese for Hannah will be tonight’s repast.  First though, we toast the night with a fine merlot from the second floor deck outside our room.  Beneath us our 30 some mallards lounging in the motel swimming pool.

Ducks in the motel pool

Dennis Flynn says some motel owners put monofilament fishing line across the pool to keep the ducks out, but he doesn’t because they get tangled in it.  He just cleans up any mess in the spring.

Long Beach Island vacation homes

We are a mere 150 yards from the beach down a side street with vacation homes from the petite to the McMansion-esque.  The dunes “protect” them from the ocean waves not 80 feet away.  Many yards are covered with white stones where the vacationers park their cars.  We notice that you can park on these side streets for free, but it’s hard to imagine there is much room in-season.

Dan at beach path

The next morning, we walk to the beach, Hannah’s crutch sinking into the sand.  With 400 miles to drive home to Maine through the maw and gut of New Jersey on its Turnpike and later to cross the George Washington Bridge, we head for home.  Little did we know that Long Beach Island would be the bulls-eye for Hurricane Sandy.  A call I made to the Haven Beach Motel five days later found the line dead.

Days later after Hurricane Sandy

It’s eerie thinking just five days later this island was literally swamped.  (CBS News focused on Long Beach Island [5m 30s]).   Online I find this review from the Newark Star Ledger.  From the article is this quote The nearby Acme supermarket appeared to be intact, but piles of debris littered the parking lot.

Two hours away in northern Jersey my mom lost power for four days at her senior independent living complex.  A teacher friend in Long Island missed seven days of school.  A colleague in Connecticut was without power for six days.  Will this be the wake-up call that spurs us to action?   Our grandson Owen and his fellow three month olds are counting on us.

A member of the next generation