An Interview with 21st Century Pine Barrens Explorer Joseph Young of Hamburg, PA

Joseph Young contributed to this article in his own personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of author and Piney Tribe team administrator William Lewis.

“I still remember my first enduro in the Pinelands. I can’t tell you my score, or how I rode. But I remember the smell of the dirt, the clear blue sky, and the beauty of the pines.”

Joseph Young

Interview Conducted on 11/19/2020

1) If you were forced to categorize your interests in the great outdoors what one would you say fits you best? Example botany, local history, geology, herping etc.

Joseph- “Offroader rider, that’s really the community I’m representing and it’s my heart. As a hunter, as an offroader as a person. I’m a Chaplain for our organization, so I bring an element of faith to it. I see the outdoors, the Pinelands its creation. I value all of that even when doing my activities, I still see a hand of the creator that I look to in all of those. But pretty much offroader and specifically Enduro events that happen in the Pinelands. That is my sole usage of the Pinelands because I live in Pennsylvania. I’m in the woods a lot, but living in PA only gets to come down to the Pinelands for organized events. I’m an outdoorsman through and through both in NJ and PA. Offroader, or Hunting, or hiking, and fishing too.

For Enduro events it’s not just the race, it’s a time keeping event. Which is totally different than anything else on a dirt bike. I had ridden Enduros in Pennsylvania. But to come down to Jersey for my first time to ride in the Pinelands, I remember the smell of the dirt. It’s different dirt than anywhere else. It’s the pines and I couldn’t believe how flat it was. The beauty of the Pinelands. It’s something that you just can’t get anywhere else. I couldn’t tell you how I did that race or how I finished or what my score was or nothing like that. But I still remember the smells and the clear blue sky with the big white puffy clouds that day and just riding my bike basically alone, even though I was in an event with other riders. It was just me out there and man, I can still remember those feelings and falling in love with riding down there in those events. It’s not something you really get somewhere else. It really is special. It’s a real treat to be able to do that.”   

2) We never truly know the influence we have on others. Someone out there probably lots of someones look up to you in your endeavors in the Pines. Who do you list in your top 3 influencers of your own interest in adventuring?

Joseph- “Its hard to put three names to. Representing the Enduro community in the Pinelands, there’s been events in the Pinelands for about 75 years. Organized Enduros. In our association there are guys I don’t know but our forefathers that put the time together that forged the clubs and ultimately an East Coast Enduro Association in this corner of the country for these events. They put together a whole series and a whole network of fingers of clubs that work hard to put events on. And to build the whole community really, which has become family. That’s probably 75 years old maybe, but goes back to the 1960s. Some of those guys that has become almost a heritage which I kinda grew up into as a kid and fell in love with it.

Dad and I just started trail riding on our own. We had property in Northern Pennsylvania and a cabin. We would ride on state forests up there. There was an ECA Enduro that ran in the area both in our hometown and up north where we had the cabin. We would go out and spectate at those events. In those areas at those times you could go ride the trails afterwards if you knew your way around. My dream was to be able to start riding those Enduros. Be old enough to get in and compete in those Enduros. I didn’t know where else the rest of them were. I had no idea that there were about 19 events in the tri-state area. All I knew about was two of them and I thought they were the coolest thing ever. To ride those single-track trails and to test yourself on some of the terrain was just killer. It was just huge! I just fell in love with just trying it. I never did well at it. I grew up doing it in Pennsylvania. But when I got in the sand in the Jersey events, it was a totally different thing riding a dirt bike. I never experienced anything like that, and it was just a whole nother realm of riding and loved it. It was so flat the dirt totally different there’s no rocks to crash on its fun that way. The events down there are top notch and so fun. As a young boy, I just fell in love with it and continued to be involved. Promoting and being part of a club and making that happen in my area too.”  

3) Do you prefer solo or group outdoor adventures?

Joseph- “Probably depends on what mood I’m in. Because in the organized events, there might be several hundred riders. You are only riding with maybe four at a time. The guys in your minute. Your not competing against them, it’s who you are riding with. So that’s fun. But its always fun to be out alone and to slow things down and reflect. I’ve done both and love both. I think both have a different aspect. Again depends on what kinda mood you are in and what you are looking for.”

4) What’s your typical mode of operation (MO) when it comes to how you interact with your interest. Is it pure hobby, part nostalgia, or academic in purpose? What’s your goal from doing it?

Joseph- “Obviously it is a hobby in purest form. The dirt bike riding and the Enduro competition is a hobby. Me personally I’ve taken it to another level of wanting to see that it continues on. In being part of a club in the organization and then in leadership to help to see that the next generation grabs on to it and moves forward with it. It is kinda of a dying thing. Enduro itself not so much other dirt bike racing. Enduro is all older guys. Probably 75% are over 50 years old. The younger generation is into a different style. Its kind of a heritage thing passed down. The timekeeping and Enduro nostalgia goes back 75 years and what we are hanging onto. Trying to keep some of the younger generation involved in this thing, it takes a lot of work to put an event on. And to keep legal riding areas open and maintain a positive appearance in the public eye of what we do. Because it does have a negative connotation get lumped together with some of the illegal stuff. So it takes a lot of work constantly to overcome some of that.”

5) Is there a way to encourage people to follow your passion or should we not encourage others that may or may not be respectful in the same manner to the environment?

Joseph- “Always encourage the next generation to pursue their passions. So if we had young people that are interested in dirt bike I think our organization owes it to the landowners or the public land owners State Forests of the Pineys anybody who uses it we owe it to them to be training the next generation. Of how to be polite and have etiquette in what we do as off-roaders in our events. Even in within ourselves there is etiquette in competition there is stuff you don’t do. It’s not a free for all. Some of the younger generation don’t get that. I would always encourage them to try something new. If you like a dirt bike, try an Enduro.  It’s not for everybody, not everyone falls in love with it.  But we do see young guys do really like rather than motocross or a different type of riding style. Some really latch on to it. Then you want to build that training of how to put on events and encourage the younger generations to get involved in the clubs. In the legal riding and to keep the legal aspect of it moving forward. Don’t be part of the problem be part of the solution.”

6) How many people do you know that have told you that what you do in the wild is crazy or kinda weird?

Joseph- “Anybody you talk to that’s not a dirt bike rider probably doesn’t get it. I don’t know what the number is but anybody that doesn’t do it would probably think its odd. The amount of expense the physical side of it. We see it as good exercise, but Monday morning you just hurt. My wife always ask why do you put yourself through that. A non-rider doesn’t get it of what we do. Especially sticking to the Enduro events. They are so long, so kind of hard and demanding to ride 60 miles which used to be much longer. To ride 60 miles in a day in the dirt on an off-road bike is demanding. About 5 plus hours give or take depend on where it’s at and the speed of the event. The club dictates the speed of sections and how we do it. Not everybody understands why you would put yourself through that. Break parts and spend money on it as parts are constantly wearing out. It’s a giant money pit. Its not like hunting. I can have hunting gear, a lifetime good stuff lasts forever. If you get one season out of it you are lucky. But with the gears and bike stuff, it wears out. Not everybody appreciates that or gets it, but we do we understand it. I hate to say a there’s almost a spiritual level to it I don’t want to make it sound deeper than it is. There is an emotional side to it. Physical it keeps your body moving. Especially as I get older, it really is therapeutic in riding.    Even psychologically cause your just focused on what you are doing. Everything goes out the way. Any exercise may have that same component, but this is what we do.”

7) What’s the best resource you can share with someone looking to pursue your specific hobby?

Joseph- “Plug into an organized club. That first of all gets you into some legal riding areas, at least on days when it is legal to do. It gives back to the sport. Now you are part of helping something continue forward instead of just going out riding. You can be part of putting something on also. It gives you a better background. And you are connected with a larger group with the same interests. Even in that the good stuff that comes out of that like opportunities to go into the Pinelands to do cleanups. And to support things that the foresters might need or help as an organized group. If you are not part of that your just I hate to say a taker, but once you become part of the club your adding to it. To keep the events moving forward. The clubs need vitalization of youth as we get older, we need new people. Someone just getting into it that’s probably the best way to pursue it. First of all, you can learn from the old guys how to do it.  Learn there are a lot of tricks to what we do. Its not just buy a bike, hop on and go fast. So much more to it. As far as the off-road thing it’s not just riding Sunday. We work on it. It’s part of our MO all week long; prepping, working, or studying, or fixing stuff. Even exercise and training for it. It becomes a lifestyle. Its not just a ride for five hours on a Sunday. We study riding technique. I’ve been riding 40 years I’m probably still terrible at it. There are trainers out there and YouTube is tremendous on how to videos and better skill-sets. Most of us don’t ride the best way we should. And to get a better score. If we are going to compete or even to ride further longer with less effort is just good technique when riding. A lot of times we don’t do that we just want to get on and twist the throttle and we don’t think about those things.”

8) What’s one thing you’d like to change about our current New Jersey environment?

Joseph- “We are pretty locked into the state forest in New Jersey for Enduro racing. There are several in NJ that are more on private land. I think there are eight Enduros in New Jersey and I want to say 5 or 6 of them are 100% on state forests in the Pinelands on state land. Of course, those clubs have to work with forester and local management. Follow their guidelines. It’s all mapped out and approved. Can you go here can you not go there? They actually approve the route before the event happens.   

Obviously as an Enduro rider we’d like to see more land opened and have more access to the woods. Because we are very limited right now. We’ve seen it in the past 50 to 75 years. Events have been there for a long time without detriment. Especially with the organized clubs, there’s a lot more control and a lot more remediation could happen. I think we could have more access to real woods, not just dirt roads, and have little impact. Very little impact. As an outdoorsman, I can absolutely 100% guarantee trails in the woods are good things. We’ve seen trails be natural firebreaks on our own trails in Pennsylvania. Where there was wild fire would burn up the mountain and it came to our trail and would stop. That’s the intent of firebreaks, which New Jersey uses. On top of that, the game walk and uses the trails so much. As a hunter, I’ve seen it personally over and over. Single tract trail is not a detriment as long as it is controlled and not overrun or abused. That can easily be installed and used properly with good management that’s not a detriment. I don’t know if everyone would agree with that or not but as an outdoorsman, I’ve kind of seen it and lived it. As a hunter I’ve wrestled with it but watched what it happens, the deer really love it. The trail actually becomes a natural boundary. If you start tracking it with cameras and stuff you watch and see what happens. The bucks use it as natural boundaries.”  

9) I may have asked this and or you answered it in another question but now that you had more time to think on it, “What drives you to your specific sport?” Is it exercise, mental renewal, religious experience etc.?

Joseph- “Dirt bike riding is probably a little bit of all those things. It really is. I took about 10 years off of riding in my 40s. My body was not… I wasn’t exercising or doing anything else. When I got back into dirtbike riding I felt so much better. Physically, it really keeps you limber. Emotionally there is a lot to it. Again, it is very therapeutic. Mentally, it’s a break from whatever is going on. Again I don’t know if I’d go to a spiritual side but as a Christian I would say being out in the woods for me no matter what I’m doing is a connection for sure. There is no doubt about it. Whether I’m fishing or hunting or dirt bike riding. Being in the woods or by a stream, there is a spiritual side of that for sure. And we can always be alone and reflect a minute while we’re doing that. That’s always a great thing. So a little bit about all those things is probably wrapped up. I think a lot of guys in the community say the same thing, “If we don’t ride for a while we got to get out and clear our head.” It really brings that element for sure.”

10) Do you consider yourself a Piney?

Joseph- “As a resident of Pennsylvania I do within the limitation of living somewhere else obviously. I would say that in some respect because I do love it. As an Enduro rider to be able to the events in the Pines. For everything you defined as a Piney, of what the Pines represent, to be able to ride a dirt bike thru that element back in through the remoteness and the isolation, there’s nothing like that. That’s what we are all looking for when we ride a dirt bike. I’ll go back to the imprint that my first event in the Pinelands left on me. Again, it’s still there. I can still smell that day in the dirt and the pines and just being in that because it was all new to me. To be able to travel to New Jersey and ride an Enduro in Pinelands whether it’s a few times a year and have that ability to do that, I really value that. There’s something like that there’s nowhere else really in the country that you can do that to have that terrain. With that being said not sure if that fits what a Piney is, but I really appreciate the Pinelands and what it brings and what we can do there. I know our off-road community appreciates it too. Just the vastness and being able to isolate and get out and enjoy that. It is unique, and I think we all really appreciate that.”

An Interview with 21st Century Pine Barrens Explorer Judd Cawley of Burlington, NJ

Judd Cawley contributed to this article in his own personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of author and Piney Tribe team administrator William Lewis.

“When we use to go cattailing back in the day, we always went Gregory’s either in Burlington or Mt. Holly to grab a couple pair of Converse All Stars (Chuck Taylor’s) what we called “bobos”. Perfect cattailing footwear, they was comfy, dried quickly, and lasted most of the season. Even used em for clamming.”

Judd Cawley
Judd Cawley along the railroad tracks to Chatsworth

Interview Conducted on 11/12/2020

1) If you were forced to categorize your interests in the great outdoors what one would you say fits you best? Example botany, local history, geology, herping etc.

Judd- “Hunting and trapping out in the Pines. Kinda living off the land like we did years and years ago when the dried flower business was really big and booming. It was in the late 70s early 80s for me all the way to the 1990s. Living off the land doing what you could do to make a living to put food on the table. That was my interest was down there. I like the beauty of the Pines down there that’s all. Pretty much there of living off the land is kinda how I got my nickname to of ‘Indian’.”

2) We never truly know the influence we have on others. Someone out there probably lots of someones look up to you in your endeavors in the Pines. Who do you list in your top 3 influencers of your own interest in adventuring?

Judd- “What I did in the woods it would be my dad Reds Cawley. He did woods work and hunting and trapping with a good work ethic. Not because he was my dad just the way he did everything and how he went about things. My good friend Jimmy Durr, who was a hard worker, had a real influence on me. He’s right up there side by side with my dad. And the old Pineys of the woods of yesteryears who worked the woods making a living out there. People like Hazy Dilks, Cowboy Henry Webb, and Gordy Lockwood. Just watching them when I was young and seeing how hard they worked. I kinda wanted to do it after seeing them.”

3) Do you prefer solo or group outdoor adventures?

Judd- “Depends on what your doing (chuckles). I like to be alone. If you’re out doing some woods work and you’re not supposed to be there or kinda sneaking on some ground. Kinda wanna be by yourself so you don’t get nobody else in trouble. Sometimes with another person there an extra set of eyes don’t hurt. Basically, by myself that way you can get out there and kinda reflect on things by yourself and concentrate on what your doing. Hunting and trapping we never hunted with groups always just me and dad or by myself. You never liked to give up too many good spots for trapping so keep that to yourself. And same thing with the woods work. You don’t want to take other people out to your hotspots. Next thing you know the person you took out there with you gathering your stuff or trapping your muskrats. More alone than anything.”   

4) What’s your typical mode of operation (MO) when it comes to how you interact with your interest. Is it pure hobby, part nostalgia, or academic in purpose? What’s your goal from doing it?

Judd- “Hobby I guess you could say but also trying to keep the heritage alive for me. Everything is not the same as it used to be years ago. Trapping wise there no trappers left out there. Hunting there’s nobody that hunts like they used to. The woods work same deal its not like it used to be. Just trying basically as a hobby making some extra money and keeping that heritage alive. It’s changed so much its like a dying breed especially the woods work.”  

Judd Cawley with nuisance beavers removed with license

5) What’s the best resource you can share with someone looking to pursue your specific hobby?

Judd- “Can’t really encourage anybody to do something I like to do. Maybe just take a kid out trapping and hunting and watch what I do. Maybe they’ll take an interest in it. There is so many different views on what I do. To many ‘antis’ out there. I do nuisance beaver trapping. The fur market went belly up years ago so there is not much draw to it.”  

6) I may have asked this and or you answered it in another question but now that you had more time to think on it, “What drives you to your specific sport?” Is it exercise, mental renewal, religious experience etc.?

Judd-“Just keeping everything… I don’t know just trying to keep everything the same as it used to be. I wouldn’t say its religious just the way I feel about doing things. Keeping that heritage alive. My nephew AJ took a liking to working in the woods with me. I’m the only one left right now in all the pineys that gathered stuff doing it part time now. AJ is into the trapping part and hunting too. Even passing it on to his buddies. Makes me feel good that I got him into it and that he’s passing onto his younger generation of friends in their 20s. He got his girlfriend recently a hunting license too.”

AJ Cawley with grey fox

7) How many people do you know that have told you that what you do in the wild is crazy or kinda weird?

Judd- “Whole shit load of em. Years ago, when the woods work was really up and jumping a lot of people really knew back then what you were doing. They understood didn’t think you were nuts or crazy maybe nuts when you were coming home full of mud, full of stickers and cuts just to go out to make $75 or $100 bucks. Nowadays though they look at you and say yeah, your crazy and why don’t you get a real job? That’s the way I was brought up and I’m going to try to keep it going as long as I can. There’s a handful out there says I’m nuts and there are some out there that understand as times are tight so you make some money however you can make it.”

8) What’s one thing you’d like to change about our current New Jersey environment?

Judd- “Open up the freakin woods! There’s enough room out there for everyone. There is 1.2 million acres of Pinelands out there. They can designate areas for motocross, they could designate areas for four-wheelers, whatever they want to do just keep it clean and don’t tear it up too bad. They could even make money off it. Im sure people would be willing to pay a little fee to get out there and the state makes money, and the kids could have fun. There are too many rules and regulations; “keep out of here keep out of there, no cutting this no cutting that, no hunting no trapping.“ Open it up. The mudding doesn’t affect me.

Just don’t tear up all the main roads where everyone rides at. But if they had a designated area for them, let em have it. Even with the four wheelers let them ride the state forest maybe put a speed limit on it and let them register a vehicle and insure it and set some rules. Let them go by them rules. They’re not hurting nobody. Just don’t tear the woods up don’t trash the woods I don’t have anything against that. Let everyone respect it a little bit is all.

Also, years ago, you could get a permit from the state to cut hog brush. Lebanon state forest there was a $10 fee. And go anywhere in the state forest and cut all the hog brush or all the sweethuck you wanted, and you was doing the state a favor taking all that undergrowth out of there. For the forest fires all that undergrowth would be gone. All of a sudden, they shut it right down. Not sure if it was because you were making a little bit of money on it or maybe someone dumped trash somewhere and the people cutting the brush got the blame for it. I don’t know why they shut it down. It was a good thing back in the 80s and 90s when the woods work was still going. If they offered a permit today and there was a market for that brush every piney out there would probably jump right on it. Most of those guys took care of the woods. When we were taking care of the woods cutting cattails and other grasses you could find it nice year after year. But since the Pineys stopped you can’t find those meadows of cattails anymore its all grown up. Dad used to say we were stewards of the land us Pineys.”  

9) Is there a way to encourage people to follow your passion or should we not encourage others that may or may not be respectful in the same manner to the environment?

Judd- “Take some kids hunting or do some trapping and go out in the woods and be respectful.”

9a) Is the Pines the Piney’s heritage?

Judd- “It’s part of it. Does the Pines really define the Piney? Answer-No. What I call the true piney the independent worker who went out making a living off the woods and land there are a lot of items on the Richardson Calendar that didn’t grow down the Pines. Like penny crest, pepper grass, tansy, timothy, brown burr, I could go on on with names of plants where you had to go up in the country. The pines and the piney, I mean the true piney, worked the land not just the pines.”

10) Do you consider yourself a Piney?

Judd- “Yeah I do even I know a lot of people are like, “you gotta be born and bred down there.” When I was born, I lived down there in Chatsworth on Johnson road down by four-mile circle. Moved back and forth a few times. I also lived on Sooy place road but always between there and Burlington. Never a full-time person that lived down there. But what I consider myself what I call the true piney the independent worker that lived off that land whether be down in the pines or in the country that’s what I call a true piney and what I call myself. I would say there are probably just a handful of us left; Hazy Dilks, Joe Lewis, Bill Wasiowich the hermit and that’s it there might be a few others out there that I don’t know of but that’s about it.”  

Welcome To The Community- Piney Tribe!

So, I wanted to create a blog post here as a reference point for friends of the Piney Tribe website, Facebook page, and Instagram. If you or a friend needs more information on what the Piney Tribe is, you could point to this post. And if you were seeking information on who the author of New Jersey’s Lost Piney Culture is and what the book is about, you could find it here. Please share and or contact us on Facebook or Instagram.

New Jersey’s Lost Piney Culture

The book New Jersey’s Lost Piney Culture is due out Monday January 25th, 2021. It will be sold in many of the major retailers like Barnes and Nobles and Author signed copies will also be available at many local retail venues. The image at the top of this post is the official front and back of the book published by History Press which is a subsidiary of Arcadia Press best known for the local town history books. We are hoping in 2021 to bring limited but safe distanced ‘Meet the Author’ events to a location near you.

Now about the book itself. I wrote it to give the definitive answer to what a Piney was and what a Piney is today.  It tackles some sensitive subject matter of how the word Piney was once a derogatory term and how today many people wear it as a badge of honor. Throughout the book you get a glimpse into the Piney life many never fully understood, and you get a contemporary telling of how pop culture has influenced the people of South Jersey. Some of those rare oddities play out in short stories like the confession of a Piney mother who describes her alcohol-induced Jersey Devil sighting. Several New Jersey pop culture figures are mentioned in the book like, “Did you know the original Weedman of New Jersey was from Mt. Holly, not like that Cheech & Chong funny stuff?” And what’s the MTV “Jersey Shore” connection to a Piney and the continued propagation of that negative stereotype all about? Oh, and another little-known fun fact bet you didn’t know was that Pineys were the first to wear Chuck Taylor Converse shoes, or what the kids today call Chucks? Many of these stories are fading away, as the memories of those few remaining kin to tell the tale of those legends are dwindling.

Official Back Cover Blurb

“Deep within the heart of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, the Piney people have built a vibrant culture and industry from working the natural landscape around them. Foraging skills learned from the local Lenapes were passed down through genarations of Piney families who gathered many of the same wild floral products that became staples of the Philadelphia and New York dried flower markets. Important figures such as John Richardson have sought to lift the Pineys from rural poverty by recording and marketing their craftsmanship. As the state government sought to preserve the Pine Barrens and develop the region, Piney culture was frequently threatened and stigmatized. Author and advocate William J. Lewis charts the history of the Pineys, what being a Piney means today and their legacy among the beauty of the Pine Barrens.”


It seems the best way these days is to produce good content and parse it out on the internet and on the various social media platforms. Social media has transformed how books are written and sold today in the 21st century. If you write a book you want people to read it but there are many obstacles to getting the story out. Social media is a great way to remove some of those obstacles and take the positive interactions and engagement from the public who follow you and turn that into greater storytelling and writing. Since writing the first book I’ve go on to develop a children’s book and a coloring book using the Piney Tribe Facebook page’s Unofficial Mascot Piney Joe. Also, several other promising book projects are in the works. All from listening to Piney Tribe fan page members in an open sharing environment.

At the Piney Tribe Facebook page, we have a set format and schedule of posts. All posts and opinions are solely those of the author William Joe Lewis (nothing political). They are distributed on a Banker’s schedule. Meaning one post by 9 am, possibly a pick-me-up post around lunchtime, and a 3rd post by close of business around 5pm. In between when creativity hits a random additional post may be lodged at the reader. Posts contain photography from the Pine Barrens, short 3 paragraph stories early in the day, and usually video clips are shared in the afternoon. There is a closed group called Piney Tribe Under the Radar where members are encouraged to post all things Pine Barrens. If you haven’t already join us by following along using our handle Piney Tribe both on Facebook and Instagram. All photography when used personally has no restrictions. Meaning if you wanted to take a photo that William Lewis took and paint it we encourage you to! If you want us to email you a higher resolution image and have it printed and framed for your home or office, we welcome it! Just don’t take advantage of our kindness by trying to profit from it.

As a writer, you want to create more than you imitate. And to be a writer you must write daily. Each of the various social media platforms provide opportunity to write and share photos. In addition, this website’s blog is another empty canvas waiting to be painted. We started a series of interviews hoping to highlight the diversity of the community that makes up the Piney Tribe. The series is named the 21st Century Pine Barrens Explorer. We publish it every two weeks on a Friday. You would be surprised by how many different people consider themselves Pineys and how differently each of them interacts with the Pinelands yet all share a deep love for the people and places within that 1.1 million acre national reserve.

“Travel with us on a quest to write untold stories and share joyous memories while we also create opportunity to make new ones. We have an official slogan- Piney Tribe Knows. Many of the stories and feelings our community members share would be forgotten if no one was around to listen. It is our attentive listeners who become in the ‘Know’. Much of the flora and fauna of the Pinelands is unique to the area and we seek to educate ourselves and when we do we become in the ‘Know’. Our slogan and many of the images contained in the various book projects can be attained on Piney Tribe fan merchandise. Hopefully soon our storefront will be hosted on our website but currently we use as our apparel company. So become a fan today!”

Yours truly William Lewis

An Interview with 21st Century Pine Barrens Explorer Diane Davis of Chatsworth, NJ

Disclaimer- Diane Davis contributed to this article in her own personal capacity. The views expressed are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of author and Piney Tribe team administrator William Lewis.

Favorite partial quote from Diane about her deceased father, “I know in my heart every time we are rolling he right there in passenger seat with that smile and a beer in hand. Riding those old dirt roads, he loved so much they are and will always be a family tradition when I miss him the most those roads are the closest thing I have to him. All the memories of rides we all loved so much. So, ride flat up there dad I miss you!”

Diane Davis

Interview Conducted on 10/22/2020

1) If you were forced to categorize your interests in the great outdoors what one would you say fits you best? Example botany, local history, geology, herping etc.

Diane- “4X4ing and riding the dirt roads in trucks. Some of these roads you have to have some big trucks. Not so much about the mudding part of 4X4ing. We used to take rides on rainy days since I was a child. I’ve done it with my own children. My oldest son is now a father, and he’s continued the tradition with his own child. It’s just something that, these dirt roads here especially in this town (Chatsworth), are where I have the most memories with my dad. I have a 4X4 Jeep. We ride through the woods there are water holes and different things that you see. Many people are out there to do the mudding and it does tear up the land and stuff. We are not out there to do that. Most of us are not there to do that. Most of us just like to take peaceful rides through the woods stopping along the way if there is a group of us and talk. Reminisce and things like that.”

2) We never truly know the influence we have on others. Someone out there probably lots of someones look up to you in your endeavors in the Pines. Who do you list in your top 3 influencers of your own interest in adventuring?

Diane- “My father (Teddy), my stepdad Hazy Dilks, and #3 would be just friends.”

3) Do you prefer solo or group outdoor adventures?

Diane- “Either or when I’m having like bad days since I lost my dad, I prefer to do it by myself. But we have a group of friends we do it with and that is a lot of fun too. No destination we just go until we tire of it. We go with about 5 or 6 vehicles in our group. Majority of us when taking rides take garbage bags with us. And we’ve cleaned up a lot of trash. We aren’t out there to tear stuff up. Teaching younger ones, “Just to appreciate what you have.” I grew up here all my life but moved away for 8 years. And I just came back over a year ago and it has totally changed. Because now there are places where I had grown up and my parents had taken me, and I have taken my kids to now you can’t even go to. It’s a shame because it’s something that a lot of us here were used to.

You take a chance now, and you can get in trouble. It’s not worth it and it’s a shame that it turned out that way. Many people say it’s because of the drinking and yes that has happened here. But not all of us when we decide to get in our vehicles and go somewhere that’s not what we are out there doing. Your being accused of doing this or that, but you know not everybody is out there to do that. Must of us are out there to take a ride like everybody else that does it on a tar road. We are just doing it in the woods because it’s something we have done all our lives. Since I moved back here, it’s nothing like it was when I grew up as a child. Everything has just changed. When I was little, we rode in trucks, dune buggies, and ATVs. You used to ride down the tar roads here but don’t do that now. The laws have changed. I understand that you can’t ride on tar roads with an ATV and I get it and I respect that. But some of us who just like to take a ride on our ATVs just like we do in our pickup trucks. You can’t even do that without the fear of getting in trouble. Now we just go out of state where there are designated places where you can ride.

Most of the land here is now owned by conservationists and it is a shame that there is not an area where you can ride at. Because personally in this town there is nothing to do. It is a peaceful place to be. Just about everyone knows everyone. It’s a good place to be. But from what we did when we were growing up you couldn’t do it now because it has changed so much. A lot of the kids play basketball or ride their skateboards and bikes but there isn’t nothing here for these kids to do. My oldest is in his 30s we rode with him and now he started his own family but now other than riding on your own private property if you go off it you take a chance. As big as the area is to me, I wish there was a place where kids go ride. Not every kid in this town rides motorcycles or ATVs but there is a majority of them that do. It would be nice if there was a place for them to ride instead of having to go out of state to do it.”  

4) What’s your typical mode of operation (MO) when it comes to how you interact with your interest. Is it pure hobby, part nostalgia, or academic in purpose? What’s your goal from doing it?

Diane- “Its how we grew up. You used to be able to do a lot of things in Chatsworth; pits here and Hidden Lakes. But it just got so out of control with drinking and bringing in things that shouldn’t have been here. For safety reasons you can’t do what we did when we grew up. When we are out, we’ve stopped and had conversations with people we’ve seen out on the woods roads. If you are going to come out here and enjoy the area like we are and are going to stop and have lunch take the trash with you. Just don’t leave it behind as that seems to happen a lot around here. There are probably local people who have littered too but now that I’m older like just keep the place nice and there wouldn’t be all these problems.”

5) Is there a way to encourage people to follow your passion or should we not encourage others that may or may not be respectful in the same manner to the environment?

Diane- “It’s a shame because it’s the same thing that is lacking in the world today it’s just respect. Treat other’s property like it’s your own. Have respect. I mean that has been said by quite a few for a lot of years. You got away with doing things for so long. Being carefree and doing whatever you wanted around here pretty much. But now there are new people here and have been for a while and it come to a point where nothing is tolerated anymore. And everything is closed; there are gates here, trees cut down, or where you can’t take a road where you were able to take one before.

To me it’s not fair to the people that have the respect for these parts of the woods and land but it does hurt everyone not just a few people. There are places where Pineys went in the woods to make a living where you can’t today. I can remember my stepfather doing woods work all his life. You had to ride the woods to go to places where he went to make a living and you could not do that today. For 18 years when he was with my mother, I went with him to cut brush (hoghuck & sweethuck); he taught us how to cut birch and how to get pinecones. Everything that he did like cutting cattails he taught us. He’s 75 years old now living in Chatsworth still and he lived off the land all his life, but you are not doing that now. So, we have those memories, but they are lost because you can’t do it no more. I do crafts a lot and to go into the store and buy the stuff that I know I could probably get right in my backyard is just insane. And it takes away from the pride of the product I create. You can tell the difference between a craft store grapevine wreath that you bring home or the one you go out and make yourself you can really tell the difference.

It’s a shame it’s a beautiful place here. There’s a lot a lot of roads here. That’s something I did with my biological dad all my life and I lost my dad in a tragic accident. Some days are better than others it’s been 16 years but when I need my dad, the most I just get in my truck and take a ride on an old dirt road. I’m sure we’ve been down it before with him plenty of times.”

6) How many people do you know that have told you that what you do in the wild is crazy or kinda weird?

Diane- “If you’re from here, you understand it if you’re not some people maybe a handful might say its nuts. But when you’ve grown up here and done it all your life its not weird to you. We’ve got coyotes here and people complain about them being in their yard. What are you going to do? It’s part of nature its part of living here. Same with deer it’s what this place is about. You are in the middle of nowhere. I moved away for 8 years when I had an opportunity to move somewhere else me and my husband moved back home. I’m glad we decided to come back because there is no place like home.”

7) What’s the best resource you can share with someone looking to pursue your specific hobby?

Diane- “I know there are jeep groups out there that you could join. From us living here and growing up here we know most of the roads. We just get in our trucks and take a ride.”

8) What’s one thing you’d like to change about our current New Jersey environment?

Diane- “Open up the roads or something so people like us have somewhere we know we can go without getting into trouble. Things need to change at the state level.”

9) I may have asked this and or you answered it in another question but now that you had more time to think on it, “What drives you to your specific sport?” Is it exercise, mental renewal, religious experience etc.?

Diane- “Mental thing you are relaxed out there. So many memories I have on these roads around here with my kids, my dad, and with my stepdad Hazy. Too many to remember. And now especially for me if I have a bad day like rainy days, I’ll take a ride. Especially on rainy days my kids would go to school and my dad would come by and say,” We can take a ride before the kids come back from school.” And that’s something we did when it rained. Took a ride and listen to the radio and ride all day long. On the radio with my dad driving the music playing was Bob Seger, Fleetwood Mac, Creedence, and any country music because that’s what I grew up on.”

10) Do you consider yourself a Piney?

Diane- “Yes, I do. I grew up here. I’ve seen a lot of things I’ve done a lot of things with my stepdad Hazy. I worked with him. Back then I only had one child and being able to go out and do that work helped me take care of my child. Just from living here all my life and seeing how it was and how it is today. New people to the area have a view different from mine. I’m not a nature nut but I have an attachment to places here. It’s a beautiful place to live. This is a special place to me this is my home in Chatsworth with places like Petticoat hill, Goose Pond, Wading river in the summer months kayaking, and favorite place to eat especially breakfast at Lucille’s.

You know they have a stereotype that you have a big truck you are out here just to tear up. Not everyone is out there destroying stuff. I feel it is a disagreement between different people. But this stereotype is ignorant. We stop and smoke cigarettes and talk. When the kids are with us, we reminisce about what we used to do out there, there are a lot of memories on those roads.  We don’t stop and eat but we take the dirt roads to restaurants and bars in the area. Places like Pic-A-Lilli Inn on rte 206 and you can go from my home through the woods without hitting a tar road to Lucille’s restaurant on rte 539. And that’s a great morning ride. There are roads you can take to get to Mayo’s and there’re roads you can take to get to Billy Boy’s Four Mile Tavern on rte 72. And there were ways to get to the old Hedger House when it was open. The biggest memory we have here especially with my dad growing up even with my kids when we get a snowstorm its unimaginable. The things you see and the pictures we have of you being the first one going down a road after it has snowed. That’s always something I did with my dad after the first snowstorm of the winter. We’d get up and be the first one on the roads. That feeling is so good, and it still is even after I lost my dad. We still do this as a family.”

An Interview with 21st Century Pine Barrens Explorers Josh Loew and Roula Theodoropoulou

Disclaimer- Josh Loew and Roula Theodoropoulou contributed to this article in their own personal capacity. The views expressed are theirs and do not necessarily represent the views of author and Piney Tribe team administrator William Lewis.

“Frog things, turtle findings, nighttime bow fishing, native species, blueberry eats, saving the world one day at a time!”

Roula Theodoropoulou

“The future is written by the decisions of every person on this planet at every moment. Sometimes we believe we can take the wheel and direct it where we want. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes we dream so much about the future that it seems to already exist. Sometimes that dream has to be erased. As we go through life, it is important to dream. It is important to hold on to the wheel, but when everything changes and the way we were heading becomes impossible or it is no longer what we want, we should learn to appreciate the beauty in the pure chaos, that is, the unwritten future.”

Josh Loew

Interview conducted on 10/07/2020

1) If you were forced to categorize your interests in the great outdoors what one would you say fits you best? Example botany, local history, geology, herping etc.

Josh- “A few months ago I would have been unsure.  I have interest in all of them. But I’ve narrowed it down today to native plants and fighting off invasive plants.”

Roula- “Narrowed it down to birds. I thought about this long and hard in the past. And my general interest from loving animals has narrowed down to just the flying ones.”

2) We never truly know the influence we have on others. Someone out there probably lots of someones look up to you in your endeavors in the Pines. Who do you list in your top 3 influencers of your own interest in adventuring?

Roula- “Steve Irwin 1st, he’s what I grew up with as a kid. A consistency I think I had in my childhood. I watched him as I grew up and I tried to be just like him. I didn’t take gender as a consideration. This is a man going out in the wild being all manly and crazy. But I didn’t take that into consideration. I wanted to be my own crazy wild nature adventure person in the future, and it stayed that way for many years.

2nd Dian Fossey, she wrote a book called Gorillas In the Mist where she talked about her adventures alone In Tanzania. She just went out there and studied silver back gorillas. I thought that was really cool. I think I was drawn into the bravery in these people and the independence and the curiosity that drove them into the wild. Just sitting with themselves their thoughts and their surroundings is what sparked my interest in both these individuals Steve Irwin and Dian Fossey.  And the fact that Dian Fossey was a woman, and she was brave enough to go out on her own and do those exhibitions. The book is what sparked my interest, but I have yet to see the movie.

3rd There’s a lot of famous people I can refer to. I think what also drove me to the direction of nature and loving it just the realization of the connectivity of everything.  I can sit down and read all these things about all these people and I can look at plants and birds all day long. The reality of it is I don’t find enjoyment in anything else other than the things going on outside. I feel that is the most important thing in life because without it we wouldn’t be here today. So, my third thing would be just the realization of the beauty of life itself if that makes sense. I gained that awareness in Yoga school and I think Yoga helped me get in touch with myself a lot more than college or high school ever had. With yoga I was able to get creative with my practices and having everyone else join me. And the most comforting space was just being outside and having everyone realize where they are when they’re doing it and how they’re doing it. And how everything works, and I think Yoga was the key to that.”  

Josh- “I’m going to have to go with Douglas Tallamy for my number one. He’s a writer. He’s been a big inspiration for me lately.  A new friend of mine Jane Galetto introduced me to Douglas Tallamy’s works. I read them as soon as I got my hands on the books and it took me one day to read through them. Bringing Nature Home and later I got Nature’s Best Hope. Reading those two books fueled my interest. Now I’m reading more books on the topic. Studying native plants and understanding the importance of native plants for wildlife. It helped me kind of take my interest in all things and narrow it down to plants specifically native plants. It encompasses everything else. Without those native plants everything else would cease to exist.  

2nd Family in general. All of them I feel had some role in shaping my interest in nature. While they are much attached to nature and very much interested in nature it is in a very different way. They are outdoorsmen they hunt and fish. To spend time looking at different plants and identifying them or identifying insects or birds to them that’s just abnormal. It doesn’t make sense. I’ve spent time explaining to them why I’m pursuing biology. Many of the men in my family have traditionally been tradesman mainly welders. I know they wanted me to be a welder. I started to pursue that field. I always held on to the adventures in nature I had as a child going hunting and fishing. While they’re out catching fish, I’d be on the banks scooping up little fish trying to figure out what I was catching. I was always a little different that way. But they’re the ones that introduced me to nature and sparked all those interests. I gotta give them credit for that.

3rd past work experiences; I worked for 7 years every summer and on weekends Beaver Dam boat rentals. The business was focused mainly crabbing where the customers went out to catch crabs. There was always beautiful with bald eagles flying and everything. But the beauty of nature didn’t catch up to me until a few years working there when I was promoted to be a tow boat operator. I was driving customers out and bringing them to their spots. I found the job more enjoyable by being able to explain to the customers more about the wildlife. So, I took it upon myself to learn more about the local wildlife that way I could tell them about it. I just made me feel that I was better at my job being able to say, “Today you might not catch that many crabs as the conditions aren’t right but you came a long way and your still going to enjoy your day. Because if you look over this way there is nesting bald eagles.  If you look along the marsh, you might be lucky enough to see baby rail birds.” I learned about the different species of birds and different fish and felt so much better about everything. Being able to make customers enjoy what they were seeing rather than focuses on the crabbing portion. I did another job for last few summers at the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge. Two summers as an intern and one summer under a fellowship program at the refuge some of it in the Pine Barrens doing invasive plant management. I would work side by side with a US Fish & Wildlife biologist inspired me a lot for Wildlife biology. That’s the direction I want to head for my future career as a wildlife biologist for the Fish & Wildlife. Definitely a big influence on me just hearing how passionate the Wildlife biologist was and how much knowledge she had. That was my first introduction to an ornithologist. We were on the beach one day and she says, “Stop I hear a piping plover.” And I’m like what are you talking about? It had to be a mile down the beach, but she heard it and knew exactly what species it was and that was impressive.”   

3) Do you prefer solo or group outdoor adventures?

Josh- “I’m pretty solo. I like doing educational things though. If I take friends who don’t appreciate nature like I do, it won’t be that kind of journey. If I take my nephews out, I can teach them things.”

Roula- “It depends. Some days I like to go by myself. I’ve done plenty of camping and hiking alone where I found satisfaction. Then there are days I kinda want to bring another person with me to experience this with.”

4) What’s your typical mode of operation (MO) when it comes to how you interact with your interest. Is it pure hobby, part nostalgia, or academic in purpose? What’s your goal from doing it?

Josh- “I’ve done it for each of those reasons. I’ve done it for academic reasons for herpetology to find a certain number of species. I’ve gone just to enjoy nature. Sometimes just to learn some more. I do sometimes feel guilty spending too much time in the woods by myself. I feel like there should be other things I should be doing instead. I’m always trying to find a good explanation for it like taking my nephews on a field trip to just get myself to feel ok with what I’m doing. Which is kinda funny its almost like I feel guilty about doing something I enjoy?”  

Roula- “I think its comfort reasons. I find comfort in nature. I don’t do shopping therapy I find that extremely stressful. I seek the answers that I don’t even realize I’m looking for in nature. This is nourishment. Every time I go out you here different birds, you hear the wind blowing the leaves rushing; everything. You hear that you smell that its just pure nourishment. Does that make sense?”

5) Is there a way to encourage people to follow your passion or should we not encourage others that may or may not be respectful in the same manner to the environment?

Roula- “There are so many different aspects of nature that people can relate to that no matter what we do we can at least attract one person. Or even if a person can act that they hate everything about nature I believe there is at least one thing that they can relate to with nature. Instead of trying to convince these people otherwise I think the best thing to do is to continue live your life the way you do. Show the different things you do everyday in nature. All these adventures and see what ways you can inspire people with those different adventurers. Its never the same. I don’t think you can force someone to love something but I think you can change perspectives to a more peaceful and understanding empathetic perspective when it comes to nature. No matter what way you do it.”

Josh- “There are a lot of people that don’t understand nature well enough and when they do go into nature, they can cause damage. There are the people that ride four wheelers and dirt bikes through places where they aren’t supposed to. There are people who blindly stomp on plants. It could be a rare orchid in the forest, and they don’t see it. There definitely a unique challenge to communicate with the public about their interactions with nature. Of course, we want to encourage it because that interaction is what fuels the interest which is going to fuel the desire to gain knowledge about it. And then that person will become that person that does respect nature. But then there are also people that never will be comfortable going into nature. Craziest as that is to me it’s the truth. I’ve found that a lot of times people just don’t understand a lot of things about nature. I do my best to try to educate as much as possible. In the FFA it encouraged us to be proactive and not reactive.  Someone says something negative about nature or something and you start arguing with them. Its better to promote that positive thing that you think. So, they see that before they something negative. For example, about saying something negative about deer hunting. Instead I post about myself deer hunting in the most educational way possible. I understand the biology of it the conservation of it. So I give that perspective rather than arguing with people who don’t understand it. I try to educate them before we get into that sort of situation. I just recently did this. I harvested a white tail doe. I posted photograph on my social media. I’ve accumulated a bit of a following (on social media) and I know a lot of these people aren’t nature-oriented people like myself. I posted a black screen with a warning that said, “Warning deer hunting photo coming next.” Caption this is why people deer hunt, and this is what it does. And the next picture was me with the deer. Posted it and I felt good about it. Probably ten people messaged me and thanked me. And not thanking me for saving them from seeing it but thanking me for sharing the information that they didn’t know before. I really felt good about that. A lot of people can enjoy nature by just seeing it on the screen. Seeing their friends interact with nature that seems to satisfy a lot of people. Just my experiences posting about nature people love it and appreciate but I don’t see them going and doing the same thing. Ways we can educate people more, but my main message is to be proactive and send out the right information.”   

6) How many people do you know that have told you that what you do in the wild is crazy or kinda weird?

Roula- “Like everybody. A bunch of people that I went to school with like in high school and college.”   

Josh- “My little sister comes over with her young adult friends they think it’s hilarious when I start talking about native plants. “Oh my gosh you and your plants!” I’ll be planting trees. I’m big on this idea of ecological landscaping. My dad is always saying since high school he’s encouraged me to be a welder. He really things its foolish to pursue a wildlife position. People also look at me like I’m Crocodile Dundee. What I do is normal to me. But the way I dress people compare me to Crocodile Dundee.”

7) What’s the best resource you can share with someone looking to pursue your specific hobby?

Josh- “Douglas Tallamy’s two books; Bringing Nature Home and Nature’s Best Hope. If you read any of those two books your view of nature should change. My entire prospective of everything has changed since reading those two books. The simplest but greatest plan for conservation this country has ever seen. Rachel Carson has a great argument but totally different areas. Douglas Tallamy has the best action for ordinary people. The Pine Barrens should have very specific vegetation and Tallamy talks about the importance of keeping the right plants where they belong.”

Roula- “Douglas Tallamy books too. What this man has to offer is absolutely brilliant. It’ll change all sorts of perspectives. It shifted mine for sure as a bird lover and conservation. Every time I think about doing something productive my mind always goes to, “What can I do that can help benefit biodiversity today?” That’s how he shifted my perspective. Me being selfless connected with nature and how I can benefit it.”

8) What’s one thing you’d like to change about our current New Jersey environment?

Josh- “Native plants; this is a country wide thing. Super important for New Jersey where there is a lot of suburban areas and rural areas too.  The whole state could benefit from changing the traditional mindset on landscaping. Everyone wants to have this pure luscious green lawn. This strange status symbol that we’ve created in this country. That no one benefits from it. Humans don’t eat grass. Must insects and animals don’t eat grass. Basically, useless land. People could use their land much better if they were growing vegetables for food. Best option is to plant the plants that belong there. Native vegetation is what provides the insects and food sources for our native wildlife. We are holding on to some weird cultural practice that makes absolutely no sense.”

Roula- “I’m going to have to agree with Josh on planting native plants. I think that is extremely important and crucial for native biodiversity. One thing that I’ve recently been complaining about is noise. I would like a reduction in noise pollution. And a lot of people find it absurd, “Like what’s the big deal?” How do you think I was able to memorize 250 bird vocals? By peace and quiet. Being able to sit down in the dark or wherever I am in the woods and just listen. Just listen and get in tune with yourself. Understand yourself you understand everything else around you.”

9) I may have asked this and or you answered it in another question but now that you had more time to think on it, “What drives you to your specific sport?” Is it exercise, mental renewal, religious experience etc.?

Roula- “What drives me to birds? I think communication drives me to that. I feel like birds have a lot to say. Birds are talking about all sorts of things. And I think to understand them better and understand their situation in nature you gotta understand their calls. I think its so complex. I think communication is really important. Josh says, “Roula has a gift. She can just hear birds and know what they are. She hears them and has a picture of them in her mind. Somehow her brain processes sound in an incredibly unique way that is really impressive to me”

Josh- “I had a High school running coach. He told me, “The secret to life is one thing.” It comes from an old movie. He was trying to convince me that I should focus on running. I was involved in too many things but that is how I wanted to be. I didn’t want to focus on one thing. I kinda held onto that quote and find it interesting to look back on. But I started thinking about it more when I got interested in biology. What is my one thing? This person is interested in birds that person is interested in sharks. Everybody seemed to have their thing. And I could never figure mine out. It seemed like whatever class I went into that suddenly was my thing. I was super interested in whatever I was learning about. I was in herpetology and this is it. I’m all about herpetology. Then I get into ornithology I’m like this is it I’m all about birds. Finally, I got to go to Costa Rica on a trip for tropical ecology in school. I thought this was my chance. Whatever I like most on this trip that was my thing. We were supposed to bring one field guide on the thing we were most interested in. I brought every field guide; plants, birds, and herps. I went there I was mostly interested in birds and herps but mainly herps. I thought that was it, but I went home and there wasn’t as many herps and as interesting to me as it was before. Then I got introduced to Douglas Tallamy. Then everything suddenly became connected. I’m interested in everything and everything depends upon the native plants. Ever since I read those books nothing has been able to change my deepest interest my deepest passion as botany. Studying the impact of invasive plants and the necessity of native plants.  It’s the connection to all things that you find in plants.”

10) Do you consider yourself a Piney?

Josh- “Yes definitely I live on the edge of the Pines. But there is something about it. Immerse myself in the pines is a special feeling. I think that’s why that was our first date. Roula came down to hang out with me and I was loading up the kayaks in the truck and I said get in we’re going on a trip. We paddled out amongst the sand and the pine trees and set up our hammocks in a Pinus rigida. We had our hammocks set up on those giant pine trees and it was the perfect night for a first date. I don’t think we’ll every forget that. There was a reason I took her there as our first date. I think that says a lot. The first place you wanna bring someone that first place you want to show someone. Paddling in we were listening to whip-poor-wills her first time hearing them. We just kept talking about how beautiful the landscape was. I Never want to leave South Jersey. I always want to be able to visit the pines.”  

Roula- “My story growing up was very nomadic. I was all over the place. Because I grew up going back and forth from the United States and my home country Greece. As a child my parents did a lot of moving back and forth. So, when I started growing up as a teenager and early adult years I just continued with that pattern. I kept moving. I’d go up mountains. I’d go down south, constantly moving. I’d always stay here in the northeast area though. I just kept going. A lot of people say that humans naturally go back to what we are comfortable with. Which is why a lot of us stay in what we know and what we are comfortable with? But I’m so used to adaptation that I came up with this quote, “Find home in every place you meet.” I relate to that a lot because of the amount of moving I had to do throughout my entire life. That is also a big part of my connection with nature. Getting to know Josh and hanging out with him it makes me feel like I’ve found my place or my home. Wherever we end up if we are together, and we do the things that we love I think that will be my place that I find home. I can definitely say I love the Pine Barrens.”

An Interview with Pine Barrens Explorer Albert Horner of Medford Lakes New Jersey

“Photography is a way of preserving wildland. Pinelands is preserved more or less. I feel more comfortable out in the woods.”- taken from ArtC TV interview Apr 28, 2020.”

Albert Horner

Albert Horner contributed to this article in his own personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of author and Piney Tribe team administrator William Lewis.

I continue to find myself accumulating friends who are the ‘Lewis & Clark’ of the 21st century and their passion is the New Jersey Pine Barrens and surrounding natural areas. I am hosting a series of interviews and photos from each of these Piney Explorers. Sometimes I feel like I need to keep up with their awesome discoveries but mostly I’m in awe of our shared passion for wild places. One positive from social media is the window it opens to the lives of other’s adventures. It’s so easy to get swept up in their energy and their world view as seen threw camera, binoculars, hand lens, kayak, and the written word. Thanks for reading and from the Piney Tribe a big thank you for loving our Pine Barrens!



Interview Conducted on 9/30/2020

1)     If you were forced to categorize your interests in the great outdoors what one would you say fits you best? Example botany, local history, geology, herping etc.

Albert- “It’s being in the landscape. Its pretty unique and not found in a lot of places other than South Jersey. There are some Pine Barrens in Long Island and a piece up in Cape Cod. I pretty much grew up around the area. I caught my first fish caught at Atsion Lake. I had a friend who owned one of the cabins that were first built. I spent my early springs and part of my summer there.

I have difficulty describing it, but I know it’s part of my feelings about the Pinelands is how it smells in the Spring. My experiences when I was young around the Pinelands and spending so much time at Atsion Lake. I always recognize that smell. Sort of like after the first dry period after it rains, and it starts to get warmer. It is the smell of cedar or the cedar water to tell you the truth. I look for really different landscapes. The Pinelands isn’t this vast array of mountains and valleys. Basically, its scrubby pine and oak forest. You really have to look for things that are pleasing to people that you can photograph. Finding those unique little spots. If you ever been up at Apple Pie Hill, Forked River mountains, or East Plains where you can get an idea of the vastness of it. I have always thought I would like to explore as much of it as possible. And I really have.

Fifteen years ago I started to get serious about photography. I really had this urge to produce really fine photographs that were large that you could hang on a wall. I took this image in Friendship bogs. Way back in the bogs a friend and I were roaming around. I took an image of the moon rising. And it stuck with me. That’s where I’m going to photograph-I know it so well and its close to home. There is nothing better than photographing what you know. That’s what I mean by landscape.“

2) We never truly know the influence we have on others. Someone out there probably lots of someones look up to you in your endeavors in the Pines. Who do you list in your top 3 influencers of your own interest in adventuring?

Albert-“John McPhee obviously. I read the book when it first came out. Also, there was one particular uncle who spent a lot of time in the Pinelands. But I never knew a lot of people associated with the Pinelands. I always just explored it on my own. I was my own model. I wanted to see what was around the next corner, around the bend, the other side of the river. A lot of that was done with friends I hunted with.”

3) Do you prefer solo or group outdoor adventures?

Albert-“Solo. Absolutely. I have a shooting partner but only because he is so memorized by the Pinelands and a pretty darn good photographer. When I go out, I just like to go. If I’m going for photographing, I go for one specific photograph. I don’t go looking for photographs.  I go to make a photograph that I already know exists and you can’t do that with a group of people. This friend of mine that has been photographing with me I can literally call him up at any time and say let’s go and off we go. I used to do workshops they were always fun because I was introducing people to the Pinelands.”

4) What’s your typical mode of operation (MO) when it comes to how you interact with your interest. Is it pure hobby, part nostalgia, or academic in purpose? What’s your goal from doing it?

Albert-“Advocating for the Pine Barrens. I hate using the word Pine Barrens because I think it is very misleading but advocating for the Pinelands. I’ve done it in many ways. I would not be wrong or egotistical in saying I started a whole genre of photographers going out there to make really good images. I pretty much did it on my own for probably 9 or 10 years and then more and more people got involved. That is the catalyst to help preserve it and help expose it. I believe that its under used. I think the state is very remis in maintenance or their idea how important it is. As a result, the Pinelands are definitely not that user friendly unless you go to Whites bogs or Batsto Village(s). But if you wanted to drive hundreds of miles of sand roads you’re pretty much taking your life at risk. You could be stuck forever on one of those roads. I always thought if I could show people a really good image it would inspire people to want to preserve it. As a secondary consequence lots of people have taken up their cameras. I have a Facebook page called Pinelands Photography and Arts Coalition mostly photographers but artists as well.”

5) Is there a way to encourage people to follow your passion or should we not encourage others that may or may not be respectful in the same manner to the environment?

Albert-“Yeah, I believe the Pinelands should be and is open to everyone. But I get back to the lax attitude of the State of New Jersey for not having a motorized access plan. Its created numerous problems both in the destruction of land and destruction of wetlands. It could be much better controlled where more people could get around freely. With a motorized access plan roads could be maintained and roads could be blocked off. I have no problems with blocking off important estuaries, savannas, and intermittent ponds. Guts and life of the Pinelands. Its wide open for off-road vehicles. They do a horrible job and have done major destruction. I want everybody to be out there, but I want them to be responsible. The only way to be responsible is to be encouraged by the state where to go and where not to go. Do I want people out there, yes? Do I want them to ruin it no.”    

6) How many people do you know that have told you that what you do in the wild is crazy or kinda weird?

Albert-“I go out to take a photograph that I’ve already visioned. I’ll go out and estimate when the best time is to go there. Usually I only photograph in the morning 20 minutes before sunrise and 20 minutes after sunrise. Unless there is a fog bank or weather conditions that allow me to shoot more. Once the sun comes up over the trees the light is just horrible. There have been many mornings where I got up 4 o’clock even 3:30. One particular image I took 6 or 7 years ago. I drove from my house to the East Plains and never took the camera out of the bag cause the shot wasn’t there and I came home. On the 8th time it worked, and it worked great. And it is a pretty iconic photograph. People say to me you gotta be crazy. I always say to them especially if their photographers I say to them,” Do you want do this kinda work?” If they say yes than I’ll say you have to get up in the morning. It’s the truth. No control over mother nature. The only thing you have control of is where you go and hopefully your calling the shot with the right weather and your vision is made real. I only really look to make 12 photographs a year. When I go to do something, I key on one spot and keep going there and going there until I get the shot I want.”

7) What’s the best resource you can share with someone looking to pursue your specific hobby?

Albert-“The best resource for anybody to appreciate my hobby is to study the work of other photographers and painters. You are not copying them. People can put their tripod next to mine and they are not going to make the same photograph as I do. You learn what can be done. And you kinda make your own vision from there. You have to state your own purpose. I have 37 images of the Pinelands on exhibit at the State Museum. I have been inspired by watching or reading monographs from all types of photographers.”

8) What’s one thing you’d like to change about our current New Jersey environment?

Albert-“Controlling off road vehicles. I want everyone to have access. The question is how many people do you allow to have access. This is my big advocacy. The state is very reluctant to do anything, users and abusers. Number one threat to the Pinelands bar none. They go on Rides and do crazy things. I believe the state should ban every off-road event. Sanctioning of those events has created this bad culture.”

9) I may have asked this and or you answered it in another question but now that you had more time to think on it, “What drives you to your specific sport?” Is it exercise, mental renewal, religious experience etc.?

Albert-“For me it’s a spiritual experience. Not in a religious way. If there is such a thing as being close to god its watching the sun come up over a bog in the Pinelands. I usually have my camera setup already on a tripod using a cable release. I might take 20 photographs while I’m there. But more often than not I will say to myself, even out loud,” I can’t believe no one else is here to watch this.” All the years I’ve done this I’ve only ran into one person doing this and he was a birder.”

10) Do you consider yourself a Piney?

Albert-“No. The reason being when I grew up Chatsworth was the hunting capital of South Jersey. It was all hunting clubs. There were still people who literally made their living from the land. I met a few of them when I was growing up. I believe they were the true Pineys. They existed off what was there. Even if it was poaching deer. Lots of them pineconed and grew and picked blueberries and cranberries. Those are who I think were true Pineys. I think the rest of us today are just wannabes. Pineys really had passion for the land and they did nothing to destroy it. It was there when you go back to the Native Americans. I am here and this place can provide for me. Some people today may call themselves pineys. They poach snakes they pick flowers they shouldn’t and run their dirt bikes and ORVs wherever they want. And still can call themselves pineys. Whole lot of users and abusers out there that just don’t get it.”

An Interview with Pine Barrens Explorer Brian Parker of Mount Holly, New Jersey

“The beauty in something like kayaking is
you never know who will show up and you
can never predict the lessons you will learn
from listening.

Brian Parker

Brian Parker contributed to this article in his own personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of author and Piney Tribe team administrator William Lewis.

Interview Conducted on 8/19/2020

1) If you were forced to categorize your interests in the great outdoors what one would you say fits you best? Example: botany, local history, geology, herping etc.

Brian- “Honestly, it would be personal and not just personal but rejuvenation. It’s what happens to me when I get to go outside. That connection with nature is the only thing that keeps me able to do everything else that I do. Completely helps recharge my batteries. Water… especially something about water I have to be near around water no matter where even if I live in a big city. I have to be able to see and get as close to water as I can get. Something about being outside that puts you in your place as far as the entire lexicon of the world and your place with god. And that you are just another speck in all of this. At the same time all these little specks come together to feed and nurture each other.”

2) We never truly know the influence we have on others. Someone out there probably lots of someones look up to you in your endeavors in the Pines. Who do you list in your top 3 influencers of your own interest in adventuring?

Brian- 1) Huge John Woolman guy. He was a Quaker. There is a series of lakes called Woolman lake and a cottage. He grew up here. Helped found the Quaker friends here, he was a naturist, and he was an abolitionist. He would go to lecture other people he didn’t want to use a horse-drawn carriage because someone would use a black slave so he would walk to wherever he went. Where he found his love of nature.

2) For nature itself the boy scouts. I know that’s a broad range. That was a huge
introduction to me into camping and earning those badges and learning all kinds of things when I was a kid. Especially being stationed in Germany and all the hikes we would go on called Volks march. I had this cane. I used to go for the little sugar cubes they would give you fun as a kid. Each town they would take this nameplate of the town or mountain you climbed and attach it to your cane after each hike.

3) My dad. He lost his legs in 1974. Prior to that he definitely was a big outdoors person. Whenever he got some time, he was extremely busy in the Army and he always worked a second job especially with 8 of them to take care of and Army pay being horrible. But whenever he could he’d be outside. He would go out to in the woods. Love exploring. Brian Parker has been an adventurer since he was a kid.

3) Do you prefer solo or group outdoor adventures?

Brian-“Exploring I like to do by myself. I prefer by myself and then take other people show what I found. When you are out exploring if you’re not with someone who is like you there are a lot of other things you have to consider. Like are the bugs going to bother them, how much can they walk, getting wet will bother them, with myself I don’t have to worry about that.”

4) What’s your typical mode of operation (MO) when it comes to how you interact with your interest. Is it pure hobby, part nostalgia, or academic in purpose? What’s your goal from doing it?

Brian-“There is no one over the other. There are sometimes that I literally look at a map and say alright I heard about this place I wanna go and wanna see everything I can see about it. There is the explorer side. Then other times I say I’ve heard about this but I don’t know enough and I’ll pick up as many books as I can about something and try to read up about it first. And there are other
times where I’m looking for answers for other people. Very little of it is nostalgia because I’m always looking to understand something new and experience something new. I do go back to certain places but not looking to recreate what I already experienced but I’m looking to take someone else there or even go by myself and see what I missed. Combination of the three with
nostalgia being the least of.”

5) Is there a way to encourage people to follow your passion or should we not encourage others that may or may not be respectful in the same manner to the environment?

Brian-“I don’t want spots to explode and the cleanup can be horrendous. But I’m always trying to encourage people to got out and explore and to see beauty. To experience nature. To understand that it is there for us to help us. I’m part Cherokee and I’ve always felt that connection to Mother Earth. Whatever we take we are going to give back when we die. We are supposed to give back in abundance. If I do a cleanup, I’m not publicizing it for me. I’m publicizing for other people to understand hey this garbage is out there, and you don’t need an organization or a township to go out there and pick it up. Always, always trying to encourage people I don’t necessarily want them to exactly do what I do but do want them to get out and do something. Safety is paramount too. But most importantly understanding what you can and can’t do and the real dangers of the sport of kayaking.”

6) How many people do you know that have told you that what you do in the wild is crazy or kinda weird?

Brian-“Zero I wanna say. My niece posted a meme the other day on Facebook. It was like, “the world is on fire and Brian Parker is like yeah let’s go kayaking.” And the world is on fire and to me that’s why you need to take that time out and go kayaking or go running or go walk into the woods. Do something that can build up your defenses to deal with the world that is on fire. Or else you will succumb to depression or drug use or all kinds of things that can take you in the complete opposite direction. People use to tell me I was crazy when I would kayak in February but now all my friends go out with me in February. Four years ago, they thought that but not now.”

7) What’s the best resource you can share with someone looking to pursue your specific hobby?

Brian-“I would probably say Fitness before I would say Kayaking. For kayaking team up with someone knows what they are doing then get personal experience. Not a book you can read. It’s the kinda thing that once you get in it you’ll know within 15 minutes if you love or hate it or in 15 minutes that you want to learn more. When I say fitness, I used to be a personal trainer and pointed out food was most important. Kayaking is a great physical activity but its not just the physical activity. It’s what it does for your mind when you are sitting in the middle of a waterway and looking at everything around you. Whether it is a pond or someplace like a reservoir or lake, you know where you can sit absolutely still and not do anything but take in every sound that goes in
around every bird and every mosquito or whatever. Or if you are in something, that’s like tidal and you have no choice but to go with the flow or go against the flow. Either way, it’s an intentional movement on your part as to what direction your go and how safe your going to stay in those times. That takes mental fitness. When I say fitness I definitely speak about the physical body but equally important is the mind and being outdoors and connecting to nature whether it’s
in the pines or anywhere else that is all about your mental fitness and mental stability. Which then leads to greater physical stability.”

8) What’s one thing you would like to change about our current New Jersey environment?

Brian-“People to understand that it is not difficult to not litter. I understand dumping. People have old TVs and they want to get rid of it and they don’t understand or don’t want to take the time to go to a dump. I don’t appreciate it I don’t like but I understand that mindset. I don’t understand when people go for a walk in a park and still throw their water bottle on the ground. I don’t get that. More than anything I would like to change that mindset if you brought it with you take it out. The old rule.”

9) I may have asked this and or you answered it in another question but now that you had more time to think on it, “What drives you to your specific sport?” Is it exercise, mental renewal, religious experience etc.?

Brian-“To me it’s all a religious experience. God is part of everything. It definitely more of rejuvenation for me. My mental sanity. IF I don’t connect frequently enough, I feel it. And a lot of people are like what is wrong with you because my tension levels go up. Everything in life is about balance and if I don’t have that balance it throws my perspective off when it comes to with other things I have to deal with and I’m a harsher person.”

10) Do you consider yourself a Piney?

Brian-“Definitely in spirit. When I was a kid 9 or 10. We lived in Mount Holly and would go out to my parent’s best friend’s house in Country Estates. Their backyard was sand. I knew that being out there was a completely different environment than Mt.Holly. And I loved it. I didn’t understand it but I felt like it was magic out there. When I got my license and after I went into the Air Force, I
would drive out there all the time. Browns Mills especially and go off dirt roads with a six-pack and find a water hole big enough to swim in. Cops never came back there. Drink for a little while listen to the radio and then got up and left. Took everything with you. For me I would absolutely consider myself a piney. At least in spirit I know I don’t live there. But I can not go out there. I’m
drawn to it all the time. And when I can bring people out there, I do. Like a friend of mine this last Saturday it was his first time out there. And he goes now I get it. Out of nowhere he says, “Now I get it.” 90% of the time when I kayak it’s out there. I have an infinity for it that you wouldn’t believe. Its pretty enchanting.”

An Interview with 21st Century Pine Barrens Explorer James Pullaro of Leeds Point

Favorite quote from James, “A day where the most common spots were filled beyond capacity, I explored this amazing area deep within the Wharton Forest. It was so remote there weren’t even any ticks there! Lol. Needless to say, I saw no other Humans either.”

James Pullaro

Interview Conducted on 9/03/2020

1) If you were forced to categorize your interests in the great outdoors what one would you say fits you best? Example botany, local history, geology, herping etc.

James- “Botany and history but basically develop relationship with the Pines, nature in general really. Just like anything that you love deeply of course you want to establish a more intimate relationship with it. If I had to boil it down to one thing is to develop a closer relationship with creation I in turn develop a closer relationship with the creator.”

2) We never truly know the influence we have on others. Someone out there probably lots of someones look up to you in your endeavors in the Pines. Who do you list in your top 3 influencers of your own interest in adventuring?

James-#1My dad. We grew up on the western edge of the Pine Barrens.  My father was a pretty good woodsman who introduced me at a young age to the woods.  Grew up just down the road from the Black Run Preserve over there in Marlton. Even though I was very familiar with the Pine Barrens I played in it it was my backyard my father taught me a lot of things. Both sides of my family are pretty recent Italian immigrants. My mom immigrated from Italy. My dad was born in America. His mom was born in US but his father was born in Italy. Records of family names could possibly have been here in Waterford since late 1800s right there in the Pines basically farmers who had a close connection to the earth. My dad though of 8 siblings was the only one who showed a great interest in nature, the woods, and sportsmen types like hunting. In 1959 he was in the paper for killing a 12 point buck with a recurve bow that he killed on the railroad tracks in Chatsworth. He knew the pines. When I was growing up he would take me out in Wharton and along the Mullica river showing me a lot of spots and we would go hunting out there as I got older. His skill in archery was awesome. As early as I could grip a bow he had one in my hand. He was also a craftsman, art runs in the family. With the woods though his favorite thing to do in his spare time was going into the woods. And that is how it is with me. If I have any bit of spare time I don’t want to go to the movies or the bar I want to go to the woods.

#2 Ted Gordon. Feel like I’m following in the footsteps of what he had done earlier with interest in botany, exploring, and the history of the area.

#3 And Budd Wilson. Two of them were friends as young men who went to the same university and had much of the same interests. Budd is highly regarded archaeologist of the Pines. He’s the one dug Batsto and Martha and many of the areas. Featured in many of the books I have read coming up. And I’ve become friends with both Budd and Ted. And had the pleasure of taking Ted Gordon out on explorations that I have found which is exciting.

3) Do you prefer solo or group outdoor adventures?

James-“I’m tempted to involve groups but at my heart I’m a solo explorer. Fifty percent of the time I’m solo and 50% my closest compadres join me who are into it the same way as I. These spots are very special to me and it may be a little selfish, but I like to keep them to myself. If my friends aren’t ready to join me, I don’t hesitate to go out on my own. Its like church to me. My style of exploring isn’t hiking from point A to point B. Its slow and almost always off trail through the swamps very meditative and spiritual experience for myself. The goal is always to go places where I don’t run into people. I want to feel like I could be in the middle of the Canadian wilderness.”

4) What’s your typical mode of operation (MO) when it comes to how you interact with your interest. Is it pure hobby, part nostalgia, or academic in purpose? What’s your goal from doing it?

James-“It really was 1995 became a complete fanatic about it and just really studying it and exploring it deeply. Spent a lot of years for portraits for hire. Focus art to illustrating various histories of the Pines that we don’t have pictures of like old sawmills. Recently a timeline of the Pines from 14000 years before to present. A mixed media piece. Also lately done illustrated album covers for local bands as well. Bachelors degree in illustration from Stockton University. You could call it a hobby interest but quite deep. Its on a deeper level than just a hobby. Its very much a part of life at this point who I am. Part academic as I point a good deal of time studying it. Botany is a study of sorts the history is too.”

5) Is there a way to encourage people to follow your passion or should we not encourage others that may or may not be respectful in the same manner to the environment?

James-“If I had something to give back I think it is the education. I’m not much of an activist type person. I think through education a lot of hearts can be turned towards the pines. That is what I do with social media for a number of years just presenting my experiences and my knowledge of the pines. These are the very things that caused me to fall in love with it. With the hopes that others would too. When you love something, you don’t want to hurt it generally. We should be careful about it. Jersey Pine Barrens group on Facebook I share a lot. I always protect sites don’t give locations at all. I try to drum up interest by the information or the history or the exploring without giving away exact locations. Trying to protect the forest that way. When you love something you like to express it at the same time it’s a double edged sword. There are so many people out there. The rivers are packed its hard to enjoy the rivers from Memorial Day to Labor day. That’s why a lot of my excursions are in the Winter. Example I’m up to my 20th annual winter camping and canoe trip in the Pines.”   

6) How many people do you know that have told you that what you do in the wild is crazy or kinda weird?

James-“Yes, I certainly get that. At the same time people who are close to me already know what I am about. They pretty much accepted it. I remember when I was going out canoeing and camping on the coldest weekends of the winter when it was going down to 4 degrees with snow predicted my parents would show some concern as we were younger than. But now even my wife and mom are used to it, so they don’t worry anymore. Another thing I enjoy is primitive skills or bushcraft. Some people think that is kinda funny, but I think I get more people who are interested in what I do because it is unique rather than think I am strange for it. Might spark an interest in some people.”

7) What’s the best resource you can share with someone looking to pursue your specific hobby?

James-“Depends on what aspect if it’s the exploring I’ve come to rely on Lidar and Satellite imagery. Before all we had was topo maps. That allowed me to explore the roads. Once I figured out where all the roads went, I became less interested in driving in the woods and began to want to find out what was in between those roads. Over the years I have come to realize the most interesting places in the pines are the low land/wetland areas where most of the diversity is and rare or unique plants grow. I’ll analyze that satellite imagery and find a place that looks interesting. Then set out to explore it. That is the ecological experience but there is the history part too. Studying it in books or old documents but also going out and trying to find the sites. There are so many sites in the Pines that have been forgotten. A lot of times I’m looking at old Mill sites by using maps from places like NJ Pine Barrens Forum (Boyds Maps) on the internet.”

8) What’s one thing you would like to change about our current New Jersey environment?

James-“Not to political or concern myself with that sort of thing but I think I don’t think we would have this forest anywhere close to how we enjoy it today if it wasn’t for the protections that were put in place. It was on the verge of definitely being exploited and developed. I hate to think about what South Jersey would look like if it wasn’t for the Pinelands Act. I’d like to see it be protected going forward for my daughter and my grandchildren hopefully. It’s a gem. People’s perception of New Jersey is quite different than my own. They don’t know how different South Jersey is to North Jersey. What we do have here is quite a gem in the Pine Barrens. That it exists in this great metropolitan region. It’s almost like what the Central Park is to New York City the Pine Barrens is to the whole metropolitan region.”

9) I may have asked this and or you answered it in another question but now that you had more time to think on it, “What drives you to your specific sport?” Is it exercise, mental renewal, religious experience etc.?

James-“Boils down to my relationship with nature and it doesn’t have to be just the Pines. Creation on the most basic level. I think that is the furnace. But also, the exploring goes hand in hand with it all. That is what gets me out there gets me out there alone deep into the woods away from people. Those times and places I get the best experience on that spiritual level that I’m trying to express. Equal parts exploring for me with study as well.”  

10) Do you consider yourself a Piney?

James-“Depends on how you define it. I don’t consider myself a Piney in the most traditional sense. I have a full-time job I don’t work the seasons. I’m not picking blueberries in the summer cranberries in the fall and pinecones in the winter. That’s one of the key characteristics of the Piney at least the formal definition. My family is relatively new maybe the 1880s. But they did reside not far from Atsion in Waterford. That’s the traditional sense I don’t assume that title. But if a Piney can be enthralled with the Pines and it’s their passion in life. Spends every possible opportunity or free time in it and studying every aspect of it who can’t be happier anywhere else. Under that definition absolutely I’m a Piney.”

What’s in a forest sky?

By now with social media injection into our daily lives we all have seen an image of the forest sky. You know when your hiking through a forest and you look up and see nothing but trees you take out your camera and snap a photo of the view above your head. Why do you think that is so interesting to folks?

The image above captures the dark mood of an Atlantic cedar grove with a cedar burl nicely. So what is the mood or feelings that the hiker is experiencing while staring at the forest canopy above? I’ll wager its a combination of things. If they are alone and new to the trail area it may be a bit of fear as the trees of the forest eclipse the sun. Giving the person a feeling of confinement. Hopefully that is but a fleeting emotion one that is hardwired into our caveman’s DNA.

Another feeling or mood that captures my thoughts at these moments can be described in a song lyric by Leon Russell. He sang, “And I love you in a place where there’s no space or time. I’ve loved you for my life, you are a friend of mine”. I find happiness in that moment. A sense that the trees are forever. That each single tree is but a part of the one living thing- the forest. The trees at the top they all got there over years of growth but that growth was together. Each tree’s presence inspired the surrounding trees to reach for the sky. The sunlight was their goal their reward was a long life surrounding by family.

If you know the forest trees that you are looking at well enough you may feel and understand your own life’s timeline and the space that it takes up. The trees above may stand as a reminder to you that your short time on this earth is dwarfed by the time these green sentinels enjoy. When one stands in a Florida Bald cypress forest and realizes the trees towering above are over 500 years in age one can not but feel young and question one’s own use of time on Earth. It’s definitely time well spent when one wanders into the woods!

I’m in love with the woods. Leon Russell explains it so well, “I’ve loved you for my life, you are a friend of mine.” I hope everyone looks up when in the woods and a new budding romance takes hold of their lives with nature. The forests are worth fighting for when you truly understand all that they mean to the people.

Humor me here and play along. The game below is to figure out what forest canopy are we looking at. I’ll list the forest types and you figure out if; A) you’ve seen and experienced that glorious view before and B) what tree type dominates the view. Three are Jersey inspired and two are Florida inspired. List of names are: Atlantic White Cedar, White Pine, Pitch pine, Slash pine, and Pond Cypress. Till we run into each other in Leon’s “place where there’s no space or time” take care of yourself.

JB Stone Saga continues…

Interesting, folks are still commenting and reading a post about the stone I found in the woods somewhere in Ocean County.  The story behind it plagues my sleep as well.  You know we all suffer from the Henry Beck condition.  Henry Charlton Beck was a newsman who captured details of old abandoned or lost towns of New Jersey both in the North and the South. HCB says, “It is my honest belief that in all of us there still lingers something of the early explorers, a something which in some measure may be appeased in retracing these journeys we have made.”Its that HCB condition that makes me wonder about what others have told me could be a 1700s property marker.

In Henry Beck’s book More Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey I let my imagination wonder and it finds two new possibilities. I have little credence that they match the evidence but are entertaining to think of. They are; 1) John Buckingham and or 2) John Bacon. Both are original characters in their own right and described in Henry’s book.

On page 89 John Buckingham is mentioned. I’ve personally visited a private hunting club that was part of Buckingham in Manchester down savoy road. Around 1873 he was in South Jersey area doing what Beck calls, “cedar-swamping.” Buckingham’s lumber camp turned into a town and lasted over 15 years but after the tragic death of Buckingham’s daughter who died by way of a cow trampling so too did Buckingham’s desire to run the business in the Pines.  The thing with the stone marker with the initials of JB on it is in a thick band of elder Atlantic cedar.

More farfetched is John Bacon discussed on page 86 of said Beck book. What if it wasn’t a property stone but a grave marker? Beck describes John Bacon as a refugee and a Pine Robber that eventually got shot. Supposedly by Mr. Cornet Cook in Egg Harbor. He was the leader of the Refugees and his death at Cedar Bridge Hotel was brought on by his own action in killing a local militiaman named William Cook prior to his own demise. Cedar Bridge Hotel was held by Penn Producing Company which also owned a chain of blueberry and cranberry plantations throughout the bog country.

Well the reason my dad and I went to that area where we found the JB stone marker is to see if we could relocate the Hessian Island. Grandpa Emery had passed onto his kids that a certain area in Ocean County was called Hessian Island. That is where the robbers hid out after holding up the local stage. Some of Becks writing makes me believe Hessian robbers may have been the deserters that became known as Refugees and Pine Robbers. In my research it seems the Hessians got a bum rap even though they were mercenaries they were not in America under their own free will. And that once colonists had close experiences with them they were surprised by their humanity.

In a weird connection could one of John Bacon’s fellow outlaws have taken his body back to one of their hideouts,on a map as a cranberry bog, and buried him there? Note the area also had an overgrown blueberry patch that was planted. Who knows but it sure is fun thinking about the possibilities isn’t it? But at least we know others are aware of Hessian island who apparently are also litter bugs.