The photo I worked from to help guide this painting was taken a couple of years ago. I’m not sure what made me go back in time; maybe the light effect, maybe the time of year. I wanted to show the light coming in from the background to light up the river with enough contrast with dark areas of the river, to keep it interesting. Things may seem just gray and brown this time of year, but I think the lighting in the winter is tremendous – like a lamp with a dimmer adjustment, yet positioned at a certain angle to still create dramatic effects.
It was the tree that the town of Basking Ridge, NJ grew and developed around. Further back, the story goes that George Washington talked strategy underneath this tree. And now a few months ago, with great sorrow, we said goodbye to the 600-year-old giant. The tree was taken down at the site of the old church and cemetery. But, the oak’s lineage lives on! One of its acorns has now grown into a 25 foot tall descendant and it was planted at the site of the old tree. Below is a painting to remember this giant oak and all the joy it has brought to locals and visitors alike.
Watercolor on Arches Rough Paper
Original 14″ x 20″
Original paintings and prints available on our Etsy Shop!
This weekend, we decided to venture out into Norvin Green State Forest, located in Ringwood, NJ near the Wanaque Reservoir. It was our first time hiking this area; it is funny to think that we’ve never been here having lived in northern NJ all these years. A symphony of chirping Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) erupted as we jumped out of the Jeep to pull on our hiking boots. It was a gray day and it felt chilly, yet humid, with a gentle breeze. As we walked toward the trailhead, the place had a sort of eerie vibe to it – maybe it was due to the random stuff strewn about the grounds or old buildings, like the one marked “Nature House” that was guarded off by caution tape. “Surely, there must be a squatter or two in there”, I thought.
The eerie silence was soon shattered – acoustics ensued just a few yards up the trail as a group of young individuals paraded around with music whining from one of their smartphones. A bit further away, people in other groups shouted over one another in languages we did not understand. We did not spend much time at the overlook areas for these reasons, but it is nice to see people excited for early spring and get outside. We were surprised that no one else was around when we reached Chikahoki Falls (South Norvin Green State Forest) – this called for a special activity – it was time to chomp down on a big Crispin apple! We sat across from the falls, enjoying the apple and some tasty pumpkin bread that my momma whipped up the night before – now that’s livin’.
Finally, a quick plant report: Pitch pine in higher elevation areas and various hardwoods like American Beech and Oak in other areas. Many more to unveil later once flowers and leaves emerge. Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is quite abundant in the shrub layer in this section of the NJ highlands. May is typically when K. latifolia blooms, but we have yet to time it right. Another thing to look forward to and be thankful for!
We are on a roll with parks, lately. If we were down in South Jersey we’d be on a Park-roll egg n cheese? Terrible, I know, but I just couldn’t resist.
Duke Island Park (located in Bridgewater, NJ) is another park that is near and dear to our hearts. The Duke is the perfect getaway when a lunch-time stroll through the lovely office-building parking lot just isn’t enough. It is quite urban; more urban than Natirar, with a different cast of characters. For instance, Natirar’s parking lots are filled with Mercedes and BMWs, while Duke’s lots are adorned with pickup trucks and various vehicles made in the 1990s with missing hubcaps. At Natirar, it is difficult to get a word out of folks, unless you pet their dog. In contrast, the other day at the Duke; a man wearing a Superman T-shirt approached me, wild-eyed, and warned that there is a buck in heat around the corner. A couple hundred yards away, a woman in a heavy sweatshirt rode her bike and rang her bike bell repeatedly, but there was no one near her. I love this park!
But, even in this urban setting, nature abounds! The Raritan River flows through the Duke as it does through Natirar Park. The river section of the park attracts waterfowl, raptors, song birds, and it is a great stop-over joint for other migrants. I remember doing a Citizen Scientist Bird Count for NJ Audubon; truly a great learning experience, despite the one time I almost didn’t make it to the bathroom. An urban setting does have its disadvantages: bathrooms are specific indoor locations. If I were to drop-trou while doing the bird count I may have ended up in Somerset County Jail.
We are lucky to have this place to enjoy and it is great to see people make use of it. Wanderings to the Duke have never let me down – a heck of a place to clear the mind, get a good laugh, hear birds sing, and surprisingly – watch for wildflowers. Spring is just around the corner and I am excited to see early bloomers like the Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) pop up here as it has in other years.
When we can’t find the time to wander for countless hours and miles…we escape to “our happy place” — Natirar Park. Spanning 491 acres, through Peapack-Gladstone, Far Hills and Bedminster, Natirar Park reminds us of the hills, streams, vistas and open spaces still alive with wonder and beauty in New Jersey.
We have sat on every bench, appreciated the beauty of the spring wildflowers, followed sights and sounds of migrating birds, used the shade of the large trees to nap after spending the day sipping wine at the Wine Festival, breathed in the crisp air of autumn as the scenery changed to bright yellows, oranges and reds, and have reminded ourselves what it was like to have a true snow day; sledding until our bones ached and all we craved was hot chocolate.
Yet, this weekend our routine trip to Natirar still managed to surprise us.
We walked the lower and upper loop, stopped to sit on our favorite bench and even met an English White Golden Retriever. After returning to the car, a pitstop at the porta potty and a couple of “Are you hungry’s?” and “I don’t know, are you hungry’s”, we decided to go get something to eat.
But this time, instead of heading back toward home we put our faith in Yelp (which we do a lot when we are traveling, so why not when we are close to home, right?). And to our surprise, we were just 3 miles from satisfying our hunger. We set out for Gladstone Market thinking we would grab a quick sandwich or soup; yet when we reached our destination, we realized that the Gladstone Market shares a parking lot with the Gladstone Tavern. So after getting over the fact that we were probably under dressed, we walked left instead of right and landed on the porch of the Tavern quickly noticing the large horse statue that occupies the front entrance. (Very fitting, especially with the Far Hills horse race held each year just up the road.)
The first impression is very open, friendly, and inviting. If we were underdressed, we would of never known. We sat by the window looking out at the porch and that large horse. After some debating (because the menu is that good) we decided to share a few of the appetizer options. Guacamole (made to order) with warm Tortillas, Crab Tots, and Chicken Quesadilla with shredded brussel sprouts. We licked the plates clean! Perfect portions and the 3 sauces that accompany the Crab Tots really manage to bring out the flavor. But after having appetizers that good, we would have done a disservice to ourselves if we did not look at the dessert menu.
Not only do they have a dessert called “Hot Chocolate”, but they house churn the ice cream! So we went with the Little Apple Pie. A scoop of maple walnut is included and we added an extra scoop of the peanut-chocolate chip! It was delicious! We will definitely be back! A great surprise Sunday adventure indeed!
Today, Presidents’ Day is a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents. But, some still refer to this day as “Washington’s Birthday”. This holiday was originally established in 1885 to honor President George Washington, though his actual birthday is February 22nd. Coincidentally, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and William Henry Harrison were also born in February.
Washington was commander in chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Jockey Hollow (the inspiration for this watercolor) was used as a winter encampment by the Continental Army. Here, the soldiers suffered hunger, from lack of resources, and miserable cold and stormy winter conditions. As I hike through the hills of Jockey Hollow, I imagine this place some 240 years ago.
The “Blizzard of 2016” rolled in and left a nice 30-inch snow portion for NJ folk to savor. But, this dish disappeared quickly – a big thaw began as the warm air crept in, melting the stuff away along Caitlin and the Twins’ creation, Ronnie the snowman. The big thaw inspired this watercolor. It is a slightly exaggerated view from the parking lot shared by tavern employees, shoppers, and residents of the old apartment building (that’s us). You may have seen the same building in an earlier post, but the Sycamores are brandy new. Enjoy!