One of the happiest of places to wander surprised us this weekend.

Art, New Jersey, Outdoor Adventure

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!

Catskill Vibe

Outdoor Adventure

Recently, I’ve been spending more time in the Catskill Mountains of southeastern New York State. It’s the closest drive I can think of that will get me to a mountainous region with a 3,000+ foot elevation. I would imagine that folks from the upper west coast would chuckle at that number. Well, these mountains may not be as tall as the ones out west, but they have their own unique beauty and vibe. According to geologists, these mountains are a result of uplift and erosion. The process that formed these mountains is different from the process that formed most other mountains, which involves folding, extensive faulting, magmatic activity, and other events that can be described as orogenic events. Today, the Catskills are described less as a mountain range, and more as a severely eroded plateau resulting in a sharp relief (Catskills GIS Atlas 2012).

To me, a mountain is anything that has dirt, rocks, plants, and an incline. Places like that tend to have “vibes”. I’m going to forget the fact that the area is crammed with resorts and that it is mostly known as the place where many young stand up comedians got their start. I drew my own take on these mountains as it hit me while camping there and hiking through the area. I cannot define that vibe in a word because I had many different experiences there.

We once camped at Mongaup Pond: a beautiful campground on a lake. We filled the raft with air and lowered it into the water. We paddled through the water and a bald eagle nervously floated from tree to nearby tree as if he were always uncomfortable. As soon as I opened a Victory Pils he was gone. Some time later, a golden eagle circled the lake over and over again. I don’t think he found what he was looking for. Some time even later: Witches (I think?). Into the night…awakened inside the tent by strange lights on the outside. In the morning, we tried to place the sounds we heard that night, but we could not tell what they were without adding imagination. What was the vibe….?

Back to our favorite campground: Woodland Valley Campground. The vibe is always really good here. No enchanted lake or breathtaking views, just a quiet place amidst oaks and other hardwood trees that I can’t really identify. The main attraction photo describing this place in the brochure was a photo of a leaf. The man working the visitor’s booth closely resembled Keanu Reeves. He didn’t talk much about surfing, but he had great tips for reserving campsites: “Just ummm pull it up on the website man, click reserve, and you’re golden, bra”. Nights here consisted of craft brews, lanterns, interesting humor, stars, hammock time, little mice on Harley’s, and the sound of the owls (if you are lucky).

While hiking; the air always smelled great (unless something crapped nearby). The climbs were challenging, rocky, and refreshing. Once at the top, sometimes you’d see peaks of similar size; cobalt and cerulean blue in the distance. Other times, you’d see hazy bodies of water down below or nothing but thick fog. In the woods, something was always scurrying around and rustling up the leaves. Now and then you’d feel a presence of something and then nothing. Suddenly, a bird of prey would leave in haste crashing through the trees, cursing you for discovering its hiding spot. You’d wait for your heart to slow down and then take some water from the stream.

What about the people? Not my favorite subject. What was the vibe in the Catskills? I’m not sure I’ve got it yet, but I’m excited to go there again.

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Works Cited

^ “REGIONAL TOPOGRAPHY”. Catskills GIS Atlas. Catskill Center. Retrieved 2009-10-12.