Jersey Devil was born in the Pinelands

The Jersey Devil was born in the Pine Barrens.

The Pine Barrens or Pines as us Jersey locals like me call them, is about 1 million acres of land covered in Pines. In 1978 Congress passed legislation making the Pinelands National Reserve the nation’s first National Reserve in order to preserve its ecology. Even the United Nations recognized this area as an International Biosphere Reserve. It is forever protected land – protected Pines to be exact.

The Pines was always a great place to visit, from Batsto Village (mid-19th century historic site) to camping at in Wharton State Park to day trips at Bass River for a quick picnic. It is part of my childhood, as are many of the tales and legends that were born in and round the Pines.

The Jersey Devil, Philadelphia Bulletin, January 1909.

The Jersey Devil,
Philadelphia Bulletin, January 1909.

As I was growing up, I was often told of a half boy, half beast that was the Jersey Devil. The 1970’s version, told in the dark in hush whispers around campfires (while camping in the Pines) was that this reddish half creature half boy with one hand for a hook would look for victims who were lost in the Pines. Apparently, he liked teenagers the best, ever since he was hurt by a couple who was parked in a car in the middle of the pine in the dark.

This is just one version of many. The original version of the legend started in 1709 when Mrs. Leeds was expecting her 13th child – I would curse it too after 12 previous children.

Upon birth the child morphed into half dragon with wings and horns. It now prays on humans for the excitement of it all.

There are several drawings of the Jersey Devil, it has made its way into movies, even the X-Files jumped into the action with an episode of The Jersey Devil on Oct 8,1993. There are also several unexplained events over the years that could only have been caused by the Jersey Devil — if you believe in him. Over the last hundred or so years, there have been several sightings of the Jersey Devil. This mystery is so ingrained in the Pines area that even a few weeks ago another photo was taken of the Jersey Devil. Go ahead check it out, the link will open a new window so you can come back here easily and finish reading this fascinating post about the Jersey Devil.

See what I mean, the Jersey Devil still persists in our daily life. I cannot explain the photo it that was taken a few weeks ago, but I have noticed that for some reason the Jersey Devil always seems to make most of his appearances around Halloween and usually the closer to the Pines the more dark and sinister he becomes.

Whether true or not, I can make one accurate premeditation.The Jersey Devil will rise and fly on Halloween night — it’s an oldie, but goody when it comes to our favorite child: the Jersey Devil.

Do you believe the Jersey Devil still lives?

GeoTripping

In my last post, Patience in Purgatory, I mentioned something called GeoCaching. I thought I’d take a moment and see if I couldn’t recruit a few of you to join our obsess — er,I mean our little game.

Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. geocaching_whyalla

This crazy game was introduced to me by my uncle back in 2007.  All I did was ask if he wanted to join us for a family reunion and he asked for the coords (short for coordinates).  Now I read maps in the Air Force, but I never had a civilian ask me for coords. He explained that it was a scavenger hunt (world wide) where one could find various types of treasures in the woods and parking lots using something called GPS.

I went to the GeoCaching website and after trolling the pages for a couple of hours, I decided it was something I must go do. I loaded some coords in my car GPS and set it to walking mode. Next thing I know I’m tramping around the state park looking under brown leaves, holes in trees, and under rocks. A couple of frustrating hours later, I took my unwanted hitchhiking chiggers home.

After soaking my feet and scratching most of the night, I pulled on long pants, better socks, boots, and lathered in OFF and set out the next morning. I HAD to find that lock-n-lock Tupperware container in the woods. I must not be defeated by the scavenger hunt.

Morning brought me success and satisfaction. Enough that I found several more that day in the park. It was great, hiking and solving the riddles. After I got home and struggled my way through logging my first few finds, I trolled the pages some more. As luck would have it, there was something called a GeoPinic in a couple of weeks in that same park. (Notice how we start everything with Geo?)

I made a dish and joined a bunch of people I didn’t know, who were as obsessed with hiding and finding things in the woods, in the parking lots, and in well, in just about anywhere you can safely hide something for other people to find as I was. It was a great picnic and I made friends that to this day I still have in my life. We talk about more than geocaching, but not much more.

That little pot luck picnic has turned into a Mega Event. If you are ever in Newport News over labor day weekend, I suggest you check out the GCHR picnic. The people are fun, helpful, and great cachers.

It was at this picnic that I learned a car GPS was not going to get me very far. It wasn’t the GPS’s fault, it just was meant for getting from one place to another. It was not accurate enough to get you within a few feet of something that someone hid in the middle of a huge forest.

GeoCaching is a microcosm of life. The community is made up of all types of people, from all over the world, with different backgrounds and a multitude of reasons for caching. Some for fun, some for health reasons, some for socializing, and the list goes on and on. The caches range from easy light post skirts to hard climb up a mountain to snorkeling in the ocean. If someone can dream it up, it will be a container someone hid somewhere. There is even one on the Space Station!

One of my greatest adventures was a couple years back when a friend of mine talked me into going to my first GeoWoodstock. We decided that we would drive there, from Virginia to Missouri and back. It was an awesome trip. We found some of the oldest active caches in the world, we grabbed a cache in each state we drove through (because there is a challenge to get at least 1 cache in each state), and, thanks to RoadSide America, we found a cache that was co-located with the World’s Largest baseball; and yes, we added another layer to it’s boulder like size in Indiana.

GeoTours is a new term that I was told about recently. Apparently, this is a spin off combination what we call puzzle caches and bling trails. These custom tours use geocaching to introduce you to new locations, like the Birth Place of Texas. The old fashion way was to search for caches you wanted to get in places you were going to visit anyway, plot them on the map and then head out on a road trip and collect the smilies. Some people, like we did, road trip through several states locating the oldest or coolest places (like Cadillac Ranch) or historic sites. They have been known to cache for several days through several states and put hundreds of miles on a vehicle to play this game.

I have a wish list of caches myself which is growing thanks to watching the adventures of other cachers road trips or chatting about challenges at meet and greet events. I want to get a cache in all 50 states (still in progress), get the oldest cache in the world: Mingo (check), a cache on top of a bluff in Big Bend where I need an off road vehicle (this has more to do with me wanting to drive a jeep on something other than a freeway (not checked)), a cache in Ireland, England and Italy (my favorite European spots (not checked,not checked, not checked)), and a water cache where I need to snorkel or dive for it (not checked).

I didn’t know where geocaching was going to lead me, but I have seen some amazing things on my geotrips. I have climb some boulders and semi safe cliffs and watched the sun and eagles, I have discovered American War cemeteries, and visited civil war monuments tucked away in little parks in the middle of the suburbs. I love this game as it gives me a destination when I don’t have one and I may just learn something about the country or state that I am in.

It’s never dull and always good for a laugh. So come join us using multi-billion dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods.

Patience in Purgatory

I’ve been a fairly healthy person most of my life. I am passionate about a few select things. I am stubborn. I like to go fast. These are facts, not conjecture not excuses, just basic facts about me.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with my first autoimmune disease. It hit me pretty hard as the reality of my health over the preceding years came into focus. I lost traction for a while, but biking helped me deal with it. I’ve loved biking since the first time I saw Greg LeMond racing in the Tour de France. For a short while, I dreamed of being the first woman to race in the Tour.

Purgatory rock bed

Purgatory rock bed

Recent issues have come up and it was with great irritation that I dropped my bike off at Pedal Power (awesome locally owned bike store in San Marcos). Two days before that I was told by my doctor to stop biking. Ok, not permanently, but for a short while — what ever short while means.  We agreed to a week. I should mentioned it lasted a day.

Flood Control Dam at Purgatory

Flood Control Dam at Purgatory

It is not something I am OK with at this point in my life. I have struggled over the last couple of years with structure and consistency.  It is frustrating because my body is not responding as I expect it to. It is irritating because after a few months of consistent biking I am finally seeing improvement. Now, I am force to bring it to a screeching halt.

As I was venting to a personal trainer friend of mine earlier in the day, she asked me if it was worth it.  Was it worth riding through the pain to maintain my routine with the small possibility that it might impact me riding at all in the future?

I have to admit the logic in it all. It makes logical sense to stop, to let the back and hip heal. But hypothyroidism doesn’t care if I stop for a minute, a day, a week, or a month. It will slow down exponentially fast. What little ground I have gained with weight loss, stamina, persistence will slip away.

My first response is ride through the pain.

Let’s face it, I’m not a pro biker, I never have been despite my teenage dreams and I never will be. I don’t have what it takes mentally or physically to be a pro athlete. Biking through the pain will help me stay stable, mentally focused, and internally feel better, but in the long run it will not contribute to my overall health. While the back and hip are not part of the autoimmune disease, the pain is impacting my ability to concentrate at work, sleep at night, and be calm and relaxed.

So the day after ignoring doctors order not to ride, I forced myself to drop off my bike so I would not ride for a few days. It needed a few tweaks anyway.

Now the hard part comes. What do I do with the time I used to spend biking? What can I do to keep my metabolism up without doing more damage to the back and hip?

I was headed toward a marina to dwell on my sedentary state which had just been thrust upon me, when as I crossed over a bridge I notice a trail with some people and dogs running about. I made a u-turn and found myself at Purgatory Creek Park. Luckily my hiking shoes were in the back seat and I found my answer.

Purgatory Creek Park San Marcos TX

Purgatory Creek Park San Marcos TX

Walking — I could take an nice easy thirty minute stroll through the park.

It is a nice little park with hard packed trails for walking or riding a mountain bike. I could do thirty minutes at an extraordinarily slow pace (which might kill me because I’m rabbit like not turtle like) so that I would not stress the back and hip on the small boulder like rocks, but hopefully trick my metabolism into thinking I was being very active. I could do this. Thirty minutes.

An hour and a half and 2 caches later (geocaching is fun — check it out), I was headed back home.

I would like to say I don’t hurt, but that would be a lie. I managed to walk 5 miles at a turtle’s pace, but entertained myself with the beautiful sunset views mom would have loved, and the hunt of caches. I day dreamed a little and came up with a couple great ideas for posts — this being one of them.

Overall, I feel mentally and emotionally better and my body doesn’t hurt as much as if I biked. So time will tell if I need to become a couch potato or if turtle is the way to go.

People actually eat these

People actually eat these

Army Air Force Siblings

army_air_forceMany people are unaware that the US Air Force was born from the Army. It evolved over many years until finally on September 18, 1947 the airborne unit of the Army grew up, spread it’s wings, and flew away. Like many family members, there is a love hate love relationship. The siblings I grew up with joined the Army at one point, but I chose to Aim High!

Now, many years later I found myself on a a beautiful fall day sitting across from my friend discussing our past military experiences: Army vs Air Force. This conversation, however, unlike past rivalry jabs, was different. I’m not even sure how we started, but we talked about why and how we each joined the service and it turned a little deeper than I anticipated.

We swapped stories of looking to do something more, to learn more, to be more than what we had experienced to that point. It occurred to me that they were highly similar as they were vastly different.

For me it was a way to escape a small town and discover what I wanted beyond the vague “I want to travel” dream that had intrigued me since I was little. It was a way to move on, move to a different part of the world, to learn, to grow.

I learned that we joined the service at relatively the same time and just as oddly,left the military within 6 months of each other. We discussed the survival tactics of escaping from small hometown life to the wars we participated in. The tours while different supported the same efforts: diving for cover, sweating it out in a charcoal suit in the summer desert, the claustrophobic gas masks. I saw more deserts in the nine years I was in the Air Force than I ever thought I would. The memories from Korea to Britain to Saudi Arabia to Turkey came back in an instant — like it was yesterday. There was no finger pointing or jabs just two military vets learning, comparing, listening.

It’s not often that I have the opportunity to have a conversation with someone who not only understood my experiences, the complexities and feelings, spoken and unspoken, of military life and identified with it. I didn’t have to add or remove details of military service. The terms and tours were understood.

I don’t often speak of my military experiences nor do I don’t know many vets. It’s at the rare times like these that I find myself remembering things I had long ago forgotten.The images and the feelings just pop into my head. My service to my country started out as an escape for me and transformed me into the person I am today. I grew up, I grew wise, I grew.

I am grateful to have had the chance to serve my country, grateful to have met many people — foreign and domestic — to have seen the world. I am grateful that I had the chance to exchange military thoughts, memories and, I think, deepen our friendship forged through military service. One more great benefit that the Air Force has given me.

The sibling rivalry between services will always be there, but this past weekend I learned that the bond between vets have no boundaries.

Thank you for all that have served, are serving, and will serve.  Aim High!