Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fossil Hunting at Big Brook

We've been having so much fun exploring the Garden State this summer, and this weekend blew all the others out of the water. While searching for dinosaur-related activities in New Jersey I came across several New Jersey fossil collecting sites and started reading about fossil hunting in Big Brook and Shark River. Big Brook is in Colt's Neck, NJ close to Holmdel where the Boss lives, and according to my sources visitors looking for fossils there have more luck than in Shark River. It's chock full of Cretaceous Period shark teeth, bony fish fossils, cephlapod fossils, reptiles and many, many other prehistoric bones and teeth. Lucky for us Big Brook is only 45 minutes away from Bayonne.

We read the Fossil Guy's website, which is full of info about fossil hunting in NJ and has a little field guide to the fossils found in Big Brook. There are also gave instructions for building your own sifters, which you need when digging through silt and creek bed. Mr. T made our sifters Sunday morning, and we set out after Mr. S's naptime for the gorgeous country routes of New Jersey. The drive to Colts Neck is lovely, passing through little towns and farm land and many picturesque back roads. We got turned around a couple of times, but eventually got back on NJ 34 and found Boundary Road and then Hillsdale Road and then the little bridge and parking area for Big Brook. If we didn't have precise directions from fossil websites, we'd never have found this place. It's in the middle of nowhere...right where I wish we lived.

Mr. S was all ready to go with his galoshes, trowel and sifter.





Big Brook itself was beautiful! We saw baby squirrels, goldfinches and other songbirds, and the whole time we were sifting there were hummingbirds feasting in one of the bushes near our spot.















We weren't exactly sure what we were looking for, but we're pretty adept at spotting shark teeth, and we found plenty of those. But there were all sorts of other strange-looking rocks that kept coming up in my screen that I just tossed back in the water. Later once we got home and I looked at the fossil guy's photos and field guide I realized I'd tossed back plenty of Drumfish teeth. We also kept coming across these amber colored icicle-shaped items, that I thought were some sort of geological formation. They were too beautiful to toss back, so we kept a few. Those turned out to be Belemnites--the internal shell of some sort of prehistoric squid-like Cephlaphod.





I found what looks like a small rib bone:



We also found several types of shark teeth and a possible salmon tusk. As well as a couple of little fossilized shells.




But the coolest find of all was what looks like the vertebrae of some sort of reptile or possibly shark. I will post photos of this shortly. Hopefully, when my parents come to visit in a couple of weeks my dad will be able to identify it.

We stayed in Big Brook for hours, and would have stayed longer if we weren't so hungry and dinner time wasn't so near.





It was by far one of the best weekends spent in NJ, and we're already making plans for another trip before the winter comes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sum-Sum-Summertime

The past few days in New Jersey have been rainy and cool, more like late September or early October. Feels like summer is over already, even though we officially have about a month left. Over the weekend FIT students moved back into the dorms, and the fall hours began at my library. Goodbye three day weekends, hello meetings, committees and reviews. Even though I love the summer, I also love the anticipation of fall. I'm excited about bringing out my cotton tights and wool cardigans and starting knitting projects for my guys. I've already bought blue and brown wool for a stegasaurus hat for Mr. S.

But we've had a lovely summer so far. Here are some of the day-to-day things we've been up to that I've not really posted about.

Playing in the park:






The waterpark! Bayonne has tons of these little parks, and the big park several blocks from our house just opened the nicest one yet:





Swimming in the Bayonne Pool:







Hunting for dino bones in the dog park:



No bones here, just lots of acorns, beads and rocks.



Even though I'm ready for fall, I hope we have a few warm, sunny weeks left. We have big outdoor plans next weekend. I won't say much because I don't want to spoil it, but I will give a hint about the place we're planning to visit...Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and Cretaceous Era fossils all live here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Right now in our backyard...

Morning Glories have taken over...




and a Mantis has moved in to one of the planter boxes.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Allaire State Park and Historic Village

Still making great use of our newly acquired family vehicle, we ventured out to Allaire State Park and Historic Village last weekend. I know I said we’d be going to the Poconos in a previous post, but during my research on New Jersey state parks I came across Allaire, a state park with a 200-year-old ghost town right in the center of it. I couldn’t pass it up. The idea of hiking in Monmouth county, which I’d been told by my upstairs neighbor is gorgeous, was too much to resist. Also, spending part of the day touring old buildings and milling around with re-enactors dressed in period costume and demonstrating blacksmithing, soapmaking and scrimshaw skills among other things reminded me of TN and the Dollywood days of my childhood.

So I talked Mr. T and Mr. S out of the mountains and into the Jersey shore, but after a few minutes on the Garden State Parkway that seemed to be a huge mistake. What were we thinking heading down toward the beaches on a weekend? There were a million tolls, and vehicular chaos ensued after each toll booth. Traffic crawled and drivers were rude and impatient, and what should have been a one-hour trip from Bayonne, took three hours.



We decided to leave Bayonne during Mr. S's nap time, thinking he'd surely fall right to sleep. But he was too excited. Most of the car ride went like this:

Mr. S: Are we there, Mama?
Me: Not yet. It will be awhile.
Mr. S: Why are we in a traffic jam? Why are the cars stopped?
Me: Everyone’s heading to the beach today.
Mr. S (pointing out the window): Is that the park over there? Are we there?
Me: No. It will be awhile.
Mr. T: Seamus, it will be a LONG, LONG, LONG time before we get there. Just relax and sit back, take a nap.
Mr. S: I don’t want to take a nap. I want a cracker.
Me: You’ve had enough crackers.
Mr. S: But I WANT a cracker.
Me: You’ve eaten almost the whole box. That’s enough.
Mr. S: But I WANT a cracker!
Me: Seamus…
Mr. T (to me): Stop talking to him. Everyone just stop talking. Seamus you’ve had enough crackers. Sit back and take a nap.
Mr. S (screaming and crying): I don’t want to take nap!

Mr. S screams and cries. No one talks to anyone. Eventually Mr. S settles down, stops crying and then…

Mr. S: Are we there, Mama?


And the whole conversation starts all over again. Mr. S finally fell asleep half an hour before we arrived at our destination.

Allaire Village is beautiful.





The admission fee is only $3 to tour all the buildings and see all the neatly attired people performing their antiquated work. But Mr. S had no interest in touring any buildings except the general store, which had lots of toys. If it didn't involve sticks or digging in the dirt or looking for salamanders or feeding fish, Mr. S didn't care.







So we wondered around the village looking at everything from the outside.

Wheelwright and Carpenter Buildings:





Once a church, now an enameler's building:



Blacksmith:



General Store:



Aside from the General Store the only building we went into was the Bakery, where we purchase sweet treats for all:





Mr. S is a cookie zombie:



Then we ventured off to the hiking trails, making our way first to the old blast furnace, where iron was smelted back in the day:




Allaire’s primary business was iron-working, and in the 1870s row houses were established for the families of the iron workers.



We did manage to tour the inside of one of these, which included a museum. There were also replica living quarters with the beds made and tables set just so. The row houses were small and usually occupied by one whole family, along with some of their friends, extended family and other bachelor iron workers.

The trails at Allaire State Park were nice, but there were too many people visiting that day for us to feel like we really got away from everything. There are also campgrounds, bike trails, playgrounds, picnic areas and a tour train that you can ride. It would probably be an even better place to spend the day in the Fall when the leaves are at their peak and the tourists are far, far away from the shore.

A little creek on one of the trails:




The terrible drive on the way down kind of put a damper on everything. We were all in awful moods and wondering if it wouldn't have been better just to turn around and head back home, but once we got there, our day improved and we enjoyed ourselves. It was nice being out in nature.




However, the most fun of all was the ride back home because we threw away our Google directions and purchased a real live paper map and took Highways 34 and 9 back to Bayonne. There was no traffic on these back roads, and it only took an hour to get home. Along the way, we got to see some beautiful countryside, farms and quaint towns. We stopped to eat dinner in the town of Colt’s Neck, and then relaxed for the rest of the drive back as we watched the bumper to bumper traffic on the Garden State Parkway through the trees that paralleled our route. This was the way to go, and the way we’ll always go from now on.
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