My scout troop went camping every month regardless of the weather: I still think "Be Prepared" is a great motto to face life with. For our second hike of 2011 (our goal is to hike all fifty hikes in Best Hikes around Philadelphia) my camerado and I went to NJ's Parvin State Park, a spot I have fond memories of from scouting days.
My most significant Parvin memory is the beach that ate Donald's boot: I ran into one of my fellow scouts recently and he thought the beach had eaten both boots; clearly, this event is burned into both of our minds, even if details differ. Donald was a quiet, popular kid who looked like Mario Lanza. His entrapment in quicksand was hilarious to us, and he bore our efforts to free him with good humor till the adults caught up and sprang into action, shaming our equanimity, and terrifying Donald--I can still see Donald's panicked face as the adults wrenched him from the hungry sand. Afterward, I became determined to retrieve Donald's boot and was baffled that the adults were so willing to sacrifice it to the lake bed's appetite.
This time, we stayed off the sand and kept our boots. The glories of the hike were:
- Streams weaving through snow-burdened hollies.
- The greenest, greenest duckweed! (No pictures, it came out looking like pond scum). Duckweed is endearing for being the smallest flowering plant and also one of the most nutritious. I'm not singular in being pleased by Lemnaceae, there's a website called The charms of duckweed.
- The strange music of trees resting their weight on each other, and sounding like cricket wings, but several octaves lower. This is something you hear every now and then on a hike, but for some reason these woods were full of overly chummy trees making eerie tree-music together
- The branch with which I started this post, which arched our path and hosted a forest of fungus so vivid, varied, and intricate it puts James Cameron's "Pandora" to shame:
The only frustration of this hike was the book, which said to go left from the office, though the arrow on the map in the book points right. We went left and I became frustrated that the trails did not follow the route laid out in the book (my amigo, to his credit, faced it like a buddha). We shortened our exploration of the wilder side of the park because the book and the terrain were in such disagreement we were afraid we might get lost. Later we caught the discrepancy between the text and the map and realized we probably should have trusted the map. Next time we'll pick up an independent map at the office or on the internet... and I need to see if there's a working compass in the house...
"Be Prepared" may be a vanishing point for me--a place to aim for whether or not it can truly be reached, or even exists.
We dined here, the Kountry Kitchen:
On Sunday nights you can still bring a pot to the Kountry Kitchen and have it filled it with chicken dumplings for take-out. You could do this in Mullica Hill, NJ, at one time, but I think that place is gone--so this may be a dying custom, which seems a shame (but nice for the chickens). We overheard one woman coming in for her dumplings and saying, in response to something said to her, Oh no, I'm no women's libber! but we did not hear the context.
My camerado had the dumplings, which he said were great. The rice pudding I had tasted almost exactly like my dear old Granny made.