An awkward start to the month of September left us with the first weekend coming on its seventh day, though it was certainly one that had enough blue skies to lure us once more into the great outdoors. Up to date we have visited at least a dozen different parks, several of them being state forests and every one memorable for many reasons. While many other people across the country have adjusted to a schedule that includes hours spent in school or at work, we are limited only by the weather and occasionally gas. It is the latter that aimed us towards Belleplain State Forest, which brought us down a familiar road where distraction caused a missed turn. Thankfully there was a lot we could turn around in that became a sort of pit stop on account there was abandoned gas pumps sitting in the middle of it. The building was closed, though it was interesting that it seemed to have been used for movie rentals and perhaps a convenience store at one time when it was still a station. We even found a horseshoe in front of the door that was taken as a souvenir – it’s not like anyone was going to miss it.
After taking some photos we were on our way and this time made the turn we needed to get on the next road. Half an hour or so later we were pulling into the parking lot and ready to take on the new hiking challenge that waited for us. Spread across over 21.000 acres of Woodbine, Belleplain is filled with pine, oak and Atlantic white cedar, where the soil is less fire damaged than what one usually finds in the Pine Barrens just north of the forest. Though there are several trails open to hiking, biking and even horse back riding, they seemed to act as more of a connection between the various camping and boating sites rather than a way of wandering through the woods without getting lost. Thanks to a few useful maps and the fact that all of the trails are well-marked, we made our own route that took us from the lot into the forest where signs pointed out the various trees and plants that surrounded us.
Eventually we arrived at Lake Nummy, a former cranberry bog that now offers visitors an opportunity to swim and fish, though there are no lifeguards off-season so doing so is at your own risk. There was a smaller lake that we came to first which was not labeled on the map so I don’t know the name of it. The trail we were on became a land bridge between that one and Lake Nummy, where a few people were splashing around the shallow end as we made our way towards the beach. Since it was a little warm, I convinced my husband to wade into the lake with me – it was a good thing I had worn footless tights with socks so that I was able to do so. It may have looked silly but it was fun so that is what matters most, and I had been trying to shoot a 360 degree video but thought my skirt was going to fall in the water, and I almost dropped my camera in the lake when I went to grab the skirt. Next time I make sure that I have the right clothes on to go wading in a lake.
With our feet rinsed off and our shoes back on we resumed the hike, encountering several people along the way who were also hiking or biking, passing by one of the many campgrounds on the other side of the lake. The view from there was unobstructed by trees, the low-hanging sun dancing along the reflection of the trees in the water where two old ladies are sitting and fishing. It is always easy for us to see why people are drawn to these places, even if they don’t offer complete solitude all of the time. Here you can detatch from the material things that tend to weigh you down in every day life, where the sun coming up over the top of towering trees is a moment you want to sit and watch with a mug of hot coffee or tea in your hands as the sky changes from grey to blue. Though the distant roar of traffic serves as a reminder that you are not entirely in the wilderness, the calls of birds also let you know that you are miles away from home.
Many of the places we have visited offer year round camping, which is something we very much want to do but recognize that we would need a significant amount of supplies in order to do so. Plus I would want to be able to have the dog with us, and not every location is friendly towards pets so it remains on our ever-growing to-do list. Our afternoon at Belleplain was still an enjoyable one, and perhaps we could return there in the Winter to try out cross country skiing. Neither of us have ever skiied before, but we imagine that doing so on a mostly flat surface might be a tad easier than down any sort of hill. Riding a horse would be another one of those first time bonding experiences we are looking foward to, but I am pretty sure they are only available to rent during the season as well.
Thirteen more days until Autumn and the trees should start putting on their annual show of colors, which I am prepared to soak in and document.