2 miles beyond the amusement park and bungalows of Seaside Park, to others known as the set of the Jersey Shore, lay an 8-mile stretch of what the entire shoreline could have looked like centuries ago. Island Beach State Park located in Seaside Heights, NJ is a refuge for native coastal birds, an outdoor recreation hot spot and a breath of fresh air in the midst of the increasingly developed Jersey Shore.
On Friday afternoon, my sister, Ying, and I drove through the sleepy shore towns of Ocean County arriving at the tip of the Inlet. A friendly park ranger greeted us and took our $5 for a map and afternoon of exploring. After driving south for 8 miles, we parked in section A-23 and continued south by foot.
After hiking Schooley and Pyramid Mountains, I was thrilled to get on some new terrain: the beach! We followed an easy trail in the shape of an “L.” First we walked south to the jetty and then west toward Barnaget Bay. On the way to the jetty, Nellie cut her paw on a shell so we whipped out our old lifeguard skills and first aid kit. Here she is with the first bandage that lasted 5 minutes.
We didn’t see anyone else hiking but we did see loads of fishermen, a kayaker, picnickers, bird-watchers, bikers and someone out in the birds’ cove. Speaking of the birds’ blind, it felt as if we were trespassing through a secret nature preserve. Hundreds of birds rested in the area where Barneget Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. The map we had boasted that Island Beach has the largest colony of osprey in the state. Several information stands along the trail highlighted the many other species of birds native to the area. Just beyond the sea of birds we had a great view of the Barneget Lighthouse. I later learned you can visit the lighthouse up close in Barneget Lighthouse State Park. I’d love to check it out someday.
When we stopped for water and snacks near the birds, Nellie tended to her wounds again. She laid on the sand and licked each of her paws. She and Mr. Knightley enjoyed their biscuits, but Nellie wouldn’t get up to complete the hike.
Halfway into the hike and Nellie refusing to budge, Ying and I decided we had to carry Nellie the rest of the way back. It was impossible to look into her sad big eyes, watch her lick the wounds on her paws and not feel terrible. So up she went and unfortunately, because she is a rescue dog not accustomed to being carried, carrying her was much like hoisting a bag of potatoes.
Don’t these pictures make you want to go to the beach?? I know I can’t wait to go back. Maybe next time I’ll check out the Barneget Bay Lighthouse. I’ll also make sure Nellie has booties on her feet–that is, if she ever let’s us drag her onto the beach again. Last night, she would not put one paw into the sand… hopefully, we haven’t traumatized the poor dog.
Yesterday, we completed one more hike! Stay tuned for my update on Wells Mills County Park also in Ocean County. Have you hiked today?