Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hiking Garbage Island


Thunderstorms were creeping in as Roberta and I held a hurried conference on her building's stoop.

"Should we go? Should we try the hike?"

I called Michael Kraiger.

"How long do you think it will be before it rains?"

"How would I know? Let's go."

We went. We weren't going far, only to the Meadowlands. It's normally where you go for a concert or sporting event. Once, years ago, I took a date pal to a golf driving range there as a kind of a gag. Another time, it was a different date outing to the racetrack. And now, having given up on dates and manmade fun, I was headed to the Meadowlands to experience nature with my friends.

Reclamation of a 3.5 acre illegally filled "garbage island", incorporating wetland and upland habitats, educational facilities and other site amenities.

Hmm, okay. Scratch that. This nature is manmade too.

"Um, it's not really a hike, is it?" Roberta realized this almost immediately as we scooted along the plastic boardwalk above the marsh, each with one eye on the overcast sky.

Not really. It's an easy, flat mile-and-change walk. But as we walked through the reserve, looking at egrets and muskrats, we were within spitting distance of the New Jersey Turnpike and the Pulaski Skyway. Garbage island and the surrounding marsh—one section made of 400,000 plastic soda bottles—house migratory birds as planes fly in low overhead, aiming for Newark Airport.

We had just finished the Marsh Discovery Trail and part of the Transco Trail, when we came across the mile-long Saw Mill Creek Trail. The rain, threatening for so long, hadn't started yet. We got cocky.

"Let's try it."

We were about 50 meters into it, when the skies opened. We ran, laughing, for the car.


David Wohl said...

Did they have alligators there?

Ed Ward said...

One of the best moments of serendipity that happened after I bought the complete New Yorker on DVD was coming upon an article about the Meadowlands written in the '50s by a writer I'd never heard of (and whose other stuff was about business). There was a whole culture living in there: trappers, fishermen, outlaws. Plus, in the early 19th Century, there was this insane family that tried to develop it and wound up wiping out a huge fortune in the process. Some of them were still active when the piece was written. Amazing place.

scarfalonius said...

Ai, gah. Trust NJ to come up with a nature preserve made of plastic bottles. Y'all are doomed.

Any cryptid Jersey hippos?