Saturday 1 October 2011: Rambling No More
This afternoon Ceridwen and I spent the day with two friends exploring ghost towns in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. There were fascinating discoveries in all three: Hampton Furnace, Harrisville, and Atsion where this 1960 AMC Rambler Station Wagon rests in its final parking space.
The Pine Barrens are fairly spooky in some ways. Under a huge swath of the southern part of the state there lies a half-quatrillion-gallon aquafer, covered for the most part with pine forests. It includes the Wharton State Forest, where we were today. I've driven on the busy roads that cross the area many times, and we visited the preserved village of Batsto last time she visited. But today was the first time I've been to the inner woods, far from the sounds of passing cars. The vanished villages were lively during the 18th & 19th Centuries, some producing Iron in the days when wood charcoal, rather than mined coal was burned to process the ore.
The nautural part is just beatiful. We walked along unpaved roads with the swamp's water lying about five feet from the edge. Some of the streams run a rusty reddish color because the pine needles make the soil very acidic and it has that effect. Other streams reminded Ceridwen of treacle (molasses). We saw several surviving buildings, some in use or under renovation, some boarded up or collapsed, but most were just ruins or mere footprints of their former selves. At Harrisville there was the second ruined paper mill that C. & I have investigated together, and we noticed some similarities. This makes five ghost towns for us as well --three here and two in Wales.
This car is from the age when I was a boy, and I well remember riding in those cool old tanks. Near it stands an old disused building with a recent fence around it and a cat, and my friend said he saw a person moving inside. Upon knowing that, we left the scene. Pinies can be very strange people. This patch of wilderness attracts biker gangs, gun enthusiasts, KKK clubs, feral cat populations, and folks who simply live out there in the swamps as best they can by hunting, scavenging, and doing whatever they choose to do for food and shelter. These last are the pinies. When you don't have the vaguest idea what a person is thinking, it's best not to drop by at the hovel unannounced.
Sophocles once wrote that "Vast, immeasurable Time brings all hidden things to light, and then covers up what's been revealed." Time has been pressing on in the Pine Barrens, and things that were made by men and women are disappearing under its inevitable feet.