A Foggy New Year’s Eve Hike Along The Ocean At Barnegat Lighthouse State Park In New Jersey
For the first time in my life I decided to spend New Year’s Eve away from my home and family. A relationship I was in for a couple of years ended this year and I was single again. Long story, but all that glitters isn’t gold I guess. Wanting to reflect on the situation, me getting older and being single, and , rather than attend my family’s New Year’s Eve celebration myself, I decided to be alone. So what better place to be alone and reflect than the ocean. And I heard there are a lot of migratory birds at the ocean in the winter. I spent many days walking the beach in warm weather but I had never visited the ocean in the winter. It was something I always wanted to do. So I took the 160 mile three hour drive from my home in Hazle Township Pennsylvania and arrived at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park on Long Beach Island in New Jersey around 1;30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.
There was almost no traffic on the roads on Long Beach Island. They are always congested in the summer. However it wasn’t wintery when I arrived at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park. In fact it was a mild 50 degrees, or so I thought it was mild. I would think otherwise later . There was also a thick fog, not the best conditions for photographing the shore birds and water fowl that I heard migrate here in the winter. This was another reason for my choosing this location.
I was impressed when I saw the 172 foot light house built in 1857 shrouded in the fog. There is a lot of history on this island and that will be left to, hopefully, future visits and blogs.
I was surprised by the number of visitors to the park. Although the temperature was 50 degrees it felt much colder with a raw, strong wind blowing in from the ocean. I walked past the lighthouse and on a walkway along the ocean which was crowded with visitors and a few fishermen.
Here I saw my first shore birds, a few herring gulls.
I am surprised how well the photos of this beautiful gull came out in the foggy and cloudy conditions.
I walked to the end of the walkway and returned to the lighthouse
and walked the Maritime Forest Trail. This short trail meanders through the dunes and hills one of the last remaining maritime forest in New Jersey. I always wanted to see what a forest along the Atlantic Ocean would look like before we developed all of the beaches. It was beautiful hike.
Pine, red maple, cedar and many other trees and shrubs grew in the sandy dunes.
The sounds of birds filled the foggy air. Unfortunately the fog kept me from photographing them. The only photos I was able to get were this American robin, one of many I saw fluttering through the trees
and this common, invasive but pretty house sparrow.
There was plenty of food for the birds. I saw holly berries ,
and invasive California privet berries growing along the trail.
I left the Maritime Forest Trail and walked out to the rocky jetty that protects the beach form the currents of the Atlantic Ocean.
It is here where one can see the many shore birds that live here in the winter months and, I did. The first birds I saw were a small flock of ruddy turnstones scurrying on the rocks.. I also saw these pretty birds on my recent visit to Mississippi.
The large rocks that make of the jetty could be slippery in spots but I proceeded with caution and was soon rewarded with seeing a common loon
and a red breasted merganser swimming in the rough waters just off the jetty.
One of the reasons I decided to visit Barnegat Lighthouse State Park was I heard that the beautifully colored Harlequin ducks winter here along the shores. As I walked along the jetty I was told by a few of the local folks they hadn’t seen any that afternoon. A photographer, heading back to the lighthouse told me he saw a pair but at the far end of the jetty. He also warned me the rocks were slick out here. Of course I had to walk out and try and find them. The tide was coming in, and was splashing the rocks making them very slick. I almost took a fall a few times but, it was worth it. I saw a pair of the Harlequin ducks swimming in the rough water just off of the rocks of the jetty.
Their brilliant colors were dulled in the foggy conditions but I was still glad to have seen them and to share these photos, even though they are not the best. I hope to return again soon, on a sunny day, and capture the beauty of their plumage.
After seeing the ducks I left the jetty and walked along the beach.
I always love walking along the beach looking for seashells
and whatever other flotsam and jetsam I can find.
The tide was coming in and a raw wind blew in from the ocean. It was chilly.
And this is why I was the only person walking along the beach as the waves rushed in and broke on the shore. It was desolate but made for some nice reflective thoughts. It reminded me of scenes from the 1969 David Copperfield movie which so influenced my young life.
After a short walk along the shore I decided to return and walked past the dunes,
and along the jetty, where the high tide was now creating pools of water along the rocks.
When I neared the lighthouse I walked back to the sidewalk along the jetty where I watched a herring gull search for fish,
it would dive into the rough waters but didn’t appear to get any after a number of attempts.
One did stop for a drink of water and watched me as I approached to take a photo.
Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the birds I saw on my four mile walk. They really look much better in these galleries and that is why I share them so take a look. A lot of other photos from my hikes and travels too. Barnegat Lighthouse State Park birds December 31 2021.
It was now near 4;30 p.m. and near sunset, which I wouldn’t see because of the foggy conditions, so I left this wonderful state park with hopes to return soon. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my New Year’s Eve hike. Barnegat Lighthouse State Park December 31 2021.
I checked into the LBI Hotel where had a nice dinner and observed the folks preparing for the festivities associated with New Year’s Eve and the anticipation of the New Year. It was a good place to reflect on the passing years. At this stage of my life I don’t need festivities, I just like to spend next New Year’s Eve with family and a good kind, honest woman. My search for a heart of gold continues. But my search won’t keep me from hiking, traveling and sharing the beauty of nature I find on my adventures. This is where I find my most joy. Sorry for getting a little personal, but it’s been a rough year for a lot of reasons. Here is to a better New Year for all of us. Happy New Year!!!
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
Enjoyed this thoughtful post, especially on this January 1st evening. I hope 2022 is good to you.
Thanks I love sharing the beauty of nature Happy New Year!
People are alone in life for so many reasons, some known and some unknown to us. But reading your blog reminds me that life exists in so many beautiful forms that the people we are with may not be as important as our ability to see the vastness of God’s creation. Thanks for the blog post, the great photographs, and your honest reflections. Happy New Year!
Thanks Dave for the nice thoughtful comment. I love to share the beauty of Nature. Hope to see you on the trail this year. Happy New Year to you and your family!
Very nice selection of captures for a less than ideal day for photography. As you know, we’ve been dealing with similar conditions here in PA for almost the whole week. I remember LBI/Barnegat Light as the scene of one of my favorite childhood vacations. Happy New Year 2022!
Thanks It was a nice walk despite the fog. I need to return on a sunny cold day. It is a beautiful island. Happy New Year!
Once again, thank you for your beautiful photos and insightful comments. Happy trails to you!
Thanks Susan Happy New Year!!!