Tag Archives: Outside

A Special Weekend in Stokes State Forest

I walked up the cracked country road, wildflowers on either side. The birds sang and a rustle in the bushes made me turn my head.

A chipmunk! The little grey man stood still, awaiting my next move.

I tried to get a picture, but he was too fast!

This weekend I had the joy of visiting Stokes State Forest in northwestern New Jersey. Our state may be known for chemical plants and garbage dumps, but in these verdant woods, you’d never know it.


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The land undulates gently, slowly rising into broad, thickly wooded mountains. Tucked away in that woods was our campsite.

I returned to our temporary homestead after my stroll, dropping into my lawn chair with a groan. Burgers sizzled on the grill.

After a wonderful dinner and many laughs with friends, I retired to my tent on the edge of the forest. There’s something peaceful about making your bed in nature.

Stokes State Forest has excellent camping facilities that I’d recommend to anyone.

There are real bathrooms nearby, and they’re actually clean! The dispensers always have soap, a rare amenity in the woods.

A short drive away were the showers, and I felt like a new man after lathering up there on Saturday!

The campsites themselves are spacious and provide a good distance between you and other campers. But the water might be the best thing of all!

Stokes has an artesian well that provides some of the best-tasting mineral water you’ll ever drink! Locals who aren’t even camping drive into the forest to fill dozens of plastic bottles from this pristine spring.

When we’re camping, my friends and I don’t have to worry about getting home. Home is a tent just a few feet away!

There is no other time in this hectic modern world where I get to spend days at a time with some of my favorite people. That’s why camping is special.

If you’ve never camped, give it a try! Stokes is just over an hour from New York City and its natural beauty is more than worth the trip!

What are some of your favorite experiences in nature? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

More on the outdoors:

How Camping Is Improving My Life

Pine Barrens Glamping in Brendan Byrne State Forest

My Camping Essentials: The Basics, The Wishlist, And The Things I Never Thought I’d Need But Can’t Live Without

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Pine Barrens Glamping in Brendan Byrne State Forest

We opened the door to the cabin and stood silently, our mouths agape. In years visiting the woods, we’d never seen anything like this.

A beautiful brand new cabin!

The bunks were feathery soft. The carpentry was stunning, each board fitting together perfectly.

No sleeping on a bare floor tonight!

This is Brendan Bryne State Forest in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. This unusual ecosystem of pine trees and sandy soil is home to many rare plant and animal species, including 274 kinds of moss!

My friends and I unpacked our gear and started a fire, grilling up steaks and salmon burgers. Sitting around that fire, the concerns of daily life faded away like the smoke.

After a fine night’s sleep in the cushy bunks, we wolfed down ham and eggs and set off for a hike. The hiking is easy in the Pine Barrens, with flat terrain and well groomed trails.

We wondered at the beautiful conifers and placid ponds, often content with saying little.

As we made it back to camp, our friend Victor* pulled up! He had been tied up Friday but didn’t want to miss this wonderful weekend entirely.

Together, we cooked burgers, apple gouda sausages, and even a savory chili over the flames. We joked and laughed, untroubled by the need to get home at the end of the night.

Come Sunday morning, we all sat around after breakfast, reluctant to begin packing. It would mean the trip was over.

But pack we did, already planning our next visit.

Brendan Byrne has both cabins (with plumbing and electricity) and “shelters,” which was the simpler cabin we stayed in. I found it more than adequate, and at about $50 a night for Jersey residents, it’s a steal!

Now is the perfect time to visit the Pine Barrens!

The weather’s getting warmer but the ticks have yet to emerge. Enjoy this unique world while you can!

More on New Jersey:

Is this NJ’s Most Beautiful Spot?

The Mafia’s Hoboken Fortress

New Jersey’s Jelly Donut Heaven

*not his real name

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Meet New Jersey’s Biggest Polluter

Along the New Jersey Turnpike, it comes into view: a massive complex of tanks, smokestacks, and tangled pipes. This is New Jersey’s biggest polluter: the Phillips 66 Bayway Refinery.

The Phillips refinery releases far more toxic chemicals than anywhere else in the state, and more than twice as many as the runner-up (another refinery). Some of these chemicals may cause cancer.

Where do these chemicals go? Into poor communities in surrounding Linden, NJ:

“We live in a very low-income neighborhood, so we’re advocating for food, and shelter and everything else. I don’t believe we can get to the point where we’re able to advocate for the smells or the chemicals that are released in the air,” she said.

Despite its staggering environmental toll, the plant employees just 800 people and, even at full capacity, produces only 155,000 barrels of gasoline daily. This is less than 0.05% of the gasoline the US uses every day.

Even those far from New Jersey may have cause for concern: the plant sits two miles from Arthur Kill, the waterway that separates Staten Island from the Garden State and feeds into the Atlantic Ocean. I shudder to think what could happen in a natural disaster, to say nothing of a man-made one. Indeed, the refinery had to shut down prior to Hurricane Sandy.

We have a dangerous plant in the middle of one of the most densely populated places in the country, leeching out toxins. Its damage falls disproportionately on the poor and nonwhite. Its economic impact is modest.

Perhaps it’s time for a change?

More on New Jersey:

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