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New Year’s Day 2004
...starting with a hoot of a loon paddle.

January 1, 2004...Little Egg Harbor Bay...Beautifully Clear

By George Sluker

Thankfully some considerate paddler has started the year by setting a benchmark for dumb actions. This kind soul has freed all other paddlers from the stigma of being first in the new year to successfully complete a faux pas. 

Shortly after joining Gary, Eric, and Bob at the Bridge to Nowhere launch site, our illustrious voyager had his boat and gear ready to launch in record time. Until he recalled that he had left the just printed map of the marsh in his van. Upon reaching the van, our champ realized the need to test the relief zipper on his wetsuit. Of course this is more readily accomplished with two free hands. Not wanting to place the just out of the dryer fleece vest on the ground, our paddler set it on the seat of the van. And closed the door. With the easing of the fluid pressure on the brain, our nature boy went into a mild panic as one of his exuberant canine companions danced on the arm rest. The drivers side armrest. The one with the electric door lock button. This would not have normally caused concern to our always prepared former boy scout, since he always carried a spare key, just in case. Except this time the spare was attached to his other constant traveling companion…the fleece vest.  

Yes, as Junior happily pressed his face against the window, his rear paws buried in the newly washed fleece, he revealed that while he had mastered the lock the door trick, he had not progressed to the “unlock” portion. Our resourceful team of paddlers shortly scavenged the high water marks and came up with just enough wire, creative thinking and a bird watcher with nimble fingers to rectify the situation.  

Perseverance pays off !!! 

 A northwest wind aided the ebb tide in redefining the mean low water depths. That, or the charts were referring to inches of depth at mean low water, not feet. After a relaxing five or so miles of mud poling and occasional paddling the group made tracks for the take out. Spirits were high, and smiles were as big and bright as the surrounding sky. Rounding Main Point and heading toward Turtle Cove “Old Barny”, seven miles distant stood sentinel over the vast expanse of bay and salt marsh. A solitary Loon parallel paddled just to the north of our track, and repeatedly heralded our return to the salt marsh. As we turned south from Log Creek (appropriately named) onto Cedar Creek, we were greeted by a great Short Eared Owl working the marsh for a New Years meal. 

Occasionally paddlers will spot a Loon in it’s splendid summer plumage during warm weather excursions. The Short Eared Owl however, maintains a summer residence north of the tree line. The Jersey Shore salt marsh is a winter habitat of this far ranging visitor from the north. A magnificent treat for our paddling efforts. The abandoned bridge is an excellent elevated observatory for birders to survey the salt marsh for miles around. The surrounding salt marsh is best paddled with the tide in. Clear uninhibited vistas, warm penetrating sun, nature in progress. Is there a better way to start the new year? The Bridge to Nowhere really does lead to some where very unique. 

Thanks guys for not leaving when I told you to, and for helping me get the car unlocked.


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