This week we celebrated National New Jersey Day. Yes, that’s right. There’s an official day to nationally celebrate New Jersey.
There are plenty of reasons to celebrate New Jersey and I thought I would share some interesting facts about our awesome state, which officially became a state in 1776.
First of all, we are known as “The Garden State” thanks to Abraham Browning. He bestowed the nickname in 1897, the state was full of garden and farmers, and agriculture was the predominant occupation at that time. While many joke it is better known as “The Mall State” now, if you head to the western part of the state, you will still see plenty of farmland.
The state’s seal was created by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere in 1777 and contains five symbols, each of which represents something about New Jersey. The helmet and the horse’s head crest represent New Jersey’s independence as a state. They also represent New Jersey’s status as one of the first states. In 1787 New Jersey was the third state to sign the U.S. Constitution. The woman holding a staff with a liberty cap on top is Liberty, who represents freedom. In ancient Rome, former Roman slaves saw a liberty cap as a badge of freedom. Liberty caps became popular again during the Revolutionary War. The woman on the right is the Roman goddess of grain, Ceres, and holds a cornucopia, filled with the many fruits and vegetables produced in New Jersey. The three plows on the shield symbolize the agricultural tradition of New Jersey. The state’s motto “Liberty and Prosperity” is written on the scroll.
The eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is native to northeastern North America and being so, was designated in 1992 as the State Fish of New Jersey. Based on results of a genetic-research study conducted in 2008 by NJDFW, it was been determined that wild book trout in New Jersey are descendants of the native species that colonized this area of the northeast following deglaciation about 12,000 years ago. It is an incredibly beautiful fish and my favorite fish of all marine life. It is also known as an “indicator species,” meaning brook trout only survive in the cleanest, most pure water. So if you see a brook trout in the water, known that is some of the cleanest waterway in the state.
The state tree is the Red Oak, a perfect choice for New Jersey because it is just like us. Tough, strong, and durable.
New Jersey is one of the top blueberry producers in the country and blueberries were the top crop in New Jersey for 2020 with a production value of $85 million, according to the USDA. Farmers in the Garden State harvested 46 million pounds of blueberries on 9,300 acres last year.
New Jersey played a pivotal role in our nation’s fight for independence from the British. More than 100 battles took place in New Jersey. In 1776, crossing the Delaware River into Trenton; George Washington fought with, and ultimately defeated the British forces. This was one of the first major victories in the Revolutionary War. Morristown National Historical Park commemorates the sites of General Washington and the Continental army’s winter encampment of December 1779 to June 1780, where they survived through what would be the coldest winter on record. The park also maintains a museum & library collection related to the encampments & George Washington, as well as items relating to pre- and post-Revolutionary America.
We here in New Jersey have plenty to be proud of and love when it comes to our great state. For those who “think” they know us by what they see when they land at Newark Airport or some horrible television show about a bunch of idiots from New York and elsewhere, well, we know better.
As the calendar turns and we move ahead to 2022, most people make resolutions for the new year. I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of resolutions. They are usually all the same; lose weight, spend more time with the family, blah, blah, blah. While it may sound like semantics, I prefer to make goals.
According to Merriam-Webster, a goal is defined as, “the end toward which effort is directed.” A resolution (the third definition) is, “something that is resolved.” A goal is much more specific. A resolution is hardly exact.
My goal list here is specific to New Jersey. This is all about the effort I will direct to my own beloved state.
Search for Fossils
You may not realize it, but New Jersey offers a variety of opportunities to find fossils. Creatures that range from tiny cephalopods to huge wooly mammoths called New Jersey home. I have never found a fossil, but I will say I never really looked. My goal is to find one this year.
Hike the AT
No, I don’t expect to hide the entire Appalachian Trail, better known as the “AT.” I want to hike just the New Jersey portion of the Trail. The entire length of the AT traverses 14 states from Maine’s Mount Katahdin to Georgia’s Springer Mountain.
The New Jersey stretch of the Appalachian Trail is 74 miles long and begins at Abram S. Hewitt State Forest in the northern most point and runs west and south through Wawayanda State Park, High Point State Park, Stokes State Forest, ending at Worthington State Forest. Now, I do not expect, nor do I plan, to traverse the entire 74 miles in one clip. I will, however, develop a plan to break it down into several short single-day hikes. A great resource to help get started on this goal is the New York New Jersey Trail Conference. This special organization is powered by a great group of volunteers that build, maintain, and protect public trails.
Fish a New Stream for the Heritage Brook Trout
Long before I knew the brook trout was the state fish, it was always my favorite species. The colors are amazing and they put up a wonderful fight. I absolutely love to fly fish in a stream and listen to the water rush downstream as I stand in the river.
The downside, sadly, is the most popular rivers in New Jersey are very well known and generally over-fished. An added frustration for me is that I see plenty of anglers fishing aggressively without a proper license. I regularly encourage those anglers to purchase their license. I explain those license dollars are put right back into the resource. Unfortunately, those anglers usually walk away laughing. It is personally frustrating.
So I want to find a new stream for fishing. But not just any old stream. I want to find a stream that gives me the opportunity to fish for the Heritage Brook Trout. According a study on brook trout genetics, wild populations of brook trout have unique genetic identities. Some Garden State brook trout populations are descendants from the original brook trout colonizers present after the last glacial ice sheet receded more than 10,000 years ago. The existence of these ancestral populations, dubbed heritage brook trout, is important for conservation efforts of this native species (learn more about brook trout genetics by reviewing the original 2008 article).
Advocate for my State’s Open Spaces
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know I am an advocate for the ecology and preservation of the Garden State’s open spaces. Places like the water that the heritage brook trout have liked for thousands of years are threatened on a daily basis due to pollution, encroachment, and other modern-day challenges. From protecting the red knot to attending Environmental Commission meetings on the local level, we all have a responsibility to make sure our natural resources are protected. I plan to continue to advocate and take a more active role to protect those special spots.
Attend Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart
In all my life, I am sad to say I have only attended mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, better known as Newark Cathedral, only once. If you have never been, it is a true piece of art built by the immigrants of Newark; many from the First Ward, the original Italian section of the city. Construction began in January 1898. While the Cathedral began holding mass in 1928, that labor of love was not completed until October 19, 1954. In 1974, the Cathedral was added to the New Jersey Historical Society. Two years later, it gained national recognition when it was listed as a National Historic Site.
On Wednesday, October 4, 1995, Pope John Paul II visited the United States. During the visit, Pope John Paul II conferred the title of Minor Basilica to Sacred Heart Cathedral, giving it its current name, Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. I attended mass at the Cathedral the following Sunday.
This year I will attend mass at least once and sit in prayer and reflection, knowing the history and exceptional effort and craftsmanship that built that wonderfully artistic home of faith.
Head Back Down the Shore
If you are from Jersey, you know that trek down the Garden State Parkway is known as “going down the shore.” It has been two years since my husband and I smelled the sea air or walked on a beach. It renews my soul and clears my mind. One of my favorite spots is Sunset Beach in Cape May. I love digging for Cape May diamonds and walking on the shoreline turning horseshoe crabs upright. After the last two years, I say it is important to head down the shore to replenish my soul.
Visit the Pine Barrens
The New Jersey Pine Barrens, also known as the Pinelands, is the largest remaining example of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecosystem. It stretches across seven counties and is over 1.1 million acres. In 1978, Congress created the Pinelands National Reserve (PNR) through the passage of the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. The Pinelands National Reserve is the first National Reserve in the United States. It is also home to the elusive Jersey Devil.
I am ashamed to admit, but this is another part of the state I have yet to experience in a meaningful way. I would like to plan a hike in the Pine Barrens and maybe get some fly fishing in as well!
Shoot More Film
A large majority of my hobbies are quite analog. I fly fish and tie flies. I crochet, spin yarn, felt, and weave. I really enjoy Geocaching. I also enjoy film photography. I regularly listen to a podcast called the Film Photography Project hosted by two guys from Jersey. Their entire gang of regular guests and commentators offer great advice for photographers at every level. Over the last two years, I have developed a terrible case of GAS (otherwise known as Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and am now the proud owner of a variety of film cameras. I plan to get out more and use them. With all my planned outings, I should have some wonderful opportunities to shoot more film!
Most importantly, I want to be happy. The last two years have been hard on all of us. For the most part we have been stuck in our homes. Maybe you lost your job, or worse, even lost a loved one. I shared the story of someone very dear to my husband and me, Dr. Michael Giuliano, who lost his life to the Coronavirus early in the pandemic when he continued to treat patients despite the risks.
It is time for all of us to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and see our loved ones. New Jersey is a wonderful state and we are lucky to have so many different ways to enjoy it. So, get out and take a hike, go grab a ripper at Rutt’s Hut, or take a ride down the shore. Get back to living and be happy.