Since high school I’ve visited Cedar Creek a number of times to camp or canoe, but more recently to try my luck with a kayak. The 17 mile trip through the meandering tea-colored water lasts about 4 hours and offers glimpses into the acres of cedar swamp and pine barrens habitat that comprise Double Trouble State Park in eastern Ocean County.
Last weekend I visited the park on foot for the first time to explore the trails and the historic village that preserves a cranberry farm and sawmill. Wandering through the woods I came across this view from the floodgate at the Mill Pond Reservoir. A group of kayakers had stopped for lunch as I passed by on my way to the white cedar swamp on the far side of the reservoir. According to my bird books, the area has nesting Wood Duck, as well as Black-throated Green and Black-and-white warblers. I’d never seen any nesting birds, other than Tree and Barn Swallows and Purple Martins, during my summer paddles down the creek. The barn swallows are ubiquitous and nest under the many small bridges that cross the creek.
For the most part the water is very gentle and slow; well suited to someone like myself who isn’t entirely comfortable in a tippy vessel on the water. My last visit 2 summers ago was my first time in a kayak, rather than a 2 or 3 seater canoe, and I can say that I much prefer paddling alone in a kayak to struggling in a canoe because I am so uncoordinated. That visit was the first time that I hadn’t tipped and dunked into the water at least once! In most places Cedar Creek is very narrow and curvy with overhanging branches that like to grab onto the unsuspecting paddler and send you into the cold water.
I especially like the many places to stop and rest along the way. Most of the trip is through dark woods, but suddenly you come upon an opening like the reservoir or a marsh before heading back under the dark and close trees. There are many shallow places with sandy beaches that invite a break for swimming and snacks. All of my trips on the water have been with a group that seems most concerned with getting to the end, rather than pausing along the way. That last visit stands out in my memory because it was made with my coworkers; among them Kathy -she who loves Turkey Vultures – and we paused often to take in the view or to swim. We arrived at the pick-up point at least two hours behind the rest of our group, who thought we had gotten lost somewhere along the way. We both were puzzled that anyone wouldn’t want to get lost, for an hour or two, in such a peaceful and beautiful place.