So today I went hiking with my oldest niece, Sherry. Sherry is only 3 years younger than me and was raised almost as a sister. She has experienced much of the same traumas in life as I did growing up. Apparently this causes thrill seeking and lack of common sense. Either way, we decided today was a great day for a hike.
Growing up in New Jersey, we frequently heard stories of the Jersey Devil. In fact, there was a period of time when the Pine Barrens were shut down due to mass hysteria. Sightings of this creature that walks on his hind legs and has wings like a bat and the face of a horse reached epic proportions. It became a place for teens and young adults to gather to drink, make fires and participate in all kinds of illegal activities. Still, the Pine Barrens are considered a “fun” place to hike and look for signs of the legendary Jersey Devil.
“The Jersey Devil is a legendary creature or cryptid said to inhabit the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey, United States. The creature is often described as a flying biped with hooves, but there are many different variations.”
A much less known legend is that of the blue hole, AKA, the watering hole for the Jersey Devil. It’s a place that actually exists but is rumored to be way more than a watering hole. Swimming there is forbidden.
“One of the most storied sites in all of southern New Jersey is a mysterious body of water known as the Blue Hole. Located deep in the Pine Barrens of Winslow, on the border of Pine Barrens of Winslow, this small but legendary pool is said to not only be bottomless, but also a frequent pit stop of the Jersey Devil.Jan 25, 2015″
This blue hole is said to be 70 feet across, form almost a perfect circle, always remain blue, still, lifeless and the same temperature. It is rumored that many have drowned or died in mysterious ways in this body of water.
“Still as glass, the water looks inviting, especially on a hot summer day. Yet locals warn their children to stay away and whatever they do, don’t swim in it. Tales of unexplained whirpools and mysterious drownings have long been part of the pools lore. For those who were lucky enough to get away have claimed they felt an icy hand pulling them down into the chilly depths.
The area around the pool is eerily silent. No animals can be heard and no life, no fish or vegetation, seem to exist at all inside it. The pool always maintains an icy chill, 58 degrees to be exact, depsite the high temps in the summer months. It is said it is bottomless directly in the center and the walls, or outer rim, are made of a fine sand, sometimes referred to as sugar sand, which locals liken to quicksand.”
So, Sherry and I decided to check it out.
We had looked for this blue hole about a week ago with no luck. Just as we were about to give up, we ran into some locals that gave us some super great directions (insert sarcasm). We didn’t have time left so we headed home disappointed.
Today, directions committed to memory, we were going to find this blue hole.
Now, of course our story wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t include all of the incorrect paths we took. These led us to wade in a creek for about 2 hours, climbing over fallen trees, sinking into some marsh, getting eaten alive by pine flies and walking through a field of razor grass (grass that sticks to your skin and also makes little cuts in it). The razor grass was the worst; nevermind the thorn bushes and poison ivy.
So now, we are lost,wet, full of sand, covered in bruises, sunburnt and exhausted. Yet, here we are, our crazy selves having the time of our lives. We had no idea where we were going or how to get there. We slipped off of boards into the water, cut our legs on grass, and peed our pants several times laughing but hey, the creek washed that away. It was a long, hard journey but we were determined to keep going, not knowing all the while it was the wrong way, we had been lied to.
As we pulled ourselves out of the creek and made our way to solid ground we were more determined than ever. We didn’t go through all these hard times just to give up and go home! So, we did what every adventure seeking nature lovers would do; looked on youtube of course. What did we discover? Well, just a short distance in the opposite direction that we walked, on the other side of the creek, was the blue hole!
These were the correct directions; straight from a highly reputable source. Okay, they were from a random person on youtube but, he posted video footage! We saw where he walked and we saw the blue hole. Very shortly we were there.
Now, this is where the story should end but, Sherry and I like thrill seeking and adventure so, instead of heading home satisfied with our adventure; we wandered down a few other paths. All was well and good so, we headed back to the blue hole to make our way home. Oh, but that’s still not the end of our story. We still hadn’t had enough adventure so, we decided we would walk in a circle around the blue hole. It appeared others had done the same as there was somewhat of a path. Hey, what could go wrong that we hadn’t already experienced? Besides, it would look really cool on mapmyhike.com.
Now, instead of heading home; around the blue hole we proceeded. We knew to look for quicksand, the locals had warned us of that; we walked carefully all day, being sure to have each foot securely planted before moving forward. We moved slowly near water and marsh, carefully testing each step. This path was dry ground for the most part and seemed perfectly stable. When we came to some marsh, we knew sinking was possible so, we stopped, pondering our next move. We were 7/8 of the way around and there was only about an inch of water on the ground between where we were and the other side of the blue hole where we started. The marshy area was only about 8 feet across and there were tons of roots and branches to walk on.
We figured we had walked across worse; although this was smelly and black. Still, the frogs didn’t appear to be sinking and it was such a short distance and so little water. We were so close to our destination; we could almost step right over the marsh. Everything inside said, this is a bad idea, go back the way you came; so…we attempted to walk across the marsh (dumb).
I started out across the marsh, carefully placing my feet on branches, testing each step. I was somewhat afraid of falling in but it was so shallow and such a short distance, really 3 steps and I’d be across. I was halfway, Sherry still waiting on the other side when my foot slipped. At first I only slipped a little and quickly regained my balance. There were lots of twigs and I only sank very slightly as if stepping in a little squishy mud. Totally gross but nothing too dangerous. It did prompt me to grab a stick for balance. So now, I had an 8 foot brach, 3 inches around to use for balance. I was set.
When my foot slipped again, only slightly, I used the stick to search for solid ground to regain my balance. Well, that is what I attempted to do until the stick hit quicksand. .. I have never seen anything disappear so quickly. All 8 feet gone in an instant, not slowly like in cartoons, no chance to stay still and find a route of recovery. Nope, instant, knocking me off balance and my foot followed right into the muck. Not just my foot but all the way up to my hip.
Well, now here is the problem. We are in a secluded location on an unmarked trail. I have one foot on a log and the other has sunk completely into the quicksand, far below the leg that is barely holding a grip on the log. I’m holding onto a weak branch that is going to give way. If my other foot slips, or the branch breaks, I will be gone in under a second, way faster than the stick, with no way to retrieve me, in a remote location in the woods. Here is what ensues next…
Me : Sherry, I need help!
Sherry: I can’t!
Me (as calmly as I can): Sherry, you have to help me! Walk on the branches I was just on, it’s safe there! Grab my hand!
Sherry: Takes one step and falls on said branches, is now covered in slimy smelly “mud”
(Lots of laughter ensues… perhaps nervous laughter? At this point I have decided we are both going to die and there is nothing we can do about it; still I laugh at the site; thinking back)
(Laughter stops and we are both still alive, neither completely buried beneath the earth.)
Me: Sherry, I still need help, give me your hand!
Sherry (Looking at really gross hand): I don’t think you want to grab this hand?
My Brain Silently: WHAT??? I’m covered in the same stuff that is on your hand and am about to be swallowed by the earth!!!
Me (calmly) : I don’t care if you just (pooped) on your hand; I’m going to die. Give me your hand.
Sherry: extends hand and pulls me to safety.
And so, we all lived happily ever after and never ventured into the woods again. (ok, not until the next weekend but, we stayed on the paths!)
This ended our lovely adventure. We walked back around the blue hole to the real path, stopping only to vomit once or twice. We waded across the creek, washing off the muck (it was really smelly and gross) and walked back to Sherry’s car. We drove home, laughing hysterically at our near death experience and the other crazy obstacles we had encountered during the day.
This is the point where we reflect on the many life lessons we have learned such as considering your sources of information, staying on the appropriate path, listening to that internal voice from God and the list goes on and on but, I’m sure you can come up with your own.
For me, I simply keep thinking of two things:
1. Despite my complete idiocracy, God kept me safe and was in control the whole time.
I am not sure if He was laughing with me, laughing at me or just shaking His head but, He was definitely watching over my safety.
2. Despite MANY obstacles, difficulties and a shear sense of loss and defeat, we kept going, kept laughing and had the time of our lives!
Now on some level this may simply mean we are both masochists on a deeper level than we knew BUT; I am more inclined to think we were just focussing on the good. We intended to have fun, we intended to accomplish a goal and no matter what we faced, we were determined to keep going and we were determined to make it fun.
What would life be like if we laughed in the face of all of our problems? What if we continued to have joy and continued to work hard, despite our circumstances? What would it be like if we didn’t give up every time something didn’t go our way? What if we realised that none of us that are able to read these words have anything to complain about in comparison to those living in hunger, slavery, imprisonment?
Oh, trust me, I have done more than my fair share of complaining. Just ask any number of my friends. These last thoughts probably apply to me more than any other reader out there. Still, I can’t help reflecting on them again and again. If I can laugh in the face of imminent death, how do I fear uncertain death somewhere in the future? If I can laugh while falling into a creek and having my legs cut up by razor glass, how is it that I am angry about a few extra dishes?
Okay! Maybe the rest of you wouldn’t have laughed in these dire circumstances however; I think you can relate on some level. If not, at least you can have a good laugh now at my expense.