Category Archives: Outdoor Adventures

Merrill Creek Reservior

Merrill Creek is a 620-acre reservoir in the uplands of Warren County, built in 1989 by a consortium of utility companies. In summer, Merrill Creek’s 15 billion gallons are used to replenish river water that evaporates cooling the 14 power plants located between here and Philadelphia. We visited on a recent Sunday afternoon.

Merrill Creek Reservoir | njHiking.com

It’s a peaceful spot and indstrial use was far from apparent, but thermoelectric plants are vorascois consumers of water, accounting for 49 percent of total water use nationwide, about 200 billion gallons of water per day – nearly three times the daily volume that roars over Niagra Falls!

The Salem Nuclear Power Plant in Lower Alloways Creek, New Jersey, on the Delaware River.
Salem Nuclar Power Plant

As Diane and I kayaked across the open expanse of water, I felt a little jittery , wondering about the entrance to the 4 mile long tunnel to pipeline system connecting Merrill Creek with the Delaware. Trust me, it wasn’t a pleasant thought and I imagined myself being sucked into a gaping whirlpool like the one at Lake Berryessa, never to be seen again.

I kept these thoughts to myself as Diane enjoyed the sun and water, blissfully unaware of what lurked beneath. Her attention was focused on a group of 20 double-crested cormorants floating nearby.

We stayed far away from the damn, which is 280 feet high. There was a great deal of opposition to its construction, especially from familes living near the base. Who can blame them? In 1889, a much smaller 70-foot earthen damn failed, sending 4 billion gallons of water downstream, killing 2,200 people in the Johnstown Flood.

The Johnstown Flood

If you travel to Merrill Creek, be sure to take a ride on New Jersey’s first concete highway, a portion of today’s Rt. 57 that was orginally built in 1912 with cement from Thomas Edison’s nearby factory. For the histrory lover, be sure to visit the 1755 Shippen Manor , built by the family that owned and operated Oxford Furnace.

Oxford Furnace, New Jersey - Wikipedia

After sunset on Merrill Creek Reservoir.
Merrill Creek at Sunset

Wheels Turn at Dawn

My Bianchi Impulso and I have traveled 1,400 miles along the backroads of Hunterdon County since April, with 90,000 feet of climbing and 120 hours in saddle. Most rides begin at dawn, that magical time of day when new light spills across dark fields. I swear – there’s hope in that morning light – a freshness and vitality that works its way into you as you ride.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

I have long understood these morning bike rides are more than just exercise – they’re opportunities to encounter the beauty of the natural world, and just maybe, if I’m lucky, welcome awe into my life.

Awe is a tranformative emotion – an overwhelming feeling of reverence produced by an encounter with something grand, sublime or powerful – be it a sunset, the flow of a river, or the murmuration of starlings as they wheel across the sky.

Time spent in nature often leads to awe. Nature also inspires joy, wonder, and even love as Michael McCarthy describes in The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy. Others are writing about this too, and there is a growing body of research documenting the benefits of awe.

You don’t have to convince me of the benefits of awe. So many bike rides lead to one of these liminal moments, a flash of insight when distance and time falls away and the barriers separating me from everyone and everything crumble.

In those moments I feel my connection to the body of the world with an honesty and intensity that takes my breath away. I want to stay in that wakeful place forever, but the connection always fades. That’s the way of life – you touch but cannot hold – yet the memory of that embrace inspires your best self.

Yesterday, I felt the familiar stirring as I descended after a short climb. The air was cool, still ladened with mist and the scent of damp. I was riding in shadow, but the sun was spilling across the road ahead and I could see the seedheads of grasses illuminated in the bright morning light. They were covered in dew, each one a shimmering diamond. I breathed in sun, bike, body, earth and knew it was enough; I was enough. I was firmly placed in this moment and could not be shaken. There was nothing to strive for, nothing to want, nowhere to be….. but here.

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