Big oak - South Egg Harbor, and more Barry Caelli
  February 11, 2009

Yesterday I took a walk in South Egg Harbor. I go there pretty often actually, since it's only 5 to 8 minutes drive from here.
First to explain where I went.
I live in Mullica Township, NJ, less than a mile west of Egg Harbor City, and just over a half mile north of US 30. US 30 goes through Mullica and through Egg Harbor City on its way eastward towards Atlantic City. In Egg Harbor, one block south of US 30 is the railroad and the city line. East of Egg Harbor is Galloway Township. But there is a tiny sliver of Galloway Township that is south of Egg Harbor City. That is the small community of South Egg Harbor. A long time ago, maybe in the 1920s or maybe in the 1940s, there were big plans for South Egg Harbor, and many streets were drawn up. But most were never actually built, and some of the ones that were built were never used. Even today many streets only have one or two houses on them, or none at all. So It's mostly woods. But some of the woods used to be yards or farm fields or pasture. There are a few foundations or ruins here and there. The Pine Barrens is reclaiming itself.
Anyway, next, in the middle of Egg Harbor City, State Route 50 begins at US 30, and heads southward, out of the city- through South Egg Harbor, and through other townships and so on. In South Egg Harbor, west of, and parallel to, Route 50 there is a street called Roosevelt Avenue. There are two streets that go out to Roosevelt. They are Shaffer and Pittsburg.
On a side note, the entire street grid of Egg Harbor City and South Egg Harbor is oriented so that the north-south streets actually run northeast-southwest.
Anyway I take Shaffer out to Roosevelt, turn left, and drive to the dead end. I park, and walk west (northwest) up a path that used to be a road or driveway. Well, to me this is a fascinating woodland here, absolutely fascinating. Partly because of the things I find here, and partly because it's a formerly disturbed area that is being reclaimed by the Pine Barrens. Almost immediately on your right, next to the path, there is a big oak tree. From looking at the leaves on the ground below it, I believe it's a scarlet oak, which is a tree normally found here. It's a tree with a single trunk, but with two vertical leaders that start maybe 6 feet above the ground, if memory serves. But some time in the last few years one of the leaders broke off, tearing away a little bit of the trunk, and causing rot to set in. The tree is very sad-looking, and despite all it has been through, and is going through, it appears healthy! The top is not dying back or anything.
 Yesterday I brought the tape with me, and measured at the best possible spot to measure, where the trunk loss doesn't affect the measurement, and I came up with a CBH of 11' 7".
Now, continuing along this path you find huge amounts of ground pine on your left, in large patches. And there are 3 distinct types or species of it here. I love it. One can also find big-tooth aspen and gray (white) birch in some spots. The Aspen is probably from there being houses in the area in the past. There is a lot of swamp (red) maple, American Holly, Mountain Laurel, Eastern Red Cedar, Pitch Pine, and some oaks, like scarlet, white and Spanish. I think there's also black oak. If you walk far enough into the woods to the left of the path you will reach some Atlantic White Cedars, and one of two Coastal Plain Intermittent Ponds that are there. They are called the Big and Little Goose Ponds. They can be accessed easily via trail from a different location than here. Anyway, continuing along the path (which by the way has old utility poles along it with wires still on them, though they have been cut) you start walking past an old grassy field on
 your left that is being reclaimed by the Pine Barrens. Turn left and walk into this field. You will find Pitch Pines, Red Cedars and American Hollies growing in it. All along the left edge of this field against the woods you find stuff that was dumped there, some of it literally decades ago. There is lumber, tires, beds, couches, and some trash. There's also the body of a 1940s panel delivery truck, from a stationery company in Atlantic City. With your back to the path, you'll see in the far right corner an old cinder block building in ruins. It once had two large bay doors and a single walk-in door. My USGS topo map shows this building, but only in the 1970 revisions of the map. It was not there in 1956. Around this building you can find what I think are apple trees (two of them), and some big-tooth aspens, and then all the usual Pine Barrens stuff. As I say, the Pine Barrens is reclaiming this area. Moss and lichens are growing on everything
 except the tires. I took some macro photos of reindeer lichen and british soldier lichen growing on old lumber and other debris. The lichen is really beautiful stuff, as is the ground pine, which I mentioned earlier. It's cool to see the lichen and moss growing on stuff. Hey, I even found a clump of four swamp maples that grew up inside the circle of a tire!
Now, on the other side of the path from this area you will find mostly pitch pine and red cedar, with very little of the other stuff. But as you are walking the path, in front of you after it dead-ends, the woodland is all undisturbed woodland, typical pine, oak and mountain laurel. That is the far eastern end of the 10,000 or 12,000 acre Makepeace Lake Wildlife Management Area.
If you want to see this spot from the air, visit the MSN homepage and choose "maps and directions". Then in the top-most search box, type in Egg Harbor City. Switch to aerial and zoom in. Then go a bit southwest to South Egg Harbor. You can see Roosevelt Avenue on there, and the field I'm talking about is clearly visible. In fact the big oak is also, especially if you use the birds-eye view, which I really like. It's just like being there, almost.
From my description of how to get there, and then looking at MSN, you should have a very good idea of where all this is.

So far I've uploaded 3 pictures of the big oak to my Photobucket account.
The tree showing one leader missing:
The trunk, to see it's size:
and the back side showing the damage to the trunk from when one leader came down:
Oh, and directly behind this tree, you can find a square grassy area, as if it were someone's yard, which makes sense for the area.


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