Today, Sunday, 2/26/17, a couple of my friends took me to a park they had found once before and wanted to hike again, Ceres Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Mantua Twp, NJ.
We had a little trouble finding it, but it is off Broadway. I wasn't driving so I can only tell you we took Lambs Rd. coming from Fries Mill in Sewell, then alternate 553, then Broadway and it was on the left as we faced west.
There is a broad trail through a 53 acre tract which contains a couple of lakes and a running stream. The first and larger of the two lakes is a strange jade green color. One of my friends thought it was algae, but it is too cold and early in the season for algae and the color wasn't quite right for algae. I instantly knew it was marl, without actually knowing why I knew that. Long ago, I came across information in regard to fertilizing farm fields in Southern New Jersey, which had become severely exhausted from being over farmed. Someone discovered that if they enriched the soil with marl, they could bring back the fertility. Marl, then, became the reason for town names such as Marlton. That knowledge built on my prior experience with quarry swimming in the pines in my youth, instantly led me to conclude the green lake was from marl mining, as later research corroborated. Plus I knew most ponds and lakes in South Jersey come from mills, or mining pits for sand or marl, or clay for example, or from agricultural uses like cranberry bogs (as in the case of my favorite pond in the world, Pakim Pond, created for Reeves Cranberry Bogs a long time ago).
Speaking of fertility, Ceres was the ancient Roman goddess of fertility and agriculture. She was especially devoted to grains and germination and hence, her name is the root of words like create, and recreate, which brings us back to recreation!
Ceres Park has a website with much better directions which you can find simply by googling the name. There is a small parking lot and although the website said the park could be busy on Sunday, we found it delightfully quiet. I think the unexpected return of the cold after all those unseasonably warm days kept everyone home. It was my favorite hiking weather however, crisp and clean and cool.
One thing I did not discover but I theorize is that the stream is somehow connected to Mantua Creek. I will look into that. Meanwhile, I would strongly recommend Ceres Park for hiking, and not too far away is Tall Pines, which you may remember from a blog entry a long time ago when a hiking buddy and I were
researching all the little parks in Camden County and Gloucester County.
I don't know how it could have possibly been a more beautiful day for a hike with Ceres, goddess of fertility. The sun was bright and the water sparkled and you could feel the spirit of spring just waiting to emerge from the brown leaf and pine needle carpet covering the earth.