I am a south Jersey redneck all the way, born in wonderful downtown Camden in the year of the dragon 1964. When I was around 5 years old, (I remember that because I started kindergarten) we moved to West Berlin New Jersey. A big house with a huge yard, and enormous woods, this was the edge of the New Jersey Pine barrens. Back in those days when the 2 best toys any boy could have were outside and imagination, this was a dream come true.
I could leave the house in the morning, and not return until dinner, and nobody needed to worry much. Things were much different back then. For me, it was like being Ponce de Leon on the hunt for the fountain of youth, or Columbus discovering the Americas. I fought dragons, foiled criminals and discovered new lands in those woods. I caught frogs and turtles and chased fox and raccoons, I got wet, I got dirty and I had fun.
This was the time in my life when I developed my love of the outdoors, and nature. I could spend the whole day just wandering through those woods, watching the animals, listening to the sounds, smelling the smells it was like I was the only person in the world and this whole place was just for me. I can still spend a whole day just hiking in those woods, listen, watching and photographing.
There at the edge of the Jersey Pinelands, this was my playground. As a boy I learned many things in and from those woods, and the experiences I had there. I learned to respect that which is wild, and it in return will respect you. I learned to always trust my instincts, as I watched, listened and absorbed the forest. This time in my life is most certainly that which inspired in me the Explorer soul and photographer spirit.
The spirit that pushes me to discover and explore, to go to places most people don’t, and do things that most people won’t. Like hiking the Appalachian Trail from end to end, not something I have been able to accomplish but something on my bucket list. I can however say that I have hiked on the Appalachian Trail, in every state through which it runs. Now I know that’s not exactly the same, but it is mine, and I gotta own it! How about hiking UP the Kaibab trail, from the bottom of the Grand Canyon? Yes we did it, why? Because we could, it was there and that’s what those woods gave me.
That was many years ago, I am now a grown man living in the city. I visit the Pinelands every chance I get, because for me it is home. I carry with me everyday many things I learned in and from those woods and will take to my grave some of her secrets. The New Jersey Pinelands may be home to the Famed Jersey devil, and the legendary Pineys, but for me it will always just be my back yard.