Outdoorsy Part II: Jayne’s Hill, Sibling Adventures Edition

Sibling Adventure Time!

On a previous Sibling Adventure, my brother and I thought we’d find Jayne’s Hill when we went to see some other hills. We didn’t find Jayne’s Hill. This time, the main mission was Jayne’s Hill. Again, we almost didn’t find Jayne’s Hill.

Jayne’s Hill is the highest point on Long Island. It’s in the middle of the woods up a rocky trail out in Huntington accessible by a park that has a dog park and also accessible at some other pathway somewhere else. I’m a wealth of knowledge concerning all things geography. The path is shared by horses, dogs, and hikers. And bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. Also, I do not know why it is called Jayne’s Hill.

We figured we’d be able to meet up mid-morning, hike up, hike down, and be done by noon so that he could go meet his friend for lunch and I could meet T and D at the picnic tables next to the dog park for lunch, too.

We should have known this plan might have had some flaws when I was able to find the parking lot and he wasn’t. He called and was like, I’m in a parking lot with horses. And I was like, You need to go South or North or East or West, like keep going up or down the road you were coming from. Again, so helpful with spatial navigation. However, it worked! He found me, and we found the trail, and away we went!

Then we were done! After maybe ten minutes, we wound up walking in a circle back out to where we began. We had not gone up to any recognizable elevation. We looked at each other quizzically. Then we saw a sign that said Main Path. Oh! We hadn’t been on the Main Path. Let’s take the Main Path.

The Main Path was much like the short path we’d just taken, only steeper with more rocks and sand and dirt and ditches and mud and bugs. We spent much of the time swatting our arms in front of our faces even though we’d already sprayed on our bug spray. I was covered in layers of sun screen, bug spray, and sweat. And now dirt because that’s what sticks to you when you’ve slathered things on your skin.

We noticed that there were some signs and blazes, but none of them really told us where to go or where we might be headed. We’d read about following the white hashes, so we tried to do that. Every time there was a fork in the path, we took the one that seemed to go more up because Jayne’s Hill is up. You can’t get more up than Jayne’s Hill. How many times can I say Jayne’s Hill?

We found some fantastic views. We were up high. Like super high. We had to be close.

I mentioned that none of this path looked like the path the guy on the video took to get to the rock at the top. A PhD student put together a hike on Zoom for Walt Whitman Birthplace Association (you know, the place that named me Long Island Poet Of The Year? Yeah, them). I watched some of the hike to get the lowdown on Whitman–a quote from his poetry is on a plaque on a boulder at the top of the hill, and come to think of it, how did the boulder get up there? I guess nature put it there. Anyway, the hike we were on did not look like the hike the PhD guy was on.

Then suddenly we were down low and back in the dog park. We hadn’t seen Jayne’s Hill, yet we’d hiked for about an hour. This is why the path didn’t seem like the one on the video. It simply was not the one on the video.

There are a few maps near the gate of the dog park, so we checked those out. They were nearly indecipherable, but I took a picture of them because the sign said to take a picture of them. We headed back to the starting path to try again.

And that’s where we found a sign that said Jayne’s Hill. This would have been very helpful had we seen it the first time around. What had happened was after we did the two minute walk in a circle, we were at an angle where we saw Main Path instead of Jayne’s Hill. Now that we skipped the walk in a circle, we found the sign. Hooray, we were going to see the highest point of LI after all. Also, the sign does not have an apostrophe, so maybe it’s supposed to be Jaynes Hill, but I’m not about to change how I’ve been writing it. And maybe the sign is wrong.

We came across a hiking man who seemed to be coming down from up high, so I asked him, Do you know if this is the way to Jayne’s Hill? He was like, I think so; I got up to the top and saw a giant rock and planned to ask my kids if I made it. I was like, Yes, congrats, that’s it! He was like, Thanks! Then he told us when we come to a blaze that has two hashes, take the one that’s higher up. Good to know!

Every time we came to a new blaze with a fork in the path, we took the one that was higher up. We were gaining momentum. We were fighting the bugs. We were drenched with sweat. We came across some pink spray-painted plants, and then some gnarly roots. We passed by high grass on the narrowest part, and I was making the kind of noises you make when you’re 5 and don’t like the taste of the medicine that will cure your ear infection (the bottle says it tastes like banana-strawberry, but really it tastes like chalky sidewalk). My brother was like, it’s grass. I was like, we have to do a tick check. He was like, yeah, okay, but it’s just grass.

Then we came to the steps. There are 43 steps to get up to the top, and so we climbed 43 steps. At just about the top, we saw the top of a round object. The boulder!

Sidenote: One of my favorite lines from any movie is the line from Shreck when Donkey says, “That is a nice boulder.” I laugh every time, and I don’t know why.

My brother was like, Go ahead, this is your thing. Awwww! Gleeful, I climbed the last few steps and made it to the top with him in close tow. There we were, finally at the top of the highest point of Long Island, Jayne’s Hill. There were Whitman’s words emblazoned on a plaque embedded into a large rock.

We stayed for a short while to take it all in and also to rest before the trek down. I’d texted T and D to let them know I’d be a few minutes late. Having taken the Main Path, we were a bit behind schedule.

A bit behind turned into a lot behind. You see, we had an easy time going up because the random man told us how to read the hashes. Going down, we got confused. Do we still follow the up, or do we now follow the down? Also confusing is the fact that the map, which I took a picture of as instructed, did not match anything in the woods. There were signs for trails like the Green Fence Trail and Kissenger Trail. The map showed Chipmunk Trail and Deep Laurel Trail. None of this lined up.

We walked in circles. We went up and down. We double-backed. At one point, my brother was like, There’s the parking lot. I looked to where  he was pointing down and over the side and was like, That is a parking lot, but it’s not the one where we parked. Then he was like, I think I hear a horse, so we must be close to the end. I was like, No, that’s a rooster.

Sidenote: As much as my brother loves being outdoors, especially riding his bike and taking stunning photos, he’s a city boy. He gives tours of NYC. So, like, horse versus rooster really isn’t something he would care too much about.

Then we found the neon graffiti. My left-right confusion kicked in. Which way do we go? Which way did we come from? We took one way, couldn’t find white blazes, and came back. We took another way, couldn’t find white blazes, and came back. Finally, I retraced the steps for maybe a third time and finally understood what he meant when he was pointing us in a different direction. I was like, Oh! We’ve gotta go up to go down again! He was like, Yeah, that’s what I’ve been saying.

Still, I know the difference between neighing and crowing.

We made progress quickly until we came to a spot that had maybe five different paths to choose. Thank goodness I’d stopped that guy to ask directions at the beginning because I remembered this is where I’d asked him. We knew where to go. Then we found a tree we’d had to scramble over. And then, we found the path out of the woods, just in time for me to wave across the picnic area at T and D who’d started lunching, and just in time for me to run to the bathroom because for the last half hour, I’d had to pee so bad that three times I thought about poppin’ a squat despite the tick and bug infestation in the woods. (My brother: Why didn’t you pee before we started? Me: I did. My brother: Then why do you have to pee again? Me: I’m a woman.)

No ticks. All sweat. Lots of dusted up dirt. Some Whitman. Lots of good memories. Another sibling adventure day done right.

Jayne's Hill July 9 (17)

Still Here

I could write about the chaos of a semester that never ends. I could tell you about my Instacart freak out concerning lots of frozen broccoli. I could also discuss what it’s like to live alone and not touch anyone for months and feel like everything is okay until going out into the world and being shocked by the sun and the grass and realizing my brain has been coping but this situation is far from okay.

Instead, I’m going to write about how I’ve gotten to do all the things I usually do in person (like teach and workshop and write and practice yoga) from my office and my living room and my backroom that is now my yoga room. I’ve been able to see my mom and chat through a window and across a yard. I’ve seen my brother, too, both in person and through technology when he’s not big on technology. I’ve started to go out and take walks with friends. I’ve started a fashionable mask collection.

I’m still here, and I’m healthy. Actually, I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for a while, and I know that’s probably not everyone’s experience, but it’s been mine. For that, I’m grateful. For all the things I’ve been able to do, I’m grateful. It’s these silver linings that make life still a wonderful and beautiful life.

 

Edison, The Other Electric Guy

New Jersey signage is the worst signage. Every sign has a lot of information and icons and arrows and none of them are easy to understand. Also, exit 161 used to be 162 B and 201 used to be 203 P. Or something. See? Confusing. There, now that that’s out of the way, we can dive into the fabulous fun times to be had in NJ.

First stop on sibling summer fun part II: the Thomas Edison museum. We found the museum easily because (1) There’s a huge light bulb on the way up the street towards it, and (2) there’s an extremely tall tower next to it. The tower is reminiscent of Tesla’s tower, though this tower does not shoot off electricity. Still, since everyone stole ideas from Tesla, it’s very shady territory.

For $5, we gained access to the museum and a 35-minute tour. Here, 35 minutes means at least an hour, and the tour guide, a former engineer, told us he felt like he was rushing. The hour didn’t feel like an hour, though. There was so much to learn, like Edison worked on trains and did chemistry experiments in his compartment, and Edison was an entrepreneur, printing his own newspapers and selling them at each train stop. Also, Edison invented an electric pen that involves writing on wax paper, which he also invented, and that all seems like a really burdensome way to write except that it was the first way to make a mimeograph. So smart, that Edison. We saw some machinery from the original shop that was run on steam power. It was old.

Also, we saw the evolution of the phonograph. Since my brother is a vinyl guy, I felt this was of utmost importance for him. We learned that the phrase “Put a sock in it” comes from putting a literal sock into the horn of the phonograph to mute its sound. Who knew? Well, the tour guide knew. He knew everything.

Once we were finished with the museum itself, we went out to the tower. It’s a memorial tower, which means it’s mostly for show. There’s a light bulb in it that doesn’t actually work. It’s on a pedestal with a light that shines under it to light it up.  Fact: Edison did NOT invent the light bulb. He perfected it. It had something to do with cotton. There was a lot of information.

Second stop: Thomas Edison’s laboratory, a National Park, in one of Jersey’s Oranges. There are several of them, and I don’t remember which one we went to. Not important. What is important is that as soon as we walked in, we learned that Edison and the New York Yankees have a connection. My brother was wearing a Yankees cap, and the ranger immediately launched into trivia. Edison made the concrete that was used to build the original Yankee Stadium. Who knew? Well, this guy knew, and now we knew, too.

The grounds are the labs and workshops of Edison once he moved from the first location to this one. They remain untouched and original, which means all the bottles filled with teals and mauves, all the powders and corked concoctions, all the machinery and test tubes and rusting over sinks–all touched by Edison and his crew. Pretty neat, especially if you like old stuff. Now instead of seeing just one machine from the steam-powered factory, we were walking through the factory, stuck in time. We also walked through a storage room where Edison kept one of every kind of stuff. Example: I asked the ranger, Is that human hair? The ranger answered, Yes, we put the more curious stuff up front; next to it is an elephant ear.

I was fascinated about how everything seemed to be stuck in time. We even got to meet Edison.

We also saw his office and conference room. Every room had bottles of stuff. His desk was a mess of papers and mini drawers. There were many light bulb enthusiasts about.

Before leaving, we took a glimpse into Black Maria. I know, that sounds very not okay, but I assure you, it’s fine. There was a replica of Edison’s first sound stage, which was called the Black Maria, at the edge of the grounds. We missed the actual presentation of how he came to invent the motion picture camera, but we were able to peek inside the structure to get an idea of what it was all about.

On the way out, I found a board game called Tesla Versus Edison. If it did not cost $60, I would have bought it because Tesla needs to take a stand. Also, there were these:

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Third stop: the Yogi Berra Museum. The grounds of Montclair campus are beautiful, but also, they are confusing when you don’t know where you can park. In driving back and forth, at the top of a hill, a furry friend started making his way across the road. I stopped immediately and shouted at it to go back. My brother was like, wow it’s a possum! And I was like, that’s not a possum; it’s an otter!

Clearly, we aced zoology. FYI: It was a beaver, though I also thought it was a prairie dog. He kept making fun of me because otters live in the water. I kept pointing out that at least otters and beavers look similar. Possums look like giant balding rats. I’d call this one a draw.

Anyway, the not otter went back to the roadside so I moved on back again until we found a parking lot and decided we could park there because there was a game that night and we should be allowed to park near it even if we weren’t going. The museum is attached to the baseball field and overlooks the park from the inside.

Having already visited the Baseball Hall of Fame, I knew what to expect here. Timelines and memorabilia. Yogi Berra is known for his Yogi-isms, so reading those were the highlight for me. Also, I was fascinated by the fact that most players from that time had other jobs because baseball didn’t pay them enough to earn a living. He owned a bowling alley with Phil Rizzutto! And he was a bigwig over at the Yoo-Hoo company.

We didn’t get a ticket for parking where we parked. I’m assuming the not-possum is happily roaming through the woods of Jersey. And now my brother and I are experts in not only Yogi Berra but also all things electric.

Daytripping With Tesla

My brother and I are both teachers, so we have summers “off.” Those quotation marks mean we are not working in the normal sense; however, if writing syllabi and reading for the Fall are not working, then syllabi-writing is somehow a hobby that I can’t stop doing, not for the fun of it but for the mandatory necessity of it. (Full disclosure: the Virgo in me loves writing syllabi because I get to plan things. Planning!)

The “off” also refers to the ability to gallivant across the tri-state area to see things we live near yet have never seen before. On the list for the first jaunt (bum leg and all) were a memorial, a bull, and a tiny village of shops and artsy things within Stonybrook. Some of these things were demapped. My brother must have said this word maybe 52 times. Also, we found Tesla. Like, the guy, not the car. But also, the car.

First stop: an apparently demapped Vietnam memorial in Bald Hill. Or, if not demapped, then not easy to find on a map. The GPS took us to in and around the area of the memorial. We could see it rise above the trees along the road. However, we were on the opposite side of the road near the Pennysaver Amphitheatre, which was closed but had an open gate. We rolled in and rolled out. Then I suggested parking in the tiny park next to it and walking back over.

Vietnam Bald Hill Memorial (3)

My brother taking pictures of the top of the memorial from all the way across the road and the trees.

Vietnam Bald Hill Memorial (13)

And this is how much of it we could see.

As we walked uphill towards the open gate that said they were closed, a tiny car with a large cigar-smoking, 7-11 coffee-drinking man rolled up behind us and shout-asked: You lookin for somebody?

We were like, no, something–the memorial.

After starting to say it was way deep into beyond the gates, it dawned on him what we were talking about and he was like, Oh you guys gotta go back to how you came in and then take the next exit off ’cause this whole area is Bald Hill.

I was like, Yeah, the map said we should go here.

He was like, Yeah, it’s a good thing I found you because you woulda got lost back there and you have no water. He chuckled. We thanked him.

We made our way back to find the next exit and my brother was like, That guy needs a name. At the same time we automatically said, Vinnie. He was totally a Vinnie.

Thanks to Vinnie, we found the memorial. It was a weird exit because the memorial is located in a park in the middle of a highway. It’s quite breath-taking, literally and figuratively. It’s on a hill [hence, Bald Hill], and it’s simply stark in its simplicity and tribute.

 

Side note: several times, my brother asked me if I could keep walking and if I’d be able to get up the hill. Boys sometimes notice things. I made it up the hill all right and back down, much more slowly than usual, of course.

Second stop: The bull statue in Smithtown is in the middle of a very busy road. At first, we couldn’t find it, so my brother kept asking, When do we give up? I was like, Never. So on we drove until he was like, There it is! It’s hard to miss. First we turned before it and realized we couldn’t pull over. Then we backtracked and I told him to turn into the bike path that also indicated parking. He was like, No because we can’t get out then. I was like, but the big gardening truck is there and it has to get out somehow, pointing at the gardening truck that we would be parking behind. We drove under the overpass and I was like, Pull into the urgent care. He was like, it’s private parking. I was like, there are enough spaces in there so other people can park so we won’t be blocking any urgency. He parked.

We walked over to the bull. It’s pretty large and anatomically correct.

 

The Bull (1)

He was like, I’m not sure I got its head in. Thanks, bro. Then again, I did accidentally photobomb his picture (see above).

Third stop: Stonybrook to see a bunch of things that are all in one spot. The neat thing about his wanting to see things is that they crossed over with a bunch of lists I have about the best tea and coffee and oddities across the land. We found a very fancy post office, Hercules, an old boat, pretty water, and the Grist Mill which was closed. I walked around it to see if we could get better photos of the water wheel but my brother was like, this is a private road, and I was like, It’s not like I have a car. Then we couldn’t get around the mill anyway so we headed back.

 

Hercules (1)

In honor of Hercules, we look Herculean here.

Two girls arrived behind us and were taking pictures so I offered to take one of them together. They declined just as me and one of them at the same time noticed that we both had Gatsby bags. They’d dropped off books at the little library near the tea shop and I was like, I wished I had books with me to leave. Apparently, it was their second time there, so they knew to bring the books. I know for next time, but I don’t think I’ll be going back any time soon because it’s quite a drive and I’ve got other places to see. (Also, we didn’t ask them to take our picture and they didn’t offer, so the only one I have is the one I took by leaning my phone against a tiny tree stump).

Starved, we ate at Crazy Beans. They have a Crazy Ruben and a Crazy Cuban. We debated about which would win in a fight. The ambience and the deliciousness of the food make me forget the outcome.

 

The biggest part of our outing, however, was a very unplanned excursion into the world of one Nikolai Tesla, inventor of many electric things and patenter of very few. Also, fun fact, lover of pigeons. That fact didn’t actually appear in this exhibit, but it’s something I know because I once wrote a poem called “Tesla And Marconi Throw Down For Patent Rights, Royalties, And, Most Importantly, Fame” that was published in Spilt Milk, a now defunct British online poetry mag. It’s one of my favorite poems I’ve ever written because not only does it discuss science, patents, and what a douche Marconi was, but it also refers to the band Tesla, a very underrated band concerning nostalgia and the 90s (but who also played Jones Beach last year and seemed to be very happy and very much still underrated).

we found the educational and Cultural Center at the back of the large parking lot where all the other shops stand. There was a Tesla exhibit that cost $5 to see (marked down from $7 because of change issue–score!). The first thing I noticed was that everything was written in both English and Russian. Then I noticed it was not Russian. Tesla was not Russian. It was a different language. Now if you think I’m going to remember or look it up at this point, you don’t know me at all, do you. At least I know about his pigeon-love.

Anyway, the exhibit had trivia and lots of things to read and some things that we weren’t allowed to touch because they obviously generated electricity. There was a neon Tesla. There was also the Tesla car that Tesla did not make. We waited around for the presentation that we were told would happen in 15 minutes. It didn’t happen in 15 minutes even after we took a bathroom break, so we decided to bow out of the demonstration, knowing that there would be some sort of electricity happening. We did partake in the Look At How White The Paper Is Under The Tesla-Inspired Light Bulb, however, which was good enough for us.

 

The misfortune of Tesla stems from his failure to patent his most precious inventions. He did patent some inventions, but not enough. Maybe he trusted people too much or maybe he thought gifting it all to the world was the way to go. However, he died poor. There’s a movie you can watch about it on Amazon, and the exhibit featured a suit and fancy hat worn in the movie.

Since then, Tesla has been following me. Popping up on the television, a documentary about Tesla. Driving down the city street, a street named after Tesla. Tesla cars everywhere I go. Pigeons. Lots of pigeons flying around. Tesla may be trying to tell me something.

Then we saw an old house. Demapped, we first found the address given near the house. Then we drove back and forth through the backroads of Stonybrook and Stonybrook-adjacent, trying to find another old house. Back and forth until, oh, there it is, next to the historical society. The houses were really old. My brother is a history teacher. It made sense to see old things up close. These houses look the same in these photos. They are different.

Tesla-ed out and in a food coma, we found our daytripping coming to a close. I arrived home with a half a sandwich and a bit of a limp, worth every moment.