As my internship at Fire Island National Seashore comes to a close, I was lucky enough to have two “employee enrichment” days – or as I like to call them, field trips! One of the trips was a visit to Sandy Hook, NJ, home to the only other holly maritime forest in the world like the one I did work in on Fire Island this summer.
Sandy Hook, NJ
After surviving the New York traffic on the way, we finally arrived at Sandy Hook’s visitor center where we were met by a biologist in the Natural Resource Management department. We were lucky to have behind the scenes access to some of their forested areas that are not normally open to the public, and it was almost like being in a parallel universe. The forest there was similar but not quite the same as the one on Fire Island, largely due to deer grazing effects and lesser impact by salt spray from the ocean. My coworkers and I completely dorked out and had a great time exploring all of the differences, and after the forest we were given a tour of the beachfront.
Sandy Hook’s beaches are interesting, with a stellar view of the Manhattan skyline and the largest nude beach on the Atlantic coast as part of it’s claim to fame. It’s also an important stopping point for migratory birds who are making their trek down south, so bird watching is very popular there. One of the best parts of the day was in the late afternoon as we explored around solo and found a great treasure – endless beach plums!
Pocket full of plums
Beach plums, or Prunus maritima, are found in sand dune habitats along the northeastern coast and when fully ripened have a very sweet taste. Caught off guard, we had to use Danielle’s pockets as impromptu buckets, but the harvest was plentiful and we took home plenty of beach plums to make jellies.
All in all, my time on Fire Island is approaching an end, but I’m glad to have such enriching and fulfilling trips to round out what has been one of the best summers I’ve spent!