Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

Sedge Island Weekend
by Monica Orso

September 8-10, 2023

After dealing with a summer of rainy weekends (this postponed trip being a victim of such in July), we finally made it out to paradise...well, as close to paradise in NJ as you can get! September proved to be a delightful time to be down the shore, and we were able to get some really nice paddling and R & R in.

Late Friday morning a hearty group of 5 were met at Island Beach State Park Area 21 by Captain Rob and the Sedge Shuttle which would bring our food (and I mean FOOD!) and personal items out to the island. Tom B had to attend a funeral and would meet up with staff member Mae later in the afternoon to make the trip over. The mile plus paddle to Sedge House was a bit windy but pleasant, and we landed safe and sound at the historic duck hunting lodge that we have grown to know and love. Captain Rob was waiting for us there (along with "George" the VERY LOUD seagull) and we proceeded to get the fridge stocked and rooms chosen. Lucky us, we were each able to have our own private room this year, and a special treat were little fans for each bedroom to help with the air flow, although there was a lovely breeze sweeping across the island.

As I started my photo taking journey, I was horrified when my waterproof camera gave me the dreaded message "Unable to read card". Those of you who know me, this is like cutting off a limb for me! The phone cam will have to do, just need to be extra careful. 

While the others relaxed and took a short pre-dinner paddle, I hopped aboard with Captain Rob to go fetch Tom and Mae who had just gotten off of work. It was pretty windy and folks a bit tired so we loaded Tom's kayak onto the pontoon and headed back to Sedge House where we began our traditional Friday night BBQ and pot luck...with SO MUCH good food! Chef Cory and his inferno of a grill got the job done in no time. This year we didn't have to worry about running out of propane as they had directly hooked the grill up to the main source of fuel as opposed to swapping out little tanks. All was well and we fell into bed with the vanishing daylight. I woke up before 3am and decided to drag my mattress out on the pontoon boat and spend the rest of the night under the stars. The sky was clear, the boat rocked gently, and the birds and water sounds lulled me back to sleep. The early morning water sounds became somewhat louder as schools of bait fish were jumping all over the place by the dock. "George" the gull was quieter than usual...for a little while at least.

Saturday's forecast looked good in the morning and questionable later on. After breakfast, Mae led us on a 6 or 7 mile journey through the multitude of sedge covered islands and marsh paths, passing many osprey towers and one peregrine tower complete with falcon. We took our first land break by the Barnegat Lighthouse where we rested on an old geotube, tasted wild beach plums, and sniffed bayberry leaves. Then it was a short paddle to a somewhat secluded beach for a swim (fishies bumping into us when in the water). We stopped at a funny little chair placed in the middle of nowhere, and I hiked a bit to take a seat. Apparently while out there, my boat decided to drift away but Herta saved it. I proceeded to attempt getting back in my boat, but wound up doing a not-so-graceful plop on the mussel covered banks at the waters edge.

During our paddling, Mae was giving us wonderful tidbits of info on the wildlife and history of the area. We passed some stingrays and a sea turtle in one of the channels. Keeping an eye on the sky, we headed back for lunch with the plan to paddle out afterwards for some seine fishing. After checking a bunch of weather apps, we saw there was a LOT of lightning just across the bay in the Waretown area, so we did the seine thing right off of our little island. Mae identified and elaborated on all the little critters that were scooped up and then they were returned home to the sea. Then on the upper deck, she dissected a clam and went into more detail than I thought was possible about every little part of the creature. Did you know that these beautiful purple shells were once used as "wampum" and were the first form of currency in the area? Also, clams can actually form pearls..a woman in a Connecticut restaurant found one in her meal. Very rare indeed! An FYI, that woman wound up marrying her date from that night, and used said pearl for her engagement ring!

After watching and listening to the storm across the bay, we had an amazing lasagna dinner, complete with lovely hors d'oeuvres and garlic bread. While we were cleaning up, Mae had been out on the dock and beckoned for us to all come over and see the bio-luminescent jellyfish, comb jellies, that were abundant at the dock. VERY COOL! Asa got a pretty decent video of them after being scooped up into Mae's hands. When the light show was over, it was time for beddy bye... a sunrise pajama paddle was planned for the morning.

I ran into Cory outside during the wee hours (pun intended) of the morning during a bathroom break (Clivus Multrum composting toilets). For some reason I had the urge to check my NASA app for anything interesting going on...I had my phone with me for use as a flashlight. Turns out that in 2 minutes, the International Space Station would be passing overhead! I knocked on the Clivus door and told Cory to finish up business fast if he wanted to see it. We went up on the upper deck and watched as the ISS zoomed by in a nice clear part of the somewhat cloudy sky.

Morning came and by 6am, 4 of us were on the water heading into what was looking to be a spectacular sunrise. "George" was at his post. The water was calm, and mosquitoes were fierce until we got out there a bit. The sun did not disappoint! We circumnavigated the small island, enjoying the peaceful sounds of our avian friends. My Merlin app picked up Osprey, Royal Tern, Willet, Common Tern, and Laughing Gull. We saw other birds but because they were silent, Merlin didn't identify them. Wonderful, and FREE app, highly recommend!

There was a storm rolling in, so we ate an early breakfast, cleaned up Sedge House, loaded up the pontoon boat and paddled back in between raindrops. Some of us briefly stopped at the Beach Plum Festival happening at Island Beach State Park picking up such items as locally produced honey, beach plum jam, and specialty soaps.

The ride back was a downpour for part of the way but once again arrived safe and sound at my destination. I felt bad for the several crickets that had found shelter in my kayak. I hope they were not too disoriented when they found their way out of the boat and hopped on to grass and not sand! All and all, an absolutely wonderful weekend. Thanks to Cory W., Herta D., Asa R., Lois S. and Tom B. for all your help and wonderful food! Thanks to Mae and Captain Rob for their guidance and company, and to the state of NJ for preserving Sedge Island Wildlife Management Area and giving generations to come a magical place for all to enjoy.


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