Exploring Cranford

Many years ago, in the final months of my Peace Corps service, I was planning my parents’ two-week tour of Jordan, eager to show them everything I loved most about my adopted kingdom home. “It’s going to be a lot of walking,” I warned. “You two should start walking in Maine before you come to Jordan, to get yourselves back in the habit.”

When they landed in Amman, I took them immediately south, first to snorkel on the Red Sea, then a Jeep tour of Mars — I mean, Wadi Rum, and then up to the famous rose-red ancient city of Petra. We had three days in Wadi Musa, the town at the mouth of the Petra siq. On the first day, I told my parents we should, first thing in the morning, go deep into the park and on donkeys up the stairs to the so-called Monastery, and then make our leisurely way back through the central areas of the park through the afternoon.

What I didn’t take into account was that I had been walking 5k each way to school and back, walking around the souqs and cities of Jordan, walking a good distance almost every day. This was before the time of step-counting, but I’ve no doubt I was easily hitting my 10,000 steps at least six days a week. Mom and Dad … not so much!

Poor Mom. By the next morning, she could barely walk, and stairs? She had to lift her legs by pulling on her pant legs like marionette strings. When we went back to the center of Petra that second day, she could only go downhill. Accommodating her temporary disability actually resulted in some of the most amazing memories I have of Petra, but that’s a story for another day….

Today was the day that Mom got her revenge….

Actually, this isn’t the first time, as a reluctantly middle-aged woman trapped by pandemic in my apartment for sometimes seven days at a time, that a fairly short, entirely flat walk left me hobbling for days — I’ve decided that maybe a focus on adductor muscles in my yoga practice would be wise…. But when I woke up this morning, I was definitely feeling yesterday’s hike!

Cranford Canoe Club

After the frustration of tandem kayaking in Secaucus, when we decided to go kayaking with another friend this Labor Day, we opted for individual kayaks, and I actually really enjoyed the experience this time, being in better control of my own destiny.

We were able to go three or four miles down the Rahway River, flat and fairly wide, lined on both sides with big houses whose lawns ran down to the water’s edge. Many had built canoe landings, grills, patios and seating areas by the river, as well as some treehouses. We saw a turtle, squirrels, chipmunks, robins, grackles, even a white-tailed deer and a couple spots of morning glories.

That bridge near the end of our walk, it turns out, is in Nomahegan Park, and we walked over the river there a few weeks ago with another friend.

Echo Lake Park

In the years when I lived in New York City, I used to periodically head south down I-95 on a Megabus for a visit, a protest, or a date of one kind or another, and pass by the exit for Cranford, NJ. And it always made me think of the same thing: cranberry bogs. “What’s a town named for cranberries doing outside of New England?” It turns out, cranberries have nothing to do with Cranford’s name — just some really bad spellers! — but there are some wetland habitats to be seen in Echo Lake Park!

The waters of the lakes may be clouded with invasive plants and algae at the moment, and the paddleboats off limits for COVID, but there’s still some nice walking to be done.

I rather enjoyed the water wheel, as well, with the scent of charcoal and roasting hamburgers and hot dogs wafting up from the adjacent picnic area.

Echo Lake Park is also home to the Union County 9/11 Memorial, a lovely extravaganza of flowers and decorative grasses and curving pathways.

We saw some mallards, and a dragonfly that let me get so close with my camera that, in retrospect, I think he might not have been alive at all.

Whatever these sweet-smelling flowering bushes were (PictureThis says it’s the terribly invasive Japanese knotweed), they were extremely popular, buzzing with bees, wasps and other pollinators.

Overall, I was quite enamored of their wetland areas along the perimeters of the lakes, and of course of the flowers and the simple joy of being out of my apartment, stretching my legs, keeping myself even just a little bit in shape for simple walking!

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