Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Spooky Great Swamp

Great Swamp Watershed Association held its first Halloween-themed outdoor event this year, and what an event it was! With lots of help from volunteers and our partners at Northern New Jersey Cachers (NNJC), the Conservation Management Area in Harding was transformed into a "spooky swamp" for two nights of fun and fright-filled night hikes.

More than 120 ghosts, goblins, witches, and other assorted characters turned up at the CMA on Friday, October 26, to have their pants scared off. Saturday's crowd of 130 or more geocaching enthusiasts was even larger!

Even as Hurricane Sandy loomed over the horizon, both nights provided near-perfect conditions with a near-full moon shining through breaks in a dark and cloudy night sky. A 1.4 mile loop of trail was decked out in scary decorations, and some excellent volunteer actors turned up the fear factor by portraying an array of creepy and monstrous swamp denizens. GSWA Board Member and NNJC President John Neale credited longtime GSWA volunteer Blaine Rothauser with the spookiest performance both evenings.  Blaine embodied the role of the "Creepy Swamp Man" who cried out at passers-by from a strategically placed tree stand in the forest.  "All of his great lines—'Get out of my swamp,' and 'Go back to your condos and Starbucks'—made us all appreciate his work," Neale said of Rothauser.

Several other members of the GSWA community helped out with this spectacular event too.  Director of Water Quality Programs Laura Kelm and volunteer Paul Kelm donned thigh waders and became swamp trolls.  They hid in the water under one of the bridge crossings and waited to spook unwary hikers.  Member Ginny Beutnagel , her husband, and her son dressed in black and hid alongside the trail to startle folks.  GSWA member Cathie Coultas ran the refreshment table in full costume! Members Wes Boyce, Steve Gruber, and Ann Campbell helped with setup and registration.  (Special thanks to Wes for adding decorative touches to the interior of the CMA's Port-o-John!)  GSWA Director of Education and Outreach Hazel England and her husband Emile DeVito served as tour guides for the evening along with Steve Gruber, John Neale, and volunteer Kluane Ershow.  The Spooky Swamp Walk also marked the beginning of a new partnership between GSWA and the Pingry School in Martinsville.  Twenty-two Pingry students and teachers assisted with trail maintenance and decorating. They spread trail mulch with great enthusiasm, artistically swagged bushes with faux spider webbing, and expertly carved many beautiful pumpkins as part of a school-wide community service day. Our sincerest thanks to you all!

We also must thanks several generous donors for their support of the Spooky Swamp Walk.  Cathie Coultas and Lois Wolkowitz generously supplied our refreshments and table decorations on Friday night.  In addition to his tour-de-force performance as the "Creepy Swamp Man," Blaine Rothauser supplied an array of lights and cadaverous trail decorations. The Romero family also donated decorations.  Three Meadows Farm in Bedminster Township generously donated the hay bales, corn stalks, pumpkins, and mums that added some fall ambiance to the registration tables and waiting area. Stop by their farm stand at 1130 Burnt Mills Road in Bedminster to say thanks, and pick up some fresh eggs, produce, pumpkins, and mums while you are there!

Extra special thanks goes out the NNJC post-hike cleanup crew organized by John Neale. The crew did GSWA a great service by sticking around and cleaning up all the decorations on Saturday night before Hurricane Sandy got a chance to blow them away.

What a special night! Are you game for a repeat of the Spooky Swamp Walk in 2013? Let us know so we can start planning now.   We’d especially love your expert Halloween set-up help and creativity  to make next year’s event spooktacular!

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