Sunset Beach

(This is a post by Emily Turin, a member of our Earth Cruisers Outdoor Club in Southern New Jersey.  She and her husband Jon, braved the arctic elements in New Jersey last week and lived to tell about it.  Here is their story with some amazing video:)

A few months ago, my husband Jon and I watched a video of icebergs and glaciers breaking apart and shifting. The spectacular feeling of watching the earth move right before our eyes really  moved us.  We agreed that we’d love to see that someday.  “Put it on the list!” we laughed as we thought of all the future adventures that were now piling up.

Fast forward to the present day:  having heard that our South Jersey Shoreline had frozen over and after seeing some footage of the ice, we decided to check it out.

Sunset Beach in Cape May is one our favorite local beaches … it has jetties for fishing, endless pebbles to search through for treasures (like the famous Cape May diamonds), a shipwreck, beautiful views, and of course great sunsets. So having enjoyed many visits there basking in the sun, swimming and enjoying warm evening breezes, you can imagine what a shocking contrast it was to open the vehicle door to the 19 degree  temps with wind chills below zero whipping past our faces.

It was magnificent!   A frozen arctic  field of white snow and large ice chunks  roaring by us where once an ocean once flowed  and then, yes, past the edge of the ice .. waves of that dark deep water only visible through the zoom on Jon’s camera …



We had bundled ourselves in ski gear and now we were ready to walk out onto the frozen beach.  “Are we on land or water ?” I kept questioning, laughing at the surrealness of not knowing the answer.  So we started to explore.  I quickly realized that the ice sheet was strong and rock solid … my adventuring spirit set eyes on the shipwreck that for most of my life had been inaccessible. I am certain now we can walk right  up to it and investigate. The field of ice chunks and snow surrounds it .. yet right at the back of the wreck the field ends .. the ice shelf drops off and the ocean goes speeding by at a relatively good rate.  Jon, using his  wise and safe judgement, points out that if there was a break or shift on the ice we could immediately be swept under the entire field and be trapped underwater. I was torn.  I have been practicing the power of letting go,  so even though I really want to go up to the wreck, I decide to listen and admit that he has a very good point.   Walking down to the furthest jetty will get us close enough to the edge of the ice shelf to satisfy my desire for excitement, while being safe.

The wind is flying past our faces so fast, it is all we can hear. It stings any exposed skin and we were glad we decided to bring our ski goggles along. Having the right gear can help you enjoy nature a lot more. Doesn’t have to be fancy, just up to the protective task. What a sight! The jetty is now transformed into mounds of snow covered in ice..salt ice … which has a threadlike, dare I say, mucus like, quality to it… knobby , bumpy , blobby ice sculptures … “What artist has been here? ” I think ,  drinking it all in.   We climb carefully over the ice formations.  I remember thinking  how nice it would have  been  if we had brought the Cramp-on cleats we had  recently purchased for hiking freezing waterfalls at Rickets Glen.  We learn more about preparation with each trip.   Climbing to the end of the jetty, we were now only feet from the edge of where the solid field ended and the moving field began. The moving mass of chunks and ice plates and slush slid by us quite rapidly .. perhaps when it is fluid it doesn’t seem as massive a body, but as a more solid mass, watching the water and ice move around me felt incredibly more intense than just watching the waves roll by … the sound was incredible… you could hear the sliding and scraping … and the chunks were crushing in on each other and the edge, so that the shifts in the formations were clearly visible…. It was like a miniature version of the glacier videos we had been watching… I sat on my ice perch looking out onto that vast spectacle and took a deep breath of gratitude and joy, recognizing that the adventure had come to a small and brilliant way, we were already seeing those great sites …right here in our own backyard!

Out beyond the slush and ice, the ocean returned… we could see rolling waves …Also as I turn to look back toward the beach, I can see that a man has started to walk out to the shipwreck! Yesss! He is testing the ice! We watch him trek out there, taking firm, double stomp steps.. insuring his footing each time he moves… he has no problems and reaches the shipwreck! I felt like I was watching footage from Nat Geo… Hurrah! I cheer inside my self , “He made it! ” … he films the rushing waters and explores the ice quality around the wreck thoroughly .. As we begin our own walk back down the beach, we watch as  entire families start their way out to the wreck.    Jon, now feeling confident it is safe enough, asked if I wanted to go! My stomach jumped … “Yeah I do!” I start to head out towards the wreck without one ounce of doubt, leaving no room for him to go back on the offer! I do a little cheer for the mindful part of my self that was patient and had let go, who did not fight for their own way , who put reason and safety above pleasure ; who put long term life,  over short term reward.  I recognized that by letting go in the beginning of my desire to walk about that frozen shipwreck, I gently allowed time to continue creating my path and with patience I received the reward of the desired adventure I had wanted in the first place … I know this recognition of self growth may not seem like it belongs in  the description of this adventure, but it truly is at the heart of it. I do believe we are all connected with nature and spirit and each other through a network of lessons and energy exchanges… but the details about all of that is for another time …

Now we are making our own trek out to the wreck. (a ship wreck! which I must add, is one of my biggest fears!) It was a good hike out there as well as solid and sturdy ..I comment on how similar a feeling traversing this ice chunk field had with the boulder field that we explored in Pennsylvania last spring.  Nature is always repeating itself if we pay attention.  We make it out to the wreck, with not crack or a shift … frozen solid … wind gusts whipping at my hood and burning the tip of my nose, which is the only skin showing.   It truly feels like another world!  The giant metal hull that remains on the ship is jutting out of the frozen landscape like a spaceship that had crashed down on some distant planet… all around we are joined by fellow adventure seekers excited to be experiencing this amazing thing.   We share “Ooh’s” and “Ahh’s” and “Brrrrr’s” …Strangers take pictures for each other …and  I take in that magical feeling which I love , a feeling of connected experience , a feeling of oneness at its core …a snowstorm alone brings that feeling , but here nature’s beauty and spectacle amplified it even more … nature connects us .. it gives us a reason to share smiles and conversations with strangers …it shows us that no matter how different we are, we are together in this, in many ways …

But I must take a moment to comment on some of the attire my fellow adventure seekers chose… I mean, I know people who don’t like to wear socks, but out there?? And I think the woman with the 2 1/2 inch heel boots might have been better going barefoot… but, hey, don’t let something like a possible sprained ankle stop you…

So, there we were standing in the middle of a frozen sunken ship, rusted metal and icicles and sunshine and smiles.  We walked on the ocean and watched the world just slide on by.

It was quite a magical day at Sunset Beach– but this time the sun was not the star of the show.



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