Troy had off on Monday, and it was a beautiful day, so I convinced him to take me exploring.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the remnants of the old North Wildwood railroad line that ran through Grassy Sound back in the day.
Supposedly it was called the Mud Hen since the tracks sometimes shifted at high tide, stranding the train and its vacationing passengers until the rails could be set right.
Still, it was more or less the only way to get across the muck and onto the island until roads were built to accommodate those fancy, new-fangled automobiles. Trains held on for a while though…my dad remembers day trips from Philly that stopped at the High Steps (now the Anglesea Pub). Today, however, there is little proof that they existed at all, just the line of trees in the marsh along North Wildwood Boulevard and two collapsed railroad bridges.
My brother-in-law Ted told me a few years ago that you could walk out there, and ever since then I’ve wanted to see it myself. And while I am not particularly skittish about exploring uncharted territory, I was uneasy about what or who I might stumble upon alone in the middle of the wetlands. So Troy agreed to come as my bodyguard.
We parked the car on the side of Golf Club Road and started down the path into the woods that run behind Central Avenue in Burleigh. The path was wider and less overgrown than I had imagined, and clearly from the trash that littered the route we were not trailblazing. (My Laura Ingalls Wilder side was a bit disappointed…)
Still, it was interesting to get a glimpse into the landscape early visitors first saw as they crossed the wetlands, and it was cool to be walking in woods so close to Wildwood. The DooWop plastic palm tree may be just about the only native tree here nowadays, but 100 years ago, Wildwood got its name from the twisted trees that grew from beach to bay here. It felt like we were walking back in time.
We could only go as far as the collapsed railroad bridge, built in 1918. For concrete, it didn’t last long, but I guess the ocean has its way no matter what we do. Same goes for the wooden docks that must have been torn from bay side houses until they crashed along the shore in the marsh.
What might last long, unfortunately, are the plastic bottles and huge pieces of Styrofoam that were piled up at the high tide line.
It was strange to think these things might easily outlast the bridge and the few railroad ties we found along the way.And it was hard not to think about those floating garbage dumps in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean that are twice the size of Texas. It sure made me want to try to produce less trash.
But mostly, walking along this hidden path, this modern ruin as Troy called it, reminded me how briefly we walk along this earth, and how important it is to try to make every day an adventure with the people you love.