Monday, March 31, 2008

Can You Say "Goose" in the Lenni Lenape?

Terrain map showing location of geese spotted at Campgaw Mountain Reservation.


My daughter and I went on a reconnaissance mission at Campgaw Mountain Reservation Saturday afternoon. There is a lake with a dam below the ski area parking lot, and I thought we'd find lots of geese there. We parked in the lot, climbed down the hill to the northwest corner of the lake and started our 0.7-mile hike around its circumference on the Hemlock Trail. (Trail Map here in pdf.)


After only a few minutes we spotted the pair of geese pictured at left, swimming close to shore along the western edge of the lake just below a large sign identifying the Hemlock Trail. They calmly paddled away from us as we approached, so I know they haven't nested yet. But I'll check back later this week to see how they are doing.

As we continued our trek through the woods we soon realized that those first two geese were the only ones on or around the lake. Which is kind of ironic when you consider this: to the Lenni Lenape, "campgaw" meant "goose!"

When David Feld conducted training at The Stable last Thursday night, he made an interesting point to the new trainees. In addition to performing a valuable public service, one of the benefits of GeesePeace participation is that you get outside and interact with nature. You go places you might not otherwise go, and do things you might not otherwise do. I have found that I am more observant of my surroundings when seeking goose nests than when taking a casual stroll through the woods, and observation leads to discovery--such as the origin of the name "Campgaw." Having spent so much time skiing there as a kid, hiking its trails as a teenager, teaching my own kids to ski and more recently playing the awesome disc golf course there, surely I must have wondered from time to time where Campgaw got its name. But I was never curious enough to find out. Then last Saturday, as my daughter and I reached the southern tip of the lake, we came across the sign pictured above. Who knew?

But I digress.

Back to the scarcity of geese at Campgaw. At the time, I didn't give much thought as to why there was only one pair of geese on that big lake. But on the drive home, my daughter noticed several pair waddling around little Cooks Pond in Franklin Lakes, which is right on Pulis Avenue just west of Wyckoff Avenue. I wondered why the geese would prefer this noisy and relatively cramped space along a hazardous thoroughfare when they could be enjoying the serenity and expanse of a much larger water refuge at nearby Campgaw? Then it dawned on me: there's no grass around the lake at Campgaw. But there was plenty of meticulously manicured (albeit poop littered) lawn surrounding the pond on Pulis Ave.

Just so happens, on Sunday our intrepid volunteer Jane Morales patrolled the lower lake at Ramapo Reservation. And guess what: she found zero geese. In an email to me, she wrote that there was almost no grass to be found anywhere at Ramapo.

So while I'm out looking for nests, even in the thickest of woods, I'll be a little more alert for areas that have at least little patches of grass nearby.


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