Holgate at first glance appears to be a hike for minimalists who thrive only on overlapping plains of beige, brown, gray, and blue, where sandy shore and grassy dune merge with a horizon line of sea and sky. But this initial minimalist image is all illusion. Holgate is an ecosystem in motion. It is one of the last New Jersey barrier islands unrestricted by jetty, sea wall, and condominium, or dredged for sand to perpetuate public swimming. It is a dynamic place, an unspoiled sand beach, low dune, mud flat, and salt marsh shaped and reshaped by the herculean powers of surf and storm. Any creature that thrives here must adapt to the relentless flux.
Naturally enough, birds with their gliding and soaring mobility are the most visible rulers of this shifting landscape. Least terns, piping plovers, and black skimmers—all on New Jersey’s list of endangered species—nest, incubate their eggs, and raise their fledglings on Holgate’s exposed beaches. Back from the shoreline amid the older dunes, egrets, herons, and ibis breed among tangled stands of bayberry and marsh elder. This 5.5-mile-out-and-back barrier island walk extends 2.75 miles into the ocean and bay, ending on a low, hook-shaped sand spit battered by white-capped waves.
© Glenn Scherer/Appalachian Mountain Club Books. All Rights Reserved.