COVID-19 has taken many things. Lives, livelihoods, lifestyles, and liberties all curtailed as we continue to confront an ongoing public health crisis. It’s been tough and there are few to argue otherwise. A lower tier robbery thieved by COVID is spontaneous fun. The need to social distance to keep group exposure minimized has taken away spontaneous fun. You know, the plans that didn’t exist until you get a text message from a friend like, yo, get here now because we’re all doing [insert cool fun thing here]. And boom, unexpected excitement dropped into your life; the best kind of fun. This tale has in no way told the COVID story. Homebound monotony has long held sway.
This changed for me on Thursday. Ben Wurst dropped a small group text to Jonathan Carr and me saying we should go out tonight for astrophotography. Initially I thought this was a nice sentiment, something fun in theory, but I did not expect it to shake out. I was pleasantly surprised to return from my run to see Jon was in and the game was on. Thursday night in the pines it would be.
Around 10:00 p.m. Thursday we all met up roadside on 539 south in Warren Grove to hike in about a quarter mile to the top of the world. The top of the world is a hyperbolic name given to a small hill outcrop on an otherwise flat bowl of pygmy pines. The pygmies are a unique set of stunted pines found in the southern part of the New Jersey Pinelands. Kept small by wildfire, these bonsai-esque pines stand low—most well under six feet tall. A small sea of mini trees standing sentry for centuries. It’s a cool sight, and this was my first trek out there since January 2016. It had been a while.
From here we tried our best at making astrophotography on a clear, moonless night. The visibility was excellent, and shooting stars dashed the night sky on regular intervals. Honestly, I didn’t even care about the photographs I was making, I was just happy to be out having unexpected fun with friends.
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