Two-Hour Forest Bathing Hits the Beach; Ancient Channels Turn the Tides Landward

By JAY MANN | Jun 19, 2019
Photo by: Jay Mann

Surf City — FORESTY FAST FIX: Apparently, it doesn’t take much so-called forest bathing to cleanse the soul and banish the invasive evil spirits common to daily life. In case you missed it in a former “Fish Story” column, forest bathing involves intimately intermingling with O2-rich natural environs, most famously forested areas, though any well-natured area can do the cleansing trick. If done right, a semi-surrealistic state of mind can be achieved. Groovy, right?

According to a new large-scale study out of the United Kingdom’s University of Exeter, you need only a quick natural rinse to achieve a dang decent catharsis. Spending merely two hours a week within nature’s embrace can light the way to better physical health and mental well-being. OK, that sounds suspiciously New Age, but it still amounts to good old, non-transcendental improvements to mental and physical health … and some of you look like you could use a little bit of both.

Citing the Exeter research, reports that folks spending a minimum of 120 minutes in nature a week are “significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological wellbeing than those who don’t visit nature at all during an average week.”

Matthew White, who led the UE study, elaborated, saying, “It’s well known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people’s health and wellbeing but until now we’ve not been able to say how much is enough. … Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people.”

Naturally, nature isn’t a bit picky about whom it helps in mind and body. An article in Psyche Central, “2-Hour Dose of Nature Tied to Better Health & Well-Being,” reads, “Investigators found that the 120-minute threshold applied to many demographic sectors. The link was discovered among both men and women, older and younger adults, across different occupational and ethnic groups, among those living in both rich and poor areas, and even among people with long term illnesses or disabilities.”

Based on the data gleaned from nearly 20,000 test subjects, the healing two hours’ worth of natural settings can be parceled out over time, catch-as-catch-can, or gotten in one fell swoop. But lagging far behind in total forest minutes offers no recuperative value, so you can forget about simply cracking the driver’s side window when driving through the Pinelands at 55 mph. You must actually get out and smell the mountain laurels … times 120.

Among acceptable outdoor 120-minute venues are parks, woodlands, gardens (my speculation) and – ta-da! – beaches.

Even without academic proofage, I rate beach jaunts as physically and mentally uplifting outings in a sandier forest bathing vein. But not just any form of beaching need apply. Reaching two-hour nirvana can happen only on a relatively quiet beach. In summer, the top minute-gaining times would be around sunrise or then-abouts. No minutes can be acquired when hitting LBI’s scalding sands at the height of daily beachgoing madness – dominated by beach badge checkings, miscellaneous nearby clamorings, sand kickings, beach umbrella rollovers, wafting sunscreen smells, children gone ballistic, invasive lifeguard whistles and ice cream bells or hollerings. Only tabulate times of sandy solitude when doing a count.

By the by, studies are finding there is no nullifying of midday beach hubbub by simply donning earphones and cranking up the volume. Such blotting-out efforts can actually stress the brain, which becomes apprehensive, knowing the hidden dangers of excluding vital life sounds. Think in terms of unheard “Head’s up!”

In the concluding words of Professor White: “There are many reasons why spending time in nature may be good for health and wellbeing, including getting perspective on life circumstances, reducing stress, and enjoying quality time with friends and family. The current findings offer valuable support to health practitioners in making recommendations about spending time in nature to promote basic health and wellbeing, similar to guidelines for weekly physical.”

TRIVIALLY SIGNIFICANT: Miles out at sea off Harvey Cedars is a very telling bottom contour, marked by a series of prehistoric channels, generally running NE to SW for many miles. I was alerted to these by Army Corps folks.

While this waffled bottom effect surely displays relic channels from very bygone eras, they might still be heavily impacting us to this day. Hydrological studies suggest they direct certain oceanic currents toward Harvey Cedars’ beachline. It might very well be the reason there’s bigger surf in Harvey Cedars, more powerful than anywhere else on the Island. Any local waverider will confirm this. The offshore bottom setup could also explain the odd sand buildup in the boat fishing area we know as the “Lumps.” I might even make a case that the far-out bottom might be why LBI lies northeast to southwest, slanted by millions of years of geological ocean bottom influences.

As to how those channel remnants hit home nowadays, the Army Corps takes them into consideration when working on LBI’s beach replenishments, as part of its Barnegat Inlet to Little Egg Inlet Coastal Storm Risk Management project. While it’s tough to measure any day-to-day impacts, the trickle-down effect of offshore currents being deflected landward looms large. How to address it remains in the hands of the Corps beach-fix planners.

To keep a trained eye on the ongoing replenishment, the Corps methodically measures the Island’s beaches every fall, from both land and sea vantages. Such monitoring is part of the continuing beach repair package.

Re-replenishments are scheduled to carry on for many decades to come, per the contract’s original terms. Of course, there’s an abiding and understandable worry that the 50-some-year agreement might be left high and not so dry by some radical congressional or presidential decree. Let’s perish that thought. Besides, such a reneging by our government would be akin to welching on a fiscal commitment, meaning any federal agreements wouldn’t be worth the paper they’re written on. Yes, that’s purely my political thinking … but still.

Departing from hypothetical welching, it’s already time to ponder real-world federal funding for the LBI beach replenishment project. The next scheduled reupping will be included in the 2021 federal budget. If funds are secured, new sand could be on the move in 2022 – if, when and where needed. Funding is always grabbed first; then little questions like that “if, when and where” can be comfortably considered … providing nothing traumatic rolls in, demanding instant answers.

Having dealt with beach-fix funding for many a moon now, I can guarantee that the upcoming funding acquisition process relies heavily on how much clout our local representatives, both congressionally and senatorially, have in D.C. Here’s hoping N.J.’s delegates are becoming as influential as former congressional great Jim Saxton.

For the record, I believe any upcoming phases of the project will revert to the original funding terms, meaning the feds pay 75 percent and state/county/local funding covers the remainder. The 100 percent federal coverage we greatly appreciated in the recent past was related to post-Sandy emergency repairs, which just happened to come in the midst of the longer-term Storm Risk Management project. Might the feds go end-around by trying to tune down their hefty share? Again, that would be akin to the reneging, but it’s actually more likely than a total desertion – in a saving face manner.

I’ll keep you posted on all this as info arrives.

HERE, GONE, HERE: Utah has a fish record problem many of us can live with. Lady angler Heather Litke caught a 44.5-inch striped bass in landlocked Lake Powell, a monster of a lake. It has just been certified as a Utah record-breaker … of a sort. Technically, it is the “largest catch-and-release fish” ever caught in the state, per the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. And that’s where the fun begins, by my read anyway.

In the wake of her dutifully releasing the long-living striper, it now swims with the fishes – in a non-mobster way. So, where’s the problem? Not so much a problem as record-keeping conundrum, as the same lake-enclosed fish is ready to be hooked again, maybe after adding some inches. Fame is fleeting, Heather.

I’m now compelled to bring that out-west scenario closer to home, albeit in an assumptive manner. I’ll explain.

As we all know, there is a heated grassroots effort to forcefully protect the biggest of our stripers. While a moratorium on the largest trophy-sized cow bass is not yet etched in regulatory granite, let’s ponder record-setting should it arrive. Face it, the International Gamefish Association records are mainly based on dead fish, which offer ample opportunities to be micro-measured to the exacting standards of the IGFA. Obviously, a still-swimming record fish can rise again from the depths. So, what are the odds of that? Impossible to say, especially when the open ocean comes into play. Nonetheless, we can safely rate it as a possibility – and even more so the longer regulations require all major bass be loosed after quick measurements and photographs are taken.

While this is mainly what-if triviality, we all recall when a world-record striped bass was worth a mint, via long-standing prize money and follow-up endorsements. Dead “living proof” of an IGFA world record fish could soon be over. Hey, whatever. We had our fun with the Al McReynolds 78-8 Atlantic City fish. In fact, the fish that finally broke Al’s record, an 81-14 cow caught by Greg Myerson (who?) on Long Island Sound, was oddly anticlimactic. All I remember is Al’s record-breaking fish.

While I’m not behind the notion that saving the most sumptuous cow stripers will lead to improved spawns, removing the emphasis on breaking records might truly benefit the cows of the world.

As to how we shift to catch-and-release record-keeping, I’ll let the IGFA work out those tricky details.

WELL WORTH A MENTION: I want to offer this Surf City Police Department Facebook post regarding its position on the ever-confusing and confounding pedestrian/biker/driver interplay on LBI. The list seems to offer a good basic outline, though the odds are it won’t always fit the fitful number of contentious interactions between assorted summer road users.  By summer’s end, my dash cam will surely have captured many a misdeed. Here’s hoping that none turn catastrophic.

1. Bicyclists must ride WITH the flow of traffic.

2. Bicyclists must obey traffic signals and posted signs (i.e. they are required to stop at red lights, as well as stop signs).

2. Pedestrians must walk/run AGAINST the flow of traffic.

3. Pedestrians should use marked crosswalks when crossing streets whenever available. If not in a marked crosswalk or if crossing the road at any point other than in a marked crosswalk, pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to vehicles.

4. Pedestrians crossing at intersections controlled by traffic signals MUST obey said signals; pedestrians may cross only with the green light and/or “walk” hand.

5. Pedestrians SHALL NOT enter the roadway (step out/walk or run out) when it is unsafe to do so; a pedestrian may not leave the curb or place of safety if a vehicle is so close that it is impossible for the driver to stop safely.

6. Vehicles must stop and stay stopped for pedestrians actively crossing within marked crosswalks.

7. When a vehicle is stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross, vehicles approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.

To sum up, we all must be responsible, courteous, and share the roads! Help us keep EVERYONE on the roads safe by being present and paying attention.

RUNDOWN: Now, that was some frickin’ wind. Four days in a row of honkings – from all directions. I even heard of some damages done by the gusts. This week should be far more tame.

The skies put a hurting on easy angling. However, surfcasting and some inside (bayside) boat fishing were done with mild success on the fluke front. The bay is offering some small weakies.

A couple nice stripers were caught along the beach.

Bluefishing is sketchy, though a couple pockets of mid-sized blues passed along the beachfront; only going for bait.

T-storms will be a major player for a couple days with an occluded front stuck over the area. I won’t go into the thunderstorm protocol thing except to say there could be pop-up storms. I doubly hate these – being an overall thunderstorm hater. They don’t always give in-the-distance rumblings or warnings. They can announce their presence with a single bolt from the blue, though there is almost always a certain thick feeling to the air prior to a pop-up. It does take some captaining savvy to feel out deteriorating conditions.

Ocean water temps are all over the board, though upper 60s average out. Not far out, mid-70s is common.

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