Cathy Antener knows people from outside the state visit her pineypower website.
Antener received an email out of the blue from South Carolina asking her to write a book about the pinelands. The email was no joke. Her 160-page book, "Discovering New Jersey's Pine Barrens," was released last month.
"A lot of books have been written about the history. People, I believe want to see what is here now," said Antener, a Barnegat resident.
Antener, 59, was uniquely suited to write a book about the New Jersey Pinelands, also referred to as the Pine Barrens. She moved to the Pine Barrens in 1978. She used to work for the Ocean County parks department.
Besides starting her site, pineypower.com, in 1998, Antener has been narrating tours of the Pine Barrens for luxury bus companies for the past six years.
"I talk about what they are seeing, the pine trees, the pitch pine forests, the oaks, the endangered plants and animals and history, and, of course, the Jersey Devil," said Antener of the legendary creature said to inhabit the Pine Barrens. "We make stops during cranberry season. We are usually able to see a harvest up close and personal, a cranberry harvest, which is a beautiful thing. Cranberries, blueberries, that's what people like to hear. People hear the Garden State, and they go, 'What Garden State?' They know tomatoes and that's about it."
Antener takes her tours to a farmer's market and to Batsto Village, a nationally recognized historical site in Hammonton.
"People kept saying to me, 'What are the Pine Barrens? Where do we go?,'" Antener said. "I've had people who live right in Barnegat in some of the adult communities here going on the trip because they don't know what the Pine Barrens are, and we live here. I've actually met people who have been here their entire lives and don't understand how valuable they are, environmentally, historically, agriculturally and so forth."
Based on Antener's knowledge and passion exhibited on her website, the History Press reached out to her during the winter.
"We are always looking for new areas. We have a lot of New Jersey books, but nothing in the Pine Barrens, probably because the population is smaller out there," Antener said.
Before it approves a book contract, the History Press will call around to see if they can sell a book about an area and if the author is the right fit.
"From all my experience working with Cathy, she has been great. She seems to know the Pine Barrens more than anyone, so it seemed like she is an ideal candidate," said Dan Watson, the publisher of the History Press, based in Charleston, S.C. "This is a very typical project for us. Someone local is writing about where they live instead of an academic type of history."
Antener did a little bit more research, but most of the material she just knows. She also took the 70 pictures in the book.
The Pine Barrens is contained within seven counties, Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Ocean, Burlington, Camden and Gloucester and is a million-plus acre National Reserve.
Antener doesn't know how much of the Pine Barrens she has explored personally, but it is nowhere near all of it.
The author's book breaks the Pine Barrens down into four areas - North, Central, South and Coastal corridor areas. For those coming from the north and traveling on the Garden State Parkway, Antener takes visitors west along Route 70 to Lakehurst, Ocean County, and Jackson, Camden County, and down around to Whitesbog, Burlington County, and then to the Central region and finally to the southern region at the beginning of Cape May County.
"I'm not a specialist in any one field. I know a little of this, a little of that," Antener said. "It will keep them on the main highways. It's going to tell them about where they can stop for lunch, where they can take the kids for lunch, where to go for cold beer and hot wings.
One of the places Antener mentioned in her book is Rocco's Town House in Hammonton, which she compliments for its family feel.
"I'm honored. I will be sure to pick up the book and read it," said Steve Ruberton, co-owner of Rocco's Town House, who lives in Mullica Township, right next to the Pine Barrens. "It's nice to see some areas around Hammonton in this area mentioned. Atlantic City seems to get most of the press, so it's nice to see this area get some mention also."
Antener believes there is much to see and do in the Pine Barrens without venturing off the main roads. The book is a guide for visitors of all ages to museums, restored villages, parks and forests, wineries and restaurants.
Historic Batsto Village in Burlington County is one of the places in the Pine Barrens Antener believes is underappreciated.
"I think that the museum at Batsto Village is wonderful because it is done in such a way that the artifacts there are real. There's cannonballs, and there are cast-iron stoves. There's clothing from the period, and it's talks about how people worked there and got paid in tickets, not money, and they had to spend their tickets at the company store," Antener said. "It's done in such a way that I think it's interesting for all ages to see, and then, they can go right out into the village and see what they just saw in the museum."
Double Trouble State Park in Berkeley Township, Ocean County, has a village within it with a schoolhouse and workers quarters. The cranberry bogs are there, Antener said. There is a packing house. Some of the old implements and machinery is still there, and the lumbermill is there.
"That's a nice little tour. It's not too spread out. ... not too many people are aware that it's as pretty as it is," Antener said.
Now that Antener, a grandmother, knows what it feels like to be a published author, she's thinking about writing more books in addition to her tours and website work.
"I'm toying around with a novel set in the Pines," Antener said.
Contact Vincent Jackson:
Available for $19.99
in paperback at:
in Tuckerton and
the Noyes Museum of Art
of Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
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