Sourland Mountain Preserve (Hunterdon) is located on Rileyville Rd in Ringoes.
To say that my Friday was a bad day might be an understatement. The morning started out so promising and then quickly went downhill. My littlest generously offered my computer a cup of hot coffee which it graciously consumed. Then, just a mere few hours later at my place of employment, my oldest was sitting at my desk very patiently waiting for me. Out of nowhere he slowly fell off my chair, flinging his beverage across the room and covered the desk, printer, filing cabinet, chair and carpet. I stood and stared in disbelief, began to laugh… and then I cried. We try so hard to control our lives, believing that we can be the master of our own future. But sometimes things happen which we don’t expect and we have to abandon our illusion of control. After this office debacle, I decided to surrender to the universe. I relinquished my plans and decided not to push my own agenda. We went into the woods and played and because of this I was only able to take a few photos. We spent most of our hike talking about leaf color, size, shape and textures . The wild boys and I climbed rocks, searched for lichens, discussed the softness of moss and crunched as many leaves as possible under our feet.
The Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora, has lost most of its leaves revealing its dense thickets of impenetrable fence. Multiflora rose and Green briar, Smilax rotundifolia, were the bane of my fieldwork life. When doing field work for my Masters degree, I bled through my shirts and pants from the thorns of these two plants. Multiflora Rose is non-native while Greenbriar is native, but I really detest both plants. When I see this fence of brambles, I thank goodness that no one is requiring me to walk through them!
As much as I don’t enjoy the temperatures becoming colder and the days shorter, I love watching the forest preparing for its winter slumber. The plants are dropping their leaves and tucking in the forest floor until the days start to lengthen again and the ground begins to thaw.
Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, in bloom. I love this pretty shrub with such wild- looking flowers! They possess a somewhat inconspicuous quality as they blend in with the Fall colors. Yet, they are one of the most outrageous flowers in the woods and so fantastical with their party-streamer like petals. I am always on the hunt for these unique beauties in Autumn.
When we finished our hike, we made a pile of the leaves we collected in the woods. Rough leaves, smooth leaves, big leaves, small leaves, yellow/green/red/orange/brown and even polka-dotted leaves! Children love to play games, so we played “I spy” and looked for red leaves, then big leaves, then pointy leaves and so on. My littlest is on the young side for some of the adjectives I gave to my oldest, but he did happily participate with color and size prompts. Children learn through direct experience with Nature and being able to work on shapes and colors while outside is a double bonus.
I love taking my boys out on hikes not just for the exercise (and post-hike naps!) but also because they explore and use their imaginations. My oldest decided that he was a mountain lion and ran and roared at the top of his lungs. My littlest copied his brother but also went off on his own exploration.
I am happy to report that this hike lifted my spirits and restored me to a place of well-being. Even though this morning seemed like a complete and utter disaster, at the end of the day we were all healthy and safe. What more could I ask for?