Thompson Preserve – Sub-zero hiking!

Thompson Preserve is located on Pennington-Hopewell Rd.

Link to trail map and description.


This was the coldest hike I had ever been on. The air temperature was a whopping 8 degrees above zero, but with windchill, the temperature felt like negative 10 degrees fahrenheit!!! I usually enjoy hiking with friends, but I particularly love company on a day like this when I would have only had myself to complain to about how frigid it was.

When you have companionship in such challenging circumstances, the comrade in your adventure helps you to ignore your cold woes and fully immerse yourself in the adventure at hand. One of the reasons that I enjoy going on hikes with others (beyond just hanging out with favorite friends), is that each person sees the world from their own unique perspective and contributes different expertise and interests. I am the one who always wanders around searching for plants, while others may be interested in identifying insects, birds, reptiles and geology.

My former roommate is a veterinarian and without fail, each time we are out, she spots the animals that I have overlooked. She is very in tune with the animal kingdom and I always learn from her. Today, she provided me with an anatomy lesson on the white-tailed deer, Odocoeilus virginianus.

My friend and I bundled up really well and waddled on down the trail.


The last time I was at this preserve, I saw a deer carcass in a tree. The carcass we found today in a tree was much smaller than the one I had seen back in September. I don’t really know why the deer remains were up in the tree, but perhaps someone placed them there so that people walking their dogs wouldn’t have to wrestle yummy deer bones from their dog’s clenched teeth. Actually, later on we did notice a dog trotting along triumphantly with a deer elbow in his mouth.

My friend points to the costo-vertebral junction, which is the place where the ribs meet the spinal cord.


This pocket is called the acetabulum, where the head of the femur meets with the pelvis forming the hip joint.


We found the head of femur about 200 yards away. It appears that the rest of the femur has been chewed up.


Even though the Thompson Preserve is now just a sea of browns and grays, I can see the colors of summer in my mind’s eye.


Frozen jelly fungus, Exidia recisa. I love how the frozen water mimics veins and arteries inside this mushroom!


American sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, fruit. This type of fruit is called a “Plumed Achene”. A plumed fruit is one that has tufts of hair attached to the achene. An achene is the dry outer casing that holds the actual plant seed and is indehiscent (does not open to reveal the seed when it is mature).


Right before the cold snap, there was a large rainstorm which flooded portions of this preserve. This ice is so clear that it seemed as if we were walking on glass!


Air bubbles trapped in clear ice! At first, I thought that these may have been sulfur gas bubbles because the soil nearby had a classic rotten egg smell. But it’s more likely that air bubbles were traveling under the surface of the puddle and then as the water froze, so did the oxygen bubbles.


My friend snapped a photo of me trying to capture a picture of the frozen air bubbles!


I know I keep saying this, but this truly was one of the most amazing natural phenomenon that I have ever witnessed!

My friend’s finger is underneath this frozen ice shelf/cloud. First there was a frozen puddle with an air pocket, and above it, a floating sheet of ice. I have no theory as to how this formed but would absolutely love to know from you if have any ideas!


Take another look at this floating ice shelf! On the bottom is the frozen puddle, then there is about 3 inches of air, topped with this floating ice shelf. Could this be any more amazing???


Whenever I see frozen streams in the winter, I always wonder where the fish are living. As we walked along this stream, I noticed that it was mostly frozen except for one area where the water was deeper and moved quickly. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flicker of a fin… a fish! Although the surface of the stream was frozen, underneath a couple of fish were swimming around!


Here is my very unglamorous and shaky video of the fish swimming under the ice!


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