Sourland Mountain Preserve is located on East Mountain Road in Hillsborough.
My Littlest turned two years old today. I never could understand why my mom would want to tell me my birth story every year on my birthday. But once I became a mother, I understood the significance of the day to her. It was not just because her child became earth side, it was the transformation of one being into two.
On the eve of each of my Wild Boy’s birthdays, I always reminisce on the incredible process of pregnancy and birth and the moment that he left my body and let out his cry to the world announcing that he had arrived and that everything would be different from that moment on.
So today, in order to commemorate Littlest’s birthday, we chose to go to the Somerset County Sourland Mountain Preserve in order to explore the many big boulders and bridges. The Wild Boys love to climb. Whenever I ask them if they want to go on a hike with me, my oldest always asks “Will there be big rocks?” Since it was a very special day for my Littlest, we decided we should go to a preserve that had lots of big rocks for climbing!
This sign appears quite ominous with the font and deer skulls!
All bundled up and ready to head out on a birthday hike adventure!My Wild Boys always jump from one rock to the next and are just as excited with the large boulders as they are with the smaller ones. All of them…and I truly mean ALL OF THEM…need to be thoroughly explored.The Hershey Kiss buds of Green Ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica. Some trees can be a little tricky to identify in winter when you only have the buds to help. But Green Ash makes itself easily identifiable. It is important to examine a specimen fully from top to bottom when trying to identify it. Sometimes, sunlight availability or an injury can cause one part of a plant to look a little different than the rest. For me, the best way to identify Green Ash is by those big chocolate brown buds. I can’t think of any tree that has buds that look quite like that!
Green ash has an opposite leaf pattern compared to the majority of North Eastern tree species which usually have an alternating leaf pattern. When the tree is young, it may be difficult to ascertain that the leaves are opposite. But as I inspected this sapling, I could see from the older growth that the leaf/bud scars were positioned directly opposite each other. We hung out and explored this boulder for a long time. There was a thin layer of soil that had formed on top of the boulder which was just enough to allow this Japanese Barberry, Berberis thunbergii, to take root. Where there is a will, there is a way to survive!
There are always hints to help you identify trees in winter. This tall, straight giant shares a tell-tale sign at the base of its trunk. The forest floor around this tree is littered with the samaras from the Tulip poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera. Samaras are a type of fruit that are winged and wind dispersed.A hint of spring from the forest canopy! New growth and opening buds from this branch of Tulip Poplar that fell from the forest sky.Tree resin dripping slowly from a tree. It is pretty neat to think that insects and dinosaur tails can become trapped in resin and, over time, become fossilized into amber.Taking a break to watch the clouds float by.I love how this tree is growing around the boulder. We all have to bend and grow around obstacles. It is not only our strength but our flexibility which enables us to thrive!The Wild Boys had such a great time climbing over all the boulders and downed trees.My big dude was so excited to discover this large boulder!Everyone wanted to climb the big boulder!Super pout! This boulder was a little too steep for the birthday boy to climb!Littlest decided to explore around instead.Littlest and I hung out and played with leaves at the base of the boulder while the big boys played on the top.Every great adventure must come to an end, and now was the time to start heading back home.There is nothing that I love more than spending time with my Wild Boys. An obstacle can be large or small depending on one’s own perspective and circumstance.Big Dude found this broken tree and was trying so hard to lie on top of it. But he kept losing his balance and swinging underneath the branch, which made me think of an animal being roasted on a spit. I know, I shouldn’t have laughed (but I did!).As we made our way down the mountain, I told my husband that I had a spare change of clothes for both boys in the backpack. He replied, “I don’t think we will have to change them, they are pretty clean.”
Within two minutes of that exchange, Littlest took a big tumble and slide resulting in mud all over his front and back. Whenever I go out with these Wild Boys, I always pack a change of clothes and shoes because you never know what the adventure will hold. For his birthday, Littlest just needed to reconnect with Mother Earth!
Happy Birthday, Littlest! My wish for you is that you will never stop exploring and having adventures and that you know we love you!