This post was written by Keana, one of our Spring 2019 interns. She is interested in ecology and photography, so I felt a blog hike would be the perfect first assignment. Enjoy!
With a day off from school and a partly cloudy weather forecast, I decided to seize the opportunity to go hiking. After weeks of devoting all my “free-time” to studying for midterms in stuffy cafes and overcrowded libraries, it felt liberating to finally step outside and breathe the crisp, bone-chilling air of the winter season.
Before beginning my little adventure in the Sourland Mountain preserve, I was greeted by the skull of a deer. I figure it probably belonged to one of the many white-tailed deer of the region, whose overpopulation still continues to threaten the Sourlands.
A black sooty mold infesting a branch. This mold eats the “honeydew” left behind by the Beech Wolly Aphid.
There was an abundance of colorful mushrooms growing on many trees and fallen trunks. Though it looks cool to me, I know the mushrooms are definitely not a good sign for the trees.
I spy with my little eye five vultures.
Japanese Barberry, Berberis thunbergii, is an invasive shrub found in the Sourlands. It’s bright red fruit contrasts starkly against the dull brown backdrop of the branches. Apparently the berries are edible and have a bitter taste, but I was not in the mood for trying (especially with all the dog and deer feces that were laying around).
I was expecting the pond to be completely frozen, but surprisingly only the center of the lake was covered in ice. The transparency of the ice gave me a sneak peek into what lay beneath—not much except for a lot of leaves and scattered branches. Unfortunately, I did not catch a glimpse of any fish.
The picturesque elevated walkway that winds through the rocky Sourlands. I remember coming here as a kid and challenging my sister to cartwheel contests along the path.