Category Archives: play outside

Dinosaurs in the Sourlands – A very wild walk through the woods

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Roar!!!

The warm summer days were over much sooner than I had expected.  The air got colder, the days shorter and I just want to stomp my foot down and roar, “SLOW DOWN!”

My Wild Boys love dinosaurs, and autumn is the time when I make dinosaur sweatshirts and tails for them to dress up.  It had barely become October when my oldest started asking for a new dinosaur sweatshirt.

In between rainstorms, the weather has been beautiful and the autumn colors are in their full glory. The Wild Boys and I decided that it was time for an adventure, so we headed out to the Sourland Mountain Hunterdon County Preserve for a hike.IMG_8502Dinosaurs love to climb boulders!IMG_8510They are off!IMG_8513Sometimes, little dinosaurs need a bit of reassurance. I love holding hands with my brave dinosaurs as they exploreIMG_8521Littlest found an American Beech, Fagus grandifolia, nut.IMG_8530Summiting the highest point he can find!IMG_8534My big dinosaur reminds me of an iguana basking in the sun!IMG_8535Sourland boulders.IMG_8544Two dinosaurs planning some mischief!IMG_8556I love how this tree is growing directly on this rock. Where there is a will there is a way!IMG_8564White Rattlesnake Root, Prenanthes alba. IMG_8573American Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, seed capsule.IMG_8577American Witch Hazel flower buds. They will be blooming any day now!IMG_8584If there is a boulder, this dinosaur will have to climb it!IMG_8587The sulfur yellow buds of Bitternut Hickory, Carya cordiformis.IMG_8605Littlest Dinosaur points the way to go home!IMG_8610“What are you putting in your pockets little dinosaur?”IMG_8611Bitternut, Carya cordiformis, nuts!IMG_8612White Wood Aster, Eurybia divaricata (Aster divaricatus), looking so lovely in the October morning light.IMG_8634Indian Pipe, Monotropa uniflora, in fruit. Indian Pipe is a parasitic plant and receives its nutrients from a host rather than photosynthesis. The plant is white because it does not contain chlorophyll and as it ages and produces fruit, it turns brown.

Indian Pipe is a really interesting parasitic plant because it does not parasitize upon another plant, like Mistletoe and Dodder. Indian Pipe is parasitic on mycorrhizal fungi.

Mycorrhizal fungi form a symbiotic relationship with their host plant, providing them increased water and nutrient uptake. The host plant provides the fungi with carbohydrates formed during the process of photosynthesis. Many tree, shrubs and grass species form these relationships with mycorrhizal fungi, and some of these relationships are so specific that only certain species of fungi will colonize the root systems of certain plants, while others are more generalists and will colonize multiple plant species.IMG_8641Red Oak, Quercus rubra, acorn!IMG_8645Shagbark Hickory, Carya ovata, nuts!IMG_8652The bounty from our adventure!IMG_8664My big dinosaur wanted to give back the food he had gathered to the woodland creatures, so he carefully sorted each of the nuts and left them out on the rock to be found.

Dry Creek Run – On the hunt for frogs!

Dry Creek Run is located on Brunswick Pike in Lambertville.

Link to trail map!

IMG_5007I love the smell of the forest after a rain, the commingling of fresh and musky. I was on the trail before 8 am, and the forest was bursting with bird songs and the rustling sounds of unseen animals. A morning hike is a wonderful way to start the day. It always refreshes me and renews my connection with the Earth.

The feeling I have when I enter the woods is similar to the excitement my children have when I tell them they can have a boo-bop (My Littlest can’t say “ice pops”).

My kids anticipate the crinkling sound of the boo-bops wrapper, the sweet taste of sugar, and the icy-cold pop cooling the hot summer heat.

In the forest, I love the sound of the birds, the pungent scent of wet earth, the cacophony of woodland animals alternating with stillness… the most perfect summer treat.

IMG_5008The magenta flowers of Smartweed, Persicaria spp., stood out beautifully against the green backdrop.IMG_5011Even though the idea of trying to identify Sedges to species level gives me agita, I always love to see them in flower.IMG_5012Jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, studded with water droplets that look like crystals.IMG_5016Peek-a-boo! No berries are safe from me!IMG_5018 These wiggly squiggly lines are from a leaf minor, Liriomyza eupatoriella, who uses White Snake root, Eupatorium rugosum, as its host for its larva.IMG_5023Sassafrass, Sassafras albidum, looking picture perfect this morning.IMG_5025I think this is American Jumpseed, Persicaria virginianaIMG_5027This white tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, looked pretty annoyed that I startled them out of the bed.IMG_5036Stickseed, Hacklia virginiana. I love that the fruits look like little ornaments hanging off the branches. I don’t love how they stick to just about everything!IMG_5043When I first saw this I thought it was a fruit until I picked it up and realized it was hollow. This is a gall, which is an abnormal growth on a plant that is triggered by a pest or a disease.IMG_5045A sea of Hogpeanuts, Amphicarpaea bracteata. Have you ever seen someone and totally blanked on their name even though you knew them? Well, that happened to me when I saw the Hogpeanuts.  I knew I knew the name but I just stared at it blankly and couldn’t retrieve it from my mental rolodex.IMG_5048White Avens, Geum canadense. The young leaves of this plant sort of look like strawberry leaves.IMG_5049When I saw this bench tucked in the woods, I imagined a person sitting there, deeply in thought while writing beautiful poetry.IMG_5058This Jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, came up through the boardwalk. It is a common plant but I always feel happy when I see the brilliant orange flowers.IMG_5068I am pretty sure this is Heal-all, Prunella vulgaris. There aren’t any flowers on it, but based upon the leaves and the flowering stalk I am pretty sure that is what it is. I really love the purple flowers of this little plant!IMG_5073Black-and-gold Flat Millipede Apheloria virginiensis. Apparently these little critters produce a cyanide substance that can cause skin irritation so please look but do not touch!IMG_5079The trail was littered with fruit! Pignut hickory (Carya glabra), Bitternut (Carya cordiformis), Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata), Pin Oak (Quercus pallustris), Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida).

While walking along the trail, I heard a chorus of frogs. I knew that if there were that many frogs, there needed to be a body of water. I was watching the clock because I had to get back to the office by 9am for a meeting but I HAD TO FIND THE FROGS! I did make it back to the office on time, but I had to run all the way back to my car.

IMG_5052Isn’t this little pond gorgeous?! Hearing the frogs and finding this pond was the highlight of my morning.IMG_5057What a perfect place to come and just be with nature. It was so loud and so quiet at the same time.