Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mountain Hunting in NJ--The Sourland Mountains

End of the summer, and realizing we hadn't climbed a mountain yet, it was off to the highish hills of New Jersey. There are a few mountains to choose from, if you use the word loosely. Most mountainesque might be the high rise next to the Delaware Water Gap. Closer to home is Baldpate Mountain (highest point in Mercer County!). South Mountain Reservation, sporting hilltop views of the Newark and NY skylines, sounds interesting.

But my daughter and I decided to head up to the Belle Mead Coop for poultry feed and then over to the Sourland Mountain Preserve.

There you find a large parking lot, a pond, a kiosk that actually has a replenished supply of maps, and a trail up into boulder land. Boulders large and small, to climb up or step around, boulders that beg to be sat upon, the better to gaze out upon the others.

The trees, too, like to sit upon the rocks, having little choice, there not being much actual soil.

When first seen, I thought this scene would be rare, but trees are growing upon rocks everywhere.

Black birches are the ones most taken with the boulders.

My daughter caught this incendiary scene,

just before we reached a linear meadow ablaze with Bidens.

I had read of the Roaring Rocks, and we finally found them at the far end of the five mile trail, roaring very quietly. Maybe they roar more loudly when the stream that flows underneath them is swelled by rains. Even without sound effects, they are impressive, and look fun to climb upon if you don't have a small dog that could disappear at any moment into the cracks between them.

On the way back, a sugar maple bent by age and circumstance. Sugar maples in particular gain character with age, reminding me somehow of a pipe-smoking english professor from college days.

I told my daughter that this polka dot boulder field reminded me of 101 Dalmatians. She said it looked more like zombies to her. What will the next generation see?

The linear meadow offered a shortcut back to the parking lot. Most of these right of ways that criss-cross New Jersey, like the one that crosses the Princeton Ridge, are becoming monocultures of mugwort and/or Sericea lespedeza, but this one still has some diversity,

with at least two kinds of native bushclover that I've never seen in Princeton, some towering sunflowers,

Indian grass bending towards the pathway, and the great yellow sea of Bidens.

The walk lasted four hours, though there were cutbacks if we had wanted to shorten it. Just a twenty minute drive, and for anyone who walks the ridge in Princeton alot, whether in Witherspoon Woods, Woodfield Reservation, or Herrontown Woods, the Sourland Mountains Preserve offers many parallels, some new twists, and a fine zigging and zagging through bulked up boulders.

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