Let me begin by saying it's been a full spring and summer thus far. Four days a week, after working 10 hours in a 100 degree kitchen whipping up cupcakes, flipping omlettles, and pressing paninis, I drag my slug-feeling self to the trail, lace up my sneaks and sprint. The first half mile is always the toughest as the thoughts of doubt creep in..."maybe it's too hot out here today"..."you had a long day, maybe you should just take it easy"..."maybe I'll just run to that bend and turn around"...but before I know it, my tight hamstrings have loosened up, my blood feels thin and flowing easily, my arms pump in unison with my legs, and all I can hear is the periodic birdsong loud enough to be heard over the whooshing wind in my ears and the huffing and puffing of my breath...and I can run for miles. By the time I return to where I've started it's as if the workday never even occurred; I have reset.
|Spleenwort (Asplenium) - This single frond stood tall amidst the brown leaf litter alongside a trickling spring off of Old Mine Road in Montague, New Jersey. |
On my days off I sleep in late with my sweetie, have a lazy breakfast of eggs, toast, and cowboy coffee, and ponder what we'll do for the day. It may be a stroll along the D&H towpath following the Mongaup River dropping in for a dip in its frigid fast-flowing mountain waters. This path is lined with blooming Rhododron and Mountain Laurel, reminiscent of the southern Appalachians, trailing arbutus, and hemlock. Other days, we drive a windy road up to Point Peter- the highest peak in Port Jervis, NY, mind you a rather short peak in comparison to the nearby Catskills- where we can follow a deer path along the ridgeline, affording us expansive views of the grimy town below and flat-topped NJ/NY green/blue moutains in the distance and Mack trucks rolling along like ants on I-84. At our feet are oak saplings, blueberry bushes, barberry. In the moss and collected soil on the rutted cliff rocks are corydalis and various members of the Heath family. On days where we have more time we'll take a longer hike to Stairway Falls, a rocky narrow trail through mixed woods, where Dwarf Ginseng, Common Cinquefoil, and Blue Violets isit at our feet. The reward at the end of this walk is a crystal clear lake, complete with water fall, dying trees on the horizon and a sweeping view of the Delaware River below and Appalachian mountains beyond.
What I have by far loved the most however about being back in this area is the easy access to swimming holes and river rock from almost anywhere in the area. Within minutes, I can be jumping over a jagged cliff into the Delaware, bracing my feet against slippery smooth stones in the rushing Mongaup, squatting in a shallow swimming hole in the Sawkill between car-sized boulders, or wading into the Raymondskill at the base of a crashing waterfall. It has by no means been a summer of hardcore hiking, but certainly a season of greeting the colorful faces of woodsy, roadside, and railroad wildflowers from Bloodroot in the early spring to Prunella and Wild Strawberry in the late spring to Milkweed now in midsummer.
|Just one of the many lovely swimming holes along the Sawkill Stream. I took this pic while literally hiking up the stream, the large flat rocks combined with thick treeroots making perfect flat steps to make the hike easy.|