It's been a long long time since Mike and I have gone out and went hiking. We had planned on going hiking for a long time but exactly where we would go hiking has remained ambiguous. Last night I asked Mike if I could use the computer to do some research on where we would go.
At first, I suggested the New Jersey Botanical Garden, where I've never been to. He was interested in that and I nearly stopped by research then, although Mike did voice a bit of disappointment in the lack of any real "hiking" because it the NJBG had formal gardens and only a few walking trails. So, I turned back to my machine and kept looking...
... and I found information on The Great Swamp. It sounded like a great deal of fun and it was much closer to where we are then the NJBG. Plus, this had some hiking trails. Mike wasn't particularly enthusiastic about going to a swamp (no appropriate boots), but I batted my eyelashes.
"I have no choice in the matter, do I?" he smiled.
"Of course you have a choice, silly. But the Great Swamp would be so cool."
"Ok. The Great Swamp it is." He paused. "You just want to check out the plant life."
I smiled. "Nothing wrong with that, is there?"
I decided to wear a pair of shorts to the forest. I knew it was going to be hot and I didn't want to be uncomfortable in the slightest. Unfortunately, I forgot to go to CVS and pick up some Skin-So-Soft to serve as a bug repellent. Boy, did I get bitten. I did bring a hat, though.
There are three Great Swamp information areas. The first place that we went to was the closest to get to and had a one mile hike around the eastern edge of the swamp. It had two boardwalks along the way that allows people to walk across the swampier areas. One of the offshoots of the boardwalk was a lovely view of a pond.
There was a little turtle in the water by the platform and I took several photographs of it. Is it a box turtle? According to a pamphlet that we got at the information center, there are box turtles in the swamp, but since I don't know much about animal identification, I didn't know. I wish I could have gotten closer to the little sucker and took better pictures so I could identify it later. There were many dragonflies buzzing around us and I attempted several times to take a close picture of one, but everytime I came close, they took off.
Here's Mike looking at the turtle. I love his hat. My sister gave it to him. He has been hatless ever since he lost his last fedora.
One of the things I realized while hiking along the path was that there were many plant species that I recognized, but couldn't name. They've slipped away from me in the three years that I've been out of school. That kind of made me a bit sad. Like this fern (with the beautiful brown male structures). I recognized it and atleast three other ferns in the same way that one recognizes one's distant family. You recognize them as a distinct individual and not one of the "nameless masses", that you used to know their names, but that information has long seeped away from your brain. It made me sigh in sadness. That's why I'm trying hard to relearn all the stuff that I've forgotten. I don't want to lose this information, like the exact name of this wild iris species. Granted, it has very little practical use in today's world, but it makes me happy knowing them. They are my old friends. My college companions. I'm trying to get to know them again. But it's too slow of a process for my tastes. The water lilies are just beginning to blossom. I wish I could take a closer photograph of them. Darnit.
Mike and I decided to take the longest available route/path. One of the side paths was called the "blue loop". I think it is because part of the understory is composed of wild blueberries. I loved the twisted branches all around us. It gave an ominous feeling towards the forest. All of the chipmunks running around with twigs snapping everywhere made me very nervous and Mike giggled about me being scared. Again, it's that darned Blair Witch. I am such a sucker for psychological horror. Watching Psycho makes me scared of taking showers. I am fearing what watching The Blair Witch Project will make me scared of. Sleeping. Gaa. I don't need to be any more of an insomniac than I am now.
At one point in the blue loop, I saw this beautiful kettlehole. A kettlehole is a depression typically filled with water that is created by a glacier dropping chunks of itself when it retreats. I decided to stop and take a picture. By the time I finished I had a dozen mosquitoes clinging to each leg. I swatted them away and tried to keep trucking and moving. The next 3 or 4 pictures, I tried taking on the move. None of them made the cut for this entry.
Mike asked to take charge of the camera for a little while and he took a number of photographs and some pictures of me. I love his eye for composition, so I decided not to cut any of his pictures and to include all of them in here.
A gap in the woods.
Shadows on the ground.
Mr. Lake isn't much of a photographer (he doesn't take many pictures), but he's got a great eye.
After making the one mile hike, we decided to go and eat our lunch as we sat on a log by the car. I saw a cute athletic-looking couple checking each other for ticks. It took me back to the days when I was taking a field botany course. Mike checked me for ticks and found one, which he helped burn off and watch for any signs of lime disease (none! Thankfully). Mike asked me if I was interested in taking the other trail. I was hesitant because we didn't have a trail map and I didn't know if it looped around or how long it was. That darned fear of the woods again.. So, I suggested that we go to another information center in the swamp and check out the trails from there. I saw signs so, I figured we could make our way through those brown information markers.
Well, that was a little awkward trip. I kept seeing the signs as pointers after we passed the turn. We finally made it to the second site, which were two observation decks, one 4/10s of a mile walk and the other a 2/10s of a mile walk. We decided to walk down to both observation points.
The shorter path was lined with wild blueberries. I remember once when I was in my field botany course and we discovered a small patch of ripe babies. I stuffed my face with what I could find. I was the most eager of all my classmates whenever we encountered a berry patch (wild strawberries are to die for).
I had no answer to Mike's question about what causes the oily-looking patches in the swamp water. Most of the water's surface is covered with debris and what appears to be dust. Other patches are perfectly clear and I'm not sure why. Any ecologists in the audience tonight?
I could have been a lichenologist.
Mike and I wanted to hold hands but the weather was a bit too warm for it. After our walks, we decided to go home (I was most eager to take a cold shower), but we stopped by an asparagus/rhubarb farm that I spotted on the way home. They had picked-that-morning asparagus, which I bought for my family. I also got a jar of blueberry maple butter, a bottle of mild chili sauce that Mike found intriguing and a homemade beeswax candle for Ella.
"Okay, we can go home now." I smiled at Mike. "I'm happy!"
He laughed. "No trip is complete until you spend some money."
I can't wait to go back to The Great Swamp.