By Samantha Bean
|Ash Tree at Thompson Preserve|
Romy from RomYoga of Lawrenceville opened the hike with some welcoming remarks and reminded us to be alive in the moment and to be thankful or grateful, or both. Next, some simple movements with shoulders, hips, and knees. Then we did our ultimate best to loosen the toes and roll the ankles. A task much more suited to bare feet. As we loosened our ligaments as much as our tread-heavy hiking boots could possibly allow, our senses started to notice something. It’s a feeling you don’t get inside the quiet walls of a yoga studio.
|Made it to the trail!|
We finished our less than limber stretches as our gear was rather limiting, and then Romy headed us off in the direction of the trail.
While the clouds were able to withhold the impending rain that was forecast, the ground below was just not able to hold anything more. There were puddles of mud within the first fifty paces. While our feet did their best to avoid mud sinkholes, our senses began to pick up another token. The soon-to-be-summer air was alive and swirling with honeysuckle and multiflora rose. While not well-received in the native plant community, the scent by itself was. It lingered with the hike for the next mile and a half. And we all noticed it. It was subtle, but nonetheless a harbinger of warm nights and late sunsets.
At the end of first meadow, the trail takes a turn and offers the opportunity to move into the forest. The slight slope of the trail meant that the footing was drier yet the same scents swirled around from canopy to forest floor. The shift in topography also indicated that the downhill hike might bring us to a stream very soon. But first there was a presence in the forest in the shape of a dead tree. He was begging to be named. The wide trunk, the daft opposing limbs in the exact placement on his midsection as if to say “Whatever…!” Maurice Sendak no doubt could have used this tree as a character study.
As the trail moved deeper downhill, the wind dissipated, and instead the flow of water could be heard before being seen. The mighty Stony Brook, tested to the hilt in the past few months was running heavy. The water was not chocolate milk colored but a fresh crisp color and the water was bouncing happily over Sourland rocks and moving fast in the shallows. A few more steps along the trail and an Eagle Scout project in the form of a narrow yet sturdy bridge gave safe crossing over a steep ravine that, in the past, required
a leap of faith and a Hail Mary to cross on ones’ own. A little further downstream, the water quieted. There was no cascade. No bouncing bubbles of white froth over rocks. And the color changed. At this point, the wind and the birds took over their leading role as the sounds of the Thompson Preserve. The deep water was one of many areas of the Stony Brook where shallows and pools coexist in one rapidly and constantly changing stream bed. An enthusiastic crew of volunteers from Bloomberg, stewardship staff and board member, Ruth Jourjine, completed a stream-side restoration project for this very reason....to aid in erosion and streambed changes. The project involved the removal of invasive plants and
|Grateful for Eagle Scouts|
|Giant birds nest sculpture|
Heading back uphill and leaving the windless stream banks, the hike comes back out to the far side of the meadow and farm fields from which we started. The wind was still swirling like mad and the mud underfoot returned. The wildflower meadow restoration project that took place several years ago is at this point--an inch above knee level. I’ll give it three weeks before the wildflowers are over my head.
Meticulously planting our feet around bogs of mud and perfect imprints of various dog paw prints, we wandered back through the meadow and the trail towards our cars and ultimately, our daily life. But for a little over an hour, we got to immerse our senses in the sounds and smells of an outdoor yoga hike. One with elements not found within the walls of a studio.
Thankfully, and just in time, another Eagle Scout project was underway. Wood chips were now being spread over the dense muck that more resembles thick chocolate pudding than a trail. With time, and hopefully a little less rainfall, the trails on this hike will be dry and the only thing holding water will be the deep pools of the Stony Brook.
The third hike in this series falls on Sunday, July 15th at 9am at the Mount Rose Preserve in Hopewell. A 2-mile wellness hike that will include a guided meditation and forest bathing experience. Please click here to register.
Note: FoHVOS Force of Nature was inspired by a national campaign started by REI to encourage women and girls to get outside and play...putting women front and center, and hosting classes and events nationwide.