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Meandering with Mutts: Trekking in Frenchtown


Noah, Ellie and I are taking advantage of the fading sun as we set out hiking at Frenchtown Preserve on a late winter afternoon.

Even before our hike commences, I discover a coralberry bush growing along the verge of the parking lot with its eye-catching purple-red berries that have not yet succumbed to the grazing of deer and browsing of birds. Coralberry, a native plant, is a great treat for most wildlife but poisonous for fish, as it contains a toxin called saponin. Native Americans employed a creative fishing technique by soaking the plants in a lake or stream, causing stunned fish to float to the top of the water.

We head out, embarking on trails that for the most part keep us along the outer fringes of the preserve through primarily hardwood forest. Below us the Little Nishisakawick Creek courses over and around massive slabs of shale, surging toward the Delaware River. We ascend a slight incline and emerge onto the rim of an immense field, a breathtaking scene before us overlooking rolling hills with a view for miles. If you look carefully the Delaware River can even be glimpsed.

Noah and Ellie frolic across the field with gleeful abandon, swerving and dodging and running in circles. Watching their joyful antics gladdens my heart and lightens my spirit; their jubilance is infectious.

We head upward toward the top edge of the field and before I can stop her, Ellie rolls in something pungent. The smell is malodourous to the human nose, but tantalizingly enticing to her canine one. A bit further along, Ellie discovers a delectable tidbit, and before the words “leave it” can exit my mouth, she swallows it whole. She’s having quite a day and a particularly rewarding hike, chock-full of sensory exploits.

Our path takes us back into the woods through a swathe of towering cedar trees that seem to go on forever, the forest floor a verdant carpet of moss of diverse varieties, textures and shades. Stunted holly shrubs are scattered here and there, attempting to thrive beneath the shady canopy. American holly, another native plant, has prickly edges to deter foraging. Interestingly, according to Tristan Gooley in his informative book, “The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs,” once holly grows to a certain height and its leaves are no longer in reach of hungry critters, they become less prickly.

Off to our right a small creek flows over rocky ledges to a pool below. Ellie wades into the icy water without hesitation, leisurely sipping as she sloshes along. Her combination of breeds hailing from Siberia, she’s a hardy dog of snow and ice, but her affinity for water has come as somewhat of a surprise. Noah on the other hand tippy-toes carefully along the water’s edge, getting no closer than necessary in order to quench his thirst. If there is a non-water dog category, he’s definitely a candidate.

The last leg of our venture has us ascending a steep incline where I take full advantage of my leashed dogs with their youthful eagerness and vigor along and four-wheel drive to provide me uphill momentum. We scramble into the SUV and head for home, our minds, bodies, and spirits bolstered by our time outdoors.

P.S. My last article requires a correction, as the acronym for the organization that I acquired Ellie from, GWARP, stands for Good World Animal Rescue and Protection, not Global World.

Cindy Woodall resides in Upper Black Eddy.

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