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Meandering with My Mutt: Just rewards


It’s a warm, late spring morning, clouds challenging the sun for control of the sky; today I’d put my money on the clouds.

This morning I decided that it was a good day for Noah and me to explore new terrain, and so we are hiking White Oak Trail located across from Bull’s Island Recreation Area in Delaware Township, N.J.

The trail is somewhat overgrown with tall grasses and occasional briars reaching across the path, but still quite navigable. Along the way a few large tree trunks lay across the path. Noah sails effortlessly over these while my grunting efforts – well, let’s just say they’re a bit less graceful. The wild multiflora roses are fading into the background as the Japanese honeysuckle vine takes center stage. While both are invasives they’re certainly pretty and smell delightful. Seeing as they’re like the pernicious visitor who refuses to vacate the guesthouse, I figure they’re here to stay so we might as well enjoy their positive qualities.

The chip-chipping of a nearby bird catches my attention. After flitting from branch to branch he considerately perches on an exposed limb, making him easy to see and identify. It’s a male common yellowthroat, the first I’ve seen this year. This debonair little guy, with his black mask and yellow throat and breast, is a member of the warbler family and a warm weather visitor to the area. In the spring he puts on quite a performance to woo a mate, ascending 25-100 feet in the air and returning to a low perch, calling and singing his heart out. He’s quite the troubadour.

A catbird can be heard in the distance, sounding much like he’s engaged in a heated argument with himself. While he doesn’t have quite the repertoire of the mocking bird, he’s no slouch in the bird world when it comes to variety of songs and calls. Only the male catbird produces this cacophony of sound, claiming his territory and attempting to attract a mate. He’s the “Chatty Cathy” of the bird world, frequently calling and singing in rapid succession in a nonstop monologue.

As we reach the end of the trail and turn to retrace our steps I say those words that are music to Noah’s ears, “heading back.” He approaches me with a look of adoration in his eyes but, lest one be inclined to get sentimental, let me assure you that his idolizing gaze has nothing to do with feelings and everything to do with anticipation of something yummy. Somehow in our training while out on the trail Noah has learned to associate these magical words with treat. I gladly indulge him figuring it to be his just reward for good behavior and excellent companionship while out and about.

As we near our starting point, there is a fork beckoning me to take a path to the right and explore what lies in that direction. High bluffs are mirrored in the serene surface of a glacial-like pool of water. There is a bench perfectly situated to enjoy the enchanted scene, and I spend some time in contemplation. In the midst of days filled with chores and obligations, moments like this are my just reward.

Cindy Woodall resides in Upper Black Eddy.

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