To misquote Anne of Green Gables, “I am so glad to live in a world where there are Novembers.”
The sun is sparkling upon the waters of Round Valley Reservoir in Hunterdon County, N.J., and as Jesse and I hike along its rim we are treated to a breathtaking panoramic vista, the landscape on the far shore a kaleidoscope of autumn hues – mahogany, yellow, russet, umber and ochre. Seagulls glide gracefully in flight or float complacently upon the water, appearing to be without a care.
Round Valley was once a volcano and (much later) a safe haven for farmers during the Revolutionary War. Given its geographic location within the cradle of Cushetunk Mountain, it was determined to be an ideal location for creation of a damn and reservoir. Consequently, in the 1950s and ’60s the buildings in the existing farming community were destroyed, removed, or abandoned. At 180 feet, Round Valley is the deepest lake in New Jersey, and supposedly at the bottom lays a ghost town, replete with the ruins of homes, barns, silos, and even a church. The reservoir and surrounding land were turned into a state park that encompasses 3,684 acres of diverse terrain with a number of great hiking trails.
The well-marked Blue Trail takes us along the edge of the reservoir, a swath of dried wild flowers and grasses separating path and water. Fuzzy seed heads of white snakeroot and goldenrod are abundant, as well as the tall, brown, candlestick spikes of great mullein. When in bloom, great mullein is a lovely, elongated cluster of yellow blossoms that can be utilized to make dye. According to historical lore, Roman soldiers used the stalks of mullein as torches and American colonists lined their shoes with the thick, furry leaves to keep their feet warm.
Our path veers from the water into a grove of maple trees festooned in glowing yellow foliage backlit by the sun. We are enfolded within a luminous realm, and I linger, entranced by this magical landscape, courtesy of Mother Nature.