It’s a splendid almost-spring day, the air cool yet also holding hints of gentle warmth. For today’s meander it’s just Jesse and me to provide us some special time together and to enable me to dote on Jesse without the distraction of puppy Noah. With the promise of an afternoon trail run, Noah is at home conserving his energy, contentedly sprawled on the sofa in my husband’s office.
Jesse and I are at Frenchtown Preserve, hiking the lower trail that follows the Nishisakawick Creek. The creek is a 9.6-mile tributary of the Delaware River, its headwaters originating in Alexandria Township and flowing south into Frenchtown, N.J. The name Nishisakawick is thought to originate from the Lenape word for “double outlet” or “mouth.”
Below us the water gurgles over and around tabletop slabs of rusty-red shale. Ahead, the path leads through a jumble of Japanese barberry and multiflora rose. At this time of the year they are maintaining a polite distance, but soon they’ll be sending out prickly tentacles, ensnaring hapless victims. White throated sparrows flutter about the thorny bushes, gleaning what is left of the shiny crimson berries. These cheerful, petite birds are frequent visitors to local bird feeders during the winter season, heading to the Great Lakes, northern New England, and Canada to breed for the summer and then returning once again in the fall. If one is able to get close enough, white throated sparrows are fairly easy to identify, as they sport a tiny yellow spot between eye and bill.
For the most part, it’s still a wintry landscape; nevertheless, the natural world yields delights – a fallen cedar tree, its decomposing wood a flaming russet adorned with dazzling lime-green moss, fungi running up a tree resembling miniature dinner plates of the sort that might be used by gnomes or fairies, an awe inspiring stand of towering, emerald green hemlocks.