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Meandering with My Mutt: Thomas F. Breden Preserve


The gloom of recent days has given way to sunny skies, fleecy clouds hovering near the horizon as Jesse and I head out to hike Thomas F. Breden Preserve in Milford, Hunterdon County, N.J.
Gushing rainwater has carved a shallow gulley running along the edge of the uphill trail, and tendrils of wild multiflora rose reach across the path, seeking unwary victims to snag.
Wildflowers have begun relinquishing the stage to the berries of tree, shrub and vine. The fruit of Possumhaw viburnum, or wild raisin, transition from pale lime green, to a bright pink, and then a deep blue. At this time of year all three hues collaborate on the same cluster, creating a stunning burst of color. Native Americans valued Viburnum, using the berries to make diverse delicacies, including jam, juice, and a type of ice cream.
Also in abundance are the shiny crimson berries of the dogwood and the glossy blue-black berries of Japanese honeysuckle vine. The dried leaves and flowers of Japanese honeysuckle are frequently utilized in Chinese medicine, and a compound contained in the plant has shown the potential to bind to the spike protein of various viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, which may hold possibilities for development of a drug for these types of diseases.
Jesse takes his time with the ascending trek, possessing age-acquired wisdom that speaks to the importance of conservation of energy. Ahead, a large tree lies across the path. In his prime Jesse would have nimbly leapt it in a single bound in super dog fashion. Nowadays his old legs betray him, so I give him a helpful boost up and over.
Coming toward us are two young mothers, their babies carried in snuglis across their chests. “What a great way to hike!” I exclaim and they chuckle in agreement. It’s never too early to share the joys of nature with little ones.

We emerge into a field of glorious golden grasses that reach above my head. I run my hand up the stalks collecting the grainy seeds in my hand, rubbing them in my palm, letting them trickle through my fingers, enjoying the tactile sensation. We trek uphill through a windbreak of trees and into an adjoining field where the path is quite overgrown; Jesse, trooper that he is, follows valiantly. Ragweed grows profusely and has strewn itself across a path that would be a nightmare for hay fever sufferers. Songbirds flit about the field in search of sustenance, a red bellied woodpecker chatters in the distance and overhead, so high as to be mere black smudges against the brilliant blue sky, vultures catch thermals, spiraling downward.
Heading back we retrace our steps and with the downhill trek Jesse, tapping into that reserved energy, sidles past, moving out in front and turning to look back at me with a look that says, “Hey, just checking that you’re with me here.” Yes I am and always will be. To quote Konrad Lorenz, one of the founding fathers of the field of ethology, the study of animal behavior, “The bond with a true dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth can ever be.”
Cindy Woodall resides in Upper Black Eddy.