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.