We had our last hike with Anneliese and Children today. It was a sweet farewell to our friends who I will not see again for almost 5 weeks. We will really miss them during the time we are away and so very much look forward to resuming our Wednesday Hikes upon our return. I did not document today’s hike, but I still have the hike from last week to share. The destination itself is not really I hike, but we walked there from the Maya and Beatrix’s school and so that in itself was a good walk – a half an hour walk each way. We then spent over an hour wandering around the Van Vleck House and Gardens – we choose this location because the damage the snow storm caused made it too dangerous to walk in the woods. I intend to do another post on the Van Vleck House and Gardens in Spring or Summer when the Gardens are at their best. It is a stunning place and look forward to focusing on it when the plants are in glorious bloom – there is even a butterfly garden! Despite only a few flowering plants left, tt was still very beautiful and designed in such a way that there are enchanting paths and coves of greenery with sneak peaks of other special spots you must explore. The Children are always so easily captured by natures treasures and so we moved slowly through the landscape savoring the beauty. Afternoon tea was in the pergola looking out over the great lawn. We then made a house from some of the snow storm debris and Maya played the “flute” for us with a stick. Once again the setting sun sent us home. This outing was a favorite with Elle who has asked since “Can we go back to that special house?”. We are making plans to visit it throughout Winter as it will be a good place to walk around on cold days with snow. I can feel the dark short days of Winter creeping closer.
Wednesday has come around again and I have not yet shared our Wednesday Hike last week…what a week it has been since then!
On our hike last week we went to the Bonasl Wildlife Preservation. You might recall our first visit to Bonsal Wildlife Preserve a few weeks ago. This time we noticed there was a much wider coverage of water, and in some areas it was more swampy, which the Children enjoyed traipsing through. Maya found a good tree limb to ride and the others followed suit. I made a comment to them about what a great horse ride this was and Maya curtly replied “Mum it is not a horse, it is an eight hump Camel!”…well sorry, my mistake, of course it is an eight hump camel!
We then went for a stroll through the Preservation and made our way back to the wonderful spot where the wild flowers grow. I was excited to see many of the wild flowers were still in bloom, and the stick house we made last time was still standing.
We found a comfy spot on a log and enjoyed hot chocolate and cookies. While the Girls played, I busied myself making a wildflower garland. I had wanted to do this previously, but had to stop myself picking the flowers…this time though I felt it was close enough to the flowers end and that they would soon die anyway. I made a crown of golden flowers, pink leaves, pink flowers and seeding grass. It was such a beautiful wreath, all the Children wanted a turn wearing it. They looked like Autumn Fairies in the crown of gold and grass.
Today, for our Wednesday Hike we are off to Van Vleck House & Garden. The Girls and I have not been there before and I am looking forward to visiting this historic mansion and gardens. I chose this location for our hike today over the woods – due to the snow storm destroying so many trees over the weekend, it is still too dangerous with falling branches to enter the forest with the Children. This will be our last Wednesday Hike until after we get back from Australia. We are sure to do lots of hikes while on holiday and we will think fondly of our hiking friends in Montclair. We will look forward to resuming Wednesday Hikes with them when we return.
We are starting to repeat some of the hikes we have been on previously, and while the tracks are technically the same, the scenery is starting to really look different because of the change of season. We are in the midst of Autumn now and the colours of Fall are all around. Yellow, orange and red are replacing green on all but the evergreens. There is much stomping and clomping through leaves, and what was once shrouded by leafy growth is now a view with much greater distance.
Last Wednesday we went to Eagle Rock Reservation. We walked along the Bridal path to a lovely moss covered stone bridge. There we sat for our delicious homemade snack. We worked on a rock cairn, and then made our way back to the cars, the same way we had come.
This week Wednesday is once again predicted to have rain – we have rescheduled our hikes many times lately to work around the rain, but we have decided we will try hiking in the rain with the Girls. Raincoats and rain boots packed – after all it is only water! It is now cool enough to pack a thermos and so I am bringing hot chocolate to keep tummies warm. We shall see how we go on our first rainy day hot chocolate hike…I wonder where Anneliese will choose?
On our Wednesday Hike this week (that was actually on Tuesday because of predicted rain) we went to the South Mountain Preservation. This is a little further away than the hikes we have been doing and involved a 20 minute drive from Montclair to get there. As usual we left straight after school pick up, without any dilly dallying. It was an easy scenic drive, and so we were at the trailhead before 3pm.
South Mountain Reservation is an enormous reservation, but we specifically wanted to see Hemlock Falls. We parked our cars at an entrance close to the waterfall location – (but not the closest as we waned a good walk). Anneliese had not been on this hike before either and so we were not exactly sure how long a hike it would be, but it seemed short enough for the four mini hikers we have in tow. We followed the yellow trail blaze – that is the colour for all of the trails making up the Lenape Indian trail – You might recall I have mentioned the Lenape trail before here.
This hike was different to other trails we have hiked in the area, as the beginning of it traversed a beautiful pine grove, made up of gigantic old pines. Characteristic of pine groves, the bed of needles beneath the trees is so thick it prevents any ground vegetation from growing, so the trees stand as lone pines. We came across a well developed teepee in the pine grove but we were pretty excited to get to the waterfall, and so did not stop long.
We continued on the path for about half an hour, along the way we saw some beautiful unique trees, fern forests, and pretty stone bridges. We then reached a bench facing a small waterfall. It was not the grand waterfall we were expecting, but as is the case with waterfalls, they vary in flow from season to season, and so we accepted it happily. We put its size down to being the end of Summer, and commented that it would be bigger in early spring with snow melt.
We sat for quite a while feeling content enough with this pretty space. Maya handed out our snack of ANZAC biscuits – obviously my turn to bake! We then decided to climb up to the top of the small water fall. It was here that Annaliese and Maya discovered a water snake!
I could not believe my ears and so quickly scaled the rocks to see for myself. I could hear Maya telling Anneliese as I reached the top “Mummy knows about snakes, she has even killed one!”. I felt a sense of guilt for ever killing a beautiful snake on hearing this, and had to elaborate Maya’s story. Everyone knows Australia has some of the most deadly snakes in the world, and I happened to have grown up with lots of snake experiences. Some of which were a get or be got situation, and so you do what your instincts tell you to do, in my case was to kill a snake.
Maya has a serious fascination with snakes, and so many a time I have retold her my childhood memories of brown snakes (King or Eastern) rearing their heads striking, and my various family members defending dogs, cattle and children. Due to this, we all stood around watching the snake for a while. The snake was not moving – other than the thlick thlick of its tongue. It stayed still for what seemed like a long time in the shallow pool, and then slowly made moves down the waterfall. We were enthralled, watching this water snake (which I later identified as the Northern Water Snake) swim the tiers of the falls, with some very un-elegant thumps at each drop. By the time we had scurried back down to the base of the falls, the snake was nowhere to be seen.
It was then that I decided to explore a little further. I rounded a slight bend and there before me was a much larger waterfall. Feeling rather silly, I shouted “Anneliese, you wont believe it, the waterfall is over here!” As it had turned out, we had stopped at the first smaller falls thinking it was Hemlock Falls while less than 100 meters more, were the actual, and much more impressive Hemlock Falls.
Another hour went by of us playing around these falls, throwing in rocks, splashing in the water, climbing the stairs to the top. The afternoon slipped by and the woods started to get darker with the sun sinking close to the trees. The walk back always takes some encouragement as the Girls start saying “I’m tired” and there is not the incentive of a baked treat to keep them light on their feet. So to help us on our way back, we sing, and oh what silly songs we sing! It is amazing how quickly a long walk is over when we are all merrily singing – and it sure beats whining! When we reached our cars it was 5:40pm. We had four exhausted little girls ready for dinner and bed. Knowing that our hikes can be so engaging I have started preparing dinner before we go so that when we arrive home, like on this occasion at 6pm, dinner and bed come easily – which seems like a good thing to keep on doing as we love these hikes so much, we never want to leave!
On our Wednesday Hike this past week we went to the Alonzo Bonsal Wildlife Preserve. Nina suggested it as a fun spot because it has a stream and a bridge. It was my location choice this week and so I mentioned it to Anneliese. Anneliese has been there before and said it was one of their favorite spots – and you will see why!
The moment we arrived the Girls were straight into the water. We had both packed rainboots and a change of clothes for each child, as we knew the Girls would love to stomp around in the streams. They had so much fun walking through the shallow moving waters, looking at fish and other stream bed objects. We happened to notice that there were quit a few dead fish, and so this became of great interest to the Girls. You will see in one photo of Bea and Maya – Maya is actually spearing a fish, and Bea exclaimed “When a fish is dead, it’s eye and mouth are both open!” this was punctuated by her showing us a dead fish face!
When we had played by the stream for some time we decided it was time for a walk – the Girls would happily play by the stream all afternoon, but the intent of these outing is exercise, and so we made sure we had a decent walk too. After our walk, we stopped and had afternoon snack. This week it was Anneliese’s turn to bake, and she made the most scrumptious pumpkin muffins imaginable! I could not stop admiring them, and with the first bite I said “They have molasses in them?” tasting the subtle black sweetening. Anneliese was impressed I could tell, and we delighted in the fact we are truly bakers, and eaters of baked goods.
After our snack and a rest on the log, we carried on walking, returning to the entrance a different way than we had come. By doing this we stumbled upon a field of golden yellow flowers. I was so excited to see the wildflowers that I said “Children, let’s frolic in the flowers!”. The vision of the flowers in the woods was so poetic to me, I wanted the Girls to dance and skip through the blooms, picking flowers merrily in the afternoon sun…this of course did not happen, instead we studied the flowers and the seed pods, and planted some seeds. There were three different types of flowers growing on this patch, all of the same end of summer colour. It was so wild and pretty. We then built a little stick house and a cooking fire for some pretend play.
Before we knew it, it was almost 5 o’clock, which is dinner time in both our households. Over two hours had flown by, and sadly it was time to go. We pulled ourselves away from this magical spot and made our way back to our cars to say goodbye, and see you tomorrow. We enjoyed this hike so very much, it was such a good one! Looking forward to our hike next Wednesday.