Monday, March 30, 2015

A Day At Sourland Mountain Preserve

I absolutely could not stay in the house another day. I desperately needed to get outside and do something fun. So we asked our son what he would like to do. When he responded that he wanted to go hiking, I was ecstatic. Between the frigid temperatures we’ve been having all winter and the thick layer of snow that had covered the ground for so long, it felt like ages since we last traversed a dirt trail surrounded by trees. 

            After church, we headed directly for Sourland Mountain Preserve. Upon our arrival, my son found a perfect walking stick. Jabbing it into the ground he issued orders. We had to step only where he stepped. We had to jump over the roots he jumped over. We had to stay in a perfect line – no excuses.  The snow melt coupled with the torrential downpour of the last couple of days turned the trail into a muddy mess. My son was thrilled. Instead of trying to avoid the mud, he trudged directly through it. Within seconds his blue sneakers were a dark brown.  

        Every so often he would stop, study the rocks and markings in the ground and declare which way the Jedi went. Of course we had to follow. The walking stick became a lightsaber as he practiced tricks. With the way he manipulated it, if it had been a real lightsaber he’d have lost both hands and probably a foot, but we ignored this and applauded his efforts.  

            We like going to Sourland because our son loves to climb rocks, and there are lots of rocks there to indulge him. The higher the rocks, the greater his pleasure.  One big rock sloped like a giant slide. Instead of walking down, our son decided sliding would be more fun. Before I could stop him, he was half way down, the friction tearing a hole in the seat of his pants.  

            We could tell he was getting tired when he stopped demanding to be in the lead and when he no longer cared if we placed our feet directly in his footprints. When I suggested that we turn around he argued against it, but luckily he eventually complied without a breakdown. Five minute into our return journey he announced that he was tired and with a sad look on his face he asked me to carry him. But at five, he is too big to be carried a long distance.  With only a touch of reluctance, he pushed forward. The mud revived him. The deeper it was, the dirtier he got, the less he appeared to notice his fatigue. Though he stopped occasionally to rest, he was still in good spirits when we returned to the car.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Paterson Great Falls

For proof that snow and ice can make anything anywhere pretty, one needs to travel no further than Paterson, New Jersey. Paterson is not pretty. In fact, it is rather dreary. Paterson is a crowded dingy city with traffic – even on a weekend – that is far worse than any traffic you’d find in Manhattan. In fact, on Saturday it took us five minutes to travel one block and we sat through each traffic light no less than three turns to green. It was awful.

Running through Paterson is the Passaic River, dirty and polluted, not exactly the placed you’d dare to go fishing if you were looking to bring home dinner.  Even in the summer when it is hot and sticky and you’d give just about anything to be able to cool off, the Passaic River is anything but inviting. 

However, part of this river and tucked into the heart of this city, which you would be wise to avoid for most other occasions, is the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. Now, I’ve been to Niagara Falls and IguaƧu Falls and by comparison there isn’t anything terribly great about the Paterson Falls. But let us remember, they are in New Jersey and since the other miraculous falls are so far away, there is something exciting about these falls that do indeed breathe some much needed life into the Passaic River. 

We had seen pictures of frozen Niagara Falls on the internet and thought they would be gorgeous to see in person. But since we unfortunately can’t afford a spontaneous trip up north, we decided to see what effect this frigid February had on our local falls.  The effect was marvelous. They too are frozen.  And not only are the falls frozen but parts of the river are frozen as well and large rocks jutting out of the water are blanketed in snow. Even though it did not rise above freezing on Saturday, the bright sun glinted off the ice and snow providing the illusion of warmth. After ten years in this state, the filthy river that never lured my interest in any previous drive by suddenly caught my attention and demanded that I stop to take pictures. 

Despite the fact that the bridge over the gorge, which is supposed to provide the best views of the falls, was closed due to all the snow and ice, the trip up to Paterson was enjoyable and the snow and ice, as always, was beautiful.