Communing With Nature: The Sourland Mountain Preserve
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
In searching for new and exciting things to do on my days off from work, Iíve found myself attending various events in various places. I love doing things Iíve never done before; going places I donít get to see quite often. So when a friend suggested we go hiking at the Sourland Mountain Preserve in Somerset County, New Jersey a couple of weeks ago, I was definitely up for the challenge.
I love communing with nature. This always comes as a surprise to the people I talk to. They just assume that a city girl knows nothing about nature in its purest form. What they donít realize is that I feel most at home outside of the city and love trips such as the one we were about to embark on. I work in an area surrounded by woods and marshland and have often gone for walks through the wooded areas on our grounds. But this is mostly for research purposes Ė to find the fastest routes through the area, hiding places, etc. Iíve gained great enjoyment from such excursions and have often been amazed by the types of animals to be found there, but these adventures were nothing compared to the journey promised at the Sourland Mountain Preserve.
Occupying a portion of the northeast section of the Sourland Region, the preserve is owned and administered by the Somerset County Park Commission. The preserve offers many recreational opportunities such as hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, boulder climbing and horseback riding. We decided on simple hiking for this trip. When hiking at the Sourland Mountain Preserve, one can choose between three very different trails: Ridge Trail, Maple Flats and Pondside Trail. The Ridge Trail, a 5 mile trek, rises and falls moderately and can be steep in some areas. Maple Flats is generally level, but there are some slightly steep areas. The journey on that trail is 1.4 miles. The Pondside Trail is a .5 mile journey of level to gently sloping ground. We chose to travel the Maple Flats trail this time around.
Now, I have to say that all was not easy going. After all, my hikes were on level ground and this trail was a decent incline. I have to admit I had to stop once or twice along the way. But it was worth all the effort! I absolutely love the trail. The plentiful trees provided some of the best oxygen Iíve ever breathed Ė clean, fresh-smelling and invigorating. The challenge of maneuvering around, up and over rocks, branches and the occasional fallen tree was fun. The brochure says that one can run into a variety of wildlife at the preserve, such as red fox, gray fox, coyote, deer, amphibians, reptiles and multitudes of bird species. I myself can attest to having seen several squirrels and birds and having heard some small creatures running through the underbrush. On one fortuitous stop, we spotted a small buck a few yards away making his way down the trail.
Hiking up the trail was something, but hiking down was, at times, even more of a challenge. The slope that took some effort to climb now presented a challenge in keeping your balance on the way down. But after all is said and done, I had a terrific time and would happily visit again. So check out the trails at the Sourland Mountain Preserve. Each trail offers a new experience in nature and an opportunity to escape the hurry-up-and-stand-still rat race that is the corporate world.