Thankfully, the weather cooperated very nicely yesterday!
When I arrived at Colonial Park around 8 o’clock in the morning, there were already plenty of other people there, walking their dogs, sitting and chatting with friends on benches, or exercising. (The latter is what I should have really been doing myself!)
I packed a bag with the map of the park, my camera, voice recorder, pen and paper, a novel, and some snacks. Because I had the map ahead of time, I had a general sense of where I was going. I parked my car near the entrance to the Lois Howe Nature Trail. Until recently, I have not been much of a hiker. My first true hiking experience was the nearly seven mile hike through the Cinque Terre in Italy earlier this summer (not a bad first hike, if I say so). The idea of intentionally setting out to explore a trail in the woods is still a new notion of mine, and so I carried a bit of trepidation with me as I started the trail. The ground was damp and increasingly growing hotter with the intense morning sun. It was a lot buggier than I had thought it might be. Normally bugs don’t bother with me. These did. So, it took me a few seconds to become accustomed to walking with them landing on me every now and then. I think one of them actually bit me above my right knee. Pretty soon though, none of that mattered.
I was only a few hundred feet away from my car, but I was in the middle of the woods! I was surrounded by lush greens and rich browns and enveloped by the song of the cicaidas. My sneakers sloshed through the muddy soil and I was transported to a much more serene and peaceful world than the one I had been in a few moments before. I stopped occasionally to take pictures of things that caught my attention. (And I wished that my father had been able to come with me, 1) for his company, and 2) so that the pictures would actually come out nicely!)
The trail is not long and without stopping or veering off any of the offshoots to stop at the water, it would probably only take 15 minutes to walk. But, I did stop occasionally, enjoying the view of the Spooky Brook Pond, watching a man fishing for a while, and a family of ducks swimming by. Occassionally I could hear the voices and golfers and the cracks of their clubs hitting the balls. The funny thing of it all is that the golfers didn’t take away from my nature hike at all. It was sort of nice knowing that I was sharing the same park as they were. They were doing their thing, and I was doing mine.
After the trail, I contemplated running (okay, walking) the fitness trail and stopping at each of the stations to do sit ups or the like. But, instead I found myself seated near another pond, the Powder Mill Pond, watching more ducks and admiring pretty flowers. As I sat, I remembered that I had left my snacks in the car and so I walked back to retrieve a granola bar and contemplate my next course of action.
Having a car in the park was nice, but it isn’t necessary. Depending on what you want to do and who you have along with you, it is possible to walk around the 680+ acres. The next time that I go, that is probably what I will do. I’m pretty sure that there will be a next time, because two of the attractions I wanted to see most were closed yesterday. The Rose Garden and Sensory Garden will be closed until sometime in October. I did get to visit the Perennial Garden which was very pretty, and I could see why people come there to take photos on their wedding day. Though I was the only person there, I could imagine the garden full of celebration as a newly married couple and their wedding party posed in front of the beautiful flowers.
I took a few photos of my own and then stopped to read in a gazebo. It was nice and quiet and just as I was thinking it was too quiet, a man entered the gazebo with me. He was in his sixties perhaps, and very friendly. He let me question him a little bit and so I learned that his name was John and he lived in the area. John was a regular at Colonial Park and tried to get there each day to walk around. I caught on to the fact that he knew some of the people who worked in the park by name, and he told me that he recognized many of the same faces walking around the park each day. I was happy to learn that people who live locally make use of the park on a regular basis.
After John left, I read for a little while longer. It neared lunch time and since I didn’t pack enough food for the day, I decided it was time to leave the park. All in all, it was a good morning. Maybe the next time I go I’ll try the fitness trail. Maybe.
If you plan to visit Colonial Park, here are some recommendations.
1) Check out the website first. http://www.somersetcountyparks.org/activities/parks/colonialPk.htm
There is a lot of information available there that will help you plan your own adventure. (Some other aspects of the park that I didn’t mention include playgrounds, paddle boats, a putting course, and an 18 hole golf course.)
2) Bring food! Walking around the park can make you work up an appetite and there are dozens of comfortable places to stop and picnic.
3) Bring bug spray!
4) Let me know how you like it!
The Jersey Girl