Walking Among Strangers

Texas Eastern Pipeline - clogged with lespedeza and phrag, some nice stuff remains.

I meet a surprising number of people while walking off trail in Sourlands. My son often serves as a way to introduce ourselves or relieves a bit of suspicion. Most people, unless they are on their way to or from a robbery and happen to have their child, don't have their child along for criminal acts.

I add the caveat because we hear of these kinds of events. News outlets really enjoy stories such as: Outlaw Couple Leaves Two-Year Old in Convenience Store, Kid Couldn't Run Fast Enough, or Kid Talks, Parents Won't Walk.

When pregnant, I had a hall pass to pee anywhere. Perhaps not on the sidewalk in Hopewell Borough, but certainly just steps off a hiking trail, behind a roadside pole-sized red maple, or beneath a deer ravaged spicebush. Face it, ladies, and gentlemen, too, there's no private place left in New Jersey. There's always a hiker, ATV-er, Medivac or military or corporate exec helicopter, group of two dozen road cyclists on the way to Frenchtown, teenage smoker, runner with jogging stroller, stunt airplane on the way to Princeton Airport, dog-walker, or pesky botanist/photographer with a baby just around the corner. Deer having chewed everything to bits and road or trail everywhere, there's no where to hide. Of course, we ladies have a tougher time being discrete.

I digress, teething is affecting our sleep. Last night, I dreamed that I entered our garden and saw nothing but inch high stems where our vegetables had been. A groundhog rushed towards me, teeth bared. I glanced down at a brick by my right foot, calculating our speeds, realizing I would be bitten, imagining how it would feel to be bitten and then kill a groundhog. I awoke. Teeth, teeth, teeth...

We met two fellas out on the pipeline today.

On the first leg of the trip, I was stooping over a little Polygala when we were greeted by a guy with a British accent. He asked us if we had been to any of the meetings about paving the local dirt road.

Polygala sanguinea

"No, we've been busy with the little guy," my husband answered, pointing to the baby.

"Oh yeah, very heated. I was all for the paving, my car getting dirty every time I drove anywhere."

"Mmm," I deadpanned, but I'm certain my eyebrows were raised. The dirt road was one of the reasons we moved here, and the extra dust makes finding my silver minivan in a sea of silver minivans at the grocery store much, much easier.

Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata)

"Then all these people had such good points about the environment. I said, 'Ahh, keep it.'" He swept the air in front of him with a big hand.

He invited us to walk through his fence and visit his pond. My husband said, "I usually turn around at your fence."

Sweeping the air again and waving us on, "Just go through, everyone else does."

On the second leg:
A hunter on a quad, slowly, slowly approached (baby remained asleep). We waved and all calculated.

Hunter said, "Better watch out for ticks out here. Lots of ticks."

We said, "Yup."

[Just found one despite checking and changing upon coming home].

Hunter thought, "This is my spot who are you how do I tell these people with the baby that this is my spot and don't come back during the season and mess up my shot?" OK, so he let us know about the ticks. We stared at each other. No problem, I'm territorial, too--we're animals after all, and no, I won't mess up his shot.

My husband said, "Have a good season."

Allegheny Monkeyflower (Mimulus ringens)