Monday, May 9, 2011

Baldpate Spring

Wolf tree (a locust) on the summit of Baldpate Mountain
Kali and I hiked six miles at the Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain, a Mercer County natural area just north of Trenton, New Jersey yesterday.  A mountain in New Jersey?  Well, Kittatinny Ridge (a real mountain, for those of us in the East) which embraces the Appalachian Trail, crosses the northwest corner of New Jersey.  Further south, though, erosion-resistant diabase ridges rise a few hundred feet above the surrounding landscape and create "mountains" like Baldpate.

Because of the steep topography and the stony soil that develops from diabase (an igneous rock that cooled and solidified in fissures below the surface of the earth), these ridges were often left forested or only lightly farmed.  Despite the forest cover, though, there was plenty of evidence of farming and disturbance on Baldpate.  Stone walls ran through the woods, and we came upon the ruins of stone cottages and woods roads buttressed with stone. In addition, the air was perfumed throughout the hike by countless invasive non-native autumn olive trees in bloom.  In fact, the understory there consisted of nothing much more than mutiflora rosebushes and garlic mustard, though some spring ephemerals managed to persist.  Nevertheless, the tree canopies were alive with the songs of wood warblers and thrushes.
View over southern New Jersey (including Delaware River)
When we finally reached the crest of the ridge, we were rewarded with long views of southern New Jersey and the Delaware River below.  You'd almost never guess that we were in the most densely settled state in the union.

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