Do you remember Rufus Thomas’s hit ” Walkin the Dog.”
Walking the dog
I’m just a walking the dog
If you don’t know how to do it
I’ll show you how to walk the dog …
The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith the Grateful Dead and many others did covers. I remember reading once that we should walk like a dog, slowly, using our senses to be aware of everything. Since my medical issues I’ve been forced to walk a slower pace. I walk the dog. I’ve long been a fan of Thoreau who wrote in “Walden” about the wilderness as a tonic for body and spirit. And just recently discovered a Japanese practice.
“Forest bathing—basically just being in the presence of trees—became part of a national public health program in Japan in 1982 when the forestry ministry coined the phrase shinrin-yoku and promoted topiary as therapy. Nature appreciation—picnicking en masse under the cherry blossoms, for example—is a national pastime in Japan, so forest bathing quickly took. The environment’s wisdom has long been evident to the culture: Japan’s Zen masters asked: If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, does it make a sound.” Walking the dog.
A part of Diane’s reason for having a dog is that it forces the walk. Although I believe in a daily walk, there were quite a few cold winter days that I skipped. Diane had not choice; Nala, the rescue we got in the fall is her project. For Diane a walk isn’t around the yard or even just along the canal in back of the house. Most days she drives to a different place. Since the weather has improved I’ve joined in fairly regularly.
Goat Hill Overlook outside Lambertville was a challenge for me. Most of my walking the past 8 months have been on the canal. It’s generally level. I was pleased that Goat Hill didn’t present a problem. The view of New Hope, the river and Lambertville is fantastic. Nala loves it because the area is “dog friendly.” Users accept and let their dogs off leash. We discovered Goat Hill about 6 years ago. Having lived in New Hope in the 1970s and explore the countryside we were amazed that we were unaware of the trail. Then I discovered it’s only been a public trail for a few years. We began to hike it regularly, there is a gravel road and a cliff path through forest and rocks. Our best trip was in late summer several years ago when we picked 12 quarts of blackberries (at $5 a pint, that’s over $100 in berries). We ate them fresh, made preserves, pies, and juice.
The next day we decided to go to the 121 acre Fiddler’s Creek Preserve (Hopewell Township). Although we live in PA, we’ve found many trails and paths across the river. Check out the website of the NJ Trail Association. Much of this particular land preserve was part of a lumber mill complex owned by the Titus family (Titusville is down the road). This day we walked in a large fenced area that is being reforested with native species. The fence is deer protection. It’s another area where Nala can run free. She and we love it. Spring was been slow coming this year but we enjoyed a warm sun as we worked our way through the field. In the same area we could have walked in a ravine along the creek. We did this a few weeks ago when close friends, the Pagliones, were visiting. And across the road is the Baldpate preserve.
On day three, we drove just above Stockton to Prallsville Mills and walked along the Delaware and Raritan canal towpath. This part of the canal is a feeder that was originally built to supply water to the main D and R that runs from Bordentown, through Trenton to Raritan. The feeder begins at Bulls Island Recreation Area where there is a foot bridge across the river to Lumberville, PA. We head toward Bulls Island from Prallsville but didn’t make it all the way — it’s about 3 miles. Unfortunately on the towpath, Nala must remain on leash. Despite a halter she will pull particularly if I am walking ahead.
If we made it to Bulls Island, we could have treated ourselves to some snacks or lunch at the Lumberville General Store across the street from the Black Bass, a favorite riverside restaurant. We settled on the towpath and the Prallsville mill complex. Originally this early industrial village had a saw mill, linseed oil mill, grist mill, and grain silo. Today the complex hosts art and craft shows, and a variety of community activities. The canal from Bulls Island to Trenton is 23 miles. Some sections are better walks than others. Then there is the section toward Bordentown and north to Trenton.
The next day we decided on Rosedale Park above Pennington (Mercer County). This is a favorite for Nala. There is a small dog and a big dog park. No membership or rules. But we skipped the dog park and walked around the lake (only a few cormorants) to a forest path that leads to Willow Pond. Rosedale lake area is part of Mercer Meadows, 1600 acres with four bodies of water and miles of trails. What’s great about walking in NJ, they seem to connect areas. A warming sun, we find a bench and sit for a while on Willow Pond.
We found most of these parks, preserves, trails when we traded I-95 for back roads when driving to Princeton. We also found several interesting restaurants and farm markets. In Hopewell there is the Brick Farm Market, a few tables, deli and prepared foods, bakery, cheese and meat department, some packaged goods, fruits and vegetables. They also opened a restaurant. Blue Moon Acres in Pennington is a micro – green farm originally in Buckingham, PA. When they expanded to Pennington, they began growing rice and the market sells “all local.” There is produce, honey, jams, cheese and meats, some packaged goods. Almost all local. Walking the dog can easily turn into lunch or farm market shopping.
Our next walk took us to Bulls Island. In the 1970s, I camped there with HGP scouts. Today that area is closed due to a disease attacking Ash trees. There are a lot of cyclists taking the D and R Trail toward Stockton (we were on it a few days previously). Instead we decided on a nature trail between the river and canal. The chilly weather warmed as the sun rose reminding us it’s spring. The last section of the trail is cobble stones. Why? Interesting but hard to walk on. It ends at a dam or wall separating the canal from the river.
At the visitor center, a ranger explains that the cobblestone path was used by a quarry. It wasn’t totally clear but sparked a local history interest. The center also had several brochures and maps of areas we could explore. When I told the ranger I was walking the dog, she recommended Horseshoe Bend Park a few miles west. There was a big, very big dog park. We headed there. She was right. Walking trails, rural dog park. What more could we ask for. Lunch actually.
We continued on to Frenchtown, the bridge to PA and down river to the Lumberville General Store. Although Nala seems fine in the car after a walk we decided on an order and car picnic. Unfortunately the sandwiches were bland, mundane. We expect more when we are walking the dog.