Saturday, September 20, 2008

Birthday Surprise Part I

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Who Knew It Was There?

Yesterday was Pat's birthday and when we woke up, we took a walk to honor it. We took our usual route, up Alexander Avenue to Valley Road, swinging ritually around the stem of the Stop sign at the top of Alexander, and then back. This time, though, we noticed that one of the houses on Alexander seemed to have an especially tree-filled backyard.

"I wonder if it backs up to the forest preserve," Pat said.

"What forest preserve?"

"Earlier this week, I saw on a map of Montclair that there's a preserve off of Riverview Drive."

"Really? We've lived here for 12 years and never knew about it before. [The location is probably no more than a quarter of a mile from our home]. Let's go see it on the way back."

"OK. Maybe."

On the way back, we could have done the usual route, but I said, "Pat, let's see it."

We walked past a stucco house -- "You know I like stucco because it can be Art Deco-y," Pat reminded me and then past the rest of the more conventional, two-story, wood-sided ones till we reached a crossroads.

"Pat, the road says it's a dead end, so which way should we go?"

"Straight ahead," and sure enough, there was a wooden park-sign at the end of a thin, asphalt path, tucked between two houses, which read, "Alonso F. Bonsal Wildlife Preserve."

"Pat, it's like we're in a children's book, when it turns magical."

The full-trashcan at the entrance diminished a bit of the mystique, but only a bit. I looked at the houses on either side of us, "Imagine if our house backed up to this; no one's ever going to build back here. Let's go in."

We walked under the sign and descended an old set of New Jersey, brown-shale steps, which included wobbly, steel hand-rails; it was a steep hill, and other than the empty, plastic Gatorade bottle and an Olde English 800-sized Coors beer-can, we were in the thick of nature. Ahead of us was a nicely-arched, wooden foot-bridge over a wide, shallow creek (was this the river that the street was named for?). One of the slats of the bridge was rotted out.

We crossed it, looking right and left at the sun-dappled trees and sparkling brook/river and it led to a shabby, yet still distinct trail.

"It looks like they carted in sand," Pat said, looking down at the path at a number of places.

"Why would they do that?"

"To keep the path maintained."

By "shabby," I meant that the shrubs were overgrown and closing in on the path at various points, though it's true that the path itself was still obvious. We walked a short distance, up a bit of a hill and came to a perpendicular path that was wide enough for cars, and I was intrigued as to how the vehicles would get in and what they'd do once they were here.

If we went straight ahead, we would follow the narrow trail we were on to who knows where?

...It's time for breakfast and I'll finish this later -- perhaps after we take a second visit to the magical preserve. Maybe we'll see some wildlife this time....

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