On Saturday, I woke up, got dressed and drove to Aunt Chubby's in Hopewell for breakfast. Before my health challenges started, Aunt Molly was my favourite weekend treat but I hadn't been there in several months. I packed my Fujifilm X-T2 + Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, iPad and Bluetooth headphones. I wanted to get to Aunt Chubby's just as they opened to get a seat in the corner, to read blog posts while listening to music. I found parking right out front, which is rare, but now I know how to avoid the weekend breakfast crowd. Aunt Chubby's is walking distance from most of the homes in Hopewell Borough.

I found a table near the rear of the restaurant and my attentive table attendant took my order, avocado toast with a poached egg on top and a cappuccino. The restaurant was still mostly empty with one man sitting at the breakfast bar, and a few friends sitting in the other room.

During my commute last week, I caught up on listening to episodes of the FujiCast podcast, which I missed while going through my health challenges during the last few months. The universe must be sending me a message because on this particular FujiCast episode, Ian MacDonald, was a guest talking about how photography helps him treat and overcome PTSD caused by years working in emergency medical services (EMS).

This got me to thinking about how much I missed my form of stress reduction therapy, being outside walking around with my camera on the nature trails of the Sourlands. I finished eating and while I waited for my check, I looked up as Jeff Hoagland had walked in and sat down at the breakfast counter.

Jeff Hoagland is a lifelong naturalist and the Education Director for the Watershed Institute. The institute is championed for the environment of 950 acres of streams and woodlands in Hopewell Township. I met Jeff over a decade ago when I took my then elementary school children on an ambling nature walk along one of the streams in Montgomery Township. My kids had a blast and over the years we took many more walks with Jeff. He's also a fan of craft ale and we often see each other in line during a crowler release at Troon Brewing.

Google Earth, Hopewell Township, St. Michael's Preserve
St. Michael's Farm Preserve

I closed out my check and walked over to the breakfast counter to say. Jeff and I chatted for a bit. He noticed the camera and suggested I try walking a section of the St. Michael's Preserve which is accessible from Aunt Molly Road. I have walked another part of the St. Michael's Preserve earlier this year and was happy for Jeff's recommendation of something new.

In the Borough of Hopewell, St. Michael's Preserve includes a total of 396 acres of preserved land, mostly between Hopewell-Princeton Road and Aunt Molly Road, but a portion of the preserve lies on the east side of Aunt Molly Road and is preserved by the D& R Greenway Land Trust. This is the section that Jeff stated was his favourite section of the preserve trails.

In 2004, the Diocese of Trenton asked D&R Greenway to preserve the property for $11 million. Working with our state, county, and local partners, we secured $8 million in public funding. The remaining $3 million needed to be raised from private sources. Faced with the frightening prospect of unwanted development, in the summer of 2006, a group of concerned Hopewell residents stepped forward to raise the remaining funds required to preserve the St. Michael's Preserve land.

The St. Michael's Preserve property had been owned by the Diocese of Trenton since the 1890s upon which an orphanage and industrial school were built in 1896. The facility closed in 1973.

Aunt Molly Road is about a five-minute drive from Aunt Chubby's. I parked, donned my headphones, and started streaming Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, while I walked along the frozen trail, stopping to take photos of the woods and trail path with the changing morning light streaming through. I could hear the crunch of frozen dirt, grass, and ice underfoot.

A man with a dog approached from a fork in the path. I removed my headphones, said hello and commented about the cold. It was cold. I have not walked this trail before so I had no specific agenda for images. I listened to Dark Side of the Moon, stopping to photograph whatever light caught my eye. I found myself just stopping and standing to stare at the light, getting lost in my mind. Relaxing.

I got as far as the bridge before the cold air, despite gloves and thick socks, started to gnaw at fingers and toes.

Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams
Aunt Molly Trail | 22 Dec, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | © Khürt Williams

Tuesday Photo Challenge – Crawl by jansenphotojansenphoto (Dutch Goes the Photo)

All that crawls…

Planes crawled across the sky over Franklin Township travelling to and fro Newark Liberty International Airport. I walked on the path cut into the grassland, encountered ice and swamp-like mud. I slipped and slid, twisted and hurt something in my right foot. But I didn't know that at the time. Just a lingering feeling that I had overdone it. That something wasn't right.

I learned about the Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve while perusing the REI online store. I was checking out the sales items and saw a link for the REI Hiking Project. Thirty minutes later, I had downloaded the Hiking Project app and was looking at a list of nearby possibilities for a hike. I decided to try the Griggstown Native Grassland because it was close to home. A grassland hike would be different than my usual hikes in the Sourland Mountain Preserve.

I had rented a Fujinon XF27mm F2.8 pancake lens for a weekend trip to visit my brother in Charlotte, North Carolina. We had to postpone our plans and while I was able to cancel my flight and hotel booking, I forgot about the lensrental. I felt I had to get some value from the lens so I decided to put it on my Fuji X-T2 and bring it with me on my hike. With a ~41mm in 35mm equivalent, it provides a field of view roughly equal to that of the human eye. On this hike, the photos would provide a "Khürt's Eye View" of the hike.

Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF27mmF2.8 @ (27 mm, f/8.0, ISO200), Copyright 2019-02-17 Khürt L. Williams

I drove along Canal Road and despite using Google Maps, I almost missed the entrance to the preserve. The entrance is a via a narrow dirt road that winds it's way around to the trailhead. There were two other cars parked. I grabbed my stuff and walked over to the information shed to look for a map. I could not understand the map on the back of the shed.

I pulled out the Hiking Project app which has GPS to pinpoint my location. One thing to note about using a GPS app on a smartphone. They are only accurate to about 50 feet. To increase accuracy, these apps often use cellular or Wi-Fi signals. The Hiking Project app uses the GPS information from my iPhone and the cellular signal to place my location on it's a map of the preserve. If you are in a location with poor (or no) cellular signal the hiking app won't accurately place you on its map. Your phone knows your coordinates but the app does not.

Griggstown Grasslands — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF27mmF2.8 @ (27 mm, f/8.0, ISO200), Copyright 2019-02-17 Khürt L. Williams

I got some information the two gentlemen who were preparing to hike in the preserve. There was a small Blue Trail and a larger Red Trail. I decided to take the Red Trail.

The trails are not well marked. I walked across the wide grassland trail and felt the sense of openness. This is rare here in New Jersey. I walked across a bridge and around a path that took me to an abandoned shipping container. Ironically the words, Evergreen were printed on the side. I continued walking and realized that I had just walked in a circle.

Remember what I wrote earlier about GPS and cellular signals? I consulted the Hiking Project app and realized I had walked off the trail. I walked back across the bridge and re-entered the trail. This part of the trail was very wet, soggy, and muddy. It didn't help that the trail path is cut through the grass. I was walking on wet grass on top of wet soil.

Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF27mmF2.8 @ (27 mm, f/8.0, ISO200), Copyright 2019-02-17 Khürt L. Williams
Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF27mmF2.8 @ (27 mm, f/8.0, ISO200), Copyright 2019-02-17 Khürt L. Williams

I walked up this hill which was slippery from water frozen into shoe prints left over from an earlier thaw or rain. At the top was a park bench and I stopped for a moment to take in the view of the Sourland Mountain Range. It looked so small in the distance.

Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF27mmF2.8 @ (27 mm, f/8.0, ISO200), Copyright 2019-02-17 Khürt L. Williams
Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF27mmF2.8 @ (27 mm, f/8.0, ISO200), Copyright 2019-02-17 Khürt L. Williams
Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF27mmF2.8 @ (27 mm, f/8.0, ISO200), Copyright 2019-02-17 Khürt L. Williams

I consulted the Hiking Project app and realized that I was almost done with the red trail. Ahead across large patches of ice lay the path to the Orange Trail. I slid my way across slowly crawling to the other side. The path ahead was again soggy wet. Arriving at the fork in the path to start the orange trail I saw, even more, ice and wet muddy areas. I reconsidered my options. Take the exit path back to the trailhead or complete the orange trail. I decided I had had enough and took the trail back to the car.

Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF27mmF2.8 @ (27 mm, f/8.0, ISO200), Copyright 2019-02-17 Khürt L. Williams
Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF27mmF2.8 @ (27 mm, f/8.0, ISO200), Copyright 2019-02-17 Khürt L. Williams

It was 3:30 AM when I uploaded these photos. I was in pain. I couldn't get to sleep because of the intensity of the pain. I uploaded the photos, posted a link on the comments on Frank's website, and went back to bed. This morning my wife took me to the doctor. I had a sprained tendon and will be wearing a boot for a few weeks.

The Tuesday Photo Challenge is a weekly theme-based challenge for photographers of all kinds to share both new and old photography.

I had an hour to kill. My kids were in band camp and it had just stopped raining. I had planned to be at the Princeton fireworks but the rain had been intermittent and heavy throughout out the day. I sat in the car and pulled out my iPad to read when I noticed the sky — the clouds. I had my tripod and camera in the car. I took a few shots of the sky and the high school building from the parking lot. Then I remembered that Skillman Park was close by. I drove around the circle twice before I planted my tripod and started shooting. I realized that class would be over before the sunset but I still managed to get a few shots I liked. I took over 46 photos and deleted all but the three1 that were combined to make this one.


  1. Photomatix Pro.