To fend off seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and get some fresh air, Bhavna and I decided that in 2019 we would find our way outside despite both hating the cold. We joined the REI co-op, bought some base layers, and new jackets, hiking boots, etc. After three months of staying indoors drinking craft ales, I start to look and feel "round", especially in. my belly.

One of the perks of joining the REI Co-op is that we get access to classes about hammocking, hiking, biking etc. This past weekend Bhavana and I signed up for a beginner's hike; the Hike and Hops at St. Michaels Farm Preserve. The Lawrenceville REI Co-op organised this hike. When we awoke that morning, Bhavna and I were sure REI would cancel the walk. It had rained the night before, and the warmer air temp was melting the snow. We expected the trail would be too wet to hike. It was too wet but not so much to cancel the hike. We layered up and drove to the trailhead on Princeton Avenue to find a group of about eight people waiting in the parking lot.

Some history on the property is provided by the D& R Greenway Land Trust.

Now over 400 acres, the St. Michaels property, which was preserved in 2010 and expanded in 2017, is an expanse of farm fields and forests on the edge of Hopewell Borough. From many parts of this preserve, the visitor has long views, lending the preserve a wonderful expansiveness which promotes a sense of well-being in anyone who walks its many farm roads and paths. From 1896 until 1973 this was the home of St. Michael’s Orphanage and Industrial School which was operated by the Catholic Diocese of Trenton. After the orphanage was closed, the building where the children lived and went to school was torn down and most of the land was leased to a local farmer. Before the diocese divested themselves of the property through development they offered one last chance for preservation if D& R Greenway could raise the funds to purchase the property. Over $11 million was raised, and in 2010 D& R Greenway succeeded in purchasing the land through a public/private partnership. It is now preserved as open space forever. The largest amount of the $11M purchase price for this property came from the State farmland preservation program. Six miles of farm roads provide walking trails throughout the preserve.

We met the trail guide Dan and his friend John. John lives in the area and is an educator in a local public school. We were given an overview of the trail and a history of St. Michaels Farm before proceeding along a soggy and muddy open field. We struggled to make our way back to more solid ground, and since I stopped for Bhavna and to take photos, we fell behind the rest of the group.

The trail was soggy; perhaps boggy is a better word. Our guide Dan had to choose alternative paths across some of the streams. On the trail, we ducked under fallen trees and scrambled over others. We forded streams with water just barely under the ankle of the shoe. Water entered Bhavna's shoes.

I'm working from home today. We both injured a foot this weekend while on this beginner's hike. I think the issue is that we are both barefoot inside our house. We only wear shoes for work or to go hiking. For both of us, wearing shoes is an exercise in damage control. When I wear shoes outside on walks and hike along difficult terrain, my toes curl inside the shoe; trying to get a grip. This action stresses my toes. Is this the reason Westerners have such ugly feet? It's damaged from years of doing the opposite of what nature intended?

What made the trek worthwhile was the camaraderie of the group during the hike and the post-hike Troon craft ale we drank together at the Brick Farm Tavern.

The part where we introduce ourselves but there are so many new names we almost immediately forget them. — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (17 mm, f/8.0, ISO320), Copyright 2019-03-10 Khürt L. Williams
Waiting for the slowpoke photographer to catch up. — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (24.2 mm, f/8.0, ISO200), Copyright 2019-03-10 Khürt L. Williams
The grassland was extremely soggy. Out boots were completely covered with mud and walking became difficult on the wet grass. — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (36.5 mm, f/8.0, ISO400), Copyright 2019-03-10 Khürt L. Williams
St. Michaels Farm Preserve — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (16 mm, f/8.0, ISO200), Copyright 2019-03-10 Khürt L. Williams
St. Michaels Farm Preserve — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (16 mm, f/8.0, ISO400), Copyright 2019-03-10 Khürt L. Williams
St. Michaels Farm Preserve — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (16 mm, f/8.0, ISO200), Copyright 2019-03-10 Khürt L. Williams
St. Michaels Farm Preserve — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (16 mm, f/8.0, ISO400), Copyright 2019-03-10 Khürt L. Williams
At the half-way point, Dan and John explained the route we would be taking through the forest. — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (16 mm, f/8.0, ISO400), Copyright 2019-03-10 Khürt L. Williams
St. Michaels Farm Preserve — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (37.6 mm, f/8.0, ISO400), Copyright 2019-03-10 Khürt L. Williams
Hike and Hops at St. Michaels Farm Preserve with REI Outdoor School — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (37.6 mm, f/8.0, ISO400), Copyright 2019-03-10 Khürt L. Williams
In the background, I can see John fording the stream. We followed him across a few minutes later. — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (16 mm, f/8.0, ISO400), Copyright 2019-03-10 Khürt L. Williams
St. Michaels Farm Preserve — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (16 mm, f/8.0, ISO400), Copyright 2019-03-10 Khürt L. Williams
St. Michaels Farm Preserve — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (16 mm, f/8.0, ISO400), Copyright 2019-03-10 Khürt L. Williams
Hike and Hops at St. Michaels Farm Preserve with REI Outdoor School — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (16 mm, f/8.0, ISO400), Copyright 2019-03-10 Khürt L. Williams
Troon Brewing Inspissated — FujiFilm X-T2 + Fujifilm XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ (55 mm, f/3.2, ISO4000), Copyright 2019-03-10 Khürt L. Williams

I think this image perfectly reflects the weather and the feeling Bhavana and I had while on a Hike and Hops at St. Michaels Farm Preserve. The Lawrenceville REI Co-op organized this hike. When we awoke that morning, Bhhavna and I were sure the walk would be cancelled. It has rained the night before, and the warmer air temp was melting the snow.

Read more about the hike at St. Michaels Farm Preserve.

NOTE: This photo is the last photo in this series. I am not abandoning my 52-week project. I am switching my effort and focus on the annual Dogwood 52 Week Photography Challenge. Starting with Week 11, I will post images based on the challenges in that calendar on that website.

Photo of the Week is personal photography project where I post the best image captured that week. I will post the picture at the end of the week. That will be a Sunday. I can take one or 100 photos for the week, but I will post only one, the best one.