Story and photos by Zoe Zeitler '20
I breathe in crisp sharp air, feeling the oxygen viscerally in my lungs – perhaps, I consider, even in my cells. Innumerable leaves are padding my air, absorbing the exhaust released at the reserve’s edges. Each step brings another concentric layer of trees. I’ve immersed myself in the trees and the trees fill me in turn. A twenty-minute drive brought me to this dense forest sprawling over mild slopes – the Sourlands is a preserve of over 3000 acres in Montgomery and Hillsborough.
We unfurl as our foci are occupied with roots twisting over turning trails, placing our feet between them. We awake memories of simple times spent walking, by sending tangential sound waves toward each other. The preserve holds several marked and many unmarked hiking trails, bike trails, wildlife, and geological fascinations.
Foam mats off our backs, we get to the motivating object. Seeking little ledges on a stone, spotting a particular magnesium compound, I can leave the ground behind.
Friction suspends me, all parts of my body are in dialogue, and when I stop the full scope of this day hits me.
I thank empty space for this day of rock fondling with my arboreal and bipedal friends. They’re commingling even if they’re not always aware of it. Though there are many new faces among the two-leggers, upward curves let them grow more familiar. Advice is exchanged, falls are caught, and puzzlement finds company. At some point, everybody gravitates towards a circular formation, perched on top of the rocks.
I picture them as monkeys, amplifying the satisfaction of finding a way up these slabs by resounding. It’s the first time I’ve done that in a while, and it brings back memories of rainforests, Himalayas, and warping hills. I locate myself at this point in life with respect to those experiences. I am aware of my weight on the ground and the expanses all around.
Explore the Sourland Mountain Preserve, located just twenty minutes from campus!
Zoe is from Munich, Germany but has also lived in England and Qatar. She loves rock climbing, photography, design, and singing. She’s going to study some form of sustainable engineering, although she hasn’t decided on her specific major. Her goal for her work with the Office of Sustainability is to help people come up with creative changes to live more holistically, to work with groups and facilities on campus to make Princeton more sustainable, and to take part in research on innovative sustainability solutions.