The Kate’s Trail signpost on Elm Ridge Road is like
a bookmark among Hopewell’s million-dollar estates.
But no parking, and the ankle-deep, muddy entrance deter
most hikers, except for the determined and the curious.
Yet if you brave the five hundred paces of squishy muck,
triangle markers usher you to a portal of lush green wilderness —
birdsong, towering tulip poplars, pin oaks, white dogwoods,
sprinkles of yellow sun-drops, lavender forget-me-nots welcome you.
You follow the winding path along the ridge: a woodland
of saplings stands guard over half-a-dozen gigantic, uprooted trees
that crisscross each other, lying prone on a soft bed of leaves.
You wonder what they have witnessed in their long lifespan.
Sounds of gurgling water lead you to a running stream —
teetering on half-submerged rocks, you cross to find
red miniature flags waiting to guide you to the wide Stony Brook:
mesmerizing clouds and tree branches reflected in unhurried water.
A hawk circling above and the caress of a gentle breeze transport you
back to your school days in Hong Kong: You walk in single file
between rice paddies with classmates, laugh at the ducks flapping
in a fishpond, hear the crow of roosters, smell burning twigs in clay stoves.
Amidst jokes and singing — all believe this happy day lasts forever.
You walk beside the sparkling brook carefree of where its journey ends.
Flags leave you at ascending stones and you’re back in the green wilderness.
As you turn toward the mud path, spring peepers chorus their farewell,
telling you that nature thrives without us. Here, you are her guest.
I grew up in Hong Kong, came to America for college and stayed. I have lived in Princeton for fifty-five years. My poems have appeared in US 1 Newspaper, Kelsey Review, Princeton Arts Review, US 1 Worksheet, The Literary Review, Paterson Literary Review and Princeton Magazine. My two books of poems, The Fragrant Harbor (2014), and The Thirteenth Lake (2019) are published by Kelsay Books. My children’s stories have appeared in Cricket Magazine and Fire and Wings. Since the pandemic, hiking has replaced swimming as my daily routine.