Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Princeton's Mountain Lake Preserve: Swallowtails and Stalking a Blue Heron

After dropping our son's bass bow off with a bow maker in Titusville, NJ today, our dog and I hiked the Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve in Princeton. (More later on the bow maker: the man is deserving of a whole post). Even though I drove our sons to private elementary school in Princeton for five years, I never knew about this 74-acre park close to the downtown. I found out about it from a website called, which offers tips on where to hike with your dog. I had several unexpected encounters on the walk.

It's a glorious summer day and the perfect weather for a hike. It felt as if I were being followed the whole way by swallowtail butterflies. They were everywhere. I spied a beautiful blue heron on the lake. By the time I pulled by iPad out of my knapsack, it was gone. But imagine it, in the foreground, on the left, perched on the lake.

This land was part of King George III's grant to William Penn. It was farmed until the late 19th century. The seven-acre lake was created in 1884 to produce ice for Princeton homes and businesses. The ice-harvesting operation was in business until the 1920s, when houses began to have refrigerators.  With a $3 million anonymous donation, Princeton Township was able to rehabilitate the dams and preserve part of the site.  This project won the township the 2013 historic preservation award from the State of New Jersey.

I walked the path around the lake, marveling at this hidden gem within a busy suburb. About halfway around Mountain Lake, I spied two young adults walking toward me. As we approached, I realized the couple was two of my sons' former elementary school classmates. One, a fellow musician in our son's orchestra, is heading off to college soon and the young lady is searching for a job.

The young lady asked me if I'd seen the heron. Yes, I tried to take a picture, but it had flown off. It turns out the two were on an adventure. They'd seen the blue heron, too and were trying to find it again. "We're stalking it," the young lady said with a giggle. And then we walked into our separate afternoons.


  1. What a treat! Reading this made me feel refreshed, almost as though I'd been there. Thanks!

  2. You're welcome, Anna It was a refreshing place to visit. Shaded and all that water, too...