This post is our first in the Share Your Story series. If you’ve been inspired by 52 Brand New or have always been the adventurous type, please share your story with us! Email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to hear from you!
Hi, this is Kim from Clinton, NJ. I am a stay at home mom with 3 children who got a tip from a friend to make a visit to a hiking trail near our home where you can search for “gnome homes” along the trail. If you leave a toy or treasure in the gnome home then you are allowed to take one. I thought this would be a good way to keep the kids motivated on a hike so they didn’t keep asking when we would be turning around and heading back home!
The trail is called the Columbia Trail and it runs for 7 miles in Hunterdon County, starting in High Bridge, alongside the South Branch of the Raritan River. (The trail was at one time a railroad track and continues into Morris County.) So we parked in High Bridge and got our gear ready. My oldest brought her bike and the two little ones got buckled into our double stroller – I figured I would let them do some hiking by foot once we discovered some of the gnome homes. So we made it across the roadway onto the trail and I realized I forgot the treasures. After a quick run back to our car we were again on our way. One minute in my anxious 6 year old daughter was already asking, “Where are the gnome homes mom?” I explained that I had no idea how far into the trail they would be or if they might be hidden by the foliage so I was hoping not to have a disappointed child. But sure enough just a few minutes later we found the first home. The kids climbed up the hill beside the trail to check out the treasures, grabbed a bracelet, and left some stickers. Lesson learned: the treasure containers don’t always stay dry inside so stickers were NOT the best idea. Little plastic toys or children’s jewelry would have been perfect.
We continued along and found about 8 gnome homes in all. The kids loved running up to the houses to see how they were decorated and what the treasure options were. We talked about staying on the dirt paths that led to the homes rather than running through the plants – I did not want to end up with legs full of poison ivy. My oldest daughter commented on how much detail went into the construction of one of the homes with its rock foundation, chair for the gnome figure, and ladder up to the second floor.
We observed some creatures along the way – a chipmunk and a deer. We heard water rushing but could not see it which was bugging my old 2 year old – I think she wanted to dash through the woods to the source of the sound. The waterfall at Lake Solitude is what we heard; I’ll have to remember to tell the kids next time we are at the lake that the gnome homes are on the other side. We also noticed some miniature daisy wildflowers and the fact that almost the entire trail was covered by shade trees which made it nice and cool for us.
After about an hour on the trail we thought it might be a good idea to turn around and head back to the car while we still had some energy (and so I could get home in time to cook dinner!). I knew that the trip was a success when my oldest daughter said “I can’t believe how many gnome homes we found, Mom!” and asked when we could search for more. We will definitely make another trip to search for them near Califon, NJ where I read that there are lots of gnome homes to be found.
You can read more about the Columbia Trail here: http://www.co.hunterdon.nj.us/depts/parks/ParkAreas/ColumbiaTrail/info.htm