fitness · nature

All nature great and small

A few weeks ago, I posted about my trip to the southwest with my sister and her kids.  We went to the Grand Canyon and other national and state parks of incredible dramatic beauty.  When I returned, still basking in the rosy glow of national park infatuation, I watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns‘ 6-part series called The National Parks, about the history and politics of the development of the US national park system.  It was 12 hours long, and while not constantly riveting or suspenseful, it did leave me entranced and enthusiastic about visiting more nature up close.

Then I saw Samantha’s Facebook post this week about Algonquin Provincial Park, where there are lots of cycling options for all ages, abilities, and preferences.  In addition, you can hike, swim, and paddle, too.  Here’s a blissful scene from their website:


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Lovely, isn’t it?

Then on Friday, I went out to Hopkinton State park, a bit west of Boston, to go swimming, have a picnic lunch, and hang out under the shade of trees along the lake shore with my friend Nina.


Now, neither of these places is dazzling, and they’re unlikely to be made the subject of any nature documentaries.  And even though the Algonquin Provincial Park site describes it as a “bucket-list” site, certainly neither of these parks is anywhere close to the top of such lists.

But who cares?

Reading Samantha’s “Bucket lists bug me” post, I heartily agreed with her analysis of the many ways in which these things are annoying.  But the reason I care most about here is this one:  a natural place doesn’t need to be “top ten” or “bucket list” or “undiscovered paradise” (which is impossible, when you think about it) in order to give us real pleasure and satisfaction when we venture there.  And venturing there again and again brings with it new discoveries and relationships with land, animals, other visitors, staff, communities, politicians, self– the possibilities are rich and varied.

One of my favorite parks anywhere is Williamson Park in Darlington, South Carolina (where I’m from).  In recent years it’s been transformed from an impassible cypress swamp to a very passable and enjoyable cypress swamp.  It’s small, but it’s beautiful, with so many wonders being revealed as the seasons turn.  Here are a few pictures:



People jog, walk with their friends or alone, take their kids, and volunteer to maintain and improve the park.  I go there whenever I visit my family and love both being there alone and with others.

This week reminded me that nature, whether national or local, grand or modest, is there for our walking, hiking, pedaling, paddling, strolling, and fishing pleasures (among others).

Readers, what are some of your favorite ordinary or out-of-the-way or around-the-corner or fantastic parks, woods, rivers, swimming holes?  Let us know.  Maybe we’ll run into each other there…