An Open Letter of Apology to the Parks I Take for Granted
|Strolling around Ridley Creek State Park|
just as the leaves start to change.
You don’t have to visit a waterfall paradise in the Grand Canyon, go skiing in British Columbia, or backpack 27 miles in two days to enjoy the outdoors. But the truth is, I don’t often take my own advice.
If I had a dollar for every time I thought about, or mentioned, how the hiking around Philadelphia just isn’t the great, or there aren’t enough places close to where I live that come close to what’s available further away, I’d have a whole ton of dollars. Enough dollars to travel to all of those places that seem to have superior outdoor adventure opportunities. And when I write about how wonderful close-to-home adventures are, part of me wonders how much of that effort is a result of my working to convince myself of that truth.
Hiking in the Poconos is quite different from hiking in places like the Grand Canyon, the Sierras, or the Rocky Mountains, true. But after a few recent trips to parks within an hour of home, I'm beginning to wonder how many local spots I've turned my nose up at because they just didn't seem awesome enough. As a result of those trips, I'm writing an open letter of apology to the local spots I was convinced couldn't possibly be worth spending time visiting.
To start, I owe an apology to Ridley Creek State Park (Media, Pennsylvania). Of my handful of visits there, I've chosen it a hiking destination either out of laziness, given its proximity to home and my lack of interest in driving long distances, or because the hiking is, for all intents and purposes, easy. But Ridley Creek shouldn't be my "I don't have any better plans" plan; it's a stunning park, and if you visit on a weekday or other non-peak times, you can find yourself completely alone. It's ideal for short, restorative hikes, for fall foliage viewing, and if you just want to get away from it all without going too far from home.
|I still can't believe the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is so close to Philadelphia, and Philadelphia International Airport.|
I also owe a big apology to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). Truth be told, it took me seven years of living in the Philadelphia area to get there because I couldn't imagine a place next to a major international airport being worth visiting. I couldn't have been more wrong.
On my first trip there this fall, I found a veritable natural paradise. It's not wilderness by any stretch of the imagination; planes, trains and automobiles are clearly audible in nearly every section of the refuge. But it's also home to an incredible variety of wildlife, particularly area bird species, beautiful ponds and marshes, and the ease of accessibility means you don't need an entire day to experience the refuge.
|Yeah...I really need to spend more time in the Wissahickon, especially this time of year!|
|I'm always amazed you can find this 15 minutes from Philly!|
I spent two hours running around in the mud, scrambling up rocks, and crashing through fallen leaves in a part of the Wissahickon I'd never been to with a giant smile on my face; the kind of smile that makes you cheeks hurt. I saw exactly five people on the trail. My little solo walk in the woods turned out to be one of the best walks in the woods I've had in a long time.
I know there are at least a handful of other local outdoor destinations I haven't been to as well as a handful I have that I take for granted. Does any of this sound familiar to you? Do you pass up local barks because you know they'll always be there, and there's always something just a little bit better? Any parks you'd like to apologize to? Leave a comment, and I'm sure they'll forgive you!