Jack Smith Park (Cary, NC)

Jack Smith Park splash padBack in June, my sister and niece visited the same weekend we planned a trip to Jack Smith Park with our Raleigh Jaycee friends. Jack Smith Park is located at 9725 Penny Rd and opened towards the end of last summer. If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for outdoor fun, this is the park!

Jack Smith Park features a splash pad, multiple playgrounds for all ages, a rock climbing structure, walking trails, and a dog park. We arrived at the park at 10am when the splash pad opened. Luckily, some friends saved a table under the pavilion for our group to stash our gear while out playing. The splash pad features tall buckets that dump, gentle water fountains, circular misting fountains, and maneuverable water guns. Picnic tables with umbrellas, clean restroom facilities, large pavilion, and half-walls for sitting are adjacent to the splash pad. 

EF27F37E-2AD4-4189-A504-6ED9A5B94C3B

After my kids tired of the splash pad they played on the playground areas and rock climbing structure. The smaller kid playground features several slides, a small rock climbing wall, sails for shade, and a curved climbing ladder. The bigger kid playground features a tall spider web climbing net, challenging curved climbing ladders, gyro spinners, slides, and stepping stones. The regular swings, baby swings, and tire swing are located near the perimeter of the park. When I wasn’t poking my head around parents and play things to keep an eye on the girls, I was pushing the girls on the tire swing. Boy, do they LOVE a tire swing!

And, my oldest daughter loves rock climbing! She’s pretty fearless and persistent, and loves the challenge that rock climbing presents. The park’s rock climbing structure is at the far end of the park. Large natural rocks surround the structure which sits upon a rubbery surface. She tried multiple times to climb the hardest section of the rock before trying her hand at the flatter sides. Though she didn’t climb up very far, she enjoyed climbing alongside the bigger kids.

820F2FF9-5F44-470C-A89D-9F338EB64610

The Town of Cary parks always impress me with their attention to landscaping, public art, and availability of public restrooms. Young trees surrounded by half-walls create nice sitting areas for parents. The park features several ornamental grasses, flowering shrubs, and a large open grassy field down from the playground. Many benches and shaded picnic tables also scatter the perimeter. Vollis Simpson’s folksy art sculptures take center stage as you park near the playground. Finally, the restrooms are very clean and roomy, and have water fountains and a nearby hand shower for spraying off the treated water.

Despite being super busy on a weekend morning, I look forward to bringing the girls back here one day. Splash pads offer a quick water alternative to cooling off in the pool. And, with so many other activities at this park, it makes for many fun-filled hours!

Thumbs up: one-stop shop for fun, rock climbing structure, mixing water play with dry activities, outdoor art, natural climbing rocks, nice landscaping, lots of seating options

Thumbs down: very crowded, can be difficult to manage multiple small kids

Upcoming Fall 2017 Dorothea Dix Park Events

Dorothea Dix ParkHave you visited Dorothea Dix Park lately? Located just south of Downtown Raleigh, its rolling hills and grassy open fields are the perfect spot for a picnic, skyline photos (mine are courtesy of the super talented MasonDee Photography), or attending a City of Raleigh event or program.

The City of Raleigh purchased Dorothea Dix Park two years ago from the state of NC to develop a destination park. Though construction is still years away, master planning is underway. I’m super excited to begin my workgroup involvement in the master planning of the park this fall. I know the city will look for lots of public input into the park and now is the time to visit!

Whether you’re looking for child-friendly events, volunteer opportunities, or historical walking tours here are some of their upcoming park events:

  • Sun., Aug 13 from 2-6pm: Recess Raleigh – attend a free annual summer cookout to benefit Helping Hands Mission of Raleigh. Summer cookout features food and drink prepared by Capital Club 16, games, activities, music and art; FREE; all ages; Dix Park Athletic Field
  • Wed., Aug. 16 at 12pm: Urban Design Center Talks: Bold Ideas for Dix – visit the City of Raleigh Museum and listen to a monthly lecture series highlighting bold ideas, issues, and topics important to the development of the new Dorothea Dix Park. Each monthly lecture features a different presenter covering topics such as inclusivity, ecology, access, arts and culture, history, transportation, economic development, and connectivity; FREE and open to the public; registration not required
  • Wed., Aug. 16 at 1pm: Explore Dorothea Dix Park: Water Wonders – meet in the big field and explore activities and games featuring water! Ages 2+; free; pre-registration is required
  • Wed., Aug. 23 from 6-8pm or Tues., Sept 12 from 5:30-7:30pm: Explore Dorothea Dix Park: Guided Walking Tour – go on a 2 hour, 3.5 mile walking tour to learn about the history, current use, and future plans for the Dorothea Dix park; FREE; all ages; pre-registration is required
  • Sat., Sept. 9 from 9am-12pm: Explore Dorothea Dix Park: Volunteer Invasive Species Removal – round up your friends and neighbors and volunteer your time removing invasive plants threatening natural habitats of the park; FREE; ages 16+; volunteers under 18 years old must be accompanied by an adult; registration information via Cervistech
  • Wed., Oct. 18 from 12pm-1:15pm: Trolley Tour of Dorothea Dix Park – go on a 1.5 hour tour of Dorothea Dix Park and learn about the history, current use and future plans for the park; FREE; pre-registration is required

 

 

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

DSC_0015After school let out for the summer we headed with friends to Duck, NC for the weekend. The Town of Duck is located on the northern section of the Outer Banks mainland, not far (physically) from the Virginia border. We wanted to take advantage of staying in the northern Outer Banks, so we explored the Currituck Beach Lighthouse one morning.

Ever since watching Pete’s Dragon as a child, lighthouses and light keepers always fascinated me. After reading “The Light Between Oceans” my fascination only grew stronger. Maybe I love the simplicity of their lifestyle or their strong connection to the water and ships they protect. Whatever the reason for my fascination, I’m thankful for being able to explore these historical landmarks.

History

Currituck Beach Lighthouse is located north of Duck in the historic village of Corolla, NC at 1101 Corolla Village Rd. In 1873 construction began on Currituck Beach Lighthouse to fill the gap of coastal darkness between Cape Henry Lighthouse in Virginia Beach and Bodie Island Lighthouse, just south of Nags Head, NC. It stands 162 ft tall overlooking the Currituck Sound and Atlantic Ocean. The lighthouse is unique in that they did not paint the exterior bricks. The lighthouse keepers and their families lived in the adjacent Victorian-style home until the 1930s when the U.S. Coast Guard assumed lighthouse duties. The U.S. Coast Guard automated the beacon, which continues to flash in 20-second intervals to alert ships at sea.

The lighthouse sat abandoned for decades after automating the beacon. In 1980, the non-profit Outer Banks Conservationists began to slowly restore the lighthouse over the next decade. The lighthouse opened to the public in 1990 and one of the keeper’s houses opened later as the gift shop. The main keepers’ house remains closed until restoration efforts finish.

DSC_0054Climbing the Lighthouse

The base and first two landings of the lighthouse feature interesting exhibits about the lighthouse’s history. After paying the $10 admission fee and signing the waiver, I made separate trips with both girls up the winding 220 steps. Small landings between each floor offer chances to catch your breath and let others pass. We climbed slowly, but still reached the top of the lighthouse in a little over 5 minutes. We (so very carefully) walked around the outside of the lighthouse admiring the gorgeous panoramic water views. 

When climbing the lighthouse stairs, small signs display in the windows letting patrons know the height and cardinal direction. The girls enjoyed learning how high up they climbed and looking out the windows. After climbing down the lighthouse we visited the museum gift shop and walked around nearby Historic Corolla Village.

Thumbs up: beautiful views, informative lighthouse museum, friendly volunteer workers

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area: Poplar Point Campground

For our maiden voyage in the Winnie, we headed to Jordan Lake State Recreation Area for a quick 24-hr overnight trip. We wanted to get a small sample of camping while staying close to home. Jordan Lake State Recreation Area is located about 30 minutes west of Raleigh off US-64. Whether you’re going for a short trip or several days, Jordan Lake has lots of outdoor experiences and recreational activities to offer.

Camping

A few weeks before our trip we reserved a campsite online with electric and water hook-ups at Poplar Point Campground. The entrance for Poplar Point Campground is located at 558 Beaver Creek Rd in Apex. Jordan Lake State Recreation Area is enormous with over 1,000 RV and tent campsites scattered over five different areas. We chose Poplar Point Campground because it has many waterfront campsites available with water and electric hook-ups and a recreation beach at Loop E. We reserved spot 58 at Loop H, which is a back-in spot, like most at the park. The NC State Park registration system is very useful. You can search by amenities, whether you need a pull-through spot, and length of site. Similar to hotel room booking systems, it also shows multiple pictures of each campsite.

We arrived early on a Saturday morning and checked-in at the Poplar Point front gate. The ranger confirmed that we could switch our spot for the more popular first-come, first-serve spots at Loop E if we wanted. Loop E features a beach area, playground and more waterfront sites. But, after driving by our site at Loop H, we decided to stick with our original plan. We were anxious to set-up the Winnie and explore the campground. 

IMG_2418Our partially shaded campsite featured a flat gravel pad, picnic table and grill. There’s a short walk to the water, which we were hoping to use for fishing access, but unfortunately there was more poison ivy than we wanted to dodge. We found another access to the water, but the low-lying trees made casting difficult for the girls. Surprisingly, we didn’t have any neighbors during our entire stay. Though the girls were sad because they couldn’t play with new friends, it also meant they could run around like maniacs without worrying about traffic.

We spent about 45 minutes setting up camp by rolling out the rug, organizing the outdoor food station, hooking up the water and electric, and making sure the party lights hung perfectly. This park (and most state parks) features a dump station near the entrance, which we used on the way out to empty our gray and black tanks. For lunch, we quickly cooked hot dogs and grilled deli sandwiches on the griddle before heading to the beach. 

Recreation Area

4After lunch we headed to the recreation area to cool off in the beach. The recreation area at Loop E features a large sandy shoreline with designated swimming area. The water was refreshing and the boats racing by made fun waves for the girls. The girls loved catching the waves with their inner tubes and building sand castles on the shore. They enjoyed racing into the water and diving into the calm water. Even though the water was a little murky, they didn’t seem to mind.

The recreation area has a narrow forested area near the parking lot with picnic tables and benches. We spotted several fishermen fishing further down the shoreline. We also saw a pontoon boat selling shave ice and snacks on the shoreline. Even though we just missed the shave ice, we watched the boat motor to the recreation area on the opposite side of the lake.

Unfortunately we left several of our beach essentials (beach chairs, umbrellas, sand toys) at home, placing greater attention on our camping items. We bought inner tubes at the convenience store off US-64, which proved crucial beach toys. Despite not having all our regular beach things, we spent over two hours at the lake beach having a fabulous time.

Dinner Camping

IMG_2425After playing at the beach we headed back to our campsite for showers and dinner prep. The girls helped shuck corn for grilling on the fire pit while I made mac n cheese on the trailer range. We grilled chicken sausages, corn on the cob, hot dogs and cinnamon sugar filled apples for dessert. 

After cleaning up dinner we settled in for puzzles and Uno. I also taught the girls how to play the card game, War, which immediately became their favorite game! Once the sun went down, we chased fireflies around the loop and used our campfire to make s’mores. Then, we read a bit of Wind in the Willows around the campfire before tucking the girls into their bunks.  

Though it took the girls a little longer to fall asleep, they slept soundly until morning. Bill and I enjoyed some music around the campfire while listening to insects chirp near the water. Overall, our first overnight trailer trip was a big success! Camping in the trailer was an exciting, but relaxing experience while Jordan Lake offered lots of fun at a quick drive away. 

Thumbs up: campsite space, large beach recreation area, affordable family camping, 

Thumbs down: poison ivy down to the water near campground

Update: Historic Yates Mill County Park Programs

Historic Yates Mill County Park ProgramsOver Memorial Day weekend, my in-laws visited from Maryland. Wanting to find something new to explore that is appropriate for both older and younger people, I researched the upcoming Wake County Parks & Recreation events. I found a fun event at Historic Yates Mill County Park called “Messing About with Boats” that featured a reading from The Wind in the Willows and boat-making craft. The event was super affordable at $2/person, only 1.5 hours long and for ages 6+. I formally registered everyone except Claire (who’s only 3) knowing that she would enjoy the story and “help” the adults with their crafts. The entire program exceeded my expectations!

DSC_0117The instructor started the class with a coloring activity as the participants arrived. We colored paper animal masks of characters Badger, Toad and Otter from the book. Then, we constructed our masks with either popsicle sticks or string. After the coloring activity, the instructor presented material about the mill’s history and different types of energy. She catered the presentation to all age groups and made it especially interactive for the young ones. Next, the instructor walked us through creating a boat from an Altoid box and powered by stored-up rubber band energy. She related the craft to the energy lesson and also read from The Wind in the Willows story.

DSC_0126After everyone finished making their boats, we headed outside to the docks to launch our boats. Sure enough, our wound-up rubber bands caused the plastic paddles to propel the boats a few feet into the water. The instructor came prepared with a net to scoop up the boats so the kids could try again. The entire program was a perfect combination of creating, science, and hands-on experimenting for this age group.

After the program finished, our family enjoyed a picnic lunch near the water. Ashley found a quiet spot on the dock to read while Claire continued to perfect her boat launch. Then, we walked a short ways to the old mill and snapped pictures of the dam. Finally, we headed back towards the main building and crossed the bridge over the pond admiring how many turtles we could spot.

While we’ve been to Historic Yates Mill County Park several times in the past, I’d never registered for one of their programs. The morning’s activities were perfect for our mix of little ones and grandparents. Each Wake County Park features a monthly newsletter that you can subscribe to for staying in the loop about upcoming programs. I look forward to finding another great event to attend soon!

Thumbs up: age-appropriate programs, instructor’s knowledge and enthusiasm of subject material, 

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Dowdy Park in Nags Head, NC

DSC_0057In May, we travelled to Nags Head for our annual trip with friends (and family this year, too) to run the Nags Head Preserve Yuengling 5k race. This year the race weekend coincided with the grand opening of Dowdy Park, located at the intersection of S Croatan Hwy & E Bonnett St. Near MP 12, the park sits on land that was once the home of Dowdy Amusement Park. Over the years, I remember driving by the abandoned theme park wishing someone would do something to clean up that area. It’s wonderful to see how land once used for fun and recreation has come full circle.

As a Raleigh resident, we are spoiled with parks and playgrounds around every corner. Though Nags Head has beautiful natural recreational areas (the beach, the dunes, the nature preserve), to say it needs more playgrounds is an understatement. Dowdy Park’s grand opening celebration and Artrageous Kids Festival was bustling with families, echoing the excitement for more outdoor parks.

DSC_0056Dowdy Park features several play areas where kids can jump, run, swing, climb and slide until their hearts are content! The older kid playground has wide wheelchair-accessible ramps to musical and periscope play items. The ramp connects to stairs for climbing higher along a net bridge or to the ground via a rock wall. The other side of the net bridge features challenging ladders, a climbing tree stump and a fast, twisty slide. A colorful climbing hill with curved bars, musical instruments, balance beams, surfboards, bench swing, and merry-go-round are also located nearby. With the large festival and park attendance, it was overwhelming to keep track of multiple kids bouncing between so many activities.

DSC_0074The smaller kid playground features short steps up to ramps connected to a double slide. All the kids thoroughly enjoyed the nearby rolling slide. They loved making rattling noises as they slid down the bumpy slide. Across from the small kid playground is a wheelchair-accessible ride. It allows folks in wheelchairs to reverse their chair onto a ramp and swing. And, a playground near the beach wouldn’t be complete without a little sand – just follow the sea turtle flipper prints! Short pier pilings line the sandbox area, which has a large climbing sea turtle in the middle.

DSC_0079Also near this area are hopscotch and twister games, checkers tables, another climbing hill, picnic tables and benches. On this particular day vendors lined the perimeter of the open green space area. Park-goers filled the open green space area watching the performances under the covered pavilion. Throughout the park you’ll find pieces of art, such as the nautilus stamps shells, temporary art pole exhibit, and wooden paintings. Even though Dare County is mostly known for its beaches, I’ve always been impressed with the local art scene. We’ve enjoyed local art galleries, shopping and art walks when they’ve overlapped with our vacation times.

Currently, small dunes, a split-rail fence and 20 yards of undeveloped park land separate busy the US-158 and sandbox area. According to the Town of Nags Head, phase 2 of development starts this fall for a garden, multi-use courts, restrooms and bocce ball court. It’ll be interesting to see how this area evolves over the years. And, I look forward to returning on a day that isn’t quite so busy.

Thumbs up: unique play areas, incorporating beach details into the park, accommodations for all ages and abilities, fun climbing hills and slides

Thumbs down: lack of shade

Bryan Park (Richmond, Va)

Bryan ParkOver Spring Break we vacationed with friends and family in Virginia. We initially wanted to visit the newly renovated Maymont Park (see my 2012 park review) in Richmond, but opted for the quieter Bryan Park instead. With its granite archways, expansive rolling hills, recreational areas, and natural spots Bryan Park is the perfect crossroads of Virginia’s history and nature!

History of Bryan Park

Bryan Park is located on the Northside of Richmond at 4308 Hermitage Rd between I-95 and US-64. According to Richmondoutside.com, the history of Bryan Park dates back to the late 1700s when the Young family owned the 600 acre Westwood Estate. In 1800, Young’s Spring served as a meeting spot for a planned slaved rebellion (formally known as Gabriel’s Rebellion) that went awry. Rosina Young inherited half of the estate, which is most of Bryan Park today, after her father’s passing in 1832. During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers setup a defense line near the Rosewood farmhouse on the property. Following the war, Rosina (and her daughter) continued to farm Rosewood until her death in 1906. 

With the booming development of Richmond’s Northside at the turn of the century, prominent Richmond businessmen, Lewis Ginter and Joseph Bryan (publisher of Richmond Times at the time), created large residential neighborhoods. After Bryan’s death in 1908, his widow, Belle Stewart Bryan, purchased Rosewood at a public auction. Then, she donated the land to the city as a memorial and for use as a public park. 

Then over the years, the Richmond City Council transformed the farm into a park.  The park’s condition deteriorated over the years until the mid-1990s when concerned citizens organized the Friends of Bryan Park (FoBP) group to improve and preserve the park. Today the park is a joint effort between the City of Richmond Parks & Rec and FoBP.

Our Visit – Playground

For our visit to Bryan Park, we drove through the main Hermitage Rd entrance passing under the massive granite archways. I stayed straight, relying on map memory (not the signage), to park in a small gravel lot near the playgrounds. The kids jumped out and ran across the field to the playground area. 

The playground features fun climbing structures, a large shaded teeter totter, tot swings, regular swings, and a large jungle gym. The jungle gym features a tree-themed design with unique climbing ladders, rock wall, and twisty and straight slides. The kids loved alternating between the twisty slide and climbing areas.

Hiking & Creek

After exhausting the playground, we consulted Google Maps to find a sandy splashing area along Jordan’s Branch. Thinking we had the spot realized, we hopped into our cars and drove up the street closer to Shelter #1. We walked along the left side of Shelter #1 on Young’s Pond Ln and turned left onto a trail opening at the bottom of the small hill. The narrow trail meandered through the woods with the creek to the right. We wanted to find an easy access point to the creek with sandy areas on the opposite side. After 1/2 mile hike through the woods we succumbed to hungry voices and picnicked on the trail. While little people ate lunch, a few of us ran ahead to find the easy creek access. We stopped a little too soon – the easy creek access was less than 50 yards ahead. 

Following our picnic lunch, we headed to the easy access and crossed the shallow parts to the sandy banks. The kids loved splashing in the creek, looking for tadpoles, and walking in the sand. It was a really warm day, so the cool water was very welcoming.

After splashing, we headed back across the bank to brush off dirt and walk back to the cars. Unbeknownst to us, we happened upon a shortcut on the way back and came out at the trailhead on Jordan’s Branch Ln. We quickly walked to the parking lot and then drove to Ardent Craft Ales for some much deserved beer and snacks (New England IPA was my fave).

I always enjoy discovering a new (to me) Richmond park because of its ties to the area’s rich history. Even though Bryan Park was a little overgrown, it’s nice the great citizens of FoBP and community partners support the park’s preservation. Be sure to check out their events page for how to volunteer or attend a program! I’d love to return to the park (sans kids) and follow the self-guided tour map or admire the azaleas in full bloom.

Additional Resources:

Thumbs up: park’s rich history, beautiful rolling hills and old trees, unique natural features, variety of recreational activities, fun playground area

Thumbs down: overgrown areas, poor signage

Durant Nature Preserve: White House Road & South Lakeside Trail

This past Spring we took advantage of warmer days and met friends at Durant Nature Preserve for easy family hiking (about one total mile), playground time and a picnic at the nearby Compass Rose Brewery. Durant Nature Preserve is a quiet, woodsy park with hiking trails, lakes for fishing, playgrounds, a nature play space, butterfly garden, open fields, great engaging programs, and more. We’ve explored this park several times in the past, and love discovering something new each time. For this visit, we drove to the park’s north entrance at 8305 Camp Durant Rd and parked near the small open field to access White House Road Trail.

White House Road Trail is a wide, unpaved trail in a heavily wooded section of the park. Leaves and pine needles covered most of the trail, and its flat surface made it easy for kiddo running. The kids enjoyed sprinting ahead to find flora and fauna. Most of their findings consisted of moss, sticks, and listening for birds. Then, we crossed over the small gravel path that separates the lakes and turned left towards the South Lakeside Trail. 

South Lakeside Trail is a narrow dirt trail that meanders up and down along the south side of the Lower Lake. The kids enjoyed crossing small streams, finding pine cones, and throwing rocks into the lake. The trail’s gentle banks make it easy for younger children to access the water’s edge. After finishing our half mile hike along South Lakeside Trail, we walked across the lake to the playground. Finally, we finished our morning outing with a quick drive to Compass Rose Brewery for beers and a picnic lunch. 

Additional Resources:

Thumbs up: quiet outdoorsy park, easy family hiking, variety of activities to do, easy access to water’s edge

Thumbs down: lacks helpful trail signage

Umstead Park: Oak Rock Trail

In January we headed with friends to Umstead Park to explore the super kid-friendly Oak Rock Trail, which is only 1/2 mile long. This is a great hike for young families or large groups with young kids. The trail has easy access to clean restrooms and picnic tables, and shallow stream access for water fun in the warmer months. It’s also part of the Kids in Parks TRACK Trails program that provides self-guided brochures for outdoor adventures.

We accessed Umstead Park from the Highway 70/Glenwood Ave entrance at 8801 Glenwood Ave. Recalling the mobile map, we drove past the Visitor Center and then parked in the first parking lot on the left. Unfortunately there weren’t signs from the main road directing you to the trail. After parking, we walked straight, following the signs for Oak Rock Trail and Kids in Parks.

Since it was wintertime, the leaves covered the ground making it a little tricky to notice tree roots. Luckily, the girls heeded our suggestion for walking slowly. We zig-zagged over the small creek several times, throwing sticks and stones into the water and looking for tadpoles. The girls also enjoyed hopping on large stones to cross the streams.

Even though the trail is short, we spent extra time listening and looking for birds, picking up leaves, and finding moss. The girls enjoyed looking at the tangled tree roots coming out of the ground near the creek and the fallen trees along the way. At the end of the trail we enjoyed a picnic lunch while the girls traversed a large fallen tree. The nearby restrooms were clean and easily accessible. 

Thumbs up: easy family hike, great for young kids, self-guided scavenger hunt brochure, plenty of picnic tables, creek for splashing

Thumbs down: poor signage to trail from main park road

Forest Hill Park (Richmond, Va)

forest hill parkLast fall we headed to Richmond for a little man’s 1st birthday party. Before the big party we headed with friends and all our littles to Forest Hill Park in Richmond, Va. Forest Hill Park is located south of the James River at 4021 Forest Hill Ave. It features an amazing farmers market open during the summer and fall months, paved walking trails, playgrounds, a pond, unpaved bike trails through the woods, wide open fields, picnic shelters and tennis courts. If you’re looking for a fun morning outing for the family, this is the place!

Once an estate owned by different families and then an amusement park, the City of Richmond bought the land in 1933 and turned it into the present-day urban park. They preserved some of the old stone buildings including the circa 1840s Stone House and old stone gazebo with fire pits by the pond that once served as a warming hut for ice skaters.

DSC_0163Farmers Market, Trail Walking & Pond

During our visit we parked at the northern entrance along New Kent Ave and first walked through the farmers market. We visited with the woolly sheep, watched a short acrobatic demo, bought coffee and donuts, and admired the local artisan’s goods. We enjoyed our breakfast goodies at the old brick shelter near the entrance and then walked down the adjacent paved loop trail.

The loop trail starts off wide and downhill, and surrounded by dense forest. The beautiful morning sun casted warm glows and soft textures – perfect for documenting our walk with the little babes and friends. The kids enjoyed watching mountain bikers hit the trails in the woods. We walked to the hexagonal stone shelter (formerly a warming hut for ice skaters) near the pond so the kids could feed the ducks. After exhausting our bread supply, we continued walking along the flat trail that soon shifted uphill. Near the top of the hill the trail narrowed as it opened to large rolling fields. We meandered along the trail passing picnickers and large, sparse oak trees until we arrived at the playground.

Playground

DSC_0222The playground features two play structures divided by age group and swings for all ages. The younger child playground contains slides, a spiral ladder, and nearby teeter totters. The older child playground contains steeper slides, arched ladders, double “racing” slides, monkey bars and zipline. The kids loved racing each other down the slides and swinging across the monkey bars. The playground’s hardwood mulch surface lessened the monkey bar falls. The original 1840s Stone House, picnic tables and tennis courts are also just a short walk away. 

After a long time on the playground, we continued on the trail back to the parking lot. Though we walked about 1.5 miles, the full loop trail is about 3.2 miles. The northern section of the trail connects to the Reedy Creek Trail and feeds into the much larger James River Park System. The James River Park System contains acres of shoreline for fishing, biking, running, walking, rafting, and canoeing. I’m excited to explore the river during my next trip to Richmond and see first-hand its importance to the large biking and running community of Richmond.

Thumbs Up

beautiful scenery, open fields, playground features, variety of vendors at farmer’s market, wide trails, preserved stone buildings

Thumbs Down

lack of restrooms near playground