Winter Denial

Our warmest days are behind us. Daylight Savings Time has ended, even if most of us haven’t gotten around to updating our clocks yet. We’ve fallen back into boots, scarves, fleece-lined tights and the sweet relief of knowing there are six glorious months separating us from the phrase “bikini-ready.” We’ll soon start making excuses for why we can’t leave the house on a Wednesday night, even though we know our only real excuse is that our social lives prefer hibernation.

It’s bound to happen. It happens every year.

Let’s fight it for a little while longer.

Ignore the freeze warning we had Halloween night. Last Sunday was sunny and pleasant, if a bit chilly. Monday afternoon was breezy and beautiful. There’s still time! Oh, please for the love of all that is right in the world, let there still be time to enjoy the outdoors before snow and ice.

Alternatively, I could just gird up my loins and stop complaining about a little snow, but that is unlikely to happen. My brain has been trained to believe that anything lower than 70 degrees Fahrenheit is cold. Anything below freezing temperature is incomprehensible. How do people live like that?

I’m digressing. Back to the outdoors! This week I visited one of my favorite outdoors spaces: The Parklands at Floyd Fork. This ambitious park system, which is comprised of four distinct but connected parks, offers a variety of ways to stay active. There are paved paths for walking and riding your bike, including a decent chunk of the Louisville Loop. There are hiking and walking paths through trees, next to the creek and through wetlands and fields. Length and toughness accommodate any fitness or laziness level. There are picnic tables throughout and fishing along the creek. When the creek has enough water, which is to say not right now, canoeing and floating downstream is also an option.

If all that sounds terrible, there’s also the popular Marshall Playground and Sprayground for the kiddos, as well as the cleverly titled Barklands dog park, which is complete with a row of bright yellow fire hydrants just waiting to be peed on. I imagine that’s what doggy heaven looks like. The playground and sprayground offer a park experience more typical of the structured city parks many of us are used to.

While the trails and paths of The Parklands never shift like some magical staircase in a Harry Potter movie, every time I visit it feels like a new experience because of how dramatically the landscape changes. During the spring and summer, wildflowers lined the path through the park. The Beckley Creek opening to the park welcomed me and all other visitors with an explosion of colors. This past weekend, that same entrance is a sea of autumnal browns from the winter wheat growing throughout the park.

All of this by design, of course. The naturists and park enthusiasts have painstakingly crafted the parks into something that lend them to repeated visits. From the get-go, they wanted something that Frederick Law Olmsted – who designed the parks system that those of us on the interior of the Watterson Expressway know, love and frequent–would be proud of. From everything I have seen, so far, that vision has come to life quite gloriously.

In the summer, a walk on a trail alongside the creek is like stepping into another world. The tree canopy overhead blocks the rest of the world and you find yourself engulfed. Six months later, the leaves have changed colors and fallen, leaving the earth crackling and crispy below your feet, with nothing but blue skies and bare branches above. Even the difference between the start of fall, when the leaves were just turning, to this week when the air is crisper and we are reminded that winter is coming is striking.

The rule of thumb when it comes to The Parklands should be to visit once, then come back regularly. Many within our community are already happily following that rule. The park announced this week that The Parklands has already reached its goal to have 1 million visitors this calendar year. With nearly two full months left to go, they are sure to blow past their initial goal.

I don’t know what their 2015 goal is, but it will surely have to be higher. The remaining areas of the park, which are currently still under construction and cleanup, are scheduled to open next year. They will include an extensive trail system for mountain bikers, hikers and cross-country runners, as well as gorgeous minimally altered stretches of nature complete with beautiful waterfalls. Put another way, there will be even more reasons to visit this valuable community resource in the future.