Take an early morning urban outing
Sunrise on Wagon Trail Park
By Carol Carpenter
RMC Communications Team
was hard to believe it was mid-April, but much snow had fallen the day
before. Yes, one of Colorado’s snowiest months can be April, and we
needed the precipitation but, still, it felt like time for an end to the
month’s on-and-off snowstorms and below freezing temperatures.
watched the fluffy, white flakes descend steadily for hours while
staying inside my southwest Denver condo, baking brownies partly to warm
the kitchen. The snow was beautiful, covering the mostly brown earth
and still-winter-dead trees. By the next day I was restless to get
outside for my regular pedestrian “outing” in Wagon Trail Park adjacent
to my complex.
love this small, unpretentious park any time of the year. I walk its
well-maintained footpath (no motorized vehicles allowed) several times a
week. The park contains a large, open field that is edged in part with
massive, old cottonwood trees. These stately trees get their water from a
small stream (a wild grass- and shrub-lined drainage ditch, actually)
where ducks sometimes paddle around.
|Snowy morning on Wagon Trail Park
are, thankfully, no noisy playgrounds, restrooms or other “civilized”
amenities in this park, just people walking their dogs, taking quiet
strolls or, less frequently, riding their bikes. This simple urban park
was one of the reasons I bought my condo; I could enjoy a regular,
nearby walk in a pleasant greenspace without having to drive my car to
get to it. (My commitment to reducing my carbon footprint is at least
one or more car-free days every week.)
there are houses, apartments, businesses and vehicle traffic in the
vicinity—this is the city after all—but some portions of the trail are
relatively quiet and isolated, especially in the early morning.
more adventurous souls might not consider my city-suburban walking
trail a real outing—which in Colorado usually means a mountain, lake or
river doesn’t it? But for those who prefer the state’s scenic peaks from
a distance or don’t care to hike steep inclines, our city and suburban
parks and trails—and the Denver metropolitan area has hundreds or more
of them—can be places to get a taste of the natural “outings” experience
close to home.
Long shadows on the snow
I took my walk that next April morning after the snowstorm, the shadows
were long as the sun’s rays splayed across the expansive whitescape.
The snow was pristine; it looked as if someone had sprinkled thousands
of tiny, sparkling diamonds all over it. Leafless, gray-brown,
white-lined tree branches punctured the gradually brightening sky. This
early in the day there were no other footprints on the snow-covered
heard the snow crunch under my boots, and I breathed in the cold, brisk
air. Water gurgled in some spots along the stream that were not frozen
over. An unseen songbird chirped (perhaps “chattered” in the cold would
be more accurate) in a treetop. A few (warmer) days ago, I had seen
several orange-breasted robins hopping about, but not today. A Northern
Flicker tap…tap…tapped his noisy presence. One large, dark-capped bird
with a ruffled tan breast—possibly a Cooper’s Hawk?—perched immobile on a
high tree branch as if frozen there.
and there a lone squirrel skittered up or down a tree trunk or jumped
around in the puffy snow drifts, probably looking for an edible tidbit.
Not having much luck.
looked for, but did not see that morning, the stray “neighborhood”
coyote who sometimes trots along the path or pokes his gray head up
through the line of bushes and trees that separate the park from my
condo, most likely looking for breakfast. Squirrel over easy, maybe? I’m
always glad my kitty stays permanently indoors when I see this wild
animal’s wily eyes.
All bundled up
passed only one other person in my hour-long walk that morning: a woman
with her dog. Both of us were so bundled up in heavy coats, scarves and
hats that we could barely see or nod to each other.
park is small, but its trail branches off at one end to another larger
city park with a children’s playground and picnic tables. It is also
adjacent to a public recreation center with a softball field and outdoor
swimming pool. I continued my lone and peaceful walk to these other two
areas, luxuriating in the silence.
told myself this crisp morning that I should do this more often; I
always get a different experience in any outdoors place when I am alone
in a quiet spot. If you are willing to get up early and, especially if
you are willing to tramp around in the rain or snow, you can find the
experience meaningful in a way that is not possible when the sun is
fully up, the temperatures are warm and the area is full of people and
dogs. It can be meditative alone.
yet, while I enjoyed my walk that cold April morning, I definitely felt
ready for warmer temperatures. As you read this in mid May, we on the
Front Range have “endured” more spring snow storms (the last one on May
Day). By now, hopefully, we will be inhaling the sweet fragrance of
lilacs, appreciating the colorful yellow daffodils and noting the spring
greening of the trees.
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