On a warm winter day last week, my husband, Maggie the super dog, and I enjoyed a magical afternoon walk on the trails at the Jacksonville Arboretum. This delightful preserve, reclaimed from the edge of a former waste dump, has been creatively transformed into a multi-use park and education center. Husband Mark, a master gardener and member of the area Native Plant Society, participated in that transformation, along with many other tireless volunteers. They cleaned up trash, cleared and leveled trails, labeled some trees and plants, and selectively planted others--carefully adding only true native specimens (plants that would have greeted the first European visitors to Florida centuries ago). The 120 acre arboretum is notable for housing several distinct ecological zones in an accessible, walkable whole.
We hiked the easy lake trail and then ventured onto another trail above a ravine, where several streams flowed through the area. The experience was fun (doggie delight adds a wonderful dimension), refreshing, and renewing. Although we were within the city limits of Jacksonville, Florida, it felt like a faraway adventure into forests, scrub land, and meadows. I was particularly grateful to be able to walk for over an hour and a half--exercise that would have been difficult and painful before my recent total right hip replacement. It feels miraculous to consider further exploration and gradually greater walking distances in this amazing coastal North Florida region. And, of course, I took a number of reference photos for future paintings, so stay tuned for what that might bring.
For more information about the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens, the web site is here. Other than that, the photos can complete the story of a wonderful day.
Question of the day: What are some of your favorite walks or hikes near home?