While I’ve always appreciated the outdoors, these days, I have an even greater appreciation of getting grounded in nature. I have been working from home since March of this year and have seen the stress/impact of the pandemic on friends and family. The ease of having a quick get-together or dinner party has gone by the wayside. One of the positives I’ve seen is that the pandemic has sparked a renewed energy in the outdoors. It is one of the few ways to spend time with others safely and to take a break from the headlines. Pictures from camping trips, hikes, and socially distanced backyard hangouts have filled my social media feeds.
When you’re stuck working from home or home isn’t providing the solitude it used to, getting grounded in nature has been one of the few healthier ways to deal with the drastic changes, frustration, and grief of this year. Beyond taking a walk around my neighborhood, it has been nice to return to favorite outdoor areas and discover some new ones here in the past few months.
I recently joined a bicycle group organized by Sybil Gibbs for BIPOC women, “Black Girls Do Bike”. Our first ride was on the Lawrence Loop, which was my first time biking a trail on the loop. We departed from Hobbs Park and rode through the Burroughs Creek Trail. This trail is perfect for various experience levels to bike, walk, or roll. The city even installed outdoor fitness equipment along the trail in 2018, which, outside of the pandemic, is a wonderful addition. We rode the loop past the Baker Wetlands, which provided a beautiful view with wildflowers breezily swaying alongside the trail. Unexpectedly, we also came across Van Go’s 2020 Fall JAMS mural, currently a work-in-progress that will be a great addition to see along the trail.
Although some of the usual summer events were cancelled, South Parkhas still provided a reprieve for some relaxing outdoor time. I have mainly used the area to have socially distanced picnics with a friend. The simplicity of trading stories, spread out on a blanket under a tree, while enjoying po’boy sandwiches from Terrebonne is one of my favorite memories of the summer/fall.
Mutt Run has been an absolute staple for my dog, Frankie, and I. While Frankie enjoys being my desk buddy and getting plenty of attention all day, he still needs space to run around and the opportunity to play with other dogs. Mutt Run has been the best for a pup-date and exercise. The expansive area makes it easy to socially-distance and let your dog run around. I appreciate the outdoor time to get some exercise so that we’re both worn out and de-stressed by the time we get home.
Baker Wetlandsremains my favorite outdoor area in Lawrence to hike and view wildlife. You never know what critters will be pop up. The last time I was there, Frankie and I stumbled across what was possibly a Common Musk Turtle, but I’m no expert! I enjoy the various benches along the trails as an opportunity to take a seat and really take it all in; while Frankie sniffs around or plops down to take a break as well.
I think a lot of us have been exhausted and overwhelmed by the numerous events of 2020. I appreciate living in a place where we have parks, trails, and natural habitats to enjoy together and independently. There’s a place/space for self-reflection or chats with a friend. There’s a trail to walk down, exchanging a quick nod, smiling eyes, and shared understanding with a passing stranger along the way. Overall, it’s great that Lawrence provides an outdoor space for anyone needing to exercise, take a relaxing stroll, or just hang out.
With the mantra “Leave No Trace” in mind, Marissa Marshall loves to walk and jog around the parks and trails of Lawrence with her energetic pug mix, Frankie. She balances dual roles at the University of Kansas, being an employee and nontraditional student. Because Marissa believes that finding outdoor adventures is for everyone, she appreciates Lawrence’s efforts to make outdoor areas/activities accessible and inclusive.