- Penny Perkins, Conservation Lands Director
Looking outside the window on a cloudy cool fall or winter day tempts me to stay bundled up on the couch but my soul still needs a recharge with nature therapy. So I will bundle up and head out.
Long Creek Trail offers vistas of the Middle Raccoon River that you don’t get with the full canopy cover of summer. While you might not see other people, you won’t be alone. A variety of birds such as woodpeckers, the tufted titmouse, and black capped chickadees are likely to give song and activity to the surrounding landscape. The iconic cardinal adds color to a sometimes drab background or a great contrast to the beautiful white and green background snow with cedar trees provide on sunny snowy winter days.
I know I will see areas where cedars, dogwoods, and other native shrubs grow, usually ecotones or edges between the forest and the prairies. There cedar waxwings enjoy a midday snack. Winter is a time of survival when food can be scarce for many species. I will also see birds snacking on bush honeysuckle. These berries have less nutritional value than native species and I am reminded of the work that still needs to be done to clear invasive species from the land.
If you head out on a winter outing, you might get lucky enough to follow turkey prints in the snow, have deer stand by as you meander past them on the trail, or have an eagle soar above. If you really get lucky you can spot a resident bobcat. (The Bobcat Trail got its name for a reason.)
If you are not up for a winter hike, just driving along Fig Avenue at dawn or dusk is likely to reward you with some nature therapy - being greeted by pheasant crossing between our prairies and fields. When the sun sets, you can take advantage of the dark skies at Star Field. Some of the clearest skies are in winter, and you might even get to enjoy the calling of the owls as they pair up.
Regardless of how you choose to enjoy Whiterock during winter, the rewards can be many if you step outside and dare to take an adventure.