Some hiking enthusiast turn their noses up to city parks. They are not in wilderness areas, or even a rural county. Except for somewhere like Pittsburgh or San Francisco (I guess), there are no significant elevation changes. Urban and nature are two terms that do not seem to match very well.
To those hiking snobs out there can continue to act that way about the City of Newport News that has two very good parks with great trails. Yesterday, I took my Teen Society Of Young Orthodox (Teen SOYO) for a day outdoors at the Mariner’s Museum Park and the Noland Trail. Firstly, the park is tucked neatly away from the main thoroughfares of I-64, Jefferson, and Warwick Avenues. This area of the city is fairly quiet with Christopher Newport University, Riverside Hospital, and the Virginia Living Museum not far away. In case of foul weather, the Mariner’s Museum is a fantastic place to visit. It was raining off and on for most of the day. Two of boys are Boy Scouts. There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing. We had rain jackets; the hike was on.
It was well worth the almost 5 mile loop (we took the short cut as I was a little pressed for time). The bridges and overlooks offered serene vistas of Lake Maury. The foliage was not in full peak. But, evidence of the coming autumn color was all around us. There were great blue heron active as well as Canada geese. The Lion Bridge made for a great contrast between the quiet lake and a white-capped James River. Naturalist that I pretend to be, I found the stand of juvenile long leaf pines to be very interesting.
The hike was more of a bonding hike for this motley crew of teens. Of the half that live in Chesapeake, two are priest kids who play basketball with one of the Greek Orthodox Churches in Tidewater. Another plays saxophone in the marching band. A pair of brothers from the peninsula include our president and Eagle Scout with his lady friend. His brother is following his footsteps and has published a book of poetry. I could have easily bombarded them with my outdoor educator’s volume of knowledge. Taking and reading “Prayers by the Lake” every quarter mile would have been another option of overkill. Instead, I let them enjoy the trail and themselves; sharing a few things about nature and prayer.
No, the weather was not what I wanted it to be. The last time I took a walk with someone was with Mother Katherine Weston, a Serbian Orthodox Nun from Indianapolis. We had great weather. But, we walked along a 4-lane road to a very small trail in from of a school in Columbia SC. Conditions of the natural world are not always the picture perfect as a hike on the Appalachian Trail or Back Bay & False Cape. What matters most is that you step out and, when possible, have someone to walk with. The same can be said for prayer, in a way. Make the step and you will always find someone walking with you.