As temperatures begin to drop, you may catch an extra whiff of an autumn scent in the air. The kind that makes you daydream of walking in a park, admiring a golden sunset that brings to life the vibrant red, orange, and brown leaves.
It’s the crisp air of autumn that tickles my face and the crunching leaves under my feet that indicate this might be the best season to go hiking and enjoy the outdoors.
And why not? There’s nothing more I crave than to go out and breathe some fresh air. I’ve always found that my best reflections happen when surrounded by nature.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of time recently to reflect on many things. Maybe too many. But nothing brings a sense of relief and reassurance like walking in a park to the sound of chirping birds and the rattle of leaves as the wind blows.
It’s those quiet moments – the ones where it’s just you and nature – that ground me and remind me to slow down. Take a deep breath. Let go. Let go of the stress, worry and anxiety I accumulated during the months of uncertainty and upheaval caused by the pandemic.
My latest adventure took me to Oregon Ridge Park and Nature Center in Cockeysville, Maryland. The park encompasses 1,043 acres of open space and other family-fun features, including a playground, posted fitness area, several short hiking trails, picnic pavilion, and much more.
I parked my car by the playground. Beside me were a group of bike riders sitting on the lot, laughing and listening to music that blasted from inside their cars. Some were talking about the ride that had taken place earlier that day. Others cheered on one of the group who got up and started running towards the head of a nearby trail.
In my earlier research, I learned that in the early 1830s, iron ore and marble stone were discovered in this area. A decade later, Oregon Ridge became the site of a successful iron ore and marble mining operation. It didn’t take long for some locals to construct an iron smelting furnace, along what is now known as the Oregon Branch Stream.
In addition, Oregon Ridge is listed as one of the several lost ski areas in the Mid-Atlantic region. This became evident once I saw the remnants of a couple of old red rope tow poles. And although these are clearly no longer in use, the 140-foot high hill behind offers an expansive area for what many still use today as a sledding hill in snowy winters.
I walk up the hill to get the view from above. Once I’m at the top and I turn around, I catch a beautiful glimpse of Cockeysville and the vast land around the park. At the bottom stands an empty stage, which hosts a lineup of talented local musicians. Next to it is the Dinner Theatre, which is temporarily closed.
I walk further up the hill and trek along the Loggers Trail, which runs approximately two miles long around the park. From that trail, it’s easy to embark on the St. James Campbell and Ivy Hill Trail (the longest in the park, running exactly 2.3 miles long), the Laurel Trail, the Virginia Pine Trail, the Ridge Trail, and the Lake Trail.
From there, I spot the Nature Center. If you’re looking for fun activities to do on your own or with your family, be sure to check out the nature programs and special events. Because some events book quickly, it’s best to also check out their Facebook page for the latest details and updates.
Some of the fun activities you can join include yoga by the lake, nature quest guided hikes, fall family hikes, an exploration adventure about skulls and bones, and bird watching.
I head out to the parking lot and see more children playing. Their laughter blends with the music from the group of bikers that is still sitting in the parking lot as I approach my car. And although I do enjoy the quiet moments, after months of uncertainty it almost feels like being back to normal again.
I take one more look to take in the moment with gratitude. A scene that I might have taken for granted before is now something that fills me with joy and hope.
Oregon Ridge offers a variety of exhibits explaining the history, wildlife, and natural environment of the area.