You always hear tale of fall colors and spring green… and then you’ll hear people speak begrudgingly about the gray of winter. I’m sure I may have even mentioned it before. But on a recent hike through Pope Lick Park, I changed my mind about winter.
The winter color palette, although subdued, is quite vast. With the leaves off their trees you can see much further and the sky itself is often a pale white or gray- leaving your other surroundings the opportunity to shine.
When I arrived at the Praire Preserve I could not believe how perfect and interesting the landscape was before me. There was depth. Contrast. Texture. And it was beautiful!
The grey sky met the orange and yellow tones of the prairie grasses before me. Even within the grasses you could see variation of shape and color. The trees protruded from the prairie toward the gray sky… and the meandering stream cut through the scene in a way that seemed to tie it altogether.
Instead of the expected dormancy and boring gray – or even the white of snow – my eyes were suddenly racing to take in everything before me. The wind whipped and I watched the grasses move in mass. Suddenly winter seemed very colorful and very alive.
I wish I had brought a real camera, as cell phone cameras don’t ever quite seem to capture everything they should. Maybe you’ll just have to go look for yourself!
Now that my senses were in tune to my surroundings I headed into the Big Beech Woods. Although I’ve walked it many times, this trails seems to change so much with the seasons, and it’s almost like a new hike each time. I was excited for what I’d see.
Bark is what I first noticed. In the winter, with the leaves off the trees, you can’t help but look at the patterns of tree bark and the gnarled stretches of the branches toward the sky. I recognize many of our common trees – cedars, beech, oak, hickory and even thorned honey locust, with startling spikes wrapped up its trunk. The leaves of the young beech trees still clung to their branches – in a beautiful orange hue that popped from an otherwise bare forest surrounding me.
Fallen trees with deep green moss growing on them lay over top dried yellow, red, and brown leaves. Every once in a while I came across deer. They had always spotted me before I them. We’d stare at once another, perfectly still, their ears slightly twitching and their frantic breath creating a fog beneath their nose. I wondered how long we might stare at one another, if neither of us made a move. I hardly had time to wonder before they’d bolt through the forest, the soft white of their tails bouncing up the hill before quickly disappearing.
But some sights you can take in for a bit longer. In the higher areas of the trail, above Floyds Fork, you really experience the benefit of a winter view. I paused here for a bit and leaned against a large tree, its base covered in a green moss that almost looked like a winter blanket. I stared down at the cool-looking stream, flowing steadily and reflecting the white bark of the sycamores that line its edges.
By the time I’d hiked the entire trail and emerged back into the Prairie Preserve, I was warm and ready to shed layers. The gray crushed stone of the path led me to the white pavement of the Louisville Loop and over the bridge, with it’s rust-colored beams blending into the natural landscape as if it has been there forever.
About the Author
Ellen Doolittle Oost
Ellen has been the Director of Development at 21st Century Parks since April of 2015. In this role she oversees fundraising functions for The Parklands, including the annual fund/membership campaign, corporate sponsorships, supporting the Board of Directors, leading major fundraising events, and seeking grant and foundational support. It’s her goal to create multiple compelling opportunities for donors to support The Parklands, a donor-supported public park that does not receive tax dollar support on an annual basis but has four world-class parks free and open to the public 365 days a year.
Although fairly new to this role, Ellen is intimately familiar with The Parklands as she spent the previous 3 years as the Communications Manager in charge of public relations, social media, community outreach and marketing for the parks. Before joining 21st Century Parks she spent three years with Louisville-based advertising agency Doe-Anderson. Her background also includes marketing and account service roles at Anheuser-Busch InBev, PriceWeber advertising agency, and direct mail marketing at Traffic Builders, Inc. Ellen is a graduate of Marietta College where she studied advertising, public relations and marketing and played volleyball. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, camping, and traveling with her two mutts and her husband Andrew.