An outdoor adventure only half an hour away

By EMMA WEINERT | March 16, 2017

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COURTESY OF EMMA WEINERT Hikers cheerfully march across a log at Oregon Ridge Park, showing that fun can be had even in the cold.

Once upon a yesteryear, there were signs of spring in the air. This made the thought of hiking this past weekend enticing (a few weeks ago).

As a member of the Experiential Education program here at Hopkins, each year, we lead a hike with our newly accepted members to find leaders for our Pre-Orientation program. This past Saturday was that hike, and the weather was not on our side.

Though it was seasonally cold, the biting wind and chill temperatures were unwelcome early on a Saturday morning.

Before the hiking portion of the day began, a quick pit-stop at the Waverly Farmers’ Market was necessary.

Even through the surprisingly harsh wind, smiles were plentiful, and there was a charming community atmosphere. After grabbing the essential milk and eggs from the local dairy farm, it was time to brave the great outdoors.

For the hike, we decided to go to Oregon Ridge Nature Center. The center is about half an hour outside of Baltimore by car, and it is a facility of the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks.

Sadly, I did not see Leslie Knope or Ron Swanson while I was there. However, there were some pretty cool other things to see.

Due to its proximity to Baltimore, there is somewhat of an urban feel on some portions of the trails. The sound of cars and the sight of telephone poles are not too far away.

However, for most of the hike, we were surrounded by trees, away from the everyday stresses of city living and college life. The trails at the Oregon Ridge Nature Center are not particularly challenging, so it is a great place to check out if you just want a short break from Baltimore or the Hopkins bubble.

Apart from all of the trails that you can check out, there is also a nature center with local wildlife and plants. They have all types of animals at the center ranging from turtles to chickens to hawks. There is a pair of geese that is not particularly friendly toward human visitors. If you go near their enclosure, they aggressively squawk at you.

However, there is also a much friendlier barred owl that will quietly stare at you. The nature center focuses on educating its visitors about local wildlife and plant life and how human actions can positively or negatively impact them.

Better than the aggressively squawky geese was the opportunity to connect with my fellow hikers. We discussed topics ranging from the rise of conspiracy theories to Schindler’s List to the value of mediation in a modern lifestyle.

The simple context of being in an outdoors setting, no matter how close to urban reality, let us forego our worries for a time. We wondered about the legitimacy of the moon-landing and the prospect of colonizing Mars. We let our minds wander.

For just a little bit, we let go of what we were “supposed to” worry about and simply enjoyed our surroundings and each other’s company.

We cannot all make it out to the Oregon Ridge Nature Center every weekend or to the plethora of other outdoors spaces in the surrounding Baltimore area. But sometimes letting your mind wander for a bit while you’re under a tree could be just as good.

Not all nature adventures need to be earth-shattering backpacking treks. Some of them can just be in your backyard! And who knows, maybe someday you will get out to go see those squawky geese.

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