Ever searching for free adventure within city limits, I decided to spend a day exploring what nature spaces Philadelphia has to offer. The trip had its highs and lows.
Part I: Nature is Pretty
Adventure Pal Allison and I made the trek to Northwest Philly past LaSalle University to visit the Awbury Arboretum. Featured in the PEX Pass, these 55 acres are home to the historic Francis Cope House and tons of trees and plants. What’s the big deal about a bunch of trees? Well, I don’t know about you, but I get mad depressed when I go too long without seeing something natural. While I appreciate Temple’s attempt at creating green spaces, the manicured trees on Beury Beach just don’t cut it. Awbury’s land, in contrast, is wild and untamed.
The main point of the Arboretum is really just to preserve nature, by which I mean that the only thing to do if you’re visiting in the middle of a Tuesday is wander around and pretend that you’re home in Chester County (if you’re me, that is). That was just fine with us. We followed the beaten paths; we traipsed through Haines Field; we explored the roped off section – oops – that led to more and more trees. The visit was accented by the day’s lovely weather, and it was difficult to not feel romantic about it all.
It turns out that on some summer evenings Awbury holds workshops like Introduction to Yoga and How to Speak Dog, and community events like Picnic in the Garden, which is hosted by the East Mt. Airy Neighbors. Also, for kids, there are summer camps – like one called Camp Katniss, where 9- to 13-year-olds can learn to survive in the wilderness like their favorite Hunger Games winner. (Can I pass for a pre-teen?) Those relying on public trans can take either the 16 or the L bus north and walk for a few minutes, but the most convenient route is by car, as parking is available right on the premises.
Part II: Nature is Elusive
Inspired by the world’s beauty, Allison and I decided to continue our nature adventure by checking out Fairmount Park. I’ve driven past it many times while on the exits of 76 or lost in West Philly and have always wanted to get out and really explore.
That being said, I have never understood Fairmount Park. I know that there must be some sort of center in some stretch of it, but it is apparently hiding from (only) me. Armed with Siri and Allison’s faint recollection of swimming in a creek, somewhere, we drove along some roads until we saw horses instead of skyscrapers, and deemed ourselves as having found it what we were looking for.
We parked at the roundabout of the Chamounix Hostel and began following a very faint, very dirty, very steep path. It’s probably my fault for wearing flats on a nature adventure, but I had to move cautiously in order to avoid sliding down an extremely plant-ridden hill into possibly a creek or possibly unknown doom. It was around this time that I began to suspect that the outdoors and I were not meant for a long-term relationship.
We then got back in the car and drove a few hundred yards down the road until we saw some park benches, where we decided to sit for a bit. The thing about random, secluded benches at the edge of the city, however, is that other people will likely be sitting around them too. They may be looking to relax after a nice walk, like you, or they may be doing something sinister. Upon recognizing that I had developed a grouchiness that was bordering on paranoia, we decided that it was time to give up on Fairmount Park.
Part III: Nature Doesn’t Like Me
There’s only so much tranquil greenery a girl can take. My legs were covered in little red bumps, I was hungry, and Allison wouldn’t let me drink the wine I had in my car because we were in public and that’s illegal or whatever. So, we went home, me reminded of why I moved to the city in the first place. Of course I’m grateful that places like Awbury exist, but if I’m being quite honest, I’m much happier when experiencing them in doses. Small ones, preferably.