Thursday, June 21, 2018

Winkler Botanical Reserve - A Nature Oasis in a Suburban Desert

Today I found myself helping out a fellow foster parent by watching the 7 year old in their care. I suppose I could have plopped the kid in front of the TV and done work for the morning, but instead I used the time to explore a local site I've been curious about for years: Winkler Botanical Reserve.

I packed a few snacks, a couple of water bottles and a makePad, and just like that C. and I were in the car heading to Winkler. I'm not sure how much of a hiker C. is, so I figured the relatively small size of Winkler would work to our advantage. And if it was a dud, no big deal, we'd go elsewhere. Right before we pulled out of the driveway, I handed C. the makePad and told him he could use it to create whatever he wanted. By the time we had driven the 15 minutes to the entrance, he had found WalkBand and was strumming away on the virtual guitar.

Our walk through Winkler was truly delightful. There's no maps or signs; nor is the area large enough to get lost in. I let C. pick a direction and off we went. In short order, we found a variety of colorful flowers to snap pictures of. It's amazing how secluded the place is, you really do forget that you're adjacent to office buildings and route 395. What the trails lack in length they make up for in woodsy authenticity.

Along with pretty flowers, there's also some interesting features to explore: a ropes course tower (which, alas, you can't climb), a pond, a couple of waterfalls, a log cabin and a sort of abandoned cellar. I suppose you could turn up your nose at these discoveries, as they aren't especially flashy. But with a bit of imagination and the right mindset they're truly fun. We walked slowly, with both of us snapping plenty of pics.

If that had been the extent of Winkler, it would be considered a gem. But wait, there's more.

There's also a Geocache located in the park. Best of all, it's the right level of difficulty to find (not obvious, but not wickedly difficult), and the container is large enough that it contained a number of interesting items. C. had never geocached before, and relished the idea of treasure hunting. He walked away with three Turkish coins, which might not be worth the value of 3 gold doubloons (OK, they're worth about 53¢), but I'm sure they're far more lucky. The presence of the Geocache is really the icing on an already delicious cake.

As we were nearly finished walking the perimeter of the pond, C. announced that there was a deer across the water. Sure enough, there was a bambi-like fawn just chilling across the way. In a trip which didn't include seeing much wildlife, seeing the deer was a real find.

Whether you want to take the kids out for an accessible yet rustic adventure, or you just need a dose of vitamin N, Winkler is a terrific option. It may be relatively small, but it's truly an oasis.

As we were driving back home, C. excitedly announced that he had 'put a hat and eyes' on one of his flower pictures. Without any prompting, he had opened up PicSay, loaded the photo of his choice, and found the sticker functionality that let him create his masterpiece. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that a 7 year old can intuitively figure out features on a cell phone, but I have to say, it does give me hope for the future.

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