My headquarters for work is now on the Southside near Westover Hills, and I have nothing to complain about in terms of having many good nature walks within a short drive from the office.
The 100-acre Powhite Park is just more than two miles from work, and I’ve found that every now and then I need to take a walk to get exercise and feel the sun. Located just off Janke Road at the junction with Chippenham Parkway, it appears to be sparcely-visited, and that suits me fine.
Outdoors columnist Andy Thompson of the Richmond Times-Dispatch did the park justice in an article in February 2009. He talked about the great natural resource of the park:
Park in the lot off Jahnke Road opposite Chippenham Hospital and take the only trail offered. On one side is a new development, on the other Chippenham Parkway. Follow that a few hundred yards into the park and you’ll almost immediately be greeted by a boggy area with a bridge over it. Keep going, hugging the wetland to your left, and you won’t be able to miss the distinctive beaver-downed trees.
Spend a couple of hours there, standing stock still, and you just might steal a glimpse of the industrious dam builders in their self-made water world.
Thompson didn’t skip on his true passion for the park — the mountain bike trails:
It’s a great place for beginners to work on their skills without worrying about falling off a ledge or getting discouraged. But beginners rarely find Powhite on their own. Until recently, the 8-mile spider web of trails there was maintained by riders who enjoyed the park’s hidden-gem status. It was very do-it-yourself, and thus arose all manner of obstacles and skills challenges: Teeter-totters, skinnies, rickety bridges, log piles, and, the highlight, a ravine called “The Buzz” where riders dipped in and out at breakneck speed.
Almost all the trails that exist in the park are there because of mountain bikers, but the park still gets relatively little pedal traffic compared to other city green spaces. And anyone is free to walk or jog the trails. In all my trips there to bike, I can count on two hands the number of nonbikers I’ve passed.
I have hiked and biked there [including once accidentally allowing a log to smash a camera that was in my pocket], but my new appreciation for the park is the natural setting so close to my office. My last walk there was just after several days of rain and after most of the leaves had begun to fall.
The highlight of this day was an unexpected one: moss. The contrasting bright or deep green coloring against the brown bark of trees or the exposed grey granite boulders of the park really stuck out that day. Just the right mix of sunshine, clouds, shadows and dampness made the visual very natural and welcoming.
Walking the trail, I found myself not looking for fall foliage so much as just looking for the perfect patch of moss. After about 15 minutes — and about as deep on the out-and-back trail as I planned to go — I found a log with the right green carpet and the best lighting.
I don’t think I’m skilled enough yet as a photographer to fully know how to photograph things close-up. I’ve always been wide-angle scenery, not so much still or tight shots. This day made me think that I have a new angle and approach to my picture-taking.
Andy Thompson summed up the traffic within the park:
I’m not sure a huge influx of people will come to partake. Mountain bikers and beavers at Powhite Park benefit from a quirky paradox: The park sits near-empty most days because it’s cocooned by people. People whiz by on major roads. A hospital takes up most of one side. A small neighborhood sits on another. It’s just kind of hard to see.