Monday, May 21, 2007

Enjoying Nature at a Favorite Stop

There are two places we visit in Athens: my parents' house and Memorial Park. We rarely make the trip to Athens without visiting both (and certainly, I'd be in trouble if I visited the latter without visiting the former!). Memorial Park is this marvelous sanctuary smack in the middle of a residential area of the college town.

The grounds of the park surround two large ponds. Today the population of geese seemed quite high as did the number of turtles sunning on rocks or poking their little noses out of the water. A lovely trail follows the edge of both ponds, transected by a bridge which offers a perfect vantage from which to watch and feed the geese. The kids love watching the geese descend upon the area when they begin throwing crumbs into the water. And they are fascinated as they watch the fish and turtles fight for their share of crumbs as well.

Picnic tables dot the landscape around the trail, and at one end a picnic pavilion is backdrop to a playground, a favorite spot for the kids. I remind them that we have a playground at home so we can spend more time doing other things while we're at the park, but of course it's always fun to play on a different playground.

The most unique part of Memorial Park lies just up the hill from the pond. A small zoo of all things is practically hidden among the trees. Sponsored by a university program, you can't beat the price of the zoo: it's free! There are various birds: owls, hawks, and a bald eagle. The highlight of the park is the bears, although unfortunately today they were taking a mid-morning siesta. At least the big cat let us in on his nap! The most fun animals there are probably the otters. They're playful and love to flirt with a crowd. Today one of the pair came up to the fence and stood on his hind legs to get a better look at us. Who came to see whom anyway?

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