By Lara Shannon, Wood’s Homes Community Engagement Co-ordinator
There is so much research that shows the mental health benefits of spending time in nature, but how do we get our kids out of the house and away from their devices? With my girls, who are 13 and 15, it is clear how beneficial it is for them to spend quality time in the outdoors every week.
They often resist when I bring up the idea of a walk in a forest, but then thank me for taking them once we are there. By the time we are on our way home they are happier, more relaxed and often inspired creatively by the experience.
It also helps me connect with them – the fresh air, the green, the squirrels chattering and the birds singing – these all bring us into the present where we share the moment and are truly together. A real chance for us to all have a break from the busyness of life and the compulsion to see what is going on in the world of social media.
I find the best way to motivate them to join me is to let them know the day before that the walk is part of the next day’s plan and to be firm when it’s time to leave, reminding them how much they will love it once we ‘get away.’
“A 15-minute walk in the woods causes measurable changes in physiology.”
– ‘This Is Your Brain on Nature’ National Geographic Magazine
Five great nature walks in Calgary:
Wood’s Homes’ Douglas Fir Trail – This trail takes you on a magical walk through an old growth forest. The trees here, some more than 400 years old, encompass the largest stand of Douglas firs east of the Rockies! The Board of Directors at Wood’s Homes long ago had this site designated as a heritage site.
Tip: You can reach the trail from the far west end of Bowness Park. Walk west until you are under the Stoney Trail Bridge, then turn left and walk 10 metres and the trail head will be on your left. You can take one of the hiking trails that heads up the hill through the peaceful forest, and near the top you find these amazing giants.
Bowmont Park – There are so many paths along the hills in Bowmont Park where you can see an amazing array of wildflowers, pick Saskatoon berries or head down to the river where you can sometimes see beavers as they gather branches for their homes and dams.
Tip: You can access this park from Varsity or Silver Springs. We often park just a block north of Value Village in Silver Springs, and head down into the ravine or along the bike path to the east.
Nosehill Park – This park (among the largest inner-city parks in Canada) has a huge variety of hiking and biking trails, and many off-leash areas. As you walk or ride your bike through the grasses and wildflowers, you can imagine you are out of the city and one with the sky. There is even a beautiful rock labrynth where you can do a wonderful walking meditation.
Tip: There are several parking lots. The one we use is off 14 Street just north of John Laurie Blvd NW (5620 14 Street NW).
Weaselhead Flats – There are dozens of paths to choose from here and so much diverse plant life. We have spent hours exploring, and always meet friendly chickadees and other birds. We love walking here, as it is especially beautiful at sunset. This is one of the best places to leave your daily life behind and really plug into nature.
Tips: Take your bike or rollerblades on the wide-paved pathway, or hike on the many pathways through the trees and bushes.
Fish Creek Park – This is by far the largest park in Calgary! We have been on so many trails in this park and there is so much to do! Click on the link to see a list of events and the many different places to park.
Tip: Fish Creek Park can be found on the south side of Woodlands, Canyon Meadows, Lake Bonaventure and Parkland.
We are so fortunate to live in a city with so many great places to experience nature. Whether walking, hiking, biking or cross-country skiing, your family can experience nature in every season and for every reason!
Wood’s Homes Recreation Outdoor Mentorship Program (ROMP) uses the power of nature to help the young people who live with us on their journey toward healing. These youth go hiking, camping, fishing, swimming, etc.. They even do their art in the outdoors. And wintertime is no less active – they go skiing, snowboarding and winter camping!
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family and community – let’s work together!