We took advantage of the nice weather to go see Graham Creek Nature Preserve (in Foley) for the first time. (Click through the slideshow above, if you'd like to see the rest of my photos. Donald took some, too, but we haven't processed those, yet.)
It's not spectacular-- no stunning waterfalls or other breathtaking views-- but it offers a nice little nature hike. Also, it's still under development, so it should get only better with time.
We took the 3-mile walking/cross country trail, and that was enough to remind us that it still gets warm in the middle of the day in September-- just enough to work up a good appetite for lunch. There are a few "open-air" picnic tables, and there are probably more under the pavilion, but we didn't look. (There were already cars parked there.) The picnic area was a quiet, peaceful spot in the shade. Of course, this was a Friday morning in early fall; it might be less quiet and peaceful on summer weekends. ;o)
Oh, and before I forget, the trail we took was very easy. There was one wet spot near the beginning, but other than that, nothing remotely difficult. Very level. Wide pathway. Mostly shaded (but that depends on the time of day, of course). Grass cut short. The grass was a little taller in the parts of the trail that skirt around the open field, but not terrible.
A good part of the trail involves walking around the edge of that huge field. I wasn't sure how I felt about that choice. It seems a little boring-- but on the other hand, you have a view instead of being closed in on all sides by pine trees (as you are for a short portion of the trail). Upon reflection, I think it provides some interesting variety from the typical "forest hike".
In addition to the walking/hiking trails, there's a 7.5-mile bicycling trail, lots of streams for canoeing/kayaking, a (developing) frisbee golf course, a small play area for children (also looks to be developing), a large open field (or two) ideal for kite-flying, and a very nice "bog" landscape where there were many pitcher plants growing.
(Sidenote: If you're interested in seeing pitcher plants in our area, I'd recommend the Graham Creek Nature Preserve over Tarkiln Bayou. Maybe we've just had bad luck/bad timing with Tarkiln, but they never seem to have nearly as many pitcher plants as this place did-- and here, instead of being on a railed boardwalk, you're right on level with them, which is nice if you want to get a closer look or take photos.)
The preserve is open from dawn until dusk-- but someone had a little pop-up tent set up, so I guess that camping is allowed. (Not sure...)
There's no entrance fee (yet).
It looked like they had fairly nice restroom facilities, but we didn't check them out. Still, nice to know they're available!
We saw a couple groups of people working while we were there-- one building something (no idea what) near the entrance and another setting up obstacles for a special running event that's coming up soon. (The "Creek Crawl". Click "Events" on the page linked above for more info.) Not long ago, they had another run-- something about zombies, where volunteers dressed as zombies tried to tag the runners. (No thanks, but can you imagine the adrenaline rush of running from someone? ...Knowing that they're not actually going to hurt you would keep it from being a nightmare, but being chased/grabbed at would still kick those legs into gear.)
I'm interested to see how the preserve grows and changes. We could use more places like it!