Sunday, April 5, 2009

In and out of Shades Creek

The kids and I always love getting out for my weekends with them, and I always make a point to make those getaways are to places we've not been before.
Shades Creek park in Homewood was a place I had been meaning to check out ever since it was developed as such in the last 10 or so years. The creek drains Alabama's wealthiest town, Mountain Brook (suburb of Birmingham) but with the exception of a ritzy mall, its banks are a respite from development despite the fact the locale is built-up not far away.
Wow, sorry for that run-on sentence! Maybe it's appropriate since the creek runs on, I guess.
Best I can remember, the park and exercise path were built using federal funds made available for watershed protection and the Americans with Disabilties Act. There was also some involvement with an endangered species--a salamander I think? And a tiny fish by the name of vermillion darter? Either way, I have never ceased to be amazed at the diversity of critters in and around the creek, given its proximity to population, pavement, traffic, garbage and general indifference most humans have to the world around us.
The trail is flat as a board and paved, which makes it accessible to handicapped persons, and I think it was created with an agreeement that the park can't be redeveloped for anything else.
It was a beautiful day, so we saw a good number of people jogging and walking for exercise. I was struck by repeated sightings of single women jogging by themselves, and tried to remember the last time I ran without being's been awhile!
I also noticed that just abouy every jogger we saw was wearing a digital music player and earphones, or earbuds, or whatever you call those things. I never have quite understood the need for those things while exercising outside. I mean, heaven forbid a person just listen to the water and woods out there...or meet and talk to somebody there. But hey, maybe that is just me being uninitiated to the insular world of personal fitness?
And anyway...the kids and I were there to play. The trail isn't much more than a mile long, which was about right for them and their short legs and even shorter attention spans. Once we walked it, I found a relatively flat and undergrowth-free spot to get in that creek.
The water was not warm, but it was not cold, either. They did not flinch getting in it and splashing around, but I did make sure their clothes stayed dry, because I know from personal experience a car ride home in wet clothes makes a good mood go away in a hurry.
I saw, but was unable to catch, some crawdads in the creek to show the kids and maybe let them get pinched...also saw some tiny fish and mussels, which I liked because their existence means the water of the creek has remained clean enough for life.
There is a more of the creek that could be added to the park. As I see it, the park could be extended all the way to I-65 in the future, and who knows, maybe it will be. It is off to a great start towards its goal of giving people access to nature that it right next to where a bunch of them live and work. And the more people know about their world, the better off that world will be, I say.