James River Water Levels

Westham Gauge
Gauge Height: 4.96'
Flow: 4700 cfps

Trail Conditions: Richmond

  • Very hot and humid today so fill that Camelbak and bring an extra water bottle. All local trails are open.

Todays Tides: Richmond Locks

High Tide: 8:36am
Low Tide: 3:54pm

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Posted In: Features

At Cheswick Park, a little green goes a long way

Leonard Adkins

February 28, 2012 7:10am

It had been a frustrating morning and I was already running late for a doctor’s appointment when traffic came to a standstill where I-95 meets I-64. Sitting there minute after minute I could feel my frustration level—and blood pressure—rising. I pulled out the Richmond area map and plotted a route on city streets that would eventually get me to the doctor’s office once I was able to take the next exit.

Of course, then I had to face the annoyance of being stopped by every red light along the way and, upon checking in with the receptionist, finding that not only was I running late, but, because of an over-scheduling of appointments, it would probably be a least 90 minutes before the doc could see me.

Not wanting to spend an hour and a half reading outdated People magazines describing in minute detail the lives of Kim Kardashian or Snooki, I decided to take a short walk along the sidewalk. That’s when I discovered one of those wonderful little green spaces that are so easy to overlook within our crowded urban area.

Yes, tiny, 28-acre Cheswick Park is bordered on three sides by office complexes and housing developments and four-lane Forest Avenue runs along the fourth, yet within its small space is a winding one-mile trail that enables you to return to the natural world for a short time. Taking the footbridge over Upham Branch, where kids were wading through the water, turning over rocks in search of aquatic creatures, I entered a woodland of oak and black gum trees. Also known as tupelo, black gums develop a broad base when they grow in or near water, the better to anchor themselves in the moist soil. The leaves are some of the first to change color in the fall and range from deep red to bright yellow.

I took a break at a quiet spot and was soon absorbed, not in the goings-on of some tawdry, media-created celebrity, but rather in the entertaining exploits of several gray squirrels. Jumping expertly from limb to limb like trapeze artists and running up and then back down tree trunks at paces as frenzied as those at auto races, these little creatures soon had me smiling and no longer thinking about the day’s earlier aggravations.

Just before returning to the parking lot, I was stopped by a drop of water from the previous night’s rain that was still clinging to a leaf on a lower branch. What caught my attention was that that the droplet was a bright blue, reflecting the clarity of the sky above. Upon close examination, I found that the drop of water was like a globe, mirroring miniature copies of the trees and plants around me.

Taking a seat back in the waiting room, I knew that I was now going to have a good checkup, as my attitude—as well as my blood pressure—was in much better shape than it was when I had first arrived.

Lesson learned: There are many little spaces like Cheswick Park scattered throughout the Richmond area. Don’t forget about them when life’s insignificant frustrations start to get to you.

 Getting there: Take I-64 Glenside Drive South Exit, merge onto Glenside Drive, go less than .4 mile, turn right onto Forest Avenue, continue 1.1 miles and turn right into the park.

About Leonard Adkins

Leonard M. Adkins has hiked more than 19,000 miles exploring the backcountry areas of the United States, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and the Caribbean, including his five traverses of the full length of the Appalachian Trail. He is the author of more than 17 books on the outdoors, nature, and travel; his latest is "Hiking and Traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway: The Only Guide You Will Ever Need, Including Detailed Maps, GPS, and More." Paraphrasing a famous American humorist, Leonard once said, “I never met a trail I didn’t like.” Find more about him at www.habitualhiker.com.