Nature Walk 

If you want ready access to nature, nothing beats the city of Richmond.

Alice's favorite destination is the North Bank Access of James River Park, popularly known as Texas Beach. It's shown up in more than one of my novels. Alice likes the sand — easy on her paws — and fetching sticks out of the swirling water. I come for the wildlife. Up over the hill is the Maymont Nature Center where you can see some fish and otters in tanks. Down here, we regularly see the real thing close up. In our morning rambles, Alice and I have seen muskrats, ospreys, wood ducks, beavers, hawks, raccoons, turtles, herons, woodpeckers, bald eagles, deer, groundhogs ... watch out you don't trip over that root across the trail ... voles, moles, cormorants, merganzers, great horned owls ... as well as plenty of fish and spectacular views.

One of the things I like about living in Byrd Park is the opportunity on a pretty spring day to be in the midst of the human species coming together and enjoying life — families feeding the geese, playing games, young men and women checking each other out, pairing off, doing what comes naturally, strolling around Fountain Lake hand in hand. It makes you glad to be alive.

My girlfriend and I courted on the banks of the James, and though we've been together a good while now, a walk by the river in the evening can still kindle romance (between stick tosses for Alice). Sometimes on such rambles we talk of moving to more exciting cities in search of this or that, but we always elect to stay here, where we not only have access to hiking and canoeing minutes away, but we can also walk to Carytown to catch a movie, drink a cappucino, buy a book, run into friends. If we don't feel like walking, there's a bus stop a block from our house. The bus'll take you right down to Texas Beach. Why would we ever want to live anywhere else? S



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