Most Sunday mornings at casa Brodrick involve a consistent, if sometimes hectic, routine: up for an early morning bike ride (weather allowing), then get the kids ready for church, off to Sunday School and service at Athens First Methodist, and then home (or pick something up) for lunch.
Today was a little different. For those who don't know, I have been focusing on exercising and diet for the past few months in an effort to shed a few pounds. So far, so good. Early last week, I decided I wanted to see how things were progressing and I thought the 3rd annual Toys for Tots half marathon on trails at Heritage Park in Farmington might be a good barometer, and a good way to stretch out my long run by a few more miles. Susan graciously agreed to let me mess with our routine and give it a try, so at 10 a.m. this morning I lined up with about 80 other runners for a 13.1 mile run through the woods.
Heritage Park is one of Oconee County's best kept secrets, and that is a shame. I think a lot of people think of it as the place where the giant Easter Egg hunt is rather than a park for year-round use. Perhaps that is the nature of a park that largely involves passive uses, but I wish more people would get out to the woods of Heritage. Heritage features more than eight miles of heavily wooded, undulating terrain criss-crossed by single track trails suitable for running, hiking, or mountain biking. The trails border creeks, touch the Apalachee River, and pass by old homesites. Today, the park was stunning -- creeks were bubbling, leaves floated from trees like red and yellow confetti, and the temperatures were perfect.
As I ran along those trails today, I wondered again why more Republicans don't embrace the ethos of Teddy Roosevelt and become more aggressive about establishing parks -- particularly passive areas -- in their platforms and when elected to office. I can't tell you how many Republicans I know who are pretty doggone green -- they just disagree with pretty much everything else about the Democratic platform. Personally, I find Republican pandering to corporations on environmental issues the thing that frustrates me the most about my own party.
On a local level, three of Melvin Davis' lasting legacies in Oconee County will be the improvements to Heritage Park that have occurred during his tenure, the growth and professionalism of Oconee Parks and Recreation Department, and the establishment of Veterans Park along Hog Mountain Road. In Watkinsville, we're planning $250,000 worth of improvements to Harris Shoals Park. Currently, Watkinsville and Oconee County are jointy funding, along with the Department of Community Affairs, a greenway and trail planning study that could provide a road map for future trail development in our communties. Wouldn't it be great to connect our parks and green spaces with a network of pedestrian and bike pathways?
Anyway, back to the present. It was a beautiful day for running, and athletes from across Georgia were in Oconee County to try out our trails. Among them were 10-15 Marines, and other troops were stationed along the course offering encouragement, handing out water, and providing direction. It felt a little weird to watch men who put their lives on the line for our country giving back by volunteering at a small road race, but their service today and their commitment to the Toys for Tots program is a great example of the good our troops do here at home.
I managed to run the distance -- the longest I have run by 25 minutes -- but as I write, my legs feel like they have been beaten by a baseball bat. Repeatedly. Calves and Quads. Hammys and hips. Achilles and illiotibial. I'll be limping tomorrow.
But whether you want to ride, hike, walk or run, fall is the perfect time to get out and try out these great trails in Oconee County. Heritage is located on 441 South about 10 minutes from Watkinsville -- give it a try!