Trails are often named for what they do (loop), how they make you feel (contemplative), who inspired their construction (Gen. William Jackson Palmer, Paul Intemann) and for the people who first used them (Ute Indian).
Some trails and their names stick in your mind, like the Kinnikinnick Trail on the east side of Palmer Park. Kinnikinnick is a shrub with small pink flowers, also known as bearberry. Smoked by Native Americans before tobacco was available, it was also prized for its medicinal value.
Hiking the moderately difficult, roughly 3-mile Kinnikinnick Trail will take you on a joyful romp up and around great rock formations, weaving you through thickets of evergreen and scrub oak and offering a lovely vista should you take the spur to its southwestern-most point.
Park at the dog park or parking lot just off the Maizeland Road entrance. Cross the street to the Council Grounds and you'll find the trail. Or you can park at the Kinnickinnick picnic area. Marvel that while you are surrounded on four sides by neighborhoods, businesses and city streets, it feels like wilderness.
Speaking of "wild things," the parks friends group, the Guardians of Palmer Park, still hopes to replace gates and add security lights at the two park entrances. The group believes improved overnight security will reduce ongoing vandalism and damage to park structures. Removing graffiti on some of the park's more spectacular rock formations consumes many hours of volunteer and staff time.
For more information on the "build the gates" project, check out gopalmerpark.org.
The Guardians of Palmer Park continues to have winter cleanup/trail maintenance projects the first Saturday morning of the month. It's a great way for the entire family to give back to a beloved park. After volunteering, consider a picnic along the Kinnikinnick!
Davies is the executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition. Read her columns on the fourth Thursday of each month in Out There.