Parks in (and near) San Antonio

So, today one of my co-workers said, “There aren’t any good parks in this part of the city.” Well, one of the things that Alex and I do on our weekends is explore city and county parks (and parks beyond the city and county), so I took that as a challenge.

At first, one of the pharmacists suggested Friedrich Wilderness Park (one of my personal favorites), which is up a ways on Interstate 10.  I then asked what my coworker considered to be “this part of the city,” and she said, “north of downtown.”

I then listed Government Canyon State Park and Hardberger Park and Walker Ranch Park and Denman Estate Park.  The other pharmacist said, “There’s one on Bandera, isn’t there?” This is Schnabel Park.

Finally, before I got too out of control, I said, “I can do this all day, but just one more.  Eisenhower Park, which is straight up Northwest Military until you run out of street.”

I didn’t even get to mention Guadalupe River State Park, or Crownridge Canyon Park or the Cibolo Nature Center (which is in Boerne and the last time we were out there, there was talk about making the other side of City Park Road a park, and they might just have done this by the look of things) or Stone Oak Park (which was not as wooded as Google Maps made it look, so Alex and I promised to come back once the weather was cooler) or any of the probably a dozen other parks I’ve visited in the last couple of years. I even found another new park while I was writing this post — Panther Springs Park.

I really can do this all day, but it’s my bedtime now so I’m going to stop here.  However, since you are not a captive audience and can leave whenever you want, I will be writing up all of these parks (and probably some more that I can’t remember right now) as individual South Texas Destinations posts in the future.

Before I go to bed, however, one more thing. I had two problems with essay questions when I was in school.  One of these was that I have some sort of motor coordination disorder.  I’m not actually handicapped so you’d notice, but I have always had poor both fine and gross motor skills (this may be part of why walking is my major form of exercise — I know I can do it successfully). As a result of this motor coordination problem, writing by hand is very tiring for me.  I’d get tired long before I ran out of ideas on essay questions (I also never knew that other students didn’t have this kind of hand fatigue from writing — I always sort of assumed that the pain and fatigue was part of the test).  The other is that it never occurred to me that the point of essay questions was to just dump whatever you can remember onto the page.  It seemed that they should be written well.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be an essay so much as a bullet-point list.  As a result, if I couldn’t make an idea fit into the flow of what I was writing, I would just leave that idea out, which led me to often only listing part of what I knew.

All of this is in aid of me sticking in an idea that I can’t make flow with the rest of this post. Back about eight years ago or so, San Antonio came out really high on one of those “fattest cities” lists.  One of the websites reporting on it, possibly the originating site, blamed at least part of it on having a very low number of parks per capita. While I was writing this, I found one article, from 2009 (San Antonio was #3 on this list), but I don’t think it’s the one I was thinking of (I swear I remember my ex talking to me about it and we split up before 2009). The number of parks in the 2009 article was 214.  It seems like every street corner has a park these days.  I wonder if some of the parks that I’ve been visiting, and that I will write about, were created after 2009. The Howard W. Peak Greenway System, which are paths that follow the creeks, was approved by voters for the first time in 2000, but I don’t know when the first trails opened.  I think that I may make a note on my posts on city parks what year they were founded, just to see if my perception that many of these parks date from after that checks out.

As to whether these kinds of rankings actually mean anything,  I found this article at PubMed, which I am linking to so that I can save the link to read in the future. Maybe I’ll read it tomorrow, while I’m on my lunch.

My Travel Memories: Assorted Places in Maryland

I can recall four places in Maryland that we visited during our 1979 vacation. I also seem to recall spending the night in a Holiday Inn in Baltimore at some point before our 1988 return to Baltimore (more on that later), so this may have been the visit when we did that.

The four places I recall more-or-less clearly were the National Shrine of Elizabeth Ann Seton, the Barbara Fritchie House, the Antietam battlefield, and a cave.  There is no indication in the photo album which cave we visited.  It made an impression on me because the guy who gave us our tour looked to be only a couple of years older than I was, and he was *adorable.*

Elizabeth Seton was the first United-States-born saint (even though, technically, the United States didn’t exist at the time of her birth — she was born in 1774). When Seton’s husband was dying of tuberculosis, his doctor sent them to Italy, hoping the change of environment would be good for his health. It wasn’t, and he died. Seton converted to Roman Catholicism on the trip. As a widow, Seton needed a source of income, so upon her return home to New York City, she started a girls’ school, but this school failed because of anti-Catholic bias in New York.

Maryland was founded as a settlement for Roman Catholics.  It is, after all, right there in the name.  Seton was invited to move to Maryland and start a new school there, which she did.  This was St. Joseph’s Academy and Free School, the first Roman Catholic school in the United States. These days, nearly all Roman Catholic churches have schools associated with them.  This tradition started with Seton and St. Joseph’s Academy. Seton was beatified in 1963 and canonized in 1975.

The campus of the shrine is beautiful, though I don’t know if we spent much time in the basilica on the site or not.

We also went to the Barbara Fritchie House and Museum in Frederick Maryland.  Fritchie is the subject of the Whittier poem about an elderly lady who interrupted the march of the Confederates by waving a Union flag at them during the Civil War. It is likely that this event never happened. Records show that Fritchie was sick in bed when the Confederates marched through Frederick and that the Confederates never marched down her street.  And to top it all off, the house that Fritchie actually lived in was destroyed during a storm and the museum is in a replica built in 1927.  It’s a lovely poem, however. Fritchie was also personal friends with Francis Scott Key, who wrote the poem which eventually became the national anthem of the United States.  I seem to recall that the guest room was made up as if Key were staying there, though I may be remembering a different house entirely, or maybe I dreamed it.  I have very vivid dreams.

We visited the Antietam battlefield because one of the tour guides, I think it was, or maybe it was someone who worked in one of the restaurants in Gettysburg, told us that Gettysburg was too touristy and that he always recommended that people go to Antietam instead. Now I’m wracking my brain.  The place, which I’m now reasonably certain was a restaurant, had something to do with snipers.  So after looking around, perhaps it was the Farnsworth House, which is a Civil War themed restaurant and the house was apparently a post for snipers. So that’s a good candidate.  I wonder what would happen if I were to call them up and ask about a man in period soldier’s costume who told us to visit Antietam. . .

He was right, though. Antietam, site of the battle known both as “Antietam” and as “the Battle of Sharpsburg” was relatively untrammeled by tourists (see the empty parking lot in the photo below).  The Battle of Antietam, which took place on September 17, 1862, was the first battle of the Civil War to take place in Union territory, and was the single bloodiest day of the war.  The Union more or less won this battle, as they only lost 16% of their men, versus 27% for the Confederacy.  “Only” 16%.  Eesh.  It was also “only” the fifth worst actual battle of the war.

Antietam Battlefield, 1979
Antietam Battlefield in 1979 from the 1895 Observation Tower.

It was very educational and the area where the battle took place was lovely, and is apparently becoming even nicer. The National Park Service is trying to restore the areas that were wooded at the time of the battle.  Every fall and spring since 1995, they have had volunteers come in and plant over 18,000 trees in hopes of restoring the appearance of the area to how it looked in 1862.  In the process, they hope to increase the ecological value of the land.