There are many things that I appreciate about living on the Peninsula, but the variety of outdoor settings and the public access to them are two of that I most cherish.

In Minnesota, where I was raised, I spent most of my free time wandering the alleys, the ravines, and sometimes even the city cemetery. After school you could find me anywhere that had some open space that I could explore and find some solitude. The small town that I grew up in did have a nice state park on the edge of it. I spent many afternoons tracking deer or swimming in the Cottonwood River.

As much as I enjoyed these times in the valleys of Minnesota, I have to wonder how my life would have been different if I had grown up at the beach. Maybe I would have just taken it all for granted. Take what for granted? Let me give you an example.

My wife and I just recently had our first baby, a girl, and our house has been kind of crazy lately. My mother-in-law, bless her, stayed with us for the first week to help us out and teach us the basics of infant care. As beneficial as her visit was for us, I found at times I just needed to get out of the house, go for a walk, and take a break.

We live in the geographic center of the Peninsula and so I had multiple options for where I could escape. I could have just walked down to the lake or taken a short drive and then walked at the beach, but I had some place else in mind. I decided to drive the extra 12 minutes to get to a little more secluded spot. The drive up to Leadbetter Point is beautiful in and of itself. I love driving through the hall of spruce trees that teasingly give me glimpses of the bay. I love that bay.

When I visit Leadbetter I usually park at the south parking lot and take the short walk to the bay's edge from there. It's uncanny the number of times that I've been there by myself, with absolutely no wind or other people. Two times this last week I was the only person in sight, except a few boats out on the water.

This one afternoon a few days ago I was walking along the edge of the grasses, and I spooked up a heron which loudly squawked as it swooped over the heads of what must have been hundreds of ducks, maybe mallards. The ducks all flew up and starting quacking simultaneously. They flew in a large circle and then settled back down once the heron had mellowed out.

As I continued walking north, I came across a washed-up red and purple squid, it was one of the first squid I had ever seen; later in my walk I was fortunate to find another. Two dead squid in one day, how lucky am I? My fun had just begun.

Walking a little closer to the edge of the forest I heard, before I saw, several dozen different birds all enjoying one particular tree. This downed spruce tree was hosting the likes of at least eight robins, four jays, one downy woodpecker, and an added bonus: a western tanager with his distinctive red head and yellow breast. All the birds were making their unique calls either warning each other of my presence or trying to dominate the claim for this tree. I stopped walking for a few minutes just to watch these birds all congregated in such a small spot. A small spot, but we were surrounded by the big wide open, just the birds and I. Reminds me of the saying, "this place is for the birds." If any place fits that description, it's Leadbetter.

As I walked back following the tracks of both a deer and an elk, I felt all the more calmed. My patience was renewed to go back home and change a diaper. I cherish these small escapes that are possible because my home is surrounded by such awesome natural places that allow them to happen.

When my daughter Norah grows up to be a young adult, I know that she'll love to explore the wild places around her home. She'll love the birds and their calls and colors. She'll know the names of the trees and even some of the grasses. I look forward to someday hiking at Leadbetter Point with her and spooking up some herons.

Leadbetter is for the birds, but also for my escape, as well as Norah's future.

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