Some of my fondest memories as a child are of the Sunday afternoon walks through the woods that my mother, my sisters and I took when I was growing up in New Jersey.
Up north, the woods were different. The trees were tall, full, and varied, and there were actual hills to make the walk more of a challenge and an adventure.
In the fall, we had the changing of the leaves, and in the winter, a light layer of snow that left an absolute hush over the forest and turned it into a white laced winter wonderland.
When my family moved to Florida in 1967, I missed my woods so much that I locked myself in my bedroom and refused to come out. “I miss my paradise,” I moaned. “You told me Florida was a Paradise. Where are the woods?”
We lived beachside, and in 1967, there was nothing but flat stretches of sand and palmettos and a few palm trees. This was just no replacement for the tree-covered hill that I had been able to explore up north.
Slowly, I began to enjoy the beach: the majesty of the ocean’s roar; the beauty of the Florida sunrises and sunsets; the wonder of the sea turtles and the freedom of the dolphins playing in the surf. But in my heart, there was always something missing…that special enchantment that I always felt in a forest.
It wasn’t until I became a teenager and got my driver’s license that I ventured out into Florida and discovered that there were woods to explore. The first time that I walked into Erna Nixon Park in Melbourne and heard the hush of the woods and the rustle of the leaves over my head, I knew that there were indeed bits of wooded Paradise to be found.
Tall stately oaks, covered with low hanging moss were surrounded by beds of leafy ferns. This park became a weekly getaway for me, and started me on my exploration of the other wonderful parks in the county.
Now, as an adult, the woods have become even more of a sanctuary for me. A place to get away from the tensions of work, home-owning and modern life in general and enjoy the awe-inspiring hush of nature….the majesty of the trees…the joy and wonder of the wildlife.
Aside from the obvious natural wonder that the ocean provides, Brevard County also has beautiful wooded parks set aside for the forest lovers in all of us. Some resemble the woods of the north, with an abundance of tall and varied trees. Others are strictly Florida, with the palmettos, scrub oaks, pines and palms.
From the diverse ecosystems of the Enchanted Forest in Titusville to the well-maintained parks of Palm Bay and other cities, Brevard County does, indeed, have something for every forest lover.
If you miss those wooded hikes, babbling streams and sunlight filtering through tall, leafy canopies that you had up north, take the time to check out some of the wooded parks Brevard County has to offer.
You’ll find that in Brevard we have the best of both worlds: Beauty surrounding us on the land as well as the sea.
(This article was originally written in 1995,and appeared in the “A Woman’s Voice” column of Florida Today.