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The Weekend Is Here: So, What Are You Going To Do?

Normally, on Fridays the Weekender highlights the best bets on concerts, stage productions and other events. These days, most everything is closed or canceled. But TPR's Jack Morgan has an idea for you... if you're ready for a stroll.

Just a couple of miles outside Loop 1604 on the city's far northwest side, if you're outbound on I-10, look west. In this area filled with shopping areas and upscale neighborhoods, something sticks out: green, undeveloped hills. Those tree-covered 350-foot-high hills together form the Emilie and Albert Friedrich Park, known by most as Friedrich Park. Its 10 miles of trails are spread out over 600 acres, which vary from nearly flat near its entrance to challenging climbs in its back country. 

"My name is Bryan Gonzales and I work with the post office here in San Antonio. I enjoy this park; it's pretty awesome," he said.

Bryan Gonzales on a trail at Friedrich Park.

What Gonzales finds out here is nature. Lots of it. 

"It's close to the city, but once you get out here, it's like the city is nowhere near. It kinda feels like the wilderness out here," he said.

I noticed he was carrying a backpack, and it appeared to be fully stuffed with something. Turns out he had a reason for that.

"I've got to keep about 45 pounds in here. I'm trying to get ready for Special Forces," he said.

He hopes to qualify to serve soon, but something told me he would be carrying weight even if he weren't trying to bulk up.

"It's good to struggle. Nowadays everything is so easy,” Gonzales said. “Everything is too convenient. So I try to make it a little bit tough on myself."

The view up high at Friedrich Park.
Credit Jack Morgan
The view up high at Friedrich Park.

I wished him well and walked on. The first two trails at bottom are asphalt and handicap accessible with bridges fording wet weather creeks, mostly under a canopy of trees. But if you're up for some real exercise, hit the main loop trail.

Friedrich is home to two endangered bird species: Black-Capped Vireo and Golden-Cheeked Warbler. There's also a huge mix of native trees: live, red and lacey oaks, juniper, evergreen and deciduous sumac, and even escarpment cherry.

Most days as you hike there, you pass others while on the trail. The higher you get, the longer the views you'll find. Something you will notice if you walk up and over the big green hills that you see from I-10,nature gets pretty loud once you get into that back canyon.

Hit “listen” above to hear birds.

Credit Jack Morgan
A butterfly on Mountain Laurel blooms

Some trails allow 15-mile views, others fall away into shady canyons. I ran into Simon Thornton near the end of my walk. He was there with his wife Mary Ann.

"We decided to get out of the house and get some exercise,” he said. “The gyms are closed, the pool I swim at is closed, so this is an alternative."

Thornton thinks in the time of coronavirus people need to get outside and remember what nature can bring to our lives.

"You're outdoors, you keep your separation. My background is biology and microbiology in college at Trinity. So… common sense,” he said. “I'm glad to see a lot of young families out here getting their exercise away from all the digital devices."

I did in fact see several families with kids, and four runners passed me running up and down those trails. We wrapped up our talk. 

"Hope everyone's safe and enjoy the day, and good talkin' to you," he said.

Simon Thornton on a trail at Friedrich Park.
Credit Jack Morgan
Simon Thornton on a trail at Friedrich Park.

Friedrich is one of dozens of San Antonio parks that are good for what ails you, if what ails you is that you've been sitting alone feeling the world close in around you. We've got plenty of other ideas  – free things you can do with your time  – from online concerts to Broadway plays. 

It may rain this weekend, but how long has it been since you took a walk in the rain? I'm betting too long. 

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii