The plan is to find nearby places, less than an hour away by car to visit this winter, so we can see more of our area, get fresh air, take in nature, and not have to spend the whole day in the car to do it.
The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge fits the bill perfectly. The refuge is a pleasant, barely touched by human hands experience nestled on a string of islands between the JFK Airport (it's neat to see planes flying over the peaceful park landscape) and Rockaway (a place I had often wondered about as it's the last stop on the A train and I hear its name mumbled over the intercom often).
We walked the West Pond trail, a loop path that at times must have been extremely difficult to make through the masses of brambles, spindly berry vines, and general fairy tale looking wildlife growth that line parts of the trail.
The park is intended as a bird sanctuary, and it was hopping with bird watchers carrying cameras with massive lenses to capture the few birds that stick around in winter, mainly swans and geese. Our camera felt insignificant and it was actually pretty difficult to get a shot of the birds that didn't look like specks in the distance. I love all the bird houses though, especially this one for a barn owl. The trail takes about an hour to walk if you take all the little side trails, one of which takes you very near the water's beachy edge to a spot that feels blissfully remote, especially considering it's proximity to?major urban sprawl.