As I write this, I'm thinking back to the perfect, sunny late-summer day when I went exploring at Gallant Woods Preserve.

As I write this, I'm thinking back to the perfect, sunny late-summer day when I went exploring at Gallant Woods Preserve.

We had recently mowed a new trail into a meadow, and I had not yet walked it.

Because the older Pheasant Run Trail at Gallant Woods also is a mown path through a meadow, I expected this new trail to provide the same experience -- a relaxing walk amid goldenrod and other wildflowers.

It did, but the new trail also provided something more. To appreciate the subtle difference, you need to be someone who relishes the gentle touches of nature inherent to much of Delaware County.

We don't have spectacular scenery -- no mountains or ocean-side cliffs -- but we do have sweet-smelling meadows, woods that shelter birds and other wildlife, and wetlands teeming with dragonflies. We have butterflies and crickets. That's Delaware County beauty.

So, getting back to my walk. South of the playground at Gallant Woods, the new trail extends through a tree line into some former farm fields. Walk past that tree line, and the world goes away. Seriously.

I could see no buildings, no roads -- just trees and meadow, blue sky and puffy clouds. A couple of hawks circled overhead, and dozens of butterflies -- white, orange, yellow and blue -- preceded me down the path. Crickets and katydids chirped, and birds sang their songs.

It was a lovely walk, and was made possible by simply extending a trail at Gallant Woods Preserve.

That project was one of several completed this summer by Preservation Parks staff with an eye to lengthening our park trails. A section was added to a trail at Blues Creek Preserve and another loop was added to the Pheasant Run trail at Gallant Woods, extending that trail into a grove of mature trees.

Our most ambitious trail project, however, was the construction of a bridge spanning a ravine at Hogback Ridge Preserve, which is where my office is located.

I've always loved the Woodland Ridge Trail here and have walked it many times. It loops through pretty woods along a ravine, and there's always the chance I might spot a pileated woodpecker.

The trail's half-mile length, however, kept my walks a little short. Then we created the Pine Grove Trail, adding another half-mile loop. Still, those trails were separated by a ravine; the only way to get from one to the other was via the driveway and parking lot.

The new span over the ravine connects those trails, creating a trail a little longer than a mile. That's where I headed today, to see what was new in the woods.

This walk was a bit different from my meadow walk two weeks earlier. Today, under cloudy skies, it was clear that autumn is beginning. Newly fallen leaves -- still wet from recent rain -- lent a rich, earthy aroma to the woods.

The squirrels were scampering about like mad, intent on gathering nuts for winter. I'm not sure what the birds were all excited about, but they were singing and calling to one another. It was noisy in the woods, but in a peaceful kind of way.

I set out along a trail lined with shagbark hickory, white oak, red oak and cherry trees, and soon reached the bridge. Then it was down 40 steps into the ravine, across the bridge over the creek, and about 30 steps up on the other side.

The trail then loops through more woods, across the driveway, into a small meadow, through a planted pine forest, along another ridge, back across the driveway and across the bridge, returning finally to the original Woodland RidgeTrail. It was a nice half-hour walk -- the perfect break from my computer.

There are many opportunities to visit our expanded trails, through free nature education programs and special events -- or just a visit on your own.

Visit www.preservationparks .com for park and program information, and enjoy your (longer) walks in the parks!

Sue Hagan is marketing and communications manager for Preservation Parks of Delaware County.

Sue

Hagan