One of the best ways to cultivate gratitude is to seek out wide open spaces. Marveling at the vastness of the star-filled sky, an expansive view, or a wide river can create a unique sense of wonder that only the natural world can provide. Here are just a few places that may offer a new perspective on what to be grateful for.
If you long for a new perspective, visit what is considered the highest point in Austin. At 775 feet, Mount Bonnell is a beloved spot designed to inspire and invigorate with magnificent open views. You’ll see downtown Austin and the Pennybacker Bridge on 360 in the distance, with the majestic Colorado River taking a star role. Located in Covert Park, admission and parking is free. Plus, it’s open to the public every day until 10 p.m. You don’t need to be a pro climber or fitness fanatic to take advantage of the surroundings. But you will still have to climb 102 steps. Then… breathe. The trip to the top may take around 15-20 minutes at a somewhat leisurely pace. Mount Bonnell is a popular place to take pictures, bring kids and dogs, and marvel at natural surroundings and city markers. You may even see a marriage proposal. It happens. To get there from Mopac, go west on 35th Street for about a mile until you hit Mount Bonnell Rd. So, take a gratitude journal, pack some snacks and water, and contemplate everything that our beautiful city has to offer.
UT Star Parties
What better way to feel a deep sense of gratitude than to gaze at the cosmos? Every Wednesday night from 8 – 10 p.m. while UT is in session, the astronomy department sponsors free public star parties on the top roof of the Physics, Math, and Astronomy Building, also known as Robert Lee Moore Hall. Attendees have the chance to look through a modern telescope and explore the night skies in a completely new way. An astronomy staff member or student are always on hand run the telescope, explain what you’re seeing, and to answer questions. Kids are welcome but should be attended by an adult at all times. As with everything on the 40 acres, it’s a bit tricky managing the parking situation if it’s your first time. But a quick visit to their site will give you all the information you need, including directions to the right location. There are two telescopes! The second one is located in Painter Hall and open to the public for viewing on Friday and Saturday nights. Also, you may want to note that there won’t be a star party or viewings during Thanksgiving week. So, boldly go and explore the night skies. For more information, visit http://outreach.as.utexas.edu/public/parties.html.
Lady Bird Lake
November is an ideal time to take to the water in a kayak or stand-up paddleboard. The waterways are less crowded, and the trees lining the river are beginning to change color. A unique thing happens when you’re paddling in calm waters. Your breath begins to synch up with the rhythm of your rowing, and you begin to relax into the wide open spaces all around you. There are plenty of options for planning a day on the water. The Rowing Dock, located at 2418 Stratford Drive, is a great option west of Mopac. Going left will lead you toward Red Bud Island. If you prefer an entrance on the east side, check out Live Love Paddle at 1610 East Riverside Dr. where paddlers can circle an island, explore a cove, or head toward the Congress Ave. Bridge. Most docks have comparable rates and rental protocols, so shop around. Once you’ve settled on where you’d like to start, slide into your preferred mode of travel: kayak, canoe, paddleboard. When on the water, paying attention to every part of your surroundings not only ensures safety, it helps you to be more present and notice the profound beauty of the natural world. You may even make friends with a great blue heron, a red-eared slider turtle, or an American coot. Now, that’s something to be thankful for.