With so much of Newport linked to the ocean, it can be a respite just to take a walk in the woods -- specifically at the 13-acre Ballard Park, with its varied terrain: trails along the ridge of a 19th-century quarry; a large, lush meadow; a grassy, shrubby ravine; tall faces of reddish rock. You can stroll twisting boardwalks over boggy areas, clamber onto boulders for a tiptoe view of the ocean (never far away), or just amble along wide, shady paths beneath gracefully arching branches and mysterious twisting vines.
The boulders, streaked with white and black minerals, beckon you to closer inspection of the plant life they nurture: dark-green cascading ferns, gray and yellow lichens, wispy grasses, hardy wildflowers, and even trees whose trunks stretch horizontally until they turn at a sharp right angle and reach toward the sun. Songbirds love the diverse underbrush; migrating raptors soar above the adjoining 54 acres of wildlife refuge. Turtles and deer make their home near the meadow. And humans hold summer concerts in the glen, from cello to blues guitar to contemporary ballet.
But mostly they just enjoy the peace that comes with being enfolded in a forest.
-- Johnette Rodriguez