One last look at a small patch of ‘The Wilds’ on West End

As I picked my way through what looked like a tree cemetery, my heart felt heavy as I recalled the countless times I had traveled this dirt path in search of solitude and renewal, and always being able to find it in the surrounding woods.

I knew this day was coming because three weeks earlier I had bumped into a surveyor with a map spread out on the hood of his company truck. He asked me if this path was traveled much.

I told him that many people used it to walk, bike, run, build forts, get back and forth to school and give their pets—including a pet chicken—a chance to stretch their legs.

He said I had a few more weeks to enjoy this natural area before his company mowed it down and paved it over to make way for development. We lamented together that one more wild place in the middle of suburbia was about to meet its end for the sake of progress.

I took the advance notice seriously and got in as many walks as possible over the next several days. I believed this pretty place was worth remembering so I brought along my camera to document its existence.

The Colton Path runs for nearly a mile between Zimmerman Trail and 38th Street West, running parallel to and north of Grand Avenue. It’s a patch of mostly untouched nature, but small and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. For most people this is probably true, but for those of us who used it, it provided a momentary sanctuary in the middle of the bustle of modern life.

The path has stunning views of the Beartooth and Pryor mountains and it was home to foxes, deer, birds of prey and many other creatures. Aged cottonwoods provided excellent climbing, shelter for forts and sometimes stick sword battles.


Jodie Tenicin Smith

The path provided a little bit of peace in the city.

My 89-year-old grandpa lives nearby at Mission Ridge retirement home and I have often taken the 15-minute walk via the Colton Path to visit him. Sort of an “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go,” substituting an irrigation ditch for the river and a grandpa for the grandma.

I used it to ride my bike to the St. John’s concert series, took leisurely in-depth strolls with good friends and introduced my godchildren to some finer points of nature. My morning walk always began there.

For me, spending any amount of time in nature sparks a reset physically and emotionally.

As John Muir so beautifully stated: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

On the day before the tearing-down process began, I met a lady who has lived in the area for more than 20 years. Her girls, now grown, spent many hours playing in what they had affectionately named “The Wilds.”

“They are taking away my haven,” she said.

I shared her sentiment.

Jodie-2Jodie Tenicin Smith pursues a life filled with fishing, yoga, mountain trails, great relationships, making the community a better place, good books and the occasional nap. She is a licensed massage therapist, has a theology degree, takes some photos and writes a few things. Her most important accomplishment is enjoying life.


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