Reporter leaves comfort zone for Gans Creek story

My recent story on the Gans Creek Recreation Area required a lot more hands-on interaction with the outdoors than I am used to.  Growing up in suburban St. Louis, I didn’t really spend much time interacting with nature beyond my backyard or one of those fields that subdivisions designate “common areas.”  I realize there are many people in the suburbs who go camping, fishing, etc. on the weekends, but this is not my family. I went camping twice when I was a Girl Scout, and I did not find the experience enjoyable. The only kind of nature I really enjoy is a nice sunny beach in Florida.

With that said, once I realized I would have to explore the 320 acre area of a former cattle farm to write the article, I was a little nervous. My first attempt to go to the property was wildly unsuccessful. Toney Lowery, one of the city’s senior park planners, let me follow him to the Philip’s Property after on of our interviews, and showed me around. He then proceeded to give me directions to Gans Creek Recreation Area, which I later realized was about 100 feet away from the Philips Property, but my inability to understand directions led to me being lost for an extended period of time while trying to find the property. I spent about an hour and half driving around the area and stopping at various locations that looked like they potentially could be the Crane Property.  Toney had told me there was a house on the property, and I could park in the the driveway, but instead I ended up parking in the driveway of a home that was still occupied. The man was not happy about my car in his driveway when he came out to mow his lawn.

At this point, I decided to call my mom to look at the map online to help me find the property, and after about 45 minutes I finally found it. I was pretty exhausted by this point, so I took a quick look around to get a “vibe” from the property, and decided I had enough information to write a short side-bar comparing the property’s current state to the park’s departments future plans for it.

After this experience, I was less than excited when my editor, Scott Swafford, told me that he would like to see a full article about this topic, and I needed to go back to the property again. Scott offered me some advice on how to be more successful with my second attempt, and even lent me his wife’s boots to wear, since my most “outsdoorsy” shoes are a $10 pair of pink sneakers I bought at Walmart.

My second attempt at gathering inspiration for my article went much more smoothly. Instead of trying to find the property again myself, I asked Toney if he could show me around the property. Having a “tour guide” made the experience much more practical, and he was able to give me a lot of useful information about the land and its future use while showing me around.

Not being lost the whole time allowed me to actually enjoy the experience, to an extent.  There were some aspects of the evening that did remind me of why I tend to avoid nature, such as Toney saying, “I hope you’re not afraid of spiders,” before we walked into the woods. Ironically, earlier that same day I had to get the maintenance man at my apartment complex to kill three giant spiders that were on my porch because I was too scared to walk past them to go inside my apartment.  Overall, it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated, and the property did look very pretty at sunset, as I described in the article.  I also liked seeing the various animals on the property, deer, birds, etc, since I am a big animal-lover. I don’t think I’ll be taking any adventures into nature again just “for fun”, but if I receive a similar assignment, I am prepared to take it.

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