Life is a Picnic … Eat Up!

Editor's Notes

Life may not always be a picnic, but when you spend a perfect day frolicking in the springtime sun, it sure can feel like it. 

When I was a girl, my third big sister used to take me and my little sister on magical picnics. The ones I remember best were the sunny afternoons we spent running up and down the hills of Mount Trashmore Park in Virginia Beach, Va. (It just goes to show that with a good imagination — and company — even a literal “dump” can go from ordinary to extraordinary.) You see, Mount Trashmore is a 60-foot high, 800-foot long landfill that was transformed into a 165-acre public park. Apparently, it was the first of its kind in the world. All we kids knew was that it was a fun place we were allowed to go without our parents.

It opened in 1978. I turned 12 that year. And for the next two summers, thanks to my big sister, it was one of the places where my imagination would run wild. We would transport ourselves back in time by wearing long, flowy “play dresses” and big floppy sunhats to our picnic luncheons. After a session on the swings, though there were several picnic pergolas, we usually planted ourselves on a blanket on the side of the hill for the best reclining position and vantage point to watch the parade of puffy clouds floating above in the biggest blue sky I’ve ever seen. The hillside was optimal just in case the urge to roll down it overcame us, as it often did. We probably looked mighty silly flitting around like gypsy moths, but we were carefree … and happy in our make-believe “world” … even if it was atop a trash heap. 

If you were teenaged like my three older sisters, Mount Trashmore also was a popular place for budding springtime romances. Every weekend when the weather warmed, it seemed like the entire town turned out with blankets and picnics in tow to laze under the stars while an old movie flickered on a big screen. If you were bold enough to steal a first kiss and brave enough to have one taken from you, this plucky park was the ideal place. I could account for all but one stolen kiss up until this point, so while my sisters wandered from our “home base blanket” to pickpocket the puckers of cute boys, I spent most of my time gazing up at what seemed to be an endless supply of stars. 

Those picnics must have seemed romantic to me, because for many years my “go to” gift to newlyweds was always a well-stocked picnic basket.  

The Emerald Coast has no shortage of pretty picnic spots. The Landing Park, Ferry Park and Gulf Islands National Seashore in Fort Walton Beach and Henderson Beach State Park on the Gulf and Calhoun Park on Choctawhatchee Bay in Destin offer convenient parking and easy access off of Highway 98. Topsail Hill, Eden Gardens, Grayton Beach and Pt. Washington are lovely wooded state parks in Walton County. And don’t forget the many amphitheaters in the center of most of the little beach towns that dot the 30A coastline. If you time it right you can add free theater, live music or even an outdoor movie to the menu. 

The Emerald Coast is pleasant for picnics year-round. But in my book, the perfect time of year to head to the beach, the bay, the harbor or a nearby park to linger over lunch with someone special al fresco is certainly springtime. 

Here’s to letting your imagination run wild like a gypsy this spring. Why not? No matter where you live, if you pack it just right, life can feel as carefree as a picnic.

Categories: Opinion