By Bryn Wooten
During this uncertain time, I’ve been self-isolating with my family in Riga, Latvia. Latvia is a small Baltic country with many forests and nature parks, and Latvians love to be outside and enjoy nature! Because the weather is often so bleak during the winter, it’s almost impossible to keep Latvians inside on a sunny day. However, the pandemic has presented a challenge for Latvians needing a breath of fresh air, and the forests provide refuge.
Throughout my time here, I’ve found it enjoyable to explore and learn more about nature from a different cultural perspective. Let’s learn a few things about Latvian forests! With over 50% of its land area covered by forests, Latvia is the most densely forested country in the European Union, and that number is constantly growing! Forested areas in Latvia are well protected, and very few areas allow for logging. The hundreds of accessible hiking trails make a secluded trail with no one else on it an easy find. Latvia has 4 national parks, 42 nature parks, 260 nature reserves, 2,000 lakes, 12,000 rivers, and 500km of beautiful sandy beaches. Because of developing laws written quite early by the Latvian government, it is illegal to develop on or near the beaches. Most, if not all, of the beaches in Latvia are still forested, and you must go for a quick hike through the woods before your day on the sandy beach.
The forests in Latvia are also very diverse. Near the beaches you’ll find thick carpets of moss covering mixes of dirt and sand with spindly, tall pines reaching up towards the sky. Latvia is also home to many mires and marshes, much like Louisiana! Almost a quarter of the forests in Latvia are growing on wetlands, making them a sanctuary to a host of diverse flora and fauna. There you’ll find many different protected animal species, and lots and lots of berries!
My favorite part about the forests near Riga is the sound! The trees are so packed together, that the sounds from the outside world and even your own footsteps are quite muffled. You can hear the trees rustling in the wind and the quiet crunch as you walk over snow and moss. And from a distance, you can hear waves crashing down on the beach even before you can see the ocean. It’s such an unfamiliar combination of sounds, the forest and the ocean, but I’ve grown to love it! I hope everyone gets the chance to spend some time alone outdoors and appreciate something you might not have noticed before.
About the Author:
Name: Bryn Wooten
Year in School: Junior
Major: Neuroscience and Psychology
Hometown: Colorado Springs
Favorite Outdoor Activity: Climbing
Favorite Camp Food: Mac and cheese with taco seasoning
Ideal Outdoor Adventure Trip Destination: Climbing and backpacking in Southeast Asia
If you were stranded on a desert island, what/who would you bring with you: a boat