AUSTIN, Texas -

If, like many other Texans, you overindulged on cornbread dressing, candied yams, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, I suggest you try a helping of the great outdoors.

Texas state parks and natural areas abound in and around Senate District 25. Family fun, Texas sun, and our relatively warm winter combine to make nature the perfect prescription.

Blues, greens, golds and browns--the colors of nature--plus warm sunshine and fresh air are natural mood enhancers, as is the exercise of walking through a park.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) at www.tpwd.state.tx.us can help you find the perfect spot. And with the cooler weather, now is the perfect time to go.

In Bexar County, Government Canyon State Natural Area covers more than 8,600 acres. On Saturday, December 8, from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon, you may join a guided hike. Length of the hike will range from four to seven miles, depending on the group.

The hikes are open to ages 13 and over, and minors must be accompanied by an adult (no pets, please). Natural Area entrance fees apply. You may find more information online, or call (210) 688-9055, extension 289.

Also on December 8, Guadalupe River State Park on Highway 46 will host "Prowlin' for Owls" from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Meet at the amphitheater next to the Interpretive Center at 3350 Park Road 31, Spring Branch. There you may view a presentation on owls of Texas before heading out to call for them. Please call Craig at (830) 438-7653 to confirm.

Saturday, December 15, it's back to "Explore the Canyon" at Government Canyon State Natural Area from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon. Guides will discuss the natural and cultural history of the area, as well as the flora and fauna during this exploration. This day is open to all ages, and sturdy hiking shoes are recommended. Again, no pets, please. Call (210) 688-9055 to confirm event.

On the same day at the same park, "Pioneer Kids Christmas" is from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Experience what a typical Christmas would have been like for pioneer children in the region. Children will create their own 19th century Christmas decorations and toys. Group size is limited, and reservations are required before noon on December 14. For reservations or more information, e-mail fogcsna@gmail.com. Include the name of each participant/guardian, age of participant, contact e-mail address and telephone number. Entrance fees apply.

McKinney Falls State Park is just 13 miles southeast of the State Capitol. A "Merry Evening with Santa" is planned for Friday, December 21, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Enjoy an evening of ornament and candy-making, Christmas decorations and photographs with Santa for a suggested donation. While you are out, enjoy hot cocoa, warm wassail, kettle corn and a twilight hike followed by a star-gazing party with the Austin Astronomy Club at 7:00 p.m. Email amber.conrad@tpwd.state.tx.us.

If you love the outdoors, Texas still has plenty of wide open spaces. Life truly is better outside.

This column was written by State Sen. Jeff Wentworth