The Saga of the Not-a-Lot

A few years ago, Claire and I set out on a letterboxing adventure at an open space near us. When I was looking for hiking adventures to do this summer, I thought of that place, and knew we would get a good little hike out of it. (We could plan it before lunch, since it was easy to get to and relatively quick.) I figured out where it was (which took a while, because we’ve done more than 300 letterboxing adventures!) and had it on the calendar to do today.

We didn’t get out of the house as soon as I’d wanted to, but again, it was close and easy to get to, and relatively short. I thought we’d have plenty of time to hike before lunch.

I’d remembered the parking lot for this open space was tricky to get into and out of, but I remembered where it was, roughly, and I knew I’d recognize it when I saw it, so we set out. As we were driving along, we got to where it was supposed to be, and it wasn’t there! Because traffic was crazy, I drove by and did a U-Turn. As we approached from the other direction, I saw where it was supposed to be again, but it was all overgrown and not truly a parking lot anymore! What?? (The signs for the park/open space were still there, and there was a visible trail, so I was more than a little confused.) I didn’t pull in, because it just didn’t feel right.

I’d remembered looking up the info online and vaguely remembering the City’s website saying something about how parking was available on a side street, but it hadn’t said the lot was closed, so I’d just ignored it. (This isn’t our city or county, by the way. It’s a neighboring one, and they need to up their game!!) Fine. I drove past the Not-a-lot and drove to the side-street in hopes of finding the entrance on that side.

We drove around super-fancy houses and oodles of NO PARKING signs, but NEVER saw the sign for this blasted park. We could SEE the park behind a barbed-wire fence, but NO entrance.

That’s when I decided to be a rebel and rule-breaker and go back to the Not-a-lot and park there anyway. I hadn’t seen a sign saying I couldn’t. It’s just weeds. I have a Subaru. Try to stop me!

I make another U-Turn and head back. As I’m waiting to turn into the lot, I notice a bunch of little NO PARKING signs and another sign with explicit instructions on where to park on the side-streets. What?? Gah! Fine. I learned a long time ago NOT to park where the signs actually say NO PARKING, so I made ANOTHER U-Turn. (I’ve lost count at how many this is.)

“Look kids! Big Ben! The Parliament!”

At this point, Claire suggested we just skip this hike and go to lunch, but by this time, I WAS DETERMINED to figure out how to get in…AND WE WOULD GET IN!

I drove BACK to the side-street and drove past the pond. Maybe it was clearer from this side? Nope. All over this fancy neighborhood were NO PARKING AND NO TRESPASSING signs (probably put up to discourage those pesky hikers…). I found a legit spot in front of a house and pulled over to check google to see what was up. That’s when I noticed the same directions about parking on the side-street. (When we’d tried that, it was littered with No Parking signs, but I had to be missing something!)

Back we go. “Look kids! Big Ben! The Parliament!”

I found another side-street off the other side-street and parked there. (There were no signs to be seen.). As we made our way on foot back out to the street by the pond, we STILL could find NO signs indicating how to get into the blasted thing. We saw a lady walking her dog and decided to ask HER how to do it.

I explained our predicament and asked if she knew how to get into Vogel Park. “Well, yes and no,” she said. (Great. If a local is stumped, we’re doomed.) She pointed in a general direction and said that we could get in there. She warned us that the trails weren’t obvious, and if they were, they weren’t maintained, so they’d be muddy (it rained last night). We didn’t scoff at her out loud, because she was being very nice, but we’ve yet to see a truly muddy trail, so we were skeptical.

Do you hear that ominous music, or is it just in my head?

We thanked her, and we headed off in the direction she mentioned.

Sure enough, we found it. It wasn’t a break in the fence, it was past where the fence turned a corner. (You can’t see this from the street, and I’d have to draw you a map, and then you still may not get it.) We marveled at how there was absolutely no signage from this side of the park, but we could see a “trail” (quotes are necessary) heading off through the grass that turned into a trail (no quotes). This part of the trail was bone dry, so we got cocky. We could see the pond, so we figured we were headed in the right direction.

As predicted by the local, down by the pond, the trail turned really muddy (Ha! First time for everything!), and there was no way to avoid it, but we continued on. The pond was pretty, but this hike wasn’t what we expected (and it wasn’t nearly as much fun as coming in from the Not-a-lot, so we started to head back (which put us through the muddy section again). We noticed another trail that forked off around the pond a different way, so we opted to check that out before calling it quits.

We were following the path around that side of the pond when our hike ended abruptly.

Looking at the pictures now, we determined that it was probably an Aquatic Garter Snake, but at the time, it was so hard to tell. Friendly or not, he was alone right after I snapped the last photo. 😉

Needless to say, the hike back to the car was a bit faster than the hike in.

This hike did serve as a reminder for us:

  1. Don’t forget the water. We always travel with our water bottles, but those got left at home in the mad dash from the house. It was a short hike, and we were going to lunch right after, but nice cool water to gulp after being startled by a random snake would have been very nice, indeed.
  2. Bring flip-flops to change into. Despite the fact that our trails out here are rarely truly muddy, apparently they are sometimes. Figuring out how to scrape our shoes to get them to a presentable enough level to go to lunch (see #1) was comical.
  3. Smile. Even though this hike was a dud, in that we have no desire to go back to this area (the parking situation alone is ridiculous), we had a fun time exploring together, and the pictures turned out great.
  4. Sometimes figuring out which hikes aren’t worth doing again is great information to have, too!


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