I knew this park. I ran cross country loops in it. I remembered many trips here as a child. So when I saw the lines painted on the pavement say 0.0mi in the direction we were going and 2.5mi in the opposite direction, I thought it indicated a loop. I remembered wrong. This is a park trail with a pick up and a drop off. We were nearly at the far end of the park when we figured it out and turned to come back. So we went twice the distance planned, but I’m not really sorry.
“What is at this park?” the kids asked me as we were driving over.
“Trees and a walking trail.” I answered.
“Sycamore trees?” Link asked.
“Well, the name is misleading, mostly there are other kinds of trees.”
“Can I run on the grass?” Gleek said.
“It doesn’t have grass. At least not green grass. It has some yellow grass and some dirt.”
“Sounds boring.” Patch said.
I thought about it. Yes Sycamore Grove is boring. Half the trips there as a kid started with me wondering why we had come to this place of scraggly trees and dry prairie grass. I’d always figured it out by the time we left. If there was water in the arroyo, I figured it out sooner. If not, then it took a little longer.
“It might be boring.” I said, “But I think you’ll like it.”
So we began to walk. I mentioned that I’d run cross country races along this trail. Naturally this prompted Gleek and Patch to have a race. Patch won by quite a large margin, which made Gleek mad. She hasn’t been as active this past year and her body has changed shape. She was surprised that he outdistanced her. She huffed off down the path far ahead of us, angry. I hoped she would walk it out rather than maintaining her early-teen snit. She did. The last of her anger went away when we found the snake.
He was a beautiful California Kingsnake, about three feet long. We didn’t know what kind of snake he was until we looked him up later, so I declined to let the kids pick him up. They were sad, because he really was beautiful. Instead we watched him until he disappeared into the grass on the far side of the path.
We saw a western bluebird, woodpecker nests, the snake, several stinkbugs standing on their heads, a swallowtail kite hovering to look for prey, active ant hills, a cottontail rabbit, and a host of smaller birds. Then there was the turkey momma.
Who tried to lead us away from her babies.
We made our way back, footsore and tired. But all the kids agree that it was worth seeing. We were the last ones out of the park because of my miscalculation with the trails. The ranger was waiting to close the gate behind us.
I hope that some year we can come back to Sycamore Grove when there isn’t a drought. I’d love to share pollywog catching with my kids too. For today, this was good enough.