6 We hiked the Two Turtles trail yesterday, a 5.5 mile “urban greenway” encircling one of the local lakes.

This trail was a complete surprise to me. I have lived here for almost 24 years now, and I had no idea that there was a 5.5 mile hiking trail tucked in between the mall and the highway.

Because of its urban location, this was the noisiest trail we’ve been on, and the one where we saw the most people. Including people we knew, of course, since this is a small town. However, no one asked me to do anything, so that was fine.

6 Most of this trail is just like all the other hiking trails I have shown you. After all, they have all been within a single county. You can’t expect enormous amounts of variation among a bunch of trails surrounding lakes in a single county.

I started reading Bill Bryson’s A Brief History of Nearly Everything last night after we got home, and read in it about the days when people would stumble upon dinosaur bones while on walks.

I had always thought that Mary Anning was the first one to find dinosaur bones, but she was apparently just the first one to pay any attention. People in America had been finding dinosaur bones and casting them aside for years, it seems.

6 One of my favorite stories in this section of the book was not about dinosaur bones, but about extinct mammals.

Apparently, there was a guy in Europe who kept saying that America was a degenerate continent whose natives couldn’t even grow chest hair, and all the animals were little and weak. The idea took hold, and soon folks all over Europe were saying uncomplimentary things about American virility. This got on Thomas Jefferson’s wick. Jefferson was strongly opposed to the theory of evolution and to the idea of extinction, and he really didn’t like the way the Europeans kept saying that all our giant animals were extinct, proving that we were a degenerate continent.6

Jefferson was convinced that the interior of the nation was just full of giant sloths and mastodons and stuff. That was one of the main reasons he went along with Lewis and Clark on their whole expedition idea.

Lewis and Clark ran into — and described — a dinosaur bone or two. They just sort of went “Huh, fancy that” and moved on, though.

We found no dinosaur bones of any description.

The one difficulty that #2 son and I have when hiking is our difficulty in recognizing the trail.

6I think this is because we are prepared for something rugged. #2 son in particular takes the position that any line without vegetation on it is the trail.

And I suppose it is a trail. But I figure it could just as well be a deer trail or something, and I always want to stay on The Trail.

During our hiking escapades this week, we have on several occasions found ourselves on a trail that had nothing to do with The Trail, and have had to retrace our steps when it ended.

The Two Turtles Trail has blue paint on the trees, for people like us who would otherwise be saying “Hmm, they’ve really allowed this trail to become overgrown” as we clambered through the forest in the wrong direction for a quarter mile.6

We’ve done that.

The first surprise on the trail was when it came out into an open field.

We’ve come out into open fields on two previous occasions this week. Both times, it was because we had wandered off the proper trail, and we had to turn around. In this case, though, we were really still on the trail, as evidenced by a bit of blue paint on a pallet lying by the trail.

We kept going, enjoying the hedges of honeysuckle and wild roses and wondering where the heck we were going.

6Imagine our surprise when, following the trail through the trees in the picture above, we found ourselves in the midst of a botanical gardens under construction by the side of the highway.

It was almost as surprising as dinosaur bones would have been.

We had known that there was an idea to make a botanical garden here. We have driven past it and thought what a silly place it was to put such a thing, right there by the highway on hardly any space at all.

There is a wonderful public garden in the next county over, and we have felt that a little bitty botanical garden by the side of the road would not be able to compete for visitors, not to mention the impracticality of trying to build such a thing with donations.6

And yes, we have of course donated, because you can’t dismiss an idea simply on the grounds that it seems impractical and foolish.

Look at Lewis and Clark.

So the folks in charge of the botanical gardens project have just been quietly building away over here, or maybe not so quietly and everyone else but us has known that all this was going on.

There was a little group of children with a couple of women, all eating lunch in the midst of the gardens.

6

 #2 son wanted to eat lunch there, too, but it was so distinctly a construction site that I hesitated.

We did walk around the gardens, waiting for someone to tell us to leave, but no one did.

Emboldened by this, we made our way into an unlocked door in the main building and asked to use the restrooms.

This is the one thing about long hikes. So often they begin in places without any sanitary facilities, and then they go on for hours. Most hikes would be improved by a spot of indoor plumbing along the way.

6 Anyway, having looked around the gardens a bit, and realizing that they are right in the middle of a nice hiking trail, I think that they are more likely to succeed than I had previously thought.

This trail has some other stuff along it, including a disk golf range, an environmental interpretive center for the lake, and some good fishing.

None of these other things is actually on the trail. You can just glimpse them through the trees, and walk over to them easily enough. The people we met along the way had mostly just wandered down from one or another of these destinations.

6 So tourists could come to the gardens and then wander around the forest a bit, do some fishing, have a round of disk golf…

Unless they had people meeting them with cars, though, there would definitely be some walking involved.

Apart from the gardens, the other things along the way just showed briefly from the trail. “There’s the marina,” #2 son would say.

“There’s the lake,” I’d say a bit later.

“Well, yeah,” said #2 son. “We just saw the marina. If the lake hadn’t been there, people would’ve said, ‘Gee, this marina would be a lot more useful if there were some water here. What are we gonna do with these boats?'”6

#2 son can be a bit sarcastic at times.

This is “The Sensory Garden.” It is an odd name, given that gardens are always multisensory treats. The entire hike smelled fantastic. Maybe it will be a garden that visitors are allowed to touch.

I am also not quite sure what these giant bugs are all about.

There were also giant umbrella-like things.

I don’t know what they are planning here, but it looks pretty cool.

6 We snuck away and went back into the trees. We sat down on a bridge after a bit and had our lunch and then carried on.

This bit of the hike was not as nice as the beginning.

It was a long, straight trail with no cover, so we got hot and bored after a while.

There were berries and flowers in plenty here, though. It was more of a meadow than a forest.

Every so often there would be a bridge made by Boy Scouts. We could tell they were made by Boy Scouts, because the troop number would be burnt into the wood. Sometimes the information that it was an Eagle scout project would be there, too. We debated whether it was better to have Boy Scouts doing the bridge-6building, or city engineers.

It was not that this was a burning question or anything, just that we were on a boring section of the hike and would talk about anything.

There was also a point at which what we glimpsed through the trees was the reminder that we were on the Trail of Tears. Usually when we see these reminders we are driving. Somehow, it was more impressive when we were walking.

Anyway, after the dull section of the hike we came back to the lake and walked over the dam.

6It is amazing what a bit of scenery, and especially water, will do for you. Just before this, we were hot and complaining that our feet hurt. Once we were at the lake again, we felt fine.

Then came this bridge. This is a wonderful bridge. It is pretty and well-designed, and has a couple of wings which are little observation platforms with benches on them where you can sit and enjoy the view of the weir.

I am not sure that it is a weir. I kind of think that the point at a dam where the water falls over it is called a weir, but I could be wrong.

In any case, that water is what I mean.6

I had heard about this bridge, and was really looking forward to it. But once I was on it, for some reason I was seized with a desire to get off it, and I raced across. I don’t know why. I mean, I know that it was a manifestation of my odd spacial phobia, but I was surprised. There seem to me to be enough vertical elements on this bridge that it wouldn’t bother me.

But there I was, enjoying the bridge, looking forward to taking some time at the observation points, and all of a sudden it seemed that the law of gravity was about to be repealed and we would go sailing off into the air.

This happens to me sometimes.

So I got off that bridge as fast as I possibly could, and we finished up the hike.

We have no hikes planned today. I think it will be a PSD for me, with a bit of gardening and baking thrown in. Maybe I will make some soap. I am still on vacation, though, and determined to maintain that vacation feeling for a couple more days.