Outing to the Trails at The Arboretum

According to the temp gauge on the Subaru, it was a scorching 97 degrees this afternoon at 3:00. The cub had been inside all day because we had visitors from out of town and thus hosted a brunch so other friends would have a chance to relax and visit and we all had a nice mini-reunion around quiche, home-made biscuits-n-sausage gravy, fruit, way potent coffee, and mimosas. Mmmmmmmm. But the cub was non-plussed, and he wanted out.

Lord knows how many times I've driven past the pond at the back of the Arboretum shops, and yet I've never walked down the trail or explored the areas back there. Because of the shade, chance of seeing geese and ducks, and ability to duck into an air conditioned store if conditions became unbearable, we decided to set out for the unknown.

What a fabulous afternoon. We packed the cub's snack and water, took our "indoor" stroller in case we ended up in Barnes & Noble (of course we did, but we still should have taken the BOB instead) and headed out. Finding parking was a bit tricky, but then we set out to the courtyard adjacent to Amy's ice cream and basically kept heading to the back of the property. There were lots of water fountains, some very large, and everything near the shops was very stroller-accessible. Behind the shops there's a wonderful grassy slope shaded by clumps of live oaks, and there are 5 life-size stone-conglomerate cows in the shade that the children were climbing over and playing on. We set the cub up on one and he was delighted and even protested when we finally moved on.

The path to the pond is very uneven paved stone and has quite a few steps. This is when having the BOB would have been handy. We ended up letting the cub ride on DH's shoulders while I rattled behind with the stroller, which was probably the best option anyway. Unfortunately the pond is not well kept at all. The little shelter in the middle to protect the ducks and geese from the weather is rotting and falling apart and provides zero comfort for the birds. The water was quite low and in some places the pond-bottom was exposed and mucky. The pond is also nearly choked with green algae and trash, and at the picnic table where we stopped, there was broken glass, a beer cap, and lots of Amy's trash, despite the fact that there was a trash bin conveniently placed just a few feet away (what is WRONG with people???). Given all of this, it's not surprising that only a few geese and even fewer ducks have decided to make their home there. What a shame.

Nevertheless, the experience was still worthwhile. The shady areas immediately behind the shops were beautiful and pleasant, and I know the cub will have a great time romping around there once he's finally vertical. Down by the pond, there were picnic tables and lots of shade, so that we were perfectly comfortable. The geese came over to demand food, and were typically a tad agressive for my preference, but that's geese for you. It was the closest the cub had been to another animal that was not a pet, and he seemed to enjoy the experience.

So overall, if you're looking for a cheap (free) family outing, even in scorching weather, I give the Arboretum a thumb's mostly up, with the only negative point being the shabby, neglected condition of the pond and surroundings. Otherwise, it's very convenient, a good leg-stretcher if you have older children that need to work off some energy, and there's ice cream and books nearby. And it's FREE.

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