Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Off the Beaten Path

There I stood at the fork in the road. I could go left or I could go right. Naturally, I choose to go right. I walked past that yellow pole in the middle of the path and was on my way to adding another park perused along the Northern Greenway.

If you remember, but you don't have to, because I'm going to tell you again here anyway, I discovered this long, long trail a month or so ago. (If you are muttering, "I know, I know, you've reminded us before ad infinitum," keep in mind there just might be a new reader [one can always hope] who doesn't know this, so bare with me.  Skip ahead a paragraph or two or hum something to keep yourself entertained while I fill in the late arrivals.)

By the way, is it "bare with me" or "bear with me"? I think it might actually be "bear with me". I get those two confused. I think "bare with me" might imply an entirely different activity and would have been more appropriate to my post of a few days ago called "There is Nudity in this Post". That proved to be my most popular post to date, my readership really spiked upward on that one.

The Northern Greenway is a ten mile pathway connecting several state and county parks. Supposedly it is one long and winding road, but there are some misconnections here and there still, but never mind because that has nothing to do with this tale of woe. What's important here is upon discovering this wondrous trail I pledged to walk the length, not in one continuous trod, but as a serious of outings.

Now I had already ambled down many of the parks and trails within the link, but a few I hadn't and I began to pick them off. One of these is the Alapocas Run State Park. So a couple Sundays back I set my sights and my battered faux-suede walking shoes in its direction.

Now a while back they kept us all ducking flagmen and orange cones for like a decade while they revamped the roads where this park begins. Eventually they finished and left a confusing mess of intertwining macadam spaghetti. Still after a bit of Google study of the area map, I felt confident I knew how to get into the place without actually following the directions given on the State Park website. Those took one down good old I-95, but hey, I'm a native to this county and I could find the parking spot from the back roads less traveled. (Actually, these roads aren't all that less traveled, but at least the cars go a bit slower than on the interstate.)

I was approaching the big main Concord Pike I figured I'd have to cross when I saw a sign pointing left saying, "Alapocas Run State Park". I quickly went off the turn there and not far up this crossroad was a parking lot and another sign kind of saying, "You Are Here!" So I pulled in and parked.

Aren't the trees along the parking lot lovely in their autumn reds?

This was indeed a state park. I was immediately confronted by a sign informing me there was a $3.00 fee ($6.00 for out of state folk) in season. The season is March 1 through November 30. It was definitely in season. It was also the honor system. There was no gatehouse, no ranger with his Smokey on and his hand out. There was a square  metal box on a pole and a holder full of envelopes. You put your name and license plate number and date on the envelope, your money inside and the full envelope in the box. First you tore off a flap, dated it  and stuck it on your dash where it was visible. I have honor so I did my duty and now I was legally parked at the park.

There were large letters on a sign saying those who didn't have honor and pay the three bucks were violators and VIOLATORS WOULD BE PROSECUTED. Whoa, that's pretty strong language there. Prosecuted over a $3.00 fee, man, squad cars sweeping down on your home with sirens blaring, the indignity of a perp walk down your front drive, standing trial, serving time, getting a convict tattoo from Big Bubba, oh much better to fork over the bloody lucre.

Speaking of forks brings us back to that choice at the fork in the path. Which way, which way, but never fear I have a map.

Yes, you pays your fee and youse gets your program. There was a bulletin board with a bin full of maps, the park all in green and the pathway in red. This should make my visit a whole lot easier. So I started off. I didn't really look at the map yet, because there really was only one way to go until I came to that fork and it looked reasonable to go right. That way seemed to head toward Concord Pike and I knew somewhere along the line I had to get to the other side.

What I came to was a big flat playing field with the path encircling it. Well, I didn't bring my cleats and hockey stick. I just wanted to get into the wooded path. But there weren't any trees here, just a lot of net goals, probably for soccer, and a lot of scruffy shrubs along the embankment.

I found myself going in a big circle behind the other side of this field, almost in a kind of ravine. To my left, through a fence line of brush was a golf course.

I stood about and snapped a couple of pictures while a lone lady jogger bounced by with a panted good morning.

There was another path running along the perimeter of the golf course. I could have walked over and followed it, but I didn't come to meander about on the manicured grass of some club. Besides, I might get run down by a distracted golf carter.

No, I didn't want to go that way. I wanted to find the main trail and try to hike the park length.

I looked at the map briefly, but decided it was obvious I should continue the way I was going and see if it didn't circle back to where I would have been if I had turned left way back when.

Not too far along I came through an underpass beneath a road and on the path were white figures painted.

There was an arrow and some primitive drawings. There seemed to be a man running hurriedly across the path. He looked similar to those figures painted on restroom doors; perhaps he had to go badly.

Below him it appeared to be a boy wearing a mortarboard on his head riding a bicycle. Maybe the man was running to get out of the way of the boy, although the bike wasn't pointed in his direction.

I don't know what's going on here, I just kept walking.

There looked to be a path across some marshy crevice from me. Perhaps that was the trail that led to the woods. I could see ahead that this marked up macadam I was upon circled around further up so I headed in that direction.

I'm going to get into the heart of this park by hook or crook.

As I went I saw the trail that had gone left joined this one up near the tip of the curve around the marsh. I had really made a big circle, hadn't I?

Here I go, singing low, swinging through the cat'o'nine tails, which those plants actually weren't, but they had a similar look that took me back to my boyhood in a swamp in Pennsylvania. We had real cat'o'nine tails where the Red-Winged Blackbirds would frequent.

I use to dip a jar in the murky water beneath them and scoop up tadpoles in the spring.

This marsh-looking land here didn't really have any water in it.

But as I came about I saw a sign that told me I was indeed on the Northern Greenway. These ambiguous arrow markers appear every so often to mark the trail.

Of course it was ambiguous. The arrow pointed in opposing directions.  I had just come from the way to the right, so I assumed continuing in the leftward direction would eventually bring me to my destination of choice.

At least there were a few trees ahead, so maybe this was the entrance to where the wild things were.

Now as I go wandering here, moving inextricably toward that fencing ahead, I am peering up and down the map of the park. I am turning that paper this way and that, right side up and upside down and for the life of me I can't seem to get my orientation. All along my right is that golf course and I haven't come near the Concord Pike and on the map it sure looks like most the forest lies to its other side.

I fold the map up and stick it in my hip pocket.

I press on.

Perhaps around the bend where the ground swells up I will find my woods.

I reach the knoll and find more illustrated people, this time two people running toward each other while carrying lunch boxes.

Ahead is another spate of wooden rails and one of those fortified bridges so popular in these parks.

There does appear to be more trees, though.

Here then is a thicket all bathed in the early morning sunlight of this Sunday morning.

And once again I am confronted with the dreaded why, I mean Y. The path off to the left, though, runs up to where I can see houses. I stay on the main path and go straight ahead.

Here are some scenes from the next section I go through.

But the thing is I can still catch glimpses of that golf course on my right and houses through the trees on my right.

Not little houses either, not troll shacks or old log cabins. These are big gables houses.

I suddenly pop out of any trees onto a manicured street of these mansions. I don't see any mansions in on my map.

Where am I?

I follow the street all the way out until it dead ends into a country road. At first I think I have wandered well off the Northern Greenway, but up at the corner, down on the sidewalk, there is one of those painted symbols with the arrow pointing around the corner toward the country road.

I start to wander down this road and there is a feeling of being here before, a déjà vu.

I pass a fenced drive and it comes to me.

If I continue to walk under the two overpasses ahead I will soon come to the backside entrance to Rockwood, the park where I first discovered the Greenway, the park where I have walked often.

I turn around and head back as I had come. I have walked a fair distance, I won't push it. But one thing is clear. Instead of walking into the great Alapocas Run State park, I had walked out of it in the wrong direction. I will have to come back another time and see if I can complete my journey.

Maybe I will wait until December when I won't have to pay $3.00 to get lost.

Maybe I will follow the directions on that website and approach from I-95. Somewhere beyond the Concord Pike, beyond the clouds so high where bluebirds fly, over the rainbow is the central parking lot I should have started from.

When I got home I Googled the area map again and I saw at once why I couldn't get my bearings with the map I had at the place.

You see I wasn't on the map. I was off the beaten path. That marsh like finger of land I had looped around was the red line on the right side of my map and I had followed it right on down off the edge to I became that little black smudge in the white.

1 comment:

Ron Tipton said...


Another great post! Your pictures are beautiful. You chose a good day for your tour. I felt like I was on the walk with you. However, I don't know about the "bare with me." I wouldn't mind "bear with you" though. Freudian slip?