The Woodbury Bulletin staff will check out some of the area’s parks in the coming months.
This week: Carver Lake Park
Despite Carver Lake Park’s obvious vastness and its well-known, expansive list of amenities, which make it one of the favorites over many other Woodbury area parks, Carver Lake Park offered my family unending surprises.
Last week, we thought we’d check out the beach. Paige, 5, asked for a beach bag full of sand toys and of course her 3-year-old brother had to try to one-up her. Cole brought an even bigger shovel.
For a newbie to town, just finding Carver Lake Park Beach can be a handful. Thank goodness for GPS. Our route – from Windwood Passage along Woodlane Drive to Stratford Road and then Buckingham Road to the Jordan Drive entrance – was winding. Then we decided to get closer to the beach by taking Lake Road to Courtly Road to Century Avenue. We saw the sign for the beach and then the playground from across the lake, passed the archery range, and our curiosity and excitement began building.
Our arrival was an achievement. To a newcomer, Carver Lake Park feels like a hidden jewel. You have to walk to get to what you want to find. There are maps, but for those of us who choose to – how do we say it? – feel our way, it’s on us to make a discovery.
Surprise! The first thing my darling wife noticed was the locked gate around the beach. It was closed. C’mon, think, young family, beaches usually don’t open until after Memorial Day! We should’ve realized that. But with the temperature in the mid-50s, we weren’t expecting to swim or spend a long time at the beach. The minimal disappointment set us up for adventure.
The five of us – Paige and Cole galloping along, 1-year-old Gerald in the stroller pushed by his mom, and I with my camera – checked out the beach, which is just what we need: picnic tables and umbrellas; a playground; shelter; sand for my volleyball court; and water for the kids’ impromptu swimming lessons. We saw a fishing boat, and heard the chirp of birds and the kuk of squirrels.
Following a path lined by bushy flowers, we continued to listen.
Surprise! The mommy heard running water.
We took a turn onto a footpath. Barely 10 yards and we saw it: a thin babbling brook.
Cole’s favorite movie of the week was “Peter Pan” and, propped up by his shovel, he looked the part as he traipsed through the ferns, trudged on the dirt and skipped over roots alongside a rocky miniature river. Paige, who often plays the part of a fairy who is no stranger to the deepest reaches of imaginary forests, was right at home in the greenery of the small valley we’d discovered, the steep bluffs rising from the water to the lowering, peeking sunrays.
It was a short walk, and we never found the end of the path, which I assumed was circuitous. We turned back.
The mom had been calling, and with the sky starting to darken, she was pleased when we emerged at the top of the hill, back on the paved path, next to the playground.
Even at what appeared to be a standard, high-quality, modern playground, we found adventure.
Gerald quickly learned that he was not too small to go off on his own in the cedar chips. He climbed a little and toddled a lot.
Cole hit the slides, which he historically fears, alone. No problem.
Paige spent most of her time on what she called Ariel’s rock, an arched play structure perfect for taking a calculated risk. She was proud when she got to the top, and after edging her way down, she leaped off the bottom with a high-pitched squeal.
And we were surprised to find imprints of animals in the rock. Looking closely, we found a dragonfly, a fish and other shapes.
My lovely wife reminded me that she is not too young to hang on and zip from platform to platform. She also reminded me not to publish a picture of her doing said playing.
Seeing that she was exhausted from her play area feat, or maybe the workday that had recently ended, I offered to get the car and pick up the clan.
Cole and I ran down the hill to fetch the Dodge and we bumped into members of a group that maintains the Carver Lake Mountain Bike Trail. They invited us to try out the groomed trails, on bike or on foot.
And their enthusiasm – they show up every Wednesday night to groom a portion of the 5-1/2 miles of trail – was nothing short of contagious. A short conversation went a long way toward encouraging us that we have much more to learn about Carver Lake Park.
We will be back, and not only for the beach.