Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Doll's Head Trail

We've been reading Shakespeare since the beginning of the school year. We began with Julius Caesar, then read Comedy of Errors. Next was Macbeth (and then we watched The Tragedy of Macbeth...with the older kids) and Taming of a Shrew (and then we watched Ten Things I Hate About You...with the older kids). We've been reading Hamlet this past month, which we'll follow up with something a little lighter before moving on to Romeo and Juliet or King Lear or something. It's been fun to read these plays out loud together, in a way that a novel doesn't really allow (though we also read novels aloud together), and explore Shakespeare's language (and all the phrases we still use today like "to send someone packing" and "to catch someone's drift"). 

As we've been approaching Halloween, the kids have wanted to read spooky plays. We tried Macbeth and that was a little spooky, with the witches and all their "double, double toil and trouble" speeches. But Hamlet—it just gets straight into being a ghost story from the get-go. And the descent into madness is much more...charming...than Macbeth's. 

For example, the kids got a kick out of this exchange:

HAMLET: Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel?

POLONIUS: By th’ mass and ’tis, like a camel indeed.

HAMLET: Methinks it is like a weasel.

POLONIUS: It is back’d like a weasel.

HAMLET: Or like a whale.

POLONIUS: Very like a whale.

I mean, Hamlet was going over the top at this point, but still. There have been some very funny passages. Miriam loves reading for Hamlet.

Anyway, Hamlet has been a wonderful read to get us ready for Halloween (not that Macbeth was bad; I'm sure that was also helpful). 

One morning while we were talking about other spooky Halloween things we could do with corn maze tickets sitting around $15–20+ per person and haunted houses a little too enthusiastically scary for our crowd, I needed to find something that was both cheaper and tamer. 

Doll's Head Trail fit the bill!

It was a bit of a drive (over in DeKalb county, nearer to the airport than to our house), but it was free and only mildly creepy (especially given the beautiful weather we had that day). 

It was a little...sketchy...from the beginning, with a broken-down boardwalk and a hand-drawn sign directing us to a skinny dirt trail through the woods.

There were many handmade signs along the way, like this one pointing (to a safe place). Whatever that meant (we don't know because we didn't follow it).

This bridge is called "Mansfield Bridge" according to the sign:

Andrew and I had a bit of a disagreement over whether we should bring the stroller or whether we should bring the hiking backpack. Phoebe is not really a child we can just set loose in the woods. She's prone to eating stuff and touching stuff and generally being contrary, so we like to contain her. 

My argument was that whenever we've brought the stroller on a "hike," we've always ended up carrying the stroller because the hikes get muddy or are gnarled up with tree roots or...whatever. Andrew's argument was that it was an urban hike and from the pictures he saw online it looked like it was just paved or boardwalk the whole way. 

We put both the hiking backpack and the stroller in the car, but when we arrived and saw that the trailhead was paved, Andrew pulled out the stroller. 

And, like, I'm glad he felt like he was right for those first few hundred yards. It's nice for him to feel like he's right every now and again. In the end I was righter, but it's nice for him to feel like he's right every now and again. 

The path wasn't really all that stroller-able, but Andrew soldiered on, owning his choice the whole way. 

There were many interesting signs leading us to the correct location.

Unfortunately for us, the boardwalk across the lake was out of service (seemingly for quite some time now). Perhaps one day they'll finish rebuilding it and we can go back. It seemed like the park was, perhaps, a little underfunded. But it sure was beautiful!

It used to be a quarry for red clay, which South River Brick Works used to make their bricks. That explains how all the bricks got there (some of our kids were wondering about that). 

The history of the park was actually quite a fascinating read:

The story behind the South River Brick Company in DeKalb starts before the Civil War when Killis Brown, the son of a blacksmith and farmer from Entrenchment Creek, purchased Land Lots 49 and 50. Within Land Lot 50 was what would become Constitution Lakes. In 1867 Killis sold 101.25 acres to each of his children – his son Allen Brown bought his piece of the pie for $300, and it included this tract of land (the western half of Land Lot 50).

In 1881 the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad purchased a right of way through a portion of Allen Brown’s estate. They built a railroad tract that still exists today – this line creates the eastern boundary of Constitution Lakes Park. The railroad was crucial to the development of the land – it was the railroad and the clay that attracted J.R. Knapp and S.F. Cain to this piece of DeKalb County in 1892. In that year the pair formed the South River Brick Company (Knapp was president) and purchased nearly 51 acres from Allen Brown for the purpose of creating a brick works. It was the excavation pits from this brick works that are now Constitution Lakes.

(We heard and saw the trains going by!) 

Here's Benjamin inside a well trough. 

We tried to convinced Miriam to climb in so we could recreate some of her baby pictures, but she would not.

Miriam, Grandpa, and Rachel in Luxor (December 2009)

Alexander wasn't afraid, though!

Here are the boys (and Phoebe) after peeking into the well (it's deep).

There are all sorts of tiles lying about with quotes written on them:

And there were, of course, many, many dolls along the trail:

The exhibits along the trail were created using debris left behind during flooding. 

Many of the exhibits were structured around a good pun, like this part that was "awash in guns" (funny because a wash is a dry creek bed, and the items came from floods). There were other funny themes, like the tire garden (where you could have a "wheely" good time...or something...I can't quite remember):

Benjamin led the way through most of our hike. Here he is swinging on a vine (not poison ivy):

And here's copycat Alexander taking a turn as well:

These two ended up being my hiking buddies on the way back to the parking lot, and that was fine with me. They're wonderful, adventurous hiking buddies!

Here they are racing along the makeshift boardwalk/bridge:

And here's Alexander gearing up for a mighty jump:

We went a little ways onto the boardwalk so we could have a view of the lake, which is quite lovely.

But a little ways is all we could go, since the boardwalk simply disappears.

We did see a handful of turtles sunbathing, as well as a heron of sorts.

And then, since Phoebe was tired of being lugged around in her stroller...

And because the trail from this point was back to being paved...

...we let her out of the stroller and allowed her to run back to the parking lot. She loves running, or "nunning" as she would say. She did a lot of nunning while we were trick-or-treating this evening and takes me very seriously if I say I have to "run" to do something. For example, the other day I said, "I'm going to run this out to the compost."

"Me come!" Phoebe said. "Phoebe nun!"

I opened the door and she hopped down the front steps and then took off running. I followed along behind her—carrying a large tray of vegetable scraps—and she stopped and looked back at me, clearly annoyed. 

"Mom!" she said. "Nun!"


"Nun! Nun!!"

"You want me to run? I can't run while I'm carrying all of this," I said. 

She just shook her head at me like I was crazy. I had said I was going to run and then I wasn't even doing it!

Anyway, here she is running with her arms flung out behind her (which is probably turbo speed or something):

Here are Miriam and Alexander running with their hands behind their backs, too:

They're all going so fast!

Here's everyone all together (except for me, because I'm taking the picture, which is fair because Grandpa took our picture earlier):

A couple heading into the woods—carrying a baby around Phoebe's age—asked Andrew if they should go back to their car and get their stroller. 

"Is it paved like this the whole way?!" they asked. 

"No," Andrew answered. "No. It is not. You do not want to go back to get your stroller. Trust me."

Phoebe was so happy to get out and run! She probably would have been fine hiking/being carried the whole way. But sometimes it's just nice to strap her down...

We had a tailgate picnic in the parking lot, with peanut butter and jam sandwiches (we've all recovered enough from our road trip in June that the idea of a PB&J is no longer repulsive) and hardboiled eggs (that we had leftover in the fridge) and cheese and oranges and cucumbers and things like that.

Rachel somehow managed to fall right into the trunk while she was sitting on the back bumper eating. 

She landed right next to the hiking backpack...that we didn't use (but which we maybe should have used).

It was a short excursion, but at least we succeeded at getting out of the house (something we've struggled to do between working and house repairs recently). Rachel has to visit a few places for her geology class, so I'm sure we'll be out hiking again soon!

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