Story and Photos by Denise Henderson
It is surprising to find out that not all Elk Grove residents are aware of the almost hidden trail treasure that is the Laguna Creek Trail; but that’s okay with those who are “in the know” and frequent it often. This trail is considered by some to be the most scenic of all the Elk Grove trails. It is rich with a variety of flora and fauna that changes with the seasons. Also, there is a variety of waterfowl which include cranes, herons, geese, ducks and occasionally pelicans. Additionally, there usually are turtles sunning themselves on logs and rocks. However, they quickly disappear into the water if one looks too hard at them, because they are very shy. There is even an occasional otter slipping through the water, and you can see dams that have been built by beavers.
On any given day, from sunup to sundown, there seems to be an activity of some sort taking place. There are those individuals that stroll along at a leisurely pace, taking in the surrounding serenity. The tranquil setting is ideal for the solo individual seeking some solace. It is also suited for a leisurely walk with a companion or two, or with the family. Others use the trails as part of a more active lifestyle. Using the mild slopes and incline to elevate the intensity of a run or bike ride. Skateboarder, strollers, joggers, scooters, and even horses are welcome!
Don’t look for the Laguna Creek Trail in the Laguna West area of Elk Grove. The middle of the two-mile, paved off-street, trail crosses Bond Road and Elk Grove Florin Road. With a sneaky short connection that dips behind the shopping plaza on the corner. Del Meyer Park, a cooperative effort between the CSD and Elk Grove Rotary, offers convenient parking for those coming from out of the area. Traveling South East, the Laguna Creek Trail winds its way one mile to Jack Hill Park at Waterman. Moreover, if you go North West, you will pass Camden Lake. A new bridge, built in 2017, connects what had been the end of the trail for over 20 years back to Bond Road along the side of Cal Fit.
While the trails are often used as passageways to connect the neighborhoods of Fallbrook, Quail Ranch Estates and Camden Estates, many also use it to go to schools. Because McKee and Feickert Elementary Schools are nearby many take advantage of walking field trips to study vernal pools, among other things. The greenbelt provides wide open spaces for T-ball and tot soccer. There are still others who use it for shopping and dining, making various places along the trail their destination points. The large sprawling trees that line Camden Lake is the perfect backdrop for family photos. The bridges at each end of the two trails provide a rustic element for high school dance and graduation pictures.
There are plenty of perfect spots to lay out a picnic blanket, throw a frisbee around, or have a flag football game. Additionally, both Laguna Creek and Camden Lake lure many a fisherperson to drop a line. One might occasionally spot a particularly avid angler in a floating device in the middle of the lake, as well as an occasional canoer.
Camden Lake came to be years ago, when a section of Laguna Creek was excavated for an amenity and to provide fill for the Camden development. The trails are a cooperative effort between the City of Elk Grove, CSD and a Trail Committee made up of citizens appointed by the mayor of Elk Grove. The trails are included in the Elk Grove Creek clean-up efforts every spring. More information can be found at www.lagunacreek.org.
Take a walk with us as we meet a few people who enjoy the trail...
Like Father, like Son! Nic Duval is more than happy to bring his son Gage over to Laguna Creek from Wilton. Nic is teaching Gage, who will turn two in June, how to fish and he is catching on fast. Nick grew up in the Elk Grove area and graduated in Pleasant Grove High School’s first graduating class. Nic has fished in the Laguna Creek for years and is happy to pass on the tradition. The Duval’s come fishing every month or so.
Gage has his own two-year-old size rod which he casts confidently all by himself. He is very patient and attentive to his line in the water and reels it in every so often. With an experienced fisherman’s tug, knees bent, and feet planted firmly, Gage is ready to handle whatever is on the end of his line. Mom (Montana) who also grew up in Elk Grove, enjoys all the greenery along the trail—while the guys fish. Gage is expecting a little brother or sister soon and will pass on his fishing expertise to his new sibling!
Lucy and Linda
Linda Martin bought her home on Aizenberg Circle a few years ago because of the gorgeous view, access to Laguna Creek, and the trail that runs along the outside of her backyard. Shortly after moving in, Linda heard all the different accents of the people on the trail. Because her curiosity was peaked, she opened up her back gate and began to observe all the activity on the trail. Along with a variety of languages, Linda saw all kinds of people on the trail. There were singles, couples, and families. There were twosomes of women who chatted along the way, with coffee cups in hand. Additionally, there were scouting groups, organized nature clubs, bird watchers, photographers, dog walkers, joggers, cyclists, rollerbladers, and skateboarders. Some of the trail travelers were in a hurry, and others were happy to stroll along the trail and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.
Linda has a natural curiosity about people and loves to find out their stories. She recently read an article published by the Wall Street Journal that cited a study that verified talking to strangers boost an individual’s self-esteem. Like many others, Linda is concerned with society’s pull from a sense of cohesion and community. It is essential to her Bahai faith that the oneness of mankind must be embraced. Based on this principle, Linda was moved to set up a small table and a few chairs outside her back gate facing the trail. There she sits reading a book, with her best friend and roommate Lucy (Lucy is a shiny black rescue cat that she inherited from her mother).
Through the green painted gate, you can peek at her cheerily decorated backyard. To those who pass by, she offers a friendly "hello" and a cold drink of lemon water or tea, from her table. Some take the refreshment, offer a quick thank you, and move along the trail. Others take notice of the book she is reading, or are drawn to Lucy and strike up a conversation.
Linda shares her thoughts, “It occurs to me that as the creek flows by my house, so do people from all over the world.” She truly enjoys hearing their stories. Linda has met all kinds of people on the trail. Occasionally, she observes some Spanish speakers and offers light conversation in Spanish in return. Other times there is a language barrier that is broken with a smile and nod of the head as a greeting. She met a pair of brothers who grew up fishing on the creek and lived nearby. Now they visit the creek with their children, to continue the family tradition. On another occasion, she met three women, one of whom had become a cookbook author after her husband passed away. She took to the open road in an RV with her cat. Her book is called Coast to Coast with a Cat and a Ghost.
Make sure to keep an eye out for Linda, the next time you stroll down the trail… say "hello" to her and Lucy!
Kuni Henderson loves the park, especially when he can take a dip in the water and dry out on the family’s picnic blanket.
The Holiday House
There is an ornate yellow and white house across from Camden Lake, near the end of the path that is famous for its outdoor seasonal decorations. People using the trail are treated to an elaborate Halloween display—including skeletons climbing ladders up to the two-story roof. During Christmas there are tons of lights and wreaths surrounding the ornate wooden features of the house. National holidays (including the 4th of July) call for red white and blue bunting nostalgic of southeastern coastal homes. The Edelberg family has been decorating their two-story yellow house which faces Camden Lake for over 16 years. They moved from just right around the corner, when the house was put on the market. It wasn’t at all what they thought they were looking for… with its two stories, pool and no young kids at home. However, Don Edelberg knew it was the house for them. The view of the Camden greenbelt and Lake from the front porch had a lot to do with that!
Having the area as a practical extension to their front yard has provided Don, his wife Cindy, their two daughters (and their families) years of enjoyment. Five grandkids have grown up with access to the open space right out Grandma’s front door. Moreover, lots of family celebrations have taken place there. Don and Cindy’s daughter, Jill, got married a few years ago on the greenbelt. Her sister Jill Easton can point out exactly which tree the wedding took place under. Don (a semi-retired contractor) and Cindy have worked hard over the years to remodel the inside of the home. Don is in charge of the detailed finish work, and Cindy is in charge of the exquisite interior decorating. They have recently added an extension that includes a second master bedroom suite. This extension became necessary after the family considered what to do with the house, as Don and Cindy started to travel. The extended family loved the house and all it offered. They came up with a solution that more and more families are taking advantage of, multi-generational home sharing. The possibility of Don and Cindy moving to a retirement community was kicked around but not embraced, because Don and Cindy weren’t quite ready to give up their home. Jill, a teacher at Pleasant Grove Elementary School, and her family (husband Matt, a pharmacist, and children Paige and Charlie) were looking to buy a house just about that time. The family put their heads together and came up with a plan to add the extension. Now the house generously accommodates the three generations. Multi-generational home sharing offers the Edelberg/Easton family a chance to spend more time together, while helping each generation out in different ways.
Along with all the people sharing the house, there are four furry family members. Two of them are technically the Edelberg’s, and two are the Easton’s. A benefit of home sharing is the Edelberg’s know that the Easton’s will take care for their dogs, if they don’t go on the road with them; and Cindy doesn’t mind acting as chauffeur for the kids. All three generations enjoy the opportunity to share family meals, and they plan on doing so for a long time to come.
Joshua Ponds comes over from the west area of Elk Grove, near Highway 5, to fish in the creek every month or so. He catches all kinds of fish including… Bluegill, Catfish, Trout, Bass, and Perch. However, you must have a fishing license to fish in the Creek.
Mother Goose Pedaling for Paws
Mother Goose can be spotted every morning (rain or shine) pedaling her “Treat Cycle” along the Laguna Creek Trail. Often, she is with a few four-legged customers who run alongside.
Mother Goose’s real name is Carol Roberts. Friends she has met on the trail gave her the nickname. Her cart is a cruiser bike with baskets strapped securely to the front and back. It's filled with all kinds of pet treats. Carol takes the same route mid-morning every day near the Del Meyer Park on Elk Grove Florin Road. She gets on and off her Treat Cycle intermittently to call out to her clients. Passers-by can hear her lovingly summon the “Cats of the Creek” by name. There is Ebony, Apricot, Stripes, Sydney, White Rabbit, Peaches, Silver Belmont, Zeek, and Cloud.
As soon as the cats hear their names, they quickly appear along the fence from under nearby bushes and trees to meet their patron. Carol lays out a morning meal for each of them and checks on their general condition. She knows exactly what each cat likes and what they need, including food and attention. She knows which one needs a little more coaxing and just where another likes to get a good scratch. The cats know and love her (you can tell by the way they wrap around her) and rub against her with affection.
After reaching the end of her route, she will turn around and collect the paper plates and any remnants of the meal left behind. The cats most often wait for Carol’s return along the fence, seeking one last dose of love. The friends then part ways, with no sign of the morning ritual left behind. Content, the cats disappear into the surrounding area with full bellies. Once again, Carol goes back the way she came, with a full heart.
Carol’s patronage of the Cats of Laguna Creek Trail does not end with their daily feeding. Carol has been caring for the Cats of the Creek for a few years. It all started when Carol and a friend, who are frequent trail walkers, discovered a group of up to 30 kittens that had been dropped off and abandoned in the Rotary parking lot. From that day forward, Carol has been caring for the “Cats on the Creek”. She knows the story of each of the cats and is happy to share what she knows about them, including how long they have been on the trail.
One of her first cats was Ebony. She knows which cat is related to whom and how long they have been on the creek. Carol works hard with other cat lovers to find homes for the kittens that come along. She ensures the parents are spayed, neutered, and returned to the creek. Carol pays for the medical care for each of the cats, including Stripes, who ate a mouse that had been poisoned with DeCon. After finding Stripes very ill on the trail, Carol took him directly to the vet and was just in time to get him the care he needed. Carol consults with animal control and the CSD about her efforts on an ongoing basis. She has also fostered several cats from the creek in her own home alongside her own two cats, who are rescues themselves. Carol gives credit to her husband for being so supportive of her efforts. Carol and her husband pay for all the food and care by themselves.
Cats are not the only four-legged furies that have a place in Carol’s heart. Part of her cart/bike contraption includes a basket for doggie treats. When encountering dogs, who are out walking their people on the trail, Carol will ask the owner politely if the dog can have a treat. If so, would they like to take it from the owner’s hand or her hand? Several dogs and their owners are very familiar with Carol and look forward to crossing her path. After the appropriate social exchange, the dogs will present their best behavior and will be rewarded with their treat.
Writer Denise Henderson enjoys being on the trail as often as possible; her husband Eddie and dog Kuni are on it daily. Denise isn’t sure who is walking whom. They both seem to enjoy the trail very much.
This story first appeared in Ardent
for Life Summer 2019 issue.