These things happened simultaneously: Heat wave, extra day off together, desire to hike, unwillingness to travel very far. I like a good riddle, and the solution to this one was Federation Forest State Park.
We have driven past this park countless times on the way to bigger hikes, but had never checked it out. It answered part of the riddle by being well-shaded and only 30 minutes from home.
Although there are over 6 miles of trails, they are not challenging in a hiking sense, so we came prepared to trail run. But first a bit of orientation.
There used to be a Hobbit Village at the far west end of the park, but due to vandalism and the ravages of nature, it's mostly gone. Recent trip reports hinted that visitors -- or perhaps woodland nymphs -- have begun to rebuild.
There is what seems from the outside to be a very nice Interpretive Center. It is currently closed for renovations until 2016. We knew this ahead of time and weren't put off at all since we figured it meant we would encounter fewer people. The grounds around the center have been recently maintained, and each plant has identification signage. The bathrooms, I'm happy to report, were open and well taken care of.
The trails closest to the interpretive center are very pretty and quite conducive to running. As you get further away from the building, the trails narrow. Several wooden footpaths and little bridges occur along the way, but the metal screening on them is in disrepair requiring strict attention to foot placement.
The first hint that forest Sprites had frequented the area.
Diminutive gnome directing traffic.
A dwarf, I believe. Sleepy or Sneezy by the looks of the "S" on his shirt.
Hobbit on high.
A gnome by the name of Kandis.
Cool gnome guarding his magic 'shroom.
Frosty salt and pepper shakers. I think someone got confused by their hats which do seem very gnome-like.
After the sprinkling of fairyland figures, the trail crosses the road and continues along the north side of the highway back to the main park. We were cruising along...
...but about halfway back, the trail became very boggy (I got a shoe-full of mud) and then evaporated entirely. We had to step out onto the highway (never quite out of earshot no matter which side of the park you're on, unfortunately) and walk along the shoulder for a bit. At least it was mostly shady, but we did discuss how to leap into the ditch and underbrush if it became necessary to avoid being creamed by a vehicle. Have a plan, I always say!
All in all, it's a pretty park, and we had a good time frolicking through the woods like deer. The Big Guy will probably object to my use of the word frolic, so let's say I frolicked, and he charged through the old-growth forest like a mighty bull elk.