Upon leaving the car, my 2-year-old daughter gave an enthusiastic shout.
On a recent cloudy morning, we ducked between rain showers to slip in a walk around the nearby neighborhood lake. After several days cooped up indoors — with my toddler sitting in the dishwasher, dunking breakfast cereal in my soda, and coloring on the furniture — I needed to get her out of the house and run her around.
Tucked in the middle of condos and townhomes, Gunners Lake is actually part of the Montgomery County stormwater system, built to withstand the peak runoff from a 100-year flood event. The lake was built about 30 years ago, when the 14 surrounding associations were built. The dam embankment lies directly in front of the Wisteria Drive roadway where I usually park.
Just a few steps onto the trail, I noticed that the bustle of the road was noticeably diminished, replaced by bird song and frog calls. We traveled counterclockwise from Wisteria along the flat path that hugs the lake. I took the walk at an even pace. My daughter darted back and forth in that chaotic manner common to toddlers and squirrels.
We stopped to admire the lake from the vantage point of one of two fishing piers.
“What dat?” my daughter asked. A large black and white bird was swimming toward her. She leaned between the slats of the recycled-plastic pier and stared at it.
“It’s a goose,” I said, watching the ducks and geese on the lake, listening to a myriad of song birds greeting the day.
She was not convinced. “Is that duck?”
“No, it’s a goose,” I assured her. “But ducks and geese are both types of birds.”
Birds are drawn to the vegetation lining the Gunners Lake loop — wild strawberries, honeysuckle, wildflowers. Tall trees, such as maples and hickories, flank the lake’s northern half. My daughter continued to dart about happily for the first half-mile, pointing out the large puddles on either side of the trail. I showed her two male cardinals in the underbrush, their red plumage bright, vocalizing a “chip, chip” call.
At roughly the half-way point of our journey, I stopped to transfer my now-tired toddler to her stroller, which punctuated the relative quiet with shrieks of “No, no! No stroller!” To distract her, I pointed out the picnic benches that grace the northern portion of the trail. I reminded her that her brothers and father took her there once for a picnic.
Gunners Lake has recently undergone a facelift. Ravi Parkhie is the property manager for the North Lake Village Federation, the group responsible for maintaining Gunners Lake. He described the extensive work that the North Lake Village Federation has put toward the lake in the past three years: replacing the two fishing piers, repaving the asphalt path, repainting the distance markers, and adding 30 synthetic trash cans, 12 synthetic benches, and two dog stations.
“I vowed when I took it over that we would fix it up,” Parkhie told me. “Gunners Lake is a great resource to the residents of Germantown.”
As my daughter and I strolled our way back around the lake, I realized that I was seeing the same faces coming back toward us. At 1.16 miles, the Gunners Lake loop provides a convenient unit of measurement for walkers and joggers.
“It’s nice. It’s like the perfect distance,” said Germantown resident Colleen Welch, jogging with her white boxer Emmit. “Depending upon how ambitious we feel, we’ll do one lap or two laps.”
Karen Walker lives nearby and visits Gunners Lake every day to walk or run on the loop trail.
“For me, it’s my quiet time and my exercise,” Walker said. “I love the wildlife here. I love being able to see the blue herons, ducks and geese, osprey, different types of birds, beavers, lots of turtles. It’s just really relaxing.”
Except when I’m transferring my daughter back into her stroller.