Ted Black Park, Okemos

Unless you look carefully, you'll miss this little park as you whiz past on Grand River between Okemos and Williamston, the latter holding some excellent dining options, like Old Nation, Red Cedar Grill, and Gracie's Bistro. Yes, that was a blatant plug to get some of my favorite restaurants more business. But if you look on the north side of the road between Meridian Road and Van Atta Road, next to the entrance to Red Cedar Church, you'll see a tiny parking lot with a sign reading "Ted Black Park". It's a land of wonders. Sort of.

If you're like me, you'll immediately see some government waste at work, with a handicap parking spot that serves no purpose. There are no facilities, with a completely unimproved trail, but there is a parking lot so those with a handicap sticker can be five feet closer to a trail they probably can't use.

Once on the trail, you'll see how unimproved it actually is. Roots crisscross the trail fairly regularly, and if there has been rain in the past day or two, it can be quite muddy. The trail can change based on recent storms, so be prepared to scramble over downed trees or take a detour. It's an adventure whenever you go. This is definitely a hiking boots trail - no stilettos.

There are essentially two trails, the main loop and the inner loop. Taking the shorter (inner) loop will lead to a 3/4 mile trip, while the long loop is about a 1 1/2-mile trail. I've found I usually have either one to myself, as the park is not widely used, something I like about it. Close to home, yet often empty - my perfect combination for a walk in the woods.

Though it is a loop, there are other trails that branch off, usually to another parking lot, or to a nearby neighborhood. In general, if you are walking the trail in a counter-clockwise direction (the way the cool kids do), keep taking lefts and you'll eventually reach the beginning of the park. If you're taking the long loop, then you would ignore this instruction when you come to the signs that say "BCP". I don't know what the stands for, but we'll say is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase "short loop".

The lot that holds the trail itself is fairly narrow, and buildings can be spotted through the trees. These don't add to the trail noise, except for the occasional leaf blower in the fall. (One of the most horrible inventions ever created, by the way.) Speaking of fall, the trail is in Meridian Township and closed to hunting, so you can safely hike during hunting season. If it's summer, you'll want "Off" - the mosquitoes there are not shy about saying hello.