Berwyn Heights, MD -- The great half-husky Alexis and I hop in my car Saturday as we're both craving one of our favorite outside-the-District routines ... the double-cheeseburger and beautiful sunset combo. The former is courtesy of Wendy's, the latter a lesser-known destination called Lake Artemesia in Prince George's County near the University of Maryland.
I inhale the burger and fries while Alexis takes a catnap in the Mazda. We turn back on to University Boulevard for a second, make a right turn and travel through a little industrial area that looks like it can't possibly lead to something natural or attractive.
Dogface perks up as she knows the neighborhood and what's ahead. Our six legs hit the ground a moment later and the modern world fades away in a flash. No car horns, jackhammers or police sirens -- not even the incessant yap of a cellphone addict. We enter the paved walking trails as the sun swoops toward the 38-acre lake.
We pass a middle-aged Chicago woman trying to shed some pounds while she listens to her iPod. She's singing way off key with not a care in the world. A rabbit grins as the woman goes by: He could do better but he knows Lake Artemesia is all about getting into your own personal space and enjoying the area's charms.
Around the bend, we watch an exceptionally limber Asian woman work her way through yoga exercises in a lake-side gazebo. We spot an old Asian man a couple of hundred yards later. He's sitting on a bench in a full suit reading out loud to himself. We cruise by a variety of hikers, bikers and bird watchers -- taking note that a guided birding tour is set for the morning of June 7 at the lake.
Alexis likes to keep her eyes on the lake and the aquatic garden. She's tempted to try to walk across what looks to her like a path with round green steps, but she thinks better of it. Five minutes later, a young black family sets up shop on a pier and drops their lines into the water. Dogface and I pause to read one of the signs along the path. She is a speed reader but it takes me a minute to soak in the photos and descriptions of what Lake Artemesia holds ... rainbow trout, bass, walleye, to name a few.
The family has a good time but doesn't get any nibbles for a while. A 20-something Latino man, however, is having better luck. He's down on his knee whispering sweet nothings to his blushing girlfriend sitting on a bench. The light beaming from his face suggests he is deeply in love and that it is only a matter of time before he drops to his knee for another occasion.
Alexis and I keep on walking. "How y'all doin'," I call out to a white couple walking their dog. Unlike everyone else I greet at such places, they recoil in panic, avert their eyes, and dart by.
"Yankees!," Alexis huffs.
We move on.
More signs teach us about other creatures that call the lake home. We hope to spot a beaver or two but they must be away for the Memorial Day weekend. We do catch glimpses of all kinds of birds scurrying through the forest alongside the lake. Their songs compliment the cacophony of children's laughter coming from another pier.
The last few rays bounce off the lake, punctuated by the gentle whoosh of a Metro green line train that rolls by every 10 minutes or so. I've burned off the burger and Dogface and I are completely relaxed. The two of us hop back in the car but recognize there's a third party with us ... a part of Lake Artemesia that always hitches a ride home.