It's my hidden summer paradise. Three months out of a year, this little patch of land tucked in the middle of Hayward is transformed into a little oasis where both locals (and slowly more and more non-locals) go to swim, sun bathe, have a picnic or just relax without the typical crowd of a beach.

Summer is over and I miss going to some place so near and so peaceful.

Around the time when most people are getting settled in their desks preparing to tackle a day's work, I decided to check out what the place looks like without the man made lagoon, the sand, the beach umbrellas. I grab my camera and my favorite worn out sneakers and went out for a walk.

Half an hour later, I reach the winding roads that led to Don Castro. Before reaching the sign by the entrance, I see a path to my right going down. Way down. I follow it and reach the bottom. It's the fishing area. I look ahead and across the lake was the dock right below where the lagoon used to be. I looked around, absorbing the beautiful morning quiet, looking at birds play just over the top of the water.

There was a path that led to my left and another to my right. I check out as far as I can see where they led to and they both did not appeal to me. I decided to go back up from where I came from. I didn't realize it was that steep. Dang. My legs are warming up.

I get to the top and go past the sign that says Don Castro. A couple of trucks pass me as I reach the entrance to the picnic area. What's going on up there? I then remember people come here too to go on the trails that lead to other cities in the bay area.

I was standing by the picnic tables when I saw some movement below and heard voices. A couple of men were shoveling sand, obviously clearing up the area. My lagoon. It's gone. No clear blue water, no beach umbrellas. Just sand all over in piles ready to be picked up by the tractor.

I was starting to feel sad and decided to leave. Leaving the picnic area, I thought of walking back home but changed my mind. I walked further towards the parking lot and passed by the lagoon entrance where I got a glimpse of our spot. I thought of Ruby and Crystal. How we buried John in the sand, made sand castles and teaching Crystal how to swim. Fun times.

I walk further planning on circling the parking lot and heading back home. But every time I decide on going back, I see a path that somehow lures me to go further. Reaching the end of the parking area, I see a trail fenced off to vehicles with a sign that read Fire Trail. Hmmm. I wonder why they named it like that.

I go past the fence and hike up the trail. Is this the spot where they usually have fires in the area? I hope not. I reach the top of the trail and at the very end saw the freeway and Castro Valley. That is so cool how a peaceful place like this could be just a stone's throw away from 580.

I turn around to walk back to the parking area. Still no sign as to why this trail is called Fire Trail. Walking back, I see another fenced off path to my left and a sign that read Ridgetop. Hmmm. There might be an awesome spot over there with a killer view.

I walk past the fence and a few feet away, in between huge eucalyptus trees, I look to my right and there was an opening with a gorgeous view of the lake. I saw the same dock in the fishing area which was just across from me earlier. That is beautiful. I stay for a few minutes.

After a couple of snapshots, I look to my left at the path I was on. Up ahead, I see it forked into two directions. I walk ahead. I look at the path to my right then the path to my left. They were both narrower and denser than the trails I have just been on. I wasn't really inSurvivor mode when I decided to go on this walk. Looking at both trails, I should have at least a pocket knife (or John) with me in case anything (or anyone) jumped at me. This has been a nice little adventure and I'm fine leaving it at that.

So I decided to go back. I was walking on the grassy area by the Fire Trail when I saw these huge mushrooms by my feet. I was taking pictures of them when I heard someone behind me.

"So what's so interesting over there?"

I look back to see a nice lady with her dog walking towards me. I tell her about the mushrooms. As she approached, I wondered out loud if you could eat them. She said she wouldn't take the chance and we ended up chatting about mushrooms, her dog (named Ruby, what a coincidence), her recent move to Castro Valley and checking out the parks in the area, our recent camping trip at Lake Chabot...

I don't usually chat that long with strangers but I was comfortable talking to her. I introduced myself before we said goodbye. Her name is Loretta and I wouldn't mind bumping into her again. And Ruby. Walking back home, I kept thinking I should've taken a picture.

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