Unleashed (dog pun) at Nashotah and Naga-Waukee Park

I realize now, after leaving Southern California for Wisconsin, I didn’t explore So Cal like I should have – I had my favorite spots and visited those over and over. One of my favorite aspects about moving from So Cal to Wisconsin is how there are so many places I haven’t been. Anything can be an adventure with the right mindset.

For the long Memorial Day weekend, I informed my bulldog Gjalla that we were going to explore not just one but TWO new parks. Gjalla was thrilled at the news.




Nashotah Park

When I moved into my first grown-up apartment, there was a corner in my kitchen where I could stand and examine my entire residence – you know, to make sure no bad guys broke in while I was gone. Compared to the dog parks in Waukesha County, the dog parks in and around Huntington Beach, California remind me of that tiny studio.

When Gjalla and I first arrived at Nashota park, I couldn’t get over how big the park looked. The Small Breed dog park is a large oval field big enough to fit at least three community baseball fields or one So Cal high-rise luxury apartment complex. Using my Fitbit exercise tracker, I calculated the circumference of the park is a little less half-a-mile.

Please don’t ask me about acres because this is still not a measurement I understand.

The size of the Nashota dog park presents three benefits:

1-If you’re worried about your dog getting along with others, the park is big enough that keeping your dog isolated is not difficult.

Since Gjalla and I arrived at the park early in the day, there were only three other little dogs there. We stayed equidistant from each other almost the whole time – at least until the point where Gjalla stopped and wanted to show off her rolling skills. The other dogs were not amused, but their owners sure were. For a couch potato, Gjalla can be quite the showoff at times.


2-If your dog likes to run and chase things, you are limited only by how far you can throw, even if you have one of those plastic ball launchers.

This doesn’t apply to me and my bulldog, but I’m sure this is a thing you could do.

3-If you have a bulldog that loves exploring but hates exercise and walks (to the point of staging sit-in protests), you can walk explore the path that loops around the park for a good 10 minutes without crossing familiar ground.

When I take Gjalla to a dog park, I’m lucky if I can get her to last 10 minutes before she gives me “The Face” and heads for the exit. It’s tough to explore a new terrain with this time constraint but Gjalla is all about efficiency. When she’s seen enough, she’s done, and she’ll let me know it. In this case, exploring Nashotah Park while 7 months pregnant, I was hoping I’d be able to outlast Gjalla before having to find a bathroom.


Much to my surprise, Gjalla and I were still exploring the park after 30 minutes. Thanks to size of the park, the ample shade, and the cool breeze of the early morning air, I was able to sit and read a bit of the book I brought along. As I enjoyed my book, Gjalla enjoyed a walk through the bushes. It dawned on me at that moment how different this park must look in Winter. In So Cal, parks look pretty much the same year-round, but in Wisconsin, a park may look dramatically different as the grass changes from a brittle Winter yellow to vibrant expanding Spring green. I’m grateful for how much the changing seasons have helped me appreciate the details of my surroundings.

How great is it when we enjoy our adventures so much it makes us sad for them to end? It made me sad to leave Nashotah park but, mindful of the growing heat of the day, I knew we had to move on. We still had one more park to explore!


Naga-Waukee Park

At least 10% of my adventures involve getting lost but thankfully there are plenty of signs throughout Naga-Waukee park for the beach and the beach parking, which is separate. The beach is tucked away in a corner to the side of the boat loading zone of the lake. There’s a winding paved trail leading from the beach parking lot to the beach itself. Some might say this trail is too long, especially if you were carrying chairs and coolers and beach toys and towels. However, Gjalla and I packed light, and this trail only served to increase our excitement – like a drumroll before the big reveal and our arrival at the beach.

The drumroll of anticipation continued as Gjalla and I made our way down the paved trail, through the playground, past the rolling green picnic area, and to the shoreline. What a beautiful view it was. As I took a moment to enjoy the view of the lake, Gjalla did her celebratory rolls in the sand.

While the lake at Naga-Waukee park is big, the beach is not – I would estimate it at 40 feet long because that’s how long the floor exercise is in gymnastics, and that is a distance I am intimately familiar with.

In the water, there are floating ropes which indicate where you’re supposed to stay – like a little “Swim Zone” box. I have difficulty making peace with the box, not because I hope to swim further than the roped off section, but because, with a typical So Cal beach, the shoreline goes on for miles and you can take your pick where you want to swim.

Since I didn’t have my swim suit and I didn’t bring Gjalla’s life jacket, I made a mental note about the box and moved on with my life. The shoreline is rocky enough where I had to wear my flipflops in the water but the water was cool and refreshing. No moss. No swimmer’s itch this time!

It was a nice day for exploring the lake, and by that, I mean it was overcast and thus not crowded. There was only one other family at the lake, and they were nice to Gjalla even after she stole the sticks they were using for their sand castle. This park has some nice sticks thanks to the lovely trees shading the grassy barbeque picnic area.

When Gjalla gave me The Face, I knew she was ready to leave.


I didn’t feel the same sadness to leave Naga-Waukee that I felt leaving Nashota Park. Instead, I felt the satisfaction of knowing Gjalla and I had successfully explored two new places. Wisconsin has so many parks and lakes – to me it seems there is so much more nature to explore in Wisconsin than in Southern California, and a shorter window, weather-wise to do it. I have to remind myself that exploring these places is not a waste of time – I might not be getting any housework done or helping my small business or advancing my career, but these moments outside with my family, enjoying what nature has to offer are worth it.


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