Pam Madigan walked deliberately among the Golden Gate Park Concourse's grove of knotted old trees as if searching for a pot of gold -- ignoring the attractions of the nearby DeYoung Museum and Academy of Sciences.
With her infant son cradled in her arms, her eyes darted to the base of a particular elm where a tiny wooden door covered a large knot hole. She summoned her group of friends and children, pointing to the tiny door which was not more than a foot tall.
"It was sort of an idea to have a scavenger hunt and go out and look for it," Madigan said. "It's not on a map."
The tiny door hinged to the base of the tree may not be on a map, but it has made the internet, which is often easier to navigate than a map. Posts about the mysterious door recently showed up on
the Richmond Blog. The blog's writers said it was its most popular topic ever, even more popular than the local crime stats.
"We think a little gnome might live in there right?" Madigan asked with a wink.
The group of kids taking part in Madigan's expedition wasted no time in sliding in the dirt to size-up the door and its contents.
"There's a bunch of like notes and stuff," said Kale Almeida peering beyond the door. "It's like a little house."
No one in the blogosphere or at San Francisco's Parks and Rec Department knew who installed the door. Park workers noticed it about a week ago, but we're leaving it alone in case enchanted inhabitants were indeed responsible.
"As of now we don't have any plans other than to leave the elf door and continue to take care of Golden Gate Park," said Andy Stone, the park department's section supervisor.
News of the wee door has drawn other curious seekers to the concourse to witness the strange sight. Some were inspired to leave treasures inside the door, like notes, acorns and pennies, which only seem handy for making wishes.
"They just stick the notes in for the squirrels I guess," concluded middle-school student Chris Gallo who was attending a school field trip with classmates from Escalon in the Central Valley. Gallo said back in Escalon, people never install doors in trees.
Another student took the opportunity to write a note, drawing inspiration from the unusual door's artistic subtleties.
"I like cheesecake," she scratched on the scrap of paper before shoving it inside the knot hole.
A bit later, a group of boys playing football caught sight of the door and moved into investigate.
"It reminded me of Alice in Wonderland," said Anthony Perez, pondering the meaning of the cryptic letters."[I] actually saw some of the notes and it just said ‘I like cheesecake.'"
Young Kale didn't know much about Alice in Wonderland, but figured the door probably belonged to a gnome house. With a sweatshirt full of fresh dirt, he closed the door and thoughtfully wondered about its existence.
"It's cool," he said. "Who wouldn't like a little door in a tree?"