Tuesday, September 27, 2016
So many ways to celebrate and enjoy the outdoors at the American River on any day.
Today’s post highlights my morning bike ride on the American River Parkway. I call this site “my peaceful spot” because it is one of many favorite stops to enjoy the view, watch the San Juan Rapids and get my feet wet.
A dozen squirrels leap across the bike path searching for acorns to store for the winter. One clings to the trees beside my bike. It stops to stare, holding the acorn in its mouth and decides to run off and disappear from view. Squirrels are amazing creatures to watch. They crawl, leap, and stop to chew when they think no one is watching. Then off they go again climbing up the next tree.
On this clear fall day – temperature in the 70s -the American River is quiet except for the land moving equipment grinding, scraping and pushing gravel on the opposite shore about a quarter-mile away. No rafters or walkers to enjoy this beautiful view and cool water.
Sitting at a picnic table enjoying the scenic view of the river below, a lizard plays a game of hide and seek in the tree.
Bees buzz on a pile of dead leaves. One lone oak leaf floats lazily down the river. I turn around and ride toward home, stopping briefly to watch a mother deer and her fawn chew on branches and twigs. Deer regularly scavenge for food on the Parkway along the trail. They often run away from the bike path and disappear when they hear the sound of cyclists passing by. When I stop to take a photo, they stop and look back at me. If I don’t move, they resume eating until another cyclist buzzes past.
I ride on and stop at a huge hole in the ground some six inches across alongside the trail. Just as I was wondering what animal could have dug that hole, a squirrel popped his head out. It looked around, saw me standing a few feet away and quickly dipped back inside.
I stop at a picnic area filled with mature oak trees so large their canopies overlap and form a highway squirrels use to jump from tree to tree.
I watch squirrels race through this network feverishly searching for acorns. Starting on the ground, they climb the trunk, then to a large branch, out to a smaller branch, climbing higher and higher, until they reach the highest parts of the tree and leap to the next tree. They wriggle their noses and scout for acorns with every step. Squirrels are amazing creatures. They crawl, leap and stop to chew on an acorn when they think no one is watching. When they discover someone nearby, they run up the nearest tree or find somewhere else to hide from view.
One squirrel digs a hole to bury his acorn. It seems that squirrels like their privacy. As soon it sees me, it dashes behind a tree to hide. They shake the trees as they scamper through them. The leaves quiver as if a breeze was blowing through them. Leaves fall to the ground freed by the footsteps of passing squirrels. I hear a gentle “tip” when they land on the soft grass.
I wonder how many acorns a squirrel collects to meet his needs for the winter?
A woodpecker is searching a distant tree. I hear the gentle knocking on a tree, “tut, tut, tut.” On a different day sitting here at a picnic table under the trees, I saw a hawk standing a few feet away staring at me holding a snake in its mouth. The snake was so long, it hung to the ground. It stood there long enough to show me its prize and then flew to hide in a tree.
The concrete bench in this picnic area facing the trail is one of several memorial benches recently placed in various locations along the trail. Garland, our official parkway greeter, sat on a wooden bench here for a rest stop during his rides. I never knew his name. He was recognized everywhere wearing his red, white and blue striped cycling outfit and shoulder length white flowing hair. (same bench shown in the tree photo)
Garland rang a cowbell, smiled, waved and cheered to all the passing cyclists for years. When cyclists found out about his death, hundreds gathered at this bench for a memorial service. People hung cowbells in trees, laid flowers on the bench and left messages.
I always waved to him and said hello when passing. He would ring his bell and call out, “Hey lady, great job!” If I had not seen him in a while, he said,“Great to see you! Now we can call off the search and rescue team.”