Thursday, November 3, 2016, 6:50 am, 48 degrees
The sky is still dark with only a hint of the approaching dawn. Roosters crow limply this morning. I walk shining a flashlight all the way to the bridge. A very misty morning! Looking at the sky with a few streaks of gray clouds, the dawn seems darker this morning. The orange glow from the rising sun begins to spread across the sky. Two ducks fly east. The river is still. Hardly a ripple. Mist hangs over the river like a canopy in the distance. The coldest morning yet – a chilly 48 degrees.
The American River closed to fishing November 1 through the end of the year. This is my first visit without fisherman lining the river before dawn.
Next week, hundreds of salmon will begin their leap into the fish ladder as spawning begins at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery less than two miles upstream to the east.
The bridge deck is striped with dripping water from the overhead frame. Heavy traffic moves slowly on the Sunrise Blvd. bridge. Few others in the Village are awake yet. One cyclist passes with his headlight flashing and a walker. I feel the vibration of their movements on the bridge before I see them. My fingers are chilled. Daybreak comes with a pale orange glow and a few more walkers appear. Three ducks swim quickly to the riverbank.
I find a web spun to perfection between two rails of the bridge. Every line and angle connects precisely as if created with a ruler. The lines are so thin the web disappears in the light. I wonder how spiders measure the lines connecting such intricate webs? How do they learn?
I feel more pounding feet on the bridge and see a dozen joggers pass me in T-shirts and shorts. More runners reach the bridge and the daylight brightens. Still the wildlife at the river have yet to wake up. One bird flies overhead, then seven honking Canada Geese flying east over the bridge in a “V” formation. After the geese pass the bridge is quiet again.
After sunrise, glowing white, scattered clouds resemble spilled milk splashed across the sky. They form thin stripes and jagged edges of light. The sky is pale blue in the east and gray to the west. The light fools my camera, capturing photographs that mimic the orange glow of sunset.
A dead salmon floats downstream (from east to west) on the surface of the water. I hear more splashes and see a salmon leap completely out of the water and quickly splash back down. A few more people arrive for their morning walk. Occasionally a single bird will fly overhead. I see a second and a third salmon jumping some 20 yards out from the bridge – the exact spot where all fisherman sat in their boats for weeks to watch and wait.
I hear geese honking as they fly in the distance, the splash of salmon jumping and splashing and the sound of footsteps. A few more ducks wake up. More salmon leap out of the water. Every minute, another salmon jumps. For some, the full body is visible and for others, only a splash.
As the sun rises, more mist forms on the river. They sky is bright and the glowing orange sun rises over the trees. I begin to feel a touch of warmth on my face and see light shining on the bridge rails. My fingers still cold, I begin walking off the bridge. Something moving in the river catches my eye. A river otter swims toward the bridge from the west. It continues slow and steady movements and finds a small opening in the riverbank about 30 yards on the east side of the bridge.
I watched the otter squeeze into the hole, vanish, quickly reappear and continue swimming around the bend of the bluff. It was probably searching for a distinctive scent. Find none, the otter moved on thinking home belonged to another animal.