During one of my most recent visits to the American River, I discovered something very curious and imagined the possibilities of what this could be. At first I thought it was two crocodiles crawling into the river. Then I looked again and saw a rowboat with two oars. The next time I saw a huge heart with arrows piercing it. What do you see?
I look forward to every morning sunrise on the Fair Oaks Bridge, and the American River Parkway to discover and celebrate the gifts of the outdoor world.
The American River Parkway is “The Jewel of Sacramento.” Fair Oaks Bluffs are the “Crown Jewels.”
One Sunday morning in September I decide to get up early and watch the wildlife wake up at the Fair Oaks Bridge. I arrive at dawn before the sun rises over the trees.
This morning wake up is now a regular activity, generally spending an hour or more to watch, listen and write. I can easily ride my bicycle to the bridge along the bike path – an activity I usually reserve for later in the morning.
“I don’t know where it is possible to love the planet or not, but I do know that it is possible to love the places we can see, touch, smell and experience.”
David Orr, Earth in Mind
The Fair Oaks Bridge was completed in 1909. It is a “Truss” bridge and an icon for the community of Fair Oaks. Fair Oaks Village is widely known for its chickens, whose wake up calls provide music each morning and continue throughout the day. Chickens are featured throughout blog posts in photos and video.
The bridge connects Fair Oaks Village with the American River Parkway, stretching 37 miles through suburban communities of Sacramento and into the city. The bridge sits alongside the Fair Oaks Bluffs – also displayed in many photographs within blog posts. Fair Oaks Bridge is one of those places for me to see, touch, smell and experience! The community of Fair Oaks is located about 15 miles northeast of the city of Sacramento. Our family home for more than 20 years and Fair Oaks Bridge remains one of my favorite places.
Sunday, September 18, 2016 635 am
When I arrive at Fair Oaks bridge, the sun has yet to rise over distant trees on the opposite shore of the American River. I focus my attention on the river landscape and notice so many different habitats for wildlife here. The roosters are the most obvious – they are always the loudest! I have seen Great Blue Herons on the river, Egrets, Canada Geese and a wide variety of ducks. I saw an owl one time and river otters occasionally. Trees, fallen logs, shrubs, and the island farther upstream are excellent hiding places. The river itself, now more shallow than it has been in a long while, creates homes too. The bridge is also home to bats hidden underneath in specially formed concrete slots.Read more
Monday, September 19, 2016 7 am
Bright light reflects on the water. A cool breeze blows across my face. Today, unlike yesterday, a loud hum echoes from the Sunrise Blvd. bridge crossing as early risers drive to and from Highway 50.
The roosters have already finished their morning wake up calls. A few stragglers are still crowing. Two men float in their boats with fishing lines cast. More cyclists ride by than the same time yesterday. Walkers are out with their dogs. As I walk onto the bridge, an egret flies in on the west side and quickly hides in the shrubbery at the shore. Ducks swim in pairs, searching for breakfast nibbles on insects. Tomorrow I will bring bread to feed them down at the boat launch ramp.Read more
Tuesday, September 20, 2016, 7 am
A cloudless sky. I arrive at 7 am wearing a T-shirt and shorts and put down my backpack. A lone kayaker approaches boat dock after an early morning row. One lone boat – 2 men – casting their fishing rods. I see the same woman jogging today. I wonder how many people I will see that come here as walkers, joggers or dog walkers every day? The bridge is quiet so far, with few cyclists or walkers.Read more
Wednesday September 21, 2016, 7 am
Clouds cover the sky. Raindrops fall on my windshield. In the 10 minutes it takes for me to walk to the river, the sky has already brightened. The raindrops that fall on the bridge quickly evaporate. I feel a cool breeze blow against my face. This is the first moisture of late summer and in a few minutes the drizzle has passed.
Roosters wake up the neighborhood with their calls – one crowing and another responds. Far fewer roosters are awake. Maybe the chill has kept them hiding in trees a little longer?
I know the morning sun has risen over the trees. Yet I cannot see it today hidden behind dense cloud cover.Read more
Searching for Food
After leaving Fair Oaks Bridge Wednesday morning, I stopped to watch this very determined mother hen find food. Her chicks watch with great interest. Listen closely to their high pitched “peeps.” Eventually she and her chicks moved up the hill into the shrubs, not finding anything to eat after so much effort. Fair Oaks chickens wander the village, parks, side streets and fly into trees on both sides of the river. Their morning song carries through the air beginning long before I arrive at 630 am.
The Next Day Mother Hen Sits
After giving away all the bread, my daughter and I leave the boat launch ramp and cross the bridge to return home. I show her the place where the mother hen was searching the day before. We see her on the other side of the street sitting quietly in the dirt. We stand and watch several minutes wondering Why is she so still, not making a sound. Is she injured? When will she move? Then she spreads her feathers and rises up. We see four baby chicks run out from underneath and follow their mother as she climbs up the side of the hill.
“She was keeping her babies warm! Being a good mom!”
Thursday, September 22, 2016, 7:15 am
Morning walkers pass by. We exchange good mornings and smiles. Garage doors lift and shut as residents of the village drive on to the street and away to begin their workday.
A young boy alongside in a boat struggles with his fishing pole sitting in one of the boats alongside two men who are also fishing. The boy gives up, tosses the pole and begins to explore the boat, walking back and forth, checking its bottom for something interesting to examine
Five boats filled with fisherman cast their lines into the cloudy green water. The boats sit at some distance apart on the east side of the bridge. Thousands of salmon will be arriving soon, jumping randomly out the water. They have not yet arrived from their long journey from the Pacific, through the Delta sloughs, up the Sacramento River and into the American River. Many will end their journey near the Fair Oaks Bridge.Read more
Friday, September 23, 2016, 7 am, 53 degrees
I finally acknowledge the passing of summer’s long, warm days when the cool mornings of October arrive. With sunlight and bike rides along the American River that last until 9 pm. Dew covers my car windshield in the morning now. The air is chilled at 645 am. My first Sunday morning on Fair Oaks Bridge, I wore shorts and a t-shirt, warmed quickly by the sun. Today, Friday I wear my denim jacket and slip on a pair of jeans. Yesterday’s morning temperature was 55. Today it is 53. As days grow shorter, and fall blends into winter, morning temperatures will drop further to 45 and then 35 and sometimes the high 20s. I will enjoy these mornings on the bridge before the chill of morning gives me a reason to stay longer at home.
Usually I wake gently as I walk to the bridge, listening to the morning symphony of roosters. Today my morning explodes with deafening sound as I walk down the street as a motorcycle with his radio turned up comes up from behind. I am jarred awake. My morning “fog” instantly evaporates.
Determined fisherman sit in their boats waiting. I have no idea when they arrive. Each morning they are already here. They must come before dawn to catch the salmon as they rise for breakfast. I notice the moon in the sky. During my first Sunday, the moon was full. Today, hardly a week later, the moon is now half visible.Read more
Saturday, September 24, 2016, 7 am, 55 degrees
The eastern sky looks as if an artist brushed in pale pinks to add some contrast to the blue sky.
I return to the bridge for my seventh consecutive day. Clouds that blanketed the sky last night after dark are all gone. To the west, traffic is light on the Sunrise bridge. Whizz and roar of traffic carries through the air.
Morning temperature of 55 degrees continues. As the sun rises, it casts a warming light on the bridge. I enjoy feeling its warmth on my face. I wear my denim jacket again today to keep the chill off my arms.Read more