The boat launch ramp nearby Fair Oaks Bridge has its own stories. Featured below are photos taken before and after the rain. Together they reveal a small part of the stories of this place.
This is where visitors feed ducks and I watch them play, dunk, wash and search for bits of food. Fishermen launch their fishing boats here and others climb into their rafts for a ride on the river. I often see people come to sit on the bench, or park their car to watch and enjoy this peaceful setting. This is the ideal vantage point for all my bridge photos.
I often mention this ramp in blog posts because it is the site for so much activity watching ducks, Canada Geese and seagulls. They search for food, they argue, they shout and listen for others to join them.
Flooded boat launch photo taken from Fair Oaks Bridge in between rainstorms after large releases of water rushed down the American River. Two other photos shown were taken in early February.
This morning – our first day of Spring – a gentle mist falls on Fair Oaks Bridge. Clouds glow bright white on the east side where pockets of sunlight shine through.
Birds twitter and rattle. I hear a sound that reminds of the whistle of a circus calliope. Air feels warm through the mist. I wonder why when I look closely at the river near the bend and it sparkles blue, yet the river near the bridge looks green.
Two Canada Geese honk loudly as they fly in from the west and cross the Sunrise Blvd. Bridge. These two geese are so loud, they almost drown out the roar of traffic. They fly in low over the bridge, still honking all the way as they continue past the boat launch ramp. Then both of them make a U-turn and split up – still honking.
One goose flies to the riverbank under the bridge. The other flies toward the bridge to land softly on the concrete support pier inches from where I stand on the deck. Standing quietly, the goose surveys the river from its perch and begins morning preening rituals. Minutes later, it shouts to its partner and they continue to hold a conversation from the pier to the riverbank. I am wondering did they take different positions to more effectively scout the river for breakfast?
One fisherman launches his boat and speeds up river. Runners pass me on the bridge. Groups of walkers enjoy the early morning air. The goose on the pier whispers and continues watching the river. Are they looking for the last Steelhead to swim upriver to spawn? As the steelhead run comes to a close, fishermen take their places on the American River waiting. A dozen fishermen were standing on the riverbank at dusk last night. Several others stood hip high in the river. One fish leaped out of the water. I saw no one catching any.
Walking off the bridge and on to Bridge Street, I notice the street covered with red-orange leaves laying flat on the pavement. I wonder where they came from? How did they stay on the trees throughout the winds and rain of fall and winter – to finally touch ground on the first day of Spring?
Chickens wander Bridge Street calling out their wake up songs. Today was another chilly morning when my breath flowed through the air. A pair of fishermen launch their boat at the same time the sun rises over the trees to gently warm the morning. Thin white clouds hang in the sky like a veil over a soft, pastel colored sky.
As signs of Spring emerge, I see life at the American River in motion once again. Spiders spin webs on the side rails of Fair Oaks Bridge. Birds actively greet the morning with a chorus of tweets, rattles and coos. Ducks swim to the center of the river corridor and dive for breakfast.
I see them dive in one spot and reappear some five or ten yards away. Ducks fly in and “water ski” on the river as they quietly splash down. Green grass growing in between every board on the bridge deck is slowly turning pale yellow. As I stand on the bridge watching the wildlife, runners and walkers pass enjoying an early day outside.
The arrival of several pairs of Canada Geese dominated morning activity with their loud honks and territorial squabbles. Another pair arrived every few minutes. All of them are in constant motion, continuously honking for most of an hour. A single goose stands on the concrete pier of Fair Oaks Bridge watching the scene, calling to everyone as they arrived.
After last week’s episode when the goose was rudely shooed off the pier as a pair arrived, I wondered if it was calling, “Find some other place to rest, I am not moving this time!”
Some geese perch at the top of the bridge truss. Others settle into the water. The first pair to arrive stake their claim on the boat ramp and the water directly in front of it. When another pair land in their claimed space, one goose rises up, flaps its wings, honks and shoos them away until the pair swam elsewhere. These unwelcome geese eventually fly away to a different part of the river. The original pair stand guard at the boat ramp.
I watch as each pair of geese arrives, they splash down in the river or wander to the riverbank nearby the Fair Oaks Bridge. Moments later, the geese rise up to circle east of the bridge, land on the Fair Oaks Bluff for a few seconds, take off again, and continue their circular flight before settling back down again into the water – honking all the way. The pairs repeat this pattern of flying in circles over and over again. As soon as a new pair geese land in the water, the first unfriendly pair quickly chase them away.
I wonder do they get a better view of breakfast swimming in the water as they swim overhead? Or are they stretching their wings and warming up?
Ducks are the only quiet ones this morning. I watch pairs fly in and swim as they emerge from evening hiding places. Paying no attention to geese squabbles, they arrive without a sound and swim near the riverbank.
A cool wind blows under a dense blanket of clouds. Thin strips of sunlight shine through clouds.
Birds greet the morning with songs as they sit in nearby trees and later fly as groups in geometric patterns across the American River corridor. A single unseen pigeon coos. A lone rooster crows from Bridge Street. It walks on to the bridge searching for something to eat and continues to call its good morning song.
The rooster wanders the bridge deck and lingers on Bridge Street alone, while dozens of other chickens and roosters roam and crow in parks, streets, sidewalks and fence tops in Fair Oaks Village three blocks up the hill.
I wonder about the mother hen that used to search for breakfast and hide in bushes alongside the rooster. She was mother to five chicks, several months ago. As the chicks grew in size, I also saw fewer of them. Then there were two “adolescent” chicks with the mother hen and rooster – then one. Now the rooster is the only one prowling the street. I can only guess that predators ate them, one by one.
As I watch the glistening blue gray sky and the swirling speed of the river moving downstream, two Canada Geese raise their voices as they emerge from hiding in the riverbank and fly away. More geese are honking loudly in the distance on the western side of Fair Oaks Bridge. Few ducks have emerged yet this morning. The river feels empty. Two men stand on the riverbank to fish.
During brief walks along the American River Parkway on Saturday and Sunday morning, birds crowded trees along the bicycle trail to sing good morning. Three Canada Geese arrived honking loudly, circling the bridge and the boat launch ramp and kept on honking for several minutes. I always wonder if they are arguing about where to land or where is the best place for breakfast?
Listen to geese as they circle the sky alongside Fair Oaks Bridge. Bird song recordings were too soft to be heard.
Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, 730 am, 49 degrees,
Chickens call to each other to greet the day on my way to Fair Oaks Bridge, They call across the Village from the parks, hidden in trees, roaming parking lots and streets.
I take a deep breath in as I walk and enjoy the scent of wildflowers in full bloom lining both sides of Bridge Street with blankets of small white flowers. I savor the scents and sounds of spring.
It was already daylight at my first sight of morning at 530 am. The full moon was still pasted in the western sky. Standing now on Fair Oaks Bridge, the sun sits high above the trees in a cloudless sky. Its reflection is so bright, I squint looking toward the boat ramp. The air feels much warmer than 49 degrees when the sun warms my face.
A chorus of birds twitter and chat, flying in groups of more than a dozen as they circle around and underneath the bridge. Way off in the distance on the west side, Canada Geese are shouting at each other. They may have settled on Jim’s Bridge to search for breakfast. I stand alone with the twittering birds and a single rooster calling from Bridge Street. Occasionally a walker or two pass me. The river is deep green and flowing quietly downstream, with few ripples all the way around the bend.
I search for spider webs and see one at least 9” in diameter – a perfect example of geometric lines – stretched from the angular bridge truss to a side rail. A dozen small insects are caught and waiting to be eaten. Directly beneath the web is one more that seems to have been stretched by gusts of wind. A third web hangs on the side rails a few feet from the other two. All on the east side. Rare to see spider webs on the west side.
What gives spiders the talent for spinning perfectly woven webs where all strings are the same size and held together in perfect angles?
I walk over to the boat launch ramp with food for the ducks. They waddle up the boat ramp to investigate their breakfast treat – all the while whispering to each other, quickly nipping and swallowing anything they can find on the ramp. Canada Geese and pigeons arrive. Everyone takes their fill of food. Some ducks keep themselves busy with morning clean-up rituals, while others search the river looking for breakfast. A pair of Canada Geese arrive honking loudly as they circle over the river and take their usual places to watch the river standing on a concrete pier supporting Fair Oaks Bridge. Birds twitter. An Egret lands on a tree top across the river.
Visiting Fair Oaks Bridge continues to be a beautiful and peaceful way to celebrate the morning.
Sunlight today is warm. No wind. Scattered white clouds stretch over the eastern sky like thick cotton batting. I stand and listen to the bird greet me with a song from the overhead truss of Fair Oaks Bridge. I leave the bridge and take the short walk to the boat launch ramp. Five women walk ahead of me. Approaching the boat ramp, I see a family of Canada Geese. The goslings are already nearly full size and the characteristic black strip is growing on their long thin necks.
Birds twitter and rattle. I stay and watch the water, listen to the resident rooster who lives and patrols the area nearby the ramp. He calls out over and over again. Each time I visit the boat ramp and the rooster sees me, he rushes over to walk by side. He is a sad sight – tail feathers drooping, looking like several are missing. I walk slowly back to the bridge, listening to the sounds of the morning.
Cyclists speed past me and a few more people walk by. When I reach the bridge, I stop. I sit down on the deck and feel far away from the “busyness” of urban life. I sit and watch the glow of sunrise in the water. I watch the graceful flight of an Egret fly west under the bridge until I can no longer see it.
This is the time to settle my body and quiet my mind focus on the present moments at the river. I watch the ripples forming in the water as it moves downstream. Long lines form with soft curves flow downstream under the bridge. The curves bend and form circles and continue to swirl.
More cyclists and more walkers pass by. Some focus straight ahead more intent on their steps than the beauty and peace of the setting they are walking through. Some people are talking on their phones, while others are deep in conversation as they walk.
A car pulls into the round parking area in front of the boat ramp and stops. It pauses a few moments and then drives away. Many drivers and w visit the boat launch ramp to enjoy the view. I see them sitting still in their cars, not getting out. Just sitting still and looking out the windows. Walkers come and sit on the memorial bench that faces Fair Oaks Bluff. The Bluff is often referred to as the “Crown of the Parkway.” The steep cliffs eroded over millions of year and the sedimentary rock face clearly defines its history.
As I walk off the bridge, I hear the rooster continue to call out looking for a friend. Two Canada Geese paddle slowly through the water to the riverbank.
So many quiet mornings I see no wildlife flying in, swimming or diving. The river flows swiftly and deep. I need to look for other ways to tell the story of this beautiful place hidden away from busy urban spaces.
I feel grateful standing under partially cloudy skies and experiencing magnificent scenic views of the American River corridor even when the river seems empty. I see a brilliant ball of sunlight shining through clouds – and sometimes see no sun at all.
During many recent mornings, I have crossed Fair Oaks Bridge, walked the trail along the American River Parkway, and from Bannister Park to Jim’s Bridge (crossing the river farther east). My goal has been to experience the open space and the calm of the morning when few others are outside. I enjoy the cool wind against my face, the bird songs and the lonely roosters calling out to anyone who can hear.
At times when I have no words, I feel grateful. Voicing my gratitude for the beautiful spring day, warm weather and the beauty that surrounds me inspires the words to flow.
I feel grateful for the variety of trees in all their twisted shapes and sizes, sweet bird songs, green grasses and leaves. I feel grateful for the pale green moss that hugs tree trunks along the river trail. I notice weeds spreading everywhere boasting their own spiny purple flowers. I wonder when will the goats return to eat these weeds?
I walk on river rocks that line the trails – large, small, smooth round, jagged, curved and straight. I listen to the haunting call of a morning dove, the twitters and caws of other birds hidden in the trees that surround me. I enjoy the gentle curves and slopes of the dirt trail enclosed in greenery to create a walk with character, interest and a bit of mystery.
I stop to enjoy the abundant clusters of deep green leaves growing on mature oak trees. I marvel at the expansive oak tree canopy stretching its curving branches away from its central trunk as they reach for sunlight. I stand upon the edge of the trail and see deep pockets of green foliage set into a canyon.
I see trails crisscross leading deep into the parkway – some trails lead to the river, others to hidden concrete structures overgrown with ivy and often missed, secret picnic alcoves and islands where waterfowl rest and play. One day I found a small amphitheater long ago forgotten.
I feel grateful for patches of poppies yet to wake at dawn and the brightness of other wildflowers that live with them. I feel grateful to enjoy such beauty any morning, afternoon or evening I walk.
“Everyone needs beauty as well as bread; places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”
“Camp out among the grass and gentians of glacier meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountain and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flowers into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”