Fog on Fair Oaks Bridge. Fog lays on the water. Fog hovers in the air. Fog hugs the riverbanks and hides the boat launch ramp.
The sun is just now emerging on the horizon, seen as golden ball in the sky. Fog surrounds the trees, as a soft white light fills the background. A circle of light shines down through the trees as if it were a spotlight on stage. Long, thin trees stand erect in dense fog.
I continue my walk to the boat launch ramp and see the bridge surrounded by dense fog and reflected shadows the water. My hands are chilled, feeling the cool, moist air against my skin. A few ducks swim to the boat ramp. One seagull swims alone. Even in the fog, these birds engage in their morning rituals – seeking crumbs, seeds, bugs or worms for breakfast.
All wildlife swim quietly through the fog as if they did not notice the dew settled everywhere.
A quack breaks the silence from a distance, followed by the shrill call of birds. A Mallard arrives with a series of quacks. It swims and dives, swims and dives again, speaking of the experience in between dunks. A seagull lets out a desperate call to any creature who is listening.
So cold this morning, the chickens are still sleeping in the Village. They have yet to utter a sound.
I hear no shouts good morning walking past the park and the trees that provide nighttime shelters for so many Village chickens. Three chickens scratch and complain searching for breakfast a few yards from the bridge entrance – their favorite hangout.
The bridge deck is covered with white, slippery frost. Clouds above me resemble spun sugar in shades of gray and soft white. As the wind blows, they stretch into thin wisps of white. Fog washes over the eastern section of the American River. As with other days, I watch as the mist rolls down the river channel and under the bridge. On this particular chilly morning, mist is still sitting on the river well beyond 9 am when I prepare to return home.
Visiting the American River at Fair Oaks Bridge is a gift to enjoy and share. The most impressive days of winter for me are the peaceful mornings listening to seagulls call and seeing them soar gracefully through the sky, following fiery orange sunrises, and watching the fog as it blankets the river and reflects golden sunlight through the trees.
Each day brings a new cloud formation, each day a new way the wind blows them apart to create a kaleidoscope of color at dawn to announce the new day. I love watching fog blow slowly down the river. I stand watching in amazement at the way fog bathes and nourishes the Fair Oaks Bluffs and the sun’s yellow light shining through the trees along the American River Parkway. When I walk to the boat launch ramp, I see how the fog surrounds the Fair Oaks Bridge and drifts slowly west beneath the deck.
Seeing Fair Oaks Bluffs shrouded in fog reminds me of “Brigadoon,” that magical, mysterious place that emerges out of the fog once every few years.
I think of Peter Pan’s Neverland where fairies and other magic is commonplace. This is a place of peace where you can hear the distant call of seagull and see birds emerging slowly out of the fog. Two ducks swim in the center of the river. All others are still in hiding and come out much later when the temperature warms to 45 instead of 36 degrees. Many walkers are out this morning. First two, then two more, then two more all bundled up and enjoying the morning. A speeding cyclist passes by pedaling as quickly as possible.
An Egret flies in and lands in its preferred spot on the riverbank beneath the Fair Oaks Bluffs. Soon there are two flying together and move on further downriver. I always marvel at its graceful flight and sleek, straight body.
Most of the seagulls, ducks and the Canada Geese have moved on farther downriver where food is more plentiful. I see more than 50 seagulls on the riverbank at Jim’s Bridge crossing and farther downriver. Canada Geese roamed the shoreline at Rossmoor Bar, an overlook and rocky beach two miles from Fair Oaks Bridge, popular for rafters and picnics.
It’s freezing out here. This morning’s chill is not the day for being curious, even though I can find so many things to imagine and wonder about at the river.
Two chickens are awake in Fair Oaks Village calling “Good Morning” to anyone who will listen. Clouds reflecting the pinks of sunrise scatter across the sky as the sun slowly rises in the east. Today thick fog on the American River is suspended in midair on both sides of the bridge, reminding me of thin strands of pink cotton candy. I watched from Fair Oaks Bridge as the mist gradually moved along the surface of the river under the bridge to its western side.
The bridge deck is solid white with frost and slippery. My shoes leave footprints on the deck. Several people dressed in jackets, gloves and hats brave the cold to walk, run and cycle. Two Canada Geese fly over in silence. One Bufflehead swims in the frigid water searching for breakfast in the river – preferring the deepest section in the center. It dives underwater and floats back up like a buoy several times over and over.
As the sun rises, the clouds scatter even farther apart, revealing a pale blue sky beneath. The sun peeks over the horizon and casts a bright light on the bridge. Ice crystals on the bridge’s side rails and deck sparkle like diamonds reflecting the sunlight.
The air is still cold! Before leaving the bridge I watch a seagull preening its feathers sitting on a tree branch bent so far down, it nearly touches the water — this is the same branch where turtles sunbathe during the summer.
The colors of sunrise change by the minute in strips of burning oranges and yellows that cast dark shadows on the American River.
An Egret glides low across the water. A Great Blue Heron soars silently under the bridge. Buffleheads dive in the center of the frigid waters of the American River. Canada Geese honk as they arrive flying quickly over my head. Others fly under Fair Oaks Bridge and all I can see in their shadows on the water until they pass me – still honking.
I see small clouds of mist forming on the river bend, rolling slowly across the water. White puffy, clouds reflect like a mirror in the American River. I roam along the riverbank finding faces and shapes in the trees and branches.
Water is completely still. The mist seems to have absorbed some of the smoke. Scattered bright white cloud cover resembles strands of spun gold reflected in the emerging sunlight. Clouds of mist begin around the bend to the east and roll slowly west across the surface of the river. In my full hour out here, I see one walker and one cyclist. Fair Oaks Bridge deck does not look frosty, yet it is still slippery in places. I wear my hooded jacket and wear warm gloves.
I walk down to the boat launch ramp to watch the mist as it rolls under the bridge. A lone seagull flies overhead. One Mallard swims along the ramp calling good morning with a few quiet Quack, Quack! Likely wondering if I brought breakfast. One year ago I took similar photos at this place on the ramp – now one of them is the front cover of Mornings on Fair Oaks Bridge: Watching Wildlife at the Lower American River .
This is the season to experience the most beautiful and peaceful mornings on the American River.
As I stand and watch the mist roll across the river and rise as it goes under the bridge, a Great Blue Heron arrives. It sounds its characteristic good morning chortle and continues its flight east.
The pale blue sky covered by strips of white clouds gives no hint of the smoke that blanketed skies across the region through the week. Another seagull flies over. Four ducks emerge from the riverbank. I hear a bird call from a distance. Early morning mist continues to roll slowly across the surface of the river, enveloping the corridor in a blanket of white.
December mist rolls over the river in ways I have not seen anywhere else. I am standing on Fair Oaks Bridge looking east to the sunrise. The mist begins around the bend and rolls across the river. On this day, it was the entire cloud!