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.
A sense of calm and quiet fills the air as I walk from Bannister Park to Fair Oaks Bridge and boat ramp.
As I stand on Jim’s Bridge, I watch the river move swiftly underneath. The air is so still, I listen to the whoosh of the water flowing downstream. I search for spider webs stretched across the side rails. I listen to birds fill the morning air with songs and enjoy the vibrant green on trees and plants and grass as I pass. The air is still cool and fresh and still. I greet many other walkers and runners also enjoying this peaceful morning. I continue walking down the Jedediah Smith Bicycle Trail toward Fair Oaks Bridge.
Shortly after I walk on to the bridge, an Egret glides underneath it heading west. I always admire the Egret’s graceful, quiet flight and watch until it lands on the riverbank 100 yards away.
One boat sits in the water near the boat ramp. A fisherman stands at the end of the ramp casting in the water, drawing his line in and casting again. I walk down to the boat ramp for a closer look. Halfway across the river is an unusually colored small duck floats in the water. It is different than any other duck normally swimming in the river and continue to wonder about this. Suddenly it disappears. That is when I notice a fisherman throwing his line out and the duck is attached at the end. Once more the duck bobs in the deep green water.
I stand and watch the fishermen throw their lines in, the men in the nearby boat as they sit and wait for a tug on their fishing line. I look up to Fair Oaks Bridge and see walkers, runners and cyclists cross the bridge.
I look across the river corridor at the deep colors of Fair Oaks Bluff and its reflection in the green shimmering water.
The morning is so peaceful, even the two ducks standing in the water at the end of the ramp are standing in quiet contemplation. Occasionally a lonely rooster calls from a distance. Returning to Fair Oaks Bridge, I see two turtles are sunbathing on the log extending from the riverbank parallel to the bridge. They have been away for several weeks. I finished my morning walk not knowing the temperature had risen by more than 10 degrees and that I had been out walking, watching and listening for more than two hours.
Two roosters call to greet me at Bridge Street on my way to Fair Oaks Bridge. Fishermen sit patiently in their boats out in the river. A feeling of peace and calm washes over me as the cool, gentle wind crosses my face. Birds call softly to greet the new day.
So many spider webs line the bridge this morning. I stopped counting at 12. Maybe more than two dozen webs stretched all the way across the rails on the west side of the bridge. They range in size from two inches to eight, all woven into perfect intersecting lines. The sun is a glowing yellow ball of fire hanging in an empty pale blue sky. Runners, walkers and cyclists pass by. No one stops. No one looks side to side.
They all miss the intricate spider webs – graveyards for hundreds of flies hanging in storage for future meals. With so many flies lining the entire span of the bridge, I wonder if catching so many flies is for the sport or the need to eat.
Today I look over the side of the bridge that is closer to the bicycle trail near the riverbank and see a fallen log lying on the river bottom. The tree uprooted during the early 20017 flooding and lays in the same spot as if held captive there to rest. I suspect that many visitors have long forgotten the destruction caused by the flooding when Folsom Dam released heavy water flows down the river. The river still holds memories of that turbulent time.
Visitors crowded the bridge during those weeks of heavy flows to see water swirl in a dizzying frenzy under Fair Oaks Bridge, Sunrise Blvd. and submerging Jim’s Bridge farther west.
Scanning the riverbanks, I can still see trees bent over and debris and tangled bushes lying on the landscape. Animal homes along the banks may still be flooded.
The American River continues to hold its own stories for anyone to discover.
Trees are great friends because they have so many stories to tell and so much to share.
Years ago on a nature hike, a ranger gave us this clever hint for identifying Douglas-fir trees. Their cones look as if mice are hiding inside “digging fir seeds” and their tail is all you can see. While your tree is still outside, become an explorer and learn your tree’s story.
How tall is it? Taller than mom or dad? Can your child reach the top by stretching their arms high?
Can you guess how old it is? Take a close look at the rings on the underside of the trunk. What important events happened since the tree was born?
Who can wrap their arms all the way around it?
Reach inside to the trunk and feel the bark. Is it soft, scratchy, rough? What color is the trunk?
Does the tree have needles or leaves? Are needles sticky, sharp or soft? Short or long? Are they arranged in groups of 2, 3, or even 6 on a branch? Are needles or leaves sturdy or limp?
Does any creature make its home in the tree? How can you tell? Do you see a spider’s web or tiny holes in the bark from a woodpecker’s beak?
If you approach a tree that smells like vanilla or butterscotch, then you are looking at a Ponderosa pine.
Celebrate it! Give it water. Decorate. Take photos. Write its story.
Next times you visit a forest, watch the trees sway in the wind, reach high for the sun and down into the ground to its roots for nourishment.
Explore on your own – what do trees give us besides a shady place to rest?
You can do a LOT in one hour! One hour of unstructured play with the natural world.
Alphabet Walk. Stop, Look, Listen, Feel and Smell! Look for letter shapes in your neighborhood. Fall and winter can the best times for careful observation because tree limbs and branches are exposed so more letters are visible. X and Y and relatively easy to find. Be creative as you search for other letters. Look to the sky and on the ground. Sometimes letters are found in unexpected places.
Nature Detectives Scavenger Hunt. One of many things a child can do alone is a backyard scavenger hunt (or any area near your home or apartment). Give your child a note pad and pencil and send them on a mission to find bugs, fallen leaves, spider webs, ladybugs, worms, birds and whatever else they can find in about 30 minutes.
Challenge them to find 10 things they never saw before. Encourage them to draw what they see, make a list, or describe it in a sentence. You can accompany them and incite enthusiasm if they won’t go alone or feel safer if accompanied by an adult.
Make comparisons: Is it as a long as their finger?
Look (or touch) closely: It is wet or dry?
Listen carefully: Does it make a sound?
Describe it: Does it have legs, wings or just a slimy body?
Count: How many?
Once they have returned from their solo mission, share their enthusiasm by reviewing their field journal. Follow up on their investigation by asking questions, inviting them to show you where they searched so you can see first hand what they found.
Visit the National Wildlife Federation website for even more activities you can do during the Green Hour .
This project engaged residents in one of Sacramento’s oldest neighborhoods – where homes are 100 years old or more. Neighbors participated in a series of “how to” writing and art workshops. They gathered to learn how to research the history of their homes and how to write their own family stories.
The culminating event featured signs displayed in resident front yards sharing stories in images and short narratives.
Other workshop topics included the changing role of kitchens, mapping the assets of your neighborhood,identifying architectural styles and how to become a “house detective,” by researching archival records of homes and neighborhoods. Janicereceived a National Storytelling Network Member Grant to support this project.
Did you know?
The invention of the stove and access to indoor plumbing transformed kitchens beginning in the 18th and 19th centuries. In larger homes, kitchens were built in a separate sunken floor building to keep the main building free from smoke.