Table Mountain Hike

Wildflowers? Why yes, indeed.IMG_8777Scenic views? Take a look!.IMG_8798Waterfalls? Yep, and some trickling streams.IMG_8794We weren’t the only ones to think that last Saturday was a perfect day to hike around Oroville’s Table Mountain. We arrived to a full parking lot and once we were inside the gate we saw many people picnicking, flying kites, taking photos, and yes, hiking and exploring.

The North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve is a nature reserve of 3,315 acres. With no established trails, you just make your way through the landscape of vernal pools, small streams, grasslands and woodlands. It’s a flat topped, table-like elevated basalt mesa, likely formed by an ancient volcanic eruption.

Last year at this time we made the drive to Oroville’s North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve only to be disappointed. We expected to see masses of wildflowers flourishing, but actually saw more on the drive than while here because of drought conditions. We’ll try to get here even earlier next year, perhaps mid to late March rather than mid April. We were greeted with a show of lupine and red clover, as well as buttercups and poppies, but have learned that the floral fields are even more abundant earlier in spring.IMG_8776IMG_8770IMG_8805IMG_8775What’s not to love? And the icing on the cake? A found heart rock!
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Valentine’s Day Hiking

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in Sonoma county was an ideal place to go for a hike on Valentine’s Day. The temperatures were in the 70s and the scenery was spectacular.

There are 25 miles of hiking trails within the park, and so many trails to choose from.
IMG_7799IMG_7802We chose a trail that was mostly shady and was right along a creek, one that would only take a couple of hours.
IMG_7814Look at all the beautiful Spanish moss draping from this tree!
IMG_7811IMG_7809IMG_7805IMG_7808IMG_7806IMG_7801The hike was just what we had been clamoring for, a bit of exploring in a gorgeous location. And then we were off to a late lunch in St. Helena. You know how hard it is to get reservations for dining on Valentine’s Day! IMG_7831We had to pull over and take some pictures of the exquisite views on our drive! Wow! Can you believe this is mid February?

Effie Yeaw Nature Center

We recently shared a delightful morning exploring nature trails with our grandchildren at the wonderful Effie Yeaw Nature Center, located along the American River Parkway. Inside the nature shop were many hands-on activities that the children were engrossed in. Push a button and hear the call of a red shouldered hawk. See a display of natural habitats. That sort of thing. Also, living in the nature shop are a number of non-releasable (due to injuries, becoming orphaned, or having grown too accustomed to people) animals.

Resident birds include :

  • a Northern Saw-whet Owl, Sophia (this was a highlight for the children!)
  • a Great Horned Owl, Echo
  • a Red-tailed Hawk, Tanner
  • a Red-shouldered Hawk, Skye, and
  • an American Kestrel, Rocky

In addition to the birds, there are reptiles, and amphibians on display.

Outdoors, well-marked trails meander through 100 acres of this nature preserve.

IMG_7630IMG_7645We had just gotten started walking on a trail when we came upon the deer. They’re obviously used to being photographed and gawked at!IMG_7633I must share that I have a love/hate relationship with these guys. To see them here was such a joy, but that’s not the case when I see them in my gardens at home, or the aftermath of all the damage they have done. I know they’re hungry and need to eat too; I just don’t want to encourage the chomping on my favorite flowers and foliage! Late last summer while shopping at the feed store, I noticed blocks of deer food. Standing there in front of the display, I contemplated buying a few blocks and placing them on some undeveloped acreage in our neighborhood. I didn’t, but I may in the future. I do use some deer deterrent products in our yard, that work well most of the year, but come late summer those pesky deer are eating everything.IMG_7646We followed a trail that led right down to the American River.
IMG_7658IMG_7710This crew must have been the official welcoming committee!IMG_7662IMG_7661IMG_7666There was so much to discover and admire as we walked along the trails, turned over rocks, climbed on some old tree stumps, and listened to birdsong. A great place to explore, learn and appreciate Mother Nature, for people of all ages.
IMG_7676“If you truly love nature you will find beauty everywhere.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

Into the Woods

IMG_7728IMG_7759IMG_7737I’m happy to report that last Sunday we made it back up to the Tahoe area to snowshoe again! Our weekends since that day about five weeks ago when it was eight degrees and we only lasted fifteen minutes, were either full or there were storms and less than ideal road conditions.

We returned to Hope Valley and this time the temperature was forty degrees and we were shedding gloves and coats almost immediately. We could not have asked for better conditions or more spectacular scenery. The bluest skies, the most stunning views everywhere we looked; we noticed it all.

And we had this happy snow bear to greet us upon our arrival.IMG_7726IMG_7734IMG_7756IMG_7741IMG_7755What more could we ask for?

How blessed we are to be so close to one of Mother Nature’s most spectacular gifts.

Out for a Stroll

I’m not sure how it came to be that my husband and I won the grandparent jackpot, but we did! Yes indeed, it’s true! These two little loves definitely have our hearts. Fortunately, they live only a half hour away from us and we have ample opportunities to spend time with them. We’ve found grandparenthood to be one of the greatest blessings in life. Knowing how fleeting these precious early childhood years are, we want to take full advantage of this time with them and build strong connections, so that, soon enough, when they’re in school and participating in other activities, they might still want to spend time with us now and then.

On this day we gathered up our darlings and loaded their Radio Flyer bikes/strollers into the car for an outing to the lake and nature preserve at El Dorado Hills Town Center. Easy to walk, it’s about a half mile loop along wide sidewalks with scenic views.

Here we go. See their little strollers…er… excuse me, bikes? The children actually pedal along while we steer from the handle in the back. Don’t call it a stroller in front of Evan. “No Grandma Sara, it’s a bike!”IMG_7526Here’s one of the beautiful fountains in the lake, and visible in the background are some of the shops and great restaurants.IMG_7520We pull over to do a little bird watching at this spot.
IMG_7533A couple of noisy Canadian geese entertain us with their swimming and diving antics.IMG_7534Here’s Heidi, happy as can be, and taking in all the sights as we stroll along.IMG_7507Picturesque views are all around us. You’ll find plenty of comfortable park benches surrounding the loop and many outdoor tables and chairs for dining al fresco. Most of these sat empty while dog walkers, joggers, walkers and others with strollers were plentiful on this warm afternoon in between storms.IMG_7502IMG_7519IMG_7518We manage two laps around the loop, stopping to investigate and discover here and there, and then it’s time for snacks and hot chocolate at a nearby cafe. What fun! Yep, this grandparent gig…we’re all in!

Buck’s Creek Trail

Along Silva Valley Parkway in the El Dorado Hill’s Serrano neighborhood is a lovely, scenic trail within a nature preserve. It’s a surprising breath of fresh air in the midst of busy Silva Valley Road and Serrano Parkway. I found the trail to be well maintained with clear paths, markers, and foot bridges. Parking spots were plentiful at the El Dorado Hills library right across the street. My dog, Gemma, and I had the trails mostly to ourselves on this gray January afternoon as we walked along, discovering ponds, small waterfalls, wild life and many birds.IMG_7381IMG_7385IMG_7388IMG_7390IMG_7396The photo below shows the reflection of the tree’s branches in the pond water.
IMG_7398I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the stately, magnificent oaks. I would have loved to climb this one and sit reading a book all afternoon. See all the low swooping branches? Some of them nearly touch the ground. 
IMG_7391IMG_7404IMG_7414Here’s another gorgeous old oak that I admired.IMG_7405As I approached the tree I noticed something special in the bark!IMG_7393Someone’s been making a tree fort in this one.IMG_7412IMG_7420 And yep, here it is…even a heart rock along the trail! What fun!IMG_7411“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” ~ Aristotle

River Walking

With family members still in town the day after Christmas, we took advantage of a chilly but beautiful day to go birding along the American River trails. Well, we called it birding, but really it was a nature walk and we noticed not only birds, but majestic trees, brilliant blue skies, interesting bark, rocks and so much more. Come along with us.IMG_7082Can you make out the silhouettes of about ten vultures in this tree?
IMG_7079Oh yes, we had a few heart rock finds!IMG_7073IMG_7070IMG_7074Hard to see, but in the photo below, a white heron is hiding at the base of the tree on the left. You have to take my word for it!IMG_7081A tangle of branches.IMG_7080A nest, safely cradled!IMG_7076Along with many varieties of woodpeckers and water birds, we noticed lots of chickadees, and a deer couple bounding gracefully through the scenery (too quickly for me to capture with my camera).

Another fun find was a natural heart shape in the bark of this treeIMG_7098And speaking of hearts, mine was full with the blessing of a lovely morning out in nature with my dad, my brothers, Jim and Tom, and my dad’s dog, Keeley.IMG_7092“Keep close to nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”

~John Muir

Fifteen Minutes

IMG_7219Perhaps it was because we didn’t have the opportunity to go snowshoeing last year because of the drought, or even much the year before, but to celebrate New Year’s Day we had planned to go. Without checking to see just how low the temperatures where we were headed would be, we excitedly dusted off and packed up our snowshoeing gear, layered ourselves up and headed to Hope Valley for a day in the snow. Well, we knew it would be cold. We just didn’t know how cold.IMG_7215As we approached Tahoe, the temperature gage in the car was reading fifteen degrees. We acknowledged the temperature dropping to each other as we were driving on Luther Pass to Hope Valley in Alpine county. Thirteen degrees. Twelve degrees. “Um… are we gonna be alright?” Now nine degrees. Pulling in the parking lot, eight degrees. Uh huh…eight. We sat in the car watching ice crystals whipping around, blown by the wind. “What are we doing?” “Are we out of our minds?” “We’re here. Let’s try it, even for a short time.” Out of the car, we put on our boots, hooked on our snowshoes, added more layering, and grabbed our poles. Hands were already numb. “Okay, we’re doing this, but only for fifteen minutes!”IMG_7184IMG_7185IMG_7190IMG_7216Our faces were stung by the freezing winds, noses were running from the cold, my hands were numb (I was the one taking pictures), but it was exhilarating and worth the drive! We’ll be back when it’s not quite as cold!

On to the cafe at Sorensen’s Resort, we warmed ourselves with hot drinks and vegetable beef soup, and then braved the cold once again just to trudge through the grounds ever so quickly, before getting back to the car and blasting the heater to head home.IMG_7212IMG_7220IMG_7217IMG_7238So much winter beauty to behold!

A Conspiracy of Love

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” ~Hamilton Wright Mabie

We had such fun taking a stroll through this gorgeous East Sacramento neighborhood all decked out in festive Christmas finery. I loved our walk, while others were seeing the sights in horse drawn wagons, limousines, and beer bikes/party bikes! Fa La La La Laaa!IMG_7054IMG_7058IMG_7046IMG_7056IMG_7045IMG_7055IMG_7051IMG_7049IMG_7047IMG_7059Can you feel the love? Wishing you much love, joy and peace on this special night and in 2016. Merry Christmas to all.

Read Any Good Books Lately?

The Little House series, Anne of Green Gables, Charlotte’s Web, The Wind in the Willows, and the writings of A.A. Milne. These were favorites of mine as a child. I have such fond memories of my mother taking my two brothers, my sister and me to the public library every two weeks to choose books to borrow. We would all browse the shelves, gathering whatever we were interested in reading at that time. I remember feeling so rich in books. Library day felt a bit like Christmas. All these years later I still get the same feeling with the riches and comfort of good books to read.

This charming garden courtyard, where vines climb up old brick walls is where my book group friends and I set up and dedicated our official Little Free Library nearly a year ago. It’s been such a pleasure to care for it and keep it stocked with quality books. I must admit my heart skips a beat when I notice someone lost in a book which was borrowed from our library. I took these photos on a quiet morning when the shops had yet to open, but most days this place is hopping! It brings me great joy to know that it’s loved by others and getting used regularly.

Right now wreaths, lights, Poinsettias, and a Christmas tree add sparkle and shine to this little nook just off Main Street in Placerville. Many thanks to the owners of the hair salon and the boutique who are the Christmas elves behind all of the festive holiday beauty. Isn’t it gorgeous?

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IMG_6784Ta dah! Here it is! This cheery yellow and blue box is full of good reads for all ages, with fiction, non fiction, and classics on the top shelf, and picture books, middle grade books and young adult books on the bottom. Go get yourself a delicious mocha from Totem Coffee (closed on Tuesdays), open up the door of the little free library and pull out the book that speaks to you. Go ahead and take it, it’s yours! Now find a seat at one of the many tables in the courtyard, get comfy and let the magic of a good book unfold.IMG_6782