Wildflowers? Why yes, indeed.Scenic views? Take a look!.Waterfalls? Yep, and some trickling streams.We 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.What’s not to love? And the icing on the cake? A found heart rock!
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.
We had just gotten started walking on a trail when we came upon the deer. They’re obviously used to being photographed and gawked at!I 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.We followed a trail that led right down to the American River.
This crew must have been the official welcoming committee!There 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.
“If you truly love nature you will find beauty everywhere.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh
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!”Here’s one of the beautiful fountains in the lake, and visible in the background are some of the shops and great restaurants.We pull over to do a little bird watching at this spot.
A couple of noisy Canadian geese entertain us with their swimming and diving antics.Here’s Heidi, happy as can be, and taking in all the sights as we stroll along.Picturesque 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.We 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!
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.The photo below shows the reflection of the tree’s branches in the pond water.
I 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.
Here’s another gorgeous old oak that I admired.As I approached the tree I noticed something special in the bark!Someone’s been making a tree fort in this one. And yep, here it is…even a heart rock along the trail! What fun!“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” ~ Aristotle
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.Can you make out the silhouettes of about ten vultures in this tree?
Oh yes, we had a few heart rock finds!Hard 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!A tangle of branches.A nest, safely cradled!Along 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 treeAnd 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.“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.”
Perhaps 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.As 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!”Our 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.So much winter beauty to behold!