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!
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?
Ta 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.
“To the free mountaineer all the woods are accessible alike from the firs that girdle Shasta to the giant forests of the Tule; but the…timebound must follow ways and means, and I know of none better than those of Calaveras… a flowery glade in the very heart of the woods, forming a fine center for the student, and a delicious resting place for the weary.”
Three miles north of Arnold off Highway 4 stands the grandeur of Calaveras Big Trees State Park. This is the place where in the early 1850s the world first came to know about the Giant Sequoias, the largest trees on earth and native only to the western slope of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.There are many trails to hike within the park, but on this beautiful but chilly day in mid November, we took the North Grove Trail, only about 1.5 miles long. We found the trail was covered with a blanket of snow and was even iced over in some locations.The largest trees here could be anywhere from 800 to 3,000 years old and can reach a height of 325 feet and a diameter of 33 feet. It truly is amazing to think of all that these trees have experienced in their years! In addition to the Giant Sequoias in the park, Sugar Pine, White Fir, Incense Cedar and Ponderosa Pines exist alongside each other in the splendor of this mixed conifer forest.
Inspired by REI’s decision to close on Black Friday, Save the Redwoods League is sponsoring free admission to 49 participating California redwood state parks on November 27th. They invite everyone to experience the joy, renewal and inspiration found among the natural wonders of the ancient giant redwoods. To find out which state parks are participating and to download a free pass, check out the website above.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all and happy hiking on Friday.