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

Empire Mine State Park

“Let’s take our hearts for a walk in the woods and listen to the magic whispers of old trees.”  ~Author UnknownIMG_6719If these old trees could talk they’d have many a tale to whisper about. They’d tell stories of life in the mid 1800s, and mining in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Grass Valley during the gold rush and the years following.

Empire Mine is one of the oldest, largest and most prosperous gold mines in North American history. Mining started here in 1850 and continued until 1956. On the grounds are the various mines, machine shop, refinery room, warehouses, offices and blacksmith shop. A distance away from all the mining structures sits the stately English manor cottage that the Bourne family lived in during the summer months (their main residence was a mansion in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights) and the formal gardens. A clubhouse for entertaining and for housing visiting guests is also nearby, as is the gardener’s house and greenhouse. All of this sits on 856 acres of beautifully forested foothills. Woodland hiking trails wind through much of the property.IMG_6734Last Friday, on a beautiful autumn day we visited the park for their Christmas event. We enjoyed the old fashioned decorations, live music, and festive atmosphere as we toured the cottage and wandered the lovely grounds and trails. Costumed docents greeted us and shared park history, and Santa and Mrs. Claus were on hand for the little ones.IMG_6741IMG_6726IMG_6730Special arrangements were made to have the cottage (which is currently closed while roof repairs are being made) open for tours on this weekend. Yes indeed, they call this a cottage!IMG_6727Inside the cottage is quite dark, but have a look at the lovely old fashioned holiday decorations and the gorgeous windows in each room! Just charming!IMG_6723IMG_6721IMG_6720It was in 1975 that the state of California purchased the property and it became the Empire Mine State Historic Park. Check the website for tours, hours, and a wealth of information about the history of this impressive park.

Secret Cove

On a cool November morning, just hours before a storm, we discovered Secret Cove. It’s a secluded off-the-beaten-path stretch of beach several miles south of Incline Village, in Nevada. Steep trails took us down to a well marked winding path which then led us to views that took our breath away.IMG_6281IMG_6323IMG_6322Under dark, dramatic skies, the pristine beach felt peaceful and had a sacred quality to it.IMG_6288IMG_6294IMG_6292IMG_6296Aside from one other hiker high above us on a trail, we had the entire beach to ourselves.IMG_6299Just Hubby, our dog, Gemma and me. Exploring. Soaking up the sights.
IMG_6298IMG_6300IMG_6319IMG_6316IMG_6320And marveling all the while at the sheer resplendence of Mother Nature.