Imagine this: Lush tall green meadows, fragrant, with a sporadic wide-branching tree, nestled alongside a vast lazy river, a seal swimming by, birds chirping poetically, the sun brightening up the landscape. Your actually in…a city!?
We spent some time around Sacramento, California during spring. It’s a nice time to bask in the near perfect weather that this valley area sees in the spring. Summers, they say, are oppressive. But springtime was heavenly. Birds, bees, and butterflies abound, everything was lush green. The rolling hills looked much like a classic scene with broad branching trees of oak and walnut and other deciduous types just blooming for the season. Makes you want to grab a basket and go frolicking and singing through the meadows. It was here then that we chose to home base for a portion of spring. We weren’t ready for the Pacific Northwest rain, the mountains were still getting snowstorm, and we’d had enough of the dry desert. This made a great in between spot. Migrating with the weather is a luxury of living on the road. Many think of the inconvenience of road life. There are luxuries, too. I promise.
So, The Sacramento area is smack dab in between the ocean coastline and the Sierra Nevada mountains to the east. Lake Tahoe is a short drive and a few hours gets you north to the Trinity Alps Wilderness. Treks north and east and south take you into many national forest lands. Thus, the area offered plenty to do. And with good weather, we kept sticking around for more. We’re not known for being city dwellers, but a few cities keep our attention longer than others. This was one of the few. We liked the greenscapes and interesting folks we met.
We also found many wonderful parks. There are some great quiet coves you can get to along the American River. This is where we spent many days during our stay in mid California (I know many call it Nor Cal, but really it is in the middle of the state!) This was one of the great free things to do in Sacramento area. In sticking with the budget, we like finding the best free things to do in each region we visit & even made a map for that, if you’re interested!
Along the river parks you can have a picnic here, go for a short hike, exercise the dog at the dog park or by the water, or even go for a swim. Many people enjoyed other activities in the park and on the water, such as kayaking. But the great thing is that despite many users of the park lands, you can still find your own quiet spot to hide out in for the day. Believe it or not, you can get peace and quiet in the middle of a city! You forget there’s all of that going on just outside of the park – the rush hour traffic, shops, and busy city chaos is not detectable here. Instead, there’s green everywhere, a flowing river, and wildlife such as turkey, deer, rabbit, and coyote. There’s even a chance of spotting a seal or sea lion in the American River! Yes, I said it. Over 100 miles inland from the ocean outlet at the San Francisco Bay, you find seals & sea lions. There are many accounts of this, including some
Unhappy fisherman competing with sea lions for meals. We even spotted a seal one sunny afternoon while hanging out by the river. The seal was headed back out to the bay. It seems pretty incredible for us to enjoy a city park this much. Usually only remote nature will do, but this place deserves some credit.
The paths in the park are enjoyable to hike and fairly extensive. There is main pathway called the Jedediah Memorial Trail that loops for many miles. Locals call a portion of the trail the “horse trail” and this extension to the foot path trail leads to the more quiet spots along the river.
There are only a few words of caution.
One: ticks. In spring, ticks are abundant in north California. We had many on us and the dogs. With the rise is ticks, tick diseases, and unpredictabilities associated with a changing climate, it’s hard to say how much worse ticks will be at places like this. We did, however, read a recent article discussing the anticipated rise in tick issues and an analysis that ticks are more prevalent in the predator free, fragmented, pseudo-nature landscapes typical of city parks and nature centers. So, there seems to be a likelihood that the tick problem will only get worse around here, which is too bad. At this point, however, they weren’t overbearing. There was simply a handful we saw and that seemed like a lot for us since we hadn’t encountered any otherwise elsewhere.
Two: holidays. The crowds on Easter were a little much. The otherwise quiet park was loud and full. Kids were taking up all the fields for egg hunts and people were meandering into further reaches of the park. Older kids were partying. The aftermath the next day was that of a lot of left behind garbage, sadly.
Three: Be safe. Spring runoff can be fierce and the river can suddenly flow intensely. Just pay attention and don’t do anything stupid. Homeless people sometimes would stay close to trails. There was some garbage in the form of glass and fish hooks on the shores, as is always the case in any accessible case now, sadly. Worse, the history of the water diversion and contamination is a sad historical spin on this otherwise seemingly spectacular wetland region (We’ll get to the history of the region below). The fish may be too contaminated to eat, according to some resources tracking mercury contamination. So those precautions must be taken.
There Was More than Gold in them Ther Hills…And it’s Coming Back to Haunt Us
Unfortunately, these waters are threatened by pollution, particularly mining waste including heavy amounts of mercury, from the California Gold Rush. Based on research findings of mercury in many of these fish, we would not eat fish from these waters. This is a growing concern for people like us. How will we live free off the land if our waters are dumped with pollutants and our vegetation sprayed with poison?
There is WiFi in the park.