Thursday, December 14, 2006

Winter in the Parkway

A wonderful reminder of how fortunate we are to have the Parkway, and how precious it is through all of the seasons.

Adventure of the Week: Winter is a special time along the American
By Jim Jones - Special to the Bee
Published 12:00 am PST Thursday, December 14, 2006

"I have a room all to myself; it is nature." -- Henry David Thoreau

We who live in and around Sacramento are lucky to be able to take a few short steps into our very own "room": the American River and the parkway that runs alongside it.

This time of year, between raindrops and weekends, it's pretty empty.

Empty, that is, of other people. Rafters are gone, replaced by spawning salmon. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, gulls and vultures gather by the hundreds, drawn, right on an invisible cue, to the American's banks to feast on those salmon, which die after spawning.

These days you are more likely to see deer, turkeys, coyotes and other critters wandering the trails than the usual volume of cyclists and joggers. Even the anglers are gone (at least until Jan. 1), between the fish hatchery and the power lines crossing the river at Ancil Hoffman Park. That way, the salmon can spawn in peace.

Walk a short distance from access points and listen to ... nothing. Except the gentle rush of the river and gulls arguing over those tasty decaying salmon tidbits.

And if you are really lucky, you might hear the high-pitched screech of the bald eagle that has been hanging out near and over the river in that neighborhood.

It is possible this time of year to have large areas of the American River parkway all to yourself. Odds are best on the larger parcels scattered along the river below Folsom Dam: the north side of Lake Natoma, Sailor Bar Park, Sacramento Bar, Rossmoor Bar, Goethe Park, and on down. Even narrower portions pinched in by housing projects and levees can be virtually devoid of people, especially on weekdays, early in the morning and just before dark -- times when the sun's rays are soft and golden, and when wildlife is most likely to be out and about.