CENTRAL VALLEY DELTA SHORT HIKE AND GOLD COUNTRY DRIVE
November 16-17, 2002
Somewhat beat from the few days of rain and fog locally, I resolved to hike a bit and do some digital photography without the hundreds of miles of travel and expense. In the days previous, I had taken short strolls about downtown Sacramento to use my Ixla camera for the local trees' fall colors, and tried to relax, taking things a bit easier.
Saturday, I took an afternoon drive to Cosumnes River Preserve. Noting the latest spread of urban development south along Interstate 5, I recollected how, when I was a kid, I'd take lengthy bicycle rides, with friends, through many miles of farmland. The Delta Highway, CA 160, was a favorite, with little traffic and the coolness of the nearby Sacramento River.
I now am saddened that I had to sell my ten speed, as I resolved to concentrate on my hiking. And often, leaving my bike parked and locked did little to spare it from somebody's pranks. I had made a number of hundred mile rides, all the way to other towns and back, enjoying a healthy, pollution free, and calorie burning mode of travel. I'd guess during most of my school and work career, I used only maybe 100 gallons of gas, commuting daily by bike up to 20 miles a day. Of course, I used many, many tankfuls of fuel to attend wilderness activities, but carpooling as I could, and myself getting up to 60 miles per gallon.
There were many bird watchers at the preserve, with binoculars and cameras. The visitor center posted up the latest observations, with sandhill cranes and other birds flying in. I took the two mile Willow Slough trail, snapping photos of the fall colors and new assists to hikers. There are several footbridges, and many more signs put up.
I wasn't looking for birds, and was hiking too fast to stop to look for other wildlife. The planted, rare oak forest had grown higher. I like the older, larger oaks by the river. Making the full loop, I completed my hike after 70 minutes.
Seeking more to do this day, I motored over west to the delta town of Locke, CA. One of the earliest historic settlements of immigrant Chinese, it survives to attract some light tourist interest, with a store, cafe, and art gallery.
Motoring north along the river highway, I noted some good stands of wild grape just north of Locke, and the peace and calm of the tranquil river scene. There was even a cyclist speeding along the road shoulder. Many fields of crops, as grape and other fruit orchards, also had some fall color. I stopped for photos of the river bridges, and refreshed my memory with the names of the rural towns--Hood, Clarksburg, and Freeport, CA.
I shot some 83 digital images, and hiked my 2-3 miles with negligible gain.
Sunday, it was just too beautiful of a day to stay home. Normally, I'd take off for a long river walk, but I felt compelled to do more digital photography on some choice subject. The sun was bright, and the skies were blue with some high clouds.
Motoring east on Highway CA 16, then south on CA 49, I shortly came to Drytown. This is a small Mother Lode town relying on mostly tourism for business. Next was Amador City. I stopped and parked my car, not a difficult chore this moderately busy day, then walked along the main streets. The 19th Century architecture and decor is always a great photo subject. The afternoon light brightens up only one side of the streets, so there is a photographic challenge. I can shoot from various angles and with different compositions, since easily, the best shots can be chosen and the poorer images deleted.
Generally having plenty of room, and now memory, I store practically all my photos. I expect I will lose some from sick disks or plain ruined storage, but soon, I will be able to easily save, in a more foolproof manner, all my digital images and those photos on slide film that I can scan with some hopefully forthcoming, high quality.
Coming to Sutter Creek, I parked easily again, and walked along the more tourist friendly street. Hundreds of visitors wandered about, and the mid-afternoon sun warmed things to very pleasant temperatures. Not unloading cash on the food, antiques, or other keepsakes, I just hoped to stay out of people's ways as I recorded the scene.
My camera battery charge finally became low, so I wrapped it up with a few photos of the seasonally decorated window fronts. I expect I walked maybe a mile total.
Another Mother Lode State Park, Recreation Area, or even an official Gold Country backroad auto tour might draw more people. Some Southern Californians would charter a bus, and each spend hundreds on food and lodging. The winter green hills and stately oaks make for good, scenic hiking potential. Decades ago, the local hikers did Sierra Club foothill walks along out-of-the-way dirt roads, with plenty of exercise and clean air. Leaving the Valley fog was so heartening, as well. Often, ascending to 1,500' elevation took us into bright sun and blue sky, great for your endorphins!
This day I shot 81 digital photos, and seek to continue to travel and hike before this season's El Nino generated, maybe heavy and constant, rains start to come in.
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