Posts Tagged ‘blackberries’

Plants and Animals

31 August 2019

Here in central California, the end of August is hot and dry throughout most of the inner valleys. That sort of weather even hits the coasts this time of year sometimes.

You’d expect the flowers to all be wilting, the wild berries shriveled up, and the grasslands a dull tan color. Midday you’d expect the animals to all be hiding somewhere until the sun gets lower in the sky.

But such was not exactly my experience as I biked home from Folsom through the American River Parkway.

I wanted to concentrate on the section of the trail (and river) between Folsom and Rancho Cordova, as this is the part I have tended to ignore a bit in my trips. I’m not yet tired enough to find an excuse to get off my bike and take some pictures.

Over on the other side of the river just west of Folsom is the posh/hip community of Fair Oaks. And across from Rancho Cordova is the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael.

This river is well-used from both sides for kayaking, river rafting and a bit of fishing. Over most of this segment, it is shallow and relatively slow-moving. There are some bluffs on the other side (the “north” side of the river) that bring human settlement very close to the stream’s edge. But most of the rest of the floodplain has levees built around it, which is how the Parkway came to be.

Up at the Folsom end, and just across from the park along Folsom Blvd., there are some awesome stands of blackberry bushes. One would expect most of the berries to be dried up by this time of year, but I found a few still going strong in a shaded area.

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There are also wild grapes growing in this area, but that crop does not seem so profuse this year.

There is a place along the trail (bikeway) where I have often seen deer. I am amazed they congregate there, as the houses come in very close, and there are people walking dogs. Yet the deer – does at least – show up there regularly. But I was not prepared to see all three does plus their fawn foraging together a little before noon.

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I decided to set near them a while and just sort of ask them to come closer. To my amazement, after a few minutes they started to do so. I have seen does “act stupid” before. They don’t seem to have the same attitude towards their own safety that the bucks do. First they came up to, maybe, 30 feet away from the trail. One decided she was going to feed on a particular tree, but the “good” branches were too high, so she got up on her rear legs and stretched for it! I’ve never seen a deer do that before. The image below was not that well-exposed, so I did an auto-color-correct on it. She really looks pretty goofy in this picture.

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Meanwhile, the others and the fawn were getting even closer. They came under a tree maybe 15 feet away from the trail. Damned if I could keep the camera steady enough to get a crisp image with my zoom all the way out, but this is the best picture of a fawn I have ever taken.

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Next, the rest of the does decided to come right up to the bike trail. Bikes were going by, I was talking to them, people were stopping to photograph them, people were walking their dogs on the other side, and these deer just wouldn’t go away!

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For a while, all three even crossed the bike path to see what was worth chomping on on the other side. Someone with a dog, I think, scared two of them back, but the third one didn’t want to leave.

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I walked right up to her (well, pretty close) and talked to her. “It’s better if you stay over on that side,” I said, “it will be safer for you there.” She still didn’t want to leave. It seems she had found something really interesting on the ground to chew on.

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It may have been some snack food that one of the bike riders had thrown out a little earlier. But I insisted, “come on, girl, back to the other side with the others!” She finally went back across.

I have never seen any wild deer get this close to people. They were young does, but still, this seemed a bit odd. Perhaps they were really hungry. They did look a bit scrawny to me.

I finally picked up and left. Not much further down was the place where the bikeway had been blocked for several weeks so that a washout could be fixed. Finally this part was open again! The repair itself was not very visually interesting. They had dumped a crapload of crushed rock down the slope to shore up the washout. I did notice a lizard out on one of the rocks taking a sunbath.

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Just a little further down the trail there is a place where the bank gets very steep. It’s hard to tell how much of this is “natural.” This whole area was extensively mined and dredged using the “placer” method, which leaves huge piles of small boulders by the shore, and the landscape considerably altered.

But here on this steep bank I found a tree hanging on for dear life to what looked like a piece of the original clay soil beneath the stone piles.

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The view below is from the same area. Notice the pine trees. They don’t appear further down the river. I haven’t completely looked into the history of these pines. They may have been an earlier attempt at reforestation. Note the mound of rocks in the middle of the river – possibly also the remains of earlier mining operations. And the parking lot in the distance is one of the many public access points to the river.

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Somewhere along the bikeway, there is a section where these rather lovely yellow flowers grow. They are mostly wilting now, but I finally got a clear picture of one. I was having a terrible time getting my camera to focus on them in closeup mode.

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I will return soon with some photographs of plants and animals that live thousands of miles away from California, but in a climate not that different from ours.

 

Rafting Sacramento style

30 June 2019

While I wrestle with various ideas about what to do with this planet, life goes on.

Late rains and early warm weather combined to give me ripe blackberries during my weekly ride from Folsom.

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Rafting

I went river rafting once. It was in 1980, and I was on my way to a family reunion in Iowa. I stopped on the way to visit Moab, the closest town to Arches National Monument. And while in Moab, I took a short rafting tour down the Colorado River.

The Colorado, in many places, presents a significant challenge to rafters. But the trip I took, as I recall, went through only one major rapids.

The American River below the Nimbus Dam, by comparison, is almost totally placid.

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This makes rafting on the river (in this section) a safe and relaxing activity – or party time.

Last week on my trip back from Folsom I saw a bunch of rafters enter the river around Fair Oaks. I failed to get any photos, but decided to take some on this trip. I was an hour or more later than last time, and all the rafts were already on the river.

They sounded like they were having fun. Laughing, shouting and spraying water at each other, these were mostly younger people, as I had been when I took my rafting trip.

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A little sandy area on the south shore of the river seemed to be a favorite place for rafters to stop for a break.

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Rough waters ahead?

While most folks enjoy an apparently perfect summer, I continue to study, contemplate, and write.

The latest documentary on Scientology TV was about our impending “energy cliff,” where it becomes more energy-costly to dig up and refine fossil fuels than it does to just leave them in the ground. The week before, I saw Fallen, a documentary about police killed in the line of duty. And in between I saw a documentary about Seattle’s homeless problems and attended an event concerning the continuing problem of drug abuse in the U.S. and around the world.

The future is only looking navigable to those who know how to confront the magnitude of the problems it holds for us. The rest are busy riding their rafts down a river taking them wherever it leads, hopeful they won’t run into any dangerous rapids along the way.