Agriculture + Environment

At the Pond: Spectacular local vacations await

By April 22, 2011

I have been off in the Midwest visiting an ailing family member. For two weeks, I mostly saw a gray and brown landscape. Bare trees. Stunted-looking forests. The experience left me even more grateful that I live in this northern Central Valley where we have seen flowers and trees blooming for a month and now have velvet green hills and fields.

Why do we travel anywhere out of this region? There is so much beauty and diversity in habitats to experience close by. Have you considered taking a low-carbon vacation right in our very own region?

For the past three years, I have been privileged to participate in a five-day gorgeous spring bike trip from Davis to that bigger pond, the Pacific Ocean. The other participants have been senior citizens with a few exceptions. We ride bicycles, but a “sag” van carries our luggage and helps when needed. We stay in lodgings in San Francisco, Bodega Bay, Cloverdale and Napa.

The first day, we started out on Russell Boulevard, went out Putah Creek Road and enjoyed our first coffee stop in Winters. Our destination was the North Beach area of San Francisco, with our ride shortened and enhanced by a ferry ride from Vallejo. On the second day we biked to Bodega Bay, with the help of a ferry to Larkspur.  The third day featured a ride to Cloverdale. On the fourth day, we pedaled along the Silverado Trail to Napa, and the fifth day brought us back to Davis.

We experience sites that attract people from all over the world, including the beauty of the San Francisco skyline – boats, ferries, the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge. We cycle through Nnorthern Marin with redwoods, through Point Reyes Station and along the dramatic Sonoma coast with lush green hills and wildflowers. We cycle along the swollen Russian River past flooded redwoods, then through the Napa Valley vineyards, some covered in mustard, others with white, sweet-smelling alyssum. Olfactory delights like this can never be experienced in a car.

We toured the spectacular gardens and wine center of Italianate Ferrari-Carano Winery. We ate sinfully rich pastries at the Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station. We bike at our own pace. At day’s end, after welcome showers and rests, we gather at a good restaurant and eat well with old and new friends.

For the past three years, Bruce and Marilyn Dewey have meticulously planned and led this Davis Bike Club tour. There are pre-trip meetings. We are given cue sheets plus a map for each day and an overall map showing the entire trip. We write one check and the Deweys handle all of the lodging.

This year, we were lucky to just miss a week of rain. However, we did have the challenge of head winds as we biked north on Highway 1.

Our volunteer sag driver, Lee Mitchell, is legendary, for he takes driving a sag van to new levels. He blasts appropriate music through loud speakers when he passes us. Heading out the last day, we heard the theme music from “Star Wars.”  He speaks through a microphone to warn us of any dangers ahead and waits at difficult turns to make sure we are not lost. When a bike broke down (which had been newly tuned), he lent his bike. What a guy!

Now, most people do not wish to bike 60 miles or so per day. But consider the possibilities of shorter trips, or part-bike or part-hike car trips. Imagine a bike trip along Putah Creek Road, with a lunch in Winters, and then on to Lake Solano for a camping trip. You could rent a boat there or bring one of your own.

Further biking the next day could take you to Stebbins Cold Canyon, a UC Davis Nature Reserve near the Monticello Dam. You can climb up 1,000 feet for amazing views of our valley, Lake Berryessa and see all the way to the Sierra Nevada. There is a loop trail with numbered plant identification. Download the pamphlet online. It is hot in the summer unless you start nice and early.

Or, drive to a campground along the American River or at Folsom Lake. Carry your bikes and then bike the American River Bike Trail during the day. Or hike it. You would be hard-pressed to find a better trail anywhere in the world. Great views, swimming, water fountains, bathrooms, no car traffic and a lot of friendly people all along the route. When I’ve had a flat tire or mechanical problem, I have always had people stop and help.

Do yourself a favor, enjoy your very own region and be green while experiencing it. We all know we have to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Here’s a fun, healthy way to do it.


On the Internet, please check out the Decorah eagles web cam. You can watch a family of eagles in a live video feed streamed online 24/7. At night, there is an infrared light, which is not visible to the eagles. See them at http://www.ustream.tv/DECORAHEAGLES. Warning: There is a short ad to begin.

The first of three eggs was laid Feb. 23. The first egg pipping and hatch was April 2. They are in a nest near a fish hatchery in Decorah, Iowa. The is nest is 80 feet up in a tree, 6 feet across and weighs about 1,000 pounds. It is lovely to see the care and cooperation the parents exhibit. The pair has been together since 2007 and has fledged eaglets in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and now has three new eaglets.

You can even click on a 24-hour collage of the first egg pipping or see the eaglet 10 hours old being fed rabbit by the female. It is beauuuutiful. There have been more than 48 million views of the web cam. I suspect that many, like me, keep returning.


The 20th annual Pence Gallery Garden Tour will be especially fascinating this year. It will be on Sunday, May 1, and features eight rural and semi-rural gardens, all in the same area. I already have had the pleasure of visiting Patricia Carpenter’s garden with flowers galore — including many natives, vegetables, a putting green, a bridge-covered slough with bird life, a world of intense gardening. When you drive Russell Boulevard, you would never have a clue as to the treasures behind those fences and shrubs.

In addition to the gardens, artists will be painting plein air. The art will later be displayed at the Pence. There is also a silent auction. This is a fundraiser for our wonderful, nonprofit, community-based art gallery.

Spring migration is happening. Get out and see the birds with their best dress, smell the flowers and kiss each day.

— Jean Jackman is a Davis resident. Her columns appear on the fourth Sunday of each month. Got a story, question, comment? Contact her a [email protected]

Jean Jackman

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