Lake Solano, a widening of Putah Creek west of Winters, provides a quick, scenic mini-vacation. Jean Jackman/Courtesy photo


At the Pond: From Davis, it’s easy to get back to nature

By From page A10 | July 27, 2014

We’re lucky, all of us. We can travel three minutes or three hours and reach incredible places for mini, inexpensive, restorative vacations.

I’ll wager that four generations of one Davis family will cherish memories of their bike ride along Putah Creek to Winters. Longtime Davis Bike Club member Gerald Peterson, 80, led a ride to Winters along Putah Creek Road with son David, 57; grandson Timothy, 27; and great-granddaughter Venereese, 2, behind Dad. She sang nearly every mile on her first long bike ride. Her mom, Shannon, pulled the short peloton most of the way, riding in front.

Last week, Putah Creek also was my source for a memorable three-hour evening just 30 minutes away. We had spent a dreary day choosing items for a bathroom remodel. Sometimes you have to address the problems of 50-year-old bathrooms and deal with it. At dinner, I suggested an evening kayak trip to Lake Solano, the widening of Putah Creek west of Winters. By 7:15 p.m., we were on our way.

We use a simple ratchet strap to put our indestructible, non-maintenance kayaks on the car roof and drove the 17-plus miles to Lake Solano following the south side of the creek on Putah Creek Road. There is a free area to park and put in, just beyond the diversion dam that now sends the Putah Creek water to Benicia, Suisun, Vallejo, Dixon and Fairfield — water that used to all flow through downtown Davis.

Nothing revives the spirit like getting on water, especially in the relative cool of the evening. We walked the kayaks down a small bank and were surprised to see hundreds of one-inch toads along the water’s edge. The creek surface looked like silk and velvet. Geese swam nearby.

We paddled upstream toward the Pleasants Valley Road Bridge. Large dragonflies flitted around. Every so often, a beaver or otter cannonballed off a bank to make a startling splash. A fleet of male common mergansers paddled by. We hit pockets of hot and cold. Mundane remodel hassles vanished.

Double crested cormorants flew in intermittently to roost in a large tree. We watched the sun slowly setting behind the Vaca Mountains. It’s about 1.5 miles from our put-in spot to the Pleasants Valley Road Bridge. Underneath the bridge, cliff swallows are still nesting in their architecturally amazing mud nests on the walls under the bridge. They were swooping all around us, chasing insects.

We drove home enjoying the sight of the mega-moon. This month we had a super-full moon, which occurs when the moon’s closest approach to the Earth coincides with the phase of full moon. The moon is bigger and brighter. Have you noticed the moon lately — watched it rise? The next full moon is Aug. 10.

Recreational kayaks have been one of our best investments ever. If you don’t have them, you can get a boat rental for an hour or half a day at the Lake Solano Regional Park, weekends and holidays, on Pleasants Valley Road.

In the last month, my mini-vacations have included world-class places within three hours of Davis. We took a day trip to hike Mount Judah right next to Sugar Bowl Ski Resort in the Sierra Nevada. It was spring at the higher elevations with gorgeous wildflower displays. In the coniferous forests, scarlet red snow flower (or snow plant) was shooting up. They look like fleshy red pine cones that pop up in the hummus. They are a parasite and derive nutrition from fungi on tree roots and are unable to photosynthesize nutrients.

Three hours from home, I vacationed for four days with 22 Davis Bike Club members at Lake Shasta Resort. We did out-and-back trips with lots of climbing. The big day, we biked the Castle Craig loop with 52 miles and more than 6,000 feet of altitude gain. Stunning views and not one car for the first 8.5 miles.

Hiking trails nearby had breathtaking views and the mountain lakes were a perfect swimming temperature. We could all fit on the deck of one cabin for our dinners together. It seems an underappreciated area for all that it offers. Why go to Europe for the crowded Alps?

I’m three minutes by bike from the North Davis Ponds. Our first Saturday monthly bird stroll had some surprises. First, 33 species in 1 1/2 hours. And a grand finale was 70 American pelicans flying our way. They came lower and circled over us.

Try a cool, morning expert-guided bird stroll. On Saturday, Aug. 2, meet at 8 a.m. in the parking lot at 3500 Anderson Road for a tour of the North Davis Ponds, and on Wednesday, Aug. 6, meet at the gazebo at the end of Isle Royale Lane for a tour of the West Davis Pond. Visit Facebook pages for both Friends of West Pond and Friends of North Davis Ponds for more information and great photos.

Are you concerned about the proposal to have 100 tank car trains of highly volatile crude oil passing through Davis? Join other citizens in commenting on the draft environmental impact report for the Valero rail terminal project in Benicia. A workshop that will explain how to comment will be offered from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 27.

Exercise your civic rights, and kiss each day.

— Jean Jackman is a Davis resident; her column is published monthly. Got a comment, question or correction? Contact her at [email protected]

Jean Jackman

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