*A continuation of yesterday’s entry, which featured Huckleberry Regional Preserve in Oakland, South Fork American River in Coloma, Blue Rock Springs trail in Vallejo, and Bull Valley Staging Area in Port Costa.
Paradise Beach, American River (Sacramento, CA)
Hike up and down dusty golden rabbit hills until you reach the river. On the path over, you’ll be occasionally shaded by trees. Other times there’ll be no barrier between you and the boldly shining sun.
Once at the river beach, step over pebbles and into the water. Allow the current to take you downstream after your body is fully submerged.
Its swift pace and assuredness will make any paddling unnecessary; simply lay back and let it transport you while looking up at the cloudless blue sky. Hear the occasional train sounding in the distance. The coolness of the river will counteract the otherwise scorching effect of the sun beating against your skin.
On the shore of a small beach you float past to your left, a group of Canadian geese take it easy. Some flap their wings leisurely while their bodies remain in one place. Others use their beaks to pick at the feathers that cover their backs. They’ll hardly seem to notice you as you pass, an apathetic squint the closest to a reaction you’ll get from any.
Once you’ve reached the bottom, walk back up the hill towards your starting point where your clothes await you. The sun will gradually dry your river-soaked body as you trod the return path, which overlooks the backyards of people’s houses (some of which have a pool). A fountain flows next to a Japanese pagoda in one. In another, a man tans nude. You may not be prepared this. Feel free to quickly avert your gaze onto the river to your left, wondering, as you do, if the owners of these yards ever feel exposed or intruded upon.
~15 miles east of downtown Sacramento. There’s a parking lot right next to a soccer field that’s free to the public.
Ringtail Cat Staging Area, Las Trampas Regional Park (Alamo, Bay Area, CA)
At the peaceful start to the hike, a creek separates one side of the dusty winding trail from the other. A spa-like comfort brought on by the gently flowing creek fills you as you walk alongside it. Trees shade you, forming canopies with small spaces in between their leafed conjoined branches, through which small slivers of light shine through.
Further up the path, the trees clear, thinning out until nothing but a view of verdant wide-open space remains. The feeling at the top is akin to having had your training wheels taken off. By obscuring your vision, the trees were guiding you along, encouraging you to focus on only your next step rather than all the land you still had yet to traverse.
White and tan rocks jut out from the terrain on the path down, lightly brushed over with dirt and occasional blades of grass. Going down it feels like descending an onyx’s back. Along the way pass by a hammock tied between two trees. The girl laying in it is immersed in a book.
~30 miles from San Francisco. Minimal free parking.
Coyote Hills Regional Park (Fremont, South Bay Area, CA)
Ascend the golden dirt pathway carved out from lush green hills, towards the copper-colored rocks that jut out from verdant fields at the top. Jagged, they poke your butt when you sit down on them. The calming view makes the temporary discomfort worth it though, as you look down at the ant-sized roller bladers and dog walkers and stroller-pushers blitzing along the black ribbons of pedestrian-friendly land that cut through the sunflower-dotted marshlands.
Walk up and down a few more hills to your next lookout point, then pause. To the right the vast expanse of blue-grey water that is the Hayward Bay shines like a sheet of solid diamond under the sun, while to the left the bridge connecting your patch of land to Palo Alto curves and extends like the arched back of a silver dinosaur, asleep while the glittering car-ants tiptoe over it unsuspectingly.
The wind shifts from indecisive and intermittent—more like a breeze, gentle and hesitant— to urgently forceful and commandingly insistent. Were you to translate it into human language you imagine it delivering the following mixed messages:
Go away / Never mind, stay.
You shouldn’t be here / You’re welcome for as long as you’d like.
Pay attention to the procession of turkeys, whose tails fan their bodies as they take steps forward. Elegant tails seem reserved only for the ones in the back of the line, while the peasant birds walk in front as if to shield the fanned royalties. An image from an old fairy-tale may enter your head: one of the ruling class lain insouciantly across a wooden board, eating fruit while carried above the heads of his insubordinates.
Step off the dirt path into the sea of tall green grass to let them through. Your feet sink slightly into the mud as the turkeys tilt their red and blue heads toward you.
~6 miles from downtown Fremont. Free parking to the public at the foot of the trail.
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Las Trampas– http://www.anaturemom.com