Walk in the park

Michael Stockinger

With warm, sunny weather finally here and finals quickly approaching, now is the time to explore the nearby parks for a quick hike or an escape from the rigors of school and the city.

Sacramento County is home to a multitude of different parks offering different activities and nature settings.

“There are a lot of great places along the American River to hang out at,” said David Moskat, a Sacramento County park ranger assistant.

One of the best places for an escape is in our own backyard: the American River Parkway.

Running along the American River is the 32-mile Jedediah Smith Memorial Bike Trail that runs from Folsom to downtown Sacramento.

The bike trail offers access to at least 13 river parks and nature areas and is the most bike-friendly area of Sacramento.

Lying between the American River and the bike trail are plenty of small trails that weave in an out of thickets and up and down hills.

These small trails are the best place to see wildlife and to experience quiet solitude in the middle of a big city.

“This is a great place to escape,” said Stephanie Wiman, an interpretive specialist at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center located inside Ancil Hoffman Park in Carmichael.

The park hosts a 77-acre nature preserve that features forested areas, meadows, a pond and river access, while deer, turkey, coyotes, squirrels, snakes, hawks, owls and waterfowl are spotted frequently along the trails.

The preserve trails are very quiet, rarely crowded and it is easy to forget where you are while exploring.

The yard of the Nature Center showcases the daily lives of the native inhabitants of the area, the Nisenan Maidu people, with their Tule huts, a grinding stone with holes ground into it, an acorn granary, a fire pit and a shade shelter.

“A lot of people hike and take the trails without coming into the nature center,” Wiman said. “We encourage people to come out and explore the trails.

“The best thing is that we don’t allow cars, people to bring their bikes or to have picnics on the trails, so that it doesn’t distract you from the nature experience.”

Moskat recommended parks along the river.

“I typically go to Arden Bar and William B. Pond ?” there are some nice swimming areas over there,” Moskat said.

There are bike trails that go around the pond, which is stocked with fish, while riparian plants crowd its banks and warm ponds and rapids lie nearby ?” the area is also one of the quietest.

To get there, take a right from Fair Oaks Boulevard onto Arden Way, which ends at the pond.Sailor Bar is a popular area for fishing, but many trails exist nearby for a true nature experience and access to the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail lies just across the river.

“There are huge access spots to the river with plenty of swimming areas,” Moskat said.

To get there, take U.S. Highway 50 to Hazel Avenue, take a left on Winding Way, then another left on Illinois Avenue.

“I really like the area off of Sunrise Boulevard and Hazelnut Avenue,” said Cee Cee Coleman, a Sacramento County park ranger. “It’s a very wooded area good for a nice walk, but bring bug spray because there is a lot of mosquitoes over there.”

On Rod Beaudry Drive, off of Folsom Boulevard, lies Goethe Park ?” a 444-acre park with a picnic area, trail access and plenty of peaceful wooded areas.

Goethe Park is one of the perfect local getaways with plenty of trails that meander through the densely wooded and shady areas of the park without seeing the people ?” especially if you avoid the picnic areas.

Goethe is also one of the oldest Sacramento county parks in the area.

Another little-known and interesting escape is off the river and out into the meadows of Sacramento at Mather Field Regional Park.

At this park, vernal pools bloom and team with life in nearby meadows during spring, while birds blanket the meadows with their chirping and squawking and Mather Lake sits calm and relaxed.Across from the parking lot at the lake sits the vernal pools, which are dried up now but still teem with wildflowers.

Aside from the development of the area and its proximity to the Mather Airport, Mather Lake has a tranquil and serene environment ?” the further you move away from the parking lot, the nicer the solitude.

Trees line and shade the shoreline with minnows and tadpoles darting through the waters and ponds lie just off the lake with dragonflies hovering overhead.

For more information and a complete listing of each park in the Sacramento area, check out the County of Sacramento Department of Regional Parks.

Michael Stockinger can be reached at [email protected]