Thursday, January 26, 2017

Then The Road Disappeared...

Martin Luther King Jr. Day and my birthday were on the same day this year (a real honor), and since neither the Geek nor I had to go to work we went to Davis to spend the day with Kaefer. It was the third sunny and dry day in a row which we enjoyed so very much. I had hoped to go to Lake Berryessa and hike there, but on our way there we saw signs that the road was closed due to toppled trees and rock- and mudslides during the recent storms. It was a bit of a disappointment, but then we decided to go to IKEA in Sacramento by taking back roads and thus getting to know the area a bit more.

It's a very flat country there with lots of agriculture. Some might think it's boring, but it actually has its own charm. When we came closer to Sacramento we had to take I-5 because the river road we wanted to drive along was closed due to flooding. However, right when we had crossed the levee the land was much drier and we were able to leave the Interstate and go along the river road.

"The river" is the Sacramento River of course, and it was pretty full, flooding the banks.

I saw birds sitting in the trees, like this yellow-billed magpie that we don't have in our area.

We shopped at IKEA for a while - it's interesting how you always find something there to buy, this store is immensely dangerous - and then decided to go back to Davis via back roads again since I-80 was hopelessly clogged with traffic.

On our way we decided we wanted to see how badly the river road was flooded. While driving on I-5 into Sacramento we had already seen how widely flooded the land was beyond the levee. Now we got closer to it, following the river road...

 until we arrived at this barrier...

behind which the road simply disappeared.

It was completely immersed in water. But where did all this water come from? It was just a small river, much smaller than the Sacramento River - it didn't even have a name on the map!

The trees you can see in the picture above mark the bank of the stream. But the water was everywhere beyond them, forming a huge lake.

Fortunately the railroad tracks were built way above the water (they are familiar with this problem) and so is the Interstate on the other side.

Whereas the road was just swallowed by the water.

It was quite fascinating to see this - I was in awe of what water can do. It will take a while until this land is dry again. We had more rain last week, but at the moment we have a dry spell. We need it right now.

And here's my favorite girl in the world - I am so happy that I could spend my birthday with her. The best gift ever.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Along Wet And Muddy Trails

We are very lucky to have the laguna close by, right between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. During the recent heavy rains it was prone to flood all the land next to it - and it did. However, with some drier days following the water receded quickly.

When we took a walk in the laguna last weekend we still met pretty wet and muddy trails with some rather large puddles that weren't always easy to navigate. But they displayed some beautiful reflections and were very welcome for this photographer's eye.

The water must have been about six feet high in places judging from the debris that we saw in the bushes and shrubs. Colorful plastic doggie bags hanging from twigs and branches were signs of how high the water used to be. It was quite impressive (the doggie bags not so much).

Sitting high up in some trees I finally saw what I was missing at the lake the day before: black-crowned night herons. They had chosen just a few trees where they were perching in little groups. We counted 22 of them that day, and I'm sure we missed some. I was so happy to see them.

We also saw quite a lot of hawks this afternoon, sitting in bare trees and circling over the area.

I will leave you with a few more shots of our beautiful laguna.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Hadn't Seen The Sun In Three Days

As some of you might have heard, we had some heavy rain in Northern California (and it's raining again!). While the rain has been more than welcome, the flooding that came with it in some areas was not. All the places at and near the river were flooded and many people had to evacuate from their homes. Anything that was close to water became very very wet - whether it was the vicinity of the laguna or "my" lake.

The lake - it's a regional park - was actually closed because the paths, trails, picnic grounds and parking lots were completely flooded. The rangers were traveling in canoes to evaluate the damage.

When the rain stopped the big clean-up started, and last Saturday the park was reopened.

It was a brilliant sunny albeit chilly day, and since we had been indoors all week long because of the foul weather we happily laced up our hiking boots and took a walk around the lake.

We were surprised how well the clean-up was done. All the paved trails were open and you couldn't really tell that just a few days before they had been covered in water and mud. The restrooms were still closed and so were my favorite dirt trails, and as soon as you left the paved path everything became pretty muddy. Our boots were caked with mud soon, but just being outside felt so good that we didn't mind.

The turtles were happy about the drier weather as well. They hung out on some of the logs in the water, leisurely soaking up the sun.

However, there weren't almost no birds. Usually there are lots of Canada geese, ducks and the occasional swan, but there wasn't a single one. I was wondering where they had gone. The herons and egrets were hiding as well, with the exception of this beautiful guy - but he was the only one.

We had a few more "water encounters" that long weekend of which I will tell you later.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

During winter break Kaefer and I met with our friend Denice and her not even two-year-old daughter to visit the Sacramento Zoo. We were lucky to have chosen the only sunny albeit chilly day in a row of rainy days that descended with heavy force onto the North Bay and the Central Valley in the first week of the new year.

Sacramento Zoo is a very small zoo. It has some beautiful enclosures like the ones for the red panda and the giraffes. The ones for the big cats are definitely too small and some others made me just very sad. There is certainly still a lot to do. Animals in captivity is sad in general, but sometimes unavoidable. I still prefer to see them in the wilderness.

However, Sacramento Zoo also has a great partnership with UC Davis in veterinary training. UC Davis is the only university in California with a veterinary medicine department, and one of only 30 veterinary schools in the entire US that are accredited. UC Davis partners with the Sacramento Zoo in the field of zoological medicine, and when you're lucky you can even watch surgery on an animal (we weren't). As the daughter of a veterinarian I was fascinated with this medical location.

But we were here to watch the animals. Our first longer stop was when we came to the giraffes.

One of them stood very close, licking the fence. Of course we were wondering why she did that and were joking that she just needed some iron.

Instead of my big DSLR I had brought my Canon PowerShot SX40 which has a very long and powerful zoom lens. I was very happy I had decided to bring this camera - I think you easily believe me.

When the Kiddo was getting a bit louder, the giraffe turned to us to find out what the commotion was all about.

I love the expression on her face!

There were five or six more giraffes around, a few of them youngsters. One was very busy chewing on a leaf.

A juvenile one - I guess an equivalent to a teenager - was trying to bite down onto some loose branches.

While we were still watching the giraffes - they were quite entertaining - we heard the loud roar of a lion. And not only once! So we marched over to the lions, and there he was, standing on a rock in the center of his enclosure and roaring. His wife, however, was not impressed by him at all.

Did it hurt his pride?

I don't really think so. He just turned around...

put his head down on his lovely little paws...

and fell asleep.

We enjoyed the lemurs of whom I don't have any photos and then went to a café right across from the flamingos to take a break and find some shelter from the cold.

When you go with a teenager to the zoo expect some silliness!

Whereas the little ones like the Kiddo are just cute.

Of course we had to go to the gift shop at the end of our visit. It has the typical gift shop stuff, but this t-shirt cracked me up!

And here's my favorite version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". Smile and enjoy.