The Beauty In Your Own Back Yard
I would never classify myself as a world traveler, but I have visited quite a few places in my life. Born and raised in California, I’ve seen much of Mexico and parts of Canada, and have explored Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, to name a few.
But aside from all my traveling, I’ve lived in only two houses for my entire life, and both of those within 10 miles of each other. I truly am a local; and the Big Guy is too, although in a slightly different sense. He was born in Texas and came to California at a very young age. As a young adult, he moved from house to house −− but when he was ready to marry, he ended up in a neighborhood just a stone’s throw from where he grew up.
So we both know our region very well, and we’ve struggled with its growth. It’s very hard to watch fields where you have played all your life be transformed into housing tracts or big box stores and to see the wide expanses fill up with people from other parts of the state and even the country.
There have been several times when we seriously talked about uprooting and moving to a quieter part of our state. But we’re still here, and one of the main reasons we keep hanging on is the American River Parkway and the bike trails attached to it.
The Parkway −− one of the oldest paved bike trails in the US −− runs from one end of Folsom Lake State Park all the way to downtown Sacramento, nearly 33 miles. We live near the Folsom Lake end of it, so that’s where we do most of our recreational riding. It’s very easy for me to climb on my bike in my driveway and ride to Folsom Lake — where you may spot some historic ruins along the side of the trail before you reach Folsom Dam . . .
. . . or ride across the American River to the historic city of Folsom (a bike-friendly community) with its historic powerhouse . . .
. . . or ride to the fish hatchery 9 miles downstream; or even to Sacramento if I choose. The Big Guy works in the aerospace industry and rides his bike to work and back every day using the bike trail and a few fairly quiet surface streets
Let me show you a few more of the lovely spots that are easily accessible by bike — and some by foot — where I live.
Not all the paths are paved. This is part of the historic Pioneer Express Trail which parallels Lake Natoma (a section of the American River below Folsom Dam). We share this path with hikers, joggers, and even horses.
. . . or west toward Sacramento. If you cycle east, you’ll pass a picnic and camping area of historical significance called Negro Bar. It has a nice beach, a boat dock, and places for dogs to play in the water.
Further east you’ll pass under the new Rainbow Bridge (there are now three bridges at this spot).
Continue east on the bike trail and, after passing this community’s very first bridge over the American River, built in the late 1890s . . .
. . . you’ll end up at Folsom Lake; or you can use the new bridge’s protected bike lane and reach a connected bike trail on the other side of Lake Natoma.
It’s now possible to circle the lake on your bike. The trail on that side has areas to launch small boats as well as secluded picnic spots. And the truly wonderful thing about the Parkway is that, even though you’re surrounded by a bustling metropolis, you can easily forget all about the rat race as you’re cradled by nature’s beauty.
There are bridges across the river, both old and new.
There are even more things to admire and explore in this small region −− the wildlife, including deer, coyotes, and even the occasional mountain lion; the Indian grinding rocks along the shores of Lake Natoma; its Gold Rush history; and some of the most gorgeous sunsets you’ll see anywhere.
We haven’t yet found anything quite like it, and I know that if we ever do move away, we would always miss our American River Parkway.