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At the pond: towards the green hills

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Do you like hiking in nature without many people? Now is a good time to visit the UC Davis Stebbins Cold Canyon Preserve.

There is a lot of traffic there in the spring when wildflowers are in abundance. And in summer it is hot. Although fires have occurred on several occasions, it is still beautiful with spectacular views everywhere you look and fascinating to see the rebirth. The drive alone is exciting as the hills turn green. On a recent drive out, I was glad I got up early just to see a ribbon of dramatic cloud banks all along the Coast Range with towering mountains behind.

It’s an easy 40 minute ride. Head onto Covell Boulevard which becomes Hwy 128, cross Winters to the right and eventually cross the Putah Creek Bridge, take the first right into a parking lot with great views and where there is now also a port-a- pot. A path will lead you under the road to get to the reserve. There is signage to guide you.

You can choose from several trails. Some are quite steep; trekking poles are useful. Bring your own water. Also be aware that there is poison oak. It is a small shrub or vine with three oily, green leaflets. Red leaves in early spring, catkins of white flowers. After losing its foliage, there are clusters of green-brown berries popular with birds.

William (Bill) Pevec, MD, professor emeritus of vascular surgery, has been the reserve’s volunteer and docent coordinator since 2018. He started off writing a docent manual, derailed by the pandemic and now and has organized hikes led by docents, expert in a wide variety of subjects.

Although I have been going there for 50 years, I have attended two recent events and learned new information. On October 31, Bill led a modern human history hike, acknowledging that the reservation is in the territory of the indigenous peoples of California and that he has covered everything from the site of the farm in 1938 to the history of fires.

Jock Hamilton, nature photographer and teacher whose work has been exhibited at The Artery for 41 years, moderated a session on photography and more. Jock requested that after the session we each walk alone to our cars so that we could stop, listen and see more. A good idea. Standing alone in one spot, I saw more bird species than I saw on half a dozen hikes.

Jock explained why the aspen and poplar leaves were shaking, doing their shimmering dance. The petiole, the stem that attaches a blade to its stem, acts as a fulcrum on which the leaves can react even to a light breeze.

Paul Havemann will lead a hike on scats, tracks and animal life from 5:30 am to 7:30 am on Thursday, November 18. Yes, it’s 5:30 am but it’s fully subscribed. You have to get up early to see the animals and participants will also enjoy a sunrise at 6.30am. Paul is the steward of the Stebbins Cold Canyon reserve.

He has a Masters in Protected Area Management and joined the UC Davis Nature Reserve System staff in 2013. Prior to that, Paul worked for the South African National Park Service. He is familiar with the tracking and behavior of animals on two continents. Paul will also lead on December 9 the subject of the management of the trails of the Reserve. Saturday, December 4, Angela White leads with the subject of fire ecology

If you would like to be added to the Friends of Stebbins Cold Canyon mailing list, email Bill at [email protected] If a session is full, sign up on the waiting list because there are cancellations.

Bill has plans for a late winter and spring hiking program with topics based on the docents who volunteer to lead. Bill says, “I am fascinated by the ecological diversity and spectacular geology of the reserve, as well as the resilience of life despite fires and drafts. Bill retired after many years as a teacher and wanted to do something completely different from vascular surgery, but related to science.

He was taking a charity bike ride, sitting in a brewery, and talking to a guy who invited him to an open house at the John Muir Institute. There he meets director Sarah Oktay, then director of Stebbins Cold Canyon, who tells him about a docent program. And so, we have another wonderful program run by volunteers. We are fortunate to have access to a nearby UC reserve. There are 41 statewide, but only a few allow public access.

My favorite hike starts on the west side of the creek at the start of the Blue Ridge Trail. New stone steps lead to the path. It’s a 1,000 foot climb up the West Ridge. I like having lunch at the top while looking at Lake Berryessa and descending the same way unless I have a lot of free time and then continue on the ridge after lunch and complete a six mile circular hike.

Have a good hike, be well and kiss every day.

– Jean Jackman is a resident of Davis. Its columns appear monthly. A story, a question, a photo, a comment? Contact her at [email protected]


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