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Stories from the valley

Celebrating Spring at the Rancho Seco Recreation Area

Contributed by Keli Gwyn

The Greater Sacramento Area has thrown off its golden covering to reveal a beautiful blanket of green. Nestled among the abundant grasses, wildflowers are adding their bit of nature’s bling.

Eager to experience the spring showcase, my husband and I headed to the Rancho Seco Recreational Area recently, where we enjoyed an easy seven-mile hike. The Rancho Seco Howard Ranch Trail begins on the north bank of Rancho Seco Lake and travels along the shoreline for about a mile, where it takes off through flower-bedecked fields. Despite our early-in-the-season visit, we spotted ten different varieties of wildflowers, with more sure to appear.

Upon reaching the eastern edge of the trail, breathtaking vistas of oak-studded fields are your reward. If the visual display isn’t enough, just listen. You’ll hear birds calling, cattle lowing and wind rippling the grasses, bringing to mind scenes from Little House on the Prairie.

Because the trail takes you through a working cattle ranch, expect to encounter cows. My husband and I were a bit wary, but although the herd eyed us with suspicion, they left us alone. They might have been laughing at our antics as we skirted several large vernal pools and jumped a couple of smaller ones though.

Pack a picnic lunch—or grab a sandwich at Subway in Ione to the east or Mr. Pickles in Galt to the west—and prepare to spend several enjoyable hours on the trail. Hiking boots are recommended since the land can be marshy in places. Note that dogs and bikes are not allowed.

You’ll find more information about the recreation area on SMUD’s site, including docent-led Vernal and Wildflower Hikes offered by the Cosumnes River Conservancy.