The arrival of winter in the Sacramento Valley means a mix of sunny, cold, foggy and rainy days. You may be tempted to spend your time indoors, but I encourage you to get out and explore the countryside. Here’s a list of my favorite things to do during the winter.
Look at the Birds
Winter bird watching is fantastic in the Valley! Thanks to our location on the Pacific Flyway and management of habitat by rice and other growers. Millions of waterfowl drop in for the winter to take advantage of flooded harvested rice fields. Hawks sit atop trees and power poles watching for opportunities for a meal. You might even spot a Bald Eagle. We are lucky to have both federal and state wildlife refuges in our area. Take the auto loops at Grey Lodge Wildlife Area in the Gridley area, Colusa National Wildlife Refuge or Willow’s Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.
Take a Ride
Get off the freeways and cruise the back roads. One of my favorite drives in State Route 45 from Knights Landing to Hamilton City. Maybe because it goes through my home town of Grimes has something to do with that, be sure you stop in Colusa and check out the sights. And, of course, a drive around the Sutter Buttes is mandatory for me. Please stay on paved roads and be careful and considerate where you park.
The Valley is a photo rich environment with great views, the birds, the small towns and the countryside. Foggy days can add an aspect of mystery to your photos. One of the things I do with many of my favorite photos is have them put on notecards and my annual Christmas Card.
Buy Local Food
The Chico Farmers Market is open on Saturday’s year round. But there are so many businesses that sell local produced foods and gift baskets. A couple of them are Stephens Farm House in Yuba City, Chico’s Maisie James , Glenn Made , Made in Chico, and Colusa Made. Don’t forget California Rice, which is available at local grocery stores.
See the Christmas Lights/Displays
It’s not the Christmas Season to me until I see Santa Claus and his reindeer on the roof of my alumni Pierce High School in Arbuckle. Also as you drive Interstate 5 between Willows and Dunnigan, most of the rice driers and mills are decorated with Christmas lights. Take a moment to drive around the communities and you will be treated to wonderful displays of lights and Christmas scenery.
Go up to the Hills
It is hard to hide the fact that it does get foggy in the Sacramento Valley, and hopefully this year will have lots of rain which can lead to fog. To see the sunshine on those foggy days just head to the hills and visit some of the great little town in the foothills such as Placerville, Auburn, Grass Valley, Nevada City and Paradise. Another great hill trip is up to Western Colusa and Glenn Counties- just head to Stonyford from Maxwell and then follow the road that parallels Stony Creek to Elk Creek, Chrome, and drop back in the Valley to Orland, Be sure to stop at Black Butte Dam outside of Orland and you may be privileged to see Ospreys fishing in the after bay.
I’m always looking for new suggestions for things to do, as our region has plenty of territory to explore. Enjoy the season!