Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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The American River at Rossmoor Bar

When you get all excited about finally being able to buy a home, and then afterwards figure out that the market is in such a terrible condition right now that it isn't actually a good idea to buy one anytime soon anyway, you have to find something other than actual purchases to pour your home-buying-related excitement into. I've managed to waste invest vast amounts of my free time in creating a spreadsheet containing records of all the home purchases in the last two years in my nearest three zip codes, and then adding more detailed location information by looking up every purchase on online maps and recording which subdivision each is in and how far it is from my workplace. But that gets old after a while, so I made a separate spreadsheet with all the plants I could grow in my possibly-future yard (assuming I become able to afford an actual yard) that I like the look of and would not be able to kill by failing to ever water them, and that could survive Sacramento summer heat, and I recorded all the information about their heights and widths and preferred soil types. But it gets a little scary after a while when I'm spending all day long at work entering information into spreadsheets, then coming home exhausted and relieved to finally have some free time to spend relaxing and . . . well, entering information into spreadsheets.

So I tried to break the monotony by going on periodic field trips. At first I just went on the obvious field trips, to inspect local neighborhoods in detail and try to get a better sense of what kinds of houses are around here. But then I decided to take the classic native-plant gardening advice by going to look at the local nature areas to draw gardening inspiration from them. The only nature areas around here are the river and some portions of the former air force base, and I've already photographed most of the portions of the air force base that are anything other than weeds, so that left the river. I've photographed plenty of the river before, of course, but there were still some spots along it (in my fairly immediate neighborhood, even!) that I hadn't even been to before. So I decided to go to some of those. While I was at it, I figured I could also improve my knowledge of which spots along the river are the prettiest and therefore the most desirable to live near.

I ended up going to four different local places along the river, none of which I had ever been to before. I started in September and ended several weeks ago. I hadn't really intended to wait this long before posting the pictures, but unfortunately, using the Gimp to transform my pictures from amateur photography disasters to something presentable is a lot more time-consuming and frequently somewhat less enjoyable than actually taking the disastrous pictures in the first place is. So I'm still only ready to post the photographs of the very first place I went to: Rossmoor Bar. I'll make separate posts for each of the other places on future days.

Rossmoor Bar, as a place to seek inspiration about how native plants can be beautiful, was a more miserably discouraging letdown than I had ever imagined possible. In retrospect, it's quite amusing that of all the places I could have chosen for this purpose, I managed to pick this one.

Parking a car inside any of the parks along the American River costs money, so I always park my car just outside the parks and walk in. Usually the distance is so ridiculously short that it's hard to imagine why anyone would pay money to drive and extra fifty feet closer to where they want to go - and anyway, the scenery is usually beautiful, and you can never photograph it all properly from a car. But at Rossmoor Bar, the walking distance turned out to be considerably longer than I had expected. It was perfectly doable, but it did make me wish I had brought sunscreen and fear what color my skin might be the next day, because there was no shade anywhere along the path. Worse, the scenery was abominably dull. It was acres and acres of nothing but this:

I took some other pictures along the road, but they all looked exactly identical to the above, because there was nothing else to see. So there's really no point in posting more of them. Just stare at the picture above for the next half hour, and you'll get to share the experience I had while walking down that road. And, well, if anyone reading this happens to be strangely fond of such landscapes, I'm happy for you - but personally, I do not aspire to make my possible-future yard look like that. (Well, okay, the weird raggedy plants along the edge of the road that look sort of like heaps of damp and torn paper towels are sort of vaguely amusing. But not even those were particularly exciting - let alone pretty - when examined up close.)

I'm not sure that much of that, other than the trees, is even native plants at all. A lot of the protected nature reserves in the Sacramento Valley have been so overrun by invasive alien weeds that there's not much left worth protecting except the trees and the water. But at least I don't see any yellow starthistle in that picture, so maybe some of it actually is native plants. They just all happen to be very brown and uninteresting at this time of year.

I did pass a large flock of wild turkeys, however. That was easily the most interesting thing I saw on my way to the river.

The big line of trees in the distance in both of the above photos is the greenbelt where the actual river is located. I kept telling myself that as soon as I reached there, the scenery would finally become as beautiful as the American River normally is. And it did get a little better. Unfortunately, not nearly enough to take many good photographs. The land beneath the trees remained blandly brown and weedy-looking. The opposite shore had houses along it, not visible enough to make impressive architecture photos but not invisible enough to make good nature photos. The river itself had cement boat launches in the middle of it, and other human-made technological stuff whose purpose I wasn't sure of, but which wasn't very photogenic. I ended up taking only one picture of the actual river itself that I liked enough to want to post. I took this while standing on Rossmoor Bar itself - the peninsula in the middle of the river that's called Rossmoor Bar - and photographing the shore that I had come from.

Two men with dogs approached the peninsula shortly after I did, and asked me whether I was afraid of man-eating dogs. I said no. Their dogs were barely more than chihuahua-sized, so it was a ridiculous question (and anyway, I'd probably have more reason to be afraid of woman-eating dogs). One of the men then said, "Say hello!" in a way that I at first assumed was addressed to the dog (and I think he meant it to come across that way), but when he repeated it six more times in increasingly urgent and flustered-sounding tones, it became apparent that the line had become addressed to me, since there was no reason in the world to expect the dog to suddenly demonstrate an ability to speak English. I have absolutely no reason to believe that he meant any harm by it, but, well, I do not go to nature preserves from a desire to interact with human beings, and I do not respond to random verbal commands from strangers ordering me to socialize with them for no good reason. It's easier to end conversations with people if you avoid getting drawn into any conversation in the first place. I walked away, and did not say hello.

There was really nowhere else any less ugly to go, so I returned to the ugly road and headed back toward my car. But there was more wildlife now! Right at the beginning of the road, I saw a doe and a fawn.

The fawn ran off into the foliage, but the doe just moved fifteen feet further down the road and then held her ground right next to the road, even as I walked down it to the point that I was directly alongside her. (In the lower right corner, you can see a bit of the wire edging the road, so that shows about how close she was to me. (I wasn't standing right next to the wire, though - I was standing on the opposite side of the narrow asphalt road, avoiding passing any nearer to her than I had to, so as not to scare her unnecessarily.)

I was amazed to find that I had walked right past her to the other side of her and she was still standing there. So I stopped just on the other side of her and took another picture. But the fact that I stopped near her scared her, and she ran away after I took this picture.

After that there was more ugliness, until I arrived back at the flock of wild turkeys. The turkeys were still there, in exactly the same spot as before, but now two deer were sitting in their midst. The doe is easier to see, and is about a third of the way from the right side of the picture, facing sideways. The buck is about a third of the way from the left side of the picture, facing forward, so pretty much all you can see of him is his face and his ears.

For this photograph I zoomed in a little more.

And here's a closeup of just the buck with the turkeys. He was watching me warily the whole time.

For once, this was not an accidental camera effect that I didn't even notice until I looked at the pictures later. The sun was streaming around the trees in a way that actually looked like this in person, and I deliberately tried to capture it on camera - and succeeded!

I moved to frame them between the trees. At this point, the deer - mainly the buck, it seemed - decided they had had enough of me staring at them and clicking a shiny metal thing at them, so they stood up to leave.

So I took one last picture, and then they were gone. And then so was I.

Tags: photographs
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