We usually start at Place to Play to walk along Santa Rosa Creek. The Park’s wide open space lets us breath free and there’s plenty of parking – no sliding into the ditch or getting whacked by a speeding car at Willowside Rd.
Near the west end of the park is a recycled water pond where we spotted a Great Blue Heron, several egrets, cormorants drying their wings and grebes and coots all around. The entrance to the creek is through a break in the oaks along a sandy gravel path.
From here to Willowside and back is 4.4 miles. With the gentlest of grades, it feels flat.
After recklessly crossing Fulton Rd – safer to cross the creek and go under the road – we took the north side along the creek. This part has been recently re-paved for the rabid bicyclist, but none of them whizzed past us and we had a calm even trail heading out.
The first section goes by the backyards of a mobile home park. The creek was high and muddy. Willows, oaks, box elders and maples grew along the bank. After crossing a bridge over Piner Creek the view opened up to vineyards and we could see the mountains to the north. (There are trails along Piner Creek that go back to Fulton and continue along that creek.)
Oaks lined the path and if it wasn’t for the shiny dark pavement, you could think you were on a country road many years ago.
Across another bridge at Peterson Creek an egret waited near the merging creeks. Mallards swam up the calmer tributary.
We stopped and studied a walnut tree for a while. Not for the tree but because it was full of Cedar Waxwings preening themselves. ‘Red-necked’ sparrows sat on the overhead wires near by. We only spotted a few Robins. Last year in December and January, the area was dense with them.
When we reached Willowside Rd. we crossed the creek and came back on the other side. The path is hard packed gravel with occasional puddles and mud, but it’s easy walking and there are usually fewer bikes.
This is where I first found this trail and I like this section best. It’s wild. It’s agricultural. It’s home to animals and birds. It feels right to the citified self that enjoys walks along a flood control system. I’ve adapted as the ducks have who spend time on the farm reservoir along here.
A Great Blue Heron flew along the creek and then soared above us landing on the edge of the reservoir to preen himself. In the trees overhead many birds were tweeting as loudly as the creek’s waters rushed over rocks.
I look forward to the next walk here and the return of hundreds of Robins.
See you on the trail!
Photos by Mike Millar
People to thank: Santa Rosa Creek Stewards They are some of the people who help maintain this path and creek. This includes restoration projects. And when you drop your plastics into the water system, they’re the people who clean it out of the creeks. click here for Creek Map.
Dogs: On a leash.
Bathrooms: None along the creek. In Place to Play there are some at the east end, that might be open.
Food: You are near Santa Rosa, which is known to have a few places to eat.