Walking on Water – Tolay Lake

So, we didn’t walk on water. It’s fall and the land is summer dry, waiting for the rainy season. But we could walk across a causeway that cuts through the lake.

Tolay Lake Festival Gate

In October, we went to Tolay Lake Regional Park in celebration of fall. Along with hundreds of school children. Kids had been coming here for years when the Cardoza family owned the land and ran a popular pumpkin patch. Now that the Sonoma Regional Parks manages the 1700 acres, they held a Fall Festival.

The County bought the property in 2005. Plans are afoot to restore the area. Another 1600 acres will be added to this spot east of Petaluma, near the bay.

Thinking the area would be too steep for me to hike, I reasoned the festival would be a great time to visit. We explored the Nighttime Barn (full of nocturnal beasties), checked in on the many crafts, watched a sack race and visited an area with shelters, food storage and canoes, the Native People might have used.

Tolay Lake Festival Tolay Festival Crafts
Tolay Festival Sack Race  Native American Village Tolay Lake
 Fall Squash Tolay Lake  Tolay Lake Festival

From time to time I would catch a view of the surrounding area. A gray day is best to see colors and variations over the landscape. This was that day. With a spark of sunlight coming through, it was magnificent. A light breeze wafted around. The great outdoors seemed magical. I was in love.

Tolay Lake Neighborhood

I felt I could walk here, though I might have to stay in the lowlands and pass on the ridge trails around the “lake.” One of those trails leads to Three Bridges Point – because you can see 3 bridges of the San Francisco Bay. I think I could enjoy this place in all seasons. A volunteer told us it’s not crazy with wildflowers, due to years of grazing, but I’ll have to see for myself in the spring.

When we left, Mike stopped to take this picture overlooking the new regional park and some of the remaining buildings of the Cardoza Ranch.

Tolay Lake overview

As we came down the other side of the hill, we got this view of the Petaluma River.

Petaluma River

This county’s beauty just takes away my breath. And I keep finding new places for more gorgeous views and amazing experiences.

Tolay Lake Regional Park is open on a permit basis. The next orientation and hike is December 8th. We undoubtedly will work on getting a permit, so we can spend some quiet time here. And to see Tolay Lake with water. Click here to read more about the park.

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See you on the trail! Like this Saturday at the Laguna. 10am. I hope the rain, if any, is light.

Words by Lynn Millar

Pictures by Mike Millar

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