With the sight of blooming spring flowers, early morning treks to the farmers markets and casual afternoons at the many pandemic parklets and outdoor cafés, life in Sonoma County keeps opening a bit wider with each day. With many indoor spaces still closed or limited to public access, we are finding more things to do closer to nature and unconfined by walls, roofs and artificial lighting.

Rollie column

Rollie Atkinson

And now comes Earth Day. Almost all county and state parks are open again for day visitors, hiking and wild flower viewing. (Masks and social distancing protocols must be observed.) April and May offer some of the best weather along our Sonoma Coast and the gray whales are now passing by, heading north after their winter migration to Baja.

Water levels are very low in our lakes and in the Russian River, but the sunny beaches are open and trails at Steelhead Beach, Riverfront Park and above Lake Sonoma are very walkable. (Areas and parks impacted by the recent wildfires remain closed, including the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.)

Let’s all celebrate this 51st Earth Day by getting as close to our Mother Earth as possible. Let’s get away from the political news, the aftermaths of so many tragedies around shootings, protests and COVID-19 related questions and go take a long walk. (Or try a bicycle ride or kayak outing.) Let’s remind ourselves how lucky we are to live in one of Mother Earth’s most beautiful — and accessible — places. We have thousands of acres of parks and open space, including 50 county parks. Sonoma County has over 60 miles of Pacific Ocean shoreline open to the public and 112 miles of meandering waterways, riparian habitat and recreational opportunities along our Russian River.

Sonoma County Parks has organized several cleanup days at various parks, including a series of “Love Your Mother — Clean a Creek” volunteer days. (Visit parks.sonomaocunty.ca.gov.)

Explore some new vistas or hiking trails or visit an old favorite such as Ragle Ranch, Shiloh Ranch or the top of Fitch Mountain. With the Armstrong Grove still closed, go visit the Grove of Old Trees above Occidental. This 48-acre preserve is operated by LandPaths and is open to the public. (The grove is located on Fitzpatrick Lane off Joy Road.)

The Laguna de Santa Rosa is hosting a series of scavenger hunts on Earth Day, April 22. But if you miss the date, launch your own scavenger hunt. Along the Laguna de Santa Rosa right now are blooming California Poppies, Lupine, mustard, buttercups, Hounds Tongue and Larkspur. Take your camera. The birds along the Laguna are almost too numerous to list, including waterfowl, raptors, songbirds and migrating visitors.

Members of the Sonoma County Farm Trails (www.farmtrails.org) are hosting various farm-based events right now and ongoing through Mother’s Day (May 9.) The Pepperwood Preserve at the top of the Mark West Creek watershed has been hosting Saturday wildflower walks but all the sessions are currently booked through late May.

Just taking a walk through town can be restoring after a winter of being sheltered-in-place. Wander through neighborhoods and admire the handiwork of home gardeners. The roses are very beautiful right now. We are headed into another period of extended drought. As we walk and wander let’s do some thinking about water conservation and how we can share some water-saving tips with others.

Earth Day is not an official holiday and most people will be working or at school (virtual or otherwise.) It is a big workday for President Joe Biden who will be hosting a Global Climate Summit with 40 other world leaders and with their climate and scientific experts.

On the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, more than 20 million people turned out for public events, protests and “teach-ins.” These days, the biggest public protests and demonstrations are all about other things. Just to say, right now would be an excellent time for a quiet walk in nature.

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