We continue to enjoy our volunteer duties at the Sacramento NWR. We are still learning about new birds as more and more migrants continue to arrive. Each day we are amazed as we hear and see clouds, veritable swarms, of white geese lifting off from the ponds near our RV site. It is particularly beautiful at sunset when nearly all the ducks and geese – over a quarter of a million strong – leave the refuge for the nearby rice fields to feed overnight. Then we hear them returning at sunrise as we get ready to go to work four days each week.
Our work this month has centered on preparing an interpretative presentation about the creation of this refuge by the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1937 to 1942. The research through old historical journals and pictures has been fascinating, and people have been very receptive to the final product. So far we have done the program for staff people and volunteers; in mid-December we will make our first public presentation.
Some days, though, we have had special projects. Jon spent half a day with two young bucks wading to islands near the Auto Tour Viewing Platform, cleaning extraneous vegetation off them so the waterfowl would have a good place to rest within view of the Platform. Sharon’s job that day was to stand on the Platform taking pictures of the guys doing the work. We have also painted fences and repaired signs. Of course, most of our time is spent meeting the birds and greeting the visitors at the Visitor Center or at observation platforms throughout the five refuges that make up the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
As volunteers, we enjoy some special privileges, such as access to places that are generally off-limits to visitors. Butte Sink Wildlife Management Area is such an area; it is a wildlife management area surrounded by private land. The Sacramento NWR Complex manages the property with easement agreements with the surrounding landowners. One of our managers escorted several of us volunteers onto the property to see special birds and Sutter Buttes (billed as the “World’s Smallest Mountain Range) up close.
On our days off from the Refuge, we have had some interesting day trips. In Chico, which is about thirty miles northeast, we visited the Sierra Nevada Brewery. This craft brewery was founded in the early 1980s and has grown from a garage industry with two employees and a hand-built, ten-barrel brew house to a beautiful facility employing over 550 people and producing over 750,000 barrels of beer each year. They have a really nice restaurant there, too.
Another day we traveled south about 75 miles to Sacramento to visit Old Sacramento State Historic Park and the California State Railroad Museum. This area at the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers was the first settlement of the city that became California’s capital in 1854. The Railroad Museum features a beautifully laid out assortment of early railroad locomotives and cars. We spent almost our entire day there.
Southeast of the Refuge about 90 miles is Nevada City, California. Founded in 1849 at the start of the Gold Rush, this charming little town reminded us a lot of Bisbee, Arizona, another mining town – built on hills and valleys and now inhabited largely by writers, artists, and musicians. The entire downtown area, including 93 buildings, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A pleasant walking tour led us through the historic district.
We did have one misadventure this month, though. Our RV site at the Refuge was a new one, built shortly before we moved in. A couple days after a rain, we needed to leave the Refuge to fill our propane tank. As soon as we dropped down off our leveling jacks (which were on foot-square jack pads), we began to sink into mud, and as soon as we began to move, we sank right in. This compound is built on clay soil. The new RV site had not received enough gravel and was not adequately compacted to hold our moving motorhome’s weight. So there we were, stuck in mud nearly up to our axles. One of the maintenance workers pulled us out with a tractor. Mud was oozing out through the air holes in our rear dual wheels, so we had to have the tires removed and the mud cleaned out. We now live on a much more solid site!