Saturday, 8 December 2012

SCHOLARSHIP DAY 100: Visiting Old Sacramento, Discovery Park, and Sutter's Landing

I've been alive for 6937 days, and have been extremely fortunate to see and do so much in that time. But I can honestly say, without moment of hesitation, that the last 100 days have been the best ever. In just over a months time, I will return to the UK, carrying 20kg of luggage through Heathrow's bustling airport, but also thousands of memories, hundreds of new contacts, an enriched life perspective. The fact that the simple and frequently exercised activity of travel can touch a man in this way proves that whilst we as humans may be impacting our planet, the planet has the undying capability of impacting us, and in my experience, that's the greatest thing about our existance.

I woke up without an alarm, but to the thundering stomping of a school group who seemed to be testing the resiliency of this hostel's floorboards, and the patience of it's guests in the basement. When I struggled up the steep flight of stairs to see just what all the commotion was about, still half asleep and longing for another half an hour between the covers, I noticed that during the night, the hostel had hurled through a time vortex as there, assembled in one of the lounge rooms, was the school group all dressed in victorian clothing, and other pre-19th century apparel. I can vividly remember doing 'history days' back at school, and being subjected to the embarrasment of walking through a corridor as maybe a tudor or as a peasant, or the likewise. Through the gaps in between the curtains, which almost matched the victorian lace that the school girls were wearing, I could see that the sky was clear, the day was bright and so I hurried down my breakfast, and rushed out to start my day's adventure.
It was a fine day to do almost anything really; this was the California I had read about, heard about, and dreamed about. Along each street, I passed the usual assortment of morning routines: postmen sorting through their thick wedges of mail, cyclists cruising to work, joggers building up an appetite for their wheat bread breakfast and fruit salad, but all of these people seemed so much more content because the Sun was out. Amazing isn't it; something 150 million km away from Earth can affect people's moods. I ambled along, offering my British accented 'Good Morning' and humming to a selection of improvised tunes. To my right, raised on a platform in front of one of the boring insurance buildings, was a charming little water display encircled by abstract metal structures.
Having purposefully neglected it yesterday for the sake of time, I decided to start the day off my visiting what's known as Old Sacramento, although in my humble opinion, most of Sacrameto could fit that bill. 'Old Sacramento' is a real mix of all sorts of places I've been before. The cobbled streets echoed Oxford, a delightful row of independantly owned shops imitated- dare I say it- Regent Road, Great Yarmouth, the raised wooden walking boards parallel to the string of shops mirrored Malta's Pop Eye Village.

Old Sacramento is a charming walk, but you have to question just how much trade it really does. I hadn't been in the vicinity two minutes, and already I was approached by a sales representative from a nearby candy shop; she gave me a small paper voucher entitling me to a couple of free sweets, and having time to spare, I wandered in. For those like myself, with a set of sweet teeth, this candy shop is heaven. From floor to ceiling are boxes of variously flavoured chewy confectionary, but my eyes almost immediately turned to Banana and Strawberry, a combination I couldn't exit the shop without trying. Permitted only two, I left feeling I hadn't even covered a small minority of the flavours, but if I had attempted to taste each and every one, I would have probably been locked in overnight.

Approached once again, this time by a lady desperate for me to grab a bargain along the lines of 70% off, I turned this down; they weren't offering anything that would tickle my taste buds, and I had more exploring to do after all. Old Sacramento comes to an abrupt end, punctuated at the very end of the street by a Railroad Musuem and a pedestrian trail leading to the river. The Sacramento River, though murky and cheerless, was flowing elegantly downstream transporting autumnal foliage towards Tower Bridge. Today I would walk around it as far as possible which by my estimates would take me through a meandering amble through Discovery Park, and then a furthermore leisurely saunter through East Sacramento towards Sutter's Landing.

The Sun was radiant; it beamed down on my back, and for the first time, December 7th was arguably too hot. I digressed down a well kept path, devoid of the anxieties of urban life. Apart from the river, the day was still, and I pleasured in being one of very few to be making use of this stunning trail. To my right, I passed a disused Gas and Electric factory, and for its age, I considered it to be in good form. Typically, Palm Trees were on my course to greet me; it still amazes me how such considerably sizable palms can be supported by a trunk no more thick than a streetlamp.
Eventually, I approached a picnic table, overlooking a particularly scenic spot of the river (a confluence in fact) and the chance to rest in such a fashion was irrestible. I'm glad I did; I was offered an exceptional reflection and even a beaver sighting. The beaver seemed to be enjoying the weather almost as much as I, ducking and diving intermittently, trying to outfox my camera lens, which I'm sad to say he managed successfully. A small engine powered boat came rushing by and was being followed by significantly high waves, which almost in a blink, turned what was a scene of such tranquility into one similar to that of the coast. Froth began to emerge at the edges of the river, where it met the bank, and I could no longer see the beaver. It was time to move on.

Discovery Park, accessed by wandering over the river by way of a handy bridge next to the picnic tables I rested at, does what it says on the tin. It allows those who care for a peaceful walk along a meandering selection of beckoning paths, an opportunity to become acquainted with some of the most diverse vegetation, complimentary of nature. I enjoyed this stretch of the walk very much, most likely because all I had to follow the path and enjoy the vista, rather than to fiddle with compass bearings and printed maps. I wasn't the only one with such pleasures; joggers, dog walkers, cyclists alike all made use of this wonderful day at Discovery Park.

Such was my astonishment, therefore, when I found myself amongst not rich foliage and a chorus of musically active birds, but the most disagreeable looking factories. Without a map, I was as I like to say 'locationally challenged' but further on I spotted a sign: C Street. The problem though with these alphabetical streets, is that I didn't know exactly where on C street I was, for C street can go on for miles. I still was half amazed at how immediate my arrival back to civilisation had been; maybe I had discovered the secret of Discovery Park? It was lunchtime and so I decided to find myself a convenient resting point, and chew my situation over, rather literally. Now, I'm not losing my mind aswell as my bearings am I, or does that not say "All adults, 18 years of age or older, must be accompanied by a child"? Without anything of child-like nature, I was hesitant about entering what seemed to be a very charming park, fitted even a welcoming selection of picnic benches, but I turned a blind eye and entered; breaking the law! I struggled over the logic of what the sign had said; is it a rather crude way of promoting teenage pregnancy. It was as if it was saying: "For those wishing after their 18th birthday to make use of such a park, please start producing babies now, eventhough you're 12, and despite the fact that it's the most stupid idea this planet has dreamt up!"

I wanted to reach Sutter's Landing, and by using the app on my iPod, I estimated it to be along C street, on 28th Avenue. Muir Park, where I was illegally perched now, was on 18th, so I proceeded out of the park, gave one last look to make sure I had read the sign right, and realising I had, shook my head once more in disbelief. C street is a really attractive street, with a rich homely feel. You almost feel as if someone would pop out with a tray of newly baked flapjacks, and invite you in for a hot chocolate and a chat about old times. Autumn leaves carpeted the pavements, so on every step I made, there was a very natural sounding crunch.

Proceeding out of C street, I soon found myself back in the realms of nature, and walking alongside another lovely river. (Aren't they all just lovely?) Sutter's Landing is the park dedicated to John Sutter who came up the Sacramento River in 1839, set up camp, followed this achievment with building a fort, and became the first settler within Sacramento's present city's limits. A memorial plaque addresses all of these points before you enter, and there's another sign welcoming you in shortly after that, but apart from this, John Sutter is mentioned no more.

The park offers the most attractive visuals of the river and the almost painted scenes of the autumnal reflections. Quite pleasant walking, if you ask me. I settled myself on a broken tree branch, and posed a long stare to the other side. Not a sound, apart from the adorable tweeting of small baby birds. Having taken in the views and conscious that I was now just day dreaming, I started my long trek back to the hostel.

Sacramento has been a taste of California; very much a 'starter' course. Tomorrow, in comes the mains: San Francisco.

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