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Into The 209: Plenty To Do To Connect With Nature
Aleutian and snow geese are seen at the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge from the Beckwith Road viewing platform. The wildlife refuge is south of Manteca across the Stanislaus River. Photo Contributed

Amid the toilet paper hoarding, the shutting down of what seems like 90 percent of the world’s fifth largest economy and zillions of megabytes being filled with nothing but coronavirus related information and social media exchanges you may not have noticed it is spring in the 209.

For those who have paid attention this spring has been unfolding as one of the most spectacular in years. The mild February that happened to unfortunately have been devoid of rain followed by a March that has had a fair amount of precipitation with pleasant days of puffy clouds and nights with a slight chill has prompted nature to respond with a gentle rollout of a cascade of lush colors and delectable smells.

It may sound a bit cliché but there is no better time to get out and smell the roses to help put a better perspective on things or at least to get your mind off the incessant 24/7 coronavirus and pandemic chatter. That’s not to downplay what is unfolding. It’s just that if you have a bit of time on your hands and are feeling healthy why not get a better sense of the 209, the place we call home.

A long walk or hike fits right in with the parameters of Governor Gavin Newsom’s pandemic order. Some local, state and federal recreational areas and parks, and regional parks around the 209 are open, but campgrounds and visitors facilities are closed. Before heading out, however, check for the latest updates as park closures are changing on an almost daily basis.

Should you be stymied in the attempt to go to a state or regional park, don’t worry. You don’t even have to hop in the car to access nature. Take a walk around your neighborhood instead. Check out yards. Look at the trees budding. Take in the sweet elixir of flowers seeking to entice bees. Besides being disconnected from the 24/7 coronavirus madhouse of news updates, talking heads, and social media exchanges, a walk might just help clear your mind and give your perspective. As for taking your tunes and earbuds with you, why not listen to some original music such as birds chipping instead?

If you want to get out of town there are plenty of options that won’t be violating the state order or social distancing.

Keep in mind visitor services and centers are closed. Pack snacks or a picnic lunch — you’re going to have to eat those 50 jars of peanut butter and jelly you hoarded sometime — and grab some water. And make sure you wear comfortable shoes and have your smartphone charged to snap photos of what awaits you.

The San Luis Wildlife Refuge south of Turlock near Los Banos or the San Joaquin Wildlife Refuge to the south of Manteca and the Stanislaus River were both open as of press time.

Caswell State Park — nearly 300 acres with the largest remaining stand of riparian oak woodlands left in the San Joaquin Valley — can be found at the southern end of Austin Road west of Ripon and south of Manteca along the Stanislaus River. There are pleasant fairly short hiking trails among towering oaks where nature is just getting into the spring swing of things. You can even take a pleasant stroll along the river side.

Head east out of Oakdale and you can explore Knights Ferry, cross the longest wooden bridge this side of the Mississippi River and skip stones across the Stanislaus while standing on the river’s edge.

You can check websites for various state and national parks and recreation areas for the latest information on operating hours and any restrictions.