A walk in Bidwell Park - Winterlude 2020 - CycleBlaze

November 17, 2020

A walk in Bidwell Park

We’ll be staying in Chico for 12 nights - a change of plans from our initial 7 day booking.  It took no time at all to realize that Chico is our kind of town, and with a ten day window of fine weather in the forecast, we asked our host for an extension.  

However, the ten days of good weather begins two days from now.  In the meantime, we’ve got rain and high winds to wait out.  With the rain due to arrive mid morning we get up early today for a walk in Bidwell Park, just two blocks from our apartment.

Bidwell Park is a marvel.  A huge park, it begins on the edge of downtown and runs northeast into the foothills of the Cascades for over ten miles following the course of Big Chico Creek.  Established over a century ago by an endowment from Annie Bidwell, the widow of Chico’s founder John Bidwell, it has expanded significantly over the decades by additional land acquisitions and is now one of the largest city parks in the nation.

The park has two sections with quite different characteristics.  The lower park is flat, rich river bottomland covered with dense vegetation and crisscrossed by walking, biking and equestrian trails.  Our apartment, situated about two miles from town, sits at roughly the midpoint of the lower park.

Rachael and I decide to walk separately this morning, and I leave the apartment about 7, just after daybreak.  It’s overcast and still lowlight this early in the day, but it’s immediately obvious what a special place this is.  

Along the creek, the vegetation is so dense that the park has a jungle-like quality.
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Bruce LellmanGorgeous photo!
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1 week ago
I briefly chatted with the man ahead. On hearing it was my first time in the park, he passed on a bit of interesting park trivia: the park was used as one of the filming locations for Errol Flynn’s Adventures of Robin Hood.
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Big Chico Creek.
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Residential neighborhoods are just a few hundred yards off to either side here. It makes me think of Portland’s magnificent Forest Park, and how fortunate these two cities are that these wonderlands have been preserved right at their doorsteps.
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There is great diversity in the vegetation here. Oaks, maples, pines, redwoods, and on and on and on. I was puzzled by this species, which looks like a plane tree or sycamore but not quite like any I’m familiar with.
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It’s a platanus racemosa: the western sycamore, also known as the California sycamore or California plane tree. It’s a species we don’t have native further north. The bark pattern is really bold and beautiful.
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Beneath the western sycamore.
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In Lower Bidwell Park.
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Gallapaloosa!
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Bill ShaneyfeltTo quote Gomer Pyle: Gaaaaalllllllleeeee!
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1 week ago
In Lower Bidwell Park.
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Crossing Manzanita Avenue, I enter Upper Bidwell Park and start gradually climbing.  This end of the park is completely different.  Wide open, rocky, it climbs steadily into the Cascade foothills.  Great views all around, and lots of routing options.  A place you could return to over and over again and keep finding a new experience.  Today I walk up the North Rim Trail, far enough to look down into the canyon at Horseshoe Lake, and then turn back.  I’m almost four miles from the apartment, the sky is looking a bit more threatening, and I’d like to get home dry.

In Upper Bidwell Park.
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In Upper Bidwell Park.
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Horseshoe Lake, from the North Rim Trail.
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Back in the lower park again, I take my time and continue looking around.  The weather seems less threatening down here, maybe just because I can’t see into the distance.  Anyway, if it does start raining I’ve got a dense canopy to offer some shelter.

Hearing a woodpecker, I look up and see him hammering away at a tall snag.  An acorn woodpecker, drilling holes into his acorn granary.  It’s an amazing snag, maybe 80 feet tall and looking like a densely perforated pipe for its entire height.  There must be thousands of acorns embedded in this trunk.

Suddenly, as so often happens, Rachael pops up, bound for Upper Bidwell Park herself.  We stop to chat a bit, admire the woodpecker, and then she’s off again.  We meet back at the apartment later in the morning, not that long before the rains hit, and spend the rest of the day snug inside, just loafing around and feeling lucky to have landed in such a great spot for awhile.

In Lower Bidwell Park. That red thing on the right is a California black oak, I think (the black refers to the trunk, not the foliage).
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A Chinese pistache, the same species I saw on that walk through Washington Park last week.
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It took some patience to get this shot so you can see his head. Most of the time he’s hammering away at the tree, pausing very briefly to look over his shoulder before returning to work.
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Jen GrumbyA photo well worth the wait. A very handsome bird with a fascinating backdrop!
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1 week ago
New rain jacket!
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Comment on this entry Comment 9
Steve Miller/GrampiesWhen I first read that you were heading for Chico, I got out Google Maps and dropped the little orange man all around it. All I saw were totally plain scenes of flat roads and modest houses. OK, I did not expect Salzburg, but this seemed oh so boring. But look, in today's post you have found beauty and excitement in this very place. It's a tribute to your optimism, or maybe an indication of how depressed we may be feeling, trapped up here in the rain. Anyway, good shooting!
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1 week ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Steve Miller/GrampiesYou know, to be fair I just dropped the yellow man randomly four times on Salzburg. I got three views of boring apartment blocks, and one train station. I guess it's where and how you look, anywhere in the world!
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesChico didn’t sound interesting to me at first either, until I started reading up on it. It’s an interesting place, in a transitional setting. To the west is the flat, agricultural Central Valley; but the foothills of the Cascades start just east of downtown. It’s a setting sort of like Bologna, surprisingly enough: rice fields one way, mountains the other.
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1 week ago
Kathleen JonesDown south here we all knowingly rolled our eyes at any mention of Chico. I mean, what could be more boring and dull? Plus Chico State - ugh, party school. So on a road trip a few years ago I took a break in town just to see how bad it was, walked around the campus, saw the park. What a nice place. Now rolling my eyes at me.
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1 week ago
Jen GrumbySounds like an interesting area to explore!

If you end up riding through Orland, my dad (John) and grandparents (HC and Dona) are buried there.

My grandparents lived in Orland for many years. Wish I could remember more clearly going into Chico with my grandma.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Kathleen JonesOur perspective does change over time, doesn’t it? It reminds me of how we all derided WSU as a cow college, ou there in the sticks in Eastern Washington. I was pleasantly surprised at how pleasant Pullman was when we stayed there this spring.
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1 week ago
Bruce LellmanThese are the reasons I always enjoy your journals, Scott: You always find interesting things wherever you are, tell us about them, photograph them beautifully and finally share with anyone who may find you on Cycleblaze. Thank you so much! I admire both of you for not letting this deadly virus stop you from exploring our amazing world.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanThanks! It is an amazing world, isn’t it? It felt pretty impulsive to come down here on a whim, but I can already tell it’s going to be awesome.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyMaybe some photos will bring a few memories back, but no doubt it’s changed a lot in the last twenty years. I don’t think we’ll be making it over to Orland though - it’s about 50 miles away, and there’s a lot of cycling right out the door here.
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1 week ago