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Hiking season begins at Deer Creek Hills Preserve

Sacramento Valley Conservancy opens trails on Saturdays

It likely won't be this sunny this weekend, but the trails are expected to be open Saturday for hikes at Deer Creek Hills Preserve.

It likely won't be this sunny this weekend, but the trails are expected to be open Saturday for hikes at Deer Creek Hills Preserve. Photo courtesy Sacramento Valley Conservancy

February brings the return of hiking season to the Deer Creek Hills Preserve, one of Sacramento County's natural gems, managed by the Sacramento Valley Conservancy.

Deer Creek Hills Preserve is located off Latrobe Road in the Sloughhouse region of Sacramento County, north of Rancho Murieta. It’s a working cattle ranch that covers 4,500 acres of blue oak woodlands, seasonal creeks and grasslands. The preserve is open to the public on a very limited basis, so the hikes are one way residents can see and enjoy the county's oak woodlands in their natural state.

The self-guided hikes may be taken between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturdays, starting Feb. 4, through May, then resuming in October-November. Interested hikers must pre-register by 6 p.m. Friday and fill out a liability waiver before arriving. Admission is capped, but more than 70 tickets were still available for this Saturday as of Thursday morning.

SVC requests a $10 donation per hiker. (A season pass is available for $75.) Parking at the trailhead is free. Vehicles must cross Crevis Creek, so 4-wheel drive and other high-clearance vehicles are recommended during wet weather. Or park alongside Latrobe Road and walk the mile to the trailhead.

The preserve has three trail options:

  • North Pond Loop — approximately 3 miles, mostly shaded. Can be started no later than 11:30am
  • Two Ponds Loop — 4.5 miles, mostly in open skies. Can be started no later than 11:00am
  • Barn Pond Loop — 6 miles, mixture of open skies and shaded woodland. Can be started no later than 10am.

Hikers should be hydrated and bring their own water; no running water is available at the site. Portable toilets are available at the trailhead. Wear sturdy shoes and weather-appropriate gear, and bring a cellphone. No dogs are allowed, and the SVC requests no picking of foliage, seed-gathering or other activities that would disturb the natural habitat.  Snacks are allowed but no picnicking off the trails. Other conditions and limitations are listed on the hike registration site.

Through the year SVC also hosts events such as equestrian rides, Gold Rush history events and the Environmental Speaker Series. The series includes a talk on vernal pools by ecologist Carol Witham, scheduled 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, at Camp Pollock, 1501 Northgate Blvd., Sacramento. Registration and other information on the speaker series is here.

All events are subject to weather conditions, the conservancy notes: “Projected rain, high creek levels, extremely muddy conditions, excessive heat or unsafe air quality may cancel the outing. We will do our best to notify registered guests the evening prior via email. Please check our online calendar for cancellation postings before you travel to the preserve.”

A calendar of events is available here: https://sacramentovalleyconservancy.org/events/

– Kathy Morrison

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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