Take a Hike

When one thinks of exercise in modern context, often the images that come to mind is a woman running on the treadmill who appears to be in perfect shape, a man lifting free weights while watching himself in the mirror or a group doing a yoga or spin class. All this imagery that ignites in one’s mind at the very mention of exercise usually takes place in the comfort of a gym. Although these so happen to be the images that appear, they do not have to be what works for you. What people may not realize is that there are numerous ways to exercise outdoors while taking advantage of the beautiful scenery and hiking trails around them. Going to these places and attending events held therein is a fantastic way to change up your work-out to maximize results while at the same time enjoying the environment and the people around you and, in the case of some events, helping out a worthy cause.

The City of Lafayette Chamber of Commerce does just this by holding an annual event that gives a portion of the proceeds to its local schools. The Lafayette Reservoir Run is a series of races that take place in Lafayette each year on a day in late October. Races include a 2-mile “Run for Fun”, a 5K and a 10K. Each participant has the opportunity to choose which school they would like 10 percent of their entry fee to go toward. There is an estimated 2200-2500 participants each year. That can really add up and make a difference for the schools in Lafayette. A portion of the proceeds also go to the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce to continue this program and to preserve the reservoir. The Lafayette Chamber of Commerce credits the event as being an extremely popular “family affair” in which parents, grandparents and children come to both witness and participate in the event together, perhaps bridging the generational gap among Lafayette citizens. This year marks the 19th year this event has taken place and, with continued enthusiasm, it certainly will not be the last.

According to The Lafayette Chamber of Commerce website, “the 925-acre site with a 1.4 billion gallon reservoir was opened to public recreation in 1966 with hiking, fishing, boating and picnicking.” Therefore, if running is not your sport, the reservoir can provide you with worthy activities year round to support an active and healthy lifestyle.  Bikes, roller blades, roller skates and scooters can be utilized in the recreation area as well, however no skateboards are permitted.

Lafayette is not the only place with a lush landscape to enjoy. There are a myriad of places in the Bay Area that encourage outdoor exercise and activity, as well as preservation of the environment around us. As of 1986, the Solano Land Trust, formally known as the Solano County Farmlands and Open Space Foundation, set out to protect the beautiful landscapes that call Solano County home. According to the Solano Land Trust website, “the mission of Solano Land Trust is to permanently protect and preserve farmland, ranchland and open space in Solano County through the acquisition of land and agricultural conservation easements, education, and land management.” Now, 25 years later, the Solano Land Trust has adhered to its bold mission and to date “has permanently protected 20,041 acres of natural areas and agricultural lands.” Among these lands are Jepson Prairie Preserve, Wilcox Ranch, Rush Ranch, the King-Swett Ranches and the recently acquired Rockville Trails in Fairfield. Each area has its own unique landscape and activities encompassed within.

The 1,556 acre Jepson Prairie Preserve would definitely fall into the category of unique. Categorized as a vernal pool which, according to the Solano Land Trust, are “temporary bodies of water formed when an impermeable layer of soil prevents ground water seepage and traps winter rain in shallow pools,” are particularly rare and are home to endangered species and rare plant life. Among these flora and fauna respectively is the “vernal pool fairy shrimp, Conservancy fairy shrimp, vernal pool tadpole shrimp, and California tiger salamander.” Bogg’s Lake hedge-hyssop, dwarf Downingia, Baker’s navarretia, Colusa grass and Solano grass are among some of 400 various plant species that are distinctive of this vernal pool habitat. There are ongoing tours of the Jepson Prairie Preserve throughout the year and trails are always open for those in need of a good hike.

Another area that is under the protection of the Solano Land Trust is Rush Ranch, located in Suisun City. Acquired in 1987, the ranch is home to marsh and grassland that has been said to please young and old, biologist or painter, photographer or the simple hiker alike. Similar to many of the properties under the protection of the Solano Land Trust, Rush Ranch is unique in that it is home to many unique species. According to the Solano Land Trust website, “approximately 230 different species of birds have been seen throughout the marsh and grassland habitats, and plant communities range from spring wildflowers to native bunchgrass and marsh-adapted vegetation.” Rush Ranch is home to several endangered species as well. With funding from San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Coastal Conservancy, the Solano Land Trust has invested in a now complete Nature Center, which is meant to “showcase the many natural and historical features of the property.” Rush Ranch is open seven days a week and has ongoing volunteer opportunities and events throughout each month, including “Get the Rush” held on the 3rd Saturday of every month. This event is family focused and offers free activities for all age groups.

Although the Solano Land Trust encompasses a great deal of magnificent property in the Bay Area, the organization does not represent the entirety of diverse properties within our reach. Each town has something to offer, if you know where to look. One such a place, that I have spent a great deal of time hiking at, is a series of trails in Benicia. One such trail connects Benicia

Sarah Dowling is a Journalism student and a recent graduate from Solano Community College. Growing up in Vallejo, she sets her sights on her Communications B.A. by moving to Rohnert Park to attend Sonoma State University.