My Sono-Ma: Exploring Ragle Ranch Regional Park & Wild Spaces in Sebastopol California
If you are looking for wild spaces (see our earlier article on Brush Creek) where your family can roam, discover and dream, Ragle Ranch Regional Park is a fabulous local destination. We recently switched our Friday “play date” location from Howarth Park to Ragle as we wanted a more rural and less densely populated locale.
Follow us as we share our experience spending a day at the park with our fellow preschool families….
Sonoma County’s regional parks offer great diversion for outdoor enthusiasts, with parks such as Ragle Ranch offering open-ended, nature spaces that encourage free play for young children and adults alike!
Ragle Ranch features 157-acres of woodland walking trails and more developed family play spaces. Sporty folk flock to the space for the soccer fields, softball, sand volleyball courts, and tennis courts. Children love the playgrounds with swings and slides. Dog owners appreciate the Animal Care Center Dog Park. The group picnic areas draw families for birthday parties and gatherings. Most notablly, this site serves as home to the annual August Gravenstein Apple Fair. (Read more about our favorite Sonoma County fair here.)
Our family most appreciates the more natural elements of this community gem: “The park features an outstanding grove of oak trees. A nature trail leads to Atascadero Creek, a great site for birdwatching. The park is also the site of a peace garden…” (via http://www.sonoma-county.org/parks/pk_ragle.htm)
Our four and five year old kids have all discovered bikes – much to our relief. What a wonderful way for them to burn off energy and put their little bodies to a positive task! Ragle Ranch offers a nice, small scale biking “loop”. This paved trail circles the play structures at the children’s playground.
While the kids love to jump off the trail for mini off-roading experiences, the paved loop is the big draw for parents. We can allow the kids to ride a rather far -but still safe – distance from where we parents gather near the picnic tables. We can sit, chat, and do a bit of handwork while keeping our eyes on the kids. They enjoy this bit of freedom, although I find it endearing that the kids frequently return to us to “check-in”.
The littler ones stay a bit closer… This younger four year old is using his “scoot” bike to learn to balance and steering before he tackles using pedals. Many of us found taking the pedals off small bikes (or using the scoot) allowed our kids to gain quick confidence. It wasn’t long at all before they could jump right on a bike and master balancing, pedaling, and steering.
Of course, accidents still happen occasionally. While moms and dads are close by to offer aid and assistance, the kids usually are back up and riding on their own in no time.
I’m striving to allow my boy to let me know when he needs my help – rather than offering it too soon. I know my task is to raise him to be competent and self sufficient adult, but I still have to fight that mothering instinct that can quickly transform into overprotecting my son. It’s amazing to me that when I hold myself back, I discover his developing resilience is often enough to carry him through.
Wood Working & Archery Fun
I must confess that I did not bring sewing or felting with me to Ragle last week. I brought a clipboard with a powerpoint presentation to edit. However, my co-madre Stephanie did take her opportunity to get in some handwork. She brought whittling tools, yarn, and bamboo and set down to create some fantastic kids toys. In just a few short hours she made enough bows and arrows to outfit almost every kids in our group!
I was impressed by this woman woodworker, and enjoyed learning a bit about the tools of her craft. Stephanie used palm held whittling tools, which she says are great for kids and moms. She also shared that her tools of choice are made by Ramelson (USA), which makes fair quality and priced tools for beginners.
Stephanie used Bamboo as her bow and arrow wood. She showed us how you can start at the end of a bamboo reed, look for a split fiber, and then peel apart pieces of the wood to create a few elements out of one reed.
She used her tools to pierce holds for threading and to sharpen little arrow heads on the end of bamboo arrows. What a treat for all of our kids who picked up the bows and immediately transformed into hunters and heroes. Their rich, imaginative play was really something to see!
While we spent most of our time near the paved trail and picnic tables, I managed to steal a moment to check out the other park features. The “Backcountry” Trail looked magnificent! The lush green valley and surrounding mountains called us to return for another day of hiking soon.
The wildlife in the park is very diverse. Birds, flowers, and butterflys caught our eyes wherever we looked. One little friend even found this caterpillar.
She was thrilled when her dad agreed to let her take it home to try to raise it in a jar. I wonder if she’ll meet that emerging butterfly one day soon.
Ragle Park also features a lovely peace garden. This manicured space is filled with lavendar, shrubs and trees, making it a refuge for birds and for folks seeking a quiet moment. The circular formating invites us to walk the spiral and fall into a meditative state.
After a good two hours of riding, stopping to play with the bows and hours, and darting off to tackle the play structures, the kids finally abandoned their bikes for a lunch break.
Most of us brought things in sharing quantities – baskets of sugar snap peas and strawberries, boxes of gluten-free crackers, loaves of sprouted wheat bread, jar of fresh jam, etc. We laid our spread on the table and fashioned a terrific lunch. I love that we all brought our own plateware and organic, local, or gluten free selections to share! What conscientious friends we have…
Ragle Ranch Regional Park
Hours: sunrise to sunset all year
Parking: $6 per vehicle (or prepaid with your park pass) or park for free on the street outside the park
For additional information, please phone: (707) 823-7262 or (707) 565-2041.