My Sono-Ma: Discovering Brush Creek Trail & a Wild Space in Santa Rosa California
We’ve been searching for a “wild” space. A place full of life, potential discovery, unpredictable footing, secret hideaway spaces, and natural noise like rushing water or bird voices ringing out in song. My suburban-raised kid gets plenty of time riding his bike on the asphalt or running through manicured park lawns, but these developed play-scapes don’t offer the same escape for a child.
A month ago, Bryles little friend led us to a neighborhood park and introduced us to his favorite wild space: a simple hedge row of juniper lining Ives Park. Here this child discovered a squirrel’s maze of thick branches and tunnels. The boys wound their way through branches and climbed up, down, and through 50 feet of dense brush. They risked being poked by sharp branches, collapsing through weak bush limbs, sticking in sap, and finding themselves stuck in a space no adult could enter… and they LOVED it! I had to beg them to finally come out and return home.
I realized then that my boy hasn’t been in open-ended, nature spaces and allowed to free play. Where could I find more spaces like this for him?
Discover the Santa Rosa Brush Creek Trail with us!
This developed creek path follows Brush Creek, and features an expansive area of large, plate-like boulders riveted with streams. (This space – near the trail head – was once an important element of an old Pomo Native American village nearby according to Wikkipedia.)
Last week, Scott and I packed a day pack and took Bryles and friend “Zen” out for a day of exploring.
Right away, my man slipped into his old shoes as a rural kid and started pointing out bugs and fish to the kids. ”This is a water skeeter, and here are some tadpoles. Let’s go look for some steelhead trout, too,” he said as the kids looked on with great curiosity. We gave the run down on things to avoid – the hornets hovering near the water and the poison oak – and let the kids roam a bit. However, so unused to open, “wild” spaces are these two, they didn’t venture far.
“Can I go over there, daddy?” asked Bryles pointing to a small waterfall. My husband and I looked at each other and laughed, and urged him on.
The kids continued asking permission for each step – “Can we put our fingers in the water? Can I poke this stick in the mud?” Or they’d reach for our hands to get over a rock or wait to move ahead until they saw where we’d choose a path. Finally they got the idea they were free to explore.
It was amazing to watch them learn to try, trust their bodies, and maneuver themselves through the unknown. Climbing over rocks is much different than climbing on a play structure – some of the rocks were wiggly, too pointy, hot, or slippery. The kids figured all of this out on the fly. They seemed to develop an immediate confidence in themselves as they took each new step.
Then we found one of those quintessential fallen trees forming a bridge over a pool in the river.
The water stood only 10 inches deep under the log, but to the kids it looked like a CHALLENGE ripe for the crossing. They bent low and shimmied slowly across the log, looking for the perfect toe dangling spot.
It wasn’t long before these two suburban kids delighted in the country-life classic experience of kicking their feet in the cool river. We all sat still for a bit and listened to the sound of the river rushing on either side of the pool. It was truly LOUD, but at the same time so peaceful. I pondered on how that could be true, and decided that the roar of the river blocked out all of the other voices in my head. In nature, I can forget about the rest of the world. I can only imagine how deeply a child – who lives in the world of imagination – can lose themselves in such a reprieve.
We’ll certainly return to this space again this summer.
Discover the hidden world of this in-town-oasis with your family here:
Brush Creek Trail
Visit this space by finding the marked trail head at Yulupa Avenue and Yulupa Circle – follow the dirt path immediately across from trail head down to the rocks and river.
There is a bit of graffiti and trash in this area. Help clean it up by contacting: The Creek Stewardship Program of the City of Santa Rosa through Alistair Bleifuss (707.543.3845 or email firstname.lastname@example.org). The safety guidelines for this program offer good tips for anyone visiting the creek. Read those safety tips here.
Note: I recommend traveling to this space in a good sized group with at least two adults as we experienced some folk using this largely hidden space for illicit purposes. Still, in a group we were all able to share the space safely.
Map of city creeks and trails: http://ci.santa-rosa.ca.us/doclib/Documents/112807_CreeksTrails.pdf
Bird Watching Guide for Brush Creek: http://www.colintalcroft.com/Sonoma_County_Bird_Watching_Spots/Brush_Creek_Trail,_Santa_Rosa.html