I wasn't kidding. Movers and packers be darned, I WILL conquer the parks of Northern California. I have a voluntarily compost-turning, dirt-piling, nature-loving little boy who adores playing in the rain and lives for his outdoor playgroup.
The fact that it was merely drizzling today was not enough to keep us away from the Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward. The morning was supposed to be an outing, "Toddler Time" for our Nature Playgroup, but we could not attend due to Nicholas's swim lesson. Linda, our intrepid group leader, knew we had swimming and would miss the main part of the meet-up. She was kind enough to offer that we could visit and picnic after the Toddler Time class. She mentioned that there were many animals on hand to be seen, gardens, and (obviously) a water-go of the creek sort.
The girls accompanied us as today happened to be a teacher work day. We could not sleep in too much this morning due to the lessons and the need to pack up for our lunch with Linda and Cy. Despite the fact that they stayed up way too late watching Julie and Julia last night (true Foreign Service kids, right?), Cait managed to wake up on her own at 6:45 a.m. and Kelsey followed not long after. We hurried through breakfast, sped off to swim lessons, and by 10 a.m. were headed to the Nature Center.
Having never been to Hayward nor the Nature Center, I had no idea what to expect. It was hidden back on a residential street merely minutes from 580. After turning in, we easily found parking (two spacious lots), and tromped down the stairs in our venture to locate our friends.
The first treat was the footbridge over the creek. Nothing fascinates Nicholas like a water-go, and I completely understand. There is something so beautifully mesmerizing about the flowing of the water, and the green of the surrounding foliage is just brilliant. It didn't take much of a reminder to get Nicholas headed down the bridge and through the animal rehabilitation area into the the Discovery Center.
We missed the class, but no the opportunity to "touch and feel, not steal" the snake skins on display. Nicholas was enthralled by the turtles paddling about in the aquarium, and enjoyed 'talking' with them until the class was over.
As with other nature centers in the area, the Discovery Center is generally closed on Mondays, with the exception of Toddler Time classes. There was nothing more to investigate inside, so we returned to the great outdoors to meet the wildlife.
I think the coyotes had to be our favorite. I am not sure how many I have seen in the past, but I know viewing (and talking to) them today was a first for Nicholas. A fox was the immediate neighbor, though he was having a bit of quiet time. He was up in a perch, sound asleep with his tail wrapped tightly around his burnished fur. Nicholas insisted he had a blanket, and we decided with the warmth of the fur, he did look as snug as a bug in a rug.
A deer ran down from the hills, and proceeded to prance around the edge of the property. I am sure we were startling him, and we just watched from a distance. Lunch time came quickly, and as with all of the parks, there were no shortages of places to stop and nosh. The rains became more apparent while we were eating, and we opted for a quick hike under the lush canopy of trees on the hillside that surrounded the center. The deer had come back, and the boys just couldn't get enough of him.
The climb gave us a better view, and we were within spitting distance at times. The deer would stop for a moment or two, and the boys were just fascinated. The girls certainly found his antics entertaining, but the boys are still so young and absorbing so much, so quickly. Such a treat to see the looks on their faces and the excitement in their young voices.
It seemed like we had just arrived, but by this time it was nearly noon and the rain was getting harder. This pleased Nicholas to no end, but the girls were getting antsy to return home. I knew a nap could be in the offing soon, and we wrapped up our visit with a final look at the rooster, ducks and magpies. Another look in the creek, and we were back in the car having enjoyed yet another taste of the outdoor beauty that is Northern California.