For the past three years, Tolay Lake Regional Park has hosted a fall festival each October ever since the county acquired the property in 2005. The Sig-O and I went this year. He drove, which meant as we turned off of Old Lakeville Road onto Cannon Lane and started the drive up the hill, I was free to look back at the Petaluma River Basin, with silvery ribbons of water glinting among the dark green tulles and the rust-colored reeds. The park property is over the ridge, facing Highway 37.
This park was a working ranch and there is an architecturally interesting silo, a great old barn, several out-buildings and a house. The lake is what some people call “seasonal.” I’d call it a marsh. This time of year it is practically dry, the tall orange-red rushes a contrast to the tanned grasses and hills around it. To the northeast flame-orange-and-gold vineyards catch the midday sun and provide the narrow valley with a dramatic backdrop.
The festival has a strong emphasis on educational things, in a fun way. Leapin’ Lizards was there with a couple of impressive lizards, some praying mantises and stick insects. Sonoma County’s bat lady had a table with two of her charges in one of their special carrying cases. They weren’t available to meet the public that day, but she had some good photos and information on bats. There was also a Creepy Crawlie room that we didn’t go through, although later, while we were walking around, I got to see a beautiful red-backed boa—the snake, not the fashion accessory.
We had a good chat with a volunteer from the Sonoma Raptor Project, who talked about the various raptors, including a peregrine falcon, that have been spotted on the Tolay property. Then we wandered around to check out the llamas and see the area that had old-fashioned crafts such as carding, spinning wool and candle-making. The festival is kid-friendly, with plenty of things for adults, and the cost is only $5 for parking. Tolay Lake is not open as a true park yet but they do provide docent-guided hikes at various times of year. Spring would be gorgeous and would probably provide a bird-watcher with lots of varieties of waterfowl to study.
Go here for more information about Tolay Lake.
Photos copyright 2008, Marion Deeds