As I’ve been saying, we’re doing things this year that we’ve previously just talked about doing. One of those things was visiting Lodi. Well, I’ll tell you why, since you ask. The San Joaquin Valley is basically a “fly over state” to coastal Californians. I know next to nothing about it, although I’ve sped up, down, and across it many many times. I know the good rest stop near Kettleman City on the 5. That’s about it. But I’ve seen travel section articles about “Surprising Lodi” a few times, and I was aware that the big Zinfandels come from there, and they have a downtown archway with a golden bear statue on top of it. But the big draw was finding out that the Sandhill Crane over-winters in this area.
We got up early to go see the Cranes. Here’s the thing I don’t understand. Lodi is in the Central Valley. The Sierra Nevada is to the east, where the sun supposedly rises. So why am I seeing the sun rising above a flat horizon? Should I not see some mountains? Is there some totally flat area to the east that the early pioneers didn’t know about, and instead drove their wagon trains over the snowy Sierra peaks? Someone needs to explain this to me in terms that I can understand.
This photo is taken from the third floor of the Holiday Inn Express, overlooking a neighboring vineyard. There’s an abandoned auto mall on the other side, which is almost as nice.
Some Lodi observations, as long as we’re here. The drive into town is uninspiring. Like everywhere else, the town has a fatty layer of big box retail around its perimeter. There are a few oddball local stores, such as Discount Pet, which is a large windowless building surrounding by 10 ft. tall fences topped with concertina wire, but the rest is the familiar Applebees Industrial Complex. With some helpful direction from locals you can find the “old town” downtown core. All very tidy and pleasant, but you’d be hard-pressed to find something that distinguishes it from so many other towns. Nothing really “screams” Lodi. Which is probably for the best.
But let’s get back to those Sandhill Cranes. We had encountered these birds in Yellowstone in May, and found them strange and interesting. I read some Information that told me they could be seen locally at the Cosumnes River Preserve north of town, so we went out there. The Resident Expert heard the Cranes first, although she reported hearing what sounded like a disgruntled house cat working its way through the reeds by the middle slough. The Sandhill Crane is somewhat ventriloquial, as are other birds. The sound we heard coming up from the ground in front of us was actually the weird croaking call of a group of Cranes flying by about 1/4 mile away. So we quickly learned, if you hear Cranes off to the west, look to the east.
I didn’t get any great pictures of the cranes, but here’s one of a Red-tailed Hawk looking around. This is a good area for birds generally, and we also spotted a flight of Tundra Swans, many waterfowl, songbirds and hawks, and wave after wave of Canada Goose armada. I don’t know the Delta region at all, and now am curious about it. Even though the Cosumnes River Preserve is 60 miles from the San Francisco Bay, the river level can rise and fall 5 ft. during the day with the tides. This area merits further exploration.