Our star, the sun was out in all of its glory after the winter storms, providing a respite from the intense but welcome weather this late winter. Middletown Trailside Nature Preserve’s 107 acres, with its mile-and-a-half loop, like much of the fire-ravaged lands in Lake County, is making a welcome comeback.
Located at Middletown’s west end, an abundance of nature is proliferating. Lovely manzanita plants were in full bloom with their delicate white-to-pink blossoms, festooned with bees who were, well, busy and buzzing. Other native plants are established once again, such as madrone, elderberry and some oaks. A lovely and lively winter creek reflected blue skies interspersed with cotton ball clouds, while a vernal pool played host to what sounded like a zillion frogs.
Upon approaching the vernal pool it became quiet enough to hear the red-winged blackbirds in the distance, and since the frogs are masters of camouflage, or possibly magicians, nary a frog was to be seen. Vernal pools like the one in the park, are seasonal pools, sometimes called ephemeral pools that allow special plants and animals to thrive in the environment. The Lake County Department of Public Services does a fantastic job of maintaining the preserve, its trails, and restroom.
While most of the preserve’s stately old oaks are no longer in evidence, numerous Douglas firs and other plant life has been painstakingly replanted and is greening up quite nicely. Lots of strategically placed benches invite you to settle in for some quiet conversation or contemplation. Blackberries are interspersed across the grasslands, along with native grey pine trees.
Critters of all kinds enjoy the preserve. Jack rabbits, coyote and deer are all in evidence via scat and tracks. A western fence lizard or blue belly scritched and scratched across the loose soil on the trail- yet another good sign of species recovery here. There are birds aplenty to enjoy. Meadowlarks call out, as well as acorn woodpeckers, doves, crows, hawks, turkey vultures and other avian species that thrive here.
Not to be outdone, several varieties of butterflies flitted amongst the tarweed and chicory. Some of the Middletown Art Center’s (MAC) EcoArts sculpture walk is installed and is interesting to view. Now located on the opposite side of the park from where it once held its home, you can learn about sponsoring the 15th annual exhibit of work there by visiting the 2023 EcoArts Sculpture Walk page on MAC’s website.
Upon leaving the park, I took one last 360-degree look around. The south county landscape, of which the park is a part, is set much like a bowl, surrounded by hills and mountains with all of the requisite and well-known silhouettes that the Mayacamas Mountains, Mount Saint Helena and other well-loved features provides. A great blue heron silently glided to a marshy area to hunt his prey, adding nuance to the abundance of life in lovely Lake County.