Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Sundial Bridge

The Turtle Bay Museum in Redding, CA had a lot of nifty features about it that make it stand out as a high quality museum, one that a person would want to come back to often.  The Tadpole and I explored a large quantity of the museum, but didn't even scratch the surface of the arboretum which was north of the museum, across the Sacramento River.

The arboretum is connected to the museum by way of a bridge.  However, this bridge isn't just any bridge, but a sundial as well.  Yes, you read that right.  The bridge is also a sundial.  If you're driving along Interstate 5, you might think it's just a white spire, perhaps a sculpture.  But when you get close to it, you can see it's a sundial.  It definitely gives the city an identity.

This bridge is a pedestrian and bike bridge.  There were plenty of people out on a warm Monday enjoying the sites the museum had to offer as well as the arboretum.  There were some dog walkers as well as a couple of geocachers thrown into the mix as well.  In my original bookmark I created for our trip up here, I noted many geocaches on the arboretum side of the museum grounds.  We ended up getting the one nearest the sundial on the far side of the bridge.  It was close to noon, neither of us work well when we're hungry and we didn't want to get too far afield when Chaosmanor called telling us they were there.  It wasn't a problem, as it really gives us a built in excuse to come back and visit again.

The bridge, itself, is a marvel of engineering.  It appears to be a suspension bridge, with the gnomon (the shadow caster) being used to support the bridge.  The sundial is large enough, plus it's close enough to the Sacramento River, that it's only good for about four hours worth of time telling, from about 10 in the morning, to 2 in the afternoon, PDT.  We were there at 11:48 and it was keeping remarkable time, with the shadow slightly past the 11:45 mark.   We were able to get underneath the bridge and it resembles a cruise ship's mast from that particular angle.

While we were crossing the bridge, I happened to look to the west.  The Sacramento River, at this point runs west to east and then bends around to the south just beyond this point as it flows toward the Pacific Ocean.  Looking to the west, I spotted a large bird come up out of the water.  Obviously, I'd just missed it going into the water, but it was just close enough to the bridge that I could make out the fish it had just caught in its talons.  Then it made a sweeping left hand turn, probably heading back toward its nest with food for dinner.  The unmistakeable white head identified this beauty as a bald eagle, the first I've ever seen in the wild.

Having grown up in a time period when the eagle was in danger of extinction, it was very heartening to see this beautiful creature living in a semi-urban environment and not just in the woodsy backcountry where so few could enjoy its majesty.  I looked it up and found that it has been removed from the endangered list in 1995, moving to the "Threatened" category, and in 2007, it was delisted from the "Threatened" category.  This is a remarkable achievement for a bird that was on the verge of extinction in the lower 48 during my lifetime.

I would have to say seeing the bald eagle was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.  I have a geocaching friend in Nebraska, who is a serious birder and keeps life lists of birds she's seen.  I hope she's already experienced.

While the GPS Maze exhibit won't always be at the museum (it's scheduled to close on Labor Day), the bridge and arboretum will be there for a long time.  Next time you're driving north or south along Interstate 5, take the time to spend a day exploring this area of the northern Sacramento Valley.  I seriously doubt you'll regret the decision.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
GPS Adventures Maze Exhibit-Turtle Bay Park - by Groundspeak
Quality Time - by BlueBoyDavid

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1 comment:

chaosmanor said...

After you and the Tadpole left for Trinity County, Sharon and I wandered across the bridge, bought an Italian Ice at the arboretum and spent a half-hour or so juin the shade of the gnomon, watching the river go by. I took a number of "artsy" photos of the bridge, and used one of them to make some postage stamps. Didn't think to make any of postcard, rate, though; it seems obvious, now ;-/

Anyway, that's a marvelous bridge, and had it been a bit cooler, we would have spent more time over there. It was over 100ºF, and the humidity was quite high, so we headed for our room in Red Bluff, where it was still warm, but not nearly as hot as in Redding. We'll have to stop there, again, when the temperature is more temperate.