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Directions: From Fair Oaks Blvd., turn onto Van Alstine Ave. Turn left on California Ave., then right on Tarshes Dr. into Ancil Hoffman County Park (day passes are $5).
Go left on San Lorenzo Way, then right into the parking lot. 2850 San Lorenzo Way (off Tarshes Dr.) in Carmichael.
It’s 3 p.m. on an after-school October day, and the only nature your family has seen this week has been on Go Diego Go, where protecting the environment often involves riding a motorcycle through the rain forest with a talking jaguar. Is there any hope of redeeming yourself as the earth-loving parent you really want to be? Thankfully, local naturalist and teacher Effie Yeaw was ahead of her time in the 1950s when she fought to keep Sacramento wild at heart. Today, 77 acres near the American River have been set aside as a surprisingly serene preserve that includes an interpretive nature center named in her honor as well as a series of flat, winding, tree-shaded paths perfect even for toddlers. Grab a map and head out on Observation Trail, an easy hour-long loop with access to the rocky bend of the river, where kids delight in skipping stones into the water as ducks, egrets and hawks cruise overhead. Go in November and December, and you’re likely to spy salmon diligently working their way upriver to spawn. Along the way, pass through still woodlands where herds of deer wander alongside rafters of wild turkeys. The wildlife is so shockingly abundant that it’s common to see dozens of bucks and does slowly munching on the tall grass. Quiet the tykes and listen for the acorn woodpeckers tapping on the oak and walnut trees, then head back to the nature center where Sophia the saw-whet owl and Rocky the American kestrel make their home along with salamanders, turtles and snakes. sacnaturecenter.net —T.S.