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The winter solitude of the Stanislaus River Parks

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Taking in the sights, sounds and smells of nature is entirely possible at Caswell Memorial State Park. Natural beaches like the one pictured are scattered along the Stanislaus River.


POSTED January 11, 2013 7:21 p.m.

Got cabin fever?

Are the cold temperatures, overcast skies and perpetual morning dew taking their toll on your overall psyche?

You’re not alone.

Seasonal affective disorder – known more commonly as “the winter blahs” – is common among people who are active during the summer months and suddenly find themselves confined to their homes for a long period of time.

The absence of sunlight and the chemical processes that it spurs in the brain, experts say, is to blame.

But instead of throwing an ultra-bright bulb in your living room lamp, why not throw a few sandwiches and some blankets in the car and plan a rural picnic somewhere along the meandering Stanislaus River?

It might not be the most conventional therapy – exposure to bright, sun-like light for long periods of time is usually what’s recommended – but there are plenty of local places that will recharge your batteries all the same.

Take, for example, Caswell State Memorial Park.

Depending on how fast you drive, it’s entirely possible to be standing beneath a barren canopy of densely packed native Valley Oak trees – marveling at their natural beauty even after they’ve shed their leaves for the cold winter season.

There are walking trails, picnic tables, and places to unwind along the magnificent river that will flow faster and stronger as the snowpack melts and more and more water is released to make room for what’s coming.

If you’re looking to get a little bit further outside of the city then McHenry Recreation Area – on the rural border of Escalon and Modesto – is one place worth checking out. You’ll find the same old majestic oaks that you saw at Caswell, but in a park designed for swimmers to enjoy.

That means families. And that means picnic areas and plenty of places to sit and watch the current roll.

Want to see a slice of history? Try Knight’s Ferry Recreation Area and the unique town adjacent to it. You’ll find California’s longest covered bridge and a rocky canyon carved out by the mighty Stanislaus over centuries. Just closing your eyes will take you back to the Gold Rush era when miners literally killed one another to get the best spot on the river.

It might seem natural to stay inside. After all, it’s cold out there and it’s a hassle to bundle up just to go out there and be miserable.

But exploring the natural beauty that the region has to offer in a season when it’s seldom seen is enough to shake off any type of blahs.

And that makes it worth the time to fill the thermos and grab the comforter.

209 staff reporter

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