After the torrential rains of March, getting outdoors to enjoy the sunshine is definitely in order. Let me tell you about all the fun ways you can spend time outside during April.

You can begin by heading to Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, where Tuolumne County residents ride free during opening weekend (April 6 and 7). Passenger cars travel behind the 1952 Baldwin Whitcomb No.1265 historic diesel locomotive for six miles, affording sweet views of rolling hills, rock outcroppings and Table Mountain. Arrive early for departures at 10:30 a.m. and 12, 1:30 and 3 p.m. because capacity is limited; seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. After opening weekend, and for the remainder of the season through October, excursion train tickets are available online or at the Depot Store in Jamestown.

Also this month – April 13, 14, 20 and 21– you can enjoy a special Wildflower Train ride. Prior to boarding for the 3 p.m. departures, passengers are treated to interpretive talks by Railtown staff about the California wildflowers they will see. Once aboard the train, naturalists and interpretive park rangers from the Bureau of Reclamation point out flower groupings, such as meadowfoam and goldfields. A wildflower booklet and a packet of wildflower seeds are included with ticket purchases; that way you don’t walk away empty handed, even if nature doesn’t provide the show you expected, for the abundance of wildflowers is always subject to the vagaries of weather. However, with all the rain this winter, I’m betting the show will be pretty spectacular.

If you are more inclined to spring cleaning and home improvement than train travel, you might want to visit the 38th annual Home & Garden Show at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds on April 13 and 14. It’s free to stroll among hundreds of booths featuring everything from hot tubs to woodstoves, carpeting to lawn furniture and a super array of cleaning products. One year at this show, I bought a bottle of orange oil for furniture polishing that brought back to life an old oak table I’d stashed in the shed. Park at the Junction Shopping Center and catch a shuttle bus to the fairgrounds. Buses run continuously during show hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 13 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 14. The Home & Garden Show will surely provide ideas for sprucing up your outdoor living spaces.

Easter follows the next weekend, and the Easter Bunny will deposit eggs for hunting in Twain Hare, Jamestown and Columbia. At 12 p.m. April 21, kids can hunt eggs at Eproson Ball Field in Twain Harte, followed by an egg toss for all ages. At Railtown, the Easter Bunny attends the egg hunt that also starts at noon. To accommodate the various ages of children, there will be three separate egg hunts at Railtown: one for ages 4 and under, one for ages 5 to 7 and a third for ages 8 to 11. At Columbia State Historic Park, children can enjoy an egg hunt that accompanies the Victorian Easter Parade. Dress up in your Easter finery and be a part of a promenade on Main Street. Prizes are awarded for the best Victorian hat, best-dressed couple, lass, lad, group and pet. Be on the lookout for Thaddeus E. Hare (aka the Easter Bunny) who hands out fresh carrots to the kids.

The presidentially proclaimed National Parks Week is another April occurrence, reminding us to explore amazing places like Yosemite National Park. The kickoff to National Parks Week is Easter weekend. On April 20, admission to Yosemite (and all national parks) is free. In the park guide for February-April, an unnamed poetic Yosemite Valley park ranger described spring in the valley like this:

“Grass that has lain under snow is growing, and warm breezes lap around us like gentle waves … Yosemite Falls … turns from a feeble trickle to a roaring flood … Red-winged blackbirds perch noisily on cow parsnip and guard their nests buried deep in the grasses while black bears, still groggy from their winter sleep, start the year with the tender grass shoots, which deer use to conceal their spring-born fawns. As the warm weather returns and the rivers rise, the temptation becomes strong to … dip hot feet into the meandering river after a long day of hiking. It’s at this time each year that Yosemite’s search and rescue staff slides into their neoprene wetsuits and gets ready for the inevitable: when unsuspecting visitors meet icy waterways. It’s best to remain vigilant around water sources year round.”

This chilling reminder notwithstanding, Yosemite is spectacular in the spring.

After a wet winter, our dogs are tugging on their leashes to get moving, too. You are invited to bring your pooch to Twain Harte on April 27 to parade with other beloved canines. The Who Let the Dogs Out Parade festivities start with registration at 10 am. The cost is $5 per dog and proceeds go to local animal shelters. In addition to the parade, dogs are invited to run an agility course. For their humans, there will be booths featuring foods and trinkets.

If you wish to partake in the great outdoors this April, free and nominal-cost activities abound. The brilliant green hills are calling. Heed the summons!

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