The Wonders of the Davis Arboretum

Being a student at UC Davis is already cool enough on its own. But if you must only do one extra thing to enhance your experience in this quaint city, it should be spending some time in the arboretum.

Located just behind Wright hall and stretching a little over three miles beyond, the arboretum is the perfect kind of aesthetically, intellectually, and spiritually stimulating experience. Just a simple stroll along the channel and I easily forget I'm even on a college campus. Here are just a couple of reasons why you should definitely pay a visit.

1. The aesthetic beauty of nature

The aesthetic beauty of all the many plants and animals living along the Putah Creek channel is of course a wonderful reason on its own for spending time in the arboretum. There are tons of different kinds of trees and flowers growing constantly along the water as well as on the slopes above the trail with nametags on them so you can impress your friends later with your sick tree and flower-naming skills.

During the spring time, all the various species bloom in such vibrant colors, I can't help but feel like I'm venturing through a fantastical land. I sometimes find myself humming "Golden Afternoon" from Alice in Wonderland when walking through a particularly glowing bunch.

The animals living the in the arboretum bring even more life to this wonderland. I could easily watch the ducks glide along the channel, squabbling away at each other for hours if I could. And if you're really lucky, you just might be able to spot an otter lingering above the surface of the water for a brief moment before diving back down again. Ducks, turtles, otters, and birds are among the many living things going about their normal day in are intriguing enough to make someone stop what they're doing and just observe.

2. The spiritual ambience

Along with the aesthetic beauty the nature in the arboretum brings, there is this wondrous feeling of complete harmony with the life around you. Generally, there isn't a lot of noticeable outside noise that reaches the arboretum, just the sounds of the birds singing, the wind blowing, or even people walking by that take up the quiet. Because of this, it's effortless to just sit down and be in tune with yourself. With spiritual harmony comes a lot of creative inspiration, which is why the arboretum is one of the places on campus to just take your notebook or sketchbook and just create.

3. Love of the world

Even if you're not the "cheesy" type (personally I think everyone has a bit of "cheese" in them), the padlocks fastened on the bridges along the channel are definitely a lovely sight. It's very sweet to think about the dozens of couples who've thought about immortalizing their love with a small, but meaningful gesture.

There are also plenty of open grass areas further down the trail which are perfect for date-style picnics with your loved ones. While you can think of this place in terms of love with another person romantically, it mostly emanates love of all things; love of your family, friends, significant other, animals, plants, water, the wind, the rain, the sky, the stars. I could go on, but the arboretum is simply a place of love and appreciation of the endless wonders we have on this earth.

4. Contemplation of history

The Native American Contemplative Garden, which was the first phase of the UC Davis project designed to honor the Patwin people, is a symbol of the arboretum's historical foundation. Fifty-one Patwin people lived in this area before Spanish soldiers brought disease and forced them to relocate to missions from 1817 to 1836. The garden consists of basalt columns, resembling the Patwin's strength and resilience, with testaments of the Patwin's philosophy.

One of the stones I've come across reads, "Then, now, and always a part of this land."  When walking through the arboretum, spend a little time to acknowledge this area and think about what it must’ve been like without sidewalks and buildings.

So if you have time, take a morning run along the path, or sit on one of the benches and observe a family of ducks waddling through the grass, or read the inscribed dedication to the Patwin people who lived in this area. Trust me, it's worth it.  

Cover image source: author's own image