With the nice, warm weather last weekend, a sign that summer is almost here, we decided to break out our bikes for a short ride along the Truckee River in Sparks. We headed to Cottonwood Park, located at 777 Spice Island Drive, in the industrial part of Sparks.

The mostly-paved Truckee River Bike Trail, which passes by the park, stretches for about seven miles from downtown Reno to the east end of Sparks. The trail is generally pretty flat and runs parallel to the Truckee River. Flooding last January washed out some portions of the trail in Sparks but it remains passable.

As soon as we unloaded our bikes, my daughter jumped onto hers and began scouting out the area. Eager to ride, she rode in circles around us, urging us to get moving.

Cottonwood Park was actually filled with picnicking and barbecuing families, so we made our way through the people, cautiously trying to avoid any collisions with the frisbee tossers and wandering small children.

A few yards from the park and we were suddenly alone. As we leisurely rode on the trail, we took in the pleasant surroundings. The Truckee River continues to run extremely high, so it’s quite a sight to behold, and serves as a perfect backdrop for the ride.

My daughter stopped after a couple of hundred yards to scamper down some rocks to look more closely at the river. She told us that next time she was going to remember to wear a bathing suit so she could check out the inviting water in a nearby eddy, where the current wasn’t so strong. She watched a couple of ducks riding along on the river current and heard a variety of other birds hidden in the thick foliage that borders the channel.

To the north of us is the Sparks industrial area, an unsightly mess of warehouses and businesses, but to the south was the river and, on the other side of it, open fields with cows—the University of Nevada farm. A bizarre thing was that we could not only smell the delicate scents of wild flowers and shrubs in the air but also the faint odor of baking dry pet food from the nearby Ralston-Purina plant. Weird.

We rode on for awhile, chatting as we went about the nice weather, how my daughter’s school year was soon coming to a close, and whether any animals lived inside of the virtual forest of low-growing bushes that lined the path. We stopped at one point to search for an animal lair and found a large opening deep inside of the shrubs that looked promising.

After about 45 minutes of casual riding, with frequent stops to admire the views of the river, my daughter suggested we turn around and return to our car. She was suddenly hungry and all we had brought was bottles of water. Come to think of it, I was also a little hungry. I was still thinking about some of that delicious BBQ I had smelled back at the park.—-Richard Moreno

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