Lagoon Lake in Vacaville

One of the many wonderful things about this magazine is its title. Because of it, a writer like me knows what to write about each month.

This month, however, we are venturing beyond the city limits to tell you about a nice little outing, about 25 minutes away, that you may wish to take some day: Lagoon Lake.

Stop, put down your phones.

No need to look up where it is because you’ve passed by it on I-80 a hundred times on your way to and from Tahoe and the Sierra. The exit is Pena Adobe Road on the western outskirts of Vacaville.

A close friend of mine, who also happens to be my wife Jennifer, has experienced the tranquil pleasures of Lagoon Lake many times. Here is what she likes about it: “I like the feeling of openness. I like to see all the different birds on the lake, on their rest stop in their migration. It’s also fun to see horses grazing in the field next to the walking path. They stay at the Ranchotel Horse Center next to the lake.”

If you’re a numbers person, Lagoon Lake Reservoir will make you happy:

2.5-mile shoreline, average depth of eight feet, containing 274 million gallons of water at full capacity. The concrete spillway is 13 feet high and a wooden bridge passes over it that leads to a flat, wide-open, dog-friendly dirt path that was built by Troop 852 of the local Eagle Scouts.

It’s a pretty spot. The hills of the Vaca Range encircle the lake and valley in the near and far distance. A big, chunky island sits on one side of the lake whose waters attract sandpipers and other migratory coastal birds, the ubiquitous Canada geese, their white-necked brethren, ducks and more. I’ve seen turtles under the bridge at the spillway during their breeding season.

An easy lakeside walk is our usual activity, but there are other things to do: jogging, a more vigorous hike into the hills, disc golf, picnicking, hangin’ at the dog park, getting in touch with your inner William Tell at the archery range, and flying remote controlled aircraft at a landing strip for them. The little ones can play on a swing set, but they’re probably going to be happy chasing around the ducks.

Mornings are the best time to go, especially in the hot, hot days of summer.

Parking is ample; fee is $6 for the day. The old Casa Pena, which was a way-station for travelers on horseback and in wagons in pioneer times, forms part of the scene as well.  

Lagoon Valley harkens back to the  days when Vacaville consisted mainly of farms and ranches and grazing lands for livestock. Cattle still graze nearby. But civilization, if you want to call it that, is putting its heavy boot print on the area. Traffic streams by constantly on the interstate (but it’s not bothersome), and there is a Big Whopper of a subdivision being built right next to it.  

After your lagoon stop, take a little spin across the freeway bridge over to Soul Food Farm on Pleasants Valley Road.

Alexis and Eric, the owners, run a farm stand open on the weekends that sells olive oil, vinegar, jams and other locally-made items. They also sponsor pop-ups in which local ranchers and farmers sell their pasture-raised beef, chicken and pork.

Just down the road in the Pleasants Valley farm corridor is Morning Sun Herb Farm, a charming roadside nursery. It features herbs and lavenders galore with gardens to look at and a walnut orchard. A few goats and donkeys are kept in a pen on the grounds; grab a carrot or two in a bucket and give ’em a chomp.  They’ll eat it; they’re hungry. Just make sure they don’t take your fingers with it.