Poison Oak is Back

Since western poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) typically loses its leaves in the Fall and doesn’t start leafing out again until after the first of the year, you might be surprised to know that it is coming out now, as I was (see photo taken today). Chalk it up to global warming, I suppose, but the result is that poison oak season is elongating — it’s starting earlier and likely ending later, although I don’t have evidence of it.

This is bad news for hikers, and the stewards who try to keep it cut back off the trail. But since I haven’t yet had a chance to get out there with clippers (perhaps tomorrow), be careful. I’ve seen a few sprouts right at the edge of the trail.

Part of what makes poison oak tough to spot is that it presents differently at different times of year and in different growing conditions. To see some of this variability, see this web site, which has a number of pictures of poison oak in various stages of its life and in different growing conditions. Also, poison oak will often vine up into bushes and small trees, blending in with the other vegetation, which makes it even harder to spot. I’ve often missed noticing poison oak in such situations, even when actively looking for it.

Our program of control is limited to keeping it about 3 feet off the trail, as since it is a native species we aren’t interested in eradicating it like we are invasive species such as Italian and Yellow Star thistle. So if you stay on the trail you should be safe, at least after I get out with the clippers, but it doesn’t hurt to be vigilant.

 

Thistle Pulling Season Has Begun

Lately I’ve noticed that Italian Thistle has been coming up, since recent rains have kept the soil moist and we haven’t had freezing temperatures at night. In the past, I haven’t started pulling it until February or March, but I see no reason to wait. When the soil is moist it’s easiest to get it out by the root, and since there is no danger of it going to seed it can be simply tossed aside. Later, we will need to bag it and carry it out, which is no fun.

Although we’ve been making very good progress with Yellow Star Thistle (YST) after half-a-dozen seasons of concentrated effort, and we may actually be close to declaring victory (fingers crossed!), Italian Thistle has, in a number of cases, apparently been moving into the new territory cleared of the YST. This is alarming, as Italian Thistle is even more dangerous than YST, as it will grow anywhere. At least YST is limited to sunlit meadows.

Italian Thistle has essentially overrun the Montini Preserve, so my only goal there this year is to keep it off the trails so it doesn’t bother hikers. On the Overlook Trail property, I will start the same way by first concentrating on the trail edges, but then I also hope to be able to work on the Upper Meadow, as there are clumps there that threaten to spread and coalesce across the entire meadow unless it’s controlled.

So if you’re out on the trail and see what appears to be a gardener pulling weeds, it’s just me, keeping up the ongoing war against invasive species. Maybe say Hi.

 

Celebrating Joanna

A huge thank you goes to our current chairperson, Joanna Kemper, who is stepping down after 8 years of leadership of the Stewards.

After the Stewards meeting on Tuesday we celebrated Joanna’s dedication to our beloved trail with a party.

Ezrah Chaaban, Chief of Staff to State Senator Bill Dodd presented Joanna a Senate Resolution Certificate thanking Joanna for her service on behalf of Senator Dodd.

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We toasted her with bubbly and also presented her with a Hiker’s Notebook with photos and memories of her tireless leadership.

Thanks Joanna, and see you on the trail.

A Current Trail Map

As readers of this web site know, although we have re-opened the upper part of the Sonoma Overlook Trail to hikers, the lower, re-routed part remains closed until sometime in Spring so the rains (which we hope we get) can help pack the new trail. Therefore, for quite some time hikers will need to enter the Overlook system either by entering from the Montini Preserve (across Norrbom Road on Rattlesnake Cutoff trail), or hike up through the cemetery using the roads marked in purple (see map) and enter from the Toyon Trailhead.

Alternatively, you can drive up to the Toyon trailhead, where a limited number of parking spaces are available. If you do that, please be aware that the cemetery gate is locked around 4:00 pm, so be sure to be out of the cemetery by then.

Thank you for your bearing with us as we get the Sonoma Overlook Trail back into great hiking shape.

Come enjoy the Mountain Cemetery on your way to the Overlook Trail

Come hike the newly re-opened upper part of the Overlook Trail. Enter through the Mountain Cemetery entrance and follow the signs (they say Toyon Trail) in the cemetery to the Overlook entrance. The trail from this entrance leads to the Upper Meadow Loop and the fantastic views of Sonoma and San Francisco. You can also access the Montini Open Space Preserve through this entrance.

The sign at this entrance says trail is closed ahead, this refers to the new re-routed trail that starts at the kiosk. There are new stone steps leading up to the newly re-routed trail, but this entrance by the kiosk and trail isn’t open yet. This portion of the trail will open in the Spring, after the rainy season has given it a chance to “cure”.

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Photo taken in the cemetery by Sue Loesch this morning

The Overlook Trail is open!

After months of hard work and literally years of planning the trail rehab work is nearly completed. There’s plenty of hiking available, and plenty of views.

To hike the Overlook trail, start your hike from the Mountain Cemetery entrance—follow the signs if you aren’t familiar with how to enter it through the cemetery. The Upper Meadow Loop that leads to the scenic overlook is accessible from the Toyon Trail entrance in the Cemetery and through the Montini Open Space Preserve.

As you approach the kiosk at the trailhead you’ll see beautiful stone steps leading up to the newly re-routed trail. This portion of the trail will open in the Spring, after the rainy season has given it a chance to “cure”.

The Overlook Stewards, City officials and many trail fans hiked the trail to “welcome it back” this weekend. Come join us every Wednesday morning at 8:30 for a hike to the overlook and back. Meet 8:30 at the trailhead kiosk for an energetic one hour hike. . . and meet some new hiking friends.

IMG_5980Fred Allebach explaining how steps were built.

Susan Peterson talking about trail improvements. Hikers listen to Karen Collins tell trail tales.