The Remains of the Day

When hiking out in the wild it’s inevitable that you run into the remains of deceased (and probably eaten) wildlife. Some hikers may be sad to see these signs, but I take it as an indication that the ecosystem is working as it should. In a world of carnivores there is simply going to be carnage.

But at the same time, I pause and admire the feathers, or bones, or hair that remains behind and see beauty in what is left. I’m afforded a much closer view than I usually get, since squirrels scamper away as I approach and birds take flight. It’s a chance to admire the colors and textures of skin, hair, feathers, and fur.

A rare occurrence is to find an animal intact (see photo of a Shrew Mole), and at those times I feel particularly blessed with an opportunity to study it. More frequently, I find the animal mutilated (see photo of the snake) or largely gone (see photo of what was left behind of a squirrel).

But I find even the fragments fascinating in their own way, and grateful for the opportunity for close-up inspection.

When you are out on the trail, keep an eye out for these sights, and count yourself blessed should you come across a relatively intact wild animal. And if there are only remains, you will know that they fed a predator and are part of a cycle that includes not just a life but also a death that nothing living on this planet escapes.

The Other Dogs

coyoteIf you’re a reader of this blog you likely know that dogs are not allowed on the Montini and Overlook properties. However, there is one type of canine that is definitely allowed, Canis latrans, or coyotes. I happened to spot one today out in the meadow below the Holstein Hill trail on the Montini Preserve (see photo).

Even if you don’t see a coyote you can often hear them. The other day I was hiking on the Montini Preserve and sirens started going off below me in the town of Sonoma. They were met by howls from above me by a coyote responding to the sirens. They also bark (see the video below of a coyote barking on the Montini Preserve).

Coyotes are abundant throughout North America, and they thrive in the kinds of mixed meadows and woodlands we have here in Sonoma Valley. They eat small game such as rabbits, rodents, fish and frogs, and deer. They can also consume snakes, insects, and even fruit or grass (but most of their diet consists of mammals). Near humans, they have been known to eat garbage and pet food.

Canis familiaris, the domestic dog, is descended from the coyote. So you could say that we owe coyotes quite a bit.

Keep your eyes peeled the next time you’re out on the trail, and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to spot one (or hear one).

Baby, it’s Great Outside!

Hiking the Overlook is great at any time of year, but winter can be particularly rewarding, especially this year! When other parts of the country are muffled in deep snow and freezing temperatures, the Sonoma County trekker can take to the trails in relative comfort and ease. This year, after the fires, the green grass blanketing the ground gives us all a great breath of hope and renewal. Wintertime hiking is a joy and offers some unique benefits:
  • You’ll see less people and more wildlife
  • Mosquitos and other bugs are nowhere to be found
  • Rattlesnakes are still hibernating
  • Less people=less noise. Enjoy the quiet peacefulness
  • Hot food and warm drinks taste even better after a cold weather hike
  • Hike the trail on a sunny winter day and you will instantly feel the happy effects of endorphins as they kick in!
If you haven’t been up the trail lately, now is the perfect time to shake off those solstice doldrums and take advantage of our Northern California winter. You’ll be glad you did! winter hike

Day of Celebration

Today around 50 people came out to celebrate 15 years of the Overlook Trail and offer our gratitude to those who fought to save it, and the town, from the recent fires. State Senator Bill Dodd was in attendance, as well as many local environmental celebrities.

The celebration began with music provided by Paul Genovese and Bob Taylor. After some remarks from Steward Chair Joanna Kemper, the two people most responsible for establishing the trail, Karen Collins and Maggie Salenger, spoke about how the trail came about. A story in the Sonoma Index-Tribune about the celebration also has some of that information.

State Senator Bill Dodd also said a few words and announced that he would donate $500 (a sum that harkens back to a donation of the same amount from State Assemblymember Wes Chesbro when the trail was just getting started). The speakers were followed by a short sing-along of songs of love and appreciation.

Guests enjoyed coffee, apple cider, and muffins before hitting the trail for a hike (naturally). The weather cooperated and the predicted rain held off. About 40 people hiked up to the top and enjoyed the view.

Earth Abides

abide – to endure without yielding

Readers of this blog and locals probably know that during the recent firestorm Cal Fire bulldozers cut fire breaks on the Montini and Overlook properties. We are happy that they did this, as it was essential to protect the town. But nonetheless we were concerned about these scars as we are entering the rainy season.

Cal Fire and the City of Sonoma worked hard to mitigate the impacts of those scars, and that work is already paying off.

The Stewards had planned to meet this morning to spread seed over the cuts, but we canceled due to rain. I went hiking anyway and spotted a lot of grass starting to poke through the straw that was laid down on some of the cuts. This was surprising to me, as bulldozers moved over those cuts not once, but twice (once to make the cut and again to spread the mounds of soil left from the first time) and grass is already coming up.

That’s a really good sign that Mother Nature is going to heal itself, with little intervention from us. We will monitor the situation, and seed where it looks like it needs it, but for now it might just be enough to let nature take its course.

Day of the Dead Cemetery Tour

45 people came to walk through Mountain Cemetery and hear amateur historian, Fred Allebach tell stories about past Sonomans that now inhabit the cemetery. Not only were the curious hikers entertained with stories about well known pioneers such as Samuel Sebastiani, Mariano Vallejo, and William Montini, they also were introduced to lesser known real estate tycoons, butchers, and even murderers.

Grateful dead folktales were told and Sonoma’s rich history came alive. The funds from this years tour will be used to repair the damage from fire fighting actitivies. If you missed this event and would like to take a self guided tour of the cemetery, pick up the Mountain Cemetery Walking Tour brochure at the Overlook Trail Kiosk written by Fred Allebach and enter the Mountain Cemetery next to the kiosk.

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