Yesterday’s Monthly Trail Workday


Priscilla, Tom, Roy, Elizabeth, and Kurt. Jamie took the picture.

Yesterday a crew of six stewards, including me, headed out to clear the upper Sonoma Overlook Trail meadow of invasive Italian thistle. We made one complete sweep of the upper meadow and emerged with ten contractor debris bags full of the nasty weed, as well as some remaining invasive Yellow starthistle, which unfortunately was a surprise.

Elizabeth Garsonnin, Priscilla Miles, Jamie Nelson, Tom Sours, and Kurt Teuber came out to help with this important battle. If we hit Italian thistle hard now on the upper meadow, before it completely drops its seed, we have a chance of eventually eradicating it instead of allowing it take over completely.

Although we’ve been largely successful in pushing it away from the trail, we are still challenged in large areas where Italian thistle is gaining the upper hand. On the Montini Preserve, my focus has been simply to get it off the trail, as that is the only reasonable goal for that property at the moment. But on the Sonoma Overlook Trail property, we have an opportunity to eradicate it further back from the trail. Eventually, some years from now, my goal will to be to not even see it from the trail, but that is clearly some years out still, and may never be achieved on the Montini Preserve, where it’s fairly rampant.

An Update on the War

ThistlePirates2Today I went out to assess the invasive Yellow starthistle infestation this year. I’m happy to say that it’s less than last year, but it’s still there. We may still be several years away from complete eradication.

But the really depressing thing to see is that Italian thistle is simply taking its place.

This has me thinking that my strategy needs to be this:

  • Eradicate Yellow starthistle (essentially steady the course on what I’ve already been working on).
  • Control Italian thistle in specific areas (trailside and on the Upper Meadow of the Sonoma Overlook Trail).
  • Clone myself. I’ve already signed up Dan Noreen to join “Thistle Pirates” (see graphic) and I hope to sign up others as well. If you wish to join, let me know. You get a free t-shirt, but be careful, as it can come with an obsession.

If you wish to join us, let me know! People along the trail are very appreciative of this work.

Celebrate 20 years of Sonoma Overlook Trail • Save the Date: April 16, 2023

Please join us for our 20th Anniversary Celebration
Sunday, April 16, 2023 • 11 am to 1 pm.

Meet us at the main trailhead to celebrate and…

  • Learn how what once was a city dump was transformed into the beautiful Overlook Trail that now receives over 55,000 visitors a year from all over the world!
  • Hear from trail stewards as well as city and state dignitaries including Senator Bill Dodd, Supervisor Susan Gorin, Sonoma Mayor Sandra Lowe and other honored guests.
  • Enjoy refreshments and meet new hiking friends.
  • Peruse our new book, The View from Above, compiled from 20 years of excerpts from our Hiker’s Notebooks.
  • Come along with us on a wildflower hike. The flora and fauna should be spectacular in April!

The Third Wave

IMG-2727I’ve been pulling Italian thistle (an invasive monster) since mid-November. It’s now mid-March and we still have very young plants coming in (see pic, gloved finger for scale). Today, I decided to call it the “third wave” but I have no idea if it comes in waves at all, or just constantly. Or if it comes in waves, how many can we expect? Five? Ten?

All I know is that it will continue to come in for quite some time, and I need to keep an eye out for these little guys probably well into May. Part of the reason may be the very wet winter we are having, as none of the thistle is bolting yet but the plants, in some cases, are becoming very large. This presages a massive stalk, which will mean more bulk to deal with when we need to begin bagging the thistle and carrying it out.

Also, the rain is preventing me from using 30 percent vinegar to battle big patches, since I need sun to follow spraying, not rain that will wash it off. So far we haven’t many stretches of dry weather.

Sorry to be a Debby Downer, but these are just some of the challenges we face when attempting to control invasive thistle on these lands.

Making Room to Stand in Front of the Display at the Top of the Trail

IMG-2691Recently I noticed that there was very little room to stand in front of our display at the top of the trail (see picture). Frankly, I couldn’t believe why that spot was chosen, when moving it several feet to the left would have been better by far. But whatever, it’s what we now need to deal with.

That’s when I decided that I needed to reduce the rock in front of it so people could comfortably stand in front of it and read the text as well as compare the picture to what they could view from that point. So I brought up our cordless rock chisel and got all medieval on the rocks in front of the display. The result is now what you see here (see picture). Although at first it was easy going, as the rock split along clear lines of weakness, it soon got harder, and I was literally chipping away at some very hard rock.

IMG-2693I finally gave up sooner than I would have otherwise, leaving a ridge of rock jutting up from the trail, since at the time I had no other choice. Perhaps later I can reduce it more, and create a smooth surface, but one battery’s worth of power is about all I can take on my wrist.