The Mistletoe Tree

mistletoeThere is a tree on the Overlook Trail that I’ve dubbed “The Mistletoe Tree”. This is because it harbors several clumps of the parasitic plant, and at elevations where it would be easy enough to pluck a sprig to hold above one’s loved ones for a kiss.

Wikipedia says that “It is associated with Western Christmas as a decoration, under which lovers are expected to kiss. The reasons for this are less than clear.”

But then who needs a reason?

Being parasitic, mistletoe penetrates the host tree to steal water and nutrients. Mistletoe typically does not to lead to the demise of the host, except in extreme infestations, but large clumps may lead to the loss of a limb. The University of California has more information on mistletoe as well as how to control it, but here on the Overlook we let nature take its course as much as we can.



Winter Is Coming

fernglenFor the first time on the trail today, I noticed that the ferns are coming back. At the place I call Fern Glen, on the trail that connects the Montini Preserve with the Sonoma Overlook Trail, they are shooting up fairly quickly, in response to the off-and-on light rains we have had recently (see pic).

This is very nice to see. It’s a sign that we are getting enough moisture to renew plants such as these which rely upon dampness. As is probably quite obvious, winter is coming. It’s just nice to see the weather signs that indeed it is.

The Things We Toss

image1Over in my other blog, I recently wrote about the things we carry. But this post is about the things we choose not to carry with us when hiking on the trail — basically what we toss aside as trash. Not that I condone such behavior — far from it. How could I when I am required (as a volunteer steward) to pick up whatever someone throws away?

And what you (the collective you, not you personally) throw away  tends to be fairly predictable. I would say that most things fall into one of these categories, listed in order of perceived occurrence:

  1. Tissues. Far and away the item I pick up the most are facial tissues (see pic). Yeah, you’re saying “Yuck” right now and for good reason. However, in all of the years that I have been picking these up, I’ve never gotten sick (knock on wood).
  2. Drink containers. Actually tied for second are drink containers and food wrappers of various kinds. Drink containers can range from the frequent (coffee cups, soda cans) to the less frequent (vodka bottles). You can imagine how amusing I find it to walk down the trail in the morning with an empty vodka bottle in my hand.
  3. Food wrappers. By “food wrappers” I mean everything from a candy wrapper to a banana peel (see pic). Banana peels are frankly rare (thankfully), but candy and gum wrappers are not. But at least they fit in a pocket better than a banana peel.
  4. Cigarette butts. Being still in a multi-year drought, finding a cigarette butt scares me. The thought of someone with fire walking around among all that dead grass just above the city of Sonoma is horrifying, but people apparently do it. It is yet another thing that people do that defies the rules (such as bringing their dogs or bicycles onto the trail). If you are smoking up there you had better hope that I don’t run into you.

I’m certainly not the only steward picking up trash, but since I hike the trails nearly every day I have a fairly good sense of what people toss aside. If you have found something I haven’t mentioned, feel free to post a comment below. Extra points for items bigger than a coffee cup.

The Cemetery Tour, Back by Popular Demand


SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14th, 2015, 10 A.M. to 12:15


Our tour of the Sonoma Cemetery on November 1 proved so popular that we have scheduled another one.

Amateur historian Fred Allebach will lead an informative walk of the Sonoma Mountain Cemetery introducing you to cowboys and Indians, ranchers and real estate tycoons, farmers and farriers, carpenters and stone masons, quarrymen, grocers, butchers, bakers, maybe a candlestick maker and many more!

This fundraising event is limited to 25 participants. The $30.00 donation is a non-refundable, tax-deductible donation that includes the Sonoma Overlook Trail, the walking tour, and a light snack.

In the event of rain, check your email the day of the event as the Tour will be conducted light rain or shine; heavy rain will reschedule the event to Saturday, 11/21 at 10.

Proceeds support the Sonoma Overlook Trail Maintenance and Education programs. The Trail is solely supported by private donations. The walk is sponsored by Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards. To reserve your spot, contact Laurie:

So the Summer Ends as it Began…

lateseasonflowers…with flowers.

I was rather astonished, after a very long and dry summer, to see a flower blooming alongside the Sonoma Overlook Trail. Really, I thought? After seeing the meadow grass blasted completely past brown into a stark grey in the long summer drought, I couldn’t imagine what would possess a flower to bloom. But there it was.

With bright orange-red blooms, it stood out in stark contrast to its brown and grey surroundings. What were the conditions that could enable this to happen at this point in the year, I wondered? How could it survive, let alone make such a flagrant display? I’m not sure that I will ever know, but I was thankful, and I gladly climbed the short way up the hill from the trail to document its courageous and unexpected existence.

Later that day, rain began to fall. Actual, serious, rain. Welcome rain. But the flower existed before the moisture. It had made its play for existence and attention when there was nothing left upon which to draw. When the soil had been sucked dry. When all of the other flowers had long since gone down to dust and desiccation. When clearly, all hope should have been lost.

But it wasn’t. And seeing this, and understanding its message, I took heart once again.