Steward Fred Allebach recently coordinated with the local Rotary club to come out for two work days on the trail this month. The first one, with “Sunrise” Rotary, was held today. The large group, including entire families with young children, worked on several areas of the trail in two groups — one led by Fred and the other by me.
The work included:
Putting in a drain and laying gravel on the middle portion of the main steps at the trail entrance to deal with a muddy area.
Laying down a thin layer of gravel on the second set of steps (enclosed with railroad ties) a short distance along the trail from the steps (see picture).
Berm and drain work at the loop at the top of the trail (see picture).
Given the size of the group and their eagerness, we were done with what we had set out to accomplish within 2 hours. The children were enthusiastic and very helpful.
Today, the second day of an “atmospheric river” storm, I hiked the Montini and Overlook properties to check out how well the water was getting off the trails. More water was running off than I recall ever seeing before, although I had missed the October storm which by all accounts was a gangbuster.
You know it’s a major storm when the waterfall on the Holstein Hill trail on the Montini Preserve is running as it was today (see photo).
Most of the trail structures put in place to get water off the trail were working as intended, although a few need to be cleaned out or enhanced. The properties are so rocky, however, that in places water seeps from the hill above and sheets over the trail. In other words, there’s just no getting around having water on the trail, so be careful.
Today I realized that the invasive species removal season had started — earlier than it ever has during my tenure. The earliest I had started removing Italian thistle from the Sonoma Overlook and Montini Preserve properties had been in December. But now, with our early rains this season, the thistle has already started coming in (see pic). This essentially cuts my “down time” from four months to three, meaning the thistle removal season is going to be nine months long this year. Ouch!
One nice thing, though, is that I will have a three-week “vacation” in May, when I put in on the Colorado River rowing an 18-foot raft for 17 days. Since I just recently got off a 19-day trip doing the same thing, call me one lucky guy!
But mostly I’ll be out there, day in and day out, pulling these plants so that we can eventually eradicate them, as we almost have with the Yellow starthistle.
It’s always interesting to me to see how quickly nature responds to fire scars. Where once there appeared to be, quite literally, “scorched earth,” plants begin to return the ecosystem to something more like “normal,” if that is a concept that even applies. In reality, fire is a part of “normal” as we seem to finally be discovering in this desert state of ours.
So I was happy to see that the fire scar on the Montini Preserve, about five acres, was already beginning to rebound with life (see picture). It’s possible that the tiny bit of rain that we received recently inspired some plants to send out new shoots. Whether that was the impetus or not is kind of beside the point, as whatever the reason it’s just nice to see the plants coming back.
As we endure bigger and worse fires due to the impacts of global warming, it wouldn’t hurt to remind ourselves that as much as we may be devastated by seeing our beautiful forests burned, there is still hope and renewal to be found.
The crew, minus Greg Taylor, who had to leave early to open his shop. From left to right: Roy Tennant, Michael Studebaker, Priscilla Miles, Dan Noreen, and SOT Chair “Secret Ranger.”
Today six volunteer stewards gathered at the Sonoma Overlook Trail kiosk/trailhead to do the very first group “Rock Patrol.” Rock Patrol as it has been developed consists of the following:
Filling in holes with dirt for rocks that have already come out of the trail;
Removing loose rocks;
Removing particularly problematic rocks (rocks likely to trip hikers and runners);
Backfilling all of those spaces with soil, following this protocol:
Wet the hole with a watering can (preferred) or a spray bottle;
Lay down a thin layer of soil and compact it by stomping on it; and,
Spray lightly again, lay down another thin layer of soil, compact it, and repeat until the hole is completely flush, or even slightly higher than, the trail.
This first time out we were able to complete the beginning section of the trail from the kiosk to the junction with the Rattlesnake Cutoff Trail. Next time (Our Chair proposed doing this once a month for a while), we will tackle the section of Rattlesnake Cutoff from Norrbom Road past the junction with the Overlook Trail.
We were quite pleased with the many nuisance rocks (or worse) that we were able to remove (see picture of three large rocks and the smooth spot where they had been removed — it’s darker since it’s wet).
So if you happen to see a group out there with shovels, buckets, watering cans, spray bottles, and an assortment of other tools, that’s Rock Patrol. If any of the three readers of this blog want to participate, just shoot me an email.