Hiker Notebooks, #12: Gratitude, Part 2

In yet another installment in our ongoing series about thoughts or drawings people have left in our hiker notebooks, this is the second in a mini-series on gratitude (see also our first “gratitude” post), as it is an emotion that is very frequently expressed by hikers in their notebook entries, I think for somewhat obvious reasons — at least for anyone likely to be reading this blog post. Those who enjoy getting out in nature on a well-constructed trail with views and a variety of environments are all too likely to be grateful for the experience. As we are too. Read and enjoy what these visitors have felt inspired to write at the top of the trail.

Our first highlighted entry, as many have been, comes from a visitor, not a resident. From “KL” on October 20, 2012, they write: “My first and maybe only time here — coming from gray, rainy Seattle — this place feels so different and refreshing. There are so many places in the world — big towns, small towns — with people who are happy and sad. But if they got outside and visited this tree with the unusual pods [likely the California Buckeye] and looked out to the hills and trees and water and all the people doing all the things in the valley — it would make them feel just a little bit better, I think.” We agree, KL, we are right there with you.

From a person even farther away we have this entry from a visitor from Ames, Iowa on the 14th of November, 2012. “We live on such a beautiful Earth. As I sit here and write, a brilliant green hummingbird calls on the buckeye branch, with a dark throat and glints of the most amazing purplish red, flashing in the sunlight. Life is such a blessing. Do I really have to hike back down the hill? In gratitude to those who made this trail and maintain it…” Right back atcha, Ames, Iowa. We love that you are so grateful for the trail. It inspires us too, all the time.

Our next entry, from January 16, 2013, by Sam, is an introspective reflection on gratitude and feeling blessed, which hiking the trail clearly so often inspires: “A heavenly beauty surrounds me on this mountain. A gentle haze blankets the valley as my life achieves clarity. Becoming whole in myself I am grateful for everything life has given me. I strive to make the world a better place and know that we are all here for a reason.  Thank you for this gift. It is truly a blessing. Love to the world, Sam.” You seem like a really fine person, Sam, to be so grateful for what you have been blessed with and your desire to make the world a better place. We wish you all the best in your life’s journey, and we hope that you will once again return to the trail one day.

Our final entry for this post is really hard to argue with, and frankly needs no embellishment or even transcription. We love it too, whomever you are, we do too.

The War Begins Anew

A young Italian thistle, which can grow to be over 6 feet tall.

Today I spotted the first Italian thistle plants (see picture) of the 2020 invasive species removal season — or what I simply call “thistle season,” as the species we’re most focused on at the moment are the Italian and Yellow star thistle. These species are fully capable of taking over entire ecosystems and driving out native species and even wildlife. Thus we fight.

Thistle season has grown to last from the end of December, with the early onset of Italian thistle (slightly later this year), to well into August with the Yellow star. That makes thistle season nearly 8 months long, with only 4 months off. It doesn’t mean that we’re out there every day, mostly hand-pulling the weeds, but it means that every day we can starts to add up to a real difference. As it is, we’re witnessing a decrease in the volume and extent of Yellow star thistle, since we’ve attacked it for close to a decade. It’s even gone from some areas. But Italian thistle has essentially overrun the Montini Preserve and it is threatening to do the same on the Overlook Trail property. Thus, our recent efforts on Italian thistle have tended to focus on the Overlook Trail — first to eradicate it from the trail verge, where traffic on the trail can spread it, and then to fight it back from the trail into the surrounding areas.

Last year we were successful in clearing it back from the trail, but much beyond that was mostly untouched except for a few select areas. This year we’re hoping to have the time to take the fight further out from the trail, and especially hit some meadows where it hasn’t yet become widely established, such as the Upper Meadow on the Overlook. But the season has just begun, so we shall have to see what we can accomplish this season.

Meanwhile, if volunteering to help us pull these weeds is something that might interest you, I recommend you first read this post: “‘Don’t Look Up’ and Other Lessons from Invasive Species Removal.” We’re not trying to scare you off, really we aren’t, but it’s best to approach this work with your eyes open. Trust me on that. If you’re still game, let me know.

If you don’t wish to volunteer, but see us doing the work when you hike, throw us a wave. Feelings of pity and “there, but for the grace of God…” are also appropriate.

August seems like a long, long way off from here.

 

Hiker Notebooks #11: Gratitude, Part 1

The sentiments that hikers express the most in our hiker notebooks are appreciation and gratitude. We have so many entries that express these feelings that we must write multiple blog posts about them to cover even just the best of those thoughts. This seems to indicate that many, many hikers have the same thoughts as we stewards do toward the trail and the property that it traverses — we love it. And we deeply appreciate what it provides to us in our lives. We’re glad that so many can drink from the same well and get so much back from the experience.

We start this post about gratitude with one of the most direct, and beautifully depicted, sentiments along these lines: “What a Beautiful Day to be Alive!” the hiker exclaims to the world. Take a moment to think about the hiker who paused long enough to inscribe, multiple times, in the same lovely script, those deeply felt words. Many of us have been there as well, but perhaps didn’t take the time to so artfully express our emotions in the notebook. I know I haven’t, but I’ve felt the very same thing.

This next entry spoke to me personally, as my wife and I have daughters whom we raised in Sonoma (yes, we know, “Slownoma” to the younger generations) and went off to big cities far away. Although I may harbor a fantasy that they may one day move back like these young people, I’m not sure if that’s a reasonable desire. But despite my personal feelings on the subject, it’s just really cool to know that the Overlook Trail has held a special place in their hearts, and could welcome them home like nothing else could. [A side note: what is a “sophisticated” trail hike? Not sure I’ve been on one, LOL]

We move on to a visitor from Seattle, who expresses something I think a lot of us can get behind: simply getting outdoors and experiencing nature. On October 20 2012, the hiker wrote: “My first and maybe only time here — coming from gray, rainy Seattle — this place feels so different and refreshing. There are so many places in the world — big towns, small towns — with people who are happy and sad. But if they got outside and visited this tree with the unusual pods [most likely a buckeye] and looked out to the hills and trees and water and all the people doing all the things in the valley — it would make them feel just a little better, I think.” We agree, “KL”, we agree.

Reading through all of the hiker notebooks has been a joy, as so many hikers have expressed positive emotions during their hikes — even when dealing with serious life issues, as they have felt like their time in nature has helped them to deal with tough times. I know that it would be the first place I would head when struggling. So all of this appreciation, gratitude, and love is both fully expected and yet inspiring. It’s why we do what we do.

Team Building on the Trail

Today a global technology team took a long hike that started on the Montini Preserve, and finished on the Overlook Trail and Mountain Cemetery. With over 50 people in attendance from all over the world (see the picture to the right), it was something to behold. Attendees were from the U.S., Canada, Israel, Japan, China, the Czech Republic, and who knows where else. They were here in the Bay Area for their annual conference for employees and customers of the Scylla NoSQL parallel database system.

The hike was very ably led by Melissa Beasley and Lisa Turchet, both yoga instructors and hike leaders for The Lodge at Sonoma. Melissa led the hike and Lisa made sure no one was left behind. This hike was part of a “thank you” as well as a team building exercise for the company, as with any very distributed company it can be difficult to build relationships that are challenged by both distance and time zone issues. Having been a part of a global organization, I know these challenges personally. Face time is really important, especially in a relaxed atmosphere such as a nature hike.

So it was good that our trails could be used to build relationships, introduce visitors to the awesomeness that is the Sonoma Valley, and generally show them a good time. Thank you to The Lodge at Sonoma, and particularly to the hike leaders Melissa Beasley and Lisa Turchet, for leading such a great event on our cherished trails!

Paying the Trail Back

Dan Noreen, Beverage Supervisor, David Pye, Director of Engineering, Jay Garrett General Manager, Nathan Wakeen, Senior Rooms Operations Manager, Kaitlyn Tinder Director of Human Resources, Fred Allebach, Trail Steward (not pictured: Bill Wilson and Joanna Kemper, Trail Stewards).

The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa has long led hiking trips on the Sonoma Overlook Trail. Under the able leadership of Dan Noreen, Beverage Director and Sommelier, who is also an accomplished naturalist (seriously, where does it stop?), the Lodge offers daily hikes on the trail that are frequently populated by any number of Sonoma visitors, from one to 30 or more. Dan leads a special nature hike on Friday mornings, while on other mornings one of the coterie of the Lodge’s yoga teachers, who hold a class just before, lead a hike. As a daily hiker myself, I know all of them, and welcome them and their groups on a daily basis.

Since the trail is a free and open resource to all, that could be the end of this story. But Dan and his staff want to give back to the trail so they do and have for years. For the last three years the Lodge has coordinated with the Trail Stewards to send a large team on Coastal Cleanup Day. This time the group did a general cleanup and weeding at the trail kiosk and entry steps, and fortified a nearby wood staircase with cement blocks. Trail Stewards Fred Allebach, Joanna Kemper, and Bill Wilson provided materials, tools, and direction.

As always, we greatly appreciate their volunteer efforts to help maintain the trail and the property as the wonderful resource that it is — not just for our local community but also for our valued visitors from around the world. It takes a village, and we’re delighted to have their participation in that community of support.

 

Dia de los Muertos — Day of the Dead Cemetery Tour

Please join us for a lively, informative walk through our historic Mountain Cemetery with amateur historian Fred Allebach. Meet cowboys and Indians, ranchers and real estate tycoons, farmers and farriers, carpenters and stone masons, quarry-men, grocers, butchers, bakers, maybe a candlestick maker, and many more!

There is a $35 fee to raise money for maintaining the Overlook Trail.

When

Saturday, November 2, 2019, sign up for one of two hikes: 10:00 AM or 12 Noon — SIGNUP
Add to Calendar

Where

Meet at the Overlook Trail Kiosk
90 First Street West
Sonoma, CA 95476

Questions?

Hope Nisson
Sonoma Overlook Trail
sonomaoverlooktrail@gmail.com

The 2019 Invasive Thistle Removal Season is Over

The weapon of choice: the glove that pulled thousands of thistles.

I’m calling it. Today was the first day I was out on the Montini Preserve and Overlook Trail properties and was unable to spot a single Yellow Star Thistle plant. So I consider this year’s invasive thistle removal season officially over. And what a long road it’s been.

I started pulling Italian thistle at the end of December, when I could pull it and discard it. Later, when blooms began to form we had to bag it in large contractor debris bags and carry it out. We dumped it beside a dumpster in the cemetery, as requested by City staff. As the season progressed, we moved to Yellow Star thistle while the Italian thistle that we couldn’t get to sadly went to seed.

For our next Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards meeting I will be giving a more formal and complete report, but here it is in a nutshell:

  • Yellow Star Thistle: Although we are clearly making progress, we may be 2-3 years away from complete eradication, except for along Norrbom Road, which has been completely unassailed so far. However, we have reduced the YST so far that we have now given it a setting of “zero tolerance,” which essentially means we are morally obligated to pull everything we see.
  • Italian Thistle: We only recently started to seriously address Italian thistle, and there is a long, long way to go. The Montini Preserve is all but overwhelmed with it, and removal operations were performed mostly along portions of the trail, largely for hiker comfort. On the Overlook, it was successfully removed from the entire trail, back at least 3-6 feet or more. It remains a substantial problem off-trail, although not as bad as the Montini Preserve. We have assigned a status of “calculated and opportunistic,” which means focusing on minimizing its spread by pushing it away from the trail and attacking isolated pockets elsewhere.
  • Scotch/French Broom: There is a bad section of broom near the cemetery that was unaddressed this year, and it is also encroaching on the Toyon Trailhead from the cemetery. Current status: unaddressed.
  • Tocalote: Tocalote is found in scattered areas across the property, but it’s extent is unknown and it remained unaddressed this year.
  • Bellardia: This is also un-assessed and unaddressed but doesn’t seem to be a major problem yet.
  • Others: un-assessed and unaddressed.

We still need to perform a systematic review of invasive species on these properties, but so far our efforts have been focused on removal of those that pose an existential threat to the existence of a diverse ecosystem. And so far we have our hands more than full simply trying to stem the tide.