Poison Oak is Back

Since western poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) typically loses its leaves in the Fall and doesn’t start leafing out again until after the first of the year, you might be surprised to know that it is coming out now, as I was (see photo taken today). Chalk it up to global warming, I suppose, but the result is that poison oak season is elongating — it’s starting earlier and likely ending later, although I don’t have evidence of it.

This is bad news for hikers, and the stewards who try to keep it cut back off the trail. But since I haven’t yet had a chance to get out there with clippers (perhaps tomorrow), be careful. I’ve seen a few sprouts right at the edge of the trail.

Part of what makes poison oak tough to spot is that it presents differently at different times of year and in different growing conditions. To see some of this variability, see this web site, which has a number of pictures of poison oak in various stages of its life and in different growing conditions. Also, poison oak will often vine up into bushes and small trees, blending in with the other vegetation, which makes it even harder to spot. I’ve often missed noticing poison oak in such situations, even when actively looking for it.

Our program of control is limited to keeping it about 3 feet off the trail, as since it is a native species we aren’t interested in eradicating it like we are invasive species such as Italian and Yellow Star thistle. So if you stay on the trail you should be safe, at least after I get out with the clippers, but it doesn’t hurt to be vigilant.

 

Thistle Pulling Season Has Begun

Lately I’ve noticed that Italian Thistle has been coming up, since recent rains have kept the soil moist and we haven’t had freezing temperatures at night. In the past, I haven’t started pulling it until February or March, but I see no reason to wait. When the soil is moist it’s easiest to get it out by the root, and since there is no danger of it going to seed it can be simply tossed aside. Later, we will need to bag it and carry it out, which is no fun.

Although we’ve been making very good progress with Yellow Star Thistle (YST) after half-a-dozen seasons of concentrated effort, and we may actually be close to declaring victory (fingers crossed!), Italian Thistle has, in a number of cases, apparently been moving into the new territory cleared of the YST. This is alarming, as Italian Thistle is even more dangerous than YST, as it will grow anywhere. At least YST is limited to sunlit meadows.

Italian Thistle has essentially overrun the Montini Preserve, so my only goal there this year is to keep it off the trails so it doesn’t bother hikers. On the Overlook Trail property, I will start the same way by first concentrating on the trail edges, but then I also hope to be able to work on the Upper Meadow, as there are clumps there that threaten to spread and coalesce across the entire meadow unless it’s controlled.

So if you’re out on the trail and see what appears to be a gardener pulling weeds, it’s just me, keeping up the ongoing war against invasive species. Maybe say Hi.

 

A Current Trail Map

As readers of this web site know, although we have re-opened the upper part of the Sonoma Overlook Trail to hikers, the lower, re-routed part remains closed until sometime in Spring so the rains (which we hope we get) can help pack the new trail. Therefore, for quite some time hikers will need to enter the Overlook system either by entering from the Montini Preserve (across Norrbom Road on Rattlesnake Cutoff trail), or hike up through the cemetery using the roads marked in purple (see map) and enter from the Toyon Trailhead.

Alternatively, you can drive up to the Toyon trailhead, where a limited number of parking spaces are available. If you do that, please be aware that the cemetery gate is locked around 4:00 pm, so be sure to be out of the cemetery by then.

Thank you for your bearing with us as we get the Sonoma Overlook Trail back into great hiking shape.

The Upper Overlook Trail is Now Open!

A set of stairs to assist hikers and improve drainage.

The Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards are delighted to announce that the upper part of the Sonoma Overlook Trail is now open to hikers!

“Upper part” means that you can’t access the lower trail that starts at the kiosk parking lot. But you may park there and hike through the cemetery up to the Toyon Trail, and access the upper part from there. There are also a limited number of parking spaces at the Toyon Trailhead, so alternatively you could drive through the cemetery and park there. If you do, please be advised to be out of the cemetery by 4pm, as the City locks the cemetery gate between 4 and 4:15pm.

Alternatively, the upper part of the Overlook can be accessed from the Rattlesnake Cutoff trail from the Montini Preserve. Some hikers like to park at the 4th St. entrance to the Montini Preserve (cross-street is Haraszthy), hike across the Montini to the Overlook and back (that’s my personal favorite hike). Or, you could park in the parking lot at the Sheriff’s Office and Field of Dreams, hike up to the Spotted Fawn Trail and take that to Rattlesnake Cutoff.

While hiking the upper trail again, you will notice that a lot has changed.

The most obvious changes are new features — stairs, stone-lined drainage channels, substantial rock walls supporting the trail, small gravel that has been used to build up the trail to improve drainage off the trail, and new and substantial drainage channels. This work has the dual goal of both improving the quality of the hike for hikers, including increased safety, as well as getting rainwater off the trail quickly and appropriately, thus minimizing damage that can come from running water.

You will also notice new signs. These signs are temporary, but they are intended to model the eventual permanent replacements. We want to place these temporarily so that we can gather feedback from hikers whether they serve the required purposes of clarity and appropriate information. Please let us know what you think by sending an email to overlookmontini@gmail.com.

Also, as always, let us (the volunteer stewards of the trail) know if you have any questions or comments on this new work or anything else.

Upper Overlook Trail to Re-open October 20th!

The Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards and the City of Sonoma are delighted to announce that the upper part of the Sonoma Overlook Trail will reopen Saturday, October 20, 2018.

Please join volunteer Steward Jeni Nichols on a hike that morning, at 10am. Meet at the Overlook Trailhead parking lot.

The lower part of the trail must remain closed through the winter to allow the newly disturbed soil of the re-route to be properly compacted. See the map for a illustration of what is closed.

As of the 20th of this month hikers can enter the Overlook Trail from the Toyon trailhead (either walking or driving up to the trailhead in the Cemetery), or via the Rattlesnake Cutoff Trail from Norrbom Road or the Montini Preserve.

See the City of Sonoma Press Release for more information.

Cemetery Walk November 3rd

DIA DE LOS MUERTOS — DAY OF THE DEAD

WALK SONOMA HISTORY THROUGH SONOMA MOUNTAIN CEMETERY

Saturday November 3

10:00 AM OR 12:00 Noon

The Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards invite you to take a lively, informative walk through our historic cemetery with amateur historian Fred Allebach.

Meet 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!

Here in our back yard, the fabric of the town’s rich history is hidden right in plain sight,” tour guide Allebach has written about the historic cemetery.  “Sonoma had its Natives, then missionaries, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo Californios, Gold Rush and Manifest Destiny immigrants, Civil War refugees, and a Second Great Wave of Immigration from southern and eastern Europe from 1880 to 1910. Then came various immigrants on into the 20th century. All of these are represented in the Mountain Cemetery.”

Your $35 donation includes the walking tour and cookies and cider. All proceeds go to maintaining the Overlook Trailhead Kiosk. The Trail is solely supported by private donations. Questions? email Hope at hopenisson@me.com.

To Register: send a check to Hope Nisson, 3771 Cory Lane, Sonoma, CA 95476. Indicate which hike you prefer — 10 am or 12 noon

The event is sponsored by the volunteer Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards and participation is limited to 20 people per session.