Cicadas are singing on the Overlook! Plus, the wildflower explosion continues, so come on over and have an Out of Africa moment.
After two years of cancellations due to COVID-19, we are thrilled to invite you once again to join us on this self-guided hike on the pristine 1,600-acre Sonoma Raceway property which is not usually accessible to the public. This special place offers gorgeous 360-degree views; come and see spectacular wildflowers!
Saturday, May 14, 2022
9 am-12:00 noon
3 mile self-guided hike (approx. 1.5 hours)
5 mile self-guided hike (approx. 2.5 hours)
Cost: $50 Tax deductible, non-refundable donation
8:00am – 8:20am: Arrival/Gates Open
8:20am – 9:00am: Refreshments (Donuts & Coffee) on the Redwood Deck overlooking the Raceway and Sonoma Valley. Sonoma Raceway hosts Chelsea Lazzari, Randall Brown, and Bobby O’Gorman will provide an introduction to the 1,600 acre Sonoma Raceway property before the hike begins.
After two years of cancellations due to Covid, we are thrilled to invite you once again to join us on this self-guided hike on the pristine 1,600-acre Sonoma Raceway property which is not usually accessible to the public. This special place offers gorgeous 360-degree views; come and see spectacular wildflowers!
Walking the Overlook and Montini trails is a treasure hunt these days, with an artist’s palette of wildflowers making themselves seen early this year. Grab one of our newly updated Wildflower brochures at the kiosk, and take a gander at the new Wildlife Panel as well to get an overview of all of the flora and fauna.
“On March 9th, a beautiful new Nature Panel was installed in the Kiosk at the main trailhead of the Overlook Trail. Funded solely by donations from Trail Stewards, the new panel features all of the up-to-date common names of many of the wonderful birds, mammals, reptiles and plants that help make the Trail such a delightful place. To assist even the casual hiker with identification, several of the most frequently seen and most lovely wildflowers are depicted in greater detail in a special expanded section. Superb original artwork by Irene Guidici Ehret is now also joined by artist Don Boucher’s stunning portrait of the native Gray Fox. The Overlook Trail Stewards that assisted in the installation of the panel included Michael Studebaker, Kurt Teuber and Dan Noreen.”
Dan Noreen, Overlook Flora Specialist
Spring is the season of renewal, which manifests itself out in the wild in a myriad of interesting and beautiful ways. Certainly the abundance of wildflowers is an obvious example of spring, but it’s by no means the only sign. In certain areas of the state, we were blessed with a “super bloom” of rather massive proportions that was truly something to see. Entire hillsides were painted with orange, or purple, or blue wildflowers. I was in the Merced River canyon just outside Yosemite in April and you could look up and see an entire hillside of California poppies. So…yeah, wildflowers are, I assert, one of the most beloved signs of spring.
But of course there are others.
Once the Western fence lizard makes an appearance, you know spring has sprung. These reptiles need warmth to be able to move around, so once the weather gets warmer they will be seen on the trail. They are definitely our friends in a particular way. “Studies have shown,” Wikipedia tells us, “Lyme disease is lower in areas where the lizards occur. When ticks carrying Lyme disease feed on these lizards’ blood (which they commonly do, especially around their ears), a protein in the lizard’s blood kills the bacterium in the tick that causes Lyme disease.” And since another sign of spring is the presence of ticks, the timing is fortunate.
Other reptiles such as snakes are frequently spotted in spring, as they are out and about looking for a mate. Many mammals are as well. Just today on the Montini Preserve I saw a male wild turkey in full display, trying to attract a mate from a bevy of females (see picture, the females were out of the frame). A couple females were fighting, I presume over the right to go after this fine specimen. Oh how I wish females would fight over me, but then I’m not nearly as good looking as a turkey. Sigh…
I saw a gopher snake the other day, draped right across the trail enjoying the sun. I took some pictures (see one to the right) and walked around it, leaving it undisturbed. I then told other hikers to look for it, secretly hoping it was still on the trail so they could see it. Seeing snakes on the trail is actually a rare occurrence, and should be viewed as an excellent opportunity to see a type of wildlife that one doesn’t see very often.
Rattlesnakes, which are of course more dangerous than the harmless gopher snake, have also been sighted this season. Spring is actually when snakes are most often spotted by hikers, and Richard Dale, Executive Director of the Sonoma Ecology Center has an idea why: “Now that the weather has warmed, adult Northern Pacific rattlesnakes, the only likely species in this area, are making their way out of their winter dens to mate, and males will be facing off to vie for females. Perhaps this is why in my experience they seem to be most visible this time of year, and they seem to be less so as the year progresses.” That has been my experience as well, nearly every rattlesnake I’ve ever had the delight to spot happened to be in Spring.
Although rattlesnakes inspire fear in people (me included), it’s important to realize that snakebites are actually quite rare. Richard Dale says “55% of bites occur on men between ages of 17 and 27, and 85% of all bites occur on hands or the forearm…and 28% of bite victims are intoxicated. So it’s probably a good idea not to pick them up with your hands, especially while intoxicated. Not to make too light of them, they are dangerous, but common sense will very likely keep you safe.” That has also been my experience. I know of several incidents when I or another hiker was standing within striking distance of a rattlesnake and the snake did not strike, it warned with its rattle. Of course that causes most of us to jump wildly away from the sound, which is exactly what the snake wants. It doesn’t want to bite something so big that it has no hope of eating, it just wants some space, and most of us are only too happy to comply.
So if you happen to walk up on “Big Jo/e” (s/he, not sure which), who hangs out on the Montini Preserve (see photo), just give him/her a wide berth and go about your business, as will s/he. If you stick to the trail you really have nothing to worry about.