Anyone reading this blog is likely aware of the wildfires that broke out over a week ago and are still burning parts of Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino counties. Our hearts go out to all of those affected — many substantially. Also, all of the first responders, from both near and far, have our everlasting gratitude for what they’ve done to save our communities.
One thing they did was to bulldoze firebreaks in the hills, to set up lines that could be defended and stop the fire in the hills before it came down to burn our neighborhoods and towns.
Today I went out on the Montini Preserve and the Sonoma Overlook Trail to see how they had fared. Neither property had been touched by fire. But firebreaks were carved on both properties, with the Montini Preserve not nearly as impacted. The firebreak on the Montini essentially followed the existing dirt road up the hill, and thus only crossed one trail. That is likely easily fixed with some shovel work.
The Overlook did not escape damage so easily. Bulldozers crossed the trails probably 15-20 times, and in places left substantial damage. Several spots will need to be completely rebuilt (see picture of a portion of Rattlesnake Cutoff).
Because of this, we are closing the Overlook until we can get the trails repaired, and in the meantime we are directing hikers to the Montini Preserve. Please bear with us as we work to recover the trails so many of us love.
DIA DE LOS MUERTOS—DAY OF THE DEAD
WALK SONOMA HISTORY THROUGH SONOMA MOUNTAIN CEMETERY
Saturday November 4
Two Opportunities: 9:30 am OR 1:00 pm
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!
This fundraising event is limited to 20 participants. Your $35 donation includes the walking tour and small bites. . . complete with googly eyes.
All proceeds go to the Sonoma Overlook Trail Maintenance and Education programs. The Trail is solely supported by private donations. To reserve your spot, email Hope Nisson firstname.lastname@example.org. Indicate time preference.
Today I was reminded why it’s important to have people dedicated to hiking our trails and doing all of the various jobs required to keep them well cared for and safe to use. Hiking along the Rattlesnake Cuttoff Trail, from the Montini property to the Overlook, I was surprised to see a tree across the trail (see pic). I was surprised, as I didn’t recall any storm or high winds recently. But there it was anyway. I immediately took a picture and sent it off to the Chair of our stewards group, Joanna Kemper, who will work with the City of Sonoma to have it removed.
On my way back, I pulled out my handy Leatherman knife, which has a fairly good saw blade, and hacked off enough branches so at least the trail could be used until the City could come in with their chainsaw (see pic). This is, of course, just one of many jobs that we volunteer stewards perform.
For example, Fred Allebach is very active in various physical trail maintenance activities such as cutting drainage channels to make sure water flows off the trail as soon as possible. Lynn Clary has been known to hike his battery-powered Sawzall saw up the trail to take care of an overhanging limb. We likely all pick up trash when we see it.
Speaking of which, what do you think is the most-encountered piece of trash? Beer cans? Nope. Coffee cups? Close, but no cigar. It’s facial tissues. Yep, the hands-down favorite discarded item of trail hikers. And just think of it — I get to pick it up and put it in my pocket. So…yeah. Please don’t throw things on the trail. Just don’t.
We do other things too, such as raising money to do trail work that we can’t do ourselves, soliciting donations for building benches, pulling invasive non-native plant species, cutting back poison oak, and leading school trips. But it’s a labor of love, as we all love the trails and the properties they traverse. And we know that many others do too.
Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that we have been fighting a multi-year fight against invasive weeds. One of them that is both prevalent and absolutely ready to take over every meadow it encounters is the Yellow Star Thistle (YST). We have been working to eradicate it from the Overlook (for at least the last five years) and the Montini (for at least the last three) properties.
As of today, I can report that this year’s campaign is over, and we have triumphed. Last year we found three additional areas that we had not previously been pulling. This year we found an additional one. We cleared them all.
But better than that, we saw this year that areas we had been pulling for several years were now either clear or nearly so. So each year it gets easier and easier to fight it. It has now been reduced so far that basically one person working from May thru July can control it. And subsequent years will be even easier.
I don’t mean to denigrate the threat. Even the new meadow that was discovered this year on the Overlook property meant an additional 8 1/2 bags (see photo, which isn’t all of it) of YST was dragged off the property. But we are seriously seeing progress, and that is worth noting.
But we are also expanding our scope. This year we started tackling the Italian Thistle, which in this wet year had become rampant along the trail. We focused on the trail, and largely removed it, but it also exists in a lot of places off-trail. It remains a challenge. On the Montini property it is so prevalent that it seems unassailable. This is depressing, especially when you know that it will only get worse.
But if you feel inspired by this post, let me know. You won’t be called upon until next May. I have large contractor’s debris bags to hold the spiny plants, and can give advice on how to pull them without serious danger. The only other thing you might need is a glove. And we can make it a group outing that might even have food and/or drink involved.
But be forewarned — if you start on this path, it can easily lead to an obsession. I know this for a fact.
Sonoma Ecology Center is setting up deer friendly fencing at Montini Preserve to allow for the continuation of historic grazing on the property. Bill Montinis herd will be let out for some seasonal low-impact grazing to help keep our Oak Woodlands healthy and remove some of the non-native grasses within the park. The grazing will help to reduce invasive species and wildfire fuel loads in the park.
We are looking for extra hands to work with SEC Restoration staff on the installation. Open workdays every Wednesday and Friday from 8-12:00pm starting July 19 through August 4th or until the fence is complete. Volunteers will meet the crew in the morning at 8:00am by the Montini Water Tanks and do work nearby at the Spotted fawn trail. Bring a waterbottle and sunscreen and some good boots, staff will provide all the tools and training.
Many hands makes light work! Come out and join us for a day (or 3!)
For the last five years we have been trying to eradicate the Yellow Star Thistle (YST) from the Sonoma Overlook Trail. For the the last three years we’ve also been trying to do the same for the Montini Preserve. Today I ranged all over the SOT upper meadows and emerged with about half a bag of YST. This is a great improvement, and demonstrates that our campaign is making a difference. There is now so little on the Overlook that searching for it may almost be a waste of time, so now I will switch to the Montini, which is likely to still have serious infestations of YST.
This year we also started tackling the purple thistle, which has overrun the Montini but hasn’t yet done so on the Overlook. We focused on getting it off the sides of the trail, as that is a primary way that it spreads. Next year we will begin earlier in the year fighting the purple (YST comes on later in Spring than the purple).
If you want to help out, let me know. I have contractor bags and the only other things you need are a glove and persistence.
Thanks to all of you hikers who made donations to raise money for the rehabilitation project on the Overlook Trail this past Saturday. Over 100 hikers gathered at Sonoma Raceway for a special hike that offered 360 degree views, wildflowers in bloom and wooly weeders doing their jobs—we even saw some spring lambs frolicking in the still-green grass.
We had a delicious picnic lunch provided by Levy Restaurant.
A huge thank you to Steve Page and his team for the superb job of hosting, promoting, and keeping us all on track over hill and dale.
If you’d like more information about how your hiking on the Overlook is even going to be better. . . go to the information on our rehabilitation project that your donations are going to support.