The Removal Season Has Begun

Each Spring we enter “removal season” on the Overlook and Montini properties. We begin with cutting back poison oak from the trail, as the runners begin encroaching as early as early February. So I was out today doing just that (see photo).

It was encouraging, though, as it seemed evident that previous years of cutting back the poison oak was reaping dividends. I was able to cover the bulk of the Overlook trail in one two-hour session.

After poison oak we will be on the lookout for Purple Thistle, as this non-native has been a scourge along the trail. We just started tackling this in earnest last year, so this year it will likely still be bad.

Following the Purple Thistle the Yellow Star Thistle will be coming in, by early March. That will likely keep us busy until early August. However, progress is being made on all these fronts and each year it becomes easier and easier, and some major patches are essentially already gone.

Once we get all these species under control, there are others we will need to tackle. Scotch Broom, for example, is one, although it isn’t as big a problem at the moment as the thistles.

If you want to help with this work, let me know! It basically takes a contractor bag (which I can supply you with) and gloves, although I frequently pull the Yellow Star Thistle gloveless.

Thank You for Beautifying the Trail with Your Tissue

Whenever I turn a corner on the trail and spot a discarded facial tissue (which happens with some frequency) my heart skips a beat. Ahh, I think, some hiker has left something of theirs behind for me. I approach it, casually lean down, pick it up, and slide it surreptitiously into my back pocket, hoping that no one sees me. This is because I am fundamentally selfish. I want the tissue experience to be mine and mine alone.

Just think of the metaphysical implications of the placement of that artifact. Was it left in the middle of the trail, it’s otherworldly whiteness in stark contrast to the reddish brown soil, to spark contemplation about life’s fleeting nature? Or was it deposited just so with folds carefully applied, to make one consider the nature of art? Or perhaps it was discarded almost without thought, as a commentary on the disdain with which the hiker contemplates the natural world that surrounds them.

I guess we will never know if any of these are the reason, unless I happen to witness someone in the act of placement, when I can ask them their intent. Meanwhile, I will continue to gather these symbols of humanity’s fleeting dominion wherever I find them.

Well, that was fun.

But seriously, people, tissues are trash. If you pack it in, pack it out.

Day of Celebration

Today around 50 people came out to celebrate 15 years of the Overlook Trail and offer our gratitude to those who fought to save it, and the town, from the recent fires. State Senator Bill Dodd was in attendance, as well as many local environmental celebrities.

The celebration began with music provided by Paul Genovese and Bob Taylor. After some remarks from Steward Chair Joanna Kemper, the two people most responsible for establishing the trail, Karen Collins and Maggie Salenger, spoke about how the trail came about. A story in the Sonoma Index-Tribune about the celebration also has some of that information.

State Senator Bill Dodd also said a few words and announced that he would donate $500 (a sum that harkens back to a donation of the same amount from State Assemblymember Wes Chesbro when the trail was just getting started). The speakers were followed by a short sing-along of songs of love and appreciation.

Guests enjoyed coffee, apple cider, and muffins before hitting the trail for a hike (naturally). The weather cooperated and the predicted rain held off. About 40 people hiked up to the top and enjoyed the view.

Earth Abides

abide – to endure without yielding

Readers of this blog and locals probably know that during the recent firestorm Cal Fire bulldozers cut fire breaks on the Montini and Overlook properties. We are happy that they did this, as it was essential to protect the town. But nonetheless we were concerned about these scars as we are entering the rainy season.

Cal Fire and the City of Sonoma worked hard to mitigate the impacts of those scars, and that work is already paying off.

The Stewards had planned to meet this morning to spread seed over the cuts, but we canceled due to rain. I went hiking anyway and spotted a lot of grass starting to poke through the straw that was laid down on some of the cuts. This was surprising to me, as bulldozers moved over those cuts not once, but twice (once to make the cut and again to spread the mounds of soil left from the first time) and grass is already coming up.

That’s a really good sign that Mother Nature is going to heal itself, with little intervention from us. We will monitor the situation, and seed where it looks like it needs it, but for now it might just be enough to let nature take its course.

Day of the Dead Cemetery Tour

45 people came to walk through Mountain Cemetery and hear amateur historian, Fred Allebach tell stories about past Sonomans that now inhabit the cemetery. Not only were the curious hikers entertained with stories about well known pioneers such as Samuel Sebastiani, Mariano Vallejo, and William Montini, they also were introduced to lesser known real estate tycoons, butchers, and even murderers.

Grateful dead folktales were told and Sonoma’s rich history came alive. The funds from this years tour will be used to repair the damage from fire fighting actitivies. If you missed this event and would like to take a self guided tour of the cemetery, pick up the Mountain Cemetery Walking Tour brochure at the Overlook Trail Kiosk written by Fred Allebach and enter the Mountain Cemetery next to the kiosk.

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The Good News and the Bad

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.