Partial Overlook Trail Closure Soon

A portion of the City of Sonoma’s Overlook trail will be closed to walkers and hikers for repairs to trail surfaces from March 23 to April 14.

During this period, the affected trail segments are not safe for foot traffic, due to the movement of heavy materials and the need for trail crews to work unimpeded.

Walkers and hikers may still access the Upper Trail’s summit by using the Toyon trailhead in the Cemetery. Park at the kiosk and follow the temporary signage on foot through the cemetery to the Toyon entrance.

The Toyon entrance may also be reached on foot through the cemetery entrance at the top end of 2nd Street East and then following the temporary signage.

The main trailhead and part of the lower trail will remain open for those desiring only a short walk to the junction of the Lower trail with Rattlesnake Cutoff, or who wish to connect with the Montini trail at Norrbom Road via the westernmost portion of Rattlesnake Cutoff.

The Montini trail will remain fully open during this period. It can be accessed via the entrance behind Field of Dreams or the main trailhead at 4th Street West.

Work is funded by the volunteer Sonoma Overlook Trail stewards and the City of Sonoma. It is being performed by youth work crews with American Conservation Experience. ACE is familiar with the trail as they performed extensive rehabilitation on other parts of it in 2018.

The March Maintenance Day

IMG-1235Every first Monday of the month we have a standing trail maintenance day. This month it was postponed a week to the second Monday. Today six stewards came out to take on several jobs: Elizabeth Garsonnin, Priscilla Miles, Dan Noreen, Kurt Teuber, the SOT Chair, and myself.

We started with a project to reinforce the railroad tie steps not far in from the Kiosk and parking area at the main trailhead. We used our recently acquired wagon to haul 30 cement pavers in to stack under the railroad ties. We had shims and a rubber mallet to drive them in. That didn’t take very long, so we went on to the next job.

We weeded and swept the steps at the kiosk (see picture). With six people, again the job didn’t take very long and then we were off to the last jobs we had lined up for the day.

IMG-1236Two of us were sent off to the set of upper steps not far below the upper meadow to weed and sweep them. Getting the loose rock off the steps prolongs their life, as it prevents hikers from grinding the rock into the steps and wearing them down faster.

The remaining four of us took on a “Rock Patrol” assignment. There was a particular rock we had in mind that not only was a hazard to hikers, but would also likely cause problems for the trail crew coming out soon to do some major trail work (see “before” picture).

IMG-1239Dan easily levered out the boulder, which came out surprisingly easy, and then we worked to fill the hole with soil collected nearby (see “after” picture).  Since we were so quickly successful, I looked around and discovered a number of other rocks right in the trail that we could remove to create a smoother tread. All told, we probably removed about a dozen nuisance rocks from the trail, filling in the holes.

We accomplished quite a bit in just under two hours of work.

Sunrise Rotary Work Day

IMG-1077Steward Fred Allebach recently coordinated with the local Rotary club to come out for two work days on the trail this month. The first one, with “Sunrise” Rotary, was held today. The large group, including entire families with young children, worked on several areas of the trail in two groups — one led by Fred and the other by me.

The work included:

  • Putting in a drain and laying gravel on the middle portion of the main steps at the trail entrance to deal with a muddy area.
  • Laying down a thin layer of gravel on the second set of steps (enclosed with railroad ties) a short distance along the trail from the steps (see picture).
  • Berm and drain work at the loop at the top of the trail (see picture).

IMG_0007Given the size of the group and their eagerness, we were done with what we had set out to accomplish within 2 hours. The children were enthusiastic and very helpful.

Thank you Sunrise Rotary!

Rain, Rain, Please Stay AND Come Again Another Day!

Waterfall on Holstein Hill Trail, Montini Preserve

Today, the second day of an “atmospheric river” storm, I hiked the Montini and Overlook properties to check out how well the water was getting off the trails. More water was running off than I recall ever seeing before, although I had missed the October storm which by all accounts was a gangbuster.

You know it’s a major storm when the waterfall on the Holstein Hill trail on the Montini Preserve is running as it was today (see photo).

Most of the trail structures put in place to get water off the trail were working as intended, although a few need to be cleaned out or enhanced. The properties are so rocky, however, that in places water seeps from the hill above and sheets over the trail. In other words, there’s just no getting around having water on the trail, so be careful.

The Art and Science of Stewardship

Being a volunteer Sonoma Overlook Trail steward is potentially a very diverse job. It may include arranging and managing fundraising events, organizing weekly hikes, developing, producing, and installing signs and interpretational materials, cutting water bars (ruts to direct water off the trail), writing grants to get funds to re-route and rebuild the trail, pulling invasive species, cutting branches intruding on the trail, or who knows what else. Let’s just say it’s a diverse set of potential responsibilities, and no single steward does them all. We tend to specialize.

Secret Ranger cutting branches with our newly-acquired pole saw.

Thankfully, we have quite a large group of stewards of the Sonoma Overlook Trail, so we have people who bring all of these skills and more to our local trail system. We don’t all swing into action at the same moment; it may be quiet for a while and then a steward or three might step up when their particular skills and talents are needed. We all have something to give.

On this particular day, a steward who calls herself “Secret Ranger,” and who is our current Chair, brought out our recently purchased pole saw to cut some limbs off a low-hanging tree branch to make sure people can safely pass underneath it. On this same trip, we also visited the Montini Preserve to perform the same kind of operation—cutting branches to lessen the weight on an overhanging branch. In the case of the branch on Montini, we saw an immediate result of the branch lifting 4-6 inches right away, and likely more to come as the branch continues to adjust. This is enough to allow those who are 6 feet or under to pass without trouble, and likely some even taller folk. It made a clear difference, without removing the rather large branch entirely (it is easily 14-15 inches in diameter).

These are just some of the jobs volunteer trail stewards do, almost every day.