Day two of our Northern California state park road trip found us at the William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park in Red Bluff. Before I say any more about this absolutely charming park, I want to clarify that William Ide - the first and only "president" of California - actually never lived on this property, but rather a little further down the Sacramento River. For a few decades there was confusion on this matter, and in 1960 the restored adobe was dedicated as a state historic park in honor of Ide’s feisty contri-butions to California’s history, and his strong influence in the Red Bluff area. As the brochure states right at the top, this adobe was built by A. M. Dibble, and occupied through 1949, changing hands at least twenty times.
Patty, Roxy and I had a leisurely morning at the motel, knowing that William Ide SHP didn’t open until 10:00am. A mere one mile off of Interstate 5 made it a five minute trip.
The shaded picnic grounds right next to the Sacramento River were a welcome site as we pulled into the parking lot. We were after all, in Red Bluff, where summer shade has a high premium.
We entered thel visitor’s center/museum and were greeted by several friendly and very enthusiastic staff members. These people clearly adore their park and were more than happy to chat with us about each and every question we had, including our detailed inquiries about the local plant life. It was here we met the ranger who doubled her responsibilities with Woodson Bridge SRA. When we had visited Woodson Bridge the day before, there had been no ranger or brochures. She has to split her time between the two parks, a scenario we would find increasingly common in our travels. She happily photo-copied a brochure of Woodson Bridge and gave it to us. Nice!
The young staff member behind the counter was to be heading off to college shortly, but as a high school student, she had already written and acquired a grant for William B. Ide Adobe, enabling the park to purchase costumes for their frequest historic re-enactments.
Once we crossed the bridge, we were informed that we were entering the year of 1850. Here, costumed docents spend their days teaching fourth grade students skills for surviving the rigors of frontier life. Candles are made in a large cauldron, a grape press produces wine and adobe bricks are stomped out of the earth.
A garden of herbs and vegetables of the variety that were grown in 1850 adorn the front yard. Except for this year. With the park closing, no garden was planted. Only a few perennial herbs graced the padlocked enclosure. Is there anything sadder than a neglected garden? It was the only visible symptom of "dis-ease" here at William Ide. I wondered if the early warning sign would be heeded. I indulged in a moment of melodrama as the words of another mid-nineteenth century figure echoed in my mind: "If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die."
The grandest landmark was the 400 year old Valley Oak. It was instrumental, of course, in deciding where to build the original adobe, back in the day when the tree was an adolescent at a mere 250 years. My oh my! What an amazing tree. Long may she stand!
A tilted water well is now the wishing well. Visitors are encouraged to toss a pebble or a penny into the well and make a wish. I wished for William B. Ide Adobe to stay open.
The inside of the one room adobe was momentarily stacked with tables and chairs as the park prepared for their annual Adobe Days celebration. I found myself thinking that I could easily live in this compact little house. Especially with it’s front porch view!
Steamboats moved up and down the river, stopping here to bring supplies. A ferry crossing was constructed in 1862. A small toolshed-blacksmith shop and general store were built to further accommodate the early pioneers. Sort of any early "one-stop shopping!"
There is much of the same plant and wildlife as at Woodson Bridge, twenty miles down the road. I would have loved to have seen a bald eagle, river otter or beaver. The wild grape found its way here as well.
Well gosh, I suppose I should say a little about William B. Ide himself, what with him being the first and only President of California. He and his family arrived by wagon train in 1845, when California was still a part of Mexico. The following winter, spurred on by a false rumor of possible eviction, Ide and about 30 other men, marched on the town of Sonoma, capturing General Vallejo without incident. Known as the "Bear Flag Revolt," Ide proclaimed the newly formed "California Republic" and served as it's president for 25 days, until Commodore Sloat raised the American Flag at Monterey making California part of the union. But that was just a brief period in Ide's history. He was a carpenter, merchant and helped develop much of the area along the Sacramento River.
William B. Ide Adobe SHP is a heavily used park, especially with it's school programs. It is surprising to hear of its closure. Hopes of staying open are high, but as always, nothing is certain, absolutely nothing. The schools are trying to keep it open, but of course we know schools have no money these days. The Kiwanis are trying to work with other local service organiza-tions to assist. But nothing is certain. They plan to stay open until May before packing up their artifacts and recently acquired costumes and shipping them to Sacramento.
So here's wishing...
Until then, I hope to see you all at the parks.