Wednesday, May 9, 2012


A healthy rainstorm had graced the Clear Lake area the night before, ensuring that our trip this morning to Anderson Marsh State Historic Park was indeed marshy. The sun was shining, but the wind blew cold as we arrived at the old Anderson ranch house, making it a hat-gloves-scarf kind of a hike. A bearded gentleman - also bundled up for warmth - sat at one of the picnic tables next to his bicycle, drinking hot coffee and reading the Sunday newspaper. Brr! I think I would have prefered a coffee shop for that activity!

The Blue Heron pictured on the park sign promised wild-life viewing. I'd been looking forward to this trip for the birds. What actually was for the birds is that this was the day after my camera died. Today I would primarily be taking scenic shots with my cheapy short lens camera sans viewfinder. Patty sug-gested we postpone this trip for another day. I was temp-ted, but this was the second time we'd come here, the first being in August when we opted not to hike due to triple digit heat. Okay, waah... enough wining. It ended up being a great day!

Anderson Marsh is a nature preserve, an archaeological site, and in 1885 became a cattle ranch when it was settled by Scottish immigrant John Still Anderson. His des-cendants lived on and worked the ranch until the late 1960s. The ranch house was not open today, but we were able to peer through the windows and walk around the barns and yards.

Two outhouses sat a respec-table distance from the main home. Several placards offered both poetry and his-tory about the unpleasant but necessary structures. I learned that waste was referred to as "nightsoil."

I've occasionally wondered how the crescent shaped moon came to be the stan-dard emblem for outdoor plumbing. Now I know! The cutout provides a little bit of light, and more importantly,(gasp) ventilation. A moon indicated that the outhouse was for women. Stars meant it was for men. But! Since no one wanted to use the messy men's room, (some things never change) eventually all outhouses sported moons. With that new piece of information under my belt at such an early hour, I already felt my trip to this park was more than worth it.

Next we headed out on the one mile nature trail to what is referred as the wet, or marshy, portion of the park. We flushed out several Blue Heron straight away. I held my breath at their beauty and tried not to curse my camera.

Portions of this nature trail have a wooden walkway, while other parts have a narrow path cut through tall Teasel Root, a plant often used in the treatment of lyme disease. We came across two other hikers making their way through the Teasel wood. These folks belong to the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association.

In the past this supporting organization has primarily focused on educational programs for Anderson Marsh, as well as an annual Bluegrass Festival in September. Currently they have switched gears with all efforts going to the keep the park open. My Google research does not find them successful as of this writing. Nonetheless, these two hikers were adamant that they were going to give the powers that be a good tongue lashing about keeping the trail cut back more than it was. I liked walking through the tall Teasel though. Birds - and Teasel fairies - must surely live there.

The trail takes you along the edge of the Cottonwood lined Cache Creek, where Clear Lake empties into the Sacramento River.

Having made it safely out of the Teasel forest, my imagi-nation took flight as I roman-ticized a Huck Finn lifestyle. I stared longingly at tumble-down boat docks and trailer homes. It occurred to me that my roaming around the state parks was not completely unlike the desire I was feeling to kick back on a raft and explore. Sometimes it's nice to just "head-out."

The trail became very wet, finding us routinely sinking up to our ankles. We headed back to the ranch house, had lunch and then hit the "dry" side of the park.

Ridge and Anderson Flat Trails criss-cross each other frequently offering several miles of hiking through Blue Oak groves, flat pasturelands, newly growing poison oak, and over the hill to a second marsh where Bald Eagles migrate in winter.

One of the largest groups of people in prehistoric California, the Pomo, knew this land as home. Today, descendants still live near-by. Atop the ridge, archaeological sites hold clues to the lives of the Pomo with grinding holes and petroglyphs. Some sites are over 10,000 years old, making them among the oldest in California.

We might have missed these rocks were it not for the yellow Butterfly. The first time two paths intersected, a yellow Butterfly seemed to indicate which way to go, and then disappear, only to re-appear at the next intersection. It got to be a joke. But then, the Butterfly insisted we take a path that we thought was wrong. What the heck! We followed it and it took us on a loop past the rocks which we might have otherwise missed.

The day warmed up as it went along, until we got back to the parking lot where the cold wind had chosen to reside for the day. I'm hoping to get back to Anderson Marsh yet again with my new camera and maybe get some shots of Herons and Eagles.

This Friday, May 11 at 6:00pm, a film titled "The First 70" will be shown at Anderson Marsh. This film is done by another group of folks who have taken the state parks closure list seriously and made a movie about it.

I hope to see you at the parks.



  1. Wonderful story! Your perspectives and imagination help to wake all of us up to what is at stake with the park closures. We all owe gratitude for the longtime educational partners like the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association whose leaders are "switching gears" to find a way to save the parks.


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