Wednesday, June 20, 2012


"There is an entire family of Rattlesnakes at the base of the final ascent on Coyote Peak Trail," said the volunteer behind the desk at the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park Visitor Center. "You'll recog-nize it because that part of the trail is like a staircase," she continued. Taking my silence to mean I was horri-fied she added defensively, "They live here too you know. This is their home too."

In truth my silence was not due to terror over the pros-pect of running into a family of rattlers. My first thought was, "Wow. What great photos that would make." Plus, I am always drawn to anything named after a Coyote.

My second thought was, "Gosh I'm glad to have this information so that I can make an informed decision about my hike." Several times in the past year I have re-ceived advance information from rangers about the wildlife situation at a park, mainly about Bears - Mama Bears in particular - and snakes.

But of late, many of the parks I've visited have had no one at the information booth. Visitor Centers have been closed, and paying your day-use fee has been on the honor system. It is this type of semi-vital information that won't be available to day-users when they show up at parks with reduced services in the future.

I drove to the parking area where most of the trails began. A couple of gals were just finishing their hike. I asked whether or not they'd seen the Rattler Family.

No, they had not taken Coyote Peak Trail, but expressed regret at not seeing the snakes as they would have liked to photograph them! Hah! I felt a hint less crazy hearing that others had the same ideas as me. They informed me that I would have to cross the creek a couple of times if I wanted to hike any distance. That turned out to be true, but not a problem. Rocks, logs and shallow water made it simple.

Located in the heart of the beautiful Napa Valley wine country, Bothe-Napa offers camping, picnicking, swimming, and hiking trails that go through stands of coastal redwoods as well as forests of Douglas-fir, tanoak, and madrone.

I began my hike by following Ritchey Canyon Trail which parallels the creek to the sound of water splashing down the rocky bed. Ferns and shade loving wildflowers edged my path.

Still debating whether or not to take the Coyote Peak Loop, I passed some folks who were local, and hiked at Bothe-Napa on a regular basis. They encouraged me to stay on Ritchey Canyon, as Coyote Peak was very dry, with a lot of obstacles and downed trees to nego-tiate. I took their advice, feel-ing relieved that my decision about facing the Rattlesnakes had been made for me.

Once out of the forest at lower elevations, Oaks and Madrones replaced Redwoods and Firs.

Now out in the sunshine, Butterflies and Dragonflies swarmed around me making me feel welcome, and a bit like Disney's Cinderella with all of her helpful animal friends.

Cicadas had plugged in their amplifiers, making the sunny part of the path quite a noisy place as they hummed their electric songs.

Back at the Visitor Center I took the short walk around the native garden. Metal plaques were mounted on small rocks to identify the plants.

On the porch of the Visitor Center a sign urged folks to come in and "meet Tucker," the taxidermied Mountain Lion. I was encouraged to pet him, so I did. Normally in a museum I adhere to the "don't touch" rule. I was pleasantly surprised how soft he was.

Other examples of local animal and plant life were on display in the exhibit, as well as history and artifacts of both the Native Americans who originally inhabited the land, and the early pioneers.

As of April 1, 2012, Bothe-Napa Valley State Park and the Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park will be managed locally by the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District and the non-profit Napa Valley State Parks Association. The campground has reopened. The District is contracting with State Park Ranger Sandy Jones to stay on and become park manager.

It's great seeing these parks being ticked off the closure list one by one.

I hope to see you at the State Parks.


This blog is dedicated to the memory of my Father, who loved reading maps, exploring alternate routes, and taking the road less traveled.

Alvin David Dick, April 28, 1926 - May 20, 2012

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