Thursday, June 28, 2012

ANNADEL STATE PARK: Trip #58 of 70

The last Sonoma Valley park on the closure list has been saved after the county’s Board of Supervisors unani-mously approved a contract to allow Sonoma County Regional Parks to manage Annadel State Park, begin-ning July 1. Sonoma News reports that funding is in place to manage the park for one year!

Thirty-five miles of hiking trails plus good black bass and bluegill fishing are the high-lights of Annadel. Hiking and biking to Lake Ilsanjo, is a popular day hike and this was my plan for the day.

Unfortunately I had to limit my hike to about three miles. Day use hours for many of the parks I've visited are "sunrise to sunset." Annadel, however, was locking the gate at 4:30 pm, making a 2:00pm start a little tight for the round-trip hike, especially since wildlife kept distracting me and my camera.

Oak forests, lakes, grass-lands and meadows are the main geographic features of Annadel, with 5,000 plus acres offering over forty miles of hiker/biker trails. It boasts one of Northern California’s most undisturbed oak woodlands, with abundant bird and animal life, flowing streams, and a spectrum of wildflowers in late spring. With its location right in town, it offers woodsy outdoor opportunities for Santa Rosa area residents with an easy few minutes drive.

The Pomo and Wappo Indians were the first people attracted to the area, gather-ing the shiny black obsidian rock to carve knife blades and arrowheads.

Basalt was quarried here at the turn of the century. It was used to rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake.

Lake Ilsanjo - my hiking destination - was actually built by two former landowners in 1956 - Ilsa and Joe Coney - for whom the lake is named. In 1971, Annadel became a state park.

For the first mile or so of my hike, I was treated to silence and aloneness, an aspect of hiking I am coming to treasure with increasing enthusiasm. I was rewarded by an abundance of visitors - mostly small herds of deer and several flocks of turkeys - who seemed to understand that my still and quiet stance posed no threat to them. They actually seemed to be posing for me.

A Junko darted back and forth across my path. A polite bicyclist - seeing that I was trying to get a photo of the bird - stopped a ways back and held still. I didn't even notice him until I came up from my camera. I thanked him for his courtesy of course.

It takes about $350,000 to run Annadel for a year. To keep it open for this first, trial-basis year, the state has agreed to staff a fulltime ranger for an in-kind contribution of $100,000. Another $100,000 came from Santa Rosa based philanthropist Henry Trione.

Two major local races raise additional capital. The Annadel Half Marathon, raised $40,000 for the park this year, and is set to come back in 2013. The Santa Rosa based company Bike Monkey will be donating the proceeds of its cross-country bike race through Annadel, set for Aug. 18, which last year netted $27,000 for the park.

Hm. I recently acquired a bicycle. Maybe by the 2013 event I'll be ready to ride!

Friends of Annadel continues to be a focal point for com-munity conversation, and a way for the entire Annadel community to get involved with and support the park.

Suddenly the deer seemed jumpy and began heading deeper into the woods. The turkeys began meandering away. Then I heard it too.

No, not a mountain lion. Rather, it was the sound of loud, adolescent, female voices discussing hair, jewelry and make-up. Within a few seconds, two teenage girls on their bicycles zoomed by. Ah well. I'd had my turn in the forest and now it was theirs.

The wildlife disappeared. I wasn't going to make it all the way to Lake Ilsanjo. I decided to head back to the car. There was enough time left for me to enjoy my return trip without having to constantly check the clock. I made it through the park gate with twenty minutes to spare.

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

Sunday, June 24, 2012

LIME KILN STATE PARK: Trip #57 of 70

A drive through the Big Sur area would not be complete without either a closure on Highway 1, a detour, or road construction to repair pre-vious landslides. And so it was on the day I visited Lime Kiln State Park. I had attempt-ed to visit this park three months earlier, but a mudslide had completely blocked the road. Today I was able to see the repair work under way.

The park is named for the actual kilns that were used to produce lime in the 19th cen-tury. It opened to the public in September of 1995 after the state ac-quired a privately held camp-ground and 716 acres of land in southernmost Big Sur.

The park has two very sepa-rate environments. From the parking lot you can walk straight into a Redwood forest to the East, or take about a three minute stroll to the rocky beach in the West. The hike through the Coastal Red-woods is an easy one mile round trip trail, with the only tricky part being crossing the creek on wobbly rocks and logs two or three times each way. There is a fork in the trail about halfway down. One way goes to the waterfall and the other to the kilns.

I love the fact that within a few steps of the parking lot and highway, you can be plunged into the grand, peaceful environment of the Redwood forest. I find that the instant transformation in the landscape transforms my weariness and anxieties in an equally dramatic and short amount time.

Quarried limestone was “kilned” (smelted) in four huge wood-fired kilns in the 1870s and 1880s. When I first stumbled onto these giant kilns, I had to fight the urge to also look for a gingerbread house, so odd did he seem to see huge ovens in the middle of the woods.

Powdered lime was packed into barrels which were then attached to cable that was strung from the canyon wall down to the beach and some 50 yards out into the Pacific Ocean.

Schooners slipped into tiny Rockland Cove, as the landing was known, and loaded the lime. The lime, a primary ingredient in cement, was used to construct buildings in Monterey and San Francisco. I wondered if any of the lime was being used for the road construction uproad from the beach, or for the tall highway overpass separating the beach from the parking lot.

The industry was hard on Redwoods as they were chopped down to fuel the kilns and to make barrels to store the lime. After a quiet century, nature has healed most of Limekiln Canyon’s wounds and today it shelters some of the oldest, healthiest, largest trees in Monterey County.

Some scientists speculate that these redwoods, along with those in other nearby steep canyons, may prove to be a special subspecies or variety of redwood that differs slightly from more northerly stands.

Nonetheless, in 1984 a pri-vate landowner wanted to log these redwoods. Thanks to conservationists from around the state and the local Big Sur Land Trust, the trees were spared, and their habitat pre-served in the public domain.

A family-owned campground was operated by the Esalen Institute for a number of years. It is now run by the state of California. When the state acquired Limekiln Can-yon, it made some facilities improvements, but not many. The park’s plumbing system remains problematic. Campsites are "Big Sur funky," definitely not of the quality of those grand northern redwood park campgrounds designed by landscape architects.

I had spent some quiet time in the Redwoods, sitting by the creek in silence, with only the occasional sound of a human voice or footstep. Now on the other side of the park, at the Beach, I did the same. A small bench sat at the base of the highway overpass, look-ing out toward the ocean. A nearby campsite indicated a possible long term resident had put it their for their own special view of the sea. Nice!

At this writing I cannot find any news of Lime Kiln State Park being rescued from closure. What a shame. It is such a jewel with the beach and forest within a five minute walk of each other. Perhaps there will be a last minute reprieve. I hope so.

In the meantime, 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

Saturday, June 23, 2012


The first Sunday of June found the Heart's Desire Beach at Tomales Bay State Park filled with families enjoy-ing all of the usual beach acti-vities. The park has hiking trails and is a popular place for picnicking, swimming, clamming and boating. The weather was too brisk for a swim, but the under 18 crowd didn't seem to mind. Heck, when I was a kid, I too was always up for a dip regard-less of the temperature.

Tomales Bay State Park will be kept open through agree-ments signed by the National Park Service (NPS) and California State Parks. The two agencies have cooper-ated for years in the manage-ment of public lands in Marin County. These recent agree-ments reflect what has be-come a watershed approach to management of the parks.

Forty miles north of San Fran-cisco's Golden Gate Bridge, Tomales Bay includes lands within both Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

One of the finest remaining virgin groves of Bishop pine in California is in the park's Jepson Memorial Grove, reached by way of a one mile long trail. I paid my respects to the long-necked wooden creature guarding the path, who then granted me permission to explore the forest.

The first inhabitants of this coastal area were the Coast Miwok people, living in Tomales Bay's sheltered coves, beaches, tidal marshes, and Pine forests.

In 1579 Sir Francis Drake was the first explorer to land in this area, followed by a host of Spanish, Russian and German explorers over the next couple of centuries.

In the 1940s real estate deve-lopers began purchasing beach front land, prompting residents and conservation groups to save this area as a park. In 1952, Tomales Bay State Park was formally dedi-cated and opened to the public, and happily remains open for at least one more year under the new arrangements with NPS.

On this day, the Seagulls seemed pretty happy with the new arrangement as well. Mischievously swooping down onto the sand, they perused the momentarily unattended beach blankets and picnic lunches, making off with a morsel or two before the owners could rescue their food from the birds.

The famous San Andreas Fault lies directly beneath the twelve mile length of Tomales Bay. In the 1906 San Fran-cisco earthquake, the greatest mea-sured displacement along the entire fault was at Tomales Bay, when the area to the west moved an amazing twenty feet!

A walk around the cliffs revealed beautiful rock covered in moss, kelp and other ocean loving plant life.

A gentleman and his young son encouraged me to go around the next bend as well for a truly breathtaking view of the cliffs, but the tide was coming in and I was already ankle deep against the bluffs, so I chose to head back to the beach.

I have to say I am finding it genuinely heartening to see the many creative ways some of the parks are utilizing in order to remain open, even if only on a trail basis. And of late, it's also been nice to see the parks well attended.

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

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

Monday, June 18, 2012


With an elevation over 5,000 feet, with its large pine, fir and cedar trees, Palomar Moun-tain State Park is said to have the most "Sierra Nevada-like" atmosphere of any southern California park. As someone who lives on the western slope of the Sierras, I was curious.

The park features camping, picnicking, hiking, and Trout fishing in Doane Pond. And yes - camping reservations can now be made again - because Palomar Mountain SP has been saved for at least the next three years!

UT San Diego News reported on May 30, 2012, that the non-profit group Friends of Palomar Mountain State Park have raised $150,000 through private donations and grants. The state will continue to maintain and operate the park. The association will raise money to help cover costs. Both parties agree that the intent is to keep the park running at full operation, contingent on the Friends of Palomar raising enough stop-gap funds.

Palomar Mountain has been a fire look-out since 1921. The last of three towers on Boucher Hill still stands. It was put into service in 1948 and retired in 1983. At an elevation of over 5400 feet, it was the perfect place for detecting wild fires over Southern California.

On clear days visitors to Palomar Mountain used to report being able to see all the way to Catalina Island. By the mid 1980s the tower was no longer needed.

The smog below was so thick that on many days a lookout couldn’t see the ground where the fires started. Not even through the telescopes on the observation deck was Catalina visible today.

Over the years, lookouts recorded data on visibility. As early as the 1940s, they reported a general haze that obscured the view of distant mountain peaks.

During World War II, fire lookouts did double-duty watching for enemy aircraft, such as the one that dropped a bomb in Oregon in 1942 in an attempt to start a forest fire. Two or more “watchers” staffed the tower 24 hours a day during the war.

A short, one mile hike at the park entrance shows the very real affects of forest fire. By suppressing fire for the better part of a century, humans have interrupted natural fire cycles, causing modern wildfires to burn hotter and more destructively than ever before. Extra hot fires can kill entire forests and can change a forest ecosystem to scrub and grassland.

Fire has always been an inte-gral part of the landscape, cre-ating a cycle of destruction and rebirth, clearing dead wood and stimulating plant growth. Now the question is not, "How do we prevent wildfires?", but rather, "How do we best prepare for fire?" Returning environments to a healthy mix of native plants and animals, complete with natural fire cycles, keeps communities safe and allows biodiversity to thrive.

After my short fire hike, I drove further into the park toward the closed (but now open) campgrounds, and parked at Doane Pond where many of the hiking trails begin.

The park had presented "fire" in a rather poetic manner. Now at the Pond, it called up Thoreau's description of ponds as "earth's eye," reminding us that it is a miniature world with all of the elements supporting a wealth of life. Doane Pond obtains its water from winter storms, its oxygen from the plants and the air, and its enery from the sun.

Cattails fringe the shore; insects dart about the surface; worms and crustaceans dwell in the darkness of the muddy bottom. The pond’s open waters are home to a variety of animals from foot-long fish to one-celled organisms too small to see.

Four different trails intertwine, offering the full spectrum of scenery - meadows, ponds, forests - available at Palomar Mountain. I struck out randomly, with the assurance that I was never far the paved road. Some decent ascents got the heart pumping. Acorn Woodpeckers orchestrated my walk the entire way, with evidence of past Woodpecker feasts strewn about the forest.

A Great Horned Owl hooted. I answered, knowing that sometimes they respond to human calls. It did. And lest I thought our dialogue was just my imagination, on several occasions when I hooted, flocks of smaller birds in the treetops above me flew away in a panic when they heard my call, fearful of becoming Owl lunch.

The discovery of bedrock mortars and artifacts in Doane Valley indicate that native peoples lived in the Palomar area for many hundreds of years.

The pine and fir trees were cut for the construction of Mission San Luis Rey. Remote meadows were a favorite hiding place for cattle and horse thieves.

Some interesting looking old outbuildings were roped off for safety reasons, so I was unable to discovery their previous or current use.

Although not actually a part of the state park, the world class Palomar Mountain Observatory is just a couple of miles up the road, with it's own hiking trails and spectacular mountain top views.

I'm happy to hear this park has a reprieve. I especially like the way they tie all of the elements together and remind us that nothing exists in isolation. And yes, this mountain does have a lot in common with the Sierra Nevadas.

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