Jan 112017
 

Pat Eliot, one of the founders of Sonoma Mountain Preservation, died at 87 in December 2016. She was surrounded by her husband, children, and grandchildren at home on the Sonoma Mountain she loved so well.

A memorial is scheduled for April 2, 2017.

Those wishing to make a contribution in her memory to Sonoma Mountain Preservation can send it to SMP, PO Box 1772, Glen Ellen, CA. 95442-9321.

Pat (far right) leading a hike on what later became the East Slope Trail on Sonoma Mountain

Pat was born In Portland Oregon on August 2, 1929, lived there and in Seattle, WA. At age seven she moved with her family to Marin County where she attended first Dominican and then the Katherine Branson School.

In the summers when she was 14,15, and 16, she worked on the Jack London Dude Ranch, now a State Historic Park, and fell in love with that countryside.

Pat was married over 65 years to Theodore Eliot, a career Foreign Service Officer, and accompanied him to his posts in Sri Lanka (where they were married), Germany, the Soviet Union, Iran, and Afghanistan (where he was the U.S. Ambassador) and Washington DC. Their four children Sally, Ted, Wendy and Peter, were born in four different countries.

She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees concurrently in 1969 from the University of Maryland. The latter was in early childhood education, and she subsequently taught in a charter primary school and a special school for emotionally disturbed children in the District of Columbia.

While her husband was Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in the 1970s and’80s, she was Executive Director of the Association of (non-profit) Homes for the Aging in Massachusetts and appointed by then Governor Michael Dukakis to two related statewide commissions.

The Eliots moved into a new home in Sonoma in 1988, and she concentrated her time and energies on conservation issues. Along with the late George Ellman, she founded Sonoma Mountain Preservation. It led the effort to transfer 600 acres of the Sonoma Developmental Center to the Jack London Park, and to persuade the Board of Supervisors to pass an ordinance strictly protecting the scenic vistas of Sonoma Mountain.

She and her husband donated to Sonoma County a conservation easement on their property and a loop at the southern terminus of the East Slope Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail.

Pat served on the Board of LandPaths, a countywide organization focused primarily on acquainting youths with open spaces. She was an avid reader, mostly of fiction, and belonged to two book groups, one in Santa Rosa and one in San Francisco. She also belonged to a Sonoma women’s organization that entertained monthly expert speakers on important subjects. She thoroughly enjoyed the friendships she made in all of her activities. Pat had many close friends all over the world, some of whom she had known since nursery school.

Pat was an athlete. She was a passionate horseback rider, a member of the State Parks’ Mounted Assistance Unit and of the Sonoma Development Center’s Posse. She was elected to the Sonoma Horse Council’s Hall of Fame. She has ridden across Scotland and on the Iranian Steppe. She was a passionate backpacker and climbed both Whitney and Shasta Mountains. She was also an excellent tennis player and fly fisherwoman.

In addition to her husband Ted and four children, Pat leaves nine grandchildren, Eric, Anna, Caroline, Emily, Victoria, Sam, Margaret, Tom and Katherine, and two great grandchildren Grayson and Alasdair. The family is spread from Turkey to Australia and in California, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania.

Other stories about Pat: http://www.sonomacountygazette.com/cms/pages/sonoma-county-news-article-6149.html

Big Birder, Bigger Heart

www.sonomanews.com/news/6397811-181/sonoma-mountain-protector-pateliot

Mar 162015
 

East Slope Ridge Trail open, thanks to Pat and Ted Eliot and many others who worked on it for 20 years! Thanks to Paul martin, ©Vineyard Productions 2015 for photos…

View east to Mt. Diablo

East Slope Trail View south to San FranciscoEast Slope Trail - JLSHP-7 copyCutting ribbon to open trail on 3/14/15East Slope Trail Happy hikers and ribbon-cutters!East Slope Trail - JLSHP-330

Sep 062014
 

From the Sonoma County Regional Parks…

“Our favorite thing to do is announce a new park, so we’re thrilled to let you know about Sonoma Mountain Regional Park & Open Space Preserve, a 738-acre gem we’re working to open by the end of the year. The parkland is located on Sonoma Mountain Road near Pressley Road, southeast of Santa Rosa between Rohnert Park and the Sonoma Valley. Sonoma Mountain’s special features include forests of oaks and redwoods, numerous creeks, sweeping views of Sonoma Valley and the Santa Rosa Plain, and a 4.25-mile trail connection to Jack London State Historic Park. The park will comprise six properties on the north slope of the mountain, five of them purchased over the years by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District with revenue from a voter-approved sales tax. The Board of Supervisors last month OK’d the properties’ transfer from the District to Regional Parks. We’re now repairing a bridge at the main entrance to the site, and once that’s completed this fall, we’ll open the park for hiking, horseback riding, and limited mountain biking.”

One view from the top: Mt. St. Helena

 

Jul 312014
 

Like most newcomers to Petaluma, I was struck by the mountain dominating the skyline to the northeast, with its checkerboard of grassland and oak woodlands reminiscent of the beloved hills of my youth.  I learned it was Sonoma County’s dominant landform and namesake, and of its foundational role in the region’s culture and history.

And then came the question every outdoor-oriented newcomer to Petaluma asks: where can we hike up there?

Sadly, the answer in the early 1980’s was: nowhere.  Of the more than 10,000 acres of Sonoma Mountain that can be seen from Petaluma, there was not a single acre of parkland, nor a single public trail.

LafFrmTurnBas

Petaluma view: Sonoma Mountain and Lafferty Ranch

Taken at the Petaluma River’s Turning Basin near downtown by Scott Hess. Lafferty Ranch, owned by the City of Petaluma, includes the large wooded canyon in the center of the frame.

Marin to Petaluma

I was fortunate to grow up in a southern Marin adjacent to natural open space.  Many of my most formative experiences took place in those hills, in the company of parents, friends, and my own thoughts and observations.  I credit that immediacy of nature with much of what I have become since, including a lifelong environmentalist.

In the early 1980s my wife and I had moved to Petaluma, because it was midway between my work in San Rafael and hers in Santa Rosa, and because it seemed a good place to raise a family. But, as we discovered, the west side of the mountain itself was wholly privately owned, with no public access.

Open Space Hope

Much has changed since the 1980s. The Sonoma County Ag Preservation & Open Space District, twice funded by voters and aided by the Sonoma Land Trust, LandPaths, and Sonoma Mountain Preservation, have permanently protected vast swaths of agricultural and open space, and opened many thousands of acres of scenic natural lands to responsible public enjoyment throughout the county.

Throughout the county, that is, except on the Petaluma side of Sonoma Mountain.  What was true in the 1980s remains true today: not a single trail nor a single public acre can be found on the southeast slope overlooking Petaluma.

Yet a ray of hope began to emerge in the early 1990s. Petaluma began to implement its longstanding plan to open Lafferty Ranch, a scenic, 270-acre, city-owned property comprising the headwaters of historic Adobe Creek and reaching to the Sonoma Mountain ridgeline of Sonoma Mountain, as a public park.

That plan ran into resistance from some neighboring property owners, and has developed into quite an ongoing saga. You can learn about it on other SMP blogs, and in detail at www.laffertyranch.org

Where to Hike?

Today, when outdoor enthusiasts in Petaluma ask where they can hike on our side of our beautiful mountain, the answer, lamentably, is still “nowhere.”

But many of us, with the continued support of Sonoma Mountain Preservation and others, are determined to change that.

Before too long, I am certain, Lafferty Ranch will be opened to the public, as long planned.  And one day too, I hope it will become part of the existing and growing network of public lands and trails on Sonoma Mountain, so that our children and grandchildren can once again hike over the mountain from valley to valley, in the footsteps of the Coast Miwok, Mariano Vallejo, and Jack London.

This post, by Larry Modell, is one of a series of guest posts from local  residents on “Why I Love The Mountain” on SonomaMountain.org. Thank you Larry for your contribution, and we encourage readers to find out how they can help Lafferty open to the public.

Nov 092010
 

jack london sonoma moutain visitRecreation on the mountain can include wine tasting, visiting Morton’s Warm Springs, attending a retreat at the Westerbeke Ranch, or, as most visitors and residents do, heading to a park, principally Jack London State Historic Park.

To reach Jack London State Historic Park, take London Ranch Road south out of Glen Ellen and follow it to the end. Parking costs $7/day. No dogs are allowed out of the historic section of the park, which is near the entrance. Bikes are restricted to designated fire roads and several trails. Cyclists need to watch for sign at trailheads and observe season restrictions.

First time visitors often start by touring the historic buildings, including the burned-out Wolf House, the summer cottage and museum, and the barn and must-see Pig Palace.

Then on to the hikes.

Major trails inside Jack London State Historic Park include the Mountain Trail, a six-mile round trip, which starts at the parking lot and climbs past London Lake to the top of Sonoma Mountain, via either the Summit Trail or the Hayfields Loop.

Signage along the way makes sense and can easily be followed. The Sonoma Ridge Trail, a 10-mile loop, begins about two miles from the parking lot, leaves the Mountain Trail to the left and rises along a ridge to afford great views of Sonoma Valley, Mt. Diablo, Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. St. Helena and much of the Bay Area.

Shorter trails take off from the Mountain Trail around London Lake, including Fallen Bridge trail (yes, there is a fallen bridge) which follows Asbury Creek canyon into the old London Ranch orchards and some old growth redwoods. For the adventurous, several steep trails lead down to the Sonoma Development Center’s peaceful Fern Lake.

Trails also wander through the old Jack London Beauty Ranch orchard (pear trail, apple trail, etc.) and circle the historical buildings, including the Wolf House ruins.

New Trails

Two lengthy new trails are in the works. The first, called the North Slope Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail, currently under construction, will run 4.25 miles, connecting on the east with the Hayfields Loop in JLSHP and the west with a new public parking/trail staging area at Jacobs Ranch, about three miles up Sonoma Mt. Road, going east from the fire station on Bennett Valley Rd. The trail will end at one of the highest points in JLSHP. Rising along the north slope of the mountain, it will afford view of the Mayacamas Range and Sonoma Valley to the east and Santa Rosa to the west. It will also, eventually, comprise a section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail.

Jacobs Ranch, an Open Space District preserve, may be open for short hikes, depending on conditions of access roads. Check with Sonoma County Open Space District before trying to enter.

Another ambitious undertaking, the South Slope Trail, with a planned ground breaking in April 2011, will add about four miles to the Sonoma Ridge Trail (see above). It will provide a 140miles round trip from the JLSHP parking lot. Watch our website for news on this major feature.

To get started exploring the mountain, you can enjoy organized hikes with trained and knowledgeable leaders. Contact the non-profit LandPaths and/or state parks volunteers Bill Meyers or Dave Chalk at (707) 539-8847 or to the website for State or Regional Parks.

Dave and Bill offer monthly hikes at 10 a.m. on Saturdays. Most hikes average about 40 participants and are as much social event as hiking exercise. Hikes are called moderately strenuous, but the do end with a tailgate party in the parking log.

Horses

You can bring you own horses to Jack London State Historic Park, parking your trailer in the upper parking lot at the far west end. Horses must stay on designated fire roads and trails. Guided trail rides can arranged by calling Triple Creek Horse Outfit in Glen Ellen (707) 887-8700 or go the their website.

Retreat to the Mountain

For a romantic, low-key, somewhat rustic getaway, redolent with history and steeped in the culture of the mountain, few places compare with Westerbeke Ranch, off Grove Street, west of Arnold Drive in Sonoma. The property that is now Westerbeke Ranch was purchased by long time residents Richard and Muriel Van Hoosear as a vacation retreat for themselves and their three daughters. The buildings and grounds developed as their family grew. Richard and Muriel loved to travel and on each trip to Mexico or Spain they returned with new architectural ideas and decorations.

In the late 1960’s the ranch was transformed into the conference center it is today. The Westerbeke family invites visitors to enjoy their home and workplace. To make an appointment for a tour, for more information about weddings or other events at the ranch, or for additional information, go to their web site www.westranch.com.

Stop and View the Flowers

Another Van Hoosear family contribution to the region consists of the 163-acre preserve at the foot of Sonoma Mountain off Carriger Road known and treasured for its abundance and variety of wildflowers. Over 250 species of common and rare wildflowers and native grasses thrive throughout the property. Carriger Creek, a tributary of Sonoma Creek, runs through the preserve. The property is managed by the Sonoma Ecology Center, with dual goals of protecting the preserve’s botanical, aquatic and wildlife values and providing public access for educational purposes. Now protected by an Open Space District conservation easement, the preserve welcomes visitors by guided tour each year during the spring when the flowers are at their peak. Reservations are required and space is limited; for reservations, contact Elly Seelye at (707) 996-0712 ext. 124, or email elly@sonomaecologycenter.org. A donation of $20 per adult and $10 per child is requested, though no one will be turned away.

Go Organic Wine-tasting and Take a Vineyard Tour

On your way to or from Jack London State Park, pull of London Ranch Road into the Benziger Family Winery. The entire portfolio of Benziger wine is certified sustainable, organic or biodynamic.

The Benziger family has been growing grapes on Sonoma Mountain for almost 30 years. According to the co-owner Chris Benziger, his brother Mike and sister in-law Mary discovered the vineyard in the late 70’s and purchased it with help form their parents. Three other brothers and a sister joined the business.

“In the beginning we farmed the same way as everyone else around here. You spray to keep the weeds in check, to keep the bugs away, and to increase yields,” observed Chris. But, he added, after a few years Mike pushed the family to consider something different.

To discover the results of their transition to a more sustainable yet still commercially viable model, go to their website www.benziger.com for information on tours and tastings.

Meditate at a Zen Center

The Sonoma Mountain Zen Center (or, Genjoji) is an 80-acre Soto Zen practice center located on Sonoma Mountain Rd.

Founded by Jakusho Kwong and his wife Laura Kwong in 1973, Kwong-roshi is the current guiding teacher of the Zen center. The center offers residential training and a practice regimen for local members and visitors from all over.

The Zen Center supports itself through members’ donations, proceeds from its Zen Dust bookstore, and by offering rooms for rent.

Author Sarah Ban Breathnach described the center in her book A Man’s Journey to Simple Abundance:

“Near the top of the mountain, the road dips, bends, then snakes through a small grove of redwoods. The dense canopy blocks all ambient light, so that when you emerge on the other side of the grove, you feel as though you’ve passed through a portal into another world. It’s a fitting way to approach Sonoma Mountain Zen Center, because people there view reality just a little bit differently from the way most of us do.” For more information on programs and access, go to www.smzc.net.

Soak and Swim in a Warm Spring

Bordering Sonoma Creek just west of Glen Ellen and nestled among a canopy of large oaks, open meadows and rolling hills, Morton’s Warm Springs is perfect for picnics, reunions, family recreation, corporate retreats and meetings, weddings, and class field trips.

The Wappo Indians, early residents of the area, recognized the healing properties of the geothermal mineral springs and considered the waters sacred.

In 1939 Ethel and Harold Morton purchased the property and began operating it as Morton’s Warm Springs Resort. The site not includes natural mineral pool, picnic and BBQ sites, bocce ball and a variety of other courts and fields.

Morton’s is open during summer months; go to their website for directions, dates and times.