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
“No summit within miles carries the cachet of the mountain I live on” writes Tracy Salcedo-Chourre, author of this post.
Seems I’ve always called a mountain home. I used to live on a mountaintop—at least by California standards. This was in Colorado; our home on Circle Drive was perched on a nameless summit at 8,500 feet. That qualifies, even if neighboring Bergen Peak, at nearly 10,000 feet, got all the glory.
Now I live at the foot of Sonoma Mountain, which by Colorado standards is a hummock. Never mind that, though: It’s as steep and imposing, in its context, as any Rocky Mountain. And it’s the iconic one—no summit within miles carries the cachet of the mountain I live on.
It’s odd, though. I am a walker, by both nature and profession–Tracy of the Trails. But I have never been to the top of Sonoma Mountain. It’s been off-limits, private property. I’ve been as close as the trails permit, gazing upward in mild frustration at the grassy apex, contemplating trespass but turning around instead because I am not, by nature, a trespasser. Especially in parks and preserves. I know how much work goes into setting parkland apart, and I would never violate the trust that exists between parkland and neighboring private property.
So I am elated at news that Sonoma Mountain’s summit will soon be accessible to walkers like me, by dint of private/public negotiations that have yielded new deposits into the Sonoma County Open Space land bank and a new stretch of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Hikers will now be able to explore the top as well as the bottom of the mountain.
But were the top never to open—or were I never to reach it—wouldn’t matter to me in the long run. It doesn’t make me love the mountain more. Just to be clear: The paths on the lower reaches of Sonoma Mountain have imprinted themselves forever on the soles of my wandering shoes. I know pockets of the eastern flanks intimately; Jack London State Historic Park and the open spaces above the Sonoma Developmental Center are my backyard. I return again and again to the old familiar, where the vistas never fail, the woodlands are always fragrant, the flowers and grasses demonstrate the seasons in a parade of blooms that mature to seeds and begin again.
Yes, I’ll be able to get to the top soon, but I’ll be found on the paths I’ve walked for years, around my home at the base.
By Tracy Salcedo-Chourre
“There, before he reached his hole,
We saw a California vole…
On lush green meadow there were we
Our party now enlarged to three.
Amidst the grass he paused with us,
A small M. Californicus.
The furry fellow spied his goal
Then said good-bye, went down his hole.
A touching moment, we would say,
Which made complete a lovely day.”
This post, by Robin Pennell, is one of a series of guest posts from local residents on “Why I Love The Mountain” on SonomaMountain.org. Thank you, Robin for your inspiration at Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve, one of the privately protected open spaces on the mountain. Photo by Jerry Kirkhart, Flickr.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 2009 we moved our family of 5 from suburban San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles County) to rural Glen Ellen. This was not ‘flight from the city’ but a home-coming; a chance to move back onto the property where my husband grew up, bordering the SDC and Asbury Creek, in the shadow of Sonoma Mountain. Our property has been in the Lee family closing-in on 40 years, but the history is rich here, and previous owners included Vallejo, Chauvet, and Pagani. As I sit watching the clouds lick at the ridge of the Sonoma Mountain to our west or look up from our orchard to see how the sun is playing off Mt. Hood to the north, I think about the other folks who have occupied this flank of the mountain, looking up from their work to those exact same views.
Our 5 acre parcel was once covered in vineyard, one of the oldest in the valley. If you ride on our mower you can still feel the undulating ghost of the grape rows under the blade. The vines are gone, but we are continuing the ag tradition from those early days of Chauvet and Pagani’s viticulture, morphing into vegetable gardening and animal husbandry passed down through my in-laws, and then expanded by our little family. What started as our ‘quaint’ desire to ‘get back to the land and grow our own food’, has blossomed over the past several years into a small family farm business. As Two Moon Family Farm, we sell eggs and produce to several local restaurants and at the farmer’s market (Kenwood Community Farmers Market). In addition we raise goats and the occasional turkeys and lamb for our own family. Our children understand where food comes from and we are carrying on the tradition of having a small homestead farm on the side of Sonoma Mountain.
It is amazing to live on an interface between the wilds of the mountain and the village of Glen Ellen. Our farm is surrounded by open, natural habitat. The wildlife we see every day is always a great form of entertainment for our long-time city friends when they come to visit ‘Camp Lee’. Out our window we’ve seen bobcats, jackrabbits, raccoons, quail, deer, skunk, ground squirrels, woodpeckers, turkey vultures, hawks, snakes, coyotes, etc… Currently we have three ‘families’ of wild turkeys wandering about- three hens with at least 10 chicks in tow. Steve has distinct memories of wild pig encounters while growing up here, although they have since been actively removed from the mountain. And, of course, there are mountain lions. Although we haven’t seen a cat directly, we know that they share this mountain with us, and we’ve seen the evidence of their behavior. Hikers on treks just up beyond our fence have reported them and we had a young goat taken by a lion early in our adventures, when we hadn’t yet fully secured our night-time penning situation. We love overlapping with the nature of this mountain even when predators ‘visit’ the farm.
It sometimes feels like a dream when I look up from my work in the garden to see the changing light on the hills and valleys on our side of the mountain. There is a sort of magic here. Just slightly up the hill to our north west is the ruin of Jack London’s Wolf House. I know he was drawn here by that same pulse. My husband knows almost every foot of this mountain, that he often refers to as ‘his backyard’. And it is…. but it is yours too…. with all of it’s history, wildlife, and magic.
Shannon and Steven Lee are trained marine scientists who have more recently taken on farming. They have numerous ‘jobs’ but are primarily science educators and researchers, respectively. They share the property with their three children, Steven’s parents, 10 goats, 20 hens, several roosters, and 2 barn cats.
Photography by Shannon Lee
This post is the first installment of the “Why I Love The Mountain” series of guest posts from local Sonoma residents on SonomaMountain.org – Thank you Shannon & Steven for your contribution and we encourage readers to like Two Moon Family Farm on Facebook and follow them on twitter at @TwoMoonFF
The Sonoma Valley is truly amazing for a variety of reasons, and in my opinion one the most significant reasons is the balance of small town modern life with the beauty of nature found throughout the valley.
I have been fortunate to call the Sonoma Valley home for the majority of my life. My grandparents moved to Sonoma in the 1940’s. My mom was born in the Sonoma Valley Hospital. My two boys were born and raised here as well and both graduated from Sonoma Valley High. The point of all that, I have seen some changes in the valley during my life. But no matter what those changes may have been, good or not so good, I could always look west and rely on the consistent strength and beauty of the mountain…Sonoma Mountain.
I grew up spending large chunks of my childhood with my aunt and uncle who lived on Sonoma Mountain, just behind the Sonoma golf course. My cousin Erik and I would go for endless hikes imagining all that the mountain had to offer. We were pretty young and would always set out alone with our packed lunches, usually filled with chips, sodas and candy bars to keep us fueled for the miles and hours we would spend as we explored. We were pretty sure we would come across a dinosaur at some point, to our disappointment, after many years of hiking, that never happened.
Now that I’m slightly older I can see what makes this valley work so well, it’s called balance. On one hand you have the busy hustle and bustle of downtown Sonoma and the Hwy 12 corridor. Tourists from around the world making their way in droves up and down the valley sipping and exploring all of the world class wineries that the valley has to offer. To counter balance this activity we have the quite beauty of Sonoma Mountain watching it all, offering comfort and stability to the sometimes craziness of the valley floor. It’s a wonderful and integral piece of the Sonoma Valley and our home just wouldn’t be the same without the simplicity and natural beauty of the mountain.
I love the Sonoma Valley and all of the things that make this place so special. From epic July 4th parades around the Sonoma Plaza to the magical smell of crush as summer ends and fall begins.
But if I had to pick a favorite way to spend my mornings and evenings, it would without a doubt be with friends looking up at the mountain as the sun rises and sets on this beautiful place we call home.
Mike Clouse is the founder and managing editor at Your Sonoma Valley, a blog and media site dedicated to helping people live and enjoy the Sonoma Valley Lifestyle.
Photography by Megan Clouse Photography
This post is the first installment of the “Why I Love The Mountain” series of guest posts from local Sonoma residents on SonomaMountain.org – Thank you Mike for your contribution and we encourage readers to like Your Sonoma Valley on Facebook and follow Mike on twitter at @mikeclouse