Getting to know Tracy Salcedo, SMP Board
This is the first of a series of monthly interviews we are conducting with the Sonoma Mountain Preservation board members.
Tracy Salcedo lives on the skirts of Sonoma Mountain in Glen Ellen and is the author of more than 25 guidebooks to destinations in California and Colorado; mountains are Tracy’s inspiration. She wrote the chapter on recreation for SMP’s beautiful book Where the World Begins, Sonoma Mountain Stories and Images. Tracy Salcedo is a little bit new and a little bit old on the SMP board. She first joined in 2000 but took a hiatus due to the extra work of family life, rejoining in 2020. Besides being a board member and writer, she is also an editor and librarian. She holds a degree in Anthropology from UC Berkeley.
You have obviously been around considering all the books you have written. Where are you from and how did you end up in Glen Ellen?
I was born in San Francisco and raised partly in Daly City, partly in Fairfax in Marin County. Then, I lived in Colorado for 15 years after finishing college at UC Berkeley. When my kids were very young, we decided to move back to California to be with family, all of whom live in Marin. We couldn’t afford anything there, so we settled in Glen Ellen — which turned out to be the perfect place for us.
What drew you to join the SMP board?
I had started volunteering for land conservation nonprofits while living in Colorado (PlanJeffco and the Mountain Area Land Trust) and wanted to continue to support open space preservation upon our return to California. I started as a volunteer with the Marin Agricultural Land Trust but wanted to bring it closer to home in Glen Ellen since I had a young family at the time. So I looked in my backyard. I found SMP through friends who knew the Ellmans and the Eliots.
What were the earlier days of SMP like?
The board is a lot like it is now — the meeting of like-minded people with a passion for preserving as much as they can of wildland and open spaces in the area. Back in the early 2000s, the group was focused on linking parcels along Sonoma Mountain’s ridgeline, including the McCrea property, and providing public access via extending the Ridge Trail. The idea was to bring people onto the mountain and help ensure her integrity as a valley backdrop and icon. I was welcomed on the board but, as I was a busy parent, couldn’t contribute nearly as much as I wanted; the heavy lifting and the political and bureaucratic work was done by the Eliots, the Ellmans, Helen, Mickey, and Marilyn. They were the movers and shakers.
How are things different at SMP, more than two decades after you first joined?
Things are obviously different, given the changing of the guard, but they are also the same. Board members today are just as dedicated to the mountain as they were twenty years ago. However, they face different challenges and have cultivated new connections. They’ve been welcoming board members from the other side of the mountain, like Petaluma and Penngrove. SMP is also building educational components.
What are your main focuses in SMP right now?
My current focus is on the SDC — making sure the open space, both on the mountain itself as well as across Arnold Drive (Lake Suttonfield) is fully and permanently protected, and then (hopefully) ensuring the development of the campus doesn’t mess with the quality of that preservation.
What is your most memorable story about being on the SMP Board?
We held a summit meeting on a property at the mountain’s summit a few years back. It was the first time I’d ever been to the top; being a resident of Glen Ellen, I’d always approached from the other side, where fences keep you off the top. I knew I was in the right place — I had found my tribe in many ways during that summit, but the moment it crystalized was when board member Kim Batchelder led us to the pile of rocks that marks the high point and assured us that he’d banged around on them to let the rattlesnakes know that we were coming.
Do you have a good story about Sonoma Mountain?
Ha! Yeah, I’ve got lots of stories, but the one that springs to mind is when I fell on a steep trail linking Jack London SHP to the SDC and broke my ankle. I walk all over that side of the mountain all the time, sometimes fully present, sometimes thoughtlessly, sometimes preoccupied, but most often all of the above. The mountain took me down a notch that day, thankfully. She reminded me to pay attention, that every footfall is important.
What books are you most proud of? Which books were the most fun to create?
I am most proud of my guidebook to Lassen Volcanic National Park. It was my first “big” guide — I researched and wrote the first edition shortly after we returned to California in the late 1990s. I have learned so much by revisiting the park again and again over the years. Lassen Volcanic has given me a great gift: The National Outdoor Book Award, which I won for the third edition in 2020. It’s hard to explain, but it felt reciprocal, like somehow the park was telling me she loves me as much as I love her.
As far as what I’m finding most fun to create, writing essays about experiences in the parks are a ton of fun. I’m getting a lot of satisfaction from not only writing about how to get to incredible places, but also ways people might experience those places more completely, whether through cultural history, natural history, or personal narrative. Creative nonfiction has become my storytelling vehicle of choice.
What do you love the most about Sonoma Mountain?
I love that she’s here. I love her mass, her variety, her accessibility. She’s the foundation for what I call home, and I am grateful to be able to give back in any small way.
Interview conducted by Soneile Hymn. This interview has been edited for clarity and readability.