San Antonio Valley Ranch

I just like the feel of gravel under my feet.
Gravel Under My Feet
In this case, the gravel is at San Antonio Valley Ranch.

This Nature Conservancy property is on the way to becoming an ecological preserve. It is home to a herd of elk — no photos sorry. But elk! Just over the hill to the east of silicon valley!

Here is the fun and scenic route we took that day. The hybrid was so quiet, we surprised a bobcat on the road. No photos of that either. She ran the other way in an instant.

Back at the ranch, the newly planted trees are fenced to protect the new kids on the block from browsing animals.

If you appreciate the Nature Conservancy’s work, or just want to do a Good Thing, please visit my personal fund-raising page and consider a donation.

C’mon Up to Castle Rock

Castle Rock Park ViewCastle Rock is a park on the edge in two respects:

  1. It sits right up at the top of Skyline and drops steeply to the southwest, giving expansive views of the redwood forest out to Monterey Bay
  2. Its on and off and on the closure list of state parks, which means you might want to check out those views while you still can.

On Feb 26, I acted as the sweep for a Sempervirens Fund hike around the Saratoga Gap and Ridge Trails.   Hike leader Scott Peden snapped excellent photos, including a panel of wildflowers.  He also got a great shot of the woodpecker we saw.

Here’s Scott pointing out all the land across the San Lorenzo watershed — half of which is scheduled for closure in July if it can’t find funding.

Scott Peden Guides Castle Rock
Along the trail…my role as caboose gives a nice vantage point.
Castle Rock Park TrailNobody can resist touching the Madrone “refrigerator trees”.  Madrone treesOld growth redwoods live in Castle Rock, too.

old growth redwoodsWhen you visit Castle Rock State Park, I just have one request:  Please pony up for parking or buy a parks pass.  Your dollars count towards keeping the parks open and maintained.

At Henry Coe State Park

sostateparks1We gathered at Henry Coe State Park yesterday to show our support for California State Parks.   sostateparks2

ktvu_interviewTwo television news crews reported on the scene.    What I have to say is that these lands are a public trust run by the state government.   They are not an asset that can be closed or sold off.    The $15 vehicle license fee is a fine way to offset the costs and if other compromises are needed so be it.   But closing 80% of the parks is neither a reasonable nor effective solution to anything and would be a huge violation of public trust.


Our mission of taking a photo for the SOS Weekend campaign complete, we set off  hiking to see some sights, soothe our souls and get a little exercise. 


More photos at

State Park Access Pass – Ask for It


The budget committee voted to remove General Fund support for state parks.  Yikes! 

That means that incredible lands like the photo shown above may be closed to public access which deprives us all of two benefits:  1. Access to affordable, wholesome, uplifting fun at a time when families may not afford other recreation and 2. Erodes the protected status of these precious open spaces.

The good news is that there is an alternative to sitting back and letting our wild lands be taken from us (and I fear eventually turned into some form of development):

The budget committe also voted to recommend a new State Park Access Pass which would give a year’s unlimited access to state parks for $15 per vehicle — an outstanding deal!  This proposal needs to pass a final vote of state legislature.   Please nudge your representative – click here for an automated form.

Then reward yourself by visualizing your last fun trip to a CA state park…either hiking, camping, or maybe a beach.  Better yet, treat yourself to a visit to a state park this weekend.  🙂

(Photo Credit: Montana de Oro State Park – California Poppy by docentjoyce)

Henry Coe State Park Hike June 20

Henry Coe photo source:
Henry Coe State Park is a rare and precious combination of wild lands on the doorstep of a major metropolitan area.  Its been one of my favorite places since a backpacking trip deep in the park when a rottweiler-sized cat came down to the stream across from camp to get a drink…and ran once it realized people were about.   Watching the big cat drink was a wonderful sight to behold — and not one I’d particularly expect to see at park headquarters.

Unfortunately, our access to Henry Coe State Park is threatened by the CA budget crisis withdrawing funding for state parks.    I’m not only concerned about not being able to use Coe — I’m also worried that a closed park is less likely to be preserved as it becomes an easier target for development.

SOS is an organization committed to keeping our state parks open.   They have called for a show of support for the parks in the form of visiting a state park sometime on the weekend of June 20-21, 2009 and taking photos of ourselves with banners for a video they are producing.

I plan to be at Henry Coe State Park Headquarters to take the photos and I want you to join in.   Everyone is welcome for the photo.    

Henry Coe State Park HQ is off 101 near Morgan Hill, 60mins from Redwood City. Click for general directionsClick for google map  The HQ has restrooms and drinking water available.

If you want to be photographed with a sign, you can print your favorite of the signs on the SOS Weekend page.    If enough people RSVP by Thursday 6/18 to say they’ll be there, I’ll have a larger banner made up.

If you would like to coordinate carpools, feel free to leave comments on this post.   Please understand that this website is open to the public and I won’t necessarily know everyone who comments.   I’m already in a carpool down and will meet y’all there.

We do plan to hike after the photos.    If you’d like to hike too, please bring water, decent shoes, snack/lunch and your sense of personal responsibility.  This isn’t an organized event, but I’m happy to have new friends and acquaintances share the trail.

Hope to see you Saturday!

(Henry Coe photo source:

Eagle Rock Hike at Little Basin with Sempervirens Fund

Great 7 mile hike yesterday up to Eagle Rock in Little Basin for Sempervirens

julia-and-emmanuelle in little basin

Thanks to Emmanuelle for leading the way.




rickCheck out Rick’s awesome photos by clicking here.




Here’s a few shots I took along the way:


Joe spotted Venus in daylight.












As you can see from the logo on the signs at the entry, Little Basin used to be Hewlett-Packard’s corporate retreat.   They sold it to Sempervirens and POST, who must foot the bill until California can afford the gift of Little Basin as an extension of Big Basin state park.    Meanwhile, its open to HP, Sempervirens and POST.

The thing I like best about hiking with Sempervirens is all the neat people I meet.   If you would like to join us on a hike, click here.   Please consider joining  in the preservation of these very special redwood forests.

Nutcracker Hike in Little Basin

Sempervirens docent Karen DeMello led a fun interpretive hike at Little Basin — filling our imaginations with scenes of the redwood forest and sounds from the Nutcracker Suite.    What a treat!  

Little Basin started as HP’s corporate retreat.   Hence the garage door mock-up on the amphitheater stage.  We learned on the hike that HP’s first customer was Walt Disney, who bought audio oscillators for Fantasia, which coincidentally features the Nutcracker Suite.  (clip)

Nice that all of this forest and history can be preserved by Sempervirens and POST.  They are the land trusts who bought Little Basin.  The eventual goal is to make it a state park, by adding to Big Basin.  

Scott Peden brought a series of maps more than a century old showing how Big Basin State Park has grown as a result of Sempervirens members.  In addition to helping the forest, members get exclusive access to Little Basin before it is opened to the public.  

Click here to join Sempervirens.

Come Hike Tanbark Trail in Little Basin Sept 28

Please join me this Sunday for a hike on the lovely Tanbark Trail among the redwoods in Little Basin.  I’ll be bringing up the rear of this leisurely 2 mile jaunt with a Sempervirens group.   You get to see the beauty of Little Basin before it becomes a state park.  Right now, the only way to get in is to come on one of these hikes — or join Sempervirens, POST, or HP.    The hike is free, parking is $6 per car.  Click here to sign up and get more details.

Elegant Sheep Moth

Yesterday at Little Basin hiking with Sempervirens docents, we came across an interesting moth.   At the time, we didn’t know what it was.

Elegant Sheep Moth on Sempervirens Hike

Elegant Sheep Moth on Sempervirens Hike

Today docent Karen DeMello identified the moth.  She writes:

What a great day yesterday at Little Basin!  This morning I’ve been poking around the internet to find a photo of the moth that we saw yesterday.  If you scroll 1/3rd down this page, it’s in the middle and called “Elegant Sheep Moth”. 

See what I mean — these docents know their stuff and are dedicated to constantly building their knowledge!

Sempervirens Fund

Today I trained as a docent for the Sempervirens Fund.   Now I am an official ambassador of the redwood forest!  At least in title — I am humbled by the knowledge, skill and dedication of the Sempervirens leaders and aspire to represent the wildlife, lands, and fund as well as they do.  Docents lead hikes through the forest to help people get to know and enjoy the land, which is the first step towards preserving the land.

Sempervirens is a member-supported land trust, meaning that member contributions go to buy land that is protected from human destruction and ultimately turned into state parks.   Founded in 1900, Sempervirens has a terrific track record including Big Basin, Castle Rock, and Butano state parks.

From the day I heard of it 20 years ago, I’ve felt strongly that this is the best approach to conservation:  Buy the land and set it aside.   Call me a cowardly capitalist but I believe in property rights for land owners and rather than fight a messy battle over what other people can do with their land, I’d sooner raise the money to buy the land and then we’re the owners, we call the shots.

My efforts are puny by themselves, but together with thousands of members, we are able to buy and enjoy massive properties, even in the expensive Bay Area.

Enjoyment is a prime motivator for setting aside the land, especially for me.  I don’t have kids, don’t have a concern for future generations to enjoy the place.   What I do have is a relationship and a liking for the forest itself and its for that reason that I work to protect it.

One of the neat things about being a Sempervirens docent is that I have access to land and trails that are not currently open to the public.   Pristine, beautiful, sacred places.  Also members have access to Little Basin which used to be HP’s private corporate campground in the Santa Cruz mountains, next to Big Basin.

If you want to go for a hike, give me a shout!

Better yet, sign up for a Sempervirens Fund Hike.