Hike 03: Shiloh Ranch

Besides expanding my outdoor activity type portfolio, I also want to check out new to me and/or revisit places to recreate that I haven’t been to in a while. The first new to me place I got to was Shiloh Ranch Regional Park, north of Santa Rosa. Although I’d ridden by the park entrances on Faught Road, I’d never been inside. Well, not past the bathroom at the main parking lot anyway.

For this hike I actually parked at the smaller, undeveloped south access. The opener was uphill, with the initial stretch being quite wide – maybe even enough for two cars across – and smooth gravel. Whoa! This is Some Park! However, the surface soon reverted to more like native soil, although it did seem somewhat improved, and the width also reduced to about a single vehicle width fire road type feeling.

There were beautiful oaks, manzanita in bloom, and, as I gained elevation, views over the Santa Rosa plain, which was still partially shrouded with bits of morning mist. Beautiful!

According to the park’s website, it is 850 acres with 8 miles of trails. “A looped trail system offers moderately difficult hiking on unpaved trails and allows hikers to create routes of varying lengths and intensity.” However, I could not devise a route to cover all of the trails without what started to seem like a slightly silly amount of retracing. So I settled on one that covered most of the park, with most of the spots where I reused trails going the opposite direction.

As the day progressed I saw more folks on the trails, and others making their own loops, as I saw them more than once. For the most part people were masked, and considerate about passing, but I’m glad I got an early start.

Besides the views, I particularly enjoyed the Canyon and Creekside trails, which are actually singletrack trails. It’s still a directed experience, in that you are following an established trail, but it feels a little closer to nature. The wider fire road trails felt very mediated – “Nature Lite” – but it’s great that it’s still open space, and that it is getting used. There seemed to be a pretty good variety of people out enjoying the day.

more pictures

1/23/2021, 9.5 miles

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Hike 02: Cabin

Since I was up in the woods with Eric for the weekend, I roped him into the hike thing. After some discussion about what makes a hike a hike he came up with a route around the neighborhood that was fiveish miles, and traversed some tracks he had explored and wanted to show me, as well as some that would be new to both of us.

Although he’d had snow, a stretch of unseasonable warmth had melted it all into mud. The day before we’d driven down the hill for a bike ride in drier conditions. The warmth had continued, so things were less muddy, and being on foot made it easier to avoid the spots that were still wet.

We headed out his road, crossed Graniteville Road, and onto a track to the spring that he’d explored on the bike, but was new to me. It was one of those was probably a logging road at some point, but is getting grown over. A vehicle would still fit down most of it if you didn’t mind scraping through tree branches, but it didn’t look like anyone has done so recently. There were a few small patches of snow here and there.

From the spring we took another logging road that had been recently cut or improved – the first section was finished with gravel! We continued on to part that neither of us had been on before. Maybe because we were going downhill, or that there only seemed to be the one way to go, we somehow missed what had been a turn on Eric’s planned route, and found ourselves at a dead end. Or at least at the end of the obvious road.

Eric could tell if we continued to follow the creek and “just went thataway” we would come out at a known road and be able to get back on our route and get home. So we decided to try it out. Which required some bushwhacking. *OK, this is DEFINITELY a hike now! It was one of those things like riding on doubletrack, where the one you are not in always looks smoother/easier, but then you change course, and no… it’s really not. Oh! that sorta looks like a trail… ah, not so much… but it really wasn’t too far, and soon we popped out on the bottom of a recent clear cut, and short spur road that took us to Moores Flat Road. Back on the map! Even though we’d ridden bikes on Moores Flat Road I’d never really noticed this little road, maybe because it was on a downhill. Fun to fill in a piece of the map.

We continued up Moores Flat Road, back to Graniteville Road, and then did a bit more cross country to get off the “main” road – even though we hadn’t seen anyone else the entire time we’d been out – then were back on the originally planned route taking the “back way” to return to Eric’s cabin. Good times!

Thank you to Eric for being a good sport, joining in for a hike and sharing his beautiful neighborhood.

1/17/21, 6.2 miles

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Hike 01: Annadel – Steve’s S Trail

The objective for this hike was to check out Steve’s S Trail, which is I think the sole hiking only trail in Trione-Annadel State Park. As such, in all the time I’ve lived in Sonoma County and been in The Park, I’d never been on it. My go to mode is mountain biking, and the few times I’d been hiking had mostly kept to the western edge.

I got an early start, catching a waning crescent moon in the dawn sky. I passed through slivers of Howarth (Santa Rosa City) and Spring Lake (Sonoma County) Parks on my way to Annadel. The boat launch poked a frosted finger into the mists rising off of Spring Lake.

I went up Rough Go trail, which I tend to avoid on the bike, due to its chunkiness. Especially in the up direction it’s not so much fun. Much more manageable on foot, and nice to see a bit of The Park I don’t usually.

Eventually I ended up at Lake Ilsanjo, having not encountered anyone else since I’d entered Annadel. That was pretty sweet. It was still frosty! I enjoyed a snack stop, and headed over to Steve’s S trail.

The trail turned out to be a mostly narrow ribbon that wended its way through lovely conifer forest. Much of the way underfoot was that springy thick carpet of needles that is so pleasant to walk on. Unmarked by cycle tracks. Which I sort of hated to notice and comment on.

It came out on Richardson fire road, which I followed down to the parking lot – alas, I was not parked there. I was kind of ready to be done, but still needed to get back to my vehicle.

I hadn’t actually set out a route before hand, so just went what seemed like would be the shortest/easiest way back on the paved road, and then mostly retracing my steps through Spring Lake and Howarth Parks. Whoops, I’d ended up going 10.8 miles. No wonder I’d been ready to be done!

Anyway, it was a beautiful day, and great to experience some new to me trails! And see The Park in a different way.

all the pictures

1/9/2021, 10.8 miles

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Inauguration 2021

I’ve never watched a United States Presidential Inauguration before. Even this year I did not see all of it, but it seemed different, and important to participate. Not just the relief and celebration at a return to what seems like will be more rational and principled leadership, but the historic swearing in of a woman Vice President.


It’s only taken 232 years, but who’s counting? It’s sad, but part of me is still a little surprised that it even happened in my lifetime. But, from today, we are in a world where there’s been a woman Vice President. For everyone born from today on, it will not be a new thing when it happens again.

We still have a long way to go, but I feel like that promise of the USA being a place where you can grow up to be whatever you want to has become a tiny bit more true. That the girls and young women of today and the future will not have to work quite so hard to envision themselves in positions of leadership.

Thank you, Vice President Harris.

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The Great Conjunction 2020

Not only is today the Winter Solstice – which I can see celebrating, since now the daylight will be increasing – woohoo! – unlike the Summer Solstice, which, yeah cool, longest day – but duh yeah then they’ll just be getting shorter. But I digress. The but also for that not only is the Great Conjunction! That is, Jupiter and Saturn will “have the same right ascension or celestial longitude” er… appear close together in the sky, as viewed from Earth. Or as portrayed by a Google Doodle.

Although tonight is the closest they will appear, of course they’ve been approaching each other over the year. It’s been really cool to watch the distance close over the past few weeks. The other evening after not looking for a night or two then WOW! they really ARE closer!!! It’s so neat to actually SEE things I’ve read or heard about.

And I’ve just been stepping out on the back stoop and looking over the neighbor’s house to see this phenomenon. In town light pollution and all, and I can STILL see it. A wonderful reminder of what a fantastic and amazing world we live in, and how, even under less than ideal conditions, you can observe and enjoy it.

Additional Fun Facts

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On Friday – OK, a couple of Fridays ago now – 9/18/20 – first one post, then another, until eventually almost my entire feed was filled with the news of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. There was of course sorrow over the loss of a great human being, who made innumerable contributions to women’s rights and gender equality over the course of her legal career, but there was additional lamentation about the resulting potential for a replacement who will most likely not have the same commitment to progressing these issues. In fact, the hopes of many conservatives would be that many things, such as a woman’s right to choose, would be reversed. Le sigh.

I don’t have anything to add to the tributes that have been written to Justice Ginsburg, but here are some of the pieces I thought worth reading, and some of her words.

“When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?’ and I say ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” – RBG

A few personal reminiscences on the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by David Post

I particularly enjoyed this about writing, “Most of what I know about writing I learned from her. The rules are actually pretty simple: Every word matters. Don’t make the simple complicated, make the complicated as simple as it can be (but not simpler!). You’re not finished when you can’t think of anything more to add to your document; you’re finished when you can’t think of anything more that you can remove from it. She enforced these principles with a combination of a ferocious—almost a terrifying—editorial pen, and enough judicious praise sprinkled about to let you know that she was appreciating your efforts, if not always your end-product. And one more rule: While you’re at it, make it sing. At least a little; legal prose is not epic poetry or the stuff of operatic librettos, but a well-crafted paragraph can help carry the reader along, and is always a thing of real beauty.”

“Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true.” – RBG

May Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s memory be ‘for a blessing.’ What, exactly, does that mean? by Molly Conway

Which, there was so much wonderful in this piece it was hard to pick just part, but here goes: “It is said that a person who passes on Rosh Hashanah is a Tzadik/Tzaddeket, a good and righteous person. When we speak of tzedakah, the word is often translated as “charity,” but it is more accurate to say righteousness. Tzedakah can take many forms (including monetary donation) but it’s important to note that tzedakah is not a benevolent contribution given to be kind or nice to those who need it, it is to be viewed as a balancing of the scales, an active working towards justice. To use a simple example, one should donate to the local food bank not to gain favor with God, or to be nice to those with less than ourselves, but because it is unjust for anyone to be without food, especially while others have plenty. Correcting injustice, balancing the scales, evaluating the distribution of power and creating equity is tzedakah, the work of righteousness.”

“What we’re saying is that she was a thoughtful person who worked tirelessly to create a more just world. One that would perpetuate equality and access, one that wasn’t reliant on charity, one that was better for people she did not know, without the expectation of praise or fame.”

“I tell law students… if you are going to be a lawyer and just practice your profession, you have a skill—very much like a plumber. But if you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself… something that makes life a little better for people less fortunate than you.” – RBG

Who Will Hold Our Hope? Reflecting on Ruth this Rosh Hashana by Shayna

“A single person cannot hold the hopes of millions, though we asked Ruth to do this for us. She worked hard, and she held our hopes for as long as she could! And she died. Who can hold our hopes now?”

The piece speaks to grief, and also to looking forward, and each of us taking up some of the work.

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” – RBG

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Advice for Living

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I’d actually heard of Ojai as part of the family lore, in one of the tidbits about my paternal grandfather, who died before I was born. One of the things he had done was haul horses, and one of the destinations was the Thacher School in Ojai, where learning to ride and care for a horse is part of the curriculum. Despite that, I’d never had any particular interest to go there – well, perhaps a vague sense of interest, but I never happened to be in the neighborhood, and the interest was not pressing enough to make a special trip. However, my sister chose it as destination for our Sisters’ Weekend in 2019 so now I can say I’ve been! Actually she’d chosen it in a previous year, maybe 2017? but wildfires had other ideas about that.

It’s nestled (which I use totally un-ironically) in a small valley in the the Topatopa and Sulfur mountains, which rise to approximately 5000, and 3000 feet respectively, with the town at around 745 feet. Our drive there passed by Lake Casitas, another weekend/vacation destination, and was quite scenic, winding from the ocean up to the Ojai valley.

In some ways it reminded me of Cambria, the town where we grew up – the tourism, bit of hippy flavor (although Ojai is perhaps more new-agey), retirees – WHICH! Who knew, AARP was founded there! – and, somewhat insular and “now that I live here no more development should happen.” But, a pleasant place to spend a weekend – there was an awesome book store, and ice cream. What more do you need? Ohand we had a nice hike in the hills around town, getting some great views.

Inadvertently we were there on a weekend with several events, starting with Third Friday – where the Ojai Valley Museum and downtown shops were open late and some had snacks. Saturday was Ojai Day, where part of the main street was blocked off and filled up with food and merchandise booths. And Sunday morning was the Ventura Marathon, which did a meander around the valley before heading down to the coast at Ventura. In getting out of town we had to detour around the event course, and ended up passing by the entrance to the Thacher School.

I don’t know that I need to go back, but I’m glad we went, and I can see how it’s a popular weekend getaway for those who live within an hour or two drive. Worth a visit if you are in the area, but also not the end of the world if you don’t make it.

more pictures

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and just like that

It’s September, and the number of COVID deaths in the United States – 184,083 – has now surpassed the population of the city where I live. Only two months since I started thinking about it in that way. I’m not sure when it ticked past, I haven’t been looking every day. I think the last time I looked the toll was 160,something.

Very very sad. Not only all the individuals lost, but the senselessness of it – that we, an allegedly first world nation, with resources and technology, is failing so hard at this.

Moved by the May 24 New York Times headline when the death toll approached 100,000, Joanna Hutchinson has begun a collaborative project, inviting community members to help fold 100,000 paper triangle units which will be the building blocks for a community sculpture to commemorate those lost to the pandemic.

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odds are

Not the freshest news now, but someone at my work had a positive test for COVID. A bit ironically, just a few days before (Thursday, July 23) there had been a virtual brown bag lunch meeting with the General Manager, and he had given us all the virtual pat on the back for following protocols and staying healthy.

Then on Monday, July 27 there was an email from HR that had been sent over the weekend, saying that there had been a positive test result, the person’s work area had been professionally sanitized, and anyone who worked closely with the individual had been notified. Of course they can’t name the person, but they did say which site the person works at, which is where I work – or at least start and end my day. Since I hadn’t heard anything else, I figured it wasn’t someone in our work group, and my boss confirmed that. They also told us that the last time the person had been at work was Thursday, July 16, which had been over a week, and no one else seemed to be having symptoms, so there was that.

At the time, the United States case rate was 1386 per 100,000, or 1.39%. For Marin County, where I work, there were 2888 cases for a population of 258,826, or 1.12%. Unfortunately many of these cases are at San Quentin, due to very poor handling of the situation by the California Department of Corrections. For Sonoma County, where I live, there were 2944 cases for a population of 494,336, or 0.60%. Just three data points, and no doubt there’s uncertainties in all, but it gives a sense of the odds. Although not zero, with 1 out of 240, or 0.42% we were still below the local or nationwide percentage, for what that’s worth.

In the notification email, there were links to local testing information, but there has not been any talk – that I have heard – of mandatory or company sponsored testing. In fact I am not sure they can do that – the mandatory, that is. I have not been tested yet, and am undecided about it – it does give a data point, but it’s just a snapshot, and, unless you can isolate, there’s no saying that you might not get infected right after you have taken the test. Or maybe that it’s easier not to know? I have felt and feel healthy, so want to believe I don’t have it. Although they do say you can have it, but not have symptoms, so there’s that. Also for a while the testing capacity was limited, so they only wanted people who _needed it to take it. I think there is more availability now, but what’s the responsible thing to do?

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here we go again

Sunday morning (8/16) was thunder and lightning like I’ve never experienced before in California – usually by the time you realize what’s going on, it’s over – but this went on. And on. For over an hour! And then there was more on Monday morning. Amazing light show, but not so good in a tinder dry state.

Now there are fires all over the state. The Walbridge Fire in Sonoma County, to the northwest of Santa Rosa, is the closest, but there’s also a big one to the east, in Napa County, and another in Point Reyes in Marin County. And I could go on and on.

On my way home Tuesday I could see a big, distinct smoke plume from the Napa County fire, and ash started to fall, I think from the Walbridge Fire, but there was not any smoke smell. Wednesday there were more diffuse smoke clouds visible from both fires, but just in the directions of the fires. More ash fall, and some smoke smell. Thursday the smoke pretty much covered the sky, although you could see small bits of blue at the horizon. More ash, and some smoke smell – although it looked bad with the almost full coverage, it was staying high. It’s fascinating how smoke can travel, or not – how you can be affected but something that seems far away, or not, but something that seems close. It was also smoky and ashy in Marin, where I work, and Wednesday I could see a big plume to the south.

The fires are a litany of locations where I’ve ridden my bike – both in my backyard in Sonoma and Marin counties, but also in the greater Bay Area. I’ve been staying very close to home due to the virus, and now, this – makes me think about gosh how long has it been since I’ve ridden some of those places… Oh well, right? You never know. Except we kinda do now. Or should not be surprised by fire season. But it’s only August.

But yeah, fire season. Be ready and keep on as usual until you have to go. Hope you don’t have to go. So far I haven’t had to. But Thursday morning it really hit me – funny you never know what it’s going to be – this time it was that the Hastings Reserve in Carmel Valley was being threatened. I have a slight connection, not something that would necessarily justify my emotional reaction, but, on top of all the rest… just.enough.already. Although I haven’t spent a huge amount of time there, it’s one of those places that feels special, almost sacred – somehow apart, that it should never be threatened by anything. Sigh.

Which, if it weren’t for the internets, I probably would not have known. So how much do you look? I mean you have to be aware in case you DO have to go, but beyond that… how do we exist in this time and bear witness without being crushed?

And do I pack up, and, if so, what? I mean it’s just stuff, right? But every stuff I take is something that won’t have to be replaced. Well and some can’t be replaced. But I live in town for crissakes (yeah tell that to people in Coffey Park) and near a hospital (in 2017 Kaiser and Sutter at the north end of town had to evacuate), and not far from the Evacuation Center, I mean if it gets to here, then that’s some end of days shit, right? But fire doesn’t look at the map. The one to the east jumped 8 lanes of freeway.

But I’d kick myself if I wasn’t ready. What is that about worry – there’s no point – either you can do something about it or not. If there is something you can do, do it. If not, then let it go. Easier said than done though.

Anyway, after I started this but before I posted there was an update that there was an air drop and ground crews that were able to protect the structures at Hastings. And I also heard that Lick Observatory was protected. Two tiny dots in amidst all the destruction, but it was nice to get a bit of good news.

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