Sunday, June 12, 2016



Saturday, June 11, 2016

The saga continues, and I show my age…

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Mt. Jackson, from our ridge, Eastside Road
Fri. May 27: broken toe
Sun. May 29: Coast walk
Sat. June 4: 22 mile history walk
Mon. June 6: Walkabout at home
Tue. June 7: 8 miles, to Healdsburg
Eastside Road, June 10, 2016—
CONTINUING THE LOG : I left you a little over a week ago after a fine nine-miler out at the coast, with a fair amount of climbing and descending involved.

What I didn't mention was that I did that on a broken toe.

Until Friday, May 27, I had never broken a bone in my eighty years. But that night, in an excess of high spirits (though sober as a judge), I ran through the house, barefoot, to get someone a glass of cold water, having thoughtlessly served only myself. I failed to notice a box of files on the floor in one room — a box that's been there for years — and hit it with the fourth and fifth toes of my left foot.

I wish I'd thought to photograph it: the toes pointed off to the left instead of curling nicely toward the big toe. So I taped them back to the proper position and put an ice pack on it for twenty minutes. And, it being a holiday weekend, made a note to see the doctor on Tuesday. Memorial Day Weekend is no time to visit an emergency ward.

Next morning there was some pain, of course; the entire foot was somewhat swollen, the affected toes particularly so. I took it easy that day, doing a little work outside, because we'd planned that long hike at the Coast on Sunday. As I say, the Coast hike went okay. I took a couple of walkabouts at home the following week — I'll describe them in another post — and then gave the toe its real test last Saturday.

FOR A NUMBER of years the Sonoma County Historical Society has put on an annual walk of about 25 miles, at various locations in the county in the even-numbered years, in San Francisco in the odd-numbered ones. The hikes were the idea of the late Jeff Tobes, an enthusiast for both history and hiking who taught in Sonoma county and shared his enthusiasm with students and members of the Society.

I first met him four years ago, when I joined the hike taking in Fort Ross and environs — an area of particular interest to me since my mother lived and taught out there for a few years back in the middle 1950s. That had been a lovely walk, and Jeff was a remarkable leader, pointing out sites of special historical interest — the smallest California State Park, for example, which surrounds Beniamino Bufano's sculpture dedicated to peace.

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Toward Carneros, June 4, 8:20 am
Alas, Jeff died earlier this year, quite unexpectedly I think; this year's walk was dedicated to him as a memorial, and led quite ably by the competent, easygoing Ray Johnson. About eighty participants convened at 5:30 in the morning last Saturday, in the Sebastiani Winery parking lot. We walked a few blocks, past Sonoma Mission, to the Plaza, where we heard a little talk about the Bear Flag Revolt, and then proceeded south and a little east, out of town, toward Vineburg.

The morning was really quite beautiful. There was no traffic on the city streets at that early hour, and we were reminded to speak quietly when we stopped at a little park for breakfast: residents in the neighborhood were likely still sleeping. It was cool and pleasant, and when we got to open countryside the morning sky was low and gentle. We turned east and north again, then further east to the Gundlach Bundschu winery.

There we had a rest and listened to a winery staffer tell us the history of her company — a history going back to 1858, surviving the utter destruction of the winery in the 1906 earthquake (it was located in San Francisco; grapes were shipped their by barge from a Sonoma county landing), the disaster that was Prohibition, and the vagaries of the wine book of the late 20th century.

The winery is meticulously landscaped; even the vineyards seem gardened. I had always assumed Bundschu was Swiss; the name seems so, but we were told both he and Gundlach were German. Still, there's an impressive degree of neatness here, and I was inspired to try a bottle of their Gewurtztraminer next opportunity. (We had it the other night: very clean; very good — I prefer the Alsace versions.)

We resumed the walk, through the vineyard to a gate on Thornberry Road, finally up off the Sonoma flats and near the Napa County line. The houses here are big, on big, wooded lots, and mostly behind ornamental but effective gates. The road's nicely shaded and a fine stroll, but it is not my kind of place, I'm afraid.

We headed north, then west again, past a few historical sites Ray pointed out, and finally were back at Sebastiani where our lunch awaited us. In half an hour we were walking again, first to visit General Vallejo's grave in Sonoma's Mountain Cemetery, then into the fine oak-studded grassland hills forming the extensive back yard to his home, whose grounds we'd visit later in the day.

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Open Space Preseve on the Vallejo property
This was some of the best walking of the day: off pavement. The trail had climbed a bit, up to the huge water tanks drawing on Vallejo's springs for the Sonoma water supply; then traversed through oaks, as you see in the photo, before descending quite sharply back to city streets and sidewalkes.

We turned north again, paralleling the highway through Boyes Hot Springs, then diverging to stroll through another hilly residential area at Fetters Hot Springs — a more modest version of Thornerry's wealthy enclave. Then west, to turn south again and explore a third hotwater town, Agua Caliente.

It became clear Ray knew how to draw a historical route. He was following old railroad rights of way, for the most part long since co-opted into city streets but occasionally developed into footpaths. He wisely refrained from trying to expand on this history; there were too many of us, and many of us perhaps too inattentive, for even an impromptu lecture. (I'm sure he could have attempted: he seems to know the history well.)

Down here in the flats, in Boyes Hot Springs and El Verano, I felt more at home. The population seems much more modest: blue-collar workers for the most part. The houses are mostly old and small, many of them survivors from a long-ago time when they may have been vacation homes for San Francisco clerical class. In those days you'd have travelled from the city by boat to a landing on the Sonoma county coast, then taken either a carriage or, later, a train to a residential hotel or perhaps, if you had the money, your own vacation cottage.

We walked past parked RVs, small boats on trailers, and basketball goals on little wheeled bases. In one front yard a man was carefully trimming another man's handsome haircut; they smiled and waved to us. Two or three schoolgirls giggled as they saw us troop by, hailed us, asked where we were going, wished us a nice day.

We walked past a number of buildings that had once been inns — not only the spas profiting from the hot water ( agua caliente ) not far below ground, but also ramshackle old buildings, some boarded up, which must once have been boarding houses and, before that, country inns; one even had an attached one-storey addition that probably housed the stablehands. (Why didn't I photograph it?)

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Mother and child on the creek, Maxwell Farms Regional Park
By now it was getting on toward four o'clock and it had heated up — and we'd been walking for miles on asphalt or concrete. My toe was holding up, but my soles were beginning to fry. Fortunately we turned into a marvelous park on Sonoma Creek, Maxwell Farms Regional Park. Again we were on forgiving terrain: packed dirt paths and trails through what once had apparently been orchard or vineyard and woodlots along the creek.

It didn't last long enough: we emerged through a playground and picnic area back onto streets and sidewalks for the remaining few miles back to Sebastiani. When we reached General Vallejo's charming home, already closed to visitors for the day, I'd had enough: the last mile was on a paved footpath we'd already taken. I caught a ride.

My hiking buddy, who'd driven the forty minutes from home to Sebastiani, had thoughtfully brought a few beers in a cold box, and we were glad to have them with the quite satisfying Mexican dinner provided by the Historical Society.

IMG 7447After the hike
photo: Thérèse Shere