Bothe-Napa State Park with Michael – 29th October 2012

Some Napa views from our hike last Monday, Happy Halloween. Lew & Pat


Bothe Napa State Park is named after the last owner of the land who sold it to the California State Parks System in 1960. Reinhold Bothe operated a resort in the area called Paradise Park with cabins and a swimming pool popular during the 1930s but fading after WW 2. He’d purchased the land from the Hitchcock/Coit estate after the death of the famous Lille Hitchcock Coit in 1929.

Her parents had bought the land in the 1870s upon their arrival from West Point, N.Y. Dr. Charles M. Hitchcock was a well known surgeon whose background was in the U.S. Army. On one occasion during the Mexican War, he operated adeptly on Jefferson Davis and was able to save his leg after an injury. He became the army’s medical director for the Pacific Coast on his arrival on the Tennessee in 1851 after serving at West Point. Two years after that he went into private practice.

It was into this bustling gold rush city that he brought his 8 year old daughter Elizabeth Wyche Hitchcock. On one tragic occasion in her childhood she escaped a fire in which two of her friends were killed. Most later accounts have her as a 15 year old dropping her school books to help the hand drawn fire engine of Knickerbocker Engine Company Number 5 flagging on its way to a fire. Her enthusiasm enlivened the populace to help and their arrival was first at the fire. She became enamored of following the fire bell and became initially a mascot and later a patroness of all the fireman of the city. Her Victorian parents concerned about the propriety of this fascination tried to break her of these habits by exiling her to the ranch in Napa for two weeks with a maid to watch over her. The isolated house six miles north of St. Helena had the appropriate name of “Lonely”. She acquiesced each time they sent her up there after following a fire call but on returning to the city returned to her fascination.

She was definitely her own person: wearing trousers, riding astride her horse, and later enjoying smoking cigars & playing poker in North Beach. She has some of the adventurous qualities that we see in Jack London but politically they might not have gotten along since her family had Confederate sympathies. Her parents sent her to Paris during the Civil War perhaps hoping to allay anything untoward. She enjoyed the court of Napoleon III along with her ballroom dancing. In 1868 at 25 she married Benjamin Howard Coit who as a caller for the old Mining Exchange had a very important and lucrative office. It was an affectionate marriage of two disparate personalities and they later separated remaining friends until his death in 1885 just six weeks after Dr. Hitchcock had died. She and her mother became widows at almost the same time and moved to the ranch at Larkmead in Napa with a French maid and Chinese servants. There they entertained Robert Louis Stevenson, Joaquin Miller and Professor Joseph LeConte. LeConte was also a unreconstructed Confederate. When he was exploring the Petrified Forest at Calistoga, he stayed at Larkmead. But I digress.

Heavy fog at times along the way today at “almost”a Central Valley Tule experience but as we drove up the Napa Valley on 29 it was clearing up and the fall colors were dazzling.
Some surprising history about the creek’s namesake:
Ritchey Creek leading up Ritchey Canyon with California Sweetshrub
The amazing water delivery from root to top of the Redwood Tree, an astonishing unbroken molecular stream. These are young clones of a cut Redwood but mature Redwoods can reach 379 feet and beyond. The record is 424 for moving a solid stream of water molecules from root to crown. In Redwoods transpiration at these heights is minimized by leaves designed to retain water. Tight scalelike spikes reduce the evaporative surfaces for the drier conditions found at the top. Michael also talked about Richard Preston and his New Yorker articles about climbing the largest Redwoods.

The following are a pair of remarkable spoken accounts of a British tree climber, James Aldred, climbing in the largest Redwood groves sent to me by a friend in Santa Barbara. There’s bit of BBC introduction framing before each account:
Michael twirls a Big Leaf Maple leaf that turns into a Halloween mobile
California Fescue bunch grass along the way. Michael spoke about the replacement of California Native bunch grasses by introduced Eurasian grasses. The grazing of thousands of cattle in the hide trade during the Spanish Colonial era changed the landscape of California.
Keeping things light and memorable, what was he saying?
Picnic on Coyote Peak at a rocky elbow on the trail
Our view at lunch at the violent geologic past now robed in green and brown . . . “thrust upward by plate tectonics pileups of marine and volcanic rocks” “The confluence of alluvial and oceanic geologies create the extraordinary variety of soil types in Napa Valley with over 60 types in the 300,000 acres of the valley.”
Fittingly pumpkiny ending to our hike

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