Jack London State Historic Park with Michael – 6 October 2014

Welcome to the Valley of the Moon, our destination last Monday and the name of one of Jack London’s many books. It’s a description that perhaps goes back to the original Miwok tribes that lived in the valley. “Miwok legends say that the moon seemingly rose from this valley, or was “nestled” in the valley, or may have even sprung up multiple times in one night.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonoma_Valley This can still be experienced if the moon is low and temporarily obscured by the various hills of Sonoma Mountain. It seems to rise again and again as you drive up toward Glen Ellen and Jack London State Park.


Walking past the vineyards on our way up Sonoma Mountain – they’re just beyond the Coyote bushes and the rambling fence.

Vineyards straight ahead, Oaks, Madrone and Eucalyptus framing them on this side with Redwoods topside.
Michael spoke about the narrow coastal strip where Redwoods grow extending from a small section in southern Oregon and down the California coast to as far as Big Sur. They need water to thrive and so follow stream beds and are significantly laved by the Pacific coastal fog. http://www.redwoods.info/showrecord.asp?id=3950



Michael talked about Redwoods outside of their range in England and elsewhere. Ann mentioned that she has 150 year old Redwoods on her property in Wales brought there by a sea captain in her family. They enjoy the Welsh climate. http://www.monumentaltrees.com/en/trees/giantsequoia/elsewhere/

Equestrians coming down from the mountain breaking into the sunlight from the Redwood shaded trail. They “warned” us about mountain lions ahead up the hill and we cautioned them about rattlesnakes out there in the sunshine.

Jack London dammed this area as a source for irrigation on his Beauty Ranch. Sometimes we’ve seen ducks swimming here and dragonflies flitting about but all was dry, missing on Monday. But the break in the shade was welcome on a hot day.

California Spice bush along the way: http://www.laspilitas.com/nature-of-california/plants/calycanthus-occidentalis

Friendly mountain biker pushing up the trail passing us in a blur, my blur.

Pipevine was another uncommon plant that we enjoyed along the way. We spotted some on our last Angel Island hike so that’s awhile back. http://www.marin.edu/cnps/pipevine.html

Hanging a left onto the newly opened Sonoma Ridge Trail:

Some Elk Clover in berry, Michael asked what it reminded us of and we all failed miserably to remember English Ivy.
http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/animalsAndPlants/noxious-weeds/weed-identification/english-ivy.aspx (Just scroll down.)

Moving up the Ridge in a tangle of Oaks.

California native bunch grass flows down the hillside gray on brown or maybe more precisely on Raw Umber (?) or Khaki (?) or Brown-nose, seems to be actually a shade of brown (?) or perhaps a solid Beaver Brown. Cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shades_of_brown

Michael identified it as our classic Festuca Californica. http://ucanr.edu/sites/scmg/Plant_of_the_Month/Festuca_californica

Just off the trail though some deep duff some Madrones provide convenient backrests for a picnic lunch.

The vineyard is still quite green for an autumn afternoon.

Just add the drumroll. Michael was talking about the diametric change of an agrarian United States at the time of Jack London’s Beauty Ranch to the urban America that we know today.

Two barns the lighter illustrating the Chinese technique of flat wall with flush rocks and the darker buildings showing the Italian pattern of exposed surfaces of the rocks on their walls. The largest building was the Sherry Barn built for Kohler and Frohling Winery in 1884.

The cactus corral, Michael said, kept those little dogies from wandering away. The spineless cactus was a joint project with the famed plant geneticist, Luther Burbank to develop cactus for cheap and nutritious cattle feed. The cactus grew too slowly, the cows ate too fast. The second generation of cacti grew their spines back so not a complete success.


View of the Mayacamas Mountains from the lower parking lot with some noticeable serrations on the Madrone leaves in the foreground. In September of 1964 a large fire swept down this valley destroying a number of homes, barns and property along with devastation of thousands of acres of open space. People evacuated and drove in shock around the Sonoma Plaza, displaced persons. When a friend’s home was spared by the galloping fire, he used some burning fence posts to fix the evening meal and to make an affirmation.

The end of the tale.

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