Since 2001, David Loeb has served as editor and then publisher of Bay Nature magazine and executive director of the nonprofit Bay Nature Institute. A Bay Area resident since 1973, David moved here after graduating from college in Boston. The decision was largely based on a week spent visiting friends in San Francisco the previous January, which had included a memorable day at Point Reyes National Seashore. In the late 1990s, after many years working for the Guatemala News and Information Bureau in Oakland, David had the opportunity to spend more time hiking and exploring the parks and open spaces of the Bay Area. Increasingly curious about what he was seeing, he began reading natural history books, attending naturalist-led hikes and natural history courses and lectures, and volunteering for several local conservation organizations.
This was rewarding, but he began to feel that the rich natural diversity of the Bay Area deserved a special venue and a dedicated voice for the whole region, to supplement the many publications devoted to one particular place or issue. That’s when the germ of Bay Nature magazine began to take shape. In February 1997, David contacted Malcolm Margolin, publisher of Heyday Books and News from Native California, with the idea of a magazine focused on nature in the Bay Area, and was delighted with Malcolm’s enthusiastic response. Over the course of many discussions with Malcolm, publishing professionals, potential funders, and local conservation and advocacy groups, the magazine gradually took shape and was launched in January 2001. It is still going strong, with a wider base of support than ever.
This small 162-acre park in Glen Ellen, Sonoma might not appear to be a destination for those who don’t live nearby. But if you’re already in the Valley of the Moon to visit the vineyards and want to stretch your legs, clear your head, and delight your non-gustatory senses, I suggest a walk though this lovely oak woodland refuge between Sonoma Mountain to the west and the Mayacamas to the east. You can even bring a picnic to enjoy at one of the many benches and tables throughout the park.
The main attraction here is the surprising variety and diversity of beautiful mature oak trees: blue oak, live oak, valley oak, black oak, Oregon oak, and any number of hybrids produced by the notoriously promiscuous Quercus genus, as well as some impressive specimens of lace lichen (Ramalina) draped on many of the oaks in the valley.
The park’s main (and most used) trail is the fully-accessible, paved (and mostly shaded) Multiuse Trail that travels 1.2 miles from the main entrance on Highway 12 west to the smaller Arnold Road entrance, mostly along the course of Black Canyon creek. But a more interesting hike takes you onto the dirt trails that explore the ridges on both sides of the road. From the Highway 12 entrance, start out on the paved trail, but take 2nd left on to East Sutton Lake Trail (at the blue “TRAIL” sign), then a right soon thereafter on to the Corridor Ridge Trail. (The Sutton Lake Trail heads to Suttonfield Lake reservoir on the neighboring property of the Sonoma Development Center.)
As you climb up the 420-foot high ridge, the open blue oak savanah soon becomes a more shaded mixed-oak woodland. There are a number of unmarked (and unmapped) dirt trails as you get up onto the ridge, so it’s a little confusing. But in general, just keep going along the spine of the ridge on either side of the barbed wire fence that marks the boundary with the Development Center (there are several places to cross through the fence). After a half mile or so, the main trail bears right and starts to descend, steeply in a few places, reaching a junction with the paved Multiuse Trail after about a half a mile. Turn right, following the course of the creek, for less than a half a mile. Then take a left off the road back on to the dirt of the Black Canyon Trail, which climbs gradually up the park’s north ridge after crossing the creek. After a fairly short climb and traverse, the trail drops back down to the paved road for the last half mile amble on the paved road to the parking lot.
Managed by Sonoma County Parks. $7 parking fee. Water and port-a-potty (accessible) at entrance. Paved “Multiuse Trail” is accessible; dirt trails are not.