(Northern) California Parkist

The dogs and I are avid park visitors. Join us as we document our wanderings, mostly in northern California. We visit all jurisdictions -- United States National Parks, State Parks, County, Regional and City Parks -- we love open spaces!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sonoma County Regional Parks: Spring Lake Lagoon (Santa Rosa)

Bark in the Park, the first event of its kind, was held in the Spring Lake Lagoon from 10:00 to 3:00 today.  The water was closed to humans and dogs were allowed in off leash.  We brought three black labrador retrievers, two of which swam and romped and chased tennis balls and met their new best friends.  It was a wonderful day, a fundraiser for the regional park system, and hopefully an annual event.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sonoma County Regional Parks: Maxwell Farms (Boyes Hot Springs)

Maxwell Farms has a wonderful play area with particularly inviting equipment.  The area is kept clean and there is a restroom adjacent.  Benches line the sidewalk running alongside the playground and the ground is covered with a spongy surface to break childhood bumps and falls.  On this day children were playing happily while adults either assisted them or chatted with friends.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

California State Parks: Lachryma Montis (Sonoma)

While the Vallejo home itself is on a relatively small piece of land, the original property owned by General Vallejo was considerably larger.  A steady stream of walkers and bicyclers uses the city owned paved bike path built over the old railroad tracks that runs through the Vallejo land.  Fields of wildflowers, such as this chicory, extend in all directions creating lovely fields most of the year.

Monday, July 25, 2011

California State Parks: Petaluma Adobe (Petaluma)

Adjacent to the parking lot at Petaluma Adobe is a spacious picnic area almost hidden in the trees.  It is at the base of the hill before you actually wander up the pathway to see the Adobe itself.  This is one of the most underused areas of the site but it has everything a family could need - tables, nearby water and clean restrooms.  An evening breeze is almost guaranteed so a jacket may be necessary even if the afternoon was warm.  Dogs are allowed on leash.

City of Lakeport: Library Park (Lakeport)

Library Park runs along Clearlake in the City of Lakeport.  There are numerous picnic tables, a playground and a large grassy lawn on which to play.  Dogs are welcome, something Demi appreciated. What I most noticed here was the noise -- bird sounds!  While the park was visited by families and others, almost all of the sound was coming from innumerable birds chirping happily in the tall trees.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

California State Parks: Petaluma Adobe (Petaluma)

The prickly pear cactus is blooming this week at the Petaluma Adobe.  I like to think of it as natural fencing or barbed wire that protects the adobe from both human and animal intruders.  It runs along the walkway from the creek to the building itself.  

The main function of the Petaluma Adobe was as a factory making goods and produce for the soldiers at the barracks in Sonoma back in the 1830s.  The hide and tallow trades were in full tilt and the rancheria was where 6,000 head of cattle were kept.  Grains were grown there too, necessary to feed the soldiers back at the barracks.

But for some reason it's always the cactus that really captures my attention.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sonoma County Regional Parks: Maxwell Farms (Boyes Hot Springs)

When I took Brix walking through Maxwell Farms Regional Park yesterday morning it was obvious that his favorite part was along the creek.  We observed the leash law, but I still allowed him to jump in the water and swim a bit.  He dove in twice, smiled and shook himself dry.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

City of Sonoma: The Plaza

We sat by the duck pond while the Tuesday Night Market was in full swing.  This is one of Sonoma's most popular events for six months of the year and it serves to bring all the living generations together at once.  Every week we see tiny babies and we see fragile elders and all the ages in between.  The teenagers are busy with their friends and the pre-teens are learning the skills of looking cool in a safe place - their parents are just on the other side of the block.  For those of us who actually live in Sonoma this is one of the community activities that makes us feel that we belong.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

California State Parks: Casa Grande Servants' Quarters (Sonoma)

General Mariano Vallejo and his family lived in what is now downtown Sonoma for many years before their new home, Lachryma Montis was built at the foot of the mountain.  They moved in 1851 or so, and their original home, Casa Grande, was destroyed by fire in 1867.  All that is left is shown here, the Indian servants' quarters.  It almost fronts Spain Street and is totally visible without any tourist admission fees, you just walk up to the building from the sidewalk.  There is a cheese shop on the left hand side and the Toscano Hotel, also free and owned by California State Parks, on the right. Across the street is Sonoma Plaza where the General used to drill and parade his troops.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

City of Sonoma: The Plaza

One of the really special times in the life of the community of Sonoma is the weekly farmers market which is held on The Plaza.  Each Tuesday from May to November, more or less, venders bring their foods and veggies and wares and the town gathers for snacks and suppers, music and shopping.  It's an intergenerational event with dancing children being corralled by their parents and watched by their grandparents.  It's also extremely popular as scents of multi-ethnic foods waft from plates carried to grassy areas and benches.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

City of Sonoma: The Plaza

One of the many features of the Sonoma Plaza is the lovely rose garden. Here there are several groups of roses - the yellows, the reds, the variegated, etc. creating a display that makes a tourist want to begin a rose garden upon arrival back home!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

California State Parks: Lachryma Montis (Sonoma)

I enjoy my role as docent for California State Parks, especially when I offer tours through the home of General Vallejo, the founder of the City of Sonoma. His home was built in 1850 from a kit! It's a Boston House, the parts of which were shipped around the Horn for construction on the site. So here I was today, enjoying my tiny part in interpreting local history.

City of Sonoma: Olsen Park

Olsen Park is one of those sweet little pocket parks tucked away in a peaceful neighborhood. You stumble upon it if you're walking on the Sonoma Bike Path, as I was yesterday. Occasionally I see guys playing on the basketball court or a couple moms will be supervising the urchins in the playground. Dogs are not allowed here and alas! there are no public restrooms. There are BBQ grills, however, and it's always a quiet little getaway.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sonoma County Regional Parks: Maxwell Farms (Boyes Hot Springs)

The reason Brix is also known as Big Baby is because, when he stands one foot off the ground, he freaks out when I say, Hold That Pose! You can't see it, but there is a large group picnic area to the right of this stone construction.

Other than that, he was a great companion in Maxwell Farms Regional Park this afternoon. We were only there about 40 minutes, part of my park monitoring duties that I have nearly forgotten, and it was great to be back. The crows were screeching, children were happily playing with their parents in the playground and the park itself appeared well-tended.

Monday, April 18, 2011

City of Sonoma: The Plaza

The 31st International SketchCrawl was held on Saturday, April 16th.  Twelve local sketchers convened at The Plaza in Sonoma to participant. Sketchers drew whatever caught their interest - the duck pond, tourists, the Mission, Carnegie Library, etc., there was no shortage of sketching material.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

University of California, Davis - Arboretum

Here's a public space that's easy to overlook because it's not a park, per se, it's an arboretum. Trees and plants throughout a three-mile pathway are carefully labeled. There are hundreds of ducks, mallards mostly, swimming and playing in the water. Picnickers have their blankets spread, dog-walkers pass by, artists sit on the benches drawing and couples walk hand in hand. This is a lovely place and admission is free.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

California State Parks: Lachryma Montis (Sonoma)

I was the docent for three hours this afternoon at General Vallejo's home (built in 1851 or so). The park was quite busy and I gave several tours. This photo shows the tree-lined boulevard leading to the house (on the left, but not visible) and the chalet (the building on the right). The chalet was originally built in Switzerland, dismantled, each piece was numbered, the entire building was shipped around the Horn and then rebuilt on the site. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

California State Parks: The Barracks (Sonoma)

The local docents met in the barracks this morning for their quarterly meeting. I snapped this photo of the old carreta that stands in the open space behind. There's another one at Petaluma Adobe, but that facility has been closed on weekends because of staffing shortages and a hiring freeze. Docents were trying to figure out ways to pitch in and help out during this period of financial difficulty.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

California State Parks: Lachryma Montis (Sonoma)

I was the docent on duty this afternoon at General Vallejo's home. One of my favorite buildings to point out is this tiny -- and I mean tiny - retreat used by Napoleon, one of the sons of the General. Napoleon was an artist and loved animals. I've been told that he had quite a menagerie here, where he also made many of his paintings.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

California State Parks: Toscano Hotel (Sonoma)

We were walking on Sonoma Plaza this afternoon and stopped to take photos of the Toscano Hotel. I've toured this one before - the tours are excellent - and like the 1800s ambience. There are wonderful furnishings - like the courting sofa where a chaperone sat right between the young couple! - and other gems that seem so quaint to us today. What's amazing is that, even in this day of budget cuts, the visit and tour are free!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sonoma County Regional Parks: Maxwell Farms (Boyes Hot Springs)

This morning a park naturalist gave a tour through the entire Maxwell Farms Park. Because I am a park monitor I visit often, but it is frustrating to know so few plant names. Our guide knew them all. I made notes as fast as I could so I can research the new ones and become more adept at my plant identification.

This tree, however, I already knew. This is an example of Valley Oak. There's a characteristic silhouette and gnarly branch structure that I find most appealing.

Town of Yountville: Yountville Park (Yountville, California)

We were in the heart of the Napa Valley a few days ago and happened across this local park in Yountville. Pleasant, green after so much winter rain, and nicely cared for - I was wishing we had time to stop for a sandwich so we could enjoy the place a little longer.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

California State Parks: Petaluma Adobe (Petaluma)

This afternoon I was the docent on duty (with Demi as my sidekick) at Petaluma Adobe.  I gave more tours in 2-1/2 hours today than I did in all of 2010! Maybe it was the splendid weather - look at that blue sky in the photo - but the weekend and the weather was bringing out visitors from Benicia, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Petaluma, Marin County and Sonoma. It was great to tell them about a venue that I love!

Prickly pear cactus provides "barbed wire" fencing to
  keep the cattle inside.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sonoma County Regional Parks: Spring Lake Regional Park (Santa Rosa)

Spring Lake Regional Park must certainly be the jewel in our county park system. It has everything - the lake, camping, trails, a beach, concessions, an environmental center and probably lots more that I have yet to discover. Plus the sheer beauty of it all.

Demi and I were checking it out this afternoon. Demi was uncontrollable with all the luscious scents of critters that had walked our way before. We passed several dogs with their handlers, horses, (there's also a bridle path), plus bicyclists and joggers. Resolution: Return often.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sonoma County Regional Parks: Ernie Smith Community Park (El Verano)

In spite of all the rain, Ernie Smith Community Park proved to be a great place to exercise Brix and Demi. At least a dozen canines turned up in the 45 minutes we were there, mostly labrador retriever puppies, each one cuter than the one that just arrived.

This is one of our favorite dog parks because it is large enough, but not too large, there is a doggie drinking fountain as well as one designed for humans, picnic tables on cement slabs and donated chairs to move around. A good time was had by all!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

City of Sonoma: Bike Path

Here's another reason why I like the Sonoma Bike Path so much. The 1.5 mile route cuts right through the countryside as well as meandering behind homes. Along the way there are vineyards, vegetables, homes, empty fields, one basketball court, one senior center and lots of dogs and an occasional bicycle. This is one of Demi's favorite locations in town!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sonoma County Regional Parks: Maxwell Farms (Boyes Hot Springs)

This photo shows part of why I like Maxwell Farms so much. This image makes it appear as though I was deep into the woods, but what you can't see is that 50 paces to the right there was a stream of traffic driving by! Maxwell Farms is definitely an urban park but there are dense trees, Sonoma Creek rushing through and a gazillion squirrels. Demi was with me this afternoon, it's one of her favoirte places too.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sonoma County Regional Parks: Maxwell (Boyes Hot Springs)

It was late afternoon, the temperature was in the chilly 40s and Maxwell Regional Park was busy! Both softball fields were in use, as was the tennis court, there were kids in the play area and dog walkers everywhere. I just love it when I see public space as used - and loved - as much as I do!

This is Demi -- we call this "reading the newspaper" - she's sniffing to see who else has been visiting the park.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

California State Parks: The Barracks (Sonoma)

One of the perks of caring about parks is that you get to attend public meetings in historic places. This morning, for example, I met with others here in the Sonoma Barracks, the home of General Vallejo's soldiers back in the 1830s. There was no canon fire today and the Russians at Fort Ross didn't attack, but the ghosts of history past were all about us. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sonoma County Regional Parks: Sonoma Valley (Glen Ellen)

Not all of my park visits are about seeing a park. Sometimes it's about slowing down and having time to breathe.

Today I was driving in rush hour traffic, or what passes for such here in Sonoma County. I was traveling East on Route 12 from Santa Rosa and had already passed three deer that I wanted to meet and greet.

I was still heavily scheduled so all I could manage was a five minute pause at the next park that I passed, in this case, Sonoma Valley Regional Park. There were at least a dozen dogs frolicking in the dog park, the parking lot was respectably full and I had just enough time to get out of my car, take a deep breath, snap this photo and continue on my way. That was it - but I'm glad I took those five minutes, it made all the difference.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

City of Sonoma: The Plaza

Today was full of avian sightings. It wasn't just the pigeons on the street lights, there were also two red-shouldered hawks, turkey vultures sitting up in trees, and a glorious V of geese flying over the county.

It also started when I saw the ducks at the pond at Sonoma Plaza. They were sunning, swimming and preening and the park itself was full of preschoolers enjoying the play equipment. Brisk as it was, I was surprised by how many parents and toddlers were visiting the park, but it was as full as any day in summer.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

City of Sonoma: Depot Park

Several of the parks in the City of Sonoma are on the Sonoma Bike Path.  One of my favorites is Depot Park which hosts a small history museum, a picnic area (with BBQ stoves) and this play area designed particularly for younger children. I was alone today - no dog - but this park is dog friendly and Brix and Demi have been here often.

Monday, January 3, 2011

City of Sonoma: Stone Field (aka Field of Dreams)

Another section of open space along the Sonoma Bike Path is this one, variously named as Field of Dreams and Stone Field. Today there were signs posted saying that the two playing fields were closed, and when I tried to walk on the field to squint at the teeny-tiny sign that names the field, my boots squished in the wettest soil I've ever walked. It looks so green and lush on the surface, but I was sinking toward China after only a few paces.

Aside from the playing fields - greatly used in clement weather - the area is dog friendly for canines on leashes, as Brix and Demi were. Another day, when things dry out, I'll let them walk the perimeter and across the soft grass. They'll love it!

You know, I'm not exactly certain that the City of Sonoma owns this property. It is so poorly labeled and butts up against what I know is Vallejo property (State of California), that it is possible that it actually belongs to the State. When I find out I'll correct my post.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

City of Sonoma: Bike Path

The bike path in Sonoma runs from Route 12 to Fourth Street East, a distance of 1.5 miles.  Many regular bike path walkers make the entire three-mile loop several times a week. The path is maintained by the City and by volunteers who accept the responsibilities of mowing, weeding and litter abatement for a one block section.  Steve and I used to do that, but after it got to be a bit much we were grateful simply to walk the path with our dogs. Today we only walked one section, on the way to somewhere else, something we do often.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

City of Sonoma: Olsen Park

After a lovely New Year's Eve with friends, rain and drear greeted us this morning and kept us hostage all day. But dogs must be walked and resolutions must be kept, right?

We made it as far as Olsen Park, a tidy and inviting neighborhood space on the Sonoma Bike Path. The basketball court was empty - and we were sidelined because Olsen is unfriendly to dogs and I was with Brix and Demi. But there was a group in the kids' play area and others wandered in as we wandered home. Dogs were walked, resolution was kept!