Palm trees, Grateful Dead, Chinese Cedar trees, Miwok Indians, Dentist, historic battle, giant Madrones, dairy barn, hippie commune and hiking. Did I get your attention yet?
Normally we are flying through this area of the 101 just north of San Francisco to get from point A to point B…or sitting in the 101 north parking lot for hours on a bad traffic day. I kept seeing this sign for Olompali State Historic Park when we would fly through but we had not taken the chance to check it out before this past weekend. It’s a gorgeous area this time of year with the hills being so green, streams flowing and much cooler temps now than in the summer so when we were deciding where to go for an easy hike last week we picked this one.
As usual I checked on the Bay Area Hiker website for their awesome trail descriptions saved it to my phone and off we went! The hubs and I knew it was going to have some tidbits on history and some old buildings and non-native trees but we were still oohing and aahing at everything we saw.
Quick and dirty history lesson on the park: the Coast Miwok Indians inhabited this area from forever ago till about the mid 1800’s. A young couple, the Burdell’s (he was a dentist in San Francisco and has a mountain on the property named after him) received the land from the father after the “Battle of Olompali” and they preserved the old adobe structures and imported non native plants from all over the world for their garden that still exists. Then it was sold off and used as several different things (even a hippie commune) and then handed over to the state of California as a historic park which they have done a fabulous job keeping it up. Oh and did I mention that the Grateful Dead rented the main buildings in the mid 1960’s and Janis Joplin and Grace Slick were frequent visitors? That was on one of the informational plaques…no mention of they kinds of parties had there though. I guess they leave that to our imagination!
Now that your fun little history lesson is done, lets get on to the hike! It starts off slowly meandering passed the visitor center which is the old family home with a gigantic tree I need to have in my yard, on to some odd looking structures that are preserving the old adobe structures. Beyond those are the interesting gardens. There’s an eclectic mix of trees, a rock fountain structure thing, and some really grand steps leading down to the garden.
Then you round the corner and follow the Olompali Creek and whammo! you see this gorgeous restored barn with this crazy tree stump in front of it and off behind it a salt house, a blacksmith house and to the side an old dairy barn. I could stare at the restored barn all day and when we were traversing our way back down the ‘mountain’ I couldn’t help but get excited every time we could see it from up top. I know. I have a thing for churches and barns and I am a city girl that doesn’t attend church, go figure. It’s the architecture. Simple, functional, rustic and stands the test of time.
We use an app that tracks our hike time, distance, pace, elevation gain, etc. Because I kept stopping to take so many pictures and read all the park plaques we were doing 36 minute miles. Hahaha! We usually only do that if it’s a really steep climb! I was thinking we could only be there an hour or so with it being just a 3.15 mile hike but we took almost 2 hours.
One of the great things they are doing with this park is making it educational for the school kids, and us too I suppose! The park is in the process of re-creating a small Miwok village. There’s 2 kotchas (houses) with one made from redwood bark and another from bundles of native tule reeds and gardens of native plants they are trying to bring back. There were several kids playing here and having a blast. I wanted to join in but refrained, mostly because the hubs gets embarrassed by me easily. 🙂
From there we followed the trail up along the creek, then up toward the top of Mount Burdell, took the shorter route to view Petaluma river and San Pablo bay. Lots of tiny white flowers glowed against the super green grass as we walked the narrow trail. Most of the trees still had their leaves on them. There were very large manzanita trees (purple bark/trunk) and madrones much bigger than we have seen around here on our previous hikes. I think you could hike this trail throughout the year and find so many different plants/trees to look at and photograph.
We do enjoy hikes that we not only get exercise in and enjoy the scenery but also learn a little more about the area. I had no idea how diverse all the little pocket areas are! If you have any suggestions on where we should hike next in northern CA please feel free to let me know!