Archive for month: October, 2012

Right Action: Save Unspoiled Land!

Categories: Conscious Living, Mindfulness - Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let’s Hear It For the Santa Cruz County Land Trust! (   Really performing “Right Actions” here in our county, saving thousands of acres of land from development.  Here are some photos of a sneak peek I was privileged to enjoy visiting our newest acquisition, pristine 1,200 acre Star Creek Ranch in the heart of the Pajaro Hills near Watsonville.









The Board of the Santa Cruz County Land Trust and my friend and neighbor Cindy Rubin, former President of the Land Trust, invited us to join Stephen Slade, Deputy Director and Lisa Larson, Finance and Administrative Director, on a picnic and Four Wheel Drive tour of the ranch.  We agreed in a nanosecond, and I wanted to share the inspiring and heads up story of what the Land Trust is doing in our county, in hopes that any of you in other counties will take action in your own back yards.  It seems to me, there is no greater legacy we can leave the next generations than open and wild spaces.  They create a habitat for animals and a breathing space for humans seeking regeneration and respite from the congestion of modern cities.

At its core, Santa Cruz County Land Trust is pioneering forward thinking conservation planning non profit.  SCCLT has developed a “master plan” or Conservation Blueprint identifying those places in our county where conservation could deliver the most benefits for the least dollars. They were, essentially, looking for places that had it all. The Pajaro Hills fit the bill and Star Creek Ranch is at the heart of those hills: the single property that links other large properties and is, therefore, the place to begin the protection of a whole new region.Star Creek is such an exciting acquisition. Wildlife habitat, check. Fish habitat, check. Water quality, check. Recreational opportunities, check. Biodiversity, check. Connections to other large habitats, check. Potential revenue to fund stewardship,

You can follow the 2.5 miles of Pescadero Creek as we did, bumping along in Steve’s 4WD SUVor look down on the canyon it forms from the hills above and you can’t help but see the appeal of this property for a wide variety of wildlife. Deer, bobcats, wild turkeys, mountain lions, hawks, eagles, steelhead, and even threatened species like the Southwestern pond turtle have all been seen on the ranch. The endangered California Red-legged frog is there, too – and we can enhance their environment once we own the property.

As exciting as what is on the land is what can pass through it. The Conservation Blueprint identified the Pajaro Hills as a critical link between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Gabilan Range to the south. Linking such large habitats is a high priority for the long-term health of such wide-ranging species as the Mountain lion and badger.

Pescadero Creek drains a watershed as big as the Aptos Creek watershed. It runs year-round and already serves as a critical steelhead spawning and rearing habitat. We anticipate that restoration and stewardship work will increase the steelhead population. The creek flows into the Pajaro River and the property has numerous streams and springs – all of which contribute to the flow of quality water into the Pajaro Valley and its overdrafted aquifer.

Star Creek Ranch has 24 miles of unpaved roads and trails, which can provide the basis for a wide range of recreational opportunities in the future. Because the ranch borders all the large neighboring ranches in these hills, it is the critical link in providing connections to other lands as they are protected – as well as to currently protected lands, including Clark Canyon Ranch (owned by Peninsula Open Space Trust), Castro Valley Ranch (where there is a trail easement already) and Mt. Madonna County Park.

The 1,200 acres includes 360 acres of redwood forest that has been logged in the past. The Land Trust will reduce timber harvests and follow the model it has used in the Byrne-Milliron Forest to create a healthy, unevenly-aged forest that will both enhance wildlife habitat and provide revenue for stewardship and restoration of the ranch. As in the Byrne-Milliron Forest, our practices on Star Creek Ranch will demonstrate the compatibility of forestry with habitat and water quality protection.

Our day at Star Creek Ranch was way more than a picnic–it was a day of spiritual replenishment, inspiration and wild beauty.

Looping Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps

Categories: Adventure, Conscious Living, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Horses, Relationships, Travel - Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wonderful opportunity!  Reservations for the High Sierra Camps are hard to come by.  You have to win a lottery and my psychoanalyst colleague Francine has been trying for years.  The appeal is enormous:  Yosemite National Park; beautiful trails high above the valley floor, some intersecting with the JMT ( and the Pacific Crest Trail (; camps about every 8-10 miles with tent cabins, restrooms, and a dining/cook tent to prepare meals so you need only a day pack; you don’t have to carry a full backpack!

In 2012 Francine’s number came up for a group of six hikers and we were lucky to be among them.  Just try to imagine a group of (mostly office-bound psychoanalysts representing southern and northern California) planning a challenging 5 day hiking trip, then throw in the fillip of the hantavirus threat (, and you’ve got a guaranteed flurry of preliminary emails, a classically contagious mix, not of the virus, but of the sixty something and seventy something hikers’ anxieties.  What shall we  bring? Carry?  Wear? How much training had we better do? etc.

Fortunately for me, one of our number, Susan, recently married to John and new to distance hiking, was sufficiently worried about carrying a pack and her back pain (an occupational hazard for we of the seated psychotherapist set) that she called ahead and discovered, lo and behold, a mule could be arranged to carry any and everything a hiker didn’t need on her person during the day (i.e. dop kit, camp shoes, book, flashlight, sleepsack, extra clothes).  So, for a a fee, Roamer the mule freed us to hike completely unburdened by anything other than our 2 litres of water, rain gear, cameras and lunch. Thank you, Susan and Roamer and his charming mule skinner accompanist.

Jim, Francine, Mary, Harriet, Roamer, Susan and John and our lovely “muleskinner”s horse Ready to Roll On!

Day One:  After a good dinner and comfortable bed in our tent cabins in Tuolomne Meadows, inauspicuously visited by a deer mouse scuttling across our packs during the night, we loaded our packs. Just in case we sprayed them all with Lysol and gave Roamer what we didn’t need; we set off in high spirits to hike our “shakedown day” about eight or so miles to the camp at Glen Aulin.  We stopped for lunch overlooking Tuolomne Meadows, setting the bar for each days picnic as a site of beauty and welcome rest.  By late afternoon, we reached Glen Aulin Camp, situated at the base of a spectacular waterfall.  Out came the blister first aid, aspirin, some scotch, comfortable shoes–no showers because throughout the loop the water shortage this season was too extreme–handiwipes instead of showers, and in my case, my favorite “Ticket to the Moon” purple parachute silk hammock (  I climbed in and, gently swaying by the waterfall, relished reading Caleb’s Crossing, Pulitzer prize winning author Geraldine Brooks’ story of life in the 17th  century colonial settlement on Martha’s Vineyard.

Day Two:  Setting out for Mae Lake Camp. With my Garmin GPS I soon learned that the old artistic rusted cutout trail marker signs underestimated distances by 10-20%, so we averaged 10 miles per day between camps and with detours for spectacular views and picnics.  Today we had a good long 1,600 foot climb up out of Glen Aulin with views of dark red Mt Dana and Mt Conness marking the Sierra divide.  Because of the drought and our September days, we missed seeing some of our favorite Yosemite wildflowers, Lemmon’s Paintbrush, sticky  yellow Monkeyflower and Sierra Gentian.  Another year!  By the end of the 10 mile hike, we were all sweaty and tired and so happy to come upon beautiful Mae Lake that we all stripped and dove in.  It felt fabulous.  Only later did we see the “no swimming” sign—it turns out in the drought, the lake is needed for the camp’s drinking water.  Tasty!


Two beautiful shots taken by Mary Herne of (L) the sunrise coming up behind Mae Lake, and (R) the shimmering reflection on Mae Lake’s surface at sunrise.  No evidence, fortunately, of our inadvertent rule breaking swim.  Just beauty.


Day Three: Mae Lake Camp to Sunrise High Sierra Camp, following the original Tioga wagon road to Tanaya Lake, we climbed up the trail on a series of steep switchbacks  to Clouds Rest Junction.  Other hikers coming the other way assured us we were almost at the top and we must NOT miss taking a cut off west from the junction to a perfect overlook site for lunch.  Jim, Mary and I did that and even though we were tired from the climb, were SO glad we did. The overlook provided a dramatic vista of the valley carved by the movement of Tenaya Glacier, formed when a portion of the Tuolomne Glacier overflowed its basin into Tenaya Lake and down Tenaya Canyon. Oohing and Aahing, munching on our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we could look out over Half Dome and El Capitan from our perch. Returning to the trail inspired, we hiked the rest of another 10 mile day into Sunrise, a camp Jim and I had stayed at years ago, hiking from Vogelsang High Camp in the other direction.

Each tent cabin has a wood stove and bed space for six, but because several less-intrepid hikers than we had cancelled, we spread ourselves out nightly in two tents and kept cosy over the cold nights.

                                                                                           Jim, Stoking the Wood Stove at Sunrise

Day Four:  Sunrise is aptly named as it is situated on the edge of a huge meadow rimmed by peaks, a perfect place to get up early, which Mary and I did by starlight the next morning, the last morning on the trail, to meditate bundled up in parkas, long johns, blankets and booties, and watch in silent awe as the sun slowly lit up the peaks and crest, bringing in warmth and the day.  Sad to anticipate parting with our friends and the high Sierras, we set out on our last day’s hike back out to Tuolomne Meadows.  It was a gorgeous hike past Cathedral Peak and an opportunity for another beautiful side trip down to picnic on a huge granite outcropping overlooking Lower Cathedral Lake.  Switchbacking down the trail back to Tuolomne Meadows, another 10 miler, and we were thrilled to find the bus stop at the trailhead juncture with Tioga Road for the shuttle bus to save us an additional two more miles back to our starting point.  

The last  night over dinner and breakfast the last morning, we celebrated our friendship, our accomplishments, our courage in not cancelling the trip out of fear of a deer mouse, and our hopes to win the lottery another year for a return journey.