The Wine Country Online

Napa Valley Wild

by Ken Stanton

While not much is heard about land in Napa County without a wine grape connection, much wild land remains by design or chance. One of the first to envision saving land in its natural state was Mollie Patten, tollkeeper on the Old Lawley Toll Road on Mt. St. Helena. Long after her death Robert Louis Stevenson Park became reality in 1949 when the first 500 acres of forest surrounding the RLS memorial were dedicated. RLS State Park now encompasses well over 4,000 acres.

In 1960 California State Parks bought Reinhold Bothe's Paradise Park to save the beautiful Ritchey Canyon with its year 'round stream and redwoods. Bothe/Napa Valley is a well-administered state park with hiking, horseback riding and camping opportunities, and an excellent place to learn about the native Wappo people and the pioneers.

Si and June Foote founded the Napa County Land Trust in 1976. Since then it has saved over 25,000 acres of wild and agricultural land, becoming the most successful land trust in California. They often work in conjunction with State Parks and other agencies to save the finest examples of Napa's wild lands. These parcels are privately held by individuals who continue to live on their land but who give up certain development rights in exchange for tax benefits and the satisfaction of knowing their land is saved in perpetuity.

Some of these prize parcels include the finest stand of redwoods left in Napa County, spectacular waterfalls, pristine watersheds, and lofty volcanic palisades. The public can access these wonders usually once or twice a year by joining guided hikes conducted by the Land Trust of Napa County (as they are now known). Better yet, help preserve our natural heritage by becoming a member. Contact them at The Land Trust of Sonoma County, 1040 Main Street, Suite 203, Napa, CA 94559, or call 707-252-3270.

Other agencies are also active in our county to preserve land. Fish and Game manages the Napa River Ecological Reserve in Yountville and Rooster's Ridge Trail east of there. Bureau of Land Management is active building trails in the Lake Berryessa region. Skyline Park Association is a private organization managing a beautiful watershed in eastern Napa hills where hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking are popular.

There is a strong feeling in our community that not all the hills should be planted to grapes, that what makes our valley special is the backdrop of firs, pines and oaks enclosing these prize vineyards, providing beauty, animal habitat, natural erosion control, protection for the Napa Valley aquifer, and an indefinable something else that enriches our lives without measure.

Ken Stanton grew up in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles. Every move since has brought him to a smaller communities and more natural surroundings. He has been a climber and hiker for 35 years, written two books on regional history and recreation in Napa County and has been part of his family's wine grape growing business for many years. He lives in Angwin, California with his wife Susan and daughter Marenda.

Ken suggests these books:

If a mountain could have a biography, this is it: Mt. St. Helena and Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, a History and Guide will appeal to all hikers, history buffs, nature lovers and admirers of the mountain where a pre-famous Stevenson honeymooned in the summer of 1880. Mt. St. Helena is a thorough and enlightening look at the highest but least-known peak in the San Francisco Bay Area. Everything you'd want to know about it is here, from its explosive and misunderstood geologic origins to the popular biking, hiking and climbing destination of today. Discover the vibrant history, both natural and cultural that until its publication was known to few. The product of three years of research and hundreds of diverse sources, Mt. St. Helena is a uniquely informative and entertaining guidebook. It is available from Bonnie View Books, P.O. Box 804, St. Helena, CA 94574.

Ever felt like disentangling yourself from the crowded roads and tasting-bar queue lines and finding out what the rest of Napa Valley is like? This is the book to do it with: Great Day Hikes in and Around Napa Valley describes virtually every hiking area available to the public in Napa County and a little bit in each neighboring county for good measure. State, city and private parks, State Reserves, Fish and Game land, Bureau of Land Management land   they're all here. Each chapter has a pertinent information sidebar, a short cultural history of the immediate area, and a detailed trail guide. Some of the nearly 50 hikes featured are Mt. St. Helena, the awesome new Palisades trail featured recently in Sunset Magazine, the historic Oat Hill Mine Trail and Bothe/Napa Valley State Park. If you plan on exploring wild Napa County, don't leave home without it. Available at most Napa bookstores and through Bored Feet Publications, P.O. Box 1832, Mendocino, CA 95460.

Local conservation organizations are presented in "Stewardship: Speaking for the Land"