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Glen Ellen Telegram: 04/01/2015

Glen Ellen Telegram

Despite the lack of rain, we are experiencing all the spectacle of spring – the fresh leaves, wildflowers, and grasses are calling many of us out onto the trails. Glen Ellen is truly a hiking paradise. We have so many well-traveled paths, the old standbys and the secret little places that are sacred to long-time locals. But we also have several brand new trail systems to explore. I recently drove up Sonoma Mountain Road to check out the new North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park. There are two main trails accessed at this park: the Umbrella Tree Trail and the North Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail. The first is very steep (but short) and the reward is a panoramic view stretching from south Santa Rosa through the entirety of Bennett Valley. The second meanders gently through a beautiful creek valley lined with redwoods and a meadow overlooking adjacent vineyards before it starts switch-backing up the hill to the Bennett Valley Overlook. If you continue on that trail it eventually connects in with Jack London State Park. Also accessible through Jack London is the new East Slope Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail which opened to the public on March 14. Ultimately, this entire network will connect in with the Bay Area Ridge Trail ( I definitely recommend checking out these public access areas.

I’m obviously not a travel writer, but I did inherit this column from a pro in the field of penning guide books. Tracy Salcedo-Chourré recently sent me an update and, wow, has she been busy! This past year she’s had three new books printed: Hiking Lassen Volcanic National Park, Best Hikes Near Reno & Lake Tahoe, and Walking San Francisco. The 3rd edition of her Best Easy Day Hikes – Lake Tahoe came out last month. In this next year she is hoping to wrap up Hiking Northern California’s Waterfalls, Hiking Through History San Francisco, and Historic Yosemite National Park. She says that the “magic of this gig” is the access to places she’d normally not get to: “From Crescent City to Mount Shasta City to Oroville to Tahoe to Lucia to Yosemite; more than 9,000 miles on my car and hundreds of miles on my wandering shoes. And I honestly loved every minute of it.” Even after her wanderings, some of her favorite trails can be accessed from her Glen Ellen home, “the Wolf House, and beyond to Bathtub Lake … the regional park … Camp Via, looping through the old orchard, and descending past the Grandmother tree.”

If it’s a Sunday, and you are on a local trail, you may just run into the SOGs (Slow Old Guys). This group of die-hard longtime friends has been getting together every Sunday for a jog/run for the past 20 years, rain or shine. The core group of SOGs have included Rory Pool, Leigh Hall, Matt Atkinson, Chuck Palenchar, Ed Davis, Ritch Foster, Mike Witkowski (with newer runners Christina Palenchar and Anne Kuschner). Clearly, the G can also represent “gals.” Throughout the years others have come and gone, including those that now run “in spirit.” In the regional park there is bench dedicated by the group to honor SOG Bruce Kuschner, who passed in 2001. The core group initially connected when their children began kindergarten at Dunbar School.

Mike Witkowski additionally reports, “There are a group of walkers: Rich and Margie Foster, Deb Pool, Jane Witkowski, Ron Everett, Tim Gilmore, Pam Wiley, Larry Davis, Ron Davidson, Jan Davis, Cynthia Carr, and an assortment of dogs. SOG children have also joined us walking and jogging: Amanda Hall, Christina Witkowski (Macias), Tre Witkowski (Balchowsky), Loren and Adrian Palenchar, Kristen and Elizabeth Pool (Hart), Emily and Noah Davis, Emma Davis, Ben Carr, Joel Kuschner; add in all their spouses, children in strollers, and friends visiting from around the world, and you might get an idea of what the SOGs are.”

Although most SOG journeys are about four miles long, every New Year’s Day they do a longer excursion (Annadel, Tolay Lake, Sonoma Mountain, Calabazas Open Space, Gunsight Rock, Jack London, Bald Mountain). Leigh Hall and Ed Davis are currently training for a half-marathon and I’ve seen them on Sundays, separate from the group, running a bit longer and faster.

This is a lively group and the anecdotes they emailed me were wonderful. Ed: “Leigh and I are training for the first ever “Trans-Sonoma-Mountain half marathon” (an event we have created, because our schedules wouldn’t allow us to run an official half this spring – we are only expecting two participants, so everybody will be setting a course record!) It will start at the trailhead of the new North Slope trail, go through Jack London Park along the ridge trail, down Coon Trap trail past Camp Via, and back to Leigh’s place. We “think” it will be 13.2 miles … or close enough for SOGS!” Chuck: “Personally, I haven’t enjoyed running for over 20 years. What keeps me going is the enduring friendships and great conversations along the trail. One thing that keeps us cohesive is we only run as fast as the slowest jogger (usually me) but that rule doesn’t apply when we sign up for races such as the Kenwood 4th of July run. Then it’s ‘see you at the finish line.’” Rich: “As a person who had never run a mile before, jogging with the SOGs was a big decision for me. All of them were already friends and were welcoming, but it took me years to make the commitment. With great patience and encouragement they did drag me along until I actually became a runner for the first time in my life at the age of 50! After about a 10-year run (pun alert) and over a dozen half-marathons, I had to stop running due to knee injuries and surgeries from overuse in my work. I am now a walking SOG and still backpack with some of the group.”

I asked Mike Witkowski what their ol’ standby go-to trail was and he answered, “We jog from Rory and Deb’s house on Railroad Ave. in Glen Ellen through the County Park around Suttonfield Lake, up Matt’s hill, to Bruce’s bench and back down. Of course if Rory leads then we could go anywhere.”

Below, SOGs 20 years ago, (L to R): Bruce Kuschner, Chuck Palenchar, Rory Pool, Mike Witkowski, Ed Davis, and Leigh Hall. And last year (above, L to R): Rory Pool, Mike Witkowski, Jane Witkowski, Tre Balchowsky,Ed Davis, Anne Kuschner, Ritch Foster, Leigh Hall, Deb Pool, Margie Foster,Ron Davisdon, Matt Atkinson, Ron Everett, Christina Palenchar, Jan Davis, Chuck Palenchar.

Buzz from around the bend

• The badger is out of the box! At the end of Madrone Road no doubt you’ve noticed the developing front entrance for Hamel Family Winery. Clearance was finally given for the traffic light to be fully operational including the side for the winery driveway. And the badger? The Hamel family has deep roots associated with the University of Wisconsin (whose mascot is the badger), but that is not the whole story. You can read the “lowdown on the logo” section of their website to get the full scoop.

• Enjoy the beloved Glen Ellen Easter Egg Hunt at Dunbar school on Saturday, April 4, at 10 a.m. sharp. Then stay to take a tour of the school garden where there will be a celebration until 2 p.m.

• Believe it or not, the school year is winding down, and soon high school seniors will be finding out what their next steps will be. Please send me your information about college, work, travel, whatever your plans are for next year and beyond.

As always, if you have Glen Ellen news to announce, please email to or call 996-3352.

Do you have any Glen Ellen stories to share? Milestones? Celebrations? Email, or call 996-3352.

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Community Calendar

Food Bank comes to Sonoma Valley
Funky Fridays concerts at Hood Mansion
“Fantastical Family Night” at Jack London
Oakmont Farmers Market
Walk ‘n Wag
‘Forest bathing’ hike
“Fantastical Family Night” at Jack London
Kenwood Community Church service
Butterflies and dragonflies hike
Al Anon meeting
Bingo at Rincon Valley Grange

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