Author Archives: rdowca

Rancho del Oso Trails Fit For Royalty

Sheet Metal Workers Union Repair Nature Center Trail

Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 104I love outdoor work parties, having run them for over ten years elsewhere; and now, thanks to Local 104 of the Sheet Metal Workers (SMW) Union, we have a fully rehabilitated path from the parking area to the Nature Center at Rancho del Oso, Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Community service is in the DNA of these SMW union workers. Over the past fourteen months, union workers provided over 900 community shifts of volunteer work in northern California alone. Their generosity supports various non-profit endeavors for state, county, and local parks. We were blessed that Local 104 chose Rancho del Oso (RDO) Nature and History Center for their altruistic herculean work.

These collaborative and productive union team projects can accomplish so much, while providing such camaraderie. There isn’t a place, anywhere that I know, where so much can get done while getting to know others so well. I found all the folks solid, fun, and energetic!

The Nature Center trail has been in serious disrepair with extensive muddy areas, making it dangerous and inaccessible to many State Parks visitors. Our new footpath is 120 feet long and was built using over a ton of crushed rock. This carefully crafted trail will now disperse the rainfall and provide a safe walking area to the Nature Center. In addition to this artfully constructed path, SMW volunteers installed a sturdy wooden bridge (4’ x 12’) crossing the seasonal stream bed. This walkway now connects to seven new wooden steps leading up to the Nature Center and bathroom facilities.

Most of the building materials and labor were provided by the Union. Fifteen union members (apprentices, journeypersons and retired persons), Mark Van Den Heuvel (Business Representative), and Matthew Weil (State Parks Trail Crew Leader) contributed to this project. It has been a pleasure to team up with the SMW Union Local 104, and we hope they will return to Rancho del Oso. We appreciate their professionalism and high quality work. On behalf of the RDO Board, thank you.

—Ed Poser

Celebrate Wildflower Weekend!

Saturday & Sunday, April 22-23, 12-4 pm

Winter’s abundant rain promises a profusion of spring wildflowers in the Waddell Valley. Rancho del Oso’s elegant and botanically captivating annual event will feature an impressive collection of vibrant wildflowers growing in the area. Each year offers it’s own unique sampling of the flowers appearing along Rancho del Oso’s trails—buttercups, paintbrush, lupine, iris, poppies, bleeding hearts, and more. Up to eighty native plant species along with several non-native species found blooming in the western portion of Big Basin Redwoods State Park will be on display in the Nature Center. They will be arranged by habitat, and labeled  with Latin names as well as common names. The assortment of shapes, sizes, colors and forms are a delight to the senses!

Reminiscing Rancho del Oso

The thirty year celebration banner at the Nature and History Center reminded me that I have been volunteering for twenty five years. When I retired, I envisioned sitting at my desk with a pile of books, finishing one and starting another. Instead, I enrolled in Diane West Bourke’s Nature and History class at Foothill College. Diane was the resident naturalist at Rancho del Oso (RDO), and I soon found my way there as an inquisitive volunteer. At a board meeting, I met Hulda Hoover McLean and learned that RDO had been her home.

The Hoover family bought this land around the time of World War I, and after the war spent summers on the property. When school was over, her father left Stanford (where he worked), loaded up wagons with supplies, and made the two day trek to the coast with his wife and three daughters. They roamed free on this beautiful land. Years went by, they grew up, married, but still maintained their connections to the land. Hulda Hoover McLean and her husband built their home on the site of the Nature and History Center and raised their children at RDO.

As time went on, her family moved away, Hulda became a widow, and she worried about how RDO could be maintained as both a family area and shared with the public. Thus, began negotiations with Sempervirens Fund, whose mission was to raise funds to purchase private land that was in danger of becoming developed, and keeping it as nature intended. Hulda sold a right-of-way that allowed public access from Castle Rock State Park through Big Basin, and down to the coast of RDO on what came to be known as the Skyline to the Sea Trail. At the same time, the Hoover land remained in family hands.

Hulda did not find that selling the land lessened her interest in being totally involved in its future. State Parks was the logical land steward, and they moved a mobile residence on site with a prefab building that became the ranger station. When I came on the scene, the resident ranger was close to retirement and not receptive to volunteer help. Hulda wanted to help, and decided if he could not spend hours every weekend in the ranger station, she would provide volunteers. She set up their duties, and found a way to get access to keys. However, there seemed to be a problem with who should have keys.

Not to be discouraged, Hulda acquired a key to the ranger station, bought a fake (hide-a-key) rock, and plunked it in the dirt by the front door. We were all given instructions about where to find it. I’m not sure how the ranger thought we all got in, but he did not seem to discover the rock until two years later. When he did find it, he was upset, but Hulda just picked it up and placed it by the front gate. Maybe it is still there; I haven’t looked in years.

A new ranger came on board, and liked the idea of volunteer help, so she put up the key box that still works so efficiently. I don’t know if Hulda was the first with the volunteer idea. A few years ago, at a thank you lunch for coastal volunteers, we were told that in our area alone, volunteer hours would cost the park service twenty million dollars a year without their help. So, I am glad that I am not just sitting at my desk with a mountain of books. Volunteers make a difference, provide a public service, and learn a lot about RDO. If you want to help, let us know.

—Joyce Rosenstiel

New Website!

Welcome to the newly rebuilt website for the Rancho del Oso Nature & History Center! We’re excited to share with you lots of great information and photos of this beautiful place and all there is to do and learn here. Please stay tuned – come back often – as we “build out” the site and add new content.

And of course, we’d love to have your support. Please consider becoming a member of the Waddell Creek Association today. Thanks!