In 1977, the State Park system bought Rancho Olompali, and turned it into a State Park, which opened to the public in 1990. This is a very low key, no frills State Park, without so much as a campground. You have to give the State Park credit, however, for doing something with it, considering how little resources they have to work with.At the base...more
Olompali sits at the base of Mount Burdell, which is a tiny "mountain" with an elevation at the peak of 1558 feet. The trailhead starts at 335 feet. Total one way distance is about 4 miles. This is not a tough hike. The trail is a gentle rise throughout, so you hardly feel the total elevation rise of 1200 feet. In fact, if you are a trail runner,...more
When you summit Mount Burdell at the nose-bleeding elevation of 1558 feet, the first thing you'll note is it looks nothing like the top of K2 or Mount Everest. (Not that I've been at either one of those, but I've seen the movies.) The top of Mount Burdell doesn't even look like the top of a mountain. It's so flat, you'll wonder where the mountain went. You might even see a rabbit hop through the fields.
Unlike K2 and Everest, there are no prayer flags up here, but there are picnic tables. So you can pack your chicken wings or frog's hair or rabbit, or whatever, and some cantelope, kiwi, fried okra and golden raisin oatmeal cookies, and have a nice meal at one of the two picnic tables.
Because it takes so long to get up to these tables, you usually won't have to compete with some kid's birthday party and bounce house.
At one time, Olompali was one of the most significant Miwok communities. Thousands of Miwoks lived in the area. As many as 500 were "converted" to Christianity and then relocated to the newly colonized San Rafael in the early 1800's to build the mission. They were returned to Olompali only after work at the mission was completed. Given the...more
In the 1960s, Rancho Olompali was owned by the University of San Francisco. They used it as a Jesuit retreat, but it was too expensive to maintain. USF decided to find tenants, but very few people were willing to pay the whopping $250/ month rent for the 700-acre estate and 26 room mansion (and barn, pool and gardens). Along came Jerry Garcia in...more
The Chosen Family hippie commune, founded by Don McCoy, lived in the 26 room mansion located on the grounds of Rancho Olampali from 1967 to 1969. The mansion was the former home of the Burdell family, former owners of the ranch in the 1800s and early 1900s. Unfortunately, The Chosen Family weren't long term tenants at el Rancho. In 1969, while they...more
Poison oak is all over the place in the hills of Marin and Sonoma Counties. You'll see it along the trail as you hike in the park. It is very recognizable, if you know what it looks like. This is a clear picture of the leaves. Avoid it at all costs. A case of poison oak is a bummer. If you stay on the trail, you'll be ok. It's only when you go off...more
Actually, "Touch of Black" would be a more appropriate title, but Grateful Dead didn't write that song. In Marin County, many of our coast live oaks have fallen to the fate of picking up sudden oak death. Kind of a misnomer - it's not all that sudden. The fungus attacks the tree around its lower trunk and gradually cuts off the channels that send...more
Only in the movies and on TV do you see two people in love running towards each other in a field of flowers. As tempting as that may be, you can't do that here. You'll have ticks crawling up your legs for sure. That would freak me out and be such a downer. I know those ticks are out there in the billions, because my cat keeps bringing them home.more
The best time to visit Olompali --
Definitely April or May. It's the perfect termperature during those months. Wait until the winter rains stop, and the trails have had a few days in the sun to dry up - otherwise you'll be sloshing around in the mud. In April and May the grasses are a deep almost blinding emerald green. Wildflowers are abundant. You'll see California poppies, wild irises and all sorts of flowers that I can't name. Little itsy bitsy yellow ones. Purple daisy looking things. Purple spikey flowers. A botanist I am not.
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