Our Trees and Climate Hike Proved Intriguing

David Ackerly leads group of hikers

David Ackerly and Trekkers

July 2019: Trail Trekkers’ most recent hike, Trees and Climate, proved fascinating, with 20 people discussing the future of the Hillside Natural Area – and of the entire natural world – with tour leader David Ackerly.

Ackerly, who lives in El Cerrito, knows the topic well. He is the dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources and a scientist who has been studying climate change and its global and local effects for years.

Trekkers ponder trees during hikeAmong the topics he discussed was, what can and should scientists and members of the public do to ensure the health of our local forests as climate change makes it difficult or impossible for existing trees to flourish in their once comfortable neighborhood?

Watch for the next such hike, as we plan to do a similar version of this Trees and Climate hike in the fall.





List of trees of interest found above Schmidt entrance to Hillside Natural Area.

Remove Invasive Species with Friends of 5 Creeks July 20

Neil Tsutsui attacks a patch of broom

Neil Tsutsui attacks a patch of broom

Trail Trekkers will be working with Friends of Five Creeks on this valuable effort to restore native habitat in the Hillside. Please join us.

Saturday, July 20: Help reduce fire danger in the El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area, 10am – 12:30pm

Join Friends of Five Creeks in El Cerrito’s beautiful Hillside Natural Area, to continue a years-long effort of removing invasive, fire-prone French broom, in order to reduce fire danger and promote biodiversity.

From the entrance at the south end of Regency Court (across from 1520 Regency), the group will walk to the area’s welcoming central meadows between oak groves, talking about history and nature. Work is not heavy unless you want it to be, but part of the fire-road walk is reasonably steep. Poison oak is always a possibility, kids should be middle-school aged or older, and all should wear long pants, long sleeves, socks, and closed-toed shoes with good traction. Bring sun protection and a re-usable water bottle. We supply gloves, snacks, tools, and good company.

For information, please email f5creeks@gmail.com. Groups of more than 5 please RSVP. Otherwise, just show up!

Hillside Fest 2019 Attracts Hundreds

“My life changed when I took classes in bird songs,” hike leader Tara McIntire told a hardy crew of bird watchers during her early morning bird hike at the 6th Annual Hillside Festival, and her affection for birds was infectious.

The thrill of spotting a bird or a group of birds brought people to Tara McIntire’s early morning bird walk.

Tara’s interest in birds is much more than academic She loves them. Waxwings she calls “gorgeous, gorgeous birds.”

“The cutest birds,” she says of another bird we spot, the Bewick’s wren, “and they have attitude.”

During the two-hour stroll, young and old participants, binoculars in hand, saw many birds and learned much – including about the ethics of birding. Did you know not to point at small birds you spot in nearby bushes? A Canny crow may be watching and can swoop in to make that small bird its next meal.

During the three-day festival there were many such revelations. Our hike leaders are experts in their fields. Eddie Dunbar led a large group, mostly made up of young families but with some serious entomologists too, on a jaunt that brought to the fore tiny critters that delighted and amazed.

Eddie Dunbar; Insect Hike 25. Members of the tour got up close and personal with some tiny critters. None were harmed.

Dave Gibson, the city’s fire marshal, led a tour that took in areas that were once filled with dangerously flammable brush but are now grasslands, where fires can be more easily tamed. He focused on how the city is reducing brush in the Hillside Nature Area to prevent tragedy. Neighbors who attended had plenty to say about the matter too.

The Dog Scouts, meanwhile entertained canine friends and their owners by running dogs through scent training.

Three geologists led an enthusiastic gathering uphill and down to reveal much about the formation of the ground beneath our feet and its ever-changing life.

We had not one but three geologists and two lively and informative geology hikes that ranged from the global to the local to the seismic in their reach.

Hikers took in the views as sunset neared during the Early Evening Ramble.

Not every event had a serious or scientific purpose. Alina Constantinescu led a wonderful “evening ramble” whose purpose was to stretch your legs and get to chat with fellow hikers.

Whatever walk you were on, the views were wonderful. This is the first geology hike.

We had 15 events in all, attracted about 350 people, made new friends, and enjoyed a social gathering with a view – thanks to donations from Trader Joe’s and the El Cerrito Natural Grocery.

At the end of the festival — it was the end of the Festival. Following this social gathering, Nicole Becker led a Meditation in Nature.

People attended from Oakland, San Francisco, Fremont, and beyond – though most attendees were from El Cerrito, Berkeley, Albany, and thereabouts. We were pleased that Mayor Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto came on our wildflower hike.

A young man enjoyed the thrill of discovery during the Young Persons’ Nature Hike, co-sponsored by Madera Elementary School.

Every member of the Trail Trekkers board worked diligently to make this event happen. Our co-sponsor, the El Cerrito Environmental Quality Committee, helped publicize, and provided funding and inspiration and some legwork too. The El Cerrito Historical Society co-sponsored our history hike. We thank city staff for their cooperation and assistance.

Janet Gawthrop knows native plants like few others, and her knowledge and love of the subject both informed and affected everyone present.

We also heartily thank all of our hike leaders and other event organizers, and all of the Trekker volunteers who attended each event.

Girl Scouts enjoyed the Scavenger Hunt, where young people enjoyed hunting for plants and animals throughout the hillside, and winning prizes for finding them.

One of the festival’s geology hike was aimed at families. This dad and daughter enjoyed the geology and the trek.

Please attend next year’s festival, which we project will again be the first weekend in May.


Volunteers Succeed in Saving a Trail and Cleaning Hillside of Broom

Only five volunteers showed up for the final broom pull of the season, but we cleared a large area of about 60 feet by four feet of the invasive plant.

May 1, 2019: The area around the Madera to Julian Trail in the Hillside Natural Area was becoming dangerously overgrown, as drenching winter rains caused every plant in Northern California to grow quickly – including invasive broom.

 This yellow flowered, woody plant with thankfully shallow roots was overwhelming a wonderful trail in the Madera Open Space section of the Hillside that Trail Trekkers had laid out and built some years ago.

 So Trekkers sprung into action, working with the Environmental Quality Committee’s Green Teams, to save the trail from becoming completely overgrown, and to remove other large patches of broom from areas nearby.

 Howdy Goudey of the EQC lead the effort, with many volunteers from both groups. It was fun, deeply satisfying work. On April 28 – the last broom pull for the season – we found the ground growing hard, making it more difficult to pull.

Neil Tsutsui at work

 Broom plants that in March and February (and during Earth Day in April) would come up easily, by hand, now required the use of weed wrenches that lever the plants from the earth.

 Broom is an oily plant that contributes to fire danger so removing it is valuable for that reason too.

We will return to the broom fight next year. Broom grows back, but it can be successfully removed. Many areas in the city that were once awash in the stuff – along Moeser lane, for example – are now free of it,  and thus provide better habitat for native plants and animals.

After the Big March 2019 Storm

By Tim Aaronson

March 28, 2019

First three pixs of huge tree which came down smashing backyard fence of neighbor a week or two ago.Great stumps if you are a giant and can carry them out :>)

A number of people were using the trail last Sunday. Later a dad and his son with a metal detector finding treasure – three pennies!

Good news: wonderful display of wildflowers

Bad news: infinite seedlings of french broom sprouting everywhere.


Successful Broom Pull will be followed by another — soon

It didn’t take long for Beth Molnar, a member of the EQC, to produce this pile of pulled broom.

Our most recent work party, the Madera Open Space broom pull, proved a great success despite its timing – just after the fiercest rains we’ve seen in a while, and with downpours and hail forecasted for that day.

Still, 11 people showed up on Saturday February 16 for this event, spearheaded by the city’s Environmental Quality Committee’s Green Teams and organized by Howdy Goudey. Trekkers co-sponsored.

Broom, a bully of an invasive plant that has in the past decades taken over acres and acres of the Hillside Natural Area, is threatening to reclaim the Madera-Julian Trail, which connects Madera Open Space to the Julian Steps and thus to Motorcycle Hill.

This is a crucial and historic trail in the Hillside Natural Area. It is – so far – the only direct link via trail between the southern and northern areas of the Hillside Area.

The Madera-Julian Trail is facing an invasion of fast-growing broom.

When Trekkers and the El Cerrito High Mountain Biking Team won the support of Trust for Public Land back in 2013 on plans to buy the Madera Open Space, Trust bought in because the purchase would link the two sections of the Hillside.

If Trust hadn’t helped us, the city would never have been able to acquire Madera Open Space and add it to the publicly owned Hillside Natural Area.

Hence, we’d better do what we can to keep this trail passable. (It is a trail that Trekkers created back circa 2012, 2013.)

Watch this space and keep an eye on your email in-box. Green Teams and Trekkers plan another work party at this spot soon.

In two hours on February 16, our crew – a mix of longtime volunteers and welcome newcomers – managed to remove stacks of broom – by the roots of course. Working up close to plants – freeing new live oaks that had been engulfed by broom – is a much more intimate way to enjoy the Hillside than just walking through it.

The views were great as clouds scudded by and the sun came out, and the creek was cascading wildly.

Jacob pulls broom along the Hillside trail

We were careful, of course, to watch out for poison oak, which is starting to leaf.

Then, just past noon, our anointed quitting time, the sky darkened but it didn’t rain. It hailed.

See you at our next broom pull.

Another Great World One Festival

Barbara Lass shares information at the Trekker table.

As always, the various Trail Trekkers who worked our information booth at the city’s annual July 4 festival spread the word about our mission and events to hundreds of people on Wednesday.

We got 71 signups and many more people stopped by. We also gave away 50 trail maps, asking for small donations. We will soon have a more complete map, one listing all the trails.

I particularly enjoy this festival because it is such a good way to meet people from all walks of life who live in El Cerrito or nearby. Many young families stopped by the booth to ask about the trails. Some are using them regularly. Others, even some people who have lived in the city for years, said they are not familiar with the trails of the Hillside.

World One organizer Corey Mason did a great job with the musical programming, as he always does. I only caught one band, being too busy on the Trekker and EC Historical Society tables. But it was a good one, Sharon Gilchrist and Friends, featuring El Cerrito resident Chad Manning on fiddle. Chad’s son Jason made a guest appearance!

I thank Trekkers Pam Austin, Mollie Hazen, John Norikane, Tim Aaronson, Tom Gehling, Jenny Hammer, Hansa Jacob-Martin, Wade Huntley, Barbara Lass, Jim and Andia Rasmussen, Aimee Haire, and Clare Sheridan for helping at the table or planning and equipping the event. I believe others may have helped too while I was not there. If so, please accept my thanks!

Sharon Gilchrist and Friends played hot bluegrass