Posted under day trips
Over the sixteen years I’ve lived in the Bay Area, I have driven past Olompali State Historic Park — on US 101 about fifteen miles north of the Richmond Bridge — over 150 times. At least thirty of those times, my wife and I have agreed that “we really have to stop by this place sometime.” Yesterday, we finally did…and I’m sure we’ll be back a few times every year from now on. There are some historic buildings ranging from 80 to 150 years old, with several interesting stories attached…that alone would be enough to make a single visit worthwhile; for example, there are some remains of the adobe house of the last Miwok Indian leader, dating from the mid-1800s. (The documented history of the place goes back to 1600, when Francis Drake stopped by, but as some interpretive displays in the visitor’s center make clear, there were people living here since before the dawn of civilization.)
There is also a small “Miwok village,” though it doesn’t intend to really recreate a village. It does have a house made of reeds, and a storage shelter made of bark. (There is a sign that suggests that there used to be a “longhouse,” too, but there’s no sign of it. Most interesting to us was the garden of native plants, mostly dormant at this time of year, with signs telling how they were used for food or medicine. Someday I may try to make a meal from the plants in my backyard; it’s clear that the Miwok would have had no problem doing so, even though not a single one of them is what we would now consider a food plant.
The buildings, history, and Miwok village were interesting, and I could imagine going back at a few different times of year simply to see how the Miwok garden grows, but the real highlight was the scenery and the birds. Over the course of a five-mile walk, including all of a loop trail, plus part of the climb up a small mountain, we saw: a flock of acorn woodpeckers; a pair of varied thrush apparently building a nest; several ruby-crowned kinglets; a winter wren; a couple of hawks that we couldn’t definitively identify; a cedar waxwing; and of course many other birds that are more familiar to us, such as towhees and robins and hummingbirds (not sure exactly what variety). Most the walk is through beautiful oak woodland, interspersed with buckeyes and bay trees. Really beautiful.