Thursday, November 1, 2012

   October 22, 2012

Limekiln State Park
Limekiln Falls

     Limekiln State Park is one of the best-kept secrets.  People pass by it daily looking out over the Pacific as they drive the Big Sir Coast. Limekiln SP, is one of the 70 State Parks that was scheduled for closure.  A park that has battled fires, floods the threat of closures more than once has had so many rumors it could rival a Hollywood celebrity.

                                    Highway One Bridge at Entrance to Limekiln State Park

  My sister and her husband had to clue me in on this best-kept secret. I was like everyone else going to Julia Pfieiffer Burns State Park when in Big Sur. Two of the greatest hikes ever, one to the Limekilns and one to Limekiln Falls. I was so taken at Limekiln Falls and sorry that I had not been here before. Such a beauty--100 feet of a fan shaped curtain of water, moss covered rocks and fallen trees--I was sorry that I had not been here before for this Kodak moment.

     Limekiln State Park got its name for the four Lime Kilns that were used to extract lime, a key ingredient in cement.  From 1887-90 the Rockland Lime and Lumber Co. would load barrels of lime on a railway. Down the rail line, the lime went through the Redwoods, loaded onto a schooner a half-mile away in Rockland Bay and then made its way to Monterey or San Francisco to be added to cement.

The four furnaces at Limekiln. 
    Nowadays Limekiln Trail is a hike in fairyland as it meanders along next to Limekiln Creek with Redwoods on either side. As you continue uphill the creek will continue to be your guide and provide you with sound effects all the way to the furnaces. As I hiked I thought of friends of mine who are in wheelchairs and realized Limekiln trail could be conquered by an outdoor wheelchair, with some extra push from a friend. It’s maintained perfectly, kudos to the park service.

Limekiln Trail
Just fallow the stream uphill to the furnaces.
Terra Trek's Wilderness Wheelchair
     When heading to Limekiln Falls, however, expect this trail to be a wilderness trail at its’ finest: rustic, un-manicured and even a challenge to follow.  While there are excellent guide books for this area simply remember your going to see the falls so always head uphill and stay close to the stream.  This hike, though a little longer at times, defines the term “wilderness trail” has everything you could ever want at the end of a trail.  All of your senses get rewarded on this hike.  I had a lot of fun on this trail looking around at the different directions people had taken.  With so few hikers on this trail you can hear natures sirens beckon you forward. Once at the falls, rest your feet in the water and what little sweat you broke can be cooled with the spray coming off the falls.

Limekiln Falls Trail, becomes more wilderness than the other trails in the park.
Have a seat on one of many fallen trees and let the mist cool your sweat.

From here the sirens of the fall can lead you.

 (If you are feeling motivated to help our understaffed parks with issues on the trail, check out the new Park Observation Program app. by clicking here.)

      Weather I am hiking with friends or alone I am in a meditative state enjoying the wilderness in a spiritual sort of way. I’m not sure they are not one and the same or link in ways I will never fully comprehend. But when back at camp I enjoy the company of others and meeting other outdoor enthusiasts who have the same desire to be in the outdoors, stare at the stars and listen to the night. I have found many a trail to my liking and other secret spots from other hikers. I have gone to  hot springs without knowing exactly where they are (not on the map)and found my fellow campers eager to share information and swap stories.
As peaceful as it looks, Limekiln Trail
      On this trip I camped next to and spoke with Patrick Walsh. Patrick had been coming to Limekiln for 40 years. He remembers Limekiln when it was family owned and operated before the Esalen Institute took over management.  Patrick wasn’t quite sure of the date when the State Park system took over Limekiln (September 1995) but he remembers watching his family fall in love with the outdoors here.

         “When I came here some 40 years ago I thought this was the most
           beautiful place I had been in my whole life. I watched my daughter
           play in Limekiln creek right there where it pour into the Pacific
           Ocean. I am here today with my daughter now 37 and here daughter
           who is 4, wading in that very same spot. All along I thought the state
           was doing a very good job in running this park. I am upset I feel very
           few people who use the parks were notified about their closures. We  
           had no input on this decision that is going to effect so many of us. Park
           life is crucial for families right now in these tough economic times.
           Where can you take two cars full of family and friends, pay $35 a night
           for a campsite that fits 8 people and come away happy and full of memories? 
           Where can you do this that it is affordable but here in our parks?”
                                          -Patrick Walsh, May 2012.

Patrick Walsh
      If you’re looking for a camping experience with several microclimates that exist in one spot I have one word… Limekiln. You want the ocean, hiking, waterfalls, history, redwoods and stars, this be the place.
Unfortunately, The Chalk Fire in October of 2008 caused much damage to the park, including destroying many campsites. After the fire was out the park remained closed until July of 2010, so the park service could clean up. I am not sure if  Limekiln SP, will build more campsites since the overall number plummeted from the fire, but we do know the Rangers have been forced to cut back on hours of operation here.
      Next time your hiking please be aware that “California State Parks Foundation”, has instituted something new called Park Observation Program.
POP, gives you the opportunity to help out in our understaffed parks. If you see a problem with a trail a falling fence, tree blocking the trail, or part of the trail has eroded and any number of other maintenance issues take a picture and note the location by the nearest sign. Cal Parks has an app. for your phone and you can upload the image and problem right on the spot. Go to  to find out more. Become an advocate to preserve these places of beauty for future generations.

You can choose to go over the fallen trees or do the Limbo to pass on this trail.
I consider this a Wilderness Trail and not one in need of maintenance.

Parks Divide” mission is to Get you up, Get you out, and Enjoy our public lands

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Parks Divide

On Friday of last week robbers made off with $2million in gold and precious stones but missed the mother load. A piece of California’s Gold Rush history had to be left behind as the robbers had set off an alarm and the authorities were on their way. This all happened at California Mining and Minerals Museum, one of the 70 State Parks that were to be shuttered because of lack of funds.

In May of 2012, with a starter grant from the prestigious Baum Foundation, I began photographing several of the parks that were to close. I interviewed representatives from the non-profits who were to become the new shepherds of these parks as they would began to close in July of 2012.  Some of the parks had outside vendors bidding to run the park as they would see fit. Here is how that works, you pay $35 a night for camping right now. They are run by our State Parks with Rangers who are there to uphold the integrity of the park as well as protect its, valuable resources. When the outside vendors take over California gets $3.50 and who knows what their background is as caretakers to our parks.

I interviewed campers, camp hosts, park rangers. I was serenaded at Jack London State Park.  And then there was Sam Quan. Sam grew up in what is now China Camp State Park on the shore of San Rafael and still lives there. One of the first San Francisco Bay shrimp junks is named in honor of Quan's mother, Grace.  The ship, Grace Quan, now restored is on display at the Maritime Museum in San Francisco.  His family’s story is alive and is part of the rich history of the struggle of immigrants in America best scene at our State Museum and Parks. Parks Divide blog, is here to inform and hopefully get you up, get out and get you wise to what our State Parks has to offer everyone.

Oh yeah, as it turns out the parks system never was short of cash but more on that later.

“The Idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.”
Edward Abbey.

Frank Quan looks out from his home of 86 years at China Camp State Park.
"These closings is just, well it's just hard on the whole family. We are
hoping donations will keep the park open and preserve our museum."