Saturday, 23 November 2013
Jacky and I volunteered to help uproot invasive French broom at Bear Creek redwoods open space preserve. Some or all of this area is not open to the public, as it turns out, one of the unsung benefits of volunteering.
It was a bright, sunny day — at the pond, where we parked. Most of our work was in the forest, so we didn’t see all that much sun. Very nice, anyway. There were quite a few of us; I think someone said 17.
A previous broom-clearing expedition had discovered a long-forgotten bridge framework across a creek down here. They said it was completely invisible until they had cleared away the broom. A pretty substantial investment, once upon a time.
We worked along a ridge (dubbed Old Bridge Ridge), starting by pulling out sparse and small broom plants here and there, but eventually homing in on a dense forest of broom, much of it as tall as we ourselves. By the end of the session, we had made a serious dent in it, but there was enough more to soak up several additional volunteer days. Lots of work.
We went back to the pond for lunchies (I had never heard of peanut-butter Oreos!). Jacky and I volunteered to walk around the pond, looking for stray broom. As we set off, we saw several of the party heading off toward some ruined buildings down the way. Someone said there was a history talk, so we deferred the pond until later and joined it.
Dave wearing blue jeans today, carrying an orange mini-weed wrench. Jacky the photographer (we both had only our cell phones; sorry if the pictures are a little unprofessional). The buildings are fenced off from trespassers.
I believe our guide’s name is James, the one in the red baseball cap. He actually lived here for a number of years — someone said 20, but there seemed to be some confusion about the number — and himself built some of the infrastructure that we see here.
Originally, I understand that this property was the country mansion estate of a wealthy San Francisco family. At some later date, it was a school run by the Jesuits. The building below was the chapel.
The Jesuits had a bookbindery a bit further down the road. We didn’t go that far; don’t know whether anything remains at what was called the Village or not.
At some even later date, the Jesuits moved out and it was a school run by those who thought the noble savage was the right model, leaving the children free to do whatever they wanted. There was a large masonry wall on which our guide said the name of the school — Daybreak — had once been written, but they misspelled Daybreak …. Such a pain, this civilization stuff!
Jacky responds to the initial posting:
The history is even longer and more colorful than we heard today. Two other wealthy owners before Tevis.
The tour guide today was part of the West Heights Christian School; he built the roof of the chapel. The DayBreak School that came in later is not mentioned in this story. There is a Yahoo Group for former DayBreak students:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/daybreakschool/
Another site I visited said that the Jesuit College moved to Berkeley and became a seminary. That article says, “There are two different possible origins for the name of the town [Alma]. The first is that the town was the location of a branch road that led to the New Almaden mine. The second, and more fanciful, origin is that the town was named after a local prostitute.”
A good day, a good thing to do. We just hope we didn’t get too much into the poison oak.