Magazine article Sunset

Marin Trails to History

Magazine article Sunset

Marin Trails to History

Article excerpt

Hold up a map of Marin County's recreation areas, and it looks as if all the major parks had slid south. But just-opened Rancho Olompali State Historic Park, in Novato, now adds new parkland to northern Marin. And China Camp State Park, not far south of it in San Rafael (but administered with Olompali), has opened up more of its terrain with two new trails. Both places have good view hiking, and if rain hasn't muddied trails recentlyChina Camp has mountain biking. Dogs are not allowed at either park. Rancho Olompali State Historic Park This 700-acre facility has a range of historical significance: it was a major Miwok Indian trading village (archeologists have made important finds here); Sir Francis Drake's expedition may have paused nearby (a silver sixpence dating from 1567 was found here); a skirmish in the Bear Flag Revolt took place at the Olompali adobe; later, it became a thriving ranch of almost 9,000 acres. The ranch manager's Victorian home still stands, as do two softly weathered barns (note the Indian grinding rock near the larger one), an 1840 adobe, and a blacksmith shop from the late 1800s. All the buildings are being restored and are not yet open to visitors. But you can hike on the old ranch road. Park in the lot and walk up the road 13/4 miles, passing the buildings and old walnut groves, then climbing through coast live oaks near the summit of 1,558-foot Burdell Mountain and views over San Pablo Bay. Olompali is now designated both as a state historic landmark and as a federal historic place. An early proposal to build condominiums here spurred formation of Olompali People, a group that fought to save the land for public use. The state bought the property 13 years ago but awaited completion of a general plan and archeological work before opening it to the public. The park is open ($5) from 8 to 5 Fridays through Mondays. …

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