Homebound: Kortum Trail & the Sonoma Co. Coast


Part 1:

I officially arrived in Sonoma County (home of Coastwalk California and Toodles Treks) last week. I have now hiked through Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino and most of Sonoma County. While each of these has offered unique and beautiful terrain, I felt an incredible sense of longing for home. My journey through Sonoma is a short-lived trek (roughly 65 miles), but it is a section that has awoken in me a renewed passion for the thru-hike, and has served to reaffirm my commitment to Coastwalk and the fundraiser we started for the children of this State. After trekking through Mendocino and enduring long stretches of highway, it was a welcome relief to enter Sonoma County. Soon I would be seeing my family and the Coastwalk members, as well as having the honor of hiking the Kortum Trail.

As has been the case during this entire trek, the cold winter rains burst through the clouds and descended upon me with bitter defiance as I entered Sea Ranch and the first stretch of trail in Sonoma.


Note #1: The battle for Sea Ranch began in the 1960’s when a private enterprise sought to develop land along the northern portion of Sonoma Co. for private houses. The public responded in turn and fought valiantly to stop this development from happening. The fight made its way to the Supreme Court and as a result came Proposition 20, the Coastal Protection Act. This law requires that the entire state have laws in effect that protect public access in all areas sought for development along the coast. While we still have much work to do, this proposition, a proposition of the people and for the people, was a significant turning point in the fight for equal access to the coast and ensuring coastal protections in California.


As the rain poured down I continued my trek past Sea Ranch until I reached Salt Point State Park. Here I made camp and settled down for an evening in the rain. Upon awaking I found all of my food scattered across the ground. During the night raccoon had pried open the wooden lock box housing my food and helped themselves to my supplies. All told I lost a week worth of food and the dry-sack that held it all. This was an unwelcome set back, but thankfully Mendocino Transit Authority had buses running to a town where I could resupply. So I hopped on the bus and rode south to Bodega Bay where I could buy more food and rest at Bodega Dunes Campground.

Bodega Bay is a lovely town that sits above the bay, near the ocean. The smell of fresh clam chowder and fish waft along the streets in the early afternoon, giving one a true sense of the wonder and offerings given by the Pacific Ocean. It was here that I would be meeting my family for a much needed respite. They were to arrive the next day, so I hiked north in an effort to finish the portion of trail I had missed thanks to the Raccoon. I began at Bodega Head and made my way along a short trail to “Hole in the Head.”


Note #2: “Hole in the Head” is a former excavation site where PG&E (a power company) proposed and began building a nuclear power plant on the San Andreas Fault. This misguided venture forced into action many grassroots activists whose mission it was to protect the fragile coast from the devastating effects of nuclear power. As a result of the activist’s courage, PG&E was forced to abandon their plans for the site. In a childish and almost comical fashion, PG&E left the excavation site in place. A giant hole in the ground was all that remained. This call to action is a reminder to us all that we, as individuals, can come together as a collective group to fight the forces of big business, who seek nothing more than to make money off of a fragile piece of the natural world.


After hiking to “Hole in the Head”, I started the trek north along the soft sand of Salmon Creek Beach, a lovely section, but quite a workout due to the lack of firm footing. Several miles later I found myself at the southern portion of the Kortum Trail. This section of trail is dear to me and to many activists in Sonoma Co., as it was named in honor of the man who co-founded Coastwalk California.


Note #3: William Kortum was an environmental activist and a Sonoma Co. resident. His efforts in helping to stop the PG&E nuclear power plant, and the work he had done to protect the environment for all citizens made him a hero of action to many in our nation and county. Bill dedicated nearly 50 years of his life to the service of environmental activism, and helped to pave the way for future generations of California activists. His efforts have led to formation of organizations that represent the citizens of this State, such as Sonoma County Conservation Action and Coastwalk California. Hiking this section of the California Coastal Trail has left me with the undeniable impression that without the diligent work from pioneers of environmental activism like Bill, myself and others would not be able to pursue grand adventures along the coast and furthermore; without his strength and courage in the face of staunch resistance, we would not be so fortunate as to share the importance of conservation and activism with generations to come.


Later that day I found myself back at Salt Point SP for one more night of uneasy rest. I was so refreshed from having walked the Kortum Trail. The energy and audacity needed to defy the raccoon was surging through my veins. They were not going to take my food this time! That night I practiced the technique of “over-my-dead-body”, which is hiker lingo for sleeping with one’s food in one’s tent/sleeping bag. I would not recommend this technique in bear country, but it serves its purpose against raccoon and other food-seekers, like mice. The next day my family would arrive to pick me up for a day of rest and relaxation in Bodega Bay, and shortly thereafter I would be meeting many of the long-time members of the Coastwalk non-profit organization for the first time. The beginning of my adventure in Sonoma Co. was a trying affair, but without a little bit of pain, happiness would not be so pleasant. Until Sonoma Co. Part 2, happy trails to all!


Derek “Toodles” Shanks

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