Sonoma hiking guide author Salcedo at Readers Books
When Tracy Salcedo presents a list of the books she’s written, it’s a pretty long list – more than 20 titles, ranging in location from Aspen to Lassen, Boulder to Yosemite – a veritable “where’s where” of nature destinations. Salcedo does hiking guides and, for the reader with any interest in the outdoors, her books should be on every shelf.
The Glen Ellen writer (and hiker) will be at Readers’ Books on Thursday, July 14, to talk about her two latest titles, “Hiking through History: San Francisco” and “Historic Yosemite National Park,” books which exhibit her enthusiasm for both hiking and history. Naturally both require the real, boots-on-the-ground research that goes into writing what is essentially a reference book, to be nibbled at while planning or even executing a hike.
While researching the Yosemite book, a series of 12 essays, Salcedo found herself in the historical library at the visitor’s center on the valley floor. “I thought, this has to be a larger wilderness than what’s outside,” she said, somewhat hyperbolically. The history of Yosemite Valley, which she points out has been commercialized ever since the first white man showed up in the 19th century, came to a head shortly before the book went to press with a legal fight over the word “Ahwahnee” between the National Parks Service and Delaware North, the concessions contractor which had lost its latest bid to operate Yosemite’s hotels, restaurants and outdoor activities. Delaware North claims intellectual property of “Ahwahnee Hotel” and other facility names.
“I’m sure they have plenty to do worrying about wildlife, logging and hikers to think about trademarks,” she said of the National Parks Service, which has now changed the names of multiple Yosemite recreational landmarks. But she didn’t change a word in the book: “The Ahwahnee was, and remains, Yosemite’s hotel of choice for the upper class,” reads the caption on an image of the famed hotel, temporarily known as the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Mediation is currently underway to resolve the dispute.
Her career as a guidebook writer began in Colorado, where she lived after growing up in Marin and attending school at UC Berkeley. “Best Easy Day Hikes: Boulder” was that title, one of a series of over a dozen “best easy day hikes” books she’s authored. After 15 years in Colorado – and more guidebooks – she moved to the Sonoma Valley in 1998, where she has raised three boys, a pair of twins (now 23) and another son who just turned 20. She and their father are now divorced, but both still live locally.
She just quit her job with Streetwise Reports in Petaluma to devote herself even-more full time to writing hiking guides, which takes her onto the trails wherever she goes. Here in the Valley, her go-to place is Jack London State Historic Park, as she lives just down the road. She effuses over the old fruit trees on the Historic Orchard Trail, trees that still bear fruit including pears, apricots, prunes, plums and apples. The orchard was formerly tended by residents of the Sonoma Developmental Center, and became part of Jack London about a decade ago.
Perhaps her most popular title is “Hiking Northern California’s Waterfalls,” published just a year ago, describing hikes to 99 of the state’s finest cascades. Among them is Sugarloaf Falls, a short hike from the State Park’s parking lot to a seasonal flow at the very headwaters of Sonoma Creek.
In 30 years of hiking, though, she has noticed some changes on the trail. “A lot of young people are out there,” she says, probably speaking of the 20-somethings; “but they tend to go in really large groups. Not just two or four, but six or even larger.” She also wonders at their attachment to “their devices,” the ever-present cell phone conversation or favorite MP3 tracklist playing for all to hear.
Not that she’s been immune to technical distractions. Not long ago while walking with her dog in Sonoma Valley Regional Park she was listening to something on her own device, with headphones, and failed to hear the warning canasta sound of a rattlesnake. Her dog was bitten, and she had to carry the 45-pound canine in her arms back to her car.
“I just hope they get out there, without the devices,” she says of the hikers she hopes to reach with her books. “There’s so much to see – not just from a scenic perspective, but for environmental reasons and preservation.”
When asked what under-appreciated hikes there are in the area, she’s ready with an answer: Tubbs Island. She points out an 8.2 mile “lollipop” trail in her “Best Easy Day Hike: San Francisco North Bay.” The hike starts at a parking lot on Highway 37 just east of 121, and follows Tolay Creek for 2.75 miles to a loop trail around a salt marsh on Lower Tubbs Island.
“It’s so different – it’s wide open, it’s windy, it’s kind of raw… not like hiking in the oaks like we usually do.” You won’t see deer or bobcats, bears or cougars, but the avian menagerie of the Pacific Flyway. That, too, is hiking in California.
Email Christian at firstname.lastname@example.org.