Published in the June 20 – July 3, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life

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Rancho Del Oso State Park

Usually I do not stray too far from South Valley when I arrange a walk. But with the weather warming up, even Mt. Madonna County Park can sometimes seem like an oven unless we hike early in the morning and seek the coolness of one of the redwood canyons. My calendar as a Mt. Madonna County Park volunteer has me at the Ranger Office at 9 a.m. Saturday June 23, June 30, July 7, July 28, Aug. 4, Aug. 11 and Sept. 1. All park visitors are welcome to participate in a one-hour redwood/history walk that leaves from the Ranger Office at 10 a.m. Please join me one of those days for a tour around the top of Mt. Madonna that includes a stop to see the white fallow deer and the Henry Miller Family estate.

What’s the deal about scheduling an outing that requires a drive of more than an hour from Gilroy and Morgan Hill? Not being overly fond of the summer heat, I relish any opportunity to visit our spectacular coastline and stroll along the sand absorbing the ocean breezes.

Last year I decided to search out a coast-side state park that was not overly crowded and become a volunteer. It was an easy choice to select Rancho del Oso which is just south of Ano Nuevo.

Many years ago, when our kids were very young, we pulled off Highway 1 onto a dirt driveway that led up to a residence that had been converted in a nature center — Rancho del Oso. The place immediately casts its spell upon me.

That first visit, perhaps in 1995 or 1996, was very special, even though I did not realize it at the time, because Hulda Hoover McLean said hello — and the rest, as they say, is history.  Hulda was about 90 years of age then.

She had sold her home and some acreage to Big Basin State Park a few years prior. The property was worth millions with Waddell Creek meandering through the broad valley as it made its way to the ocean. A golf course with high-end home-sites were a possibility, but not for Hulda.  She always said that her family regarded themselves as stewards of the landscape — the valley and the marsh were to remain as unspoiled as possible.

Hulda was the daughter of Theodore Jesse (TJ) and Mildred Hoover.  Theodore’s brother was Herbert Hoover, our 31st President whose term of office began in 1929 at the outset of the Great Depression. TJ and Herbert became successful mining engineers upon their graduation from Stanford University.

As a Stanford student in 1899, TJ and a few classmates were in the midst of a geological survey that they climbed the ridge on horseback from Palo Alto and descended through what is today called Big Basin on their way to the Pacific Ocean. Following the course of Waddell Creek as it spread itself into a beautiful valley, TJ exclaimed that he would love to purchase this slice of heaven.

In 1913, the same year Charles Kellogg moved to Morgan Hill, the Hoover family were able to call their new summer homestead Rancho del Oso — so named for the numerous grizzly bears that once roamed the canyons and feasted upon the salmon and steelhead trout that populated Waddell Creek. William Waddell lost his life from a grizzly bear attack in 1875.

I know it seems with every “Hike with Mike column” there is some mention of Charles Kellogg or some sort of linkage to South County. So “bear” with me as I have just one quick story to tell.

Just about the same time that TJ Hoover first set his eyes upon the Waddell Valley, Andrew Putnam Hill was initiating a campaign to save the redwoods of Big Basin from the axes and saws of the timber companies.  The Sempervirens Club was formed in 1900 and in 1901 the first state park came into existence at Big Basin.  The problem was how to access this one-of-a-kind redwoods park as the roads were little more than paths.

A fundraising idea was developed in 1919 — a theatrical performance under the tall trees with an orchestra and cast of dancers telling the tale of the “Soul of Sequoia.”

On the front cover of the playbill was a photo of Charles Kellogg as he was to perform all of the animal sounds with his bird voice. Most likely he drove his Travel Log camper up through Boulder Creek to star in the show. I just know that the Hoovers were in the audience.

If you would like to spend a pleasant day at the beach, bring your folding chairs and umbrellas and we can walk along the shore.


I begin my volunteer shift at the Nature Center at noontime and you are always welcome to come by anytime until 3:30 p.m.

Keep on sauntering!

Gilroy resident Mike Monroe is a Morgan Hill business owner and naturalist. He is a docent for Santa Clara County Parks.


Mike Monroe