People wanting to hike in northern Napa County have limited choices in the wake of the Glass Fire.
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park, Robert Louis Stevenson State Park and the Oat Hill Mine Trail were closed as of Tuesday. The Glass Fire, now largely extinguished, charred the landscape in these areas. Lake Berryessa is still closed from the earlier Hennessey Fire.
The Hennessey and Glass fires destroyed close to 1,000 homes and commercial buildings.
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park is 1,900 acres in the Mayacamas Mountains where people can not only hike, but also camp. Trails include the Ritchie Creek trail along a stream shaded by towering redwoods.
The good news is the fire, while burning much of Bothe-Napa Valley forest, didn’t burn the park to a crisp.
“From what I’ve seen, it’s not really that bad,” said John Woodbury, general manager of the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District. “It was a slow-moving, smoldering fire that from a vegetation point of view is the best fire to have.”
State parks in Napa County are operated by the Open Space District.
The Glass Fire burned to the edge of the Bothe-Napa Valley campground and yurts. Cal Fire used a backfire to keep the flames from cabins. All of this left smoke damage to be cleaned up inside the structures.
Also, burned trees that are dead but standing along trails pose a potential hazard to hikers.
“How long it’s going to take to clean up, I really don’t know,” Woodbury said on Monday.
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Adjacent Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park features an 1846 wooden grist mill with a 36-foot water wheel. This irreplaceable state historic landmark survived the fire. The state protected it with a sprayed-on fire retardant.
“Now we have to clean the fire retardant off, which is not easy,” Woodbury said. “It’s a gel, it’s pretty gooey.”
Like Bothe-Napa Valley, Bale Grist Mill is closed indefinitely.
Robert Louis Steven State Park is 5,272 acres north of Calistoga. It includes 4,343-foot-tall Mount St. Helena on the west side of Highway 29 and Table Rock and The Palisades on the east side.
The Glass Fire burned the park on the east side. Mount St. Helena was spared, though it burned three years ago in the Tubbs Fire, Woodbury said.
“The fire zones almost merged,” he said.
Table Rock trail and The Palisades trail in the eastern park will be closed for a while, Woodbury said. He is working with the state to allow the western part of the park with Mount St. Helena to reopen.
Pockets of destruction are evident, but so is the valley's surviving beauty.
Oat Hill Mine Trail is more than eight miles and extends on an old stagecoach route from near Calistoga to Pope Valley. Woodbury said areas that the trail passes through burned, leading to some damaged trees falling on it. Firefighting steps such as bulldozing caused damage, Woodbury said.
“We don’t have a complete picture yet,” Woodbury said on Monday, but added there is cleanup to do and the trail will be closed for some period of time.
While the fire cleanup goes on these areas, hikers can still visit the Pacific Union College (PUC) forest near Angwin in the mountains northeast of St. Helena. The forest is 1,000 acres with 35 miles of trails.
Both the Glass Fire and the Hennessey Fire in August spared the forest, but it was close. The forest is in-between the two burn areas. Forest Manager Peter Lecourt said the property dodged a bullet.
“With the other parks closed, the importance of the PUC forest is only underlined,” he said.
PUC debuted a new, 30-space parking lot and an information kiosk for the forest on Sept. 25, two days before the Glass Fire broke out. No longer do visitors have to park along the sides of Las Posadas Road.
Go to https://bit.ly/33TUk2M for more information on the forest, including how to join and donate to the new Friends of the Forest community group.
The Open Space District’s Moore Creek Park near Lake Hennessey east of Rutherford also didn’t burn in the Glass and Hennessey fires. It reopened to the public on Oct. 9 after the Glass Fire threat had passed.
The fires didn’t affect hiking areas in southern Napa County. Such places as Skyline Wilderness Park and Suscol Headwaters Preserve remain open.
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You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.