During the a mile-long hike up an old ranch road paralleling Mills Creek to the orchard, state park volunteer Avis Boutell shared stories of life on the ranch and pointed out nearly concealed signs of the ranch’s early history—the foundation of a barn and evidence of a nearby home, scattered fruit trees planted by former residents, once plowed fields, the overgrown roadbed of the original ranch road, and the remains of one of the dams that once blocked the creek. State Parks has removed dams and other obstructions to improve the stream for migrating steelhead.
Edwin Geer, a Plover Watch volunteer and member of Sequoia Audubon Society, identified birds along the way, including soaring red tail hawks and the call of a female wrentit--heard but not seen. Participants were all given bird lists for the ranch, drawn from Sequoia Audubon’s county birding guide for the property, along with a chronology of ranch history and guides to plants and the orchard.
Not many plants were in bloom this late in the season, but some drew attention, including snowberries decked out in their white fruit, big-leaf maples with leaves turning golden, and California asters, which were at the peak of their bloom--drawing many bees and butterflies on the sunny day. The ranch is renowned as one of the best locations in the Bay Area to find butterflies.
At the orchard, participants picked and sampled apples and pears from the 90-year-old trees and appreciated the work Park Champion volunteers have done to clear and restore the orchard. Best estimates indicate the orchard was planted in the early 1920s for the personal use of ranch tenants, who lived in a nearby house. Many of the trees have been lost to age and neglect, but over 40 remain--some original and others that grew from the original rootstock. The remaining trees include apples, pear, plums, figs, and walnuts.
The event concluded with a picnic lunch, featuring apples, cheese, and crackers, next to the nearby 123-year-old barn, and exploration of the barn and remains of other ranch buildings.
If you missed this walk or would like to go on a guided walk at Burleigh Murray Ranch in the future, please let us know.