Saturday, September 26, 2015

A short trail to learn about the long history of the Coast Miwok people: the Kule Loklo Trail near Olema

Kule Loklo Trail near the Bear Valley Visitor Center
The 0.3-mile-long Kule Loklo Trail west of Olema leads from the Bear Valley Visitor Center to a rebuilt Coast Miwok Indian Village—maintained entirely by volunteers—in what is now the Point Reyes National Seashore, a park preserve in Marin Country north of San Francisco, California. Kule Loklo means Bear Valley in the Coast Miwok language, which is no longer spoken. But the culture and spirit of the People of the Coast is still alive and of interest to everyone looking for a balanced life style within natural richness and restraint.

The trail begins by underpassing some low-leaning trees. It continues between a left-side meadow and trees to its right. An interpreted panel along the trail informs:

Kule Loklo acorn granary
The abundance of plant life in the nearby forests nourished the Coast Miwok for generations. Each plant offered a wealth of uses. Oak trees dropped their bounty of acorns in the fall and were an important food source as the earth rested during the winter. Tule grass from surrounding marshes was woven into mats or bundled together for canoes or kotcas (houses).

Today, this is not an area to experience typical California oak woodland anymore. Before arriving at the village, you will walk in front and then pass through a stand of tall eucalyptus trees (blue gum trees)—native to Australia, but alien to pre-Columbian Native Americans. In the village at the trail end, there is a reconstructed granary, illustrating how the Coast Miwok stored acorns (umpa), gathered in fall, for future use and protected from insect pests and other animals. During spring and summer months, they relocated from their inland villages to the estuaries and the coast to catch salmon and to gather seaweed, clams, abalone and other seafood during low tides. Beads and ceremonial regalia, which they made from shells, are still found in the area.

Kotcas at Kule Loklo
The reconstructed village further consists of shelters and gathering places. There are several conical-shaped kotcas (also spelled kotchas) you or your kids may want to check out by stepping or crawling into. Coast Miwok families of five or more individuals are said to have lived in one such structure. These living structures, according to another panel, were either made of tule grass or redwood bark. While the tule homes lasted for a couple of years, the redwood bark buildings lasted longer. 

Getting to the Kule Loklo trailhead

From Stinson Beach, drive north on Highway 1. At the northern tip of the Bolinas Lagoon, Highway 1 continues in northwest direction through Olema Valley between the Bolinas Ridge and Point Reyes mountain ranges. Just north of Olema, turn left on Bear Valley Road. After about one mile, turn left at the signed junction to get to the Park Headquarters and the visitor center. The Kule Loklo trailhead is to your right, next to the first parking lots you are getting to. 

From Point Reyes Station, drive south on Highway 1. After overpassing a creek, turn right towards Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. After about one mile turn left on Bear Valley Road. Go southbound for about three miles to get to the Park Headquarters junction.

References and more to explore
[1] California Indians: Miwok, Coast & Lake [].
[2] John Littleton: Tracing Forgotton Footsteps. MAPOM Blog, July 13, 2015 []

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