Has your kid ever touched a red-bellied newt? If not, then head to Bouverie Preserve of Audubon Canyon Ranch for an idyllic nature walk with your family and see if you can spot one. Located near the Valley of the Moon in Glen Ellen, this oasis beckons visitors for a rare look at their 535 pristine acres. Once the secluded retreat of famed food writer M.F.K. Fisher, it’s now dedicated to preservation, education and research with the help of knowledgeable docents who will ensure your children enjoy every moment learning and exploring as they tromp through this woodland paradise.

How to get there: Nearby Sonoma County isn’t that hard to navigate, but you might want a map to find this very private preserve. We suggest mapping online to their address:

Bouverie Preserve of Audubon Canyon Ranch
13935 Highway 12
Glen Ellen, Ca  95442

Once you’ve spotted the Bouverie Preserve sign and driven through the green entrance gate, continue up the driveway to the parking lot.

When to go: Docent let nature hikes are led in spring and fall. See below for upcoming dates.

What to bring: You’ll need a picnic lunch, plenty of water to avoid dehydration in the hot sunshine, comfortable hiking shoes, sun hats and glasses, binoculars for bird-watching, and your curiosity. You might also want to tuck away small snacks to hand out to Hansel and Gretel like breadcrumbs on the trail to keep them motivated and moving. Idyllic nature at its best!

What to do: Follow your docent down the “yellow brick road” trail through unspoiled ecosystems including oak woodland, mixed evergreen forest, riparian and chaparral. In the spring, you’ll see a truly stunning array of wildflowers surrounding Stuart Creek Canyon. The Bark House is an outdoor exhibit created to demonstrate how Native Americans would have lived long ago. The hut and acorn-mashing structure will give your kids a good idea of how they survived. The guides are particularly knowledgeable when it comes to the local flora and fauna. When you’re ready for a break, take a picnic lunch by the waterfall, and head to the creek where junior guides will outfit you with nets to capture water bugs. This nature hike underscores the importance of teaching children how to preserve and protect our beautiful natural resources.

Special instructions for your mini John Muir: Patience, grasshopper. Use calm and quiet voices while hiking so as not to scare off wildlife. Be sure to watch for poison oak along the side of the trail.

Guided Nature Walks:
– Begin at 9:30am and end at 1:30pm
– Hikers walk about 3 miles.
– Participants are divided into small groups and paired with a trained Bouverie volunteer.
– A contribution of $15 per person is suggested and greatly appreciated which will support their education, conservation and research programs.

Upcoming Hike Dates for 2012:
– May 19
– October 6 & 20
– November 3 & 17

How to make a reservation:
Email: rsvp@egret.org (preferred)
Call: 415-868-9244
Reservations are taken on a first-come, first-served basis. To hold a reservation, include the following:

– Date of the hike
– First and last name
– Full address, City & Zip
– Phone #
– Email address
– Number in Party (not to exceed 6)

A confirmation letter will be sent to you once all the above information is received. Your name will be placed on a wait list if the hike you request is full. Happy hiking!

Online: www.egret.org/visit_bouverie

Bouverie Preserve is proud to be able to offer field trips to local 3rd and 4th graders as well as their Guided Nature Walks to the public free of charge. This is made possible due to the donation of time by their volunteers and the financial support of their visitors and the community. A $15 donation per person supports their efforts to provide nature education to children and adults throughout the North Bay.  

— Nicki Richesin