Joyce Bacci Turns 90 ~ Happy Birthday!
By Michele Luna
Joyce Bacci is turning 90 years old on April 11, 2020 and for many of us at Stewards, she is truly an inspiration. Joyce has been coordinating programs at Armstrong Redwoods SNR as a volunteer since 1997. She first became acquainted with Stewards and Pauline Gilbert in 1995 at the recommendation of Laura Ayes, a neighbor to the park and owner of the Armstrong Pack Station at the time. Pauline and her husband John were the volunteers who founded Armstrong Redwoods programs around 1990. After John's death, Pauline coordinated the tour guide and visitor center programs until Joyce took over. They became fellow "Monday Walkers," a group of adults who walked on various trails around Sonoma County weekly. Within a couple years, Pauline had a plan to transition Joyce into her position. Joyce recalls,"Pauline sent me off through the park with a group of kids without even telling me what I was supposed to be doing. As she started to fail, I became more and more involved with the VC. I always loved the park, the redwoods, and really enjoyed researching the plants and wildlife. Having lived near Pond Farm for 15 years and raising the kids there, I knew the area quite well and enjoyed leading hikes throughout."
I first met Joyce when she helped me proof the quarterly newsletter and provided Stewards with typography and graphic services,
which was her profession for many years. (See more about Joyce in the article by her daughter Dani Bacci)
Joyce's exempliary volunteer commitment to Armstrong Redwoods has earned her a number of volunteer awards over the years. In 2005, she was honored at the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County Awards event as Stewards' and State Parks' Volunteer of the Year. Annie and I were honored to attend this lovely event with her. In 2010, Joyce was awarded the highest honor that State Parks gives to their volunteers, the Volunteer Medallion. In that nomination it was noted that Joyce was deserving of that award because of her "wonderful, patient disposition that keeps volunteers coming back year after year. She is easy going and professional at the same time. She works extremely well with both the volunteers and the staff at Stewards. She is responsible for making bank deposits, stocking inventory and providing lists of items that need to be reordered. She also makes sure the Visitor Center is kept clean and orderly and contacts Park staff when issues pertaining to park operations or maintenance need to be reported. Joyce has also been a tour guide at Armstrong Redwoods for 13 years. She enjoys interpreting redwood ecology to school children and adults alike. She is an amateur botanist and also leads plant identification and wildflower hikes at Armstrong Redwoods, Austin Creek and Sonoma Coast State Park. Joyce is also a member of the Friends of Armstrong Redwoods (FAR) and is truly an inspiration to many. She has provided almost 8,000 volunteer hours to State Parks."
At this time there are other volunteers and staff who assist Joyce with coordinating the VC but she still handles the weekly accounting and overall
she has donated over 18,000 hours as a State Park volunteer since 1997. When I asked Joyce what her secret to good health is she said, ...fresh
air...and more fresh air. Until recently, Joyce and one or both of her daughters could be seen walking with their dogs at Armstrong Redwoods
frequently. She has always, and will continue to be, an inspiration to me. Thank you Joyce for all your dedication throughout the years.
Reminiscing: Childhood in the Austin Creek Recreation Area
By Dani Bacci, Joyce's daughter
My parents, Joyce and Dante Bacci, bought their 10+ acres a couple of years before I was born in 1954. We had to drive through Armstrong Woods
State Park and up the hill, just past Pond Farm Pottery, where a dirt road forked off to the right. My father kept the dirt road maintained
with his tractor, and a couple of times had to drive down to where it crossed the creek to bring Mom home from her evening job as a proofreader
and linotype operator at the Press Democrat, there being too much water gushing down the creek for the original culvert. We used the road the
most, in comparison to our neighbor, Ursula Fahner, a potter. Our aunt and uncle, Millie and Andy Bacci, had a cabin up beyond our house which
they visited once in a while. But we were up and down the hill quite a bit, going to Guerneville Elementary School, coming home with our Pop
when he was done with work. Mom headed to Santa Rosa for her job while we were at school. A lot of action on that hill!
When my brother or sister or I had a birthday, we would have a lot of kids come up to play. We would all hike down to the pond at Pond Farm and hunt for frog eggs and tadpoles. We did a lot of “catch and release”, as Mom was protective of natural resources even then. We played in the mud down there, and my brother and his friends built a small raft and used a pole to float in the pond. In the summer the pond would dry up except for one fairly large puddle. Mom said that was because of the quicksand in that spot, and to stay out of it. She swears now that she never said that! She had to try everything to keep us under control.....
Several times we had an entire class come up with the teacher. The kids would bring their lunches and we would picnic down by the pond, sitting in the grass. We'd watch the birds fly over, check out the bugs on the plants, blow on a blade of grass so it would whistle in your hands.
My brother, Vic, would have friends come up and they would hike down past the Tom King Camp to Austin Creek and go fishing. They would stay down there all day, and at some point my father would drive down there in his Jeep pickup and pick all the boys up. You could ride in the back of a pickup in those days!
Just below our house, along the road, we had a Calif. Bay Laurel tree, or Pepperwood as we called them, that was huge. At least to us. It had some branches that were parallel to the ground that made it easy for us to climb into the tree. We called it The Monkey Tree. We never nailed boards to it or added to its basic shape, but it was our tree fort. It had a vertical branch that made it seem like you could see forever if you climbed that high. That was the Lookout, and if we thought we heard a car coming up the hill, the three of us would head out the door and go down to the tree. Someone would climb to the top and the other two would hide in the foliage until we were certain it was company that we wanted to see! If it was someone we didn't like, we would stay down there and pretend we couldn't hear Mom as she called for us to come up. She knew what was going on and would stop, but if she did her two-fingered whistle, we knew we better head home fast!
We had a red Radio Flyer wagon that two of us could fit in. We would hang our legs out the sides and drag our feet for brakes. We also had a small red and yellow two-wheeled bike that we could touch the ground and drag feet for brakes also. Sometimes Pop would agree to meet us at the bottom of the hill, in the picnic area, with the truck. He would drive down in front of us and we would fly down the hill in the wagon and on the bike. Very few people lived up there at that time, and we seldom would meet a car in either direction. Marguerite Wildenhain at Pond Farm could hear us coming down and would come out and yell at us to not make such a racket. Pop would be waiting at the bottom, would load our bike and wagon and us into the back, and drive us back up to the house. We wore out a lot of shoes that way!
When we were bigger and could ride our bikes to school, there was a Saturday program called Saturday Rec. We would ride our bikes down the hill, tear through the park on the trails, go to school for a few hours and do craft projects. When it was over, we would ride back along Armstrong Woods Rd. Just before Rio Nido Rd. was Edna Osborn's store. There was a counter that you could sit at, and we'd buy BBQ chips and Dr. Peppers with our allowance money. We'd hang out there for a little while, then ride back through the park and meet Pop in the picnic area at the base of the hill. Again, he would load us up into the back of the pickup and drive us back home, sometimes with a friend along for an overnight.
We had a lot of trails around the house, some going to “secret” places. There was a natural sulfur spring that fed into a trough out there in the woods. If the wind blew just right, you could smell the rotten egg odor at the house. We thought that spring and trough was a bit mysterious.....
If you didn't turn onto the dirt road at Pond Farm, but continued on up the paved road towards where the campground is now, there was a fork in the road and a spot there where two horses were kept. Eventually one passed away, and we called that Horse Heaven. Just past that, where Mom has a bench dedicated to her, we would fly kites. First, in the garage at home, we glued butcher paper to wood that Pop had cut to size. We had to wait for the glue to dry, forever, and then we would find rags for the tails and the ball of string. We would get in the station wagon and drive up past Horse Heaven. There was a short little trail and then we had a perfect spot to catch the wind and fly our kites.
We ended up with a donkey and a pony somehow, and Pop made a small corral area below the house and across from The Monkey Tree. The dirt road forked there, going straight up to our house or turning right and climbing the hill a bit more to go to my uncle's cabin. That fork made a perfect spot to build a small protected area for Sam the pony and Jocko the donkey.
We didn't have neighbor kids to play with, but we had each other and friends up quite often. We played hide and seek, and it could take an hour to find the person that was “it”. In the summer, the Johnson family rented the old white Walker Ranch farm house that belonged to Gordon Herr, right next to Pond Farm. The three boys would come up and run around with us once in a while, and they showed us a new version of hide and seek that was played at night, called Spot Tag. The person who was “it” would have a flashlight and would search for the others with the light. We would hide in trees and stay perfectly still until the light “spotted” us.
We had a rope swing that landed us right in a patch of poison oak once you let go. None of us ever had trouble with poison oak until we moved from there.
When the eminent domain finally went through and we were forced to leave our beloved home and playground, along with other property owners, for the creation of the Austin Creek State Recreation Area, we were devastated. I didn't really understand how that could happen, and it took a long time for me, personally, to heal from an action that seemed extremely unfair. Now, a lot of people are able to enjoy that beautiful area, and I realize that my family and I were very fortunate to be able to have it to ourselves for a long time.
Hollis Bewley - Tide Pools, Seabirds
Hollis Brewley is an inspirational docent and a popular volunteer program coordinator for both our Tidepool Education and Seabird Monitoring programs. She goes the extra mile to keep her volunteer engaged with lots of great and fascinating resources to expand their knowledge. Thank you Hollis for all you do for your State Parks and Stewards!
Where were you born? When did you move to Sonoma County? Born in San Francisco and grew up in Marin County with two years in New York City. Moved to West Sonoma County in 1990, and though I recently moved down to West Marin, my heart is still on the Sonoma Coast.
Tell us a bit about your family. I have one daughter who's been living in Indonesia for over 20 years doing wildlife writing and photography as well as logistics, production, camera work, and whatever else is needed for her partner's video production company supporting organizations like the BBC, National Geographic, PBS, etc filming documentaries in that part of the world. I still have her first nature essay which described a "sit-spot" in a forest near our home in San Rafael for a Ranger Rick contest.
What was your professional life? I retired 5 years ago after 40 years of doing hospital materials management with an 8-year hiatus doing graphic design for small manufacturers specializing in creative toys.
How long have you been volunteering at Stewards? When did you join the Board and what is your title? Began volunteering with the tide pool programs and JVC in 2008 and joined the Board in 2010. Had to give up the JVC in 2013 when the Seabird Monitoring program was getting off the ground.
When did you first realize you had a strong bond with nature, specifically tide pools? I grew up playing with crawdads and "water skeeters" in a local creek with Mt Tamalpais in my backyard and don't really remember having an epiphany. My interest in the weird and wonderful adaptions of animals living in the intertidal deepened to another level while reading about the strange life histories of barnacles and periwinkles in Rachel Carson's The Edge of the Sea and began looking at them completely differently.
What is the most interesting experience you have had while at the beach/in a forest. Probably sitting at the edge of the Bolinas Lagoon one night, running my fingers through the coarse sand and suddenly noticing it sparkle with bioluminescence. I had NO idea what that was all about! ; -)
Are you a self-taught outdoors woman, or have you been formally trained? Self taught.
How do you inspire the younger generation to care for the environment? By allowing them the opportunity to explore it on their own, answering (and sometimes asking) questions about what they observe. Youngsters don't have the same relaxed unstructured time to investigate the outdoors that we did and that kind of quiet undirected time is what ignites a sense of curiosity. The greatest pleasure is seeing the light go on as someone experiences this kind of appreciation for the first time.
Stewards: Tell us a bit about yourself: your professional career, family, hobbies.
Bill: After a career developing and implementing computer applications for manufacturers, I moved from Silicon Valley to Sonoma County in 2001.
Stewards: When did you start volunteering with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods and State Parks?
Bill: December of 2002 I attended a whale watch orientation and joined the Stewards. I had multiple unsuccessful opportunities to see whales and thought volunteering for whale watch would improve my chances of finally seeing them. At the orientation I found out about the other programs offered by the Stewards and by the end of 2003 I was on the trail crew and a volunteer just about every Steward’s programs, except the visitor centers.
Stewards: Why did you choose Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods to volunteer?
Bill: Each of the Steward’s programs offer a chance to learn and make it possible to schedule my time to take advantage of the rich natural environment of West County and the coast. I was born and raised in the New Jersey suburbs where public parks were few and over crowded and spent my working life in the “cubical hell” of the modern corporation, far from the abundant natural resources that we in Sonoma County take for granted.
Stewards: Where did your interest first bring you at Stewards, and what areas of interest are you concentrating on now?
Bill: Besides coordinating three trail crew days a month, I’m a volunteer for the Willow Creek watershed, tide pool, seal watch, and the pinnaped monitoring programs. I have been an active member of the Stewards board, having served as board president for about 9 years.
Stewards: How long have you been working the trails at Stewards/State Parks? How many miles (total) do you work on each year?
Have you worked at other locations building trails?
Bill: Started on the trail crew early 2003 and became crew coordinator about 5 years ago. I don’t keep track of the trail mileage we have worked. The most important measure of our work is how many tasks we have completed and how well the crew has supported the parks’ operations. We have supported the park maintenance and trail crew and in some cases reduced the cost of the total work effort. The lifeguard tower at Goat Rock was made possible by the funds that were saved by our support of the park maintenance personnel when the beach trails were revamped the at the North Salmon Beach parking lot.
Stewards: Is there such thing as a “typical day” while working in the park?
Bill: Actually we have a number of typical days. Early spring we mow and repair the damage the winter storms have done on the trails, removing downed trees, cutting back foliage, and fixing parts of the trails that have been washed out. During the summer we are working on reducing fire hazards by clearing undergrowth, clearing fire roads, and dead trees. In the fall we winterize the trails by repairing rolling dips, cleaning coverts, and doing whatever has to be done to minimize winter storm damage. We have split wood for campground wood sales, replaced woodsheds in the coast campgrounds, and replaced worn out footbridges on the trails.
I grew up in Vermont where I had lots of opportunity to be outdoors. I was an avid hiker, skier, paddler and nature lover from a young age and continued that love at the University of Colorado. Following a degree in teaching from Brown University, I worked and traveled in Chile, Europe and Japan before coming to the San Francisco Bay Area where I became a graduate gemologist and opened a custom jewelry store. After 25 years, it was time to retire, and the choice of where to live after I sold the store was very easy. When I took my first canoe trip on the Russian River in 1982, I knew this was the place I wanted to retire to. The Russian River reminds me of the lake I grew up on in Vermont so finding a place with river access for canoeing was my goal. That was happily accomplished when the perfect house in Villa Grande came on the market.
I met my wife, Leah Norwood, 40 years ago playing recorders, and music is still a big part of our lives. We travel a lot to see birds both locally and around the world. (Naturally, now our travel plans are on hold) After attending a Stewards open house in 2004, I realized that volunteering for this organization would be a perfect match for my skills and passions. There was a real need for a coordinator at the Jenner Visitors Center, and I fell in love with the place. The view is always a delight regardless of the weather, and the people who stop by for information are wonderful. I often get more information from them than I give out!
When I started volunteering, the Stewards Office was still at the Jenner Volunteer Center so the space was very limited(This was when the current office was being renovated). There were only a few volunteers and it was hard to keep it open very much. Once Stewards moved back to Armstrong Woods, we had lots of space and we were able to get more volunteers. Today the JVC is open seven days a week thanks to the wonderful volunteers who love the JVC as much as I do. Many of them have been at the JVC for more than 10 years.
Some years ago, Leah and I collaborated on a book called 52 Bird Tales. Leah wrote the text which was a collection of newspaper articles she wrote for a local paper,The Russian River Times, and I complimented her stories with photographs. Copies of the book are available at both the JVC and Armstrong Woods VC.
Locally, there are many wonderful birdwatching spots. One of the best is Bodega Bay, especially in winter when the it abounds with Horned and Eared grebes, Bufflehead and Ruddy ducks, Common loon, Brant’s geese and many shorebirds. Peregrine falcons and Bald eagles feed in the bay. The mouth of the Russian River is another excellent place to watch birds and harbor seals. Here, one can see gulls, cormorants, terns, pelicans, and if you are lucky, a pair of Bald eagles fishing.
Linda's Book, 52 Bird Tales, can be found here.
I first came to Sonoma County in the 1990’s after being raised in the bay area. I fell in love with West County while bicycling with my sister and bought my place in the redwoods, then later, met my wife, Peggy Thompson at a women’s weekend event in 2001.
I first became involved with Stewards in the 1990’s, volunteering at the Armstrong Redwoods visitor center and lead the volunteer restoration program. I also served on the Board for Stewards.
I have been volunteering at Jenner Visitor's Center since around 2005. I enjoy the interaction with people, and especially enjoy sharing my joy of nature with them, hoping to make their trip more memorable in that way.
Most of my days are spent doing wildlife or landscape photography at the coast and also at Yosemite National Park.
I first started following the Jenner Bald Eagles the end of 2012. I first photographed them after meeting Linda Fisher at Jenner to move inventory due to possible flooding when the mouth of the river was closed. We headed out up to the overlook after working and one of the eagles was on the teeter totter log and one was on haystack rock. I have been hooked ever since. I have been very fortunate to meet so many nice photographers that have been willing to share tips and tricks. And I like to pay it forward by helping others if they ask about my equipment or camera settings.
My favorite birds are bald eagles. As most people that know me, prior to SIP I would spend my mornings at the mouth of the river photographing our local bald eagle pair. I count my blessings that I have had some very amazing experiences watching the bald eagles.
The mouth of the river is special place to watch the eagles because there is plenty of other wildlife to watch while the eagles sit for hours trying to catch a fish.
I like photographing any wildlife. The nice thing about Sonoma County there is so much to observe. I have had lots of fun watching bobcats, long-tailed weasels, owls, ospreys, harbor seals, and river otters to name just a few.
Follow Joan on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/joan.bacci.7
Greg ArmstrongTell us a bit about where you are from, your family, and what brought you here to Sonoma County? I was raised in Malaga Spain until I was 18. Came here to go finish High School and eventually go to Art School in NYC. Started a family in the suburbs of Philadelphia while I worked at an Advertising Agency downtown. Left the East Coast in 2001 first settling in Marina del Rey, Los Angeles. In 2004 after visiting Northern CA, and being awed at the natural beauty, it's unique balance of coast and forest, river and valley, we decided to move to Sebastopol after taking a job at the Press Democrat.
How did you first find out about Stewards, and when did you first become involved with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods? What attracted you to volunteer? After my divorce in 2013, I was looking for activities to do together with my son. I have always been very interested in our natural world and the science behind it. I saw a flier posted at Andy's produce looking for volunteers and announcing an upcoming training. After attending I signed up for Seal Watch shifts once a month, which my son Tristan and I did together for a few years. I was attracted to the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods. I thought that the wide scope of the programs they supported offered many interesting ways to be involved in my community while doing something positive, and spending time with my son. What attracted me to Seal Watch was it's amazing location at the mouth of the Russian river and the rich eco system it supported. I believe volunteering is being part "of the solution" in creating strong communities.
I am told you coordinate the Seal Watch program. How did you become involved with that? What do you find most rewarding? After doing it SW for a few years, Mary Follis, who I have always admired for her commitment to our Coast and her kind demeanor, asked me if I was interested in being the volunteer point person for SW. I thought it was a way to ramp up my commitment to being part "of the solution", and hopefully be able to attract more volunteers to experience the joy of spending time educating visitors about our coast, while witnessing the steady passing of the seasons and the cycles of nature that so consistently manifest at the mouth of the river.
What do you find most interesting about seals? Where do you go to watch them? I admire the perfect design that evolution has created in them as a marine mammal. They move through the water with an agility that always amazes me; the fact that they are born pretty much "ready to go" (precocial); how they have developed navigation techniques using their whiskers that we are only beginning to understand; their remarkable bio rhythms adapted for sea and land; that our seals are uniquely California–the are part of our community. I could go on. Besides at the river, I like going to Point Reyes. Recently, Freida Weiss, who is another volunteer, and I had the pleasure of seeing the Marine Mammal Center release "Scrabbles" to the Point Reyes colony, a Neonate she and I rescued the day after Elinor Twohy passed away.
If a person wants to become a Seal Watch volunteer, what type of background is needed? Are there any classes or books that you might recommend? The prerequisite for being a good Seal Watcher is curiosity, which for me, opened up a desire to learn as much as I can about our California Coast. I regularly attend Sarah Allen's lectures and read her field guides; I became a Certified CA naturalist through the Stewards; I scower the web for scientific information relevant to Seals and the Coast.
What are your interest when not volunteering at Stewards? I'm a graphic designer, so anything that is image driven gets my attention!
Born in Oakland California. Our family moved to a small ranchette near the foot of Mt. Diablo State Park when I was in the third grade. Spent many hours hiking up the mountain from our back yard. Graduated from High School in 1965 and ended up getting a Masters Degree in Criminology at Fresno State in 1976. Note that I did a hitch in the United States Navy between high school and college. Landed a job with California State Parks in 1977. Spent 30 years working as a State Park Ranger. Met my wife Sheryl while we were working at Pismo State Beach in 1980. We got married in June of 1982 and have two adult children, Matt and Kim. During my last 17 years with State parks I was the Supervising Ranger at Sonoma Coast State Park. Retired Christmas in 2005.
When did you realize you were interested in working outdoors?
Grew up in an outdoor family. Spent many vacations camping and hiking. In the Navy I was a diesel mechanic, mostly working on SWIFT boats. My goal in college was to attend Law School and become a Lawyer. While completing my Masters Thesis I realized that working indoors and book work was not my cup of tea. Fell into the Ranger Trainee Class and never looked back.
How did you “discover” working with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods and how long have you been with Stewards? Have you worked on other trail crews?
I became a member of Stewards when I transferred to the Russian River District in 1989. I spent some time as the CAL (Cooperating Association Liaison) and assisted in many training sessions. In the early days we worked with SRJC and had our training accredited with them. When folks completed the training they were given credits towards a degree. That program was eventually dropped by the JC. While working for State Parks I was not allowed to volunteer due to conflicts of interest and violations of FSLA rules. When I retired in 2005 I became a member of the Board and served about 9 years as the Vice President. I have been working with Bill Bambrick on the Trail Crew since the day I retired form State Parks. I have worked with National Parks and a few other local organizations assisting with their trail crews.
What do you do while working as Trail Crew? What areas do you seem to frequent the most (which trails). Which areas do you normally cover?
Have fun, break a sweat (who needs a gym), meet lots of folks enjoying their parks and keeping the parks trails open, safe and available. The first Wednesday of the month we work in the Willow Creek Watershed, Second Wednesday is Armstrong and Austin Creek and the fourth Wednesday is Sonoma Coast. The third Wednesday is either a special day or a week off. We do a lot of mowing and brushing the trails in the spring and early summer. Trail grooming and winterizing in the fall and early winter. Many times there are trees that fall and block the trails which require some fun time using chain saws in a rather technical manner. Ever cut a tree while on the side of a steep slope while hanging on a rope? Building cable steps down to the beach is my least favorite thing to do. Working with the crew is a highlight of each week. Great bunch of folks.
If a person wanted to volunteer with you, how would he/she go about it? Is there any special training involved? Any particular tools he/she should know how to use?
Bill Bambrick is our Team Leader, so contacting him to get the latest information on where we will be meeting next would be a good start. Schedule is flexible, so getting up to date information helps. Go to the Stewards website https://www.stewardscr.org/index.html and look for Volunteer Opportunities. This
will get you basic requirements and you can also download needed forms. As for training and knowledge, we will provide what is necessary (on the job training). Basic tool safety handling and being a Team Player are good attributes. We have many tasks and various skill levels, so do not be shy if you do not like power tools or heavy lifting. We work as a team and build off each others strengths!
Which hiking trails would you suggest for the beginning hiker? Which trail would you suggest for the advanced hiker?
Walking on a sandy beach with the smell of salt air while listening to the crashing waves is always a great hike. Just never turn your back on the surf, Mother Nature is very unforgiving if you disrespect her. Along the Sonoma Coast there are hikes for every skill level and adventure. Several of my most favorite hikes are “The Narrows” in Zion NP, Pelican Creek in Yellowstone NP and the Swift Current Pass Trail in Glacier NP.
What was the most memorable scenery/animal, etc that you have seen while working on the trails?
Great question, Osprey carrying a fish back to the nest, Peregrine Falcons, Whales, Seals and Burrowing Owls along the Sonoma Coast. Badgers, deer, coyotes in Willow Creek, Armstrong and Austin Creek. Birds are everywhere. It is always fun to stay near one of the Teams Naturalist when working. They have a knack of pointing things out. Once while working with a group of Community Volunteers, they were in awe of our office window.
Last but not least, I want to say to each and every Stewards Member. I spent 30 years as a State Park Ranger. To me, being a Ranger was more than just a career, it was a life style. Each of you that volunteer and/or spend your time with Stewards validates my very existence. For that I sincerely thank you. It is an honor to be among your ranks.