9624_1177955622754_1644048484_474051_2748494_nWith all the fuss over Annadel in recent weeks, the park has been on the minds of many people. First, it was rumored to be on a list of state parks to be closed due to budget cuts. Then, the inevitable and predictable public outcry ensued, and now no parks will be closed, although the dire budget cuts they still have to deal with ensure that for some, the difference between being “closed” and “barely open, but providing so little services that they might as well be closed” will be a semantic one.

Here’s the latest on the whole mess.

As a newcomer to Sonoma County who has avidly embraced hiking and exploration of the great outdoors around the entire Bay Area region and even a bit beyond, I was taken by the adjectives used to describe Annadel by my friends and colleagues – “a jewel,” or “paradise in our backyard,” or other glowing tributes.

I’ve been to more than a dozen state and national parks in the last year, but something immediately struck me during the last few weeks as I followed the news about Annadel. Uh, I’ve never been. I think I’ve jogged by on a few

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jaunts into adjacent Spring Lake Park but as far I can tell, I’ve never actually been in Annadel.

Time to change that. Last night, I headed there post-work with some old and new friends. While hiking is my regular modus operandi, in a past life I was an avid cyclist so it seemed like an ideal opportunity to get back on a bike.

We headed into Spring Lake Park (with our driver paying the $7 entrance fee – I joined the Calif. State Parks Foundation recently so I can guilt-free get into all state parks now, but it seems like Spring Lake is a county park – and besides, geez, they need the money…) and were quickly on some trails, and then, before I knew it, we were already in Annadel.

It became abundantly clear that closing the park would be beyond impractical given all the access points, but maybe the whole closing suggestion was a political canard of sorts.What followed were a couple of hours of some gentle elevations, a few breezy and really rapid descents, plenty of rocks to avoid, and something that I rarely see on my various hikes….. OTHER PEOPLE.

X00136_9Runners, walkers, and cyclists all shared the paths easily, all at different speeds but with the same contented looks on their faces.

To me, the oak groves in the park were particularly memorable as was the view of the emerging moon as the sun set. Having done just a fraction of the 35 miles of trails there to

be explored, we wrapped up the ride as darkness descended.

It probably helped my return to cycling that I was borrowing a friend’s zillion-dollar brand-new bike (thanks, T!) that had more controls and gadgets than my car, and probably cost as much, but that was only part of the fun. The rest was due to the setting. Moments away from home, this park is a treasure. No sense Annadel being a stranger to me any more.