I’ve never been to Mono Lake, located just east of Yosemite, but I’ve heard the 1-million-year-old watering hole is gorgeous. It’s also having an early Christmas as it just got removed from the state parks’ closure list.

How did they do it? More than 4,000 signatures to the governor’s office helped, but more important was the role of a local nonprofit foundation that stepped into the void and will handle collections of parking fees and help keep an eye on the place. It’s similar to the effort being undertaken by the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association to preserve Jack London State Park.

That good news was announced on Thursday, Dec. 1, the same day that Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, right here in Sonoma County, was

officially closed for the next three months. So, no official access for December, January and February. That park is the site of my first – and most recent – local hikes and it’s a treasure. A colleague checked out the waterfalls the other day, and found them lacking, which only whets my appetite to get there in a few months when they start flowing again.