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I like the story (both the long and the short versions) of how the Bouverie Preserve came to be. In brief, the only daughter of John Jacob Astor IV married a gentleman architect named David Bouverie, who liked trails and open space. They divorced, but the mixture of her money and his passion and creativity ultimately led to the donation in 1979 of about 535 acres of prime land in the Valley of the Moon that will never be vineyards, mansions or anything but open space.

The property is now a lush playground for local elementary schoolkids to explore on field trips, and they do, throughout the school year. But a few times a year, the grown-ups get to visit through guided hikes and outings across the rolling woodlands. There’s a display hall with ample parking, facilities, maps, exhibits, animal and plant info and more. Remarkably well-informed volunteer docents lead the hikes.

I went last weekend for the first time, and it was a treat for the senses. From the extensive tree collections that range from various oaks to madrones to manzanitas to small redwoods, to the creek that bisects the property and leads to a waterfall, to the broad collection of wildlife, it is a true nature preserve, in every sense of the word.

I’m not a birder, but we saw vultures, jays and maybe even a hawk on our hike, and I’m told that birders often spot much more. Watch for bobcats, deer, foxes, and rattlesnakes. For about three-plus miles, including some easy climbs up well-maintained trails, a hike through the Bouverie property allowed for the usual head-snapping back-and-forth of landscapes. One moment you’re deep in a grove of redwoods, the next you’re heading across a meadow. You’re on a scenic hilltop vista looking toward Sonoma Mountain and then you’re down on a creek bed, searching for newts in the clear stream.

Fans of the famed food writer M.F.K. Fisher are well aware of the Glen Ellen property and its ties to her. Click here for a New York Times story that sums it all up nicely.

Click here for more on the Bouverie Preserve.