THE “MIRACLE EASEMENT”

In 2007, we received a phone call from a conservation group called Tuleyome (an Indian word meaning “deep home place”) asking if they could meet with us regarding our Berryessa ranch and a possible trail to connect two very large tracts of BLM land.  These would access Berryessa Peak and provide over 120 miles of continuous hiking trail in the greater Bay Area.  From Berryessa Peak, one can see Mt. Lassen to the north, as well as the entire Bay.

All dots often connect in a lifetime of meeting and working with people.  In this case, a gentleman who had retired as Deputy Secretary of State in charge of Elections belonged to Tuleyome, and knew us as manufacturers of voting equipment.  He also remembered us speaking of our ranch on the east side of Lake Berryessa…Voila!  Connections!

We agreed to meet with 3 members of Tuleyome, and they explained that our property (at its most vertical point where cows, horses, and ATV’s never go) had a point ½ mile long that touched the two BLM parcels and could provide access.  We were very interested in providing an easement, as my husband is an Eagle Scout whose fondest memories are of Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico with its 36-day trail hikes (in 1954).  Growing up in L.A., he had few similar experiences as a Scout.  We have three (3) grandsons and felt that providing access of this sort would be important for future generations.

Working with Napa County Regional Parks Dept., Napa County Planning Dept., and many volunteers, we were able to grant the easement.  Our conditions were simple…no horses, ATV’s, firearms.  Only people on foot, and maybe their trusty 4-legged hiking companions.  This has become known as the “Miracle Easement”.

Countless volunteer hours followed, directed by Andrew Fulks of Tuleyome…an avid hiker and trail builder (and land manager for UC Davis).  We admired his persistence with his intense band of volunteers…especially on Thanksgiving Weekend 2011, when they hiked in 7 miles and then had to use their McLeods (rakes used for fire suppression) to clear snow from the almost vertical trail BEFORE they could begin work!  Andrew was determined to get this trail built before his 40th birthday, and he made it by one month.

On January 27, 2013, 35 people met for the first official hike, and 22 made it to the top.  This hike is not for the faint of heart, being 7.2 miles long one-way, climbing 2500+ feet above the lake to Berryessa Peak, which is 3,057 feet in altitude.  Hikers must bring water and pack everything in and out.

We are excited to contribute this easement for the use of serious hikers everywhere.  It is part of our conservation policy on our family ranch.  That includes over 2000 acres of native plants and trees preserved through the California Rangeland Trust, to ensure that the land’s character and use does not change into the future.  We are currently planting a 1-mile strip of native trees and shrubs that will increase wildlife habitat on the lower edges of the ranch…this means 400 holes drilled and planted with various native oaks, walnut, toyon, coffeeberry, redbud, etc.  It’s a lot of hard work!  We have recently gifted this ranch to our three daughters and are acting as the managers (they all have day jobs!).  Our purpose is to see this ranch preserved for many generations!

Judy Ann Ahmann
May 3, 2013
Past President, California CattleWomen