2018 Ramblers Hikes Page 1


The Ramblers are Carolyn Amicone, Julie Hornback, Wes Thiessen, Don McClellan, Sue Wirt, Elsa Sweeney, and Dick Estel, former colleagues at the Fresno County Department of Social Services. Every month or so we get together for a short hike, good conversation, and lunch.

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San Joaquin River Trail West


San Joaquin River Trail West

2018 marks the fifth year of Rambler hikes, although we only did four hikes in 2014, with a three-month break between the first and second outings. Since then we have been out on the trail a total of 45 times, although one outing was mostly driving in the rain, with a quick jaunt on a trail for ten minutes between showers. The group has grown from the original four to the seven listed at the top of the page, with occasional guests. We almost never have more than four or five members on any one hike, but everyone gets in on a few trips each year. Dick and Wes can claim perfect attendance. 

For the first hike of 2018, Wes, Carolyn and Dick met at a shopping center in northwest Fresno on January 10, and walked down a pedestrian-only road to the San Joaquin River bottom, an area known as River West. The property has been controlled by the San Joaquin River Conservancy for 15 years, with the intention of developing an extension of the existing Lewis S. Eaton Trail. The delay has been mostly over where to allow access. The river bluffs are occupied by upscale shopping centers and homes, and the owners have resisted allowing access through their neighborhoods, or even the idea of such activities on public land within view of their property. Recently a decision was made to build the access road near where we parked at Palm and Nees Avenues, with the City of Fresno contributing financially to construction and maintenance. (Note: As this is written the website makes reference to several alternatives, but the vote has been taken and alternative 5b chosen.)

But all this was far from our minds as we descended the old road and began walking along the river among trees and bushes. First we went west or downstream, stopping to chat with two men who were fishing. 

Wes had scouted the area twice recently, once on his bicycle, and had noted that there are some homeless people in tents, usually almost hidden in clumps of brush. Although we saw one tent and a sign that said "sidewalk closed," the only people we encountered were fishermen and fellow hikers or joggers.

A short distance past the fishermen the "Sidewalk Closed" sign gave warning of a homeless camp area that did not welcome any disturbance. We took an alternate route, but soon found our way blocked by trees and brush, so went back toward the east. Eventually we came to a place where the trail goes all the way around a large pond, separate from the river. We took the clockwise route, eventually reaching a spot where we could see a dozen or so egrets along the bank or perched on old fence posts in the water. We took our group photo there, then turned back, but took a different road up the bank, one that ran parallel to our downward path. From here we had a nice overall view of the area below. For a few moments it looked like our way back to the shopping center was blocked by the fence that ran along the side of the road, but we came to a place where it had been cut apart, and we were soon back in "civilization."

By good fortune we were parked right in front of Popolo's Pizza, so we didn't have to use up any brain power deciding where to eat. They have a very reasonable  lunch special featuring a large pizza slice, with soup or salad as an option. "How large," you ask? Carolyn and I took half our pizza home with us.

Although we could have walked another mile or so by going all the way around the pond, we did manage a 2.2 mile hike, pretty much the norm for most Rambler hikes. Our only regret was that none of the other members of our group were able to join us. Wes summarized our adventure as follows:

On January 10 a small contingent of Ramblers braved the elements to explore River West, that part of the San Joaquin River west of Highway 41. We started this trek in a light mist with cold temperatures. But the rain soon dissipated and the temperature moderated to the extent we could remove our gloves. We followed the trail along the riverbank until we saw a large sign near a homeless encampment stating: "Sidewalk Closed". We had fun speculating where the homeless found or stole such a sign. We showed respect (or fear) of that encampment and turned around to walk east near a fishing pond. We found great promise in this area when developed as part of the larger Eaton Trail. But don't hold your breath, since the conservancy has owned this property for 15 years without movement. Who knows, we may live to see a beautiful riverbank below those towering bluffs. In the photos below we have tried to avoid the trash and deserted encampments to show you the amazing potential of this riverbank.

--Dick Estel, January 2018

River West Photos


Photos (Click to enlarge; pictures open in new window) 
(Photos by Wes Thiessen, Don McClellan, and Dick Estel)


River West


River West

Sign at the beginning of the road Eucalyptus have been planted among the native trees Part of Sycamore Island
Carolyn and Dick on the trail Erosion from high water has exposed these roots The message here is "stay out!"
Plants grow in a quiet pool separated from the river Leaves from the valley oaks in the river bottom carpet the ground Wes getting the perfect shot
Homes on the river bluff The egrets are not concerned about the politics of river access and preservation View of the river from the road back up the bluffs
The Ramblers: Wes, Carolyn and Dick

Related Links


River West

Lewis S. Eaton Trail San Joaquin River Conservancy

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Updated January 15, 2018