March 3, 2015

Learn the basics of backcountry travel — Beginners Backpack Course Spring 2015

Backpackers resting in Yosemite. Photo by Thomas Meissner.

Backpackers resting in Yosemite. Photo by Thomas Meissner.

Application deadline: March 15.
Indoor seminar: March 29.
Field trips: April 11-12, April 18-19, or May 9-10 (participants choose one).

Learn how to travel safely and comfortably with only a pack on your back during the annual Beginner’s Backpack course run by the Backpack Section. We are offering this opportunity for folks who have little or no experience in backpacking but who want to explore backcountry trails and get away from the crowds.

The course consists of:

  • A full-day indoor session on Sunday, March 29, including a series of short lectures, discussions, slide and equipment show. The event will be hosted from 9 am – 5 pm at the Naturebridge Conference Center (Golden Gate National Recreation Area).
  • One overnight backpack trip on a weekend in April or May in small groups led by experienced instructors. There are three dates to choose from (see above).

The backpack trips will take place in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. During the backpack trip you will have the opportunity to try out your gear, learn how to set up a tent and operate a backpack stove, practice basic navigation skills, and, most importantly, experience how it feels to hike with a heavy pack on your back. Participation in the backpack trip requires attendance at the indoor session.

Participants should be in good physical shape and have no serious health conditions. A good background in day hiking is necessary.

Families with children age 12 and older are welcome. The course is not suited for younger children.

Cost is $70 per adult; $35 ages 12 – 22. Early registration is recommended, as space is limited. Applications received after March 15 will be considered only if space is still available

For more information and to sign up, contact: Thomas Meissner by email at (strongly preferred), or by phone at (707)795-7980 (only if you do not have email access).

Island-hop in the Channel Islands

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Naturalist Corps volunteers support a whale watching expedition. (Image courtesy of Bob Perry, Condor Express)

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Naturalist Corps volunteers support a whale watching expedition. (Image courtesy of Bob Perry, Condor Express)

March 28-30, April 5-7, May 4-6, June 14-16 (bird-lover’s special!), July 19-21, August 24-26, September 27-29, and October 25-27.

Join us for a three-day, three-island, live-aboard tour of the enchanting Channel Islands! Hike wild, windswept trails bordered with blazing wildflowers. Kayak rugged coastlines. Marvel at pristine waters teeming with frolicking seals and sea lions. Train your binoculars on unusual sea and land birds—and an occasional whale. Watch for the highly-endangered island fox. Look for reminders of the Chumash people who lived on these islands for thousands of years. Or, just relax at sea.

All cruises depart from Santa Barbara. The cost of $615 includes an assigned bunk, all meals, snacks, and beverages plus the services of a ranger/naturalist who will travel with us to help lead hikes, point out items of interest, and give evening programs.

To reserve space, send a $100 check, made out to the Sierra Club, to:

Joan Jones Holtz
11826 The Wye St.
El Monte, CA 91732

For more information contact Joan at (626)443-0706 or

Mount Diablo Group — Caribbean quest

Larissa Ivanova on Bonaire; Photo by Andrei Ivanova.

Larissa Ivanova on Bonaire; Photo by Andrei Ivanova.

Wednesday, March 11, 7 pm, Ygnacio Valley Library, 2661 Oak Grove Road, Walnut Creek.

Join us at our next meeting for a tropical adventure as botanist, geographer, and world traveler Larissa Ivanova guides us through the Caribbean Islands. Larissa will discuss both the natural and cultural history of the region, from the days of pirates and the slave trade to present-day political and social challenges. Larissa will also show us beautiful seas and beaches, exotic animals, and varied plant life.

A native of Russia, Larissa Ivanova taught biology and geography at the Urals Teacher University. She also served as head of the Nature Department at the Kamensk-Uralskiy Museum. Larissa and her husband Andrei currently reside in San Francisco.

Everyone is welcome and no reservations are necessary. If you have questions, contact Ken Lavin at or (925)852-8778.

S.F. Dinners explore remote Svalbard and Mongolia

Polar bear; photo by Gerald Corsi.

Polar bear; photo by Gerald Corsi.

Social hour begins at 6 pm, dinner at 7 pm, and program at 8 pm. Note new location: Covenant Presbyterian Church, 321 Taraval, between Funston and 14th Avenues, San Francisco. Take Muni L or 28. Limited parking is available at the church lot, one-half block east on Taraval at the white parking guards, for $1.50 per car, payable at the church check-in.

For each dinner, send a check for $20, made out to “Sierra Club, S.F. Bay Chapter,” to:

Gerry Souzis
1801 California St., #405
San Francisco, CA 94109

Please send a separate check for each program and indicate the program date, number of guests, and your phone number. Non-members are welcome. Checks must be received by February 13 for the February program and March 13 for that month’s program.

Bring your own wine or soft drinks. Glasses and ice are available. Let us know if you are a vegetarian. For questions, contact Gerry between 4 and 9 pm (no morning calls please) at (415)474-4440 or

Thu, Feb 19 – “Svalbard” with Buff and Gerald Corsi

Svalbard, also known as Spitzbergen, is an archipelago located just 600 miles from the North Pole, and is the northernmost place in the world with a permafrost population. Formerly a center for whaling and coal mining—and more recently arctic research and tourism—it is a hotbed of arctic wildlife and seabirds. In a landscape of glaciers, mountains, and fjords, the tallest tree is no more than a few inches tall, and in its brief spring the tundra is covered in wildflowers.

Wildlife photographers Buff and Gerald Corsi will return to bring us their excellent wildlife photography, featuring Buff’s videos and Gerald’s stills, from this Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.

Thu, Mar 19 – “Bumping Through Mongolia” with Sigrid Selle

In September 2010, Sigrid returned from four weeks in Mongolia, where she “bumped through steppe, desert areas, over rolling green hills to the western provinces, with camels as pack animals.” In the Kharkhiraa Mountains her group met no travelers. Along the way, nomads invited them into their gers to take part in their traditional way of life. They explored the Altai Tavan Bogd Nationnal Park, at the highest elevation in Mongolia, to experience the magnificent scenery of rugged glaciated peaks.

S.F. Dinners is delighted to have Sigrid Selle, the intrepid traveler and magnificent photographer of exotic places, return with her wonderful adventure in Mongolia.

Delta Group February meeting — Updates on BART and crude by rail


Rendering of e-BART train.

Wednesday, February 25, 7:15 pm, Antioch Library, 501 West 18th St., Antioch.

Our February meeting features a double program. First, current BART President and longtime East Contra Costa resident Joel Keller will present “Build a Better BART:  Better BART, Better East Contra Costa.” Keller will discuss general BART system topics, including ridership, current projects, and plans to meet future challenges. Local residents will want to hear about BART updates planned for East Contra Costa, especially concerning the new e-BART system under construction.

Afterwards, the Bay Chapter’s conservation coordinator Ratha Lai will present an overview of California oil companies’ plans to increase shipments of crude oil to the region—including Bakken crude from North Dakota and Canadian tar sands—increasing the risk of explosions, derailments, spills, and fires. Ratha will also provide an update on WesPac’s proposal for a massive oil-storage and transfer facility in the City of Pittsburg.

Before the program, we’ll socialize, munch goodies, and briefly discuss current environmental issues and upcoming activities and events. Delta Group program meetings are usually held in February, May, September, and November unless otherwise noted. A newsletter listing Delta Group programs, outings, and activities is available by $5 subscription. To receive the newsletter, send a $5 check made out to “Sierra Club, Delta Group” to:

Janess Hanson
431 Levee Road
Bay Point, CA 94565. 

For  information about Delta Group activities, call Janess Hanson at (925)458-0860. For information about Delta area environmental concerns, call Tim Donahue at (925)754-8801.

Visit the Arctic, Kashmir, and Nepal with East Bay Dinners

Photo courtesy Steve Hickson Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy Steve Hickson Flickr Creative Commons

East Bay Dinners take place at the Berkeley Yacht Club on the Berkeley Marina, one block north of the west end of University Avenue (ample free parking is available in the Marina parking lots). No-host cocktails/social hour begins at 6 pm, dinner at 7 pm, and program at 8 pm.

Cost of dinner and program is $27, including tax and tip. For a reservation, please send your check, payable to “Sierra Club,” with your name, telephone number, and the names of your guests, to:

Evelyn Randolph
938 Galvin Drive
El Cerrito, CA 94530

Attendance is limited to the first 115 reservations received. Reserve early, as these programs do fill up. Reservation deadline for the February program is February 20, and March 20 for that month’s program. There is no admittance for program only.

Thu, Feb 26—“Arctic National Wildlife Refuge” and “Trekking in Srinigar, Kashmir”

The February program will include two adventures. The first is a walk by Jack Robbins and Cynthia Brown through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, along the Shinjik River up to the Continental Divide and then down along the Kongakut River to the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean. It is late June, 1990. Ice is melting. Flowers are bursting into bloom. Caribou are herding north. Grizzlies are roaming.

The night’s second adventure is a solo hike along a wild river valley formed by two steep mountain ridges, away from the group trek that Jack was on from Srinigar to Leh in the northern tip of India/Pakistan. Freezing ice, breaking off pieces of the mountain ridges, has bombarded the canyon floor with huge pieces of rock, creating a unique landscape Jack calls “the river of time.”

Jack Robbins practiced architecture and urban design in the Bay Area for thirty years. He served on public agencies responsible for protecting and improving access to the Bay shore, and was an active member and chair of the Bay Chapter’s Wilderness subcommittee. Jack has hiked the High Sierra, Mount Shasta, Rainier, Lassen, Denali, Kilimanjaro, and the Cordilera Blanca in Peru. Cynthia Brown is an historian and author. She joined her husband Jack on trips to the mountains of Nepal and Kazakhstan, where he climbed almost to the tops of Peak Lenina and Khan Tengri.

Thu, Mar 26—“Trekking to Makalu Base Camp, Nepal”

In 1990, intrepid trekker and superb photographer Sigrid Selle attempted to trek to the Makalu Base Camp, at an elevation of  15,975 feet, in Nepal. A heavy snowstorm forced her group to turn back. In 1992, she returned even though she was warned by the State Department that it was dangerous to do so because of a Maoist insurgency. On the way, her group had an encounter with Maoist rebels, but they did not turn back. The steep and challenging trek took her through many small Nepalese villages and corn, barley, and rice fields. What did she see along the way?  Did she get to the Makalu Base Camp? If so, what was it like? Join us and find out, as Selle shows wonderful pictures accompanied by charming, rich commentary.

Green Friday programs tackle amphibian conservation and fossil fuels by rail

Art courtesy of SAVE THE FROGS!

Art courtesy of SAVE THE FROGS!

Green Friday meets on the second Friday of the month in the Bay Chapter office, 2530 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley. Doors open at 7pm; program runs from 7:30 to 9:30 pm including questions and discussion. Refreshments are served. A $3 donation is requested.

Green Friday programs feature informative speakers and discussions about the important environmental issues of our time. All are welcome—Sierra Club members as well as nonmembers.

Fri, Feb 13—Fossil fuels by rail

Bay Chapter conservation manager Jess Dervin-Ackerman will present on the dangerous and unnecessary proposals to bring crude oil and coal into the Bay Area by train.

As the Sierra Club works across the United States to successfully retire coal-fired power plants and reduce our use of coal to create electricity, coal companies are making moves to export coal to foreign markets that are still ramping up their use of coal for electricity. Additionally, the world is running out of conventional crude oil that we use to produce things like jet fuel and gasoline. So, Big Oil has turned to more extreme kinds of crudes that have higher risks throughout the extraction, transport, and refining processes.

Dervin-Ackerman will talk about the extreme fossil-fuel projects are proposed for the Bay Area, how we are fighting to keep these fuels out of our communities, and the Sierra Club’s plan to leave these extreme fuels in the ground and transition to a clean-energy economy.


Dr. Kerry Kriger of SAVE THE FROGS! will present a program on amphibian conservation in the 21st century. The presentation will consider why frogs are disappearing worldwide and what can be done to save them. Dr. Kriger will detail his organization’s global efforts on behalf of amphibians and discuss how you can help save the frogs. The presentation will feature many of Dr. Kriger’s photos from around the world.

Dr. Kriger is founder and executive director of SAVE THE FROGS!, the world’s leading amphibian conservation organization. He has presented over 275 lectures on amphibian conservation in Australia, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Ghana, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, South Korea, and the U.S.

Join the Sierra Club at events this weekend to support the struggle for racial justice

inspirMany of us have been touched by the recent Grand Jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island not to indict police officers who killed unarmed black men on the streets of America. Sierra Club members, staff, and allies have been out in the streets throughout the country, protesting these injustices and countless more, and demanding civil rights and racial justice for all Americans.

This week the Club’s Executive Director, Michael Brune, wrote a blog post about why we can’t be silent on this issue. He wrote:

The Sierra Club believes that all people deserve a healthy planet with clean air and water and a stable climate. All people also deserve equal protection under the law and the right to live their lives free of discrimination and hatred. These issues are not separate. Indeed, we believe that working toward a just, equitable, and transparent society is not only morally necessary but also exactly what we need to confront the unprecedented environmental challenges we face.

Injustices in our political system and in our culture empower polluters and lead to the destruction of our most cherished places. Those same injustices often breed hatred, sow division among us, and threaten our health and safety. The Sierra Club’s mission is to “enlist humanity” to explore, enjoy, and protect the planet. That mission, which applies to everyone, cannot be achieved when people’s rights are being violated and their safety and dignity are being threatened on a routine basis. This must stop.

That is why we must speak out on these issues. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

We want to invite you to join us in participating in several actions this weekend to reflect on the injustice that people of color face every day in this country, reflect on all we have lost, and demand action from our elected leaders to change the system that has brought us to this point. At each of these events, we will have a Sierra Club contingent present to show solidarity with our allies and to show our commitment to fighting for racial justice as part of our mission to achieve equity and climate justice for all. Please wear black so we can identify each other.

Saturday, December 13th, 9:30 am
Join Outdoor Afro for a Healing Hike to Breathe
Meet at Inspiration Point in Tilden Park. **Check for updates due to weather and trail conditions.
Sierra Club folks will meet at the Inspiration Park sign on Wildcat Canyon Road.

Saturday, December 13th, 2 pm
Millions March for Justice, San Francisco
Meet Chapter Director Michelle Myers and the Sierra Club/ Environmental Justice contingent in green at the Vaillancourt Fountain in Justin Herman Plaza. Wear black and bring signs!

Saturday, December 13th, 2 pm
Millions March for Justice, Oakland
Meet Chapter Conservation Manager Jess Dervin-Ackerman and the Sierra Club/ Environmental Justice folks in green on the steps of Oakland’s City Hall. Wear black and bring signs!

Each of these events is well organized and family friendly, with specific routes determined in advance. The marches will have monitors and peacekeepers to ensure everyone’s safety. Please feel free to bring family and friends. If you can’t make it this weekend, there will surely be other events in the near future that we will be participating in.

Learn about forest-fire mitigation in the East Bay hills from EBMUD and Cal

1991 East Bay hills fire.

1991 East Bay hills fire.

Saturday, December 6, 10 am-5 pm. Ever wanted to know why there aren’t more fires in our hills, especially during a drought? Join outings leader Ben Alvers for an educational hike on forest-fire mitigation in the East Bay hills. EBMUD Ranger Mark Silva and UC Berkeley facilities planner Tom Klatt will instruct us on their respective institutions’ strategies to avoid another  firestorm like the one that ravaged 1,520 acres and destroyed nearly 4,000 homes in 1991.

Our route will take us along the border between the EBMUD and UC Berkeley watersheds then back along the Sibley ridge line, where we can enjoy (weather allowing) beautiful views of San Francisco, Mount Tamalpais, and Mount Diablo.

Meet at 10 am sharp in the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve parking lot. Eat a large breakfast because lunch will be later on the route. Total distance will be about 10 miles, although there is an early opt-out for those who want a shorter hike (7 miles, and less elevation). This event has been organized by the Bay Chapter’s Conservation Committee, and is free and open to the public. Learn more at the Bay Chapter activities calendar.

Development discussion and walk in the MLK, Jr. Regional Shoreline Park

Willets at Arrowhead Marsh. Photo via Flickr Creative Commons,

Willets at Arrowhead Marsh. Photo via Flickr Creative Commons,

Sunday, December 7, 9:30 am. Join the Bay Chapter’s Conservation Committee for a leisurely, three-mile hike on paved, level paths along Oakland’s San Leandro Bay shoreline, starting at Arrowhead Marsh in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline Park.

San Leandro Bay is one of the Central Bay’s most glorious bodies of water. We’ll enjoy great views, see thousands of water birds and shorebirds, and hopefully spot a few endangered species. Along the way, we’ll see some of the region’s most successful wetland-restoration projects. We’ll also walk the site of the Bay Area’s first major development proposal for lands that will likely be under water by 2100.

As we explore land likely to disappear under sea-level rise, we will reflect on the impact of development and climate disruption to species that depend upon tidal marshes; explore new proposals to preserve the Bay’s remaining wetlands; and consider whether it is appropriate to build in areas threatened by sea-level rise.

The proposed Oakland Coliseum Area development would be an enormous (780-acre) project, described in the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) this way: “Overall, this proposed Project would create three new sports venues, 5,750 housing units, and almost 8 million square feet of net new commercial and business uses.  The Coliseum Area would have around 7,000 residents… by the time of project Buildout in… 2035”.

How does the DEIR address expected sea-level rise? It suggests that buildings have car garages on the first floor with businesses and housing on the second floor “to allow sea level rise to impact uninhabited parking structures rather than dwelling units.” Perhaps the idea is that as sea level rises and the garages flood everyone will take to boats. Another solution proposed by the DEIR is to have all essential infrastructure built above the anticipated sea level, 3 to 6 feet in the air. The image brought to mind is of elevated roads surrounding lower blocks of housing and businesses (with the garages now flooded) like a gigantic waffle.

The DEIR does acknowledge that something would need to be done to avoid catastrophe for the 7,000 residents whose homes would be underwater. Perhaps, it suggests, a massive levee will be required along the entire length of the bay shoreline? We won’t go into the costs or headaches of the DEIR’s strikingly inadequate proposals here. Suffice to say that such short-sighted plans only punt, abdicating responsibility for the consequences of their actions to future generations and shifting the burden of response to relevant regional agencies.

We will ponder these questions and more, while enjoying a spectacular—and endangered—natural area. Join us! For more details, visit the Bay Chapter activities calendar.