Sunday, April 25, 2010

Frank Raines Park, Stanislaus County


Today we did one of my favorite day trips to Mines Road in Livermore and Del Puerto Canyon Road where Alameda, Santa Clara, San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties converge. We go there almost every spring for birding, and to see the wildflowers. It is a good place to see Western Bluebirds, Lewis’ Woodpeckers, Phainopepla, Western Kingbird, and if you are lucky, which we were today, Black-headed Grossbeak and Wood Duck. We missed Roadrunner though. I expected the wildflowers to be spectacular given our very wet winter, but while the wildflowers were good – I’ve seen better in this area in previous years.

Every time we do this day trip I am struck by how remote this place seems, knowing we are less than an hour from home. The birds, the profusion of wildflowers, the rocks, the terrain are so profoundly different from where we live it is like being in another state. After driving for miles, taking in a new scene with every turn in the narrow road, you come to Frank Raines Park, and though I know it’s there – it has been for the 26 years we’ve been doing this trip, I am always a bit surprised to see it, because it appears in the middle of nowhere.

To make my point, a site on Google identifies the nine closest towns, they are: Ashrama, Westley, Patterson, Solyo, Grayson, Jet, Ohm, Vernalis, Crows Landing, and Stomar. Other than Patterson, have you ever heard of any of these towns?

Frank Raines Park is 2000 acres. It is best known as an off road vehicle park – not exactly my kind of place, but I am glad these sort of parks exist, because it provides a place for those who enjoy the sport to do their thing, without destroying sensitive habitat outside the lands set aside for off road biking. The part of the park we always stop at is a traditional county park with picnic facilities, bar-b-ques, a restroom and baseball field.

The park was dedicated in 1953 and what I like about it is all the stone work. There is a stone wall with monumental columns along Del Puerto Canyon Road, at either side of the entrance to the park. Within the park there are stone walls that define the picnic and parking areas. There is a round, raised stone planter built around an Oak tree, and a curved stone wall with built-in seat walls on both sides. All this stone work reminds me of the stone work done by the CCC during the depression, but according to a Stanislaus County website, it was built by county personnel.

So, who was Frank Raines? Now, this is the great thing about writing a blog. I have visited this park literally dozens of times, and to be honest I never really thought about Frank Raines before, but it’s the weekend and I try to post to my blog every weekend. That means I need to come up with a topic, and this weekend Frank’s my man.

Thanks to Google, I now know that Frank Raines was born in Vallejo, California in 1876. He first arrived in Stanislaus County in 1895 and was a man of many trades – a farmer, a fireman, a telegraph operator, a first baseman and short stop baseball player, and a publisher. He published the only newspaper ever published in Grayosn, the Try-Weekly, oh, and he also raised turkeys. But Frank’s real claim to fame is that he served on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors for 36 years – from 1916 to 1953 – the same year the park was dedicated.

The other bit of history about this park is that in includes a historic marker for the Patterson and Western Railroad. The inscription on the granite monument reads in part as follows: “The narrow gauge railroad winding some 25 miles from Patterson through Del Puerto Canyon operated from September 20, 1916 to August 14, 1920. During World War I, the railroad brought the much needed minerals of magnesite, manganese chrome and quicksilver down the rugged canyon to the processing plant. The railroad served dozens of mines. There was a 3000 foot tramway up to a mine high up on the side of the canyon.” Erected 2001 by Estanislao Chapter, E Clampus Vitus.

This is an interesting day trip through rugged cattle ranchland, that offers glimpses of a different lifestyle and a different time. It’s a beautiful drive and a favorite of cyclists and motorcyclists on cool spring days.

8 comments:

  1. Chris,
    Another great post about another great place I need to visit. Thanks so much for introducing us to these wonderful historic sites.

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  2. Kathryn,

    Your comments always welcome. If you go be sure to pick a cool day. I suspect spring may be the only season that this area is tolerable. It is a fun drive, especially if you enjoy seeing our state's glorious wildflowers.

    Chris

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  3. Chris,

    I just discovered Frank Raines park. I was out to Mission San Jose to photograph the church and when I got home I used google to fly around to see what else there is to photograph. And, that is when I found the park.

    The barn you have on your blog, how far is it from the day use parking?

    I have been experimenting with HDR photography and it may make a good subject.

    Thank you,

    Dave Butler
    San Jose

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  4. HI,

    Where in the park is that barn, above?

    Thanks,

    Dave

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  5. Hi,

    Where in the park is that barn? Thank you.

    Dave

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  6. the barn is not in the park... it is private property around the 2 mile mark on del puerto...

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  7. Anonymous,

    Thank you for answering Dave's question. Somehow I'd missed that post. You are absolutely correct the barn is close to I5.

    Chris

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  8. Hey Chris! I love this writeup on Frank Raines Park, as well as the photo you took of the barn. May I use the photo in a blog post of my own, crediting you in the caption and linking to this blog entry (or a URL of your choice)? I'm sharing an account of a bicycle ride I took last summer. I passed this barn along the way and your photo really captures the feel of the ranch land on either side of the Central Valley.

    Thanks,

    Dan
    danduett.com

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