I love the idea of a Sonoma County pilgrimage route but question the wisdom and sensitivity of tying it to the Franciscan missions and Spanish conquest which decimated the local population.

Might it be more appropriate for it to remind pilgrims - and all of us - of the cultures that have existed here for over 10,000 years? In all likelihood, this route follows earlier Pomo and Wappo trading routes.

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I dearly hope there is acknowledgement that this was the route that led directly to the deaths of most Native Americans in Northern California, as corporal Ignacio Miramontes spread smallpox from Ft. Ross to Sonoma in 1837.

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I'm glad to know the route does not use the Bodega Hwy, which has been increasingly crowded by traffic in both directions from early morning to evening added the congestion where Hwy 12 and 116 meet in the center of town where much of West County's rural neighbors come to shop, visit the library and get other services.

A concern I have arfter reading the description of the first segment of the route is the lack of shoulder on the County's narrow and twisting rural roads forcing walkers to walk in the roadway. I hope guides encourage walkers to wear bright colors so they are highly visible to approaching vehicles. On the half mile of Burnside Road I drive to get to Sebastopol I frequently encounter people walking wearing dark clothing and on the wrong side (you should face the traffic) and sometimes 2 or 3 abreast. When sun angles are low, drivers are frequently moving from open stretches to sections of shade from overhanging trees limbs. This is also a popular road segment for bicyclists, who mostly wear bright clothing, but still many do not. There is a high point 200 feet from my drive way, where I see 2 or more bicylclist stop to rest without pulling into the open spaces on either side. Drivers cannot tell if there are approaching cars until they are almost at the high point because of the steep slopes on both sides of this high point.

I also wonder how often once "pilgrims" reach Highway 1, which twists and turns with very limited opportunitites to pass safely given the terrain, whether on foot or a bicycle they will create lengthy caravans of back up motor vehicles, especially in good weather when tourists from both within Sonoma Co and beyond add to the daily commute and service vehicle load.

While I hope there is no serious accidents, this sounds like a high risk area to promote non moter vehicle travel given the very limited options for motorized vehicles, many of whom have no alternative to reach their schools or work places are obtain service not available on the coast.

Steve Beck

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