Team 'MoJo' on a long walk to Mexico to bring attention to the California Coastal Trail

Two twenty-something scientists have stopped in Sonoma County while on a three-month, 1,250-mile trek down the entire length of the state in a quest to bring attention to the California Coastal Trail.|

Want to join them?

Meet at 11 a.m. Thursday, June 2 at the Bodega Head parking lot. Join California Coastal Trail Ambassadors Jocelyn Enevoldsen and Morgan Visalia for all of part of their walk to Valley Ford.

FORT ROSS STATE PARK - Picking their way across the rocks and boulders that cover the shore on this stretch of central Sonoma Coast, Morgan Visalli and Jocelyn Enevoldsen started off Tuesday like two people out for a stroll with the promise of lunch and a nap by noon.

Cheery and relaxed - stopping here to check out pockmarked stone formations called tafoni, and there to examine circular colonies of goose neck barnacles - they suggested none of the fatigue, apprehension or seriousness with which others might face an undertaking as formidable as theirs.

The young marine scientists, both in their 20s, are on a very long walk, one that will take them down the entire length of the state in a quest to bring attention to the California Coastal Trail and to build momentum for its completion more than four decades after it was first envisioned.

They like to say that they are “walking to Mexico.”

It's a three-month, 1,250-mile trek. Covering an average 13 miles daily, sometimes in tough terrain, they find their legs are usually pretty tired by evening.

But after a full month on the trail and close to 400 miles since they departed the Oregon border on May 1, the two women are still energized and raring to go, inspired by the beauty that surrounds them and the knowledge that they are building on the legacy of coastal protection, whose roots, by happenstance, lie in Sonoma County.

As imagined, the trail would be a sort of coastal version of iconic regional trails like the Appalachian Trail or the Continental Divide Trail in the Rockies, or the inland west coast Pacific Crest Trail. It is about 60 percent complete, but the 40 percent that remains is likely to be the most difficult, according to Linda Locklin, coastal access program manager for the California Coastal Conservancy.

Even in Sonoma County the coastal trail is only about half finished, Sonoma County Park Planning Manager Steve Ehret said. Large segments of completed trail in the Sonoma Coast State Park, smaller regional parks and The Sea Ranch are offset by stretches around Fort Ross and Salt Point and other places that are mere dash marks on a map. In areas such as Timber Cove, the “trail” becomes Highway 1.

Leaving Reef Campground at Fort Ross State Park on Tuesday, Visalli and Enevoldsen faced a day mostly on the rocks, as they traveled south toward Russian Gulch and then Jenner, wathing the tide table to avoid pinch points.

Their nomadic journey has taken them into majestic redwood groves and labyrinthine sand dunes, across river estuaries, through coastal prairie and atop ocean bluffs. “The coast is just magical,” said Visalli, 25. “There's so much diversity of landscape.”

They've also met numerous “angels,” folks who have offered them passage across waterways, invited them into homes for coffee and snacks or, like a man they met after their very first day on the trail, handed them two frosty cold beers.

Using the trail names “Mo” and “Jo,” the two women - close friends through graduate school - are working this year under a $50,000 California Coastal Conservancy grant, serving as official ambassadors for the California Coastal Trail that, when complete, will provide a networked system of trails, boardwalks, open beaches and bike and equestrian paths open for public use, all “within sight, sound or at least scent of the sea.”

Team MoJo's mission is to reach out to government officials and constituents from coastal counties and other jurisdictions to promote the trail's advancement and galvanize interest in getting the job done.

They also are collecting and developing interpretive content for a digital map and guide of the trail that will have photos, videos, notes and other useful information that will form the basis for an Explore the Coast website to be launched later this year.

Enevoldsen, a vibrant and energetic brunette who grew up in Ventura County, said she's eager to raise awareness of the coastal trail among millennials, many of whom may never have heard of it.

She hopes the team's work will inspire a new generation of environmental stewards to continue the work of iconic coastal champions like Sonoma County's own Bill Kortum, who led the fight that secured public access to California's coast in the 1970s, and Peter Douglas, who served as its guardian for 34 years as deputy, then executive director of the California Coastal Commission. Getting young people onto the public's coastal right-of-way is one way to get them engaged in preservation of the coast and the ocean, Enevoldsen said.

“If people can get to it, it's easy to love it and want to protect it,” she said.

The California Coastal Trail was first envisioned in 1972's voter initiated Proposition 20, which was passed in an era of aggressive interest in developing the coastline. The initiative, followed in 1976 by passage of the California Coastal Act, solidified the public's claim to coastal right-of-way and created the California Coastal Commission go guide all activities that impact the coast. It also required coastal counties to designate trail alignments. State legislation approved in 2001 further pressed state and local agencies to determine how the state trail might be brought to fruition.

Some sections already existed within county, state and national parks, or along beaches with public access points. Others have been built more recently - sections of county trail constructed in Bodega Bay over the past two years, for instance, or in the city of Fort Bragg. Acquisition of coastal lands by open space and land conservation agencies continue to add pieces to the puzzle, though the trails still must be developed in many cases.

But challenges to extending the trail include significant areas where private ownership is an issue. There are technical impediments, like narrow passages just wide enough for Highway 1, and erosion at the continent's edge, as exists in Gleason Beach.

The stakeholders include more than 100 agencies and entities, said Una Glass, executive director of the California Coastal Trail Association, which works to promote and expand the trail.

Enevoldsen and Visalli hope to play some role in future progress, if only by generating enthusiasm and interest in the plan.

Both received masters degrees in Coastal Marine Resource Management at UC Santa Barbara, and Enevoldsen took a post with the California Coastal Conservancy. That's where she learned about the Coastal Trail, and her plan to walk it began to germinate. Most of the expedition will be completed on foot, though they have bicycled on sections with nowhere to travel except highway.

They are following in the footsteps of Richard Nichols, then-director of Sebastopol-based Coastwalk Calfiornia, and hikers' guidebook author Bob Lorenzen, who hiked the trail in 2003 and wrote a two-volume book that Team MoJo is closely following.

But Enevoldsen said she and her friend are acutely aware of traveling routes used for millennia by the indigenous people of California.

As they walk, they are “really respecting those who came before us,” she said, “and thinking about who will come after.”

Follow the team's progress at,,, or on Facebook at MoJo Coastwalk or California Coastal Trail.

Want to join them?

Meet at 11 a.m. Thursday, June 2 at the Bodega Head parking lot. Join California Coastal Trail Ambassadors Jocelyn Enevoldsen and Morgan Visalia for all of part of their walk to Valley Ford.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

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