Apollo Q&A and Cedars of Marin
I received a comment from a reader asking were a photo I took of an Apollo test capsule was taken. It’s this photo here:
Unfortunately I can’t approve their comment because they included some personal contact information. Fortunately, I can share a bit on where the heck this was. This photograph was taken in San Rafael, CA, next to the Cedars Textile Art Center. It’s possibly theirs, though I have never poked into why or how that came about. The photo was taken years ago. This has a bit to unpack.
The Cedars of Marin is a very amazing, wonderful organization that creates day and residential programs for developmentally disabled adults. They have a couple different locations in Marin county. The Textile Art Center keeps sheep, alpacas, silkworms, and other animals to teach gentle animal husbandry and use their wool and hair and silk to make products by hand. They keep a garden and teach nutrition. It’s a great center for both experiential living and skills development. It is, however, rather a hidden campus.
To get to the Textile Art Center, you enter through the Tamalpais center at the end of 5th Avenue in Sun Valley, just moments away from downtown San Rafael. You turn left and go up the hillside while the rest of the old cemetery stretches up the hill, in a small valley below you, and to the right (behind you as you turn) on flatter slopes in modern stretches. You will feel like you went the wrong way and will come to the end of the road. Joggers, however, love it.
As kids, we loved it too. In middle school, when we could be trusted to tear around on our bicycles, we found that this road continued on a path over the hill from San Rafael into San Anselmo. You wind up behind a school campus. The first time I was their with my friend, it was summer, the campus was open but near empty except for a few students, and we read the name “Sunny Hills.” It felt creepy and we pushed on fast after we got the shifty eye from some adults. We made up stories over lunch as to what we saw on the trail and the campus with a few lone kids shooting hoops out in the heat, back behind School district buildings, hidden further between a community park and a cemetery, but we did eventually ask what the truth was.
Sunny Hills services started over 100 years ago as a farm orphanage supported by Presbyterians and local money from Captain Robert Dollar and Phoebe Hearst, and has since grown into a regional child welfare organization. The growth of foster care meant that residential treatment shifted to focus on treatment for children and adolescents with emotional or behavioral issues. Now residential care is gone, but Sunny Hills does support transitional housing, including transitional housing for youth emancipating from the foster care system and have their own dorm house for College of Marin, for examples, as well as many other services… and still operate a school on the original Sunny Hills campus.
Next door to Sunny Hills is Oak Hill school, a school for students with autism and related developmental differences. I do not know much about them, as they moved to the location in 2008 when Sunny Hills opened space up from closing down residential programs to day only programs. Oak Hill was founding in 2000 and was formerly in Marin City and serves ages five to twenty-two. Their program and facilities are robust.
So, there’s some secret space between Red Hill Shopping Center (and the Red Hill park behind it) in San Anselmo and Tamalpais Cemetery in San Rafael. Unless you poke your nose down that neck of the woods, or have a connection to the developmentally disabled or children living challenging lives, you might not know. Most people I talk to this about or mention it to don’t even realize there is a contiguous path there, even though it’s Marin and odds are there is a path pretty much over every hill in the county. If you don’t go, you just don’t think about it. I found the answer only because my mom worked with developmentally disabled adults in another program provider. I didn’t want to disturb them, though I know now that at least they love working with our students when they come to visit. Perhaps they would have taken more kindly to us girls, very much like them, though I can’t say about their teachers and staff.