Hermit of San Bruno Mountain is Evicted

Publisher: San Francisco Chronicle
Reporter: Michael McCabe

After 10 years of diminishing solitude, the hermit of San Bruno Mountain has been evicted from his woodsy shelter because park officials don't consider him natural to the environment.

Dwight, as he is known by hikers and environmentalists in the area, was kicked out of his homemade shelter Thursday and told not to come back.

Eight park rangers and sheriff's officers from San Mateo County swooped down on the site and confiscated most of his belongings and destroyed the camp site, Dwight said yesterday.

"That's It, I'm getting out, no two ways about it." said Dwight, 44, who said his full name is Dwight Vernon Taylor.

"I don't know what my next move is, but I know this is theend. I'm staying here on the mountain for a short time until they return my belongings and I figure things out."

Dwight, a short, wiry Peninsula native with mischievous blue eyes, said he found a written warning on Wednesday from the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Department posted on his A-frame shelter, Informing him that his campsite was. illegal. He was given 24 hours to vacate, the premises.

He had received a similar warning about a year ago, he said, but it was rescinded when hundreds of friends, and friends of friends, wrote letters to the county protesting: the eviction. He hoped the same thing would happen again.

This time someone from Brisbane apparently took umbrage at the hermit's existence on the north side of San Bruno Mountain and demanded action.

"I received a public complaint about a week ago that this hermit was building a cistern on the side of the mountain, leveling off the land," said David Cristy, director of parks and recreation for San Mateo County. "I decided it was time to have my rangers and the sheriff's department move in and return the area to its natural setting."

Dwight was ticketed for camping, building campfires, and "mutilating" the environment.

"When I saw all those rangers and sheriff's men cutting down treelimbs to clear the way to haul my stuff away, i got myself very peeved," Dwight said. "I sat down in silence for while and watched them, no trusting myself to speak."

Some environmentalists and friends of Dwight's are outraged by the eviction.

"There is nothing unnatural about dwight," said David Schooley, 43, founder of Bay Area Mountain Watch, a group interested in protecting the San Bruno Mountain area from development and other urban threats. "He is a natural resource to the mountain."

Schooley, who has visited Dwight off and on for eight years, said Dwight is very friendly and sociable, and often takes children on nature hikes along the mountainside. "Anyone who has spent any time at all on the mountain knows that Dwight has become a human adjunct to the mountain's healing powers," Schooley said. "It's horrible what's happened."

Dwight said he used to teach music in junior high school until he reached "burnout stage," and left for long hikes across the country. Soon, he said, he discovered he could not stand to live within the confines of a house, with its stale air and restrictions on night star views.

Gradually, he said, he found himself coming more and more to the San Bruno Mountain area, long before it became a park. He lives on $30 a month he gets in dividends from a money market fund. His diet is primarily brown rice he buys in town. Otherwise, he forages for "mountain greens," watercress, miners lettuce and mustard greens.

He says he has made himself immune to the ubiquitous poison oak by eating its leaves at regular intervals.

"I'm a hermit, becaue some people were just born to be hermits," Dwight said, sitting on the side of the moutain yesterday. "But I have always loved visitors. It's like I have loved people too much and that has gotten me in trouble. I've always craved solitude--it gives you an evenness of mood that is not available outside. Time just floats by, nonverbally.

"The destruction that came yesterday may have been a blessing. I was getting too many visitors two or three a week. Now maybe I'll be forced back into greater solitude again.