Unearth Confucius

Unearth Confucius

On a recent trip to San Jose I decided to check out the Overfelt Gardens. Within this local park is the Chinese Cultural Garden, a piece of land gifted by Frank and Pauline Lowe in 1971, to bring Chinese culture closer to the American people.

 

Confucius in the Overfelt Gardens, San JoseIt is a very peaceful place with a couple of ponds and the geese population greatly exceeds the human park dwellers. I followed the path to the Chinese Cultural Gardens and was greeted by Confucius himself! I am sure he was meant to be surrounded by water, but the absence of it did not take away from his greatness.

 

Roof of Memorial Hall at the Chinese Cultural Garden, San JoseA few more Chinese structures are in the park, but overall it is just a great place to unwind, walk around in some greenery and surround yourself with peacefulness.

 

Other features of the park are the Amphitheatre, a palm garden and the California garden.

 

What are your favorite places to unwind?

Climb Mount Umunhum

Climb Mount Umunhum

Ever wondered about the building on top of one of the mountains near Saratoga? You can now hike to the summit (or drive) and learn about the history of this place.

Mount Umunhum one of the highest mountains in the Santa Cruz mountain range (3,486 feet) was once a sacred site of the local Native Americans. In fact, rituals are still performed here today.

Radar tower on top of Mount UmunhumThe Mountain is easy to spot because of the radar tower on top of it. From 1957 to 1980 this was part of the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) defense system. SAGE was a network of computer systems that coordinated data from many radar sites and processed it into a single image of the airspace over a wide area.* Back in these days as many as 125 military personnel with their families lived at Mount Umunhum.

There are three parking areas depending on your intentions:

  1. Jacques Ridge parking lot is the closest to the entrance of the park – furthest hike to the summit.
  2. Bald Mountain parking area – from here the hike up to the summit is 3.7 miles
  3. Mt Umunhum Summit parking area – 159 steps to the summit

Guadalupe Creek OverlookWe only did a short hike, from the Bald Mountain parking lot to the Guadalupe Creek Overlook 1.3 miles each way and then drove to the Summit parking area. But I would like to do the whole summit hike at one point. On the summit itself the views are amazing! We were there on a cloudy day, but on a clear day you can see from the Pacific to the Sierra Nevada.

There is also an audio tour app about the Stories of Mount Umunhum for free in the app store of your choice. You should download the audio tour before you go because there is limited cell service.

What mountains do you like to climb?

 

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semi-Automatic_Ground_Environment

Fly a drone or model airplane

Fly a drone or model airplane

I have never been intrigued with flying in fact I get really frustrated with flying video games. But, I find watching these little airplanes and flying objects fascinating.

There are few places in the Bay Area for model airplane flying.

If you want to pursue this as a hobby you might want to join Bay R/C.

Model airplanes at Baylands Park in SunnyvaleIf you are like me a watch-only kind of person, your best chances to see the little flyers are at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale (parking is $6 from March to October). Rancho San Antonio also has a field for non-gas powered model airplanes. Rules for model airplanes at Rancho San Antonio in Cupertino

For those of you who like to get hands-on education, the Hiller Aviation Museum offers the Drone Plex. Each Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 am to 12 pm there are demonstrations; from 1 pm to 3 pm you can sign-up for the flight experience – (an extra $5 for 20 minutes; museum fee is $16 for adults and $11 for seniors and youth, 5-17 year olds, under 4 year olds are free). The museum also has flight simulators.

 

Are you an aviation geek?

Exercise your auditory sense

Exercise your auditory sense

Now hear this! is the name of the new outdoor exhibit at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga.

Subtitled: an exercise in listening, you might be able to guess that these artists composed an interesting experience for you consisting of 5 installations.

Seats at the Lilian Fountain Garden Theatre in Montalvo, SaratogaFor example Stephen Vitiello’s Taking Sound Cues From The Wind plays on the hour and on the half hour from 10 am – 4:30 pm at the Lilian Fountain Garden Theatre. A sonic response to the 1925 play Wings by Joseph S. Thompson. I could sometimes not tell if the rustling of the leaves came from the speakers or just that the wind was moving  the leaves next to me. For a while I watched a dragonfly dancing to the music, her abrupt turns fitting the rhythm. I did enjoy this piece and the surrounding distractions.

On the same note Soundings are two audio tours created by Detour, an audio tour guide app. Tours involve new artists and their music while exploring the grounds of the Arts Center.

I took the first audio tour and it starts with an introduction at the box office and guides you down the path through the blue garden. The first composer Theresa Wong shares her experience in Venice, Italy under a trellis. Beautiful and minimalistic: Venice is a Fish.

Next you walk up the path and stop on the next bench to listen to Wayne Horvitz sharing his composition: 55 music and dance in concrete, part 1.

Carmina Escobar’s music can be enjoyed on a bench under the ginkgo tree.

Nina Young ends this interactive walk at the Belvedere with Temenos – an arrangement about architecture and music.Belvedere at Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga

It was a surreal experience listening to these unusual compositions outside in a park combining  the calming visuals of greenery with experimental sounds and with the chatter of summer campers.

How will you sharpen your hearing sense?

 

Now hear this! and Soundings

Monday – Sunday 10 am – 5 pm

Ends October 22nd, 2017

 

I promise you two rose gardens

I promise you two rose gardens

At the Municipal Rose Garden in San Jose the smell is overwhelmingly luxurious.

Roses at the Municipal Rose Garden in San JoseNames like love song, white delight, jump for joy, sparkle & shine, passionate kisses speak to the traditional use of roses as a gift for the loved one.

Here you see a lot of people stopping and smelling the roses, taking pictures and wandering in awe. A perfect location for wedding photos.

 

Only 1.5 miles to the north, up Naglee Ave is San Jose’s Heritage Rose Garden. First I thought it odd to Roses at the Heritage Rose Garden in San Josehave two rose garden so close to each other. But the two could not be more different. There was no one else around when I explored the garden. So close to the street I thought the smell was fuel, but I only had to wait a few minutes to realize the the garden is on the flight path of San Jose airport and most likely the smell was kerosene. In between planes it is actually a quiet place and the amount of roses shows that the purpose of this garden is to preserve them. With almost 3,500 plants and 3,000 varieties from heritage to modern to miniature roses, this is an amazing experience. So, if you are a true rose aficionado this might be the place for you.

Where do you stop and smell the roses?

Find the path to run

Find the path to run

This Saturday (5/13/17) is the 16th Annual Los Altos Hills Pathways Run/Walk. It’s a 5K, 10K or 1M Fun Run.

This year’s motto is ‘Color my run’ and if you participate you will get a t-shirt to color in your way and a coloring book. The event starts at the Westwind Community Barn and runs through the Byrne Preserve, a hilly and challenging endeavor.

Los Altos Hills pathIf you prefer to explore Los Altos Hills pathways without a crowd challenge I advise you to get the pathways map from the Los Altos town hall ($4). This pathways system is quite unique in it’s vastness and it is used by school children, walkers, horseback riders and bicyclists alike. So, please observe the 3 Cs – common sense, courtesy and communication and enjoy your path.

 

Do you know of any hidden pathways in the Bay Area?

 

Hunt for wildflowers

Hunt for wildflowers

We made it out of the drought and one of the perks after a rainy season is the abundance of wildflowers. While the ‘super-bloom’ refers more to fields in Southern California, here in the Northern part are also fast amounts of wildflowers.

Edgewood park in Redwood City is offering a free docent led tour every Saturday and Sunday at 10 am. This popular event draws so many people that they offer a free shuttle from East Palo Alto over to San Mateo.

Wild flower at Edgewood parkI visited on Tuesday morning and walked by myself. It was a stunning hike, which starts out uphill but shady, and you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view of the Bay. Plus, I found more than 20 different wildflowers along the way. Some of these flowers are tiny, which makes me wonder if our store bought flowers are on steroids.

For your convenience, the Edgewood Park also has a web page dedicated to what’s blooming this month, so you can look up the names of the flowers you saw. Happy hunting!
What is your favorite place to see wildflowers?

Spot some hummingbirds

Spot some hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are among the smallest birds in the world. They get their name from the humming sound they create by beating their wings about 50 times per second. I have always been fascinated by them and they give me joy when I spot them.

 

Hummingbird at the Hummingbird trail at UC Santa Cruz ArboretumThe UC Santa Cruz Arboretum has a hummingbird trail where the plants in bloom are sure to attract the little birds. For $5 you can wander the grounds and learn about plants from all over the world. And if you like to see more flying objects, they also have a butterfly walk. Butterfly chart from the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum

 

Where do you spot hummingbirds?

Walk the trails between Bay and posts

Walk the trails between Bay and posts

The BYXBEE Park in Palo Alto is named after John Fletcher Byxbee, a local engineer, who first recommended developing the Baylands as a public park.

The park lies behind the Palo Alto airport and is part of the Baylands Nature Preserve, one of the largest areas of undisturbed marshland remaining in the San Francisco Bay.

People here appreciate the long, flat trails for a nice walking, running or biking workout. The unique mixture of tidal and freshwater habitats makes this a welcoming terrain for birds of all kinds.

Art installation in Byxbee Park, Palo AltoThe art that is displayed might make some people wonder: Posts that start small but grow in height, lining a small path up a hill.

These 72 posts made from concrete highway barriers symbolize the mesh between former landfill and new nature sanctuary.  Art installation in Byxbee Park, Palo Alto

 

The artists Peter Richards and Michael Oppenheimer in a collaboration with the landscape architects Hargreaves Associates, developed this 29 acre park and won the national ASAL Honer Award in 1993.

Have you ever pondered about the posts at Byxbee Park?

See petrified in wine country

See petrified in wine country

We went to Calistoga as kind of a pre-Christmas treat. One thing I know is that I have to come back! First, I did not get to try out the famous mud bath, (maybe I wasn’t ready for it?), the wine tasting rooms looked cosy and the lunch we had at the Culinary Institute was divine!

What we did do was go and see the Petrified Forest.

Over 3 million years ago a volcano erupted and covered the nearby redwoods in ash. Mineral rich water seeped down and the silica replaced the cells and made huge trees into fossils.

Petrified tree with concentric splits (parallel beaks along the trunk) at the Petrified Forest in Calistoga.We did the self-guided tour that showed us not only the petrified woods, but also some other current trees, like the beautiful red barked manzanita.

This was a fun excursion, and I would recommend it to anyone visiting the wine country. Admission was a bit pricy, adults $12, Juniors $8, but we did have fun outdoors.

If you are looking for an interesting stay they also offer a vacation rental.

Have you ever seen petrified wood?