Jump the hills at Shells Dirt Jumps

Jump the hills at Shells Dirt Jumps

 Dirt Jumps at Shorebird Park in Foster City You know when you come across these hills at Shorebird Park in Foster City you are in a fun place. Finding them  is quite simple, just take any dirt path off the main biking trail that heads towards the Bay. One Yelp reviewer warned to watch for snakes.

Google map of Shorebird Park's BMX trail in Foster CityOn a Google map image the path is marked as BMX trail and Bike BMX Jumps. If you look up dirt jumping on Wikipedia you find an image of the Foster City Shells Dirt Jumps.

Dirt jumps at Shorebird Park in Foster City So, it might not be such an unexpected destination after all. I enjoyed being there without any bikers around. But if you are a BMX biker or love to dirt jump you found heaven. I definitely want to go back and hopefully take some pictures of jumping bikers. The path is dirt mixed with oyster shells. It crushes under your shoes like tightly packed snow. 

Do you have any good pictures of dirt jump bikers?

 

Hail to the water (part II)

Hail to the water (part II)

Water is precious. If you live in the Bay Area and experienced a few droughts, you’ll know this perfectly well. So, it might not comes as a surprise that there are a few water temples around.

I already talked about the water temple in Sunol. If you find yourself near Filoli in Woodside you should consider stopping at the Pulgas Water temple.  

Pulgas Water Temple, WoodsideAs a monument to the engineering of the Hetch Hetchy Project, that brought water 160 miles from the Sierra Nevada to the Bay Area, the Pulgas water temple is a tribute to the ancient architecture of Greece and Romans. The 20 year project finished in October of 1934.

Plaque with inscription at Pulgas Water Temple, WoodsideThe inscription “I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people.” underlines the importance of drinking water after the 1906 earthquake and the raging wildfires that followed the quake.

I was surprised at how many people were exploring the monument. Some relaxing on the lawn, some horsing aroPulgas Water Temple, Woodsideund the pool. The reflecting pool, a great backdrop for wedding photography and other photo opportunities was widely used as such.

The water temple is open seven days a week, from 9 am – 4 pm, but on the weekends the parking lot is only available for permitted events.

How do you hail to the water?

 

Make the climb to Lick Observatory

Make the climb to Lick Observatory

The first question our tour guide asked was: did you enjoy your ride up here?

Two motorcycles with view from Lick ObservatoryLooks like the motorcyclist and bike riders I saw outside were not here, because everyone agreed that the hilly ride up was quite unpleasant. Build in 1876 for horses and carts the road to the Lick observatory winds up in approximately 365 turns (count if you like) until it reaches the 4,200 feet peak of Mount Hamilton. Now-a-days it takes a solid hour from San Jose. While the place is open Thursdays to Sundays from 12 pm – 5 pm, in the winter time this road might be closed due to snow and icy conditions. 

Great Lick Refractor telescope, Lick ObservatoryIf you want to experience the observatory in the dark you can try to snag a ticket for one of the popular summer events. There are two different events. A music series and lectures by astronomers. As part of the lectures you will be able to glance through the historic 36-inch Great Lick Refractor telescope.

hydraulic propelled moveable floor, Lick ObservatoryFrom 1888 till 1897 the Great Lick was Earth’s largest refracting telescope. Currently it is the second largest. Again, think how it got on top of the hill and you would  be impressed, too! On opening, they do a free tour of the telescope every hour starting at 12:30 and ending at 4:30.

I was the most impressed with the floor. Beautiful walnut panels laid out in a round pattern. When our tour guide revealed this to be a hydraulic propelled moveable floor, (built before they invented electricity!) I was stunned. It hasn’t be operated for the last five years now, but being in the presence of such inventive engineering left me in awe.

I was glad to have a nice picnic with me and enjoyed the back terrace. By the way, spring water is feeding the water fountain, so make sure to fill up your bottles for the hour long descend to San Jose.

Have you made the climb to the lick observatory?

 

Serve up the ping pong

Serve up the ping pong

When my son was in third grade ping pong was the ‘in’ sport. Back in Germany, they do have concrete ping pong tables near schools and in parks everywhere. When we go back we usually play a match at least once. Now in my attempt to make this the most-interesting-summer-ever our first outing was to find a ping pong table.

We set off to Sunnyvale and checked out the PPC Swan Ping Pong Club. But it turns out they currently hosts summer camps and all tables are taken. I think with a little preparation we could reserve a table.

Ping Pong at Del Monte Park, San JoseAnyway, I knew of a park that does have one of those concrete ping pong tables. The Del Monte Park in San Jose, a tribute to the old cannery that stood nearby, is a brand new park with a playground and a dog park. Wedged in between the kids and the dogs is the ping pong table.

We played a while and had fun until we both stepped on the two balls we brought. That’s a quick way to halt the game. In a nearby store we not only found new ping pong balls but a huge green ball, we then invented our own game. Playing ping pong with a beach ball, Del Monte Park, San Jose

Playground at Del Monte Park, San JoseAs an extra bonus the playground still had some challenges for a teenager. This was a great start into the summer!

Do you know of any opportunities to play ping pong in the Bay Area?

 

Ride in the park

Ride in the park

World’s largest full pipe, Action Sports Park, San JoseThe recently opened Action Sports Park on Lake Cunningham in San Jose has a bike and a skate park. The skate park was built in 2011 and it’s California’s largest with 68,000 square feet. In fact there are two world’s largest pipes, namely: full pipe and cradle. The vert wall is the world’s tallest.

Watch Tony Hawk and other experts in this 3 minute video on their sneak-peek opening experience:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1EgSwmps6Q

Riding zone at the Action Sports Park, San JoseThe brand new bike park surrounds the skatepark with some impressive hills and ramps. They have a small fleet of bikes for rent. Also the very important helmets and pads can be rented. There are no age restrictions, if you are under 6 you need an adult with you. Allowed are all kinds of bikes, even unicycles!

Different skill levels guide you through the seven riding zones. Spectators can hang out and enjoy the free wifi.

 

For $7 per person, you can ride all day (annual membership available), but there is also a $6 parking fee (and an option to buy a annual parking pass). The Action Sports Park allows outside food, but they also have a concession stand and a BBQ area.

 

Have you been to the Actions Sport Park?

 

Spring is for offspring

Spring is for offspring

Piglets at Deer Hollow Farm, CupertinoWithout doubt the cutest happening in spring are the animal babies. Lambs, chicklets, piglets, bucklings, and doelings are all adorable. At Deer Hollow Farm at the Rancho San Antonio in Cupertino you can now see them all.

At the entrance a board announces the offspring; with names like Knit, Pepper and Bowie, there is no real pattern to it. Visiting the farm, it helps to have a child of your own with you, preferably not taller than a yard stick.Kids petting baby goats, Deer Hollow Farm, Cupertino

 

In general they don’t let you enter the pens, but school groups can book a tour.

On April 28th, 2018, from 10 am – 2 pm, is the next Deer Hollow farm tour. For $7 per person you can get closer to the animals.

Farm trivia - Why do pigs like mud?Overall this is a great outing for young families. Visiting Deer Hollow is donation based. Parking is pretty tight, but the turnover is also high. From the nearest parking lot Deer Hollow is only a mile walk. The hollowed out trees on the way make for extra entertainment and photo options. I also liked the farm quiz along the way. Like the one pictured on the left – Why do pigs like mud?

 

Where do you go to see baby animals?

Explore the flowers of spring

Explore the flowers of spring

Nothing says spring as loud and pretty as a bunch of tulips. To experience the flowers in its myriad forms and colors you should go to Filoli.  

Filoli imports 100.000 tulips each year from the Netherlands. They plant them over multiple month, so you can enjoy the blooms until May.

Yellow tulip, Filoli in WoodsideIn the Sunken Garden and, of course, the Dutch Garden, tulips are featured and embedded in fields of forget-me-nots and violets.

But the showstopper tulips are planted in 4000 pots around the estate and shine their beauty up to you.  

Sometimes it feels like a tulip treasure hunt. Yellow and red tulip, Filoli in Woodside

Thanks to one volunteer for mentioning the pool area. Not only did I see the most gorgeous examples, it is also a nice quiet place to relax. 

You can always check what’s blooming on their website.

Parrot tulip, botanical art by Lois Perlman, Filoli in WoodsideCurrently there is also the 20th Annual Botanical Art Exhibition until May 20th, 2018. I enjoyed the drawings very much, and even found some of the tulips depicted.

Bouquet in the entrance hall of Filoli, WoodsideThe $20 entrance fee ensures the place will be open for the public. They have about 800 volunteers on the estate. Some of these volunteers create the flower arrangements in the house each Monday when Filoli is closed. So, if you come on Tuesdays you can admire the fresh bouquets.

The gift shop sells homemade jams and other products from the estate. The cafe has a wonderful selection of salads and sandwiches. You might also consider a stop here for coffee and dessert.

Do you also adore tulips?

Feel the spring Japanese style

Feel the spring Japanese style

There are quite a few Japanese Gardens in the Bay Area. If you expect to see a large amount of cherry blossoms you are misdirected, as I was.

As one gardener from the San Mateo Japanese Garden told me: “Cherry trees don’t do to well in the Bay Area.” They do have a few, but it is not their main focus.

Magnolias in the Japanese Garden in San MateoJapanese Gardens are all about local plants arranged in a Japanese aesthetic, giving you tranquility. Most of them have tea rooms  and a tea ceremony may be offered, a waterfall, and a lake.

The San Mateo Japanese Tea Garden is a great place to contemplate and see what is blooming in the season. Entrance to the Japanese Garden in San Mateo

Currently there are magnolias, with their vibrant reds and pinks, in bloom. Watch for trees that have been shaped to grow a certain way, or bonsais, that have been cropped to appear miniature.

Which is your favorite Japanese Garden?

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