Shinrinyoku is Japanese and literally means forest bath. It’s about the relaxing effects walking in a forest can have, improving our wellbeing.
Forest hikes are plentiful in the Bay Area. If you live in Silicon Valley and need a quick dip in a forest I recommend the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve in Los Altos, right next to Shoup Park.
The information at the entrance talks about how almost a century ago redwood saplings from the Santa Cruz Mountains were planted by Emma Halsey. Due to the lack of fog drip the health of the redwoods is declining and the risk of falling increased. Therefore this beloved park is going through a mayor overhaul. With the help of Grassroot Ecology, a non-profit in Silicon Valley, the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve has been replanted and restored with more locally appropriate plants. One of their achievements is the Adobe Creek Streambank Stabilization Project. An info table shows how they bioengineered the creek to flow in a slower pace.
The walkway through this little grove is amazing and in great condition. Calm sets in immediately. The path meanders through the grove with the Adobe Creek crossing a few times and adding the sound of flowing water.
Nevertheless the rest of the grounds needs some serious TLC. I could not find the rose garden, even though it is advertised on the map and on the cities website. The Nature Center is all boarded up and some raised garden beds are overgrown.
If you take the steps up from the nature walk – part of it is blocked by a fallen tree and you have to crouch underneath it to get by. I appreciated the pink ribbon that marks the poison oak bushes. Also a boy scout troop has labeled some native plants.
All these road signs pointing me in the direction of Hidden Villa lets me question their name choice. Seeing multiple groups of school children confirms it, this isn’t a hidden gem, but a gem nonetheless.
Teaching children about farm living, letting them touch sheep and feed chickens is an invaluable resource in our Silicon Valley lives. Above the town of Los Altos Hills, Hidden Villa is a full functioning organic farm. You might get your CSA box from Hidden Villa.
One of the little people highlights is the educational garden. For those able they can crawl in through a tunnel, the grown ups need to enter through the gate. I liked their colorful signs naming the plants we were looking at.
At the sheep’s pen a cute moment was when a group of children was entering. One of the preschoolers held his nose. “I’m dying!” he complained. A grandmother looking lady replied: “You are not dying!” Bill their friendly guide, who I am sure heard this all before, assure them that this is all normal on a farm.
Over the summer Hidden Villa is busy with summer campers. Check out their website if you are interested.
Hiking for every level is available on the grounds. By downloading the Easy2Hike app you can experience the ‘Living History Tour’ explaining a bit more on the historical side of Hidden Villa.
Please either bring $10 in cash for parking or pay online.
I don’t quilt. In fact I have a love/hate relationship with my sewing machine. Don’t ask, it’s complicated.
But the other day I went into a place that might change my mind about quilting. Bay Quilts is in an industrial park in Richmond. They are a fabric store and art gallery; and they hold workshops. Bay Quilts also manages to spin a community around their store.
The extensive selection on fabric was mind blowing. Many colors to brighten up your day. One of the helpful staff members asked me if I needed anything. I declined, “just looking at these.”
“Oh, let me show you something.” she said conspiratorial, and I followed her to the far corner of the store. I was blown away by the color pallete that was presented to me in these fabric bolts (bales). All I could say was: “Pure joy.” and my store fairy agreed: “Yes, pure joy.”
They also have interesting handmade fairies for sale, and other things related to sewing. If you really don’t want to sew yourself but like one of the quilts in the current exhibit, you, of course, are welcome to purchase that (assuming it is for sale).
Their current quilt show is called “Wooly Wanderings” by Jennifer Landau and runs until May 28th, 2019.
The Bulb, also known as the Albany Bulb, is a former landfill owned in large by the city of Albany. Now a public park, you can find the Bulb at the end of Buchanan St., beside & behind Golden Gate Fields. It is a long walk or short hike from the small parking lot to the actual Bulb.
For that short hike, the Bulb is great. We encountered multiple dog walkers, their dogs enjoying a swim in the Bay and an off-leash run.
To find the art work, I had to ask some of the dog walkers for directions. On a left turn towards the water we were greeted by four tree swings overlooking the water. As we found out tree swings are best enjoyed by humans younger than 10.
Another time, I have to test out the uneven path that leads towards the art with my teenager. He will probably like the rugged feel of it. Anything besides calling it a hike!
I myself felt the need for hiking boots to stabilize my ankles. So, I shot a few pictures from afar and climbed back towards the regular paths. Along the way we saw another makeshift art out of driftwood. This makes for an interesting conversation along your walk on the Bay: “Is this art?”
Two documentaries describe the homeless situation and evacuation in 1999 at the Bulb. A historical occurrence and probably a living reality.
After ‘El Nino’ there is usually a superbloom. Southern California has more of these overgrown wildflower spots than we in the Bay Area. I was wondering if succulents and cacti also experience a superbloom right now. The answer is ‘Yes!’
The Arizona Cactus Garden in Stanford is my favorite hidden gem. Once there, you’ll be transported to a desert like area, with lizards showing you the way. There are huge plants with a phallic like bloom that easily spans 10 feet and cute little ground covers.
A fuzzy cactus looks like a face with its little pink flowers. Succulents exude the most interesting flowers and colors.
You can find the Arizona Garden next to the Mausoleum on the Stanford campus.
It is hard to imagine that the huge Italian style villa on top of a hill in Martinez used to be the home of nature conservatist and writer John Muir. In fact, if you go in there you can see an old drawing of a log cabin that Muir build when he lived in what is now Yosemite Park; that feels more like him.
You can learn about Muir any time of the year, 7 days a week, from 1- am – 5 pm.
A good introduction on everything Muir is the 20 minute movie in the visitor center. The bronze Muir outside the screening room is a perfect photo opp.
In the Muir house I found his scribbling den most interesting. Our ranger made an impromptu tour for us and told us about Muir’s hard time writing, in spite of the fact that he was a very productive writer.
Also, the house was really in female hands. Muir’s father in-law, Dr. John Strenzel, had build it and lived in it, but when he died his daughter Louisa, John Muir’s wife, inherited it. Luisa died before John but kept the tradition of handing it over to the daughters alive. Muir only owned the house for two years, after he purchased it from his daughter.
It might just be a coincidence that Muir’s birthday is April 21st a day before Earth Day, but the Muir house will take these occasions to celebrate both dates on Saturday April 20th, 2019, 10 am – 4 pm, admission is free.
Have you ever noticed the castle up on the hills in Pacifica? It has a fantastic history and lots of stories and artifacts. They open the doors to Sam’s Castle once a month for a tour. I was very happy when I got invited by the Mazza Foundation to see the castle. The Mazza Foundation is a private philanthropic foundation established by the estate of our founder and last owner of Sam’s Castle, Sam Mazza.
The castle was built by Henry Harrison McCloskey in 1908, as an earthquake/fireproof home. Pete McCloskey, former California congressman, learned about his grandfather’s former home while canvassing in Pacifica with his dad. But the true king of the castle was Italian immigrant Sam Mazza. Sam acquired the castle in 1958 and was also the main decorator who had a reputation for collecting eccentric pieces.
Our hosts Jeannette, CEO of the Mazza Foundation and Bridget, author of the book ‘Sam’s Castle’ welcomed us. After a short movie of Sam Mazza’s life as a castle owner we learned a myriad of stories, from ghost stories to historical tidbits and tales from contemporary witnesses while inspecting some of the rooms. The tour ended with a light snack in the dining room overlooking the ocean.
A perfect outing for history buffs and location junkies like me. The place is full of Interesting nicknacks – and to preserve these, no one under 18 is allowed inside. I loved the opportunity to see the interior of this unusual place and enjoyed the history.
Have you been inside Sam’s castle?
Disclosure: I was invited to see this place. My review is an honest recapture.
The County Government Center in Santa Cruz might not be the first place that comes to mind if you want to see local art. But while you are in to get a marriage license or to register to vote I strongly urge you to wander the halls of the first and fifth floor and admire the youth art exhibit. 300 artists from schools and art institutes in Santa Cruz County present their local talent until May 10th, 2019.
Mark your calendars if you are inspired. May 3rd is a First Friday Reception where you are invited to make art yourself.
‘Make art happen’ is the slogan of the Arts Council Santa Cruz County, and they are the driving force for this exhibit. In fact they exhibit year round at this location and at the Simpkins Family Swim Center, Health Service Agency, and other County offices.
I enjoyed seeing the different styles, from elementary to high school. They even have sculptures in the glass cases. My personal favorites were the political action posters from students of the Scott Valley High School, making us aware of equality, mental health of veterans, and gang violence issues.
The indirect lightning of the hallways might not be ideal for viewing the art, but I do appreciate a glimpse into the creativity of Santa Cruz County students.
This probably doesn’t deserve the title museum, but it is an excuse to visit the Los Altos Town Crier, the weekly local paper for Los Altos.
The bell exponents can be viewed from the outside and show an expressive array of different bells from around the world. There is the cow bell and the prayer bell, a dinner bell, and a souvenir bell. Bells from Portugal, Switzerland, Mali, and Indonesia to pick a few of the countries.
You may go inside Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm and look at the curious displays of former glories. There are a few typewriters, or as the sign says: “This antique contraption was a popular typesetter in the last century. It was superseded by chips made from sand.” My favorite exhibit was the rock labeled: “A hunk of history”.
The hallway up to the offices is walled with posters of the old Town Crier.
If you are in Los Altos, please stop by this little ‘museum’. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and makes for some chuckles. Or if you have grandchildren you can show them some of the things from the good old days.
The Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward is not only an educational facility – thousands of school kids and adults learn about local wildlife and domestic animals each year – it’s main purpose is the rehabilitation of sick, injured or orphaned wildlife found by the public.
On my visit I was able to see a couple of owls, some red falcons and a golden eagle. And that’s just the outside volaris! Inside the center are snakes, frogs and spiders.
The owls were hard to spot, kind of a where is waldo game. It was harder for me to find the first snake and talked to a staff member. He assured me the snake is comfy in its hiding place. When I understood that concept I was able to spot some more creatures.
There is also a display of animal skulls and one of different nests. Saturdays and Sundays (10 am – 3 pm) you can take advantage of the Animal Lending Library. If you ever wondered what it would be like to own a mouse, hamster, rat or guinea pig here you can rent them for a week ($28, cage and other equipment is provided).
Opening hours are from 10 am – 4:30 pm, admission is free, but a donation is encouraged. $3 a day for two to three months could rehabilitate a baby racoon, or $2 a day for one month could help a baby rabbit. There are multiple ways to donate, not only the cash box at the entrance. Check out their amazon wishlist, bring by some items like dog food or trash bags (see list on the website), or adopt an animal.