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.
One of our New Year’s Day traditions is to begin the new year with a short hike. The first time we did this we ended up on quite a hill which had frost on the ground.
This year we went to Fremont and hiked around the Quarry Lakes. ($5 parking fee)
Around the quarry is a moderate hike, I would guess under 4 miles, with a mostly flat path. The view is spectacular with surrounding mountains and always a great view of the water. We even saw an egret. The San Francisco Bay Area is part of the Pacific Flyway and a welcome stopover for many migrating birds.
A word of caution for people depending on wheelchairs, most of the path is gravel and I assume tough to maneuver. The beach area offers beach wheelchairs on a first come basis and the fishing pier and some picnic areas are also accessible. We did see bikers and they did not seem to mind the gravel. In fact the park’s trail network connects with the Alameda Creek Regional Trail. You could hike/bike from Niles Canyon all the way to Coyote Hills and the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge.
Besides hiking there are opportunities to swim, fish, and boat. Swimming wasn’t that popular, but maybe we will come back in the summer to check this out.
Do you have a New Year’s Day tradition?
What are your favorite short hikes in the Bay Area?
Okay, I cheated. I don’t really know skate lingo. I googled it and trusted the Oxford Dictionaries on a cool phrase. An alley-oop is described by the Oxford Dictionaries as follows: “If the board spins in the same direction to the skateboarder’s body but in the opposite direction to that which they are facing, this is an alley-oop, from the French allez (the imperative form of the verb aller ‘to go’). Alley-oop has been used for around a century as an exclamation in the manner of ‘get up!’ or ‘go on!’, used to encourage or draw attention to the performance of an acrobatic or other physical feat, especially one involving a leap or lift upwards.”
I also never really stood on a skateboard. But this is not about me. My dear readers who might be interested in this helter-skelter activity you should check out the Phil Shao Memorial Skate Park in Redwood City.
The name uncovers a sad event – Phil Shao was a legend in the skating world. He grew up in Redwood City and studied English at UC Berkeley. He taught many young people the joy of skateboarding. Unfortunately his life was taken, in August 1998, by a drunk driver.
In 2003 Redwood City opened the 13,000 square foot skate park. Helmets are required and safety gear is encouraged. You can’t take your bike in (a $100 fine!). Opening hours are from dawn to dusk, except when the sports lights are on, then the park closes at 10pm.
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.
On 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.
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?
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.
Anyway, 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.
As 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?
The rules are simple and the holes are 21 inches wide. You can rent the #5 balls at the front desk.
Call them ahead and book your tee time. You will be mixed in with other golfers. Sunken Garden is a smaller nine hole course so watch out for flying golf balls. We almost got hit but then it flew over us and hit the house behind us!
I also learned about basic golf course etiquette. Be quiet when someone tees off, yell ‘FOUR’ when your golf ball strays towards other people and don’t walk on the green if your game is foot golf.
Overall it took us about an hour and a half. We were surprised how tricky, in a good way, some holes were. All the hills made for an interesting strategic game.
Someone at the front desk was asking what the appeal was since in soccer you shot pretty straight. I guess it is more like golf with less equipment and a ball that doesn’t go enough astray that you have to worry about the people around you.
The 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:
The 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.
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.
The 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:
Jacques Ridge parking lot is the closest to the entrance of the park – furthest hike to the summit.
Bald Mountain parking area – from here the hike up to the summit is 3.7 miles
Mt Umunhum Summit parking area – 159 steps to the summit
We 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.
Have you seen my list of 50 things to do in Sunnyvale? Number 36 on the list (not in any order) is Sunnyvale Lawn Bowling. The club invited me and a group of my friends to come check out the game. Joe, a lawn bowl Hall of Famer, and Pauline were our coaches for a beautiful Sunday afternoon lawn bowling session. We learned all about the Jack (a small white ball) and the bowls that you roll at the Jack.
A game easy to learn – and hard to master.
Joe and Pauline were constantly helping and correcting us, but in a fun way. This sport is also relatively inexpensive. You have to join a club near you, but they usually let you use their bowls for a while to try out the right size for you. I think every club around the area has a drop-in policy where you can check out the game.
There are quite a few places in the Bay Area to try out lawn bowling.
The new exhibit at the Palo Alto Art Center is called Play! An artful approach to make us realize that we all need to be more playful.
The first installment entering the gallery reminded me of my son’s wish when he was younger that he wanted a rollercoaster in the house. The slide came out of the wall and connected with colorful paths up and down the wall.