The iris garden at the Three Creeks Trail in San Jose.

Bike by some irises

The water tower with the 3 indicates the entrance to the Three Creeks Trail in Willow Glen.

The Three Creeks Trail is a relatively new addition to the paved trail system in San Jose. It connects to the Los Gatos Creek Trail and the Guadalupe River Trail.

I love to find these small, hidden gardens. When we recently checked out the Three Creeks Trail in San Jose we came by the Iris Garden.

Snow Flurry, a white iris, in the iris garden on the Three Creeks Trail in Willow Glen.

This is a tribute to Ruth and Clara Rees who successfully crossed varieties of irises in the Willow Glen neighborhood. ‘Snow Flurry’ was created as a white iris with “broad, ruffled paddles, clear hafts, several buds in each spathe, good branching and excellent blue-green foliage.”

After some more research I found out that Clara really hit the jackpot and in 1939 grew “the most important iris ever created”.

Snow Flurry became the parentage of all modern TB irises. The iris garden used to be a much larger development in Willow Glen, and this little strip is all but an homage to them; honoring the botanist and flower lover Clara Rees.

Have you noticed the iris garden along the Three Creeks Trail? 

Resources:

https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/07/18/iris-gardens-return-to-the-reopened-three-creeks-trail http://www.historiciris.org/photos/snow-flurry-lm.html

https://www.historiciris.org/articles/notable-clara-rees.html

https://cbris.org/

https://theamericanirissociety.blogspot.com/2018/12/clara-b-rees-queen-mother-of-iris-world.html

https://theamericanirissociety.blogspot.com/2012/02/clara-and-ruth-rees-san-joses-iris.html

http://wiki.irises.org/Main/Bio/HybridizerReesClara

Walking in the cloud at the Devils Slide Coastal Trail.

Walk in the clouds

Sign for Devil Slide Coastal Trail.

The chances of fog are high at the Devil’s Slide Trail in Pacifica. The former Interstate 1 made hiking trail is a 1.3 mile stretch with ocean views on one side and a rocky hill on the other. 

At the Devils Slide Coastal Trail a warning sign: Step back steep cliff.

Numerous landslides made this stretch of Highway 1 a dangerous road. When San Mateo County proposed to have the interstate go over the Montara Mountain Ollie Mayer an activist and environmentalist fought successfully for a tunnel. The Devil’s Slide Trail opened in March 2014 as part of the initiative’s agreement. 

Since it is paved the trail is great for bikers, wheelchairs and strollers. When we arrived two moms just packed their babies into their cars. The slopes make it challenging for wheels and especially on wet days it can be tricky.

View of Egg Rock from Devils Slide Coastal Trail.

I particularly liked the story from one information sign of the reestablishment of the Common Murres colony on Egg Rock, a rock formation peeking out of the Pacific. An already diminishing bird population was erased by the Apex Houston 1986 oil spill. In 1996 a restoration project was started and the birds were tricked into recolonize by mirrors, decoys and broadcast murre calls, a method called social attraction. The Common Murres population grew from 12 in 1996 to 3200 in 2013! If you bring two quarters you can zoom in on Egg Rock with a telescope.

Exit of the south side tunnel at Devils Slide, Pacifica.

Parking is available on the north or the south entrance of the tunnel. Open from dusk till dawn. No parking fee. There is even a bus stop!

Where do you hike in the clouds?


Sun shining through the trees, Huddart Park, Woodside.

Hike in a forest

With all the wildfires going on, (I hope everyone is safe! ) I felt the need to visit a forest. I thought the air might be purer, which it was, and I would find some serenity, which I did. I decided to do a short hike at Huddart Park in Woodside. I was aware of the $6 parking fee, which I paid.

Entrance sign to Huddart Park, Woodside.

I passed several bikers going up the hills.  I was surprised how high in elevation Huddart Park actually is.

Douglas Fir signpost at Huddart Park, Woodside.

The Redwood Trail I picked for my forest adventure is a 0.7 mile hike, a short loop with minimal elevation changes. I liked the markers that point out shrubs and trees – yes, the Redwood Trail has more to offer than just redwoods! I saw big leaf maples, douglas fir and sword ferns to name a few. I very much appreciated the poison oak sign, always confused on where it might lurk and what it looks like.

It looks like a bark puzzle, Huddart Park, Woodside.

I also enjoyed the different shapes of the tree barks. One was a puzzle with pieces lying on the floor to complete. The mostly wood trail makes for a nice shady hike. 

Bridge at Huddart Park, Woodside.

I crossed a few bridges which would hold a stream in the winter time. Overall, it was nice to be out in the woods.

Where do you go to hike a forest?


Dragon at the Magic Mountain playground, San Mateo.

Play by the Bay

Even now that I have a teenager, I still remember the value of a good playground. Magic Mountain Playground on the Coyote Point in San Mateo is one of my favorite playground designs.

The two dragons with the wide mouths open invite anyone to climb about. There is an area for little kids 2 to 3 year olds, too. But let me tell you the real attraction is the ‘castle’, a tower that is three stories high (18 feet) and has six slides. One of the slides is, at 55 feet, the longest metal slide in Northern California!

Longest metal slide in Northern California at the Magic Mountain playground in San Mateo.

And there is so much more to do at Coyote Point. For example the nearby SFO supplies an almost endless amount of planes landing and taking off to stop play and point to the sky. There is also CuriOdyssey, a science center and zoo for little kids. CuriOdyssey’s admission is $13.50 for adults, $9.50 for children and $8.50 for seniors and students (13-17). The park is also great for hiking, bbq’ing and the marina is located here, too. On June 29th, 2019 the third annual Coyote Point Kite Festival  will be happening (12 – 4). You can make kites or bring your own. Admission is free (except parking).

Sign of CuriOdyssey at Coyote Point, San Mateo.

The Entrance fee is $6 per car, which allows you to explore all of Coyote Point. 

What is your favorite playground by the Bay?


Redwood grove in Los Altos

Take a forest bath

Shinrinyoku is Japanese and literally means forest bath. It’s about the relaxing effects walking in a forest can have, improving our wellbeing.

Redwood Grove Nature Preserve, Los Altos.

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.

Looking up at at group of redwoods, Los Altos, CA.

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.

Walkway through the grove, Los Altos.

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.

Boarded up Nature Center at the Redwood Grove, Los Altos.

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.

Are you into forest baths?

Quarry Lakes, Fremont

Hike around a quarry

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.

Quarry Lakes park, Fremont

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?

Happy New Year!

Phil Shao Memorial Skate Park Redwood City

Alley-oop in the Phil Shao Memorial Skate Park

Phil Shao Memorial Skate Park Redwood CityOkay, 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.

Phil Shao Memorial Skate Park Redwood CityThe 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.

Have you ever done an alley-oop?

 

Dirt jumps off Shorebird Park, Foster City

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?

 

Ping pong table at Del Monte Park, San Jose

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?

 

Play some foot golf

Play some foot golf

As an early Father’s Day present we went to Sunken Gardens golf course in Sunnyvale to treat dad to a round of foot golf.

The rules are simple and the holes are 21 inches wide. You can rent the #5 balls at the front desk.

Kicking the ball at foot golf, Sunken Garden in SunnyvaleCall 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. Foot golf hole at Sunken Garden, Sunnyvale

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.

Happy Father’s Day!

Have you played foot golf before?