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?

Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills

Uncover a hidden villa

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.

Kids feeding chickens at Hidden Villa, Los Altos Hills.

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.

Sign saying: Welcome to the Educational Garden, Hidden Villa, Los Altos Hills.

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.

Sheep at Hidden Villa, Los Altos Hills.

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.  

Bunny Creek sign post for hikers at Hidden Villa, Los Altos Hills.

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.

Have you ever been to Hidden Villa?

Tree swing and artwork at the Albany Bulb

Locate the Art of the Bulb

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.

Dogs ready for some treats at Albany 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.

Tree swings at Albany Bulb.

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.

Artwork at Albany Bulb.

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!

 Driftwood art at Albany Bulb.

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.

What do you like to do at the Bulb?  


John Muir House, Martinez

Celebrate the Father of the National Park Service

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.

Bronze sculpture of John Muir, John Muir House, Martinez

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.

John Muir's scribbling den, John Muir House, Martinez.

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.

Ranger in front of the John Muir House, Maritnez.

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.

How are you celebrating Earth Day?




A pair of red-tailed hawks at the Sulphur Creek Nature Center, Hayward.

Meet some local wildlife

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.

Owl at the Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward.

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.

Who made this nest? display, Sulphur Creek Nature Center, Hayward.

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).    

Golden Eagle at Sulphur Nature Center, Hayward.

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.

How close have you been to local wildlife?

Contemplate among bonsais

Contemplate among bonsais

Seek out a tree and let it teach you stillness.

Eckhart Tolle

Medium sized bonsai trees at the Japanese Garden in Hayward.

If you are looking for well-manicured trees I recommend the Japanese Gardens in Hayward. A large variety of conifers, but also a few deciduous trees are styled in medium height bonsai fashion and where possible were shaped into rounded heads.

Bridge over the koi pond at the Japanese Garden in Hayward.

The gardens are surrounded by the San Lorenzo and Castro Valley Creek. Thanks to the rain the creeks below are filled with water and the rush of water accompanies you in the quest for serenity. Another water feature is a koi pond with a waterfall. Many of the koi are huge and might be on a diet, because the feeding is prohibited.

One of the gazebos at the Japanese Garden in Hayward.

The gardens wind in a few loops and have multiple gazebos for you to rest. On a smaller loop I heard a frog croaking; birds are also part of the natural entertainment. Overall a nice place to walk, contemplate, and enjoy nature.

The Japanese Garden is open daily, 8:30 am to 4 pm. Admission is free. No dogs allowed.

Have you been to the Japanese Gardens in Hayward?

Resources

https://www.haywardrec.org/DocumentCenter/View/5425/Japanese-Gardens-Brochure?bidId=

https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2018/02/12/haywards-hidden-gem-japanese-gardens/amp/



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!

Relax in the Gamble Garden

Volunteer raking at the Gamble Garden, Palo Alto.

365 days a year you can go over to Old Palo Alto and see what’s in bloom or just chill and soak up the beauty.

The Gamble Garden is open for the public year round, on the grounds of the historic home  where Elizabeth Gamble grew up 100 years ago. The garden became a public park in 1985.

Kids digging and measuring worms at the Gamble Garden, Palo Alto

Every second Saturday they open the doors a bit wider. The next event is January 12th, 2019. A morning (10 am – 11:30 am) for the whole family. They offer tours around the garden, a family nature hunt, and a tour of the first floor of the home.

I enjoyed the Second Saturday in December with some friends. We browsed the seasonal offerings of decorations and the holiday greens sale. It was fun to see all the kids digging for the longest worm.

Water drops on plant at Gamble Garden, Palo Alto.

My friend introduced me to her passion of photographing water droplets on plants; we could find many examples.

Mary our tour guide at the Gamble Garden, Palo Alto.

I was so glad we caught the tour with Mary our tour guide! We started at the new water catching area, a water tank that feeds a little stream with water plants, experienced the wisteria room and its tranquility, and got a lesson in photosynthesis and how to describe plants.

Schola Cantorum chorus at the Gamble Garden, Palo Alto.

It was a festive outing with the holiday carols from the acclaimed Schola Cantorum chorus.

This will be on my holiday to-do list for the upcoming years. A great tradition is born.

If you are interested in visiting the Gamble Garden for the next Second Saturday you should register with them on their website.

Do you have a holiday tradition?

Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden, Redwood City

Discover the Redwood City rose garden

Fountain at the Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden, Redwood City Sometimes by wandering around I discover the most wonderful things. The other day, while I looked around at the Red Morton Community Park  in Redwood City I was surprised by the blooming roses. A fountain in the middle with some ram heads spilling out the water. Rose petals decorating some of the water’s surface.  

Rose at the Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden, Redwood City It is a small garden with a large variety of fragrant roses. The Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden was established in 1968. It is named after the woman who proposed developing a municipal rose garden but sadly died two years before the opening.Mosaic art work at Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden, Redwood City

I love the quote I found embedded in a mosaic art work:” A single rose can be my garden…A single friend my world.” by Leo Buscagila.

Have you been to the Catherine Brennan Memorial Rose Garden?

 

More information about Redwood City’s fascinating history of their parks can be found in the PDF:

The Story of Redwood City Parks 1937 – 1987

 

The Great Spirit Path at Bedwell Bayfront Park, Menlo Park

Walk the Great Spirit Path

Today I pulled into the Bedwell Bayfront Park, in Menlo Park. Originally I wanted to check my phone for directions, but I was intrigued by a park that I had no idea was here. I got out of the car and walked over to pick up a brochure.

I was informed that Bedwell Bayfront Park is in fact Menlo Park’s largest park and it’s the only Open Space preserve on the Bay. Besides birdwatching for at least 105 species, you can see the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration, the largest tidal wetland restoration project on the West Coast!,  and you can hike the extensive trail system. What caught my eyes was the Great Spirit Path. Advertised as an unique art installation – and unique it was!

Station of the Great Spirit Path, Menlo ParkThe creator Susan Dunlap describes it as a “505-ton stone poem inspired by Native American pictographs”. The different stations, each holding a section of the poem were installed along this ¾ mile hike between 1980 and 1985. Knowing now that this is from the 1980’s, it makes sense that some paths are more maintained than others. The sign post got restored in 2015. I also missed out on the Great Spirit Path brochure; (for a pdf) all three possible holders were empty.Station of the Great Spirit Path, Menlo Park

So, for me this was a true adventure. Led maybe by those spirits I might have conjured? After all, some folks around here celebrated indigenous people day just a week prior.

Station of the Great Spirit Path, Menlo ParkIn the beginning I was led by sounds of hammers from a nearby construction site, the sign of the times. Walking closer to the Bay, it was surprisingly calm. I felt understood by the poem and liked the stone interpretations of the Native American signs. No wonder locals named it the “Stonehenge by the Bay.”

The four stanzas of the poem are spread out over a ¾ mile hike. 53 posts depict each part of the poem. With 892 rocks used it is the largest sculpture of its kind in the world!

The poem reads as follows:

Evening good

Weather clear with stars.

I walk with the wind behind me

Inspired, with glad heart.

 

Come,

Discover many animals,

Grass, sun, canyons, and earth.

No hunger, war, no fear,

Making peace and strong brothers.

 

Climb this way,

Over mountain or hill.

Go in four directions –

Up, down, close, or far away,

To places hidden or bright,

Under rain or cloud, night or day,

Reaching to see

Birds, plants, water and trees,

As you walk this trail and cross this path.

 

Rest here.

Talk here.

Flee your troubles to the sky

Holding firm to harmony, virtue and peace,

Barring evil,

Strong with wisdom and healing,

Reaching out with supplication

To the Great Spirit everywhere.

                           Copyright S.C.Dunlap 1985

 

Have you walked the Great Spirit Path?