Historical Landmark sign with the Pena Adobe house in the back

Admire the Adobe Peña, Vacaville

The front of the Mowers-Goheen Museum at the Pena Adobe ParkIf you are looking for a  pitstop with a roadside attraction you should stop at the rest area on route 80 near Vacaville, Peña Adobe Park. The bathrooms are okay for a public park, but the location holds the oldest structure in Solano County! 

The first settlers in the Lagoon Valley were the Vaca and the Peña family. Both houses were built in 1842, but only the Peña house remains. Vaca’s house was destroyed in an earthquake in 1892. 

Adobe oven at the Pena Adobe ParkNext to the Peña house is an adobe oven, an early open air kitchen. In 1880 another kitchen was added. This little house is now the Mowers-Goheen Museum, showing off artifacts of the archeological dig that occurred in the 1960s. On the first Saturdays of each month February thru December from 11:00am – 2:00 pm, the Mowers-Goheen Museum is open and volunteers offer tours of the historical park.

The adjacent Willis Linn Jepson Garden is being restored by UC Davis. There are a lot of native plants in their beginning stages, and the signage promises a wide variety of plants.

Inside the Pena Adobe houseNot surprisingly the archeology digs in the 1960s also found remains of indigenous peoples, who were buried in the Burial Grounds nearby.

If you can’t make it to the public tours you should check out the YouTube channel for the Peña Adobe Historical Society. While the house and the museum are only open on the first Saturday of the month, you can still peek into the windows on the first floor.

The nearby Lagoon Park charges $5 for parking; there is no charge or admission to see the historic park. 

Resources

Peña Adobe Historical Society

https://www.penaadobe.org/

Eagle Scout Project by Jason Hanson, 2006

https://www.penaadobe.org/images/2017/eaglescoutpena.pdf

City of Vacaville

https://www.ci.vacaville.ca.us/Home/Components/FacilityDirectory/FacilityDirectory/20/991?locale=en

 

Plaque of the Paradox Walnut

Learn about the Paradox Walnut, Woodland

Last week I wrote about the UC Davis Arboretum. 15 minutes north of Davis is Woodland, named by Gertrude Freeman in 1861 for the “wooded country about”.

Trunk of the Paradox walnut, WoodlandTwo weeks ago we did the landmark trees bike tour that was part of the annual Stroll Through History. Each September Woodland offers tours about historic buildings and has open houses. This historic rich city started their architecture oriented tours in 1989. 

The bike tour, a new addition to the event, began at 10 am at City Park on the corner of Oak and Walnut. This is when we got to meet the Paradox walnut and learned about Luther Burbank’s gift to the city on Arbor Day in 1925.  Paradox walnut in Woodland's City Park

In the late nineteenth century Luther Burbank, the renowned horticulturist and botanist from Santa Rosa, began his controlled crosses between walnuts. The Paradox walnut is a cross between the northern California Black walnut and the Persian walnut. He named it Paradox “because of the extremely fast growth and other ‘anomalies.’” (https://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publication/?seqNo115=301125

In Burbank’s own words: 

“​​As compared with seedlings of either the California or the Persian walnut, they manifested an enormously enhanced capacity for growth. Indeed they sprang forward at such a rate as presently to dwarf their pure breed relatives. The phenomenal growth of these hybrid trees continued year after year. The tree so far out-stripped all competitors in the matter of growth that it might fairly be said to represent a new type of vegetation. On this account, and in recognition of sundry other anomalies, I named them Paradox.” (http://www.lutherburbankonline.com/V2-C5.html) Burbank noted further the curious apple-like fragrance. The wood of the Paradox walnut is extremely hard and close grained, which is a further anomaly since it is such a fast growing tree. 

In further research I learned that the Paradox walnut is now the most popular rootstock in California. 

Do you know about any landmark trees in your area?

Canopy of the Paradox walnut at sunset.

Resources:

Stroll Through History

https://strollthroughhistory.com/about-us/history/

Woodland Tree Foundation 

www.woodlandtree.org

USDA  Luther Burbank’s contributions to walnuts

https://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publication/?seqNo115=301125

Luther Burbank OnlineThe Royal Walnut

http://www.lutherburbankonline.com/V2-C5.html

 

Shovel Gateway, a public art installation marking the entrance to the Arboretum GATEway garden

Walk Among Trees, UC Davis Arboretum

A bench at one of the gardens at the UC Davis arboretum.The University of California Davis is well known as an agricultural university. The small city of Davis offers many things for students, locals, and visitors. The arboretum is one of the best places to hike within the city limits. It features a 3.5 mile loop passing California natives, Australian and East Asian collections and other gardens. In fact the UC arboretum website promises you over 20 places to explore! 

Our exploration started at the UC parking lot 55, which is free on the weekends. If you plan to go during the week you have to download the parking app and daily parking is $15. The trail entrance has a nice garden with information signage and restrooms. If you are hiking the large loop like we did I found it convenient to break up the hike and have lunch downtown. The entrance to downtown is at the top of the trail, perfect for a halfway mark. A donkey laying down at the barn at UC Davis.

On our way back to the car we saw the barn. A restless stallion was watching over some young horses. A donkey with his eyes covered so the flies could not bother him was the closest animal we were able to observe. 

Overall this is a pleasant 2 hour walk. The shady walkway is mostly paved, also inviting people on wheels. But there is an upper bike trail so bikes are a rare sight. Dogs are allowed on leash. 

Have you been to the UC Davis Arboretum?

This Saturday, October 22nd and on November 5th, the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum have their plant sale fundraiser. They call it a festival-like event, and I am very excited to check it out.

The UC Santa Cruz arboretum and botanical garden is also a great place to explore.

While this post is not technically in the Bay Area, I will expand my blog to include Yolo county due to a recent move. 

Overview of the maze from one of the bridges. Sprayed on: Lost in da cornmaze

Don’t Get Lost in This Corn Maze in Dixon

Signs for Cool Patch Pumpkins with pumpkins in the backgroundPumpkin patches and corn mazes are popping up all over the country. You’ll find Dixon’s corn maze at 6150 Dixon Ave West, near Interstate 80, in Dixon. Dixon’s Cool Patch Pumpkins holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest corn maze. Yes, this one is considered exercise. It took us about an hour and a half from start to finish. But let me start from the beginning. 

They do offer other entertainment besides the corn maze, mostly for little kids, like a corn bath, think ball bath with corn kernels, a pumpkin patch, and some cool insta-worthy photo opps. The corn bath is $5 no matter how old you are.

Image showing map for the corn maze and the entrance of the mazeSince we came for the maze we did not get distracted with the other fun things. The maze is $20 per person, but we are talking about the world’s largest corn maze, so I thought it was totally worth it. You’ll get a map and tickets and off you go!Me in front of the sign that reads: congrats! You just completed the world's largest corn maze

There are five colorful bridges, which break up the walk and help you orient yourself. The first bridge is nicely done as a test-drive for this experience. They say you can’t really get lost. If you feel uncomfortable just walk through a row of corn and find the edge of the maze. You’ll be surrounded by, I would say, 8 feet high corn, and if you really needed to follow the emergency instructions it would not be as easy as it sounds. Luckily we made it through without a case of claustrophobia, or need for a bathroom break. 

This brings me to my recommendations to enjoy the maze:

  • Find the little markers on the ground. Those give you a clue on where you are. Oh, and don’t lose your map, or better yet take a picture of the map.
  • There are no bathrooms within the maze, so you know what to do.
  • The pathway is uneven. Wear comfortable shoes and something that you don’t mind getting dirty. It is not wheelchair or stroller accessible.
  • The paths are half in the shade, but it is still good to wear a hat.
  • Come early, Dixon warms up to over 80 F later in the day. 
  • Bring some water with you. 
  • There are no trash cans in the maze, so please take any of your trash with you. 

A pile of trash on one of the bridges in the mazeThe last point was a bit upsetting, seeing all this trash that people tossed. This is still a corn field and the corn will get harvested later in the season. Please don’t leave any trash in the maze. 

Cool Patch Pumpkins is open until October 31st everyday from 9:00am – 8:00pm.

On weekends there is food and coffee offered. 

Have you conquered a corn maze before?

Fandango in Petaluma, Petaluma Adobe

A shady spot in the courtyard of the Petaluma Adobe.The Petaluma Adobe was once the largest privately owned adobe building in Northern California; the owner – General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. From 1834 – 1846 this adobe supported the military efforts in Sonoma.

Vallejo was the most powerful man of his time in Mexican California. His mission was to secularize the San Francisco Solano Mission in Sonoma and be a countermeasure to the Russian outpost in Fort Ross.

Cowhides piled up in one room of the Petaluma AdobeThe rancho is two stories. The exhibits show life on the rancho, with hides piled in one room, sleeping quarters from workers to supervisors, and a courtyard with two large ovens.

Now the rooms of the adobe complex have been furnished to re-enact the end of slaughtering season (matanza) and the preparation for the festivities for the workers (fandango). 

View from the upstairs veranda of the Petaluma AdobeDon’t miss walking around the veranda upstairs. You will be rewarded with a nice view of the valley.

The Petaluma Adobe is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. Due to staffing constraints please call 707-938-9560. The park is located at 3325 Adobe Road in Petaluma. Admission is $3.00 for adults, $2.00 for children between 6 and 16, and children under 5 are free. 

Have you ever danced a fandango?

Sign for Cascade Falls at the entrance to the park.

Chase a Waterfall, Cascade Falls, Mill Valley

It is always great to hear water running down a creek and catching the sight of a waterfall. Mill Valley’s Cascade Falls is a short drive from downtown, up Cascade Road. Be aware the parking is very limited. You can also walk up Cascade Drive and marvel at the imposing houses along this curvy road.

A fork in the path. The right one leads to a bridge and the waterfall.On entering the park you will quickly come upon a split in the road. The right path leads over a bridge to the waterfall. It is a short hike and any further hike is blocked off for now. We first went up the left path. When asked some passersby about the waterfall they directed us back and mentioned that the water is getting low. 

I still found the amount of falling water from the maybe 10 feet drop impressive and calming. Cascade Falls waterfall.

There is also a bench where you can take in the scenery and listen to the burble.

Three wells from the path on top.According to my research Three Wells (three swimming holes) is nearby. When you take the left path going up you can see two of the swimming holes below.

Cascade Falls is located in Cascade Park, at 420 Cascade Drive, Mill Valley 94941. 

Have you listened to a waterfall burble recently?

Rev. Hershel Harkins Pier in Pacifica.

Walk into History, Pacifica

Last week’s post was about a self-guided historic walking tour in Redwood City. Usually I shake things up a bit, but this week there will be a follow-up of some sort. The history walking tour of Pacifica takes about an hour and starts near the pier.

Historic beach bungalow in Pacifica.The historical society of Pacifica that compiled the walking tour suggests starting about one hour before sunset, in order to enjoy the sunset at the end of the tour. When we did it we started in the morning devouring treats from Rosalind’s Bakery on a bench near the ocean for breakfast.

The first of eleven stops on the tour is the Spanish inspired old water treatment building and wall. The second one, Sam’s Castle, you’re not too near to, but worth a separate tour if you get a chance. The Salada Hotel (3) and the two beach bungalows (4) tell more of a story, as Pacifica was built as a resort community enticing rich San Franciscan to establish second homes here. 

The Little Brown Church is now the Coastside Museum. Next stop, the ‘Little Brown Church’ is a must-see for any history buff. Nowadays known as the Coastside Museum, it opens its doors for visitors Tuesdays, Thursdays, and  Saturdays, from 1 pm to 4 pm. Many of the following buildings have a connection with the Little Brown Church. (6) Former Pedro school expanded their classrooms into it, (7) Mr Anderson from the Anderson’s store did all the woodwork, (11) and the pier is named after Rev. Hershel Harkins, a former priest at the Little Brown Church.

Former house of Madam Dolly Fine.The most intriguing stop was number 10 on the list, a house on 2 Carmel Avenue. The self- guided sheet reveals juicy details about a former resident, Madam Dolly Fine. “She was arrested and forced out of business in 1938, having attracted too much attention when she claimed police bribes as business expenses.” 

To hear more details about the history of Pacifica I highly recommend visiting the Coastside Museum.

Where do you walk on historic grounds?

Experience 50 things to do in Mountain View, CA

Experience 50 things to do in Mountain View, CA

50 Things to do in Mountain View, CAIn 2017 I started my series of 50 things, a challenge to find 50 interesting things to explore in one city. Mountain View, CA was the first city I chose and it was about time to update it. 

Many attractions I had previously mentioned changed. Places closed down, Android figures disappeared, and new gardens came to my attention. It’s clear that this project is constantly  in motion and I will do my very best to keep everything up to date.

Luckily some of my favorite things are still around, like relaxing at Shoreline Park, the in-person festivals, and the farmers’ market on Sundays. 

What are your highlights in Mountain View, CA?

Please let me know if there are any places you would like to see on this list, or have any comments.

Watch the YouTube video of 50 things to do in Mountain View!

Native Rain Garden sign at the native plants garden in Bol Park

Learn about Native Plants, Bol Bark Palo Alto

A path in the native plants garden

I found the 12,000 sq ft native plants garden by accident the last time I was in Bol Park to visit the donkeys. Beyond the playground near the intersection of Laguna Ave and Roble Ridge Rd busy volunteers have created a treasure trove of native plants. There is signage for every plant. It is great to learn the names of the flora. The walkway is a path covered in wood chips and bordered by branches. 

A sign explaining the native rain garden system.

One info sign teaches the passersby the benefits of a native rain garden, installed in 2018. The practical reason here was to capture stormwater and reduce the flooding of the nearby bike path. An added plus is that the habitat creates homes for birds, insects, and wildlife. 

Flowers of a manzanita

I was delighted to see a blooming manzanita, one of my favorite trees from the Bay Area. But the other plants are also getting ready to impress. It is definitely fun to see the variety of native plants. If you would like a tour of the garden the Growing Natives Garden Tour offers docent led tours on April 2nd, 2022.

I also enjoyed the bench to relax in the shade.

Path with bench in the background

The native plants garden is open year round and located at 3502 Laguna Avenue, Palo Alto.

Do you know many of the native plants?

A signpost showing two errors with the word trail

Chase a Waterfall, Castle Rock State Park

Rain is always welcome here in the Bay Area, since droughts seem to contribute to an ongoing misery. This means waterfall hikes are a special treat in the winter, as proof of enough rain to make a stream. 

Recently we drove to Castle Rock State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The roads wind up, inviting expensive cars to test out their speeding abilities. On our way there, an array of police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances blocked one lane of this challenging road. Assuming some car went off the cliff, we carefully resumed our journey, only to get passed by an impassioned speeder.

Climbing rock at Castle Rock State Park.
Waterfall at Castle Rock State Park

Castle Rock State Park is a destination for rock climbers and hikers. The large boulders on the Castle Rock loop trail are perfect for any climbing skill level. The hike to the waterfall overlook is 1.2 miles, out and back. You’ll walk by a stream and experience an elevation loss of 265 feet (and gain on the way back). When you arrive at the overlook you are looking down at the waterfall. So, be careful if you are afraid of heights.

The waterfall itself is not as gushing as you might come across in Yosemite or Hawaii, but nonetheless nice to listen to. 

Be prepared for an uneven path with rocks and roots poking out. 

Sunset

Parking fee is $10, preferably paid by card. The parking lot holds three restrooms and electric car chargers.  The Castle Rock State Park is open from sunrise to sunset, the address is: 15451 CA-35, Los Gatos, CA 95033. We stopped at the nearby vista point, just outside the park, for an amazing sunset. 

Have you seen the waterfall at Castle Rock State Park?

Another hike I can highly recommend is the loop trail of the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.