Sign for the Woodside library and the native plant garden.

Work in a native plant garden

Native plant garden at the Woodside library.

The sign at the Woodside library announces the library, and right below, the native plant garden. This acknowledgment is well deserved; the space of the garden seems as large as the library itself. You have to enter the garden from the library. The chairs and tables makes it clear that al fresco studying is encouraged here. And the people of Woodside take advantage of the natural office setting.

Map of the native plant garden at the Woodside library.

Right away there is a map of the garden. This garden was established in 1970 by the Woodside Atherton Garden Club. They also provide a pdf of all the plants.

Manzanita grove at the Woodside native plant garden.

The manzanita grove to the right immediately delighted me with their dark red bark. The horse smell from next door reminded me that I’m in Woodside. Every place, even the library, has a horse rack in front.

Redwood grove at the Woodside native plant garden.

The redwood grove in the back uses its half arch for benches. A great place for a school class to enjoy some lunch. Benches are sprinkled throughout the garden, inviting everyone to take a break.

The native garden is open during library hours: 
Monday – Thursday 11 am to 7 pm
Friday and Saturday 11 am to 5 pm

Have you been to the native garden?

Resources:

http://woodsideathertongc.org/cgi-bin/p/awtp-custom.cgi?d=woodsideatherton-garden-club&page=9513


Aquarium at the Cupertino library.

Find Nemo at the library

Butterfly fish at the Cupertino library aquarium.

Sure, you can find a good book on Nemo or clownfish at any local library. If you go to the Cupertino library you can try to find the clownfish in the aquarium next to the children’s books. This 16 feet long tank holds 3,240 gallons of water. To support such large tank the glass is 2.5 inches thick and there is a 5 foot concrete base underneath. 

Cupertino library aquarium.

Besides clownfish, there are also yellow tanks, foxface bubblefish, yellowtail damsels, butterfly fish, and hermit crabs.The corals are man-made and therefore more environmentally friendly.  Real corals are threatened by many factors like over-fishing, increased sea temperatures and tourism. 

Plant petting zoo at the Cupertino library.

If your kid prefers land over water maybe come by on Tuesdays from 11 am – noon (summer hours) and let them explore the Children’s Garden in the courtyard. This garden has a plant petting zoo and a scratch and sniff area. For the teenagers that are into planting the Green Teen Garden might be attractive. Designed to provide local teenagers with hands-on garden experience. 

Kids splashing around the water fountain in front of the Cupertino library.

And to cool off your child they can splash around in the water fountain outside.

What a fun place for kids! 

Have you seen the aquarium at the Cupertino library?

Waterslide at Blackberry Farm in Cupertino

Swim in an outdoor pool

I’m from Germany and I remember entire summers being spent in the local outdoor pools. You would meet some friends, make new ones, and every once in a while cool down in the water.

In the U.S. I always thought swimming was more a sport than a social affair. You can go to your gym and swim the lanes. There is even a 100 mile challenge at my swimming hole. I calculate at the rate I do laps it would take me 3 ½ years to complete the challenge.

Map of Blackberry Farm, Cupertino.

The other day I visited Blackberry Farm in Cupertino. Steve Jobs named a whole company after a fruit in this city, so I expected an old blackberry orchard. To my delight I saw two pools! One with a waterslide, and the other for swimming, and a lot of people frolicing about in the water. There was a birthday party!  If you check out their website, you can see that they encourage parties. But this place is a recreational activity for the whole family.

Pool at Blackberry Farm, Cupertino.


Pool rates are $8 ($6 for residents) during the week and on Saturday and Sundays $10 ($8 for residents). The Blackberry Cafe is open from 10 am to 6 pm and serves all the classic foods, from burgers and hot dogs to salads and ice cream sandwiches.

Do you have an outdoor pool you like to spend summer days in?

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?

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/