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.

A man walking

Hide inside a Giant Redwood, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Welcome sign to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Start of the New Year with a hiking challenge at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. First Day Hikes is a nationwide program to promote a healthy lifestyle. To start off easy I recommend the 40-acres Redwood grove at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The loop trail is a 0.8 miles flat hike. The loop starts at the visitor center, which is only open Friday – Sundays from 10am to 3pm. During the rain it gets muddy, so it isn’t wheelchair accessible, at least in the wet months. If you’d like to learn about the park while on the trail I recommend downloading the audio tour and then start on the right hand side of the loop. This way the audio clues are counting up. The parking fee is $10 per vehicle.

The beginning of the loop trail.

We did enjoy the rain and were somewhat covered by these 1,500 year old trees. There are a few possibilities to ‘hide’ inside one of the giants. The largest is the Fremont tree, it was the campside of the Fremont exhibition which surveyed the shortest route from the Atlantic to the Pacific. A whole family can fit inside the Fremont tree. You should bring a flashlight to look around while inside. The other options are more covers than hiding spots. But nevertheless they give you a close encounter with these majestic trees. 

In addition to the 0.8 loop there are a few other trails with different difficulty levels and terrains.

I'm in a tree

In January, each Saturday at noon, there will be an Old-Growth Redwood Tour. Check out their event page for even more educational fun.    

Have you ever hid inside a Redwood tree?

Men sitting on a bench overlooking the rose garden at Heather Farm, Walnut Creek.

Get surprised by a multitude of gardens, Heather Farm, Walnut Creek

When I visited Heather Farm I knew this place was well known for its garden. What I did not know was the dimensions and multitudes of them. They have a stunning 27 different garden arrangements! 

Little tunnel with bushes growing on top.

After I entered the centennial grove, 100 trees from around the world, the cuteness of the children’s garden caught my eyes. I’m sure the small, about a yard long, tunnel is loved by many toddlers.The Crowden Rose Garden lures you in by the scent. It features more than 1,000 varieties of roses. 

Bench at the stroll garden, Heather Farm, Walnut Creek.

With names like sensory, stroll, and meadow garden you will likely discover a myriad of plants, and ,of course there are plenty of benches to take in the scenery.  

The name Heather Farm is from a priced race horse, King Heather, of the original ranch owner, John Marchbank. Marchbank bought the 255 acre ranch in 1921 and converted it into a thoroughbred horse training facility. He sold most of the grounds in 1945. Nowadays an independent organization operates the free Heather Farms Garden and education center. Besides the many gardens, the park offers tennis courts, a swim center, an all ability playground, and a fishing lake, to name a few attractions. 

Heather Farms is located at 1540 Marchbanks Dr, Walnut Creek, CA and is open daily during daylight hours.

Have you been to Heather Farm?

While you are in Walnut Creek you might also enjoy the Ruth Bancroft garden with its lavish display of cacti and succulents.

Resources:

A yellow rose.

Walnut Creek Magazine

https://www.walnutcreekmagazine.com/2021/05/27/307676/a-look-back-walnut-creek-s-rich-equestrian-past

Gardens of Heather Farm History

https://gardenshf.org/50-2/

To see a mini tour of the gardens you can watch this YouTube video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mbSlwqtVxc

A fuzzy cactus with a bright red flower.

Find What’s in Bloom at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek

A group of cacti, one with a yellow flower.

At the entrance to the Ruth Bancroft Garden you’ll be handed a map to see what’s in bloom. If you want to come prepared, print it out from their website. The fee to see the succulent garden is $10 for adults with discounts for seniors and children. An amount well spent if you like succulents and drought resistant plants. There are large varieties and they have some in bloom each month.

Two buckets with parasols at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek.

If you go on a sunny day make sure to pick up a parasol to shade you while exploring. The murals at the entrance are also noteworthy, but inside it is spectacular. Large cacti and palm trees vying for attention together with the huge varieties of succulents. The fruits are interesting as well, but please don’t touch the prickly pear, they have thorns. 

Water lily at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek.

This is the perfect environment for lizards. They will zip by and then stop to look at you. The koi pond with the water lilies was an added surprise.

Afterwards check out the adjacent nursery. Cute succulents arranged in a pot and, of course, a large variety of sempervivum, cacti and other drought resistant plants.

Bench at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek.

The Ruth Bancroft Garden with 3.5 acres is larger than the Arizona Garden in Stanford. Both are equally spectacular. On selected evenings between 5:30 and 8:30 pm, November to January, the garden transforms into the Garden of D’Lights and they promise to ‘glow your mind’! Tickets are available at their website and cost $16 – $24 for adults and children between 6 and 15 pay $8 to $12.

Opening hours are:

March – October

Tuesday – Thursday: 9AM to 4PM (last admissions at 3:15pm)

Friday – Sunday: 10AM to 5PM (last admissions at 4:15pm)

November – February

Tuesday – Sunday: 9AM to 4PM (last admissions at 3:15pm)

Do you like seeing blooming succulents?

Stairs to Esplanade Beach, Pacifica.

Step down to Esplanade Beach, Pacifica

Shoes on Esplanade Beach with Pacific in the back.

Esplanade Beach was our most recent discovery. We grabbed some lunch from Rosalind’s Bakery (recently featured on a post about my favorite sweet treats) and drove down to Esplanade Beach. Street parking was plentiful. The first impression from above was not too thrilling. We parked near a chain linked fence that was obstructing our ocean view and left us with an uneasy feeling about the safety of these cliffs. The entrance to the beach is on Esplanade Ave, which has multiple apartment complexes. There were a few benches on a lookout above. 

Stairs to the Esplanade Beach in Pacifica

The real treat is the stairs leading down to the beach. This is quite a workout! I did not count how many steps or switchbacks there were but they kept on going. I would recommend slowing down for the last part because the sand on the stairs makes them slippery. 

Looking up at the stairs cliff side with sparse plants and netting.

You can tell that the stairs have gotten an overhaul recently. The plants to minimize erosion haven’t filled out the netting yet.
This is Pacifia’s only official off leash dog beach. We saw a few dogs enjoying the run. Visit Pacifica warns to check out the tide schedule since the beach can be narrow at high tide.  For the same reason,  you should probably refrain from walking here during stormy weather.

Looking up the cliff at Esplanade Beach, Pacifica.

If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity, September 18th is Coastal Cleanup Day. A great way to beautify these beaches and remove plastic pollution. If you’re really enjoying this you can help clean Esplanade Beach every 3rd Saturday of the month.

How do you step up for your local beaches?

If you relish an outdoor steps workout also consider Communication Hill in San Jose, or the Trailhead stairs in Saratoga.