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.

Bonsai next to a sign for the Bonsai Garden of Lake Merritt.

Pick your Favorite Bonsai, Gardens of Lake Merritt

Maple bonsai at the Bonsai Garden, Lake Merritt.

In last week’s post about the AirBeeNBee at the Gardens of Lake Merritt I mentioned there was more to come. The bonsai garden, the only all volunteer based bonsai garden in the U.S., is an outstanding display of this Japanese tradition. Over a hundred little trees in a pot are presented. The oldest is over 1,600 years old!

A large stone shaped as a bunny at the bonsai garden at Lake Merritt, Oakland.

Open since 1999 the Bonsai Garden also features a collection of suiseki stones. Suiseki stones, also known as viewing stones, are stones that suggest a scene from nature. They are usually displayed as found and not modified. 

The cedar entrance gate to this garden is by master carpenter Hiroshi Sakaguchi from Northern California.

The gate to the bonsai garden by master carpenter Hiroshi Sakuguchi.

The Gardens of Lake Merritt are free, but donations are appreciated.

What is your favorite garden at the Gardens of Lake Merritt?

Here is a link to last week’s post about the AirBeeNBee.

Succulents at the Phelan Cactus Garden, Montalvo in Saratoga.

Recharge in the Cactus Garden at Montalvo

Montalvo is Saratoga’s first address for art and culture. Did you know they also have a cactus garden? I stumbled on this treasure when I visited the Loneliness exhibit. It is tucked away in the gated part of the Italianate Garden.

Fountain in the Italianate Garden at Montalvo, Saratoga.

Enter the gate and stroll past the rose bushes towards the fountain. The fountain creatures hanging there might not spit water right now, but are impressive nonetheless.

Large cactus supported by a belt at the Phelan Cactus Garden at Montalvo, Saratoga.

The succulents and cacti are imposing. Some so large they need to be propped up by a belt. Others stand tall like a monolith the size of a yard stick. The Phelan Cactus Garden was designed by Senator James Phelan in 1920 as a ‘showcase of interesting and unusual plants’. A magical little escape great for recharging.

Plant at the Phelan Cactus Garden at Montalvo, Saratoga.

Montalvo’s park hours are Monday – Thursday, 8am – 5pm and Friday – Sunday, 9am – 5pm.

Did you know about the Phelan Cactus Garden at Montalvo?

If you are interested in seeing more succulents I recommend the Arizona Cactus Garden at Stanford. 

One-way signs at Rancho San Antonio, Cupertino.

Journey a One-Way Road

Entrance to Rancho San Antonio Open Space Perserve, Cupertino.

Hiking is always a great pastime in the Bay Area. These days, with the continuing of shelter in place, hiking is a well deserved alternative from your walk around the neighborhood. We went Tuesday to Rancho San Antonio, a hilly terrain in the Los Altos Hills mountains. My health app recorded a 24 floor climb and almost 11,000 steps!

Map of Rancho San Antonio, Cupertino, showing the one-way hikes.

There are multiple hikes and different levels of difficulty. As a COVID-19 safe measure, the most narrow paths are one-way. Please check out the map before you start. They no longer offer printed maps, so you might want to take a picture. When we were there on Tuesday the bathrooms were open again. Of course this might change without much notice. Bring plenty of water since the water fountains are all taped up. 

Wild turkeys at Rancho San Antonio, Cupertino.

Deer Hollow Farm is currently closed, but on our way we saw wild turkeys, a few deer, and some lizards, so a short hike with your young ones is still a lot of fun. Plus they put up signs of encouragement from the farm, e.g.: “You goat this!” or “Sheep your distance!”

View of the Bay and the Diablo Range mountains.

If you are up for a longer hike you will be rewarded with gorgeous views of the Bay. 

Where is your go-to hiking spot?

Other short hikes in the Bay Area can be found from my 50 things to do in San Mateo County, 50 things to do in Los Altos/Los Altos Hills and 50 things to do in Cupertino.

If you have other ideas for short hikes in the Bay Area I would love it if you could share them with me in the comment section.

Front of the egg vending machine at the Glaum Egg Ranch in Aptos, advising you that you will need 4 crisp dollar bills.

Vend your Eggs

Easter will be April 12th, this year. There is a confusing tradition that links bunnies to eggs, which  I don’t understand or even feel qualified to explain. But for now let’s just focus on eggs. 

The Barn, egg vendor and eggs sold here sign of the Glaum Egg Ranch in Aptos, CA.

Before the shelter-in-place order I went to Aptos to see the egg vending machine at the Glaum Egg Ranch. I believe it is still open, but in these days and times anything can change. Are we even allowed to drive that far? I think not. 

Please take this as a virtual tour and when you have the chance of freely moving around again consider this as a fun activity for young kids. It is not the vending of the eggs that I refer to here, it is the show that is offered after you vend. You can see this demonstrated in this YouTube video (be my first subscriber to my new channel!):

Succulents in egg shells at the Barn, Glaum Egg Ranch, Aptos.

To see the show you need four crisp dollar bills and you will be rewarded with 18 eggs and a show. The barn store will be happy to provide you with wrinkle free money. By the way the barn store is open Mon – Fri 8am – 4pm and Sat 8am – 2-pm. There you can get a lot of products around eggs. One was succulents in little egg shells, such a cute idea! They also have interesting gift ideas mostly food related.

Chicken dressed up in their Easter outfits - part of the show at the Glaum Egg Ranch, Aptos.

I wish you all a Happy Spring!

Have you ever vended your eggs?

How about some other eating adventures in the Bay Area?

Dog walker and dog in rain coats.

Hike with your Dog

Dog off leash at Pulgas Ridge Preserve.

The nice thing about the Bay Area is there are a myriad of options for hiking in relatively short distances from where you live. If you are a dog owner and want to bring your pooch with you on these hiking excursion, you might find that a lot of open spaces don’t allow dogs. To find a place that has an off leash policy is even rarer. 

End of the off-leash dog area at Pulgas Ridge Preserve. Sign reads: You are leaving the off-leash dog area. All dogs must remain on a leash beyond this point.

While the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space allows dogs in 11 of it’s 24  parks, only one – the Pulgas Ridge Preserve – has an off leash dog area. The 17.5 acre area where you can let your dog roam free in is located in the middle of the Preserve and is surrounded by the Hassler Loop trail. Your dog needs to be voice controlled and you should have a leash with you. And of course, you are always asked to pick up after your dog (only leave paw prints behind). 

Group of dog walkers at Pulgas Ridge Preserve.

For discoverers, the park is the former home of the Hassler Health Home, a tuberculosis sanitarium, some remnants of the building and stairs still remain.

Where do you hike with your dog?

Did you know that Sunol had a dog as mayor?


Boardwalk sign at Santa Cruz

Ride the rollercoaster on the boardwalk

For thrillseekers and beachgoers the Santa Cruz boardwalk is a great destination since 1907.  

A golem watching over the sky glider at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz.

There are more than 40 rides, something for every kind of rush seeker. The romantic gondola ‘Sky Glider’ and  the 1924 wooden roller coaster ‘The Giant Dipper’ are just examples of the variety of rides offered. 

Sky glider with a sign that says: deep fried underneath at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

On rainy days you can enjoy a game of bowling or mini-golf, or play some arcade games. The food rises to the occasion: soft serve ice cream, hot dog on a stick and pizza all classic accompaniments for your boardwalk experience are here.

Bands on the Beach stage, Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

Tonight, August 30th, is the last Bands on the Beach event for this year. Papa Doo Run Run has the honor of ending the free concert series with two show (6:30 and 8:30). For the prime seating area reserve your seats as early as 4 pm. You might enjoy a nice picnic on the beach. If you bring chairs make sure they are low backs for the prime area. 

For the history buffs they put together a walking tour (http://downloads.beachboardwalk.com/BoardwalkWalkingTour.pdf).

A lot of different events are happening on the boardwalk, so check before you go. Some events, like the overnights, can limit access to attractions.  

The boardwalk is open daily. Admission for the rides can be purchased in various forms. Day and season passes are available.

Have you been to the boardwalk?


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?  


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?