Stairs from Trailhead, Saratoga view from the top.

Climb some Stairs in Saratoga

Sometimes hiking is a planned activity. These days with limited access you have to be flexible.

View of the top of trailhead in Saratoga.

We headed out to Fremont Older in Cupertino, which has a small parking lot. It was full on arrival and we decided to turn around. On our way back we discovered a sign marked Trailhead. This short hike starts on Prospect Rd in Cupertino. You’ll pass a little stream and after crossing a street the trail runs through a housing development. That’s when you know you’ve crossed over to Saratoga. The houses are large and have huge backyards. 

Wooden stairs of trailhead in Saratoga.

The nice part of the trail is the wooden stairs after the development. I did not count how many stairs we climbed, but it was a fun way to get some exercise. Plus the views at the top are spectacular. A lot of locals are taking advantage of this trail. 

Have you been up the stairs of Trailhead?

Here is a list of all trails in Saratoga, CA: https://www.saratoga.ca.us/223/Trail-Maps

Other short hikes in Silicon Valley are for example Rancho San Antonio, Huddart Park, and Pulgas Ridge Preserve. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comment section.

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. 

Sound sculpture with mallets at Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale.

Play the Sound-Sculptures at Seven Seas Park

The Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale became the latest addition in 2016 of inclusive play parks for all ages. This little park has even a splash park, a dog park, and a half basketball court. One of the fun discoveries is the wind chimes that line the small round path around a grassy field.

One of the wind chimes at Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale.

The sound sculptures stand man high and have mallets to invite you to play. I could not find any information about the artists. If you know who contributed this musical adventure, please let me know.

The landscape architects, SSA, did a beautiful job creating a nautical themed inclusive park. This park won the “Project of the Year” award in 2016 by the American Public Works Association. 

Pathway, hugging a grassy field, leading to one of the sound sculptures, Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale.

Parking can sometimes be a challenge. Due to COVID-19 playgrounds might still be closed off. Check before you go and follow the recommended safety procedures.

Have you played the sound sculptures at Seven Seas Park? 

If you enjoy funky interactive sculptures you should also check out the Wind Walk in San Mateo.

Smoke from the CZU fire.

Help the Fire Victims

Wildfires are part of living in California.  This year the wildfires have been especially early and are the worst yet. In awe I looked at the lightning the morning of August 17th that sparked hundreds of fires in Northern California. 

My heart goes out to all the people who lost their home and their belongings. Many people had to leave their homes and evacuate, not sure what they will find when they return.

If you’d like to donate you might consider one of these sources:

Meals of Gratitude and World Central Kitchen– Provide meals to frontline workers in the COVID pandemic, firefighters, evacuees, and volunteers

Santa Cruz Fire Respond Fund – Supports victims of the Santa Cruz Mountain Fires

Emergency Fire Relief Fund for South Coast Families – Puente’s mission is to build a healthy, inclusive and sustainable community. 

Give to your local food bank, e.g.: Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano, Community Action of Napa Valley, or Tri-Valley Haven are a few examples.

Redwood tree.

Sempervirens Fund – Big Basin Recovery Fund and Santa Cruz Redwoods Restoration Fund

I hope everyone is safe and stays healthy!

Resources:

CAL Fire – See the status of the fires

There is a wonderful link list from the Magical Bridge Foundation.

Just as a reminder if you’s like to support Black Lives in the Bay Area you can get some inspiration here.

Masked fisherman sculpture at Half Moon Bay.

Masks on Sculptures

The unfortunate fashion accessory of 2020, a facial covering, can also be spotted on various sculptures throughout the Bay Area.

Right now the smoke from the Santa Cruz and San Mateo wildfires have reached our city and exploring is on hold. I hope everyone is safe out there, especially because the heat wave isn’t over yet either!

Anyway, along the way I have started to photograph some sculptures with masks on. Thank you whoever thought this would be an additional statement.

Surfer sculpture on Cliff Dr. in Santa Cruz.

The surfer on Santa Cruz cliff walk for example can be usually spotted wearing some protective gear – until the no-maskers demonstrated in front of the sculpture. I wonder if there is a correlation?

Gay Liberation a sculpture of four all white painted people from George Segal at Stanford.

The ‘Gay Liberation’ sculpture from George Segal at Stanford was responsible covering up, because they have a hard time social distancing.

Biker sculpture by James Moore, at the Bay Trail in Palo Alto.

Another masked artwork I found was the biker at the Bay Trail in Palo Alto. This work is called ‘Bliss in the Moment’ by James Moore. I love Moore’s statement about his art: “I want my artwork to add something positive to the world. By exploring themes of hope, strength, and playful possibility, my sculpture conveys a positive message of what I feel it means to be human.”

We are all in this together!

Have you taken photos of masked sculptures?

Do you want to explore more sculptures in Stanford? I recommend checking out my page on 50 things to do in Stanford.

Ducks in the levee at Baylands Park, Sunnyvale.

Birdwatching in Sunnyvale’s Baylands Park

Anywhere by the Bay is a great spot for birdwatching. We walked the other day at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale. While we were pondering about which turn to make, a biker stopped and asked if we were looking for the birds? We weren’t, but our sense of adventure told us that we should follow his advice and turn right. “There are tons of birds!”, he said.

Birds at Baylands Park, Sunnyvale.

He was right. Once we crossed the levee a swarm of birds started their tree hopping, hoping we would not catch up with them. In the water were ducks and seagulls, and I believe a pair of egrets. I am not an avid birdwatcher, but it is fun nonetheless to see so many different kinds.

My favorite birds were black on top and white on the bottom with bright orange feet. If someone knows what they are, please let me know in the comment section below!

Usually volunteers from the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society offer free one-hour birding tours each first Wednesday at Baylands. Due to COVID-19 restrictions SCVAS has put together self-guided and virtual field trips. There is a great YouTube video from Mike Ambrose showing the winter birds of Baylands Park. 

Sign at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale that says: Sorry about the odor.

In the summer month an increased algae bloom can make the Baylands Park a bit smelly. The ponds are part of a solar salt farm. As the algae dies off, it produces hydrogen sulfide, H2S,  which has a characteristic odor of rotten eggs. 

Weeds covered in feathers at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale.

I did enjoy the weeds on our path covered in little feathers. A spontaneous art installation!

Where do you go bird watching?

If you want to explore more in Sunnyvale you might enjoy my article about 50 things to do in Sunnyvale

Fishing gear at the Pacifica pier

Go Fishing on a Public Pier

I have never been fishing or hunting. I think hunting is a bit too much for survival skills, but fishing seems like an interesting capability to know. 

People fishing on the Pacifica pier.

The other day we went to the public fishing pier in Pacifica. It smells like salt-water and fishing bait. I saw people use shrimp, calamari and little fish as live bait. I am not sure, but I think there might be a distinction of what fish you can catch depending on where on the pier you cast your rod.

People with fishing gear walking on the Pacifica pier.

If you prefer to go fishing on a lake you can either apply for a license or take advantage of the two Free Fishing Days. The last one this year was  on July 4th and the next one is on September 5th, 2020. 

While everyone over 16 years of age needs a license to go fishing, in California, the exception is if you fish from a public pier for your non-commercial use. (https://wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/ocean/beach-fishing#320781172-where-and-when-can-i-fish-in-the-ocean-without-a-fishing-license

Fishing rods at Pacifica public pier.

To learn how to fish the California Department of Fish and Wildlife usually offers in person clinics. Well, not right now. But they have videos to teach you fishing.

Have you ever fished on a public pier?

Table outside of Kirin in Mountain View

Dine in Circles – COVID-19 Style

How is your summer going?

I would be on vacation right now. Sigh. 

But honestly I can’t complain too much. We are very privileged going into this pandemic and have a nice place to hang out and wait this out.

I hope everyone is safe and healthy!

Castro St. road closure, for outdoor dining, Mountain View, CA.

It is also very important to support local businesses right now. Since July 22nd Mountain View has closed off most of Castro St. for vehicular traffic and made it a great place for outdoor dining!

The 100 to 400 block on Castro is now a pedestrian zone, with the crossing streets, Evelyn, Villa, Dana, California and Mercy,  still open. The city opened up additional short term parking in City parking lots and garages behind Castro. The Castro Summer StEATS is a pilot program to see if it revives the downtown area. 

All is done with social distancing in mind. Circles on the floor show where the assigned tables should go, signs on the street lead you to the hand wash stations, and all waiting staff are wearing masks.

Castro St. people dining outdoors.

Finally the city is taking advantage of the weather and provides us with a piazza experience! The last time I visited I noticed a lot of children playing in the street. What a lovely accomplishment to enhance city living! Bravo!

What is your opinion about the Castro Summer StrEATS?

Actually the city is asking, please take 7 minutes of your time and fill out the questionnaire:

English

Spanish

Black Lives Matter Mural on Hamilton St. in Palo Alto.

Drive by the BLM Art

While one California city (Redwood City) is in the news for removing their Black Lives Matter street mural, Palo Alto has blocked off the middle of the road for their colorful artwork.

City Hall in Palo Alto with the BLM letter's E and S.

Palo Alto’s BLM mural is in front of City Hall on Hamilton St. The public art commission hired 16  artist teams, each of them designing a letter. 

When I photographed each letter I noticed some cars slowing down and the drivers admiring the artwork. There were also some kids enjoying the letters.

Letter E of BLM mural in Palo Alto picturing Assata Shakur.

A controversy arose about one of the E’s picturing Assata Shakur, a Black Liberation Army fugitive and FBI most wanted. To my knowledge the mayor, Adrian Fine, declared the mural will stay as is. (see NBC News from July 16th, 2020 https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/fugitive-the-source-of-debate-over-black-lives-matter-mural-in-palo-alto/2327624/)

There is a petition out on change.org (http://chng.it/nsVCBzPvhC) to provide protection for the mural, to make this a lasting piece of art in Palo Alto.

What is your stand on the BLM in Palo Alto?

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.