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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Ever wondered about the building on top of one of the mountains near Saratoga? You can now hike to the summit (or drive) and learn about the history of this place.
Mount Umunhum one of the highest mountains in the Santa Cruz mountain range (3,486 feet) was once a sacred site of the local Native Americans. In fact, rituals are still performed here today.
The Mountain is easy to spot because of the radar tower on top of it. From 1957 to 1980 this was part of the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) defense system.SAGE was a network of computer systems that coordinated data from many radar sites and processed it into a single image of the airspace over a wide area.* Back in these days as many as 125 military personnel with their families lived at Mount Umunhum.
There are three parking areas depending on your intentions:
Jacques Ridge parking lot is the closest to the entrance of the park – furthest hike to the summit.
Bald Mountain parking area – from here the hike up to the summit is 3.7 miles
Mt Umunhum Summit parking area – 159 steps to the summit
We only did a short hike, from the Bald Mountain parking lot to the Guadalupe Creek Overlook 1.3 miles each way and then drove to the Summit parking area. But I would like to do the whole summit hike at one point. On the summit itself the views are amazing! We were there on a cloudy day, but on a clear day you can see from the Pacific to the Sierra Nevada.
There is also an audio tour app about the Stories of Mount Umunhum for free in the app store of your choice. You should download the audio tour before you go because there is limited cell service.
So, California’s first municipal state park is right around our corner, Alum Rock in San Jose founded in 1872.
In the 1930’s this park was well known for its mineral springs. Having over 20 different springs with minerals like magnesium and sulfur and naturally carbonated soda springs, a few doctors at the time attested their health benefits. The park also once had a natatorium, a heated indoor pool, plus about 50 mineral baths that pumped in the sulfur water right from the springs. Build in 1912 this was the major attraction in the park. It was closed after 1970, and only a plate remains where it used to be.
While doing the short mineral springs trail you can see the grottos once built around the springs to identify and protect them. And look for the tiled tubs that were holding tanks to warm up the water that was piped to the bathhouses for the actual baths.
But Alum Rock is also San Jose’s largest park, with various hiking trails, a lot of different picnic areas, a playground, a beach volleyball court and the Youth Science Institute.
There are two options I am aware of to see these interesting seals up close. First is Año Nuevo State Park and also Piedras Bianca near San Simion. In order to see the seals in Ano Nuevo you have to book a tour online that, if you want to pick times that suit you, you probably have to book about two weeks in advance. I think the $7 per person plus $10 for parking was well spent. On a 2 ½ hour hike we learned a lot about the seals and came up close to watch the little babies get nursed.
Piedras Bianca has a short, more accessible, walk up to a viewing point where a park ranger answers questions. Here no reservation is necessary but a donation is appreciated.
January/February are probably the most visited months for the state park to see the elephant seals. Breeding season is from late December till early February. In March the adults leave their pubs behind. Yes! Imagine that. The pubs tech themselves to swim and will depart in April to swim up north.
Mature females will be somewhat pregnant after about 24 days after giving birth, they do a delayed implantation which means the fertilized egg will not be implanted in the wall of the uterus for another four month.
Another unbelievable fact is that the females don’t eat anything while they give birth, nurse and breed,and the males go without food for up to three months while they are on land mating.
Do you know of any other places to watch elephant seals in the Bay Area?