Jasmine and I took a vacation back down to the South Bay and, while visiting our old friends, we decided to visit some of our old haunts as well. We chose to revisit the Alviso Slough in San Jose and Wilder Ranch State Park down in Santa Cruz. If you didn’t notice, we happen to like the water.
Alviso Slough was the same as we left it with just as much flat, hot walking next to a festering salt pond as you could hope for. I know that doesn’t sound great, but I do like it.
Wilder Ranch is a great little state park; I forgot how much I like visiting this part of the pacific. We got there at 0930 and started our walk in a windy, cool fog. By noon, we were at a private, secluded, cliffy beach in the warm sun. It is really the perfect place for a relaxing day hike. I highly recommend it if you are in the Santa Cruz area.
Jasmine in the traditional Alviso clothing: fancy hat and normal city attire.
I love all of the weird shores the salt ponds give you.
It is a bit greener and vertical in Santa Cruz.
Generic tourist picture mark 2018.
Dolphins and birds in a kelp forest! One of these days I will have to get a better zoom lens.
In the second of two parts of Jasmine’s and my revisit of our local parks in Santa Clara, we went to Alviso Slough. It is another park on the south of the San Francisco Bay, right on the water. This park was also a salt pond back in the day and it still has a number of very odd coloured ponds. Apparently, different microbes live in the different salinity ponds and they are all different colours.
This park has the advantage of being a short bike ride away, only about a 6 mile trip each way. And then we get to take the 9 mile circuit around the ponds and wetland. I was very disappointed in my last visit to Alviso as they were doing a fair bit of construction to the paths, which always destroys the feel of the park. But the park is all put back together and quite worth the pleasant, and very flat, walk.
The hike has a variety of flat water views. This one is somewhat railroady.
The icebergs are actually salt deposits. This whole area was pretty and surreal.
And this is what the average path looked like in the park. As you can imagine, hiking this is not recommended on hot days as the lack of trees can be a killer.
There is something about mountains reflecting in water that is majestic.
One of the Santa Clara County Parks that we used to go to a fair bit, but haven’t been to in a while is Alviso. We tried kayaking down the Alviso Slough once; it was a 10 mile round trip in effectively a swampy ditch, not recommended. Most of the time we used it as a nice flat running circuit when we were training for a marathon.
We went back this weekend for a nice cycle and hike trip. It was an interesting day of a 20 mile bike there and back and a pleasant 10 mile hike when we were there. The park is one of the prettiest on the bay; you are walking on top of dikes surrounded by salt ponds and marshes. It is a bit hidden at the base of the bay, but worth finding.
The only issue is that they appear to be doing a lot of construction in the park itself now, and the main circuit trail is blocked up with construction equipment. Hopefully that will be finished soon and the park will go back to its serene self.
The marshes are very full of birds, but they are usually impossible to see till they all pop out at once.
The salt ponds change colors based on what angle you see them from. This angle is a beautiful mirror blue.
A little time ago, we finished in our quest to visit all the 30 some Santa Clara County Parks and we had a list of 3 we needed to revisit to determine which we liked the best: Sanborn, Mt. Madonna, or Grant. Now that we finished the revisits, we have a winner: Sanborn! Yay and huzzah. Grant gets a close second, followed by Mt. Madonna.
That being said, we really enjoyed our day at the park this weekend. First things first, it was raining rather hard at times which was delightful and a refreshing change from blue skies around here – and I am not being sarcastic. It was nice to experience weather and hike through a couple of clouds though I could have done with some less mud as the trail was very slick in places.
We took the northern route around the park this time and it was about 8 miles of hilly, quiet hiking. I hope you enjoy the pictures of the hike below.
We weren’t the only crazy ones! We saw about a dozen people on the trail and in the parking lot.
I was thoroughly soaked by about a mile in. Squish Squish Squish goes the Lloyd.
We saw an old school windmill directly mounted to a water piston pump actually pumping water. Weirdly, I don’t think I have seen a water pump like this working up close and I was quite excited, probably proving how Dutch I am.
And it cleared up occasionally by the end of the hike. There is something crisp and special about just after a rainfall outdoors.
Since we finished up all the Santa Clara County Parks a couple of weeks ago, we decided to go back to a few of the ones we liked the best and see what we liked the absolute most. First on the list was Sanborn Park which is a pleasant redwood park just southwest of our house. The first time we went there was about a year ago on Thanksgiving and there was no one else on the entire hike. A little different this time around with hundreds of people there for a wedding and some random meetup. We went up on a different trail than last time which was mostly redwood forest and a nice lake halfway up. I think Sanborn probably gets my vote for the best park, but we need to check out Grant Park one more time to make certain.
There is a lake on the hike and while we were there, there was a dog in the lake! Yeah Dog!
This is pretty much what all the hiking looked like. A pleasant shaded hike after the first rough uphill half mile.
Everyone gets one guess at what this is. As a hint it was located in a clearing in the grove.
And then at the end of the hike we sat down for a nice pleasant picnic by the lake.
We reached a milestone today: we have now been to all of the Santa Clara County Parks. We went to the last two today, which were both reservoirs. The first stop of the day was Chesbro Reservoir. When we first spotted the reservoir, we wondered if there was going to be any water at all. We weren’t able to see any until we got pretty close to the actual parking lot. It was sad to see the water level so low, but we did manage to hike to every interesting feature that was normally underwater. We hiked all around the perimeter of the water, with most of our path in what would normally be the reservoir.
This was all the water left in the reservoir. You can see how high the water used to be if you look at the banks.
Most of the bottom of the reservoir looked like this. It was interesting to walk on.
This bridge is normally underwater. We guessed that it used to go over a creek before the dam was built.
We then drove on to Uvas Reservoir, which was also very low. We found a parking lot that appeared to be right at the edge of the reservoir during wetter times and walked down to the water. On the way, we passed another bridge that looked very similar and was also usually underwater. This reservoir seemed to be on a more active stream as the “dry” mud wasn’t very dry at all and we had to walk along areas that had been dry for a lot longer. Lloyd skipped stones here for a while before we called our trip a success and headed home.
The view of Uvas Reservoir from the parking lot. It was a bit longer walk than usual to the water.
Lloyd skipping stones by the water.
Both reservoirs looked as though they would be OK parks if the water was higher. There were no paths and not much land in either of the parks. However, the water was so low that there was plenty of room to walk. It was an interesting experience, but sad that the water level was really that low.
So here we come to two of the smallest parks in the Santa Clara County Parks: Chitactac-Adams and DeBell Uvas. Not much to say about either, just a short review.
Chitactac-Adams is a tiny park that can’t be more than 3 or 4 acres in size. It is mostly devoted to the Ohlone Indians and what is there is rather interesting. There are a few petroglyphs in the rocks by the river as well as a large amount of mortars dug into the rocks which were interesting. There is also a pretty cool looking shelter and a bunch of interpretive signs – seems built for a school field trip. All I have to say is learn Spanish before you read the interpretive signs unless you want a serious whitewashed history.
DeBell Uvas Creek was nothing but a paved path along a dry creek bed. I don’t quite know why they called it a park.
I quite like this style of building, the old circle with a partly open roof.
There were probably 20 of these mortars in the rocks. That is a lot of acorn grain for that deep of a hole.
The English in no way reflects what the Spanish says in this sign.
Uvas Bell, why are you even a park?
In the what currently feels like a never ending quest to go to all of the Santa Clara County Parks, we picked up another one this weekend – Santa Teresa. I can honestly say that there is not much to report: it was sort of bland. It was a pretty reasonable place to hike with the standard fields of golden grass and patches of green scrub oaks. I think it is mainly used by mountain bikers and horses and it looks OK for that, if a little small (only 20 miles of trail total), and not too hilly. So, in recap, good for locals but not really worth a long trip to go see.
Look! Its a trail that could be anywhere in the Bay Area.
There is something pretty in the spareness of the flora.
And, as always, you can see San Jose from any local high point – this time Coyote Peak.
In the seemingly never ending series of better known county parks, we went on a hike this weekend to Coyote Lake. It is a little on the dry side of the county by Gilroy, but the weather was going to be cooler – only in the 80s and supposedly partly cloudy – so we thought we would do it while the weather was cooperating as much as possible.
Given our previous lakes allowing powerboats experience, we weren’t too psyched about the park till we got there and were pleasantly surprised. It was a nice and peaceful hike through the standard dry California wheat and live oak hilly landscape with the obligatory turkeys and deer. Nothing spectacular about the park; no stunning vistas, but everything was pleasant and nice enough. Probably a good spot to take family hikes, not that most families would do our 11 mile circuit…
This is about what you get on the trail: pleasant partial desolation.
The lake was really blue in the sun. We were rather happy to be taking a break in the shade.
Cow, I win. As is often the case on our county park hikes, we shared the park with some browsing bovines.
So this Sunday we went out to another of the Santa Clara County Parks, this time Villa Montalvo. As it turns out, the park was the estate of some early 20th century politician that turned it into a park on his death. The park was mostly a mansion with some sculpture gardens in the fake romantic style. I’m not that much of a fan of the Neoclasiccal style, so I could pass on it and there were only a couple of miles of not overly interesting trails. I don’t think we will be going back to the park.
The massive mansion. It is not open to go inside.
There were some artist residences on site in some really bizarre looking buildings.
The view from the boringly named Lookout Point was rather pretty of San Jose from the west.
In an attempt to salvage a fun day out, we looked around and found another garden – this time a Japanese style garden also built in the early 20th century called Hakone. It was a small estate, but it was rather well laid out and also rather pretty. I think overall we were rather more of a fan of the Japanese garden, but I can let you decide via the pictures.
A couple of the Japanese Maples were starting to change color a bit. I think they are confused about the climate around here.
The center of the garden was a beautiful koi pond. Next place, I live I’m putting in a pond.
They had a trellised wisteria walkway next to the main house. One again, something I am doing at the next house, maybe with grapes or roses depending on the climate.