Thursday, May 22, 2014

Rancho San Antonio and Deer Hollow Farm

The open lands of Rancho San Antonio surrounding Deer Hollow Farm, are so well known to the locals that I have delayed writing a blog about it. But I think visitors from out of town should know about this beautiful preserve.

Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve

The preserve is located in Santa Clara County and is home to a number of diverse plant and animal habitats. It has 24 miles of trails where people can hike, run, bike or ride horseback. Most of the trails are reserved just for pedestrians, including parents with strollers or joggers.

 A Nice Wide Path
Located about a mile into the park is the real attraction for families with young children - Deer Hollow Farm. This is an educational, working farm; you are not allowed to pet or feed the livestock (and they do refer to the animals as livestock), but this doesn't stop children from loving the place. I can't tell you how many times over the years I have visited Deer Hollow Farm - with and without my children. The whole experience, which includes walking the one mile trail through the valley to the farm, is wonderful every time.

View of the main parking lot (often full), taken from 1 of 2 upper parking lots.

Next to the upper parking lot is a field reserved for flying model airplanes!

The path down from the upper parking lots has a great view.

There are clean bathrooms and a water fountain in the lower (main) parking lot. There are also stretching bars for the many runners who frequent this place.

Picnic grounds located across the little bridge leading from the main parking lot.

Beautiful view of the meadow from the main trail (to the farm).

Upper view of the meadow

Good signage along the trail

It is common to see wildlife during your mile walk through the valley to the farm. The animals are used to human activity so you often see squirrels, deer, rabbits, quail, wild turkey, hawks, kites. Once I saw a coyote and even some bobcat kittens! I've also seen rattlesnakes, but not very often. Still, it's good to watch your step, especially near the grass.

Now, for Deer Hollow Farm, the reward at the end of the main trail. Deer Hollow Farm calls itself a teaching farm that is visited by about 5000 students from 50 Bay Area elementary schools. It is also visited by countless numbers of families with children. Children can peer through and over enclosures to see chickens, geese, rabbits, cows, goats, sheep and even pigs. In the Spring there are often babies. There is also a well planned vegetable garden on view.

Just beyond the animal enclosures and vegetable garden there is a huge old barn. There are picnic tables inside and even a small stage. This is a great place to picnic and rest. Your young children will  love to dance around the stage. And just beyond the barn is a large, clean outhouse (2 stalls) with soap dispensers. There is also another water fountain on the trail just outside the barn.

If you go: Deer Hollow Farm is open daily from 8 am to 4 pm but is closed on Mondays and Wednesday afternoons. The surrounding trails of Rancho San Antonio however, are open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Directions: From Hwy 280, north or south, take the Foothill Boulevard exit, go south, and turn right immediately onto Cristo Rey Drive. Continue about 1 mile and veer right around the traffic circle, staying on Cristo Rey Drive. Turn left into the County Park entrance.
A note about the runners: The trails within Rancho are very popular with runners. In fact, if you come here on the weekend, the parking lots will often by full by 7 or 8 am! I've often been frustrated - trying to listen to birdsong and the breeze - only to hear pounding feet, panting and conversation from passing runners! So I channeled my frustration into an amusing vignette told from a rabbit's point of view. I actually experienced a rabbit attack like the one described, but it was from a "domesticated" rabbit in my own backyard.

 Alternative Parking:  If you are arriving after 8AM on a weekend, plan on parking near Kent Drive and St. Joseph Ave in Los Altos. From these residential streets, walk down St. Joseph to where it dead-ends under the 280 overpass. Then take the trail just past that on the right. It will meet up with the main trail from the Rancho parking lot after about 1/3 mile. You will emerge near the old tennis courts in the preserve. Turn right and walk toward the large sign that showcases a map of all the trails. You will see signs pointing toward Deer Hollow Farm.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Joyful Bark

A Bearded Collie Enjoying the Course

My daughter wishes we had a dog, but we have two cats and I know how much care a dog requires (having had them before), so - we have two cats and that's where we stop. But - she got a great "dog fix" on May 4, when we watched an AKC All Breed Agility Trial at the Cubberley Community Center in Palo Alto. The public will soon have a chance to view more agility trials at Cubberley. I will give you the information at the end of this blog.

An agility trial is a demonstration of teamwork between the dog handler and the dog. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), "agility demonstrates teamwork through a timed obstacle course of jumps, tunnels, and weave poles." I would also add that it showcases the dogs great happiness as they run the course. Many of them give great joyful barks as they are led to the start. One young Australian Shepherd was so excited, he continually barked throughout his race, even jumping and barking mid-air!

So Happy!

There were two rings set up on the day we went. One was a "Standard," with a teeter, A-Frame and agility obstacles; the other was for "Jumpers," consisting of jumps, tunnels and weave poles. You can read more about these obstacles here.

Who Wouldn't Want to Run through these Candy Cane Poles?

The dog owners were all very nice, answering questions and letting my daughter pet their dogs (she always asked first). We made sure not to bother anyone when they were just heading to or coming from the ring. Also, we learned that you should stand about two feet back from the obstacle course fence, so you don't disturb the dogs.

My Daughter with a Beautiful Border Collie

 My friend Lisa Spector, co-founder and pianist on the canine calming music series Through a Dog's Ear, competed with her beautiful black lab - Gina. At one point during their run, Lisa actually fell but was able to signal to her dog to complete the jump. Lisa then got up and they finished the course. You can see a video of her "epic save," right here. Lisa and Gina got the whole crowd cheering!

Lisa Spector and Gina
There were all sizes of dogs, from very large . .

Actually a "smaller" Great Dane

 . . to very small.

I Think this is a Norfolk Terrier

Cubberley Community Center will be the venue for two upcoming agility trials:

The Bay Team is hosting the USDAA (United States Dog Agility of America) Trials, which will be held on May 31 and June 1 with a starting time of 8AM.

The RBTF (Redwood Belgian Tervuren Fanciers) will host the AKC All Breed Licensed Agility Trial on June 7 and 8, also starting at 8AM.

If you go: the dog trials at the Cubberley Community Center take place outside, on the green recreation fields. Don't forget to wear sunscreen, you might want to bring a hat, blanket or chair, food and definitely water. Oh yes - these are free events! Can't beat that for budget.

Cubberley Community address:
4000 Middlefield Drive, Palo Alto, CA
Phone: 650-329-2418

Have fun and give a joyful bark!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Part 2 - Taking the Kids to Half Moon Bay

So -  Part 1 left off with a "starving" 12 year old boy who needed his lunch, cutting short our time at Devil's Slide.  I decided to take them to Pillar Point Harbor, south on HWY 1 and just north of Half Moon Bay. We pulled into the harbor entrance and parked at the nearest restaurant - Caffe Mezzaluna, just inside and to the right of the entrance.

Relatively inexpensive, sort of . .
The mini-pizza was good, the clam chowder bowl was too small.
After lunch we explored the Harbor Village shops (see top photo - it's the gray and glass building behind the cafe). Unfortunately, this place was a ghost town with just a few stores and zero shoppers. Fortunately it had an old fashioned taffy candy store with barrels full of different flavored taffy. Unfortunately (remind you of a book anyone?) my kids have braces and can't eat taffy!

So we got back in the car and re-parked closer to the actual harbor. Standing at the pier, we enjoyed the view of moored fishing boats under an overcast sky and listened to the halyards gently ringing throughout the marina. We also had fun reading out loud some of the clever names owners had given their boats, which, unfortunately, I can't recall now.

Moored Fishing Boats and Pleasure Craft

Just Having Fun

Before leaving the harbor we stopped by the bathrooms and saw this memorial to fishermen lost at sea. Most marinas in the US have a memorial of some sort because sadly, commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations there is.

We left the harbor and drove south to HWY 92 where I turned left, and left again, into a store parking lot. This surprised my kids - "Why are we stopping here?", but I had an even bigger surprise - a visit to the Pilarcitos Cemetary, located at the intersection of HWY 1 and HWY 92.

"Oh no. WHY do you always want to see old cemeteries?"
"Because it's interesting history!"

We never stay too long; it does get sad after a bit.

I've always wanted to explore this cemetery.
The Catholic Church established Pilarcitos Cemetery in 1820 as the burial ground of Christianized Indians who died in the coastal area between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. Sadly, the cemetary is  unkempt, with some broken down head stones and discarded liquor bottles. My daughter was so moved by the litter strewn about one grave site that she asked if we had a plastic bag so we could clean it up (we didn't, nor gloves). Still, it was picturesque and a bit of "interesting history."

We left there and continued driving up HWY 92, but I had one last place I wanted to visit - the awesome metal dinosaur sculptures at Spanish Town.

Hold on to your hat - these sculptures are awesome!

They also sell a huge amount of fountains and other sculptures.

Tired kids, tired Mom, next stop - home. Hope this gives you some ideas of what to see in Half Moon Bay! There's so much more than this. I will be back to blog again.