Tag Archives: bike trail

Guadalupe River Trail

Guadalupe River Trail through downtown San Jose

Guadalupe River Trail through downtown San Jose

Today we took a bike ride on the northern end of the Guadalupe River Trail. Tom and I have ridden the southern end, which is called the Upper Guadalupe River Trail from Chynoweth to Almaden Lake but have never attempted the lower end. The Guadalupe River starts in the Santa Cruz Mountains and flows northwards to the San Francisco Bay at Alviso. The Guadalupe River Trail more or less follows my route to work and recently parts of it have been paved over. It now runs continuously from the heart of San Jose to Alviso.

It was early when we started out and even though the sun was up, it felt a little chilly. We drove into San Jose along Monterey/Route 82 to Woz Way. We thought parking would be easy on a Sunday but we were wrong. There were a couple of car parks open but one charged $5 and the other $7, so we decided to park on the street somewhere. Finding a street where parking was allowed was impossible but we were lucky to find a parking meter right next the the trail. As it was Sunday, parking was free so we lucked out.

When I checked the route the night before it looked as if the trail ran along each side of the river but I was wrong. We started on the west side, riding through a little park with the purple painted Children’s Discovery Museum on our left hand side. It was all very pretty with information boards along the way and an elegant footbridge in the center of San Jose. The trail on the west petered out and we had to negotiate a couple of hairpin bends to cross over the river and join the trail on the other side.

It was interesting to ride through parts of San Jose I had never seen before and there were a number of parks along the way. For the most part it was picturesque. When we passed under Highway 87 we spotted a pair of ducks busily supervising their nine ducklings. There was a more depressing side of it as well as we passed a number of homeless people asleep in their sleeping bags with all their possessions next to them in shopping carts under the bridges and underpasses.

Giant hands covering a parking garage at the San Jose Airport

We passed the HP Pavilion – home of the Sharks – on our left as we rode through another park called Arena Green.  Here there was a big children’s playground which also had a carousel. Sadly, due to the budget cuts, it has been temporarily closed down. We saw a sign ahead which said ‘Trail Detour Ahead” and once again we had to dog leg up and cross to the other side. We could see why there was a detour because an event was being set up with stalls. We never did find out what the event was for even though I checked online when I got home. I discovered there was a Fantasy Fair being held somewhere on the Guadalupe River Trail that day or it could have been something to do with ‘Little Italy’ which we cycled through shortly afterwards. I never knew there was an area or, to be more precise, three areas close by, in San Jose called Little Italy. We passed a few restored houses where new businesses were opening up. Might be worth doing a walk around the area one day.

Once again we found ourselves crossing over to the other side. After we had cycled under Coleman Avenue we found ourselves in an area called Guadalupe Gardens where a maze of trails intersected. By following the broken yellow line in the middle of the trail, we were able to stay on course. It is here that the Heritage Rose Garden can be found. Yet another trip of discovery to be made in the future.

Once passing under Taylor Street we encountered more trails off to the left. On my way home from work in the evening, I drive down Coleman and through the middle of San Jose and never knew this trail even existed. To think there is this oasis of peace between Coleman and the ever busy Highway 87. Until recently there was a huge homeless camp between the trail and Coleman Avenue but about a month ago it was completely cleared away and there appears to be no trace of it left. I wonder where they all went?  About the time we cycled under Hedding Street, we caught our first whiff of jet fuel and knew we were approaching San Jose Airport.

Before long we were passing under 880 and the end of the runway. We saw a sign showing how much parking cost at the airport.  Would you believe it costs $30 an hour to park but it is only $22 to park all day.  I know which car park to head for in the future. (I found out afterwards that the sign is misleading.  $30 is the daily maximum in the hourly lot). Soon we were passing the parking structure. This building has received a lot of criticism since it was built in 2010 not only because public parking is only available on the first level (rental cars take up all the other floors) but also for the public art on the outside. It depicts a lot of hands gesturing either ‘welcome’ or ‘farewell’. I’ve read that some people find it creepy saying it looks more like ghoulish hands rising from the grave. For the record, I quite like it because it is different.  For the last few years I have passed it many times on Highway 87 but today I was able to view it much closer. Tom noticed that there are two layers to the artwork. The mesh behind is just a back drop and the hands are made up with white plastic disks, 368,718 of them to be precise.  The artist is Christian Moeller and the hands were modelled by Silicon Valley residents.

Guadalupe River Trail heading towards Alviso

Guadalupe River Trail heading towards Alviso

We continued parallel with the runway and rode past the terminals. The trail crossed a bridge and we were once again on the east side of the Guadalupe River. Then we rod under 101 and suddenly we were in the country, or so it seemed. On our right we had a huge expanse of green fields and the river flowed serenely on our left. As we rounded a bend we spotted a blue heron standing motionless in the river. We must have startled him as he took off and disappeared. There were ducks swimming around and a couple of pairs of Canadian Geese were noisily calling to each other. The sun was shining and it was a pleasure to be out enjoying our exercise.

The next underpass was at Trimble Road. It was here in 2005 that the fossilized bones of a Columbian Mammoth were found. They are on exhibit at the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose. It was on this stretch of the trail that we passed the back of the old Rockwell Collins facility in San Jose which closed down a few years ago. In my previous job I visited the place on many occasions and it brought back many memories including the BBQs which were held at the rear of the building. The building has remained unoccupied since then and it is sad to see.

We turned back when we reached Montague Expressway. Our intention is to return soon to finish the journey from here to the mouth of the Guadalupe River in Alviso.


Coyote Hills

Looking west from the Coyote Hills Regional Park

Looking west from the Coyote Hills Regional Park

When Tom and I discussed where we would go the day before, we realized that we hadn’t been to Coyote Hills Regional Park for over five years so it was about time we revisited. It was extremely difficult though to drag myself out of bed the next day, especially when I saw it was a cold and frosty morning.

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

Coyote Hills Regional Park is not too far away from home for us; just a short drive up 101, across the Dumbarton Bridge to the East Bay, then turn left on Passo Padre Parkway. Look for the brown Coyote Hills sign and turn left again, There is an entrance fee for cars entering the park ($5) but lots of people park outside and walk or cycle in to avoid the fee.

When we got out of the car, the temperature was 39 degrees but the sun made it feel warmer. We have been here several times in the past and have always parked near the Visitors Centre. This time though we turned into the first one we saw, namely the Quarry Staging Area. No other cars were parked there at all. Even before I got out of the car I spotted a bird I didn’t recognize. I thought it might be a wren but then changed my mind. It was a plump, mostly brown bird with a lighter patch on the top of its head.

Lots of birds at Coyote Hills Regional Park

Lots of birds at Coyote Hills Regional Park

There was a trail leading upwards but we took a short cut to a trail off to our right. Patches of water and tall reeds were on on either side of the trail. The frosty grass and the drops of dew on the reeds glistened in the sun. We heard muted bird calls around and at first we could not see any birds. Slowly we spotted them; a few more like the one in the car park flitting from trees to reeds; a couple of Canada Geese motionless out on a small open patch of water and a few ducks bustling around them. Then, out in the distance, I could see hundreds of ducks which appeared to be swimming on grass. When I checked them out through my binoculars I could see that the ‘grass’ turned out to be marsh and there were lots of open patches of water amongst it.

A Northern Harrier at Coyote Hills Regional Park

A Northern Harrier at Coyote Hills Regional Park

Tom spotted two hawk like birds high in the branches of a tree. They were easy to spot because there were no leaves on the tree and the birds were mainly white. At first I thought they were Osprey but when I looked closer I changed my mind. A ranger happened to be passing by and he stopped to chat. We asked him what sort of birds they were but he wasn’t sure either. As soon as I got home and checked all my bird books and the internet I concluded they were Northern Harriers. The ranger told us that there were lots of birds here over-wintering and, in fact, there were about 300 white Pelicans on the other side. I remember last time we came we did see a lot of white Pelicans from the Chochenyo trail.

Continuing on our walk, we came to a cross road. The Meadowlark trail was off to the left but we went straight across and joined the Bayview trail. We started to climb and slowly the Bay came into view with the Dumbarton Bridge off to the south. Closer to land were lots of ponds walled off from the Bay by thin mud levees. Once upon a time these were salt beds but are now being reclaimed and returned to their natural habitat as a wildlife refuge mostly for migrating birds. Shielding our eyes from the sun, we drank in the tranquil view. We continued to follow the trail round several headlands. As soon as we started to round the headlands, the sun disappeared and we were in shadow. Immediately the temperature dropped and it became decidedly chilly.

We didn’t quite have the place to ourselves. Several solo cyclists passed us and now and then joggers ran by. Nearly every single one of them greeted us with a smile and a ‘good morning’. The folks are real friendly here. In the distance, several headlands away, we spotted a bench perched on top of a hill. Ah, I thought, that is what I’m aiming for.

Each time we changed direction, we got a different view – Palo Alto off to the west where we clearly saw the Hoover Tower at Stanford, San Mateo Bridge and Oakland to the north and Moffett Field to the south. Tom even spotted the Sutro Tower in San Francisco, which was barely visible in the far distance. It was a glorious day to be out walking in the sunshine.

View from Coyote Hills Regional Park. A little chilly but quite peaceful.

View from Coyote Hills Regional Park. A little chilly but quite peaceful.

We walked the Bayview trail until we came to the Soaproot trail and there we turned right. This trail leads over the hill but we came across the bench a little way along. It was conveniently placed to view the whole bay from the Dumbarton Bridge up to the SanMateo Bridge. I immediately started to write but it was difficult. This time the trouble was caused by the bench itself and not the sun making the screen impossible to see. Although I have long leg,s I had to sit almost on the edge for my feet to reach the ground. By doing this, it made my thighs slope and the iPad kept slipping down. On top of that, as it was so cold, I had gloves on and it was difficult to type on the keyboard. It would have been impossible to type with gloves on the inbuilt iPad keyboard but I am lucky enough now have a Logitech keyboard. Tom gave me his pack to put my feet on and that did improve the situation for a bit. We would have stayed there longer but the bench was in an exposed position and eventually the cold made us move on.

Onwards and upward we climbed. At the top of the hill we looked down on the marshes and I tried to work out how we could find our way back to where we parked the car. Tom took his time walking down the hill by stopping every now and then to take photos. I strode on. At one point I came to a junction where two trails met and decided to keep on the Soaproot trail as it continued downward. I just hoped that Tom would realize which way I went. At the bottom of the hill I looked and and was glad to see that Tom had indeed taken the same route as I had and he soon joined me. I had began to follow the Bayview trail but Tom pointed out that I was going the wrong way. At first I didn’t believe him but he proved to be right (but then his sense of direction has always been better than mine). Before long I recognized places we had seen on the way out – the ducks swimming in the grass and the tree where the Northern Harrier had been. Back in the car park there were a few more cars parked but it was no where near being full.

It was time to find somewhere to have breakfast. Palo Alto was the nearest place we knew we would be lucky, so that is the direction we took. The car was warm and it felt so nice to be able to feel my fingers again. Coyote Hills has so many trails and we can’t wait to get back again to try a few more of them out.



Embarcadero Bike Ride, San Francisco

Caltrain Station in San Francisco

Caltrain Station in San Francisco

Something Tom and I have been wanting to do for sometime is to take our bikes into

San Francisco and take a ride once again along the Embarcadero. Today is the day. The weather forecast is warm (unlike on the east coast and in the Midwest where they are experiencing some of the worst winter storms in decades).

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

We left home at 7 am, with the bikes firmly attached to the bike rack, and drove up to Milbrae. We did consider taking the train all the way but the journey takes one and a half hours, so we compromised by driving part way. This will be the first time we have taken the bikes on Caltrains, so it will be an adventure.

AT&T Park and Giants fans lining for Fan Fest Day

AT&T Park and Giants fans lining for Fan Fest Day

The whole train experience was not too bad. Parking was easy and at the weekend there is no charge. To buy tickets we had to take the elevator up. Round trip tickets to the city were $8 each. Then it was down in another elevator to the platform. We had a fifteen minute wait for the train. I noticed that there were quite a few fellow passengers wearing SF Giants apparel so we asked someone if there was something special going on at AT&T Park. Indeed there was. Today is Fans Fest day and were told the train would be packed.

On Caltrains, the first and fourth carriages are for bikes. We got into the first carriage and there were a lot of bikes but we managed to squeeze ours in. Upstairs there was a single row of seats on both sides. There was just one on each side so Tom and I sat separately. At each stop, more and more Giants fans boarded the train. That is going to be one excited gathering, all of them eager to celebrate the Giant’s success in the World Series.

Note from Tom: Baseball  is quintessentially American.  But the nerve of us calling it the “World Series”.  I know it doesn’t make much sense but the game, in person, is wonderful.  Our San Francisco Giants are the best of the best and it’s the first time this has happened in over fifty years.

At the terminal we waited until most of the passengers had disembarked before we left the train. The platform was a mass of grey, orange and black. As it might be some time before we find another restroom, I decided to pay a visit at the station. Fifteen minutes later I made my way back to Tom. Once on King Street, we walked our bikes on the sidewalk looking for coffee. There was a line outside Starbucks so we walked on. The crowds outside the ballpark filled the sidewalk. We did plan to take a ride round the back to take a look at the park but it was impossible to get through the people.

Looking across the bay to the Port of Oakland

Looking across the bay to the Port of Oakland

We stopped for coffee at Cafe Pasquita. It was a good choice. even though it was right opposite the ballpark, it wasn’t crowded. We sat at a table in the window so we could keep an eye on our bikes. The seats were white leather and comfortable. Tom had his usual black coffee and I had hot chocolate. Then it was back to pushing our bikes. On the other side of the road the line of fans stretched almost to the Bay Bridge. At Townsend we crossed the road and attempted to get to the back of the ballpark but once again we were thwarted. Just too many people. Tom stopped to take photos and I found a convenient seat and got out my iPad. Nearby there were some fitness fanatics exercising under the watchful eyes of a couple of trainers. A sign informed me that they are members of Body Mechanix. Looks like far too much hard work for me! It was hot sitting there with the sun beating down. It is turning out to be a glorious day.

Pier 14. Just sittin' on the dock of the bay, wasting time.  Life is tough.

Pier 14. Just sittin' on the dock of the bay, wasting time. Life is tough.

Our next stop was almost under the Bay Bridge between Red’s Java House and the Hi Dive bar. Tom pointed out the old clock on the front of the Hi Dive with it’s neon sign advertising Belfast Water. The seat I sat on had a clear view of the cranes at the Port of Oakland on the other side of the bay.

Some of these old haunts will have to make way for the redevelopment coming when San Francisco hosts the America’s Cup races in 2013.

Once past the Bay Bridge we stopped again. We noticed two new buildings and I went to investigate. They were brand new restaurants – Waterfront and Epic. They both look worthy of a visit when we are up in the city for an evening meal. Tom took photos of the huge bow and arrow sculpture. The backdrop behind it were high rise buildings.

The Embarcadero in San Francisco and the sculpture called Cupid's Span

The Embarcadero in San Francisco and the sculpture called Cupid's Span

Just before the ferry building we halted again at the end of Pier 14. At the beginning of the pier were some paintings on tiles of assorted watercraft. The pier is lined with single, metal swiveling chairs. While Tom took photos I sat on one of the chairs and it was fun. With very little effort on my part I was revolving at great speed. I bet the kids love these seats. You get a remarkable 360 degree view of the bay. From there I had a good view of the ferry building and the farmers market which is held every Saturday.

There is a new sculpture on the Embarcadero called ‘The Raygun Gothic Rocketship’ which is part of a revolving display of sculptures which are displayed at this spot. This one is by a group of artists and the sculpture was placed in position by Five Ton Crane (5TC). There was a stand nearby called Local Earth with a time table displayed which gave the impression you could travel to Mars, Jupiter 3, Centaurus, Pluto and Europa.

Cycling past the Ferry Building we noticed that the stalls are now not only behind the building but in front as well. It is a very popular place to be on a Saturday and there were many people busily shopping. Street entertainers amused the crowds. It was about here that three stretch limos passed us with an escort of police motorcyclists. I wonder who is in town?

Transamerica building taken from Pier 7 along the Embarcadero in San Francisco

Transamerica building taken from Pier 7 along the Embarcadero in San Francisco

We took a detour along the waterfront on a public promenade, passing various ships including the paddle-ship ‘San Francisco Belle’ and the ‘Hornblower’ dinner cruise ship. Further along we rode out onto Pier 7 with its rough timber plank walkway. At the end were benches so I once again sat down and started typing. There was a lot going on. Pilots boats were moored at the adjacent pier and we watched one pull in and moor up. A fire boat passed by and a noisy jet ski screamed round the pier. Cycling back towards the Embarcadero there were good views of the Transamerica Pyramid and Coit Tower.

We cycled as far as the turning for North Beach. There we turned round and made our way back to the train station, taking a couple of short detours along the way. Tom was searching for a good spot to get a photo of the Transamerica Pyramid but all to no avail. There was a lot of traffic around. As we passed the Ferry Building, the clock struck 12. It sounded a lot like Big Ben. There was still a large crowd outside the ballpark and more people turning up as well. A lot of fans though were making their way home. The combination of people and traffic was a bit chaotic.

As we were hungry, we stopped again at Cafe Pasquita. This time we sat outside under an arcade. It felt good to get out of the sun. We sat there enjoying a sandwich, listening to the loudspeaker from the ballpark and watching the people walk by. The journey from there back to Milbrae went smoothly.

What an absolutely fantastic day we had. The weather was unbelievable and we saw lots of intriguing, amusing and downright beautiful sights.

Marin Cross Trail (Sir Francis Drake Bikeway)

Marin Cross Trail

Marin Cross Trail

On a beautiful morning in late fall we tried out a new bike ride (at least for us) in Marin called the Marin Cross Trail. When I did a little research I discovered it is also called the Sir Francis Drake Bikeway. Tom came across mention of the trail in ‘Weekend Sherpa’, which is free weekly email newsletter.

It took roughly one and a half hours to reach the beginning of the trail (not including our breakfast stop at The Barefoot Cafe). The trail parallels Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and the start is on Platform Bridge Road, which was a turning on the right not far past Samuel P Taylor State Park. We parked in a small pullout. There were no other cars there. To get to the trail we had to cross an aging concrete bridge with a 5 ton weight limit. The actual beginning was signposted at the end of the bridge where we turned left. The trail is along the track of the North Pacific Coast Railroad, which used to run from Larkspur to Cazadero.

There had been quite a bit of rain over the previous few days and the trail was wet and covered in damp leaves. In fact water could be heard dripping from the trees at the side of the trail. Down below the sound of a babbling creek could be heard. This was the Lagunitas Creek which flows into Tomales Bay. When Tom stopped to take photos I checked it out. The first winter rains had set the creek in motion. I could hear cars passing on the nearby Sir Francis Drake Boulevard but they could not be seen.

Fall Color along the Marin Cross Trail

Fall Color along the Marin Cross Trail

Tom is looking for fall colors but there was not too much be be seen. Towering redwoods were the dominant trees and they don’t lose their leaves in the autumn. Further along the trail we were out in the open. On our left, grassy hills rose steeply. Cattle were grazing. Here the sun could be seen and felt. Then we were riding through redwoods again where only the occasional shaft of sunlight found it’s way through the trees.

There was not much traffic on the trail – some couples taking a walk and the odd cyclist of two. Back in the shade again we passed a sign which informed us we were entering the Samuel P Taylor Park. Tom stopped to take some photos of some magnificent redwoods. The base of the redwoods were below the level of the trail and by running my eyes up the trunk of one of them I could only see the canopy by craning my neck. Looking back to the base I noticed that three huge trees formed a large circle. The first generation redwood originally stood in that circle and one can only imagine what the size of that tree would have been. We stopped again where there was a good view of the creek. At that point the creek was wide with trees leaning over the water. Upstream a whole tree had fallen across the creek.

The ride became more interesting as a series of information boards gave the history of the surrounding area. Back in the second half of the 19th century there was not only a thriving paper mill and a dam but a small town called Taylorville here. Although the boards described the mill, the railway, the ox cart trail and Camp Taylor, it did not tell me about the man. For that I had to wait until I got home. Samuel P Taylor was born in New York and came to San Francisco during the gold rush. He didn’t immediately rush off to the search for gold, although he did have some success in the 1850’s. He realized there was more money to be made in providing other commodities such as lumber. Once he had saved up enough money, he ventured into Marin and arrived in what is now Lagunitas. There he purchased some land and started building the first paper mill. Over the next few years he married and raised a family and developed other features on his property, including the first ever fish ladder in the west to enable the salmon to get over the dam he had built. When the North Pacific Railroad was built he encouraged holiday makers to come by building both a hotel and allowing people to camp on his land. One of the boards had a quote from ‘The Making of Marin’ by Jack Mason – “The mill, first class for its time….supplied every San Francisco newspaper with newsprint. If the Bolinas schooner was late, so were the papers.”

Lagunitas Creek winding along the Marin Cross Trail

Lagunitas Creek winding along the Marin Cross Trail

As we cycled on we caught the smell of wood smoke and then we passed a campsite. Even though the weather was mild I was surprised at the number of people camping. It is nice to know that people still come to this area to camp, so carrying on the Camp Taylor tradition. The asphalt road ran out soon afterward and we were on a gravel road. We spotted some blue plastic tufts planted in the roadway and were curious as to what they were. There were about four in a line. Soon we saw some more and then we kept seeing them.  They were obviously markers of some sort but we are still wandering what they could have been marking.

We didn’t quite make it to the end of the trail because our time was running out. The ride back was exhilarating for two reasons. The first being we had views of the creek nearly all the way and the second because it was mostly down hill. I had not even realized that we had been traveling up hill on the way south because it seemed level but there must have been a slight rise.

The Marin Cross Trail is a very good bike ride and we would love to come again some time.

Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve

Couple of kayakers and an egret at Palo Alto Baylands

Couple of kayakers and an egret at Palo Alto Baylands

After our breakfast at Bill’s, we made our way to Palo Alto. As it was the rush hour, we took a circuitous route. Our destination was The Baylands Nature Preserve to the east of 101 next to Palo Alto Airport and just north of Shoreline and Moffett Field. We parked in the Byxbee Park car park. There were several other cars there but mostly they were dropping off children for a day camp.  As we unloaded our bikes and got our bearings, the children were being gathered together before they set off on their hike. One of the organizers was explaining to the children all the wildlife which co-exist within the preserve, including the Burrowing Owl.

Part of the site had previously been a landfill but has now been covered in clay and topsoil and turned into park, which has incorporated art into the design. There was a trail uphill which passed a lot of the outdoor sculpture but we headed towards the bay on the Adobe Creek Loop Trail. To our right was Mayfield Slough. The tide was in and at first we did not see a lot of birds. We spotted a lone white pelican on the water.

At first we did not see any other cyclists. There were a few joggers, one with his dog running alongside. It was a chilly morning and a slight breeze ruffled my hair. The sound of birds could be heard. Overhead small planes were coming in to land at the nearby airport. Along the first part of the trail there were quite a few benches. Further on, when I needed to sit down and write, there were no benches.

We crossed a bridge where the slough entered from the bay. Out on the bay a couple of kayakers were heading for shore. A hungry tern performed a marvelous diving demonstration and he kept us captivated for some time.

(Click on the photos for larger versions)

White Pelicans at Palo Alto Baylands

White Pelicans at Palo Alto Baylands

A little further on we began to see a lot more birds. A mother duck was busily trying to keep control of five ducklings. Both Snowy and Greater Egrets were concentrating of finding breakfast. I spotted a Black Crowned Night Heron standing patiently on the far side of the slough. A couple of Black Phoebes were darting around snatching insects on the wing. Slowly a group of eight white pelicans swam into view. Normally the only pelicans I see are the brown pelicans which stay close to the ocean. White pelicans I have only seen frequenting wetlands and they are more striking than their brown counterparts.

What started out to be a chilly day turned into a really sunny one. We stopped so Tom could take some photos. In front of us now were hundreds of white pelicans in scattered groups on a couple of large islands in the slough.  There were other birds as well on the islands. It was an amazing site, all those white birds against a green background. I took the opportunity to park my bike as well and sat down on the pickleweed. I was moaning about there not being any benches around but, quite frankly, that pickleweed made a very comfortable seat. I took my helmet and gloves off and leaned back to admire the view. I could see cars in the distance on 101 but not hear them. What an extremely pleasant way to while away the time.

More and more people were out enjoying the walk on the loop trail. Groups of friends taking a leisurely walk and talking animatedly; mothers with their young children; older couples walking hand in hand and serious joggers. There were quite a few cyclists as well and one couple stopped to talk to us. They said this was one of their favorite places to ride their bikes and come here often. During the conversation they asked if we had seen the flamingo. What, were they kidding us? But no, there was one. At first I couldn’t see it but eventually located it way out to the west. It’s long thin legs were difficult to spot but when it lowered it’s distinctive long neck into the water, it was easier to identify. The only place you are likely to see flamingos in the US are in Florida. This one had obviously escaped from captivity. Normally they are bright pink but, as far as I could see, the one frequenting Baylands is not pink at all. It has been at Baylands for a couple of months now. You just never know what you are going to see!

Whole bunch of White Peicans at Palo Alto Baylands

Whole bunch of White Pelicans at Palo Alto Baylands

From my vantage point on the pickleweed I could see the distinctive roof over the Shoreline Amphitheatre. I watched the airship rise into the air from Moffat Field and glide gracefully westward. A company called Airship Ventures provides tours of Silicon Valley and even up to San Francisco. Wouldn’t that be an adventure?

We resumed our bike ride seeing more and more birds. Up ahead we could see a whole colony of white pelicans. Overhead another half a dozen flew in to join them. When I looked back I saw several more groups flying in. Obviously it was time for all the white pelicans in the vicinity to gather and catch up on the news of the day.

Our original plan was to cycle round the complete loop but the couple we were talking to said the final part is on roads and is not very interesting, so we decided to turn round and go back the way we had come. The sun was blazing down and the light was no longer any good to take photographs. Besides, the number of people now on the trail made negotiating round them a bit of a chore.

The Baylands is a really great place to get out and take a walk and to enjoy the birds. Lets make the most of our wetlands before they completely disappear.  We shall certainly be back, so look out for us.

Coyote Creek Bike Trail

Coyote Creek Bike Trail

Early morning on the Coyote Creek Bike Trail.

It has been ages since we have been on a bike ride and so we are now putting that right. During the week Tom checked both bikes and had to put new tires on his before they were fit to be ridden again. Early in the morning we set off down Monterey Road to try and find the place we finished the Coyote Creek Bike Trail last time way back in April 2008. We had a big problem finding the right place as we couldn’t cross Monterey Road for some time because of the concrete barrier running down the middle. Eventually we turned down an unnamed road leading to the Santa Clara County Model Aircraft Skypark. On our right we passed an orchard and it was obviously picking time because we saw a lot of ladders and buckets down the aisles between the trees. Tom stopped the car and we went to investigate to see what sort of fruit was growing and it turned out to be cherries. A little further up the road we saw the early morning pickers starting out on their shift.

At the end of the road there was a packing factory on the left and just past that there was a locked gate across the way. There was room to park the car just before it so we did just that and unloaded the bikes. While I waited for Tom to load up his camera gear, I watched a Black Phoebe perched on a sign singing away. Every so often it darted away to catch an insect and back it came again to resume its singing. It was easy to get around the gate and we set off down towards the Model Aircraft Skypark. There was a lake on the right hand side and it was obviously a angling lake but I couldn’t see any fishermen.

Last time we finished our ride at the Model Aircraft Skypark and it didn’t take long to reach it this time. Back then it was a hive of activity and we sat and watched the planes flying around. This time there was nobody around at all and everything was locked up.

It was a chilly morning to begin with but the sun rose over the hill and before long it blazed down upon us. Early in the morning is the best time for a bike ride. There were very few people around to begin with – a lone jogger and several other bikers going the other way. In the near distance we could see cars traveling on 101 and, of course, we could hear them as well. A hawk was circling overhead and suddenly he swooped down and we lost sigh of him.

The trail passed under 101 and we were on the east side. Off to the right the creek was flowing close to the trail. A bit further along Tom stopped to take photos and I got off my bike, walked back to the creek and took some photos of my own. I saw a strange sight. On the other side, a man was approaching the creek carrying a large rock. He waded into the water and carefully placed it in the creek. I realized he was building stepping stones to cross the creek. I pondered why he was doing it but didn’t come up with any logical explanation other than he wanted to get to the other side. Maybe the creek is easy to cross normally but now there the water is high and flowing fast building a stepping stone bridge is the only way to cross over.

Deer spotted along the Coyote Creek Bike Trail

Deer spotted along the Coyote Creek Bike Trail

Back on our bikes we continued our ride. Some sections of this trail can be a bit boring but definitely this southern section is the prettiest. We spotted a doe and her partly grown fawn feeding not too far from us and stopped to watch. The mother lifted her head and twitched her ears. She probably couldn’t see us too well but she certainly knew we were there. We kept very still until they had both moved off.

We negotiated a bend and came upon a rest area. I’m sure the sign said Oak Rest Area but according to the official Coyote Creek Parkway trail map it is called Walnut Rest Area. It has picnic tables and the Sycamore Nature Trail can be accessed here. Not far past there we passed a big open sided shed. We thought it might once have been a packing shed but it doesn’t look as though it is used now.

Around another bend and we came to a long wooden footbridge. Our bikes made a noise as we crossed and it reminded me of the childrens story of ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’. Just beyond it was a sign warning about mountain lions and further on a map showing where mountain lions live. Next thing we knew we were passing houses and had reached the end of the path. I was a bit disappointed as I had expected the bike path to go all the way to Anderson Lake. By checking online when I got home I saw that there is a way to get to Anderson Lake but there were certainly no directions on the bike trail. All we could see was a correctional facility.

We turned and headed back to the car. This section was not as long as we expected but it felt good to have reached the end of the bike trail. After we had loaded the bikes we drove into Morgan Hill and stopped for bagels and coffee at Main Street Bagels in the middle of town. We sat outside and enjoyed watching the world go by and listened to the church bells ringing. On the way home along Monterey Road we stopped at a fruit stand and bought some cherries and apriums. I had never heard of apriums but they sure were good, if a little expensive at $15 a basket. Of course I had to look online for more information about apriums when I arrived home. An aprium is three quarters apricot and one quarter plum and looks like an apricot.

After this warm up session, we must plan our next ride. Our calendar is full for the next few weeks but hopefully soon we will be able to hit another bike trail.

Watsonville – Strawberry Fields Forever

Everybody getting ready for the Strawberry Fields Forever bike ride

Everybody getting ready for the Strawberry Fields Forever bike ride

Once again, we set out to do the 25 mile bike ride at the annual Strawberry Fields Forever event at Watsonville. Last year the day started out cold and foggy but today it is warm. As we drove out of the garage at 6 am, the temperature read 66 degrees. Watsonville is near the coast so it could well have been cold and foggy over there. Driving towards the Santa Cruz mountains on Highways 85 and 17, everything looked crisp and clear. Traffic was light and the sun shone. What more could we have asked for?

We passed or were passed by at least six vehicles hauling bikes. I wondered if they are all going to the same event. The nearer to Watsonville we got, the more bikes we saw. There were 1202 bikes taking part in the event. (Click on the images for larger versions)

Besides the 25 mile ride which Tom and I took part in, there were also a 100 kilometers and a 100 mile ride. Either one of those would have been just too much for us. We were not out to do it in a fast time. In fact, we made many stops. Tom had his camera of course and there were lots of photo ops. Last year, all the early starters were on the longer rides and Tom and I were the only ones for some time on the short ride.

When we turned off Highway 1 towards Watsonville and neared our destination, we saw lots of cyclists who had already started on their ride and when we approached the car park at Pajaro High School, the first lot was already full. There were certainly far more cyclists around than last year. Negotiating the car through the car park, with bikes being unloaded, people walking about and cyclists setting off, was hazardous.

While Tom unloaded our bikes, I went to register and to pick up the printed route. I was also given two red arm bands which were our meal tickets. I was under the impression that the 25 mile route did not get the lunch but I was not about to question it.

At 7.40 we set off, after covering ourselves in sun block of course. The first part was downhill and I knew that it would be a killer at the end of the ride.

At first there were three sets of arrows – green, yellow and red. We were following the green arrows. We turned right at the first set of lights. I should have checked the route map to see how far we had to go on Harkins Slough Road before our next turn but was relying on seeing the green arrows. Ahead I saw a hill and was bracing myself to get up it plus the sun block had got into my eyes and they were watering and that’s my excuse for missing the green arrow pointing to the right at Ohlone Parkway. We’d gone about three quarters of a mile before I stopped to check the map. Oh no, we have to climb up that hill again! Our situation was not as bad as another cyclist who had also stopped to check the map. She was on the 100 kilometer route and didn’t know she was supposed to follow the yellow arrows.

Eventually we were back on the right track. Our next instruction was to go 0.11 miles to the next turn but it was more like a mile. I thought we

Lettuce, lettuce and more lettuce.  They dont call this the salad bowl of America for nothing.

Lettuce, lettuce and more lettuce. They don't call this the "salad bowl of America" for nothing.

gone wrong again but I had been watching out for the green arrows and didn’t see any at all. Eventually we saw a green arrow and turned onto Beach Street. This is where the strawberry fields began. After nearly two miles we turned onto Thurwatcher Road and were once again sharing the route with the yellow and red arrows. Consequently there were suddenly more cyclists around. There were strawberries all around us and lots of them looked ready to be picked. They were growing right next to the road. It was so tempting not to stop and sample some, but we resisted.

Just before a bridge over Watsonville Slough we stopped so Tom could take photos. Quite a few cyclists asked if we were OK or whether we needed help but I assured them we were fine. I sat on a crash barrier and started writing. We heard a noise behind us and thought it was a tractor but then Tom spotted a model plan and told me where to look. We watched it climb, swoop and execute loops. What fun.

It is amazing how the faster cyclists could carry on conversations with each other as they rode along and they were going at a steady speed. Tom and I are just casual weekend cyclists and this year we were not in top form. We had only been out a couple of times on our bikes – once on a short trip round the neighborhood one evening and our visit to Alviso last weekend. At this stage in the ride our legs were beginning to complain.

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Alviso – Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge

Levees at Don Edwards in Alviso.  You can ride for miles.

Levees at Don Edwards in Alviso. You can ride for miles.

Oh, to be out again in the early morning and on such a beautiful day. After a long break from routine due to my recent visit to England and a series of wet and cold weekends, we were ready for some exercise.

The bikes were loaded onto the car the night before and at 6:15am we were on the road. Alviso was our destination and the salt marsh and the miles of easy riding on the levees were our goal.

Alviso gets better each time we drive through it and the Marina area has really improved. An area of 18.9 acres near the car park is now called the Alviso Marina County Park and there is an easy walking trail around it with lots of information boards along the way. Today though we are riding on the Alviso Slough Trail which starts from the car park and the first part of the trail is along the the short circular trail around the marina. Just past the first observation platform we turned right.

At this time in the morning, there is nobody else around. In fact the rabbits outnumber us. They sit in the middle of the trail and then turn tail and lope off to the side as we approach. Tom stops to take photos and a couple of American Avocets take exception to him being there, even though we were on the trail. They screeched and screamed and attempted to scare him off. I remember a few years back being dive bombed by terns on the other side of Don Edwards as we were riding the trail.

Last time we where here at Alviso, there was a dredger working and mounds of fresh clay lined the levees. The mounds are still there but they

Avocet.  This guy didnt want his picture taken.

Avocet. This guy didn't want his picture taken.

have rounded off and are beginning to be covered with pickleweed.

The water level appears to be lower because there are more mud islands out in the slough which I have never seen before. Either that or it is a very low tide.

We follow the trail over the railroad and stop to look north at the inaccessible ghost town of Drawbridge in the distance. As I have said before, it’s very tempting to walk the rails and to actually visit the town but I understand it is not safe at all because Drawbridge is slowly sinking into the marsh.

We pass a sign which says this trail is closed for duck hunting between October 18 and January 25, so it’s OK to ride it now. We don’t go too far because there are just too many bugs around. They were getting in our eyes, mouths and noses and we were covered in them.

Back over the rail tracks, we turn right. There are no trail markers out here so I have no idea which trail we are on. We just keep cycling and eventually we will either go round in a loop and arrive back where we started or we will have to turn back and try to remember which way we came. The levees seem to go on and on for miles.

Lone Egret

Lone Egret

Tom stopped in front of me and seemed to be pondering something so I stopped too. Then he pointed out the power lines overhead. I hadn’t noticed them at all but now Tom had pointed them out, it did seem strange to have them out here in the middle of nowhere with not a house or any sort of building in sight.

It was very peaceful out there with just the sound of the gulls and marsh birds. The American Avocets are making the greatest noise but the most common bird around is the Western Gull. A Red Kite passed overhead and circled over the slough.

We came to another junction and discussed which way to go but off to our right we spotted a flock of white pelicans, so the decision was made. There were about 15 of them and, to begin with, they were close to the levee but they moved off and were soon in a feeding frenzy. Pelicans are an unusual bird to look at with their long beaks with the big pouch underneath. Brown Pelicans are more common in California so it is always a rare treat to see white pelicans.

While Tom was taking photos, another couple on bikes came towards us. It was only after they had gone by that I realized I should have asked them if they were on a loop trail. We cycled on for another couple of miles but seemed to be moving further away from the start. As the hunger pangs were beginning to gnaw we decided to turn back. (I checked a trail map when I got home and it is actually called the Alviso Slough Trail Loop and it is 8.9 miles long so we could have carried on.)

The ride back was pretty uneventful until we were on the final stretch. Tom spotted a Red-tailed

White pelicans feeding

White pelicans feeding

Hawk sitting on a log beside the levee eating a rat. I’d ridden right past and had not noticed. I did hear Tom, who was several yards behind me, say ‘Whoa’. By the time I had stopped and turned, the hawk had flown away, clutching the rat in his talons. But he didn’t fly too far and I was able to watch through my binoculars. Tom didn’t have time though to get off his bike and set up his tripod and camera before the hawk had moved out of view.

There is nothing like getting up early and taking a bike ride before breakfast to get you into the right mood for the day ahead.

Wilder Ranch Bike Path

Once again we get an early start. Our route is over the Santa Cruz mountains on Highway 17.Wilder Ranch along the San Mateo coast Today it is overcast but as we climb it looks clearer ahead. Maybe there will be no fog on the coast.

We are trying out a new cycle path. When we participated in the Strawberry Fields Forever event a few weeks ago, one of the unicyclists recommended the path from Santa Cruz to the Wilder Ranch. Yesterday I went online to look for information but it took me quite a while to find out exactly where the route started in Santa Cruz.

On 17, as we crested the summit, the sun was out but we could see a lot of low fog down in the valley. It looked as though we were looking down on an immense lake with woody islands dotted around. The fog became thicker as we went downhill towards Scotts Valley.

After stopping for breakfast in Santa Cruz, we set out to find Chestnut Street. We found it before too long. Now we have to find Mission Street. It’s here we became confused. According to the map I printed yesterday, Mission Street runs parallel to Highway 1 but Highway 1 is Mission Street! We took a left turn and saw signs pointing to a bike path. Ah, that looks promising. Then we came to a cross street which said Mission Street. Maybe somewhere along the way Highway 1 veers away from Mission Street. Who cares, at least we are back on track. We drive to the end of Mission Street to where the bike path begins.

It is cold and foggy and the seats on our bikes are damp. Tom wanted to borrow my leggings. Fat chance of that!

The bike path runs by the side of Highway 1. How many times have we driven along this stretch of road and we never knew there was a bike path there.

From here we cannot see the ocean. To the left are cultivated fields but we know they run down to the ocean. The path is reasonable. Along the way we see are clumps of California Poppies, refusing to open just yet as the day is not warm enough.

Before long we reach Wilder Ranch. It opens at 8 and the time is now 7.55 but we are able to ride round the gate.

The history of the ranch is fascinating. Roundabout 1841 the original adobe house was built by Don Jose Antonio Bolcoff and it was named the Rancho Rufugio. Balcoff was also responsible for starting the dairy.  In 1854 Moses A Melder foreclosed on loans and acquired the property. He built a house, now called Meder House, and several barns. In 1871 Delos D Wilder and L K Baldwin formed a partnership and acquired the land.  They had the reputation of ‘making the finest butter’.  The partnership was dissolved in 1185 and D.D Wilder secured the lower half of the land of roughly 2,330 acres which became the Wilder Ranch.  He built a large addition to the ranch house in 1990.  Five generations of the Wilder family lived and worked the ranch and in December 1975 the property became a State Park.

Wilder Ranch windowTom stops to take photos of some of the buildings and four horses in a field.  All is quiet except for bursts of bird song.  Thre is nobody else around.  A ranger turns up in a truck and starts checking and opening buildings and we spot two other visitors. This is a haven for mountain bikers because of the bike paths radiating from Wilder Ranch.  To the ocean side there are the easy ones on the buff top but there is a tunnel under Highway 1 which leads to a multitude of trails up to the mountains.  All bikers have to dismount and walk through the ranch.

I stand and watch the chickens who are safely caged up.  Maybe later in the day they will be allowed to wander free. The ranger parks nerarby and I ask her about the different bike trails.  She very kindly gave me a map.  We chat for a bit and she recounted a story about the chickens.  Early one morning she was nearby when she heard the chickens get excited.  She assumed it was because they saw her and thought they were going to be fed, so she ignored them.  Later she was devastated to find out that a bobcat had got into the hen house and outside run and had killed all the chickens bar one rooster.  The bobcat came back the next night and killed him too.

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Upper Guadalupe River Trail and Los Alamitos Creek Trail

California PoppyThis must be the closest bike trail to home but we have never been on it. Today we will try it out.

We park the car on Blossom River Drive. The weather is a bit overcast but the sun does make a few appearances. There is a bit of a wind but it is not too bad.

The entrance to the Upper Guadalupe River Trail is on Blossom Hill Road and Blossom River Drive. We decided to go right first of all towards San Jose. The trail is fairly flat, paved and well marked but hardly used or at least we did not see too many people. It’s not as though we had our usual early start as it is now 10.15.

We follow a creek for a couple of hundred yards and then it widens out to a small lake. We take a sharp curve to the right and go round the lake and under Highway 85. There are a few water birds on the water and we even spotted a turtle.

Soon we passed the light rail station at the back of the Oakridge Mall but the trail petered out soon after that. There was a sign pointing down a residential street to the Highway 87 bike trail but we did not fancy riding along beside the freeway.

So we turned and headed back the way we came. I knew to the south it goes to Almaden Lake but was not sure if we can go further or whether that is a dead end as well. We will see.

It is a pleasant path with the view of the Santa Teresa Hills in front of us. The Guadalupe River is to our right and we see three anglers just setting up for a hard days fishing.

It was not too long before we came to Almaden Lake. I’ve driven past here on a sunny day when the place has been packed and it makes a convenient alternative to the ocean. Swimming is allowed in a small section at certain times of the year and there is plenty of sand around the edges to play in. There are other forms of amusement; paddle boats, horseshoe pits, children’s playgrounds, bocce ball courts and I’m sure there are more features as well. We passed several picnic areas. In one there was some activity so I guess there is going to be a private picnic here later on.

At one point we came to a gate across the path with construction on the other side but there isAlmaden Lake a detour through the car park. The trail rounded a bend and we found ourselves on the Alamitos Creek Trail and I must say we were very pleasantly surprised. We didn’t realize there was such a jewel so close to home.

The first part is a walking, biking and fitness trail and there were lots of walkers on it. It was nice to see so many families out for a Sunday walk.

What made the biggest impression on us was the beauty of the trail. The gently babbling creek to the side, the Santa Teresa Hills in the distance and the masses of wildflowers were all charming. The trail meanders close to houses but it still feels very rural. To help matters, the wind has dropped and the sun is shining. What a beautiful day. We passed Leland Senior High School and crossed Queenswood Way and as we weren’t sure how far the trail goes but we turned round opposite Swanswood Court. I have since learned that this trail finishes a bit further along but it joins the Calero Creek Trail.

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