This weekend we went exploring in Santa Clara County’s Rancho San Antonio park. Rancho San Antonio is a public park located in the Santa Cruz Mountains and can be found approximately half way between Stanford’s campus and San Jose. With over 23 miles of hiking trails, it is well worth the short trip!
I’m finding that one of the things I love about California is that even in the middle of January, people are outside, enjoying the weather and taking advantage of the natural beauty. To be fair to my Nebraska and Ohio roots, it is admittedly much easier to want to be outside in January when it is 60 degrees and sunny out. Perhaps the downside of this healthy and active lifestyle approach is the challenge it presents for parking. (I love you dearly, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, but parking was never an issue there. I’ll leave the reader to draw their own conclusions about national park service pre-planning versus the number of people utilizing said parks. Especially in January.)
With the large number of people out and about at Rancho San Antonio, parking was a bit of challenge. Luckily, after a a quick game of parking lot hide and go seek, we were parked and off for a hike.
Our first debate was whether to follow the Mountain Lion Trail or the Deer Hollow Trail. After seeing this sign, we opted for the deer over the wild mountain lions, despite being well prepared by the sign to fight off a mountain lion. As we started our hike, we also discussed how to fend off bears. In the end, I’m more confused about when to play dead, when to fight back, and when to run like mad. It probably doesn’t help that I only really learned this weekend what a mountain lion looks like.
We followed a dusty, slow incline to the Deer Hollow Farm, an educational center that teaches the public through a working farm. Now, my brother and I grew up around farms. (Yes, we’re from Nebraska. No, not everyone there grows up on a farm. Yes, most people know something about farm animals and the cattle/corn prices thanks to the farm report on the noon news.)
The farm is a quaint teaching farm, yet in my, albeit limited experience, I’ve never actually seen a cow lay down on its side…and not move… But again, I didn’t grow up on a farm, so maybe this is how California cows chill out. But we were all a bit concerned. (Side note: Both cows were gone when we came back from our hike, so I’m going to hope they were tucked in safely for the night.)
After passing the Deer Hollow farm, we studied the map and found that the way to the vista point followed the Mountain Lion Trail afterall. And by “we,” I mean my hiking companions because if they’d left the trail map reading to me, we’d still be out there hiking/lost.
The 2.5 mile path took us uphill through beautiful views to a vista point above the Santa Clara Valley.
We were rewarded for our bravery on the Mountain Lion trail with a beautiful view of the valley at the highest elevation point of our hike. The park and the vista point were very accessible, with well-defined paths and reasonable inclines. AKA, my calves and glutes weren’t aching to reach the top.
I’m looking forward to exploring more of Northern California’s parks!