When I’m down here visiting the Plex I often stay at Hotel Zico; it’s comfy and attractive and inexpensive and central. It offers more or less nothing by way of food but I have breakfast at Google and don’t eat at hotels otherwise anyhow. It’s right at the intersection of 85 and 82 and thereby hangs a tale.

I pulled into the parking lot earlier than usual on Monday and noticed that the parking lot had unusually high wire fences and behind them were lots of trees and other unattended greenery.

The closer I looked, the weirder it got. There were trees and a valley with water at the bottom and I could even see a paved footpath; but (this is on El Camino just barely north of 85) no obvious way to get there; tall chain-link fances everywhere. Wait... if you were looney enough to get up and use the El Camino sidewalk (a thing no Real Californian would ever do), you could hop over the railing and scramble down a dirt slope to the footpath. So I did.

I looked down the path and saw no-one; then up the path and saw a large male individual dressed in black walking toward me. It occurred to me that this empty path might be a well-known Bay Area hangout for meth dealers or S&M hookups or Hello Kitty cultists, in which case that slither down the slope was probably ill-considered. Suddenly he turned around and walked the other way, and it occurred to me that he’d just observed a large male individual dressed in black with a broad-brimmed hat come hurtling onto the path in what probably looked like a threatening or at least eccentric fashion; he was probably a pleasant gentleman who just wanted to have a calm evening walk away from slithering strangers.

So I had to head downhill or it would have looked like I was stalking the poor guy. That worked out pretty well; I was immersed in what’s as close to wilderness as central Mountain View offers. It was weird because the thunder from the Route 85 traffic was obtrusive and continuous, but the vegetation seemed mostly undisturbed; there were birds, and the dusky sun made it all rather pretty.

In particular these big bushes full of yellow flowers.

Yellow flowers just off Stevens Creek Trail

The closer you got, the better they looked.

Flower close-up just off Stevens Creek Trail
· · ·
Flower close-up just off Stevens Creek Trail

This one in particular; yes, it really was all those colors, I cranked the contrast a bit but only a really little bit. I stood there looking at it for a while.

Flower close-up just off Stevens Creek Trail

The desertedness of the whole thing was a little eerie; eventually I came to a parking lot with signs telling everyone that this was part of the Stevens Creek Trail. Which I can testify is not very heavily used on April Monday evenings.

I walked quite a long way down then came back to get off on Yuba Drive so I wouldn’t have to scramble back up the hill.

I really liked that street; Mountain View is seriously infected with Silly Valley hipness and money, but Yuba Drive has your necessary metal-benders and utility yards and a rather nice-looking nursery, its parking lot equipped with a large Mountain View Police Department SUV and a friendly-looking officer sound asleep behind the wheel, protecting the annuals and perennials from the criminal element.

On Yuba Drive, Mountain View

Well, then I got to the BMW dealership but fortunately it was a short hike home.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Dave Walker (Apr 18 2012, at 04:18)

It's surprising how easy it is to find photogenic flora and fauna, in lowish-rise suburban California; I managed to bag one of my favourite wildlife photos (water, grasses, snowy Egret) in Santa Clara… and the whole scene was actually is in an overgrown storm drain. It looks like it's in a wildlife park, but 2 feet to the left of shot is a 30-degree concrete slab wall...


From: Greg White (Apr 18 2012, at 08:06)

You can follow that path right to google. It ends up at the Crittenden part, but if you get off early if you are going to the quad.


From: Zach (Apr 18 2012, at 08:07)

That's a really nice trail, actually. If you keep going North from where you started you'll see Moffet to your right. Keep following the trail and eventually you'll meet up with the Bay Trail, which will eventually circumnavigate the bay. They have something like 75% of the bay encircled now.

Right about where those meet you'll find a world where the noise of the city dies away and you're surrounded by a very natural world. It's amazing to find such a thing with city all around you.


From: Bud Gibson (Apr 18 2012, at 08:17)

It's amazing to me how easy it is to get good shots in-city if you just angle your lens right. The outright strip mall suburbia of Silicon Valley can be oppressive. Always nice to find these little havens.

It would be cool if you dropped these images into your google+ photo stream. Little apercus. It could augment the essay approach you take here.


From: David Singer (Apr 18 2012, at 09:22)

There's an Official Entrance to the Stevens Creek Trail on the other side of El Camino Real from the hotel — getting across El Camino Real is left as an exercise for the interested student.

The Stevens Creek Trail has a LOT of morning traffic north of the Mt. View railroad station — tons of bike and foot commuters to Google and Microsoft. I usually try to walk south of the station if I'm there in the morning to avoid getting run over.


From: Jay Lieske (Apr 18 2012, at 12:46)

Those beautiful bushes are fremontias (Fremontodendron californicum). I grow a few in my Los Angeles garden, but I've not yet run across them in the wild.


From: Johan Zeeman (Apr 18 2012, at 20:56)

Fremontodendron, or flannelbush, is a gorgeous shrub. But I doubt if it's growing wild there. The plantings along Stevens Creek Trail are the work of man. The trail, by the way, will take you pretty much all the way to the Googleplex, crossing over SR 85 and under US 101. Nice to ride on a bike.


From: Kevin Marks (Apr 19 2012, at 12:06)

Google Maps in bicycle or foot mode is very good at finding and routing you along such trails. Recommended if you can borrow a googleplex bike to commute back to your hotel in the evening.


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