Cycling Woodside to Half Moon Bay (Kings Mountain Rd, Tunitas Creek Rd)


When the going gets hot, the hot go to the coast!

Love those NorCal “microclimates”!

I was looking for a challenging bike ride, as well as something a little cooler than what Silicon Valley, or (ugh!) Henry Coe State Park ( were forecast to be. I decided to repeat my previous ride from Woodside to Half Moon Bay, which was forecast to be ~25 degrees cooler. The San Benito Ale House ( serves-up a great Bacon-Avocado-Cheddar Burger, which would be my destination and turnaround point.

I parked in Woodside, on the street near Robert’s Market ( They’re quite bicycle-friendly, as well as having a faucet to fill water bottles to the right of their porch area. I often stop-in for an Arizona Ice Tea and a small hunk of cheese.

Here’s the right turn onto Kings Mountain Road:


Passing the old Woodside Store building on the left:


Just as I started enjoying the solitude of the climb through the trees, a paving truck passed me with a politely wide berth. Safe for me, but not so nice for the poor red Subie coming down the hill. The truck should have waited…The Subie and driver were fine (except maybe a wet front seat!). I directed them out of the ditch, without scraping bottom.


Passing by Huddart County Park. I’ve never been in the main entrance, but I have explored a bit from the lesser known (no bathrooms, no water. no parking fee) entrance up on Skyline.


Aahhhh! Redwoods! Nice on a hot day.


Kings Mountain Road crosses Skyline and becomes Tunitas Creek Road. The first of the 2 big climbs is now over!


Yes, this is the beginning of the same “Star Hill Road” that Neil Young lives on. (


Halfway down (or up) Tunitas Creek Road is a convenient spot to stop. The creek along the road is not flowing, though there are a few stagnant pools remaining



Continuing the descent towards the coast, the ecosystem changes from redwoods to open and dry coastal scrub


Hang a right on “Lobitos Creek Cutoff” if you want the most direct route to Half Moon Bay. (Not the same as Lobitos Creek Road, further up the hill). If you’re not in a hurry, or if your bike or body need some assistance, stay on Tunitas Creek Road to visit the Bike Hut (


Up and over a hill on Lobitos Creek Cutoff. This sign is at the top!


…and a pumpkin farm with a hay bale maze ready for the kiddies!


I decided to take the direct route to Half Moon Bay, which involves about 5 miles each way on Highway 1. There’s a respectable shoulder of about 4 feet, but the cars do move fast and cyclists have been killed or injured. (There is a way to avoid Hwy 1 entirely, but it’s longer and steeper: Verde Road, Purisima Creek Road and Higgins Canyon Road)

I see fog!


Burger time!


Heading back up the hill on Tunitas Creek Road towards the redwoods:


Silicon Valley is out there somewhere, after crossing Skyline Boulevard and starting the descent back into Woodside. Enjoy!


Strava Link:

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Big Basin State Park: Waddell Beach to Berry Creek Falls & Beyond!

On September 7th I did a big hike of 20 miles with a few friends. Due to the warmer weather, we decided to head towards the coast and redwoods. Michael suggested starting at Waddell Beach in Big Basin State Park. Great idea!



Big Basin State Park was California’s first state park and one of the most popular. The campgrounds book-up very far in advance in the summer with families and tourists. There ARE several other entrances to the park for us “locals” who avoid the crowds and Visitor’s Center.

Park information:

Park brochure and map:

From the scenic beach, with quite a few kite surfers, up we went!


After awhile we’d left the beach behind and enjoyed the cool, calm redwood forest.


The park has many trails, which are well-marked, though you do need a map of some sort!


Interestingly, we spotted this piece of old equipment. It was likely used to move logs out of the forest at some point. We noticed the large balloon tires, as well as the un-rusted wheels.


Upon closer examination we found the wheels were aluminum and had serial numbers, as well as a date of manufacture from 1942. Re-purposed aircraft wheels! …which were likely available right after the war at scrap metal prices.


It was wonderful to see and hear flowing water as we went uphill, given the extreme drought we’ve had recently.


Soon, we approached Berry Creek Falls, which, besides the large redwoods, is the most popular attraction in the park.


Most visitors to the falls walk downhill from the Park HQ, versus our uphill direction from the beach.



Above Berry Creek Falls, the waterflow is quite close to the trail. I suspect this may be closed and/or dangerous after a rain.


Sunset Camp is one of several “Backpack Camps” in the park. They take a little effort to get to, including packing your own water, but can be quite peaceful!


Continuing higher, we eventually lost all traces of water and redwoods. Like the neighboring “Chalk Mountain”, the soil is dry and less fertile than lower parts of the park. It appears to be ancient beach sand.


Chalk Mountain in the distance!


Getting ready to head down. Time for the redwoods again!


Let your eyes follow the valley, from close-in to the far horizon, just to the right of center. This was our route to/from the beach, which is just out of sight in the distance, about 8 miles as the crow flies.


There’s the beach! Almost back!



The park brochure and map are linked above. The beach entrance is on the coast about 20 minutes north of Santa Cruz (no cell reception!)

Here’s a link to the Strava track:

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Kayaking Independence Lake – Nature Conservancy’s pristine spot (Tahoe Truckee)


The Lake Tahoe region is known as a “wonderland” for year-round recreation. It’s also known for it’s crowds! Just 22 miles north-west of Truckee lies one of the most pristine lakes in the West. It’s about the same size as Donner Lake, if you’re familiar with that (~3 miles long)

The Nature Conservancy purchased this entire lake from a private owner a few years ago and it’s open to the public…with some precautions to keep it pristine!

Because the former private owners ensured limited access, Independence Lake does not have any invasive species and is only one of 2 places that has a natural (unstocked / naturally replenishing) population of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. (Fishing is allowed with some restrictions. The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout is “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act and must be released.

Damaging invasive species, such as snails, mussels, and plants, often hitch rides on watercraft. Because of this, no outside watercraft are allowed. HOWEVER, the Nature Conservancy generously provides a handful of kayaks on a first-come, first-serve basis to the public (and motorboats on alternate weeks). There is no charge for these watercraft, but I would encourage mailing in a donation after you get home!

The posted hours are 7:00AM – 7:00PM in the summer season. I visited on 2 weekdays in late July. One day there was an ample supply of kayaks (I was the only one on the water until about 10:00AM). The other day had a flurry of activity from an educational group and all the kayaks were taken well before 10:00AM.

If you’re a landlubber, or get there late, you may enjoy a hike along the shore. The northern shore is a truck road and the southern shore is a bit rougher, from the bit that I saw. I don’t think they connect at the far end.


Park at the designated area, and walk towards the caretaker’s cabin and sign in!



At one time there was a hotel and cabins here. One old building remains, besides the new caretaker’s cabin:


Walk down to the shore, a few hundred yards, and off you go! (FYI: There’s nobody to help you with the equipment, teach you to kayak, or to rescue you if you get in trouble! Wear the lifejacket and know what you’re doing. Watch for thunderstorms as well.)


In the early morning the water was incredibly still! The breeze typically picks-up later in the morning, giving you a small tailwind for your return…or a headwind on your outbound direction if you sleep-in and start late)



I kayaked the full length of the lake (approx 2.5 or 3 miles). While resting at the far end, along the left shore, I was “buzzed” twice by a bald eagle. Unfortunately my camera was stowed-away in a dry bag at the time. It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen one, but definitely the best!


Around 10:30AM I started seeing “classic Sierra thunderheads” rolling towards me from behind the peaks to the right. I made my return to the launching point, and started walking towards the car and BOOM! …at 11:15 I heard the first nearby crack of thunder. What a great experience!



These directions are excellent (bottom of this page): Write them down, or take a screen shot, as your phone will be “off the grid” after you leave Truckee!

The Nature Conservancy recommends a high clearance vehicle, which I agree with. I drove the road when it was dry and had no problems in my normal 2WD sedan. Take it slow and watch for protruding rocks, where you should be experienced at putting your wheels on the high spots, not in the low spots.

Getting to Independence Lake from Interstate-80/Truckee, CA:

•Exit I-80 to Route 89 North – Sierraville.
•Travel approximately 15 miles North on Highway 89 to Independence Lake/Webber Lake/Jackson Meadow Reservoir turn-off.
•Turn Left/West off of Route 89 toward Independence Lake/Webber Lake/Jackson Meadow Reservoir.
•Bear left and stay on paved road for 1.5 miles. Turn Left/South at sign for “Independence Lake – 5 miles.”
•Continue approximately 5 miles to Independence Lake. The road becomes a rough dirt road. High clearance vehicle advised. After roughly 2 miles you reach a fork in the road and a sign for “Independence Lake – 3 miles.” Take the RIGHT fork of the road. After approx. ½ mile there is another fork, follow the LEFT fork across a stream. If you do not drive across a stream soon after taking this left fork, you have made a wrong turn. Continue along this road going roughly south.
•Follow the directional signs to the parking area.

Looking back after turning west off of Highway 89:


OK spelling geeks, how many times does the letter “A” appear in the name of this lake?


This is the creek crossing mentioned above. It’s easy if it hasn’t been raining recently. Just about 2 inches deep with some solid coarse gravel.


Typical section of the 5 miles to get there from Highway 89. Some sections are steeper and rockier than this:


That’s it! GET THERE EARLY if you want a kayak of your choice (and also to avoid possible afternoon lightning!)

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“Secret” Entrance to Pescadero Creek Park from Big Basin


Wouldn’t it be interesting to learn of a “back door” to Pescadero Creek County Park (and upper Big Basin State Park)? No crowds, no entrance fees, and great views of the Pacific Ocean if the weather is cooperating!


In the upper reaches of Big Basin State Park:


About 4 miles north of the park HQ, you’ll find a westbound turn on to China Grade Road. This is the upper boundary of the park and is quite sunny and dry compared to lower elevations.


Drive a few miles to approximately N 37° 12.900 W 122° 13.290 and look for a gated logging road and a small trail sign on your right at a pullout. (The coords are within about 100 feet of being accurate.) The logging road is not open to the public, but there’s a foot trail next to it that’s an “easement” for hikers and equestrians. It’s a bit over a mile, on the easement, from there to the boundary of Pescadero Creek County Park.


Be sure you have some sort of navigation skills and mapping tools. The first time I was here with a few friends, we ended-up missing where the trail crosses a logging road and went down the road for awhile…

Here’s the official map. The easement enters the main map at the extreme botton corner “Basin Trail Easement” …and the park brochure:

Eventually you’ll “hang a left” and see some sandstone formations.


This one looks like a face. My water bottle was placed there for scale. (One friend asked what was the colored stuff in the bottom of the bottle! It’s a Nuun Electrolyte tablet. It is not a lab sample…


…and more typical views of the trail:


If you choose to continue to the north-west like I did, along the park’s boundary, you’ll eventually see a crossroads down to the main (lower) part of the park. If you REALLY want to “get remote” and do another few miles of even steeper dips…


You should (weather permitting!) be rewarded with some magnificent ocean views!




It’s a hilly roundtrip hike of 15+ miles:


You may even spot this odd stump with 3 significant “children” growing out of it:


That’s it! Enjoy your “no crowds, no entrance fees, and no drinking water” hike from Big Basin to Pescadero Creek Park.

Also consider a bit further down the road you parked on is Big Basin’s “Johansen Road” trail, as well as an even more obscure easement into Butano State Park.


There are also 2 other awesome hikes not “too” far from here. You’ll have to surf a bit (or drop me a note) to find those entrances. “Beverly Hillbillies crude oil” and Peter’s Creek remote old growth redwoods!

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The Wild Parrots of Sunnyvale!…and Telegraph Hill!

Many folks have heard of the movie “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”, released in 2003 Have you heard of The Wild Parrots of Sunnyale?

About 10 years ago they first caught my attention while I was in the parking lot of Toys-R-Us. I heard an unusual and happy cluster of “squawks” and looked up to see about 8 green birds flying overhead.

At that time there was one or two minor references on the internet, including one YouTube video. Now there are many more references, websites, pictures, and even their own Twitter account @SvlWildParrots

Rick Rutna has a great writeup from 2012, which is MUCH better than anything else. If you only read one link, read this one:

Earlier material on the birds:

San Jose Metro from 1998:

YouTube 2009:
…and YouTube 2010:
…and about 10 more videos if you search “Sunnyvale” and “Parrots”

A small article from 2009:

More recent, and very nice close-ups, here:

..and here:

A Geocache, for those of you who know what that is…

Living not too far away, I have become accustomed to looking up when I hear their sounds several times a week. They apparently travel during the day and end-up back in or near Las Palmas Park for the evening. As for me, I enjoy their sounds and can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a cage instead!

There you go! A quick summary of the better links regarding this “almost famous” flock!

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Historic Alviso, CA (a photo essay in San Jose!)

Foreword and update to the below blog post:

A few weeks after my original publication of the below blog post, it was noticed by some members of the Alviso community and became my most widely read post as of yet. (second place is the one about Neil Young’s ranch in the hills above Woodside).

I was invited to have a look inside the “mysterious” South Bay Yacht Club. Indeed it is active and well! On August 30th there was an “Open House” and an art exhibit by Emmett Dingle. Also, the bar was open and staffed by Diane, who also manages rentals of the SBYC for family and small corporate gatherings.


The first floor has displays on the wall of the club’s history. The second floor (pictured below) has additional history displays, plus the art of Emmett Dingle.


The view out the front of the second floor, about 2 hours before sunset was magnificent! I can imagine sitting up here with a rocking chair and a drink, either during a sunset or a rare rainstorm.



If you’d like to see the inside of the building too, I encourage you to watch their website for public events. Also, consider renting their facility for your next event!

Many thanks to the club’s Commodore, Charles Taylor, as well as Diane, who was fascinating to talk to while she took good care of the bar. Additional thanks to Charles’s wife who was kind enough to pass around my blog post and suggest that I visit!

The following is the original post:

Since moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1990, I have had an odd fascination with Alviso. Alviso is a neighborhood (town) at the southern edge of the bay that seems “frozen in time” …and I mean that in a good way!

I’ve always had a bit of a “history bug”, having grown-up near forts, battlefields, and skirmishes surrounding the American Revolution, as well as the French and Indian War prior to that. What else could capture a young boy’s imagination more than visiting a monument to Benedict Arnold’s leg,, and vacationing on the beach near “Bloody Pond” where several hundred colonists were slaughtered?

Anyway…one of the first fascinating historical sites that I fixed my interest on, after moving to Silicon Valley 20+ years ago was Alviso, California. That interest came about one day reading the San Jose Metro newspaper. Eric Carlson had a great series called “SJ Underbelly”. Alviso was his most extensively covered location.

Eric Carlson’s old write-ups have been preserved, but Alviso has changed…just a little! Some of the messier storage yards and junked cars have been cleared and some bronze historical markers have been added. It still has all that “frozen in time” charm, however, that generally doesn’t exist elsewhere in Silicon Valley.

“Why Alviso?” Well, it was a historical port for goods and people to travel to and from San Francisco, before ground transportation up and down the Peninsula was easy. Alviso seems to have a sense of (underappreciated) history amidst all of the tear-it-down-and-rebuild-it of Silicon Valley.

My plan with this blog post is to both point out the interesting place that is Alviso, as well as draw attention to Eric Carlsen’s fine work and update it with a few photos of my own. Enjoy!

A mural at the main crossroads in town by Emmett Dingle:


Let’s start our tour out near the former port, at the far end of town, and work our way back south.

This bronze marker is just a few years old. Note the elevated walkways out in the marsh. This used to be docks where steamships landed, including the “Jenny Lind” which has a new marker here as well. The Jenny Lind had a boiler explosion out in the bay, at a great loss of life.




There are still a few permanently docked boats, though much closer to the Guadalupe River channel.


…plus a very new boat launch for day use only


On your approach to the Marina (which is also a great spot for hikes and bike rides on the levees, with parking, restrooms, and water) you may notice the “stranded” house boat. This has been here for 20 years that I know of… (Eric noticed Noah’s Ark too!



To the west (left) of the Marina is the “South Bay Yacht Club”, which has a long and storied history ( and This is a good place to notice that the Yacht Club is on the inland side of a high levee. The elevation of Alviso has been dropping over many decades. Strong winter storms used to occasionally cause the Guadalupe River to flood the town. (Despite the levees, this area does have flood potential. You may notice that the newer homes are built a bit higher than the street level. 1983 flood:


Years ago, before the more prominent signs discouraging visitors from peeking in the windows, I caught a glimpse of the beautiful bar inside, as did Eric:


Yes, “E. Clampus Vitus”! The source of many interesting markers in California, particularly in the Gold Country! (This marker being in the right side of the SBYC building)


Between the SBYC and the Marina lies the shell of the former “Bayside Canning Company”. (Eric’s write-up:





It’s noteworthy that it was the 3rd largest cannery in the U.S. at one point, as well as being owned by a Chinese-American.


To the left (south) of the cannery is a large and odd brick building, marked as the “Union Docks and Warehouse”.



It’s now a private residence, which you can look down upon from the public levee walkway.



Just before the active railroad tracks leave town to the north, there’s an easily overlooked old place on the left. Eric Carlsen refers to it as “Laine’s Grocery”, though it had several incarnations before that, as well as a newer, yet faded, “tattoo parlor” sign since Laine’s closed around 1960.




To the right of Laine’s Grocery, the trains zip northward from Alviso, through the mysterious “Drawbridge” ( To the left of Laine’s lie a few stately old homes. The large yellow one has a marker out front. (Eric’s write-up:




The other two homes of note, on the same block, are the very stately and tall 1887 Italianate “Tilden-Laine” home


(You can see a bit of “Laine’s Grocery” on the right side of this photo.)


…plus a cute gray cottage. (Perhaps you like it better in “hot pink”? )


A bit south, along the eastern side of the tracks, lies the historical “Vahl’s Restaurant”. (Eric Carlsen’s write-up:

The whole building is a time warp from the 1950’s, even including one of the bartenders (“Frank”) and the “piano man” who plays once or twice a week.



The back door, on your way to the restrooms, has a “classic” padded and patterned vinyl door!


In addition to Vahl’s quaint bar (and Vahl’s restaurant, which I can’t rave about), Alviso has the very popular Maria Elena’s Restaurant. (Eric’s write-up:


…as well as the now closed “Marina Restaurant”. It used to be called the “Marina Seafood Grotto”, then turned into a Korean Restaurant shortly before it closed around 2010. (Eric’s write-up:


..a photo thru the glass door of the Marina, frozen in time, 4 years without a customer except the “Ghosts of Alviso”!


Last, but not least, along the eastern edge of the tracks, a bit south of Vahls, lies the crumbling H.G. Wade warehouse and the neglected home next door. You may have already spotted the warehouse, depending which way you entered town. Several “Western” movies were said to have been partly filmed at this warehouse. (The house is behind the green tarp. It used to be more visible, including when Eric took photos: )




That’s it! Enjoy your visit to Alviso! Be sure to read-up on the SJ Underbelly links before you go, as well as look for the painted mural map at the main crossroad in town, near Maria Elena’s Restaurant.

If you have any interesting stories or pictures, please be sure to leave a comment!

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Merrell Moab Ventilator – “Long Term Test”!

I’ve been wearing exclusively “Merrell Moab Ventilator” hiking shoes for about 3 years now. Love ‘em!


After a little over a year of hard use, about 3 days a week, the soles were showing some wear in the center, as is to be expected. (The laces were replaced once, after an accidental encounter with the moving parts of my mountain bike! No injuries, no stories to tell…)


Honestly, I didn’t *have to* replace these shoes. I *wanted* to! The materials and the durability mean I could use these for many more happy miles. The “uppers” are almost like-new, with the materials and sewing, including the eyelets, still being in excellent condition. “Why” then? Well, there are some really steep hikes in the San Francisco / Silicon Valley area and I’m accustomed to excellent traction on trails in places like the Ohlone Wilderness trek to Murietta Falls (

I have been quite happy with my 2 prior pair. MUCH better than 2 other brands I’ve owned in the past where the different layers of material in the soles started separating. I bought the same ones again, this time I chose the color “Walnut” instead of “Sand”.


Isn’t it always fun to open up “shiny new stuff?”


The comparative wear on the soles is apparent, and quite normal given the long, steep, and rocky hikes I often subject them to.


Ready for my next outing!

If I hadn’t had these twice before, I would be sure to wear them around town for a few days, or on a few short short hikes, before venturing on a long trip. It’s always good to watch for “hot spots” or other surprises. My foot is more-or-less a typical Men’s 11. Size 11.5 seems to work well for me, with some seasonal variations in my choice of socks.


Out with the old, in with the new! They’ve served me well. Cool, light, comfortable, durable, excellent traction, and even able to scare away an occasional rattlesnake!


I summary, they work great for me, as you can see by my repeat purchases. Comfortable right out of the box! Try them on at your nearest retail store and see if they work for you!

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