Byrne-Milliron Preserve & Corralitos Sausage Co.

I recently found out about the “Byrne-Milliron Preserve”, just outside Corralitos. How could I not have known about this great place? It’s 402 acres under the ownership and care of the Land Trust of Santa Cruz (I found out about it via some local Geocachers when the property received it’s first caches.)

It’s a very cool place, and very dog-friendly.  Located less than 4 miles from Corralitos, when you reach the parking lot you’ll start to notice the whimsical nature of this forest.

IMG_2667Oh yeah, getting there! Go to the center of Corralitos and drive 2.7 miles on Browns Valley Road, heading east for a few blocks, then the road turns to the left (north). Look for a small sign on the left for #809 and “Roses of Yesterday & Today” and follow the paved driveway for another mile. There are no huge signs that say “Turn here for an awesome unknown preserve!”

The turnoff:IMG_2708Grab a trail map near the parking lot, or print one at home I used “Open Street Maps” on my iPhone and it worked great.

At each of several high vista points you’ll see collections of trinkets, mementos, and logbooks to write a few thoughts. This is not a “sanitized” park like you’re used to!


This is “AJ’s Point of View” on the official map

Bring a book, bring a camera, bring lunch…(and bring water! there’s only a Porta-potty in the parking lot)

IMG_2674The mailbox contains binoculars, and some logbooks to read and contribute to. The water is probably best left for the dogs, out of caution. (Did I mention there are water bowls for dogs “everywhere”?)

IMG_2676Until 2 months ago the caretaker was Jeff Helmer, who recently passed-away. He sounds like a great guy (not just because he had three times as many Studebakers as I do!)

We found Jeff’s business card in one of the trailside treasure troves.

IMG_2681A typical redwood forest scene in the lower areas of the preserve

IMG_2686And a turnoff with yet another dog bowl.

IMG_2687A few steep parts, with a rope to steady yourself.

IMG_2689…and a second major overlook area. “Eagle in Tree Vista” on the map


…and the Porcupine Hollow turnoff to the “Cathedral Rest Spot”



Not quite as wide and groomed as most parks, but you’re not likely to get lost!


It was a GREAT FIND! It’s only 402 acres, but it feels much bigger. There’s some steep climbs and quite a few trails to be explored. There were 10 cars in the parking lot when we returned at 1:00PM. I think we saw most of those groups at one point. More than half of them had happy off-leash dogs. (Bring your dog if you have one!) Take your time and enjoy the Byrne-Milliron Forest!

…and consider a visit to to Corralitos Market and Sausage Company on the way back.

A cute little country market, with a famous meat counter at the back:


House-made sausages, sandwiches, and treats for your canine companion.




I ordered a hot sausage sandwich, with a bit of sauerkraut and horseradish, plus a giant pickle. Walk across the street to the “town square” and have a little picnic.


(A WW1 memorial next to the picnic tables. Donald Leon Rose, died in France in 1918)



…and a map of the town…


That’s it! Enjoy the drive and exploring Byrne-Milliron and Corralitos

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Plane Crash Site above Saratoga, CA (F-2H Banshee, Lt James Wyley, 1959)

Airplane crashes were much more common just a few decades ago than they are today, prior to more sophisticated navigation technologies. The hills in the San Francisco area are steep and often shrouded in fog. This has resulted in a handful of crash sites, including some that are (relatively) less well-known.

In the immediate Silicon Valley area there’s an F-9 Panther in the East Bay hills and a DC-6 passenger plane. Both are easily accessible from the trail, both with just a few pieces not having been carried away. There are also bits of an F-4 Phantom (, as well as an elusive F-2 Banshee, both of which are not widely known (and will stay that way). I’ve also recently found that there’s an F4U Corsair wreck on private property on Mt Thayer )

About 5 years ago I met a “wreckchaser” who was kind enough to take me to the location of the F-2H Banshee in the hills above Saratoga, CA. The “code of honor” of wreckchasers, as well as visitors to pristine Native American sites, is to reveal the location only to those who will respect the site and to not make it any easier to find than it already is.

Enough of the background story!

On this particular day I decided to pay a second visit to the site and take a few more pictures than the last time.

Somewhere off of Skyline Boulevard I parked the car


…visited an un-marked location of Native American “grinding rocks”


…and began the very steep bushwhacking to the site. (I thought this was a circa-1960 Renault Dauphine, but I don’t see the air intakes in front of the rear wheels. It’s small and European and all the markings are gone…It turns out it’s an “NSU Prinz”, which was a German company that merged into Audi. Credit to several members of


Eventually, after some seriously steep route-finding and “hanging onto small trees so you don’t slide down the hill”, I saw the bits and pieces


..and an engine


…and some late 1950’s aviation electronics


…and a few other objects that were placed on a rock by others



“Assembly No” and “Inspection” still readable after 56 years


A red tow hook from the front landing gear, perhaps?


Control surfaces from a wing section



…and finally, the tail, which is located uphill a bit. It’s the largest remaining piece


If you look on the left side of the tail (underneath), you’ll see a small brass plaque in the middle of the red painted area:


This small memorial was placed here by the Wreckchaser that first brought me to this place.


Navy Lt. James Wyley died here on February 22, 1959. Please respect the site. Leave only footprints, take only photos.



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Cone Peak summit (Santa Lucia Mountains, Ventana, Big Sur)


Head south from Big Sur or head north from the Hearst Castle on California’s remote coast, between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and you’ll see these amazing views. Up close you’ll also see distracted tourists driving rented motorhomes at 30mph. Take your time and enjoy!

Immediately south of the scenic Kirk Creek Campground  begins the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.

This road is the only road over the steep Santa Lucia Range The road also provides great access to the mountains, along with some incredible views (without guard rails! Pull over for pictures and post to FaceBook later when you’re back in cell range!)


At about 3000 feet above sea level, you’ll come to a plateau and crossroads. (20 miles further east is the Army’s Fort Hunter Liggett. It’s open to the public if you have ID, insurance and registration for your vehicle. There, you can visit the very well preserved Mission San Antonio de Padua (1771) There’s also the very cool “Hacienda Hotel”, open to the public and formerly owned by William Randolph Hearst



This crossroads is also the trailhead for my “bike-and-hike” up Cone Peak. It’s the second highest peak in the Ventana / Big Sur area and (according to Wikipedia) the tallest “coastal mountain” in the lower 48 states: over 5100 feet and only 3 miles from the ocean.

Below is the start of my journey. 7 miles of Fire Road, then 2 miles of steep hiking trail. I’ve heard the road is open in the summer. (It’s reasonable for a normal 2WD car  to give it a try, though there’s no passing or turnaround space in many sections.)


A chilly day, with ice on the fire road in the shady sections. (The photo below is not actually ice. This section has white marble or limestone on the road and hillside. There was real ice…really…but I didn’t take any pictures of that)



The patch of white stone is visible below, in the distance, on the right side of the photo:


The views keep getting better and better!



After 7 miles of gravel road, at about 3800 feet elevation, it’s time to hide the bicycle in the bushes and enter the Wilderness Area on foot.


Yup! That’s the 5100 foot summit, with a teeny-tiny fire lookout building on top


Alas, 2 miles and ~1300 vertical feet (on foot) later, we reach the top and take a picture of the coast to the south, just like the one in Wikipedia!


…and the summit lookout, which was very securely covered with heavy steel panels and strong padlocks. It’s not an “emergency shelter” if you’re up here in a blizzard (without bolt cutters).


And a view due west, with the surf being only 3 horizontal miles away.


Did I mention it was 30F degrees at the top, with howling winds? California was experiencing unusually cold and windy weather. I was a bit underdressed for standing still, though the uphill climb made me quite toasty. Time to head down!


I was racing sunset a bit, though I had a good flashlight in my pack, if necessary, and the Fire Road is easy to follow. The sun looks low on the eastern side of the mountains


Back to the car, and a scenic drive down the hill. Remember “no guard rails!”.



Below you can see Highway 1 clinging to the coast:


My Strava track (plus 3 additional miles in the car until I remembered to turn it off!)

Footnote: I was inspired to try this trip by reading Jill Homer’s recent blog post I had been unaware that I could go most of the way up a big coastal peak by bicycle. I’m also impressed with someone who came up from sea level by bicycle! Long sections of 10% and 11% grades, on a mountain bike, with camping gear: (No thank you, maybe another time!) I’ve read all of Jill’s books and recommend them if you’re interested in endurance racing in incredibly beautiful and challenging environments.










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Henry Coe State Park: Dowdy Ranch, Pacheco Crossing, Bell Station

On the first day after Daylight Savings Time ended, I was on the road at 6:00AM towards Henry Coe State Park.


“Pavement Ends” means “Adventure Ahead”!


The sun, across Highway 152, peeking through the fog, just after sunrise

The lesser-known entrance from Bell Station, followed by 7 miles of gravel road, to the Dowdy Ranch Visitor’s Center, is open on summer weekends to vehicles. Off-season and weekdays, it’s open 24/7 for hikers and cyclists, and a few ranchers that own property up here.


The sun is low as I begin my journey up the gated road


48 degrees and foggy, but it clears and warms-up!


7 miles, plus 1000+ feet of climbing brings me to the Dowdy Ranch Visitor’s Center. Haven’t seen anyone yet except for one rancher who waved as he passed me in his truck


The seldom-used Visitor’s Center, built in 2006


..and a damaged sign, leaning against the fence. Notice the big old Widow Maker, hiding behind!


…and the soon-to-be-famous “Purple Panther”

After looking around Dowdy Ranch a bit, I headed downhill, to the north, to Pacheco Creek Crossing. There was a moderate rainfall about 3 days prior. There were some signs that water flowed through the big undercrossing pipe, but definitely not enough to create any real flow…



Probably some dribbling during the rain, but the pool below was still quite low and way below “flowing”


The creekbed to the west, towards the falls, was completely dry, The leaves are turning!


Almost empty and ~8 feet below “full and flowing”

Lower now than back in January!

In April the “Hole in the Rock” waterfall was full and barely flowing (when it should have been gushing)


Above the falls: a few scattered small pools on rock surfaces

After inspecting the Pacheco Creek Crossing area, I slogged back up to Dowdy Ranch. I again passed Tiedown Peak, which was taunting me from my previous “never going back there” experience.


As I passed Dowdy Ranch, I noticed the gate was now open, so I went to investigate. I happened to be there at the right time to have a short conversation with Ranger Cameron Bowers and 2 other cyclists. After that, it was time to head back to Bell Station.


15 mph on a downhill in the middle of nowhere?!? “Officer, my bicycle can’t go that slow!”

A great “zoom-zoom” downhill 7 miles back to the car (with 2 small climbs). Try it sometime!

The 19 mile and 3200 vertical feet track:


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Drought in Henry Coe State Park (The Narrows, Eagle Pines, China Hole)

I went on a fun and lengthy (~18 miles and ~3500 vertical feet) hike in Henry Coe State Park ( through some familiar terrain. The plan was to meet three other friends at park HQ at 8:30AM. Given that it’s October, I left the house shortly after sunrise and enjoyed the long shadows over Morgan Hill as I drove up to the park. (Note the low lake level, and the prominent El Toro peak at center-rear) IMG_1878

All four of us got there a bit ahead of schedule. We paid our fees, and chatted with the “INCH” hiking group, with about 20 participants heading in the same general direction. Beautiful sunny day!


High(ly flammable) grass! Let’s hope for some early and extensive rains this fall!


In the Manzanita Point area we stopped at Bass Pond. There are still fish there, but the water was VERY low


We zig-zagged down to China Hole, then started up “The Narrows”, which is a difficult hike when there’s water, but we saw very little of that…


Notice in the lower-right of this picture you’ll again see the 6 deceased turtles and the (cow or pig?) vertebrae. This spot still had some minor dampness and struggling water plants in the lowest spot.


A few spots along The Narrows did have enough water to support a few small fish.


In the Los Cruzeros area we saw zero water. The few pools saw earlier were to the south near China Hole.


This small deer appeared to be recently deceased. There was still velvet on the antlers and a mild smell.


An example of an “acorn storage tree” that I’ve seen many times in Coe. This one had an interesting spiral.


The normally reliable “Willow Ridge Spring” was bone-dry. Last year (also a drought year, but not nearly as severe) I passed through here 2 weeks earlier, on October 5th, and there was a bit of mud at the bottom of the trough (

Ah yes, a really annoying hill on Willow Ridge Road, not far from the Spring.


We finally got to the area we had targeted. It’s an “obscure trail”, called “Eagle Pines Trail”. It passes by Eagle Pines Peak. (There are no trail markers and no visible trail for the first part. Get the coords and/or a downloaded map for your electronic toy.)


It’s a steep and high ridge, about 1000 feet above the creek below. We exited the north end of the ridge…then on down to the upper Narrows area, for a loop to where we came from.


Once down in the Narrows, the going was rocky, but relatively flat, once again.

We stopped in at the Arnold Horse Camp, where I bicycle-camped a year ago this month. Last year the spring trough was full but not flowing. This year it was bone dry.

Below is the Arnold Horse Camp trough, early October 2013, in a “dry” year. It’s empty now! Can we have some rain, PLEASE?!?


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Mysteriously Misplaced Headstones in the Cupertino Hills

Back in January 2013 I was doing a little off-trail excursion in hills above Cupertino, CA. I was following an old, overgrown, unmarked road just to see where it went and as a possible shortcut to another marked trail. To my surprise I suddenly came across a clearing with a bunch of headstones!


I poked around a bit, after the shock started to wear off, and decided they were moved there…I had not stumbled upon an old cemetery!

Some of them appeared to be errors or “rejects”, like this stack of pink-ish ones.


Others, on the other hand, clearly looked like they were quite old and of historical value.


Old veterans



Loved ones and lost family members



…and even some that may tell the story of pioneer families of our area.


Why were they here? Well, I took these photos and promptly did a little e-mail “Q & A” with the Midpeninsula Open Space District (, on whose land I found these. They knew the stones were there, but believed them all to be “scrap” that the previous landowner had planned to use as landscaping or building materials.

Based on the age of some of these stones, I had to disagree! Mid-Pen was great, in that they were very open to a historical society or researcher working with them to identify and relocate the important ones. I had heard of “The California Pioneers of Santa Clara County” and their prior efforts to return gravestones to their proper location.

I quickly received an enthusiastic response from The Pioneers, who picked-up communication with Mid-Pen where I left off. They organized a coooperative venture with Mid-Pen to assess and photograph the headstones. I paid my annual dues to join the Pioneers and joined the enthusiastic assessment party.

Following the joint visit, The Pioneers rolled-up their sleeves and dug into some great research work. They were able to identify that several of the oldest ones had been removed from the historical Oak Hill Cemetery in San Jose

Since that time, over a year ago, The Pioneers and Oak Hill have been working together, as time allows, to research these headstones in Oak Hill’s records. I’m hopeful they can soon be returned to their rightful locations!

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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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