Berry Creek Falls Roaring in the Rain (Big Basin State Park)

Last week, on Martin Luther King Day, I met a friend at Big Basin State Park for a hike to Berry Creek Falls. We’d both been there several times, but never when the ground was soaked and about 2 inches of rain had fallen recently. We expected quite a bit more than the usual trickle and we got it!

It’s about an hour from most places in Silicon Valley, including the last few miles of twisty winding road down through the redwoods.

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Roadside sign, coming from the upper entrance

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Park HQ, with the big log slice on the right. (Notice the pay phones! No AT&T signal here)


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Yes, this bridge near HQ, really was as wavy as it looks. Note muddy water underneath. It was muddy and high throughout the park. The aeration of the falls masked most of the brown color.

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Headed to the falls, passing by a fallen giant (or a fallen “medium size”)

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Ducking under. I suspect this tree has been here 100 years and will be here for many more

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Lotsa sporadic “rivulets” coming off the hillsides

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First sight, zoomed-in, of the falls as we head upstream

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Silhouettes on the observation deck, as we head up

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The main fall, from the observation deck.

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Looking from the top of the main falls. Notice the red jacket at right, on the observation deck

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The “famous” cable steps at the second fall, as we head upstream

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Close-up of water tumbling on the edge of the steps

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Sometimes the trees provide a size reference, and sometimes the trees are huge too!

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The third fall, as we head from bottom-to-top


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The uppermost fall, I think…

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Not to far for a day trip from major cities. Though the last few miles are SLOW!

Details: As you can see in the last picture, it’s not a bad day trip for most Bay Area folks. It is a VERY popular park, however, in summer tourist season. It gets busy and the campgrounds book well in advance. The park’s site is here: Big Basin State Park and our GPS track is here:
https://www.strava.com/activities/473466785/embed/8d0917b8bcc7ee4e52e31bc4a0f48fce923786ed

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Kickham Ranch (Henry Coe / Hunting Hollow)

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My car on Jamieson Road. Kickham Ranch is in the distance.

The Kickham Ranch office at Henry Coe State Park, a few miles SE of Hunting Hollow, gets very few visitors. I was there twice before, without really knowing if I was supposed to be there or not. I decided to visit again on a muddy and short bicycle loop into the park.

The signs have changed a bit, but it appears to be OK to use, though not officially publicized or encouraged as an entrance. http://coepark.net/pineridgeassociation/planning-your-visit/visitor-centers-and-park-entrances  There are no discouraging signs, but there is one gate to hop over if you want to connect to the Hunting Hollow Trail.

I parked my car on Jamieson Road, a bit before Kickham Ranch, and unloaded the mountain bike. A State Park truck passed me and waved before I headed out. Kickham Ranch is actively used by park staff, and I think I’ve heard that one Ranger may live there.

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Room for several cars, outside the white lines!

I stopped in to say hello to the bear, and headed back out.

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Kickham Ranch. “Do not feed the bears!”

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Sign board at Kickham Ranch

Shortly after passing the Canada de Los Osos pond, the road got a bit steeper and I encountered some VERY sticky mud. I was later told it had been recently graded, which ruined the normal hard pack surface.

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Low water level. Active with water birds, including a white egret.

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The wheels and derailleur totally locked-up with over 20 pounds of mud and grass

I struggled to push or carry the bike uphill for a few hundred feet, while my feet slid in the opposite direction. Finally I got to the top of the hill and everything got better…slowly…as I poked at the mud with a stick and used some water from the closest trough.

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Peaceful trail just before the Hunting Hollow intersection

This is a standard ranch gate, without any way around it. You, and your bicycle, must go up and over the 5 foot height.

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The gate just before the Hunting Hollow trail.

No more sticky mud was encountered. The creek crossings had a few stagnant puddles, but no flowing water. I did get splashed and muddy, however (in a fun way, knowing I had clean clothes in the car!)

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Hunting Hollow Trail

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The famous windmill, which is kept operational by park volunteers. (“Thank you” Paul L.)

Hunting Hollow was quiet. This car had been there for awhile, but not overnight, judging by the small amount of warmth coming from the engine. I did not see anybody in the park, and only two vehicles on Canada and Jamieson Roads.

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One car mid-day on a wet weekday. (Hunting Hollow parking)

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An unpopular sign!

Head down Gilroy Hot Springs Road, and turn left at the Fire Station.

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The Fire Station where Canada Road starts

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Canada Road, heading back to Kickham Ranch

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Filet Mignon along Canada Road

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Canada Road turns right and Jamieson Road to the left (towards Kickham Ranch)

That’s it! It was about 11 miles and ~600 vertical feet. An interesting outing, but also a good reminder as to why the single track trails are closed to bicycles after a rainfall. Yuck! (Map & GPS track on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/448395470 )

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Rancho Corral de Tierra (Half Moon Bay)

A quick blog post, with some photos, to call out attention to a place I knew little about until past week. “Rancho Corral de Tierra” is a part of the GGNRA (Golden Gate National Recreation Area) near Half Moon Bay. We were quite shocked at how steep it was at the higher elevations, including many “ups and downs” that we didn’t plan on.

It’s just south of Montara Mountain, but there’s no marked trail connection around the tightly protected San Francisco Water Company land in between. (See comment below from KenZ on a route for an “obscure” connection)
http://www.nps.gov/goga/rcdt.htm

We did a big CCW loop that isn’t even shown on the official map http://www.nps.gov/goga/upload/map-rcdt-4color-2013-0703.pdf but is visible on Open Street Maps.  If you’re a Geocacher, there are also”navigation beacons”!

We parked at the end of “Coral Reef Avenue” and commenced our climb. The views rapidly got better as we saw some unfamiliar patches of (what I think is) Pampas Grass.

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Up we go through the Pampas Grass (or something like that!)

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Nice view of the radar dome and the HMB airport as we ascend

Eventually we got up to a trail junction and spotted the low green building off to the right. I believe this is the recently closed “Half Moon Bay Gun Club”, according to a geocaching acquaintance. It wasn’t totally vandalized inside yet, with cookware and some recently expired canned food inside.

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Small detour to the (recently closed) HMB gun range

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“Wrong place, wrong time” at the gun range

We passed the gun club, circled left, and summitted at the communications tower.

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The summit!

After poking around and looking east to the SF Bay, we backtracked all the way back to the Gun Club.

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Approximate halfway point. We’ll return on the ridge to the right of that “lake”, which is actually a vegetable field!

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Yup, there is no easy & legal way to connect to Montara Mountain from up here. (See comment from KenZ below, however…)

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Looking at the waves breaking down the coastline

From there we continued our CCW loop. This is where the unexpected terrain started. Up and down, up and down…

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The tip of the pen shows the steepness from where we came

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Nasty steep, right foot first!

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The sun is getting lower and reflecting off the ocean.

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Nicely composed photo of the radar dome and airport to the right.

Down, down, down, we went into the sunset. What we thought would be a quick shot straight to Highway 1 as we descended was not. It was “Posted” and we had to detour a few extra miles to get back to highway 1. We then walked on the shoulder of the highway for about 2 miles and back to the car! Study the route on the Strava link and allow plenty of time and water!

Strava link. 14 miles and 2600 feet, but it seemed much more! https://www.strava.com/activities/437703884

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Schulties Road and the Laurel Train Tunnel (Los Gatos Mountains)

A quick blog post to document for myself, and maybe others, a nice little route (bicycle ride) in Los Gatos, near Summit Road.

I parked my car between Highway 17 and the Lexington reservoir. It’s a bit to the SW after you exit Bear Creek Road

My starting point and parking spot next to Highway 17, near Bear Creek Road

Head uphill, past the Lexington Elementary School, until you get to the Aldercroft Heights turnoff.

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Bear right and stay on Old Santa Cruz Highway and you’ll eventually see this odd building.

The main building in Holy City

The main building in Holy City

“Holy City” was a settlement founded by a guy who was (you guessed it!) “holy”! Founded in 1919 and formally disbanded in 1959. I often stop and rest in the shade of this large building. A few years back it had a glass blowing shop that tried to pull in tourists from Highway 17, but seems to have failed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_City,_California

If you bear right onto Holy City Road for a few hundred feet, and look to your right, you’ll see an interesting old garage from the original settlement.

Go a about 100 feet up Holy City Road and look right

Go a about 100 feet up Holy City Road and look right

Notice the roof eaves and other architectural details. (It’s on private property, but you can get a good view from the public roadway.)

An early 19th century garage from the original Holy City days

An early 19th century garage from the original Holy City days

Continue up Old Santa Cruz Highway and the next point of interest will be the old crossroads of “Patchen”.

Mountain Charlie Road begins across the street from his cabin! (Not likely a coincidence!)

Mountain Charlie Road begins across the street from his cabin! (Not likely a coincidence!)

This now consists of a Christmas Tree farm and the old cabin of Mountain Charlie. (Here are highlights of historical locations as an early settler in these mountains http://www.mountaincharlie1850.org/historytour.html )

Mountain Charlie's cabin in the background.

Mountain Charlie’s cabin in the background.

Continue uphill to the intersection of Summit Road.

Summit Road!

Summit Road!

Cross Summit Road, staying on Old Santa Cruz Highway.

Old Santa Cruz Hwy crosses Summit Road

Old Santa Cruz Hwy crosses Summit Road

After a short distance you’ll see a left onto Schulties Road. It’s bumpy for awhile, then the pavement actually ends. It’s slow going at times, but my skinny tire road bike had no problems.

Schulties Road goes from rough pavement to smooth pavement to no pavement!

Schulties Road goes from rough pavement to smooth pavement to no pavement!

At the bottom of Schulties Road you’ll enter the crossroads of “Laurel”.

"Laurel"

“Laurel”

The highlight of Laurel, sometimes overlooked among the handful of homes, is the old train tunnel.

The Laurel Train tunnel

The Laurel Train tunnel

The Laurel intersection. Train tunnel way back on the right

The Laurel intersection. Train tunnel way back on the right

There used to be a series of 4 tunnels on the old train route from San Jose to Santa Cruz. All 8 portals still exist, though most are either on private property or are hard to find. They were blown-up internally in 1940 after being unused for awhile. This one can be seen without leaving your car, as can one at the end of “Wright’s Station Road” (http://www.santacruztrains.com/2012/03/wrights-station-summit-tunnel-north.html). I’ve been to all 8 portals, after doing some detailed research on USGS Topo maps, as well as carefully planning my route to avoid trespassing. This is the best summary of the 8 tunnels and a start for my research http://coursetrained.blogspot.com/2008/08/lost-tunnels-los-gatos-to-santa-cruz.html

After gawking at the tunnel from a distance, turn left onto Redwood Lodge Road to start enjoying your climb back up towards Soquel San Jose Road.

Redwood Lodge Road meets Soquel San Jose Road

Redwood Lodge Road meets Soquel San Jose Road

Left on Soquel San Jose Road (a bit busy!) and a left on Summit Road. Stop for a snack st the Summit Store. http://www.summitgrocerystore.com/

A few miles further down Summit Road will take you to the high point of the Old Santa Cruz Highway, where I initially crossed Summit Road. Turn right and descend back to the reservoir!

Upper Lexington Reservoir

Upper Lexington Reservoir

That’s it! 22 miles and 2700 vertical feet. Strava link: https://www.strava.com/activities/431607493

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Awesome Demo Program: Santa Cruz Bicycles HQ

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Santa Cruz is a great bicycle-friendly town. It’s a quick getaway from Silicon Valley (if you plan the Highway 17 traffic properly, or if you bicycle over “the hill” on Mountain Charlie Road or Soquel-San Jose Road) I’ve written about a leisurely day along the coast before http://alpharoaming.com/2013/11/05/chillin-whale-watching-santa-cruz-and-capitola/

Santa Cruz is also the home of “Santa Cruz Bicycles” http://www.santacruzbicycles.com/ They’re a well known maker of high-end mountain bikes. If you’re in the area, or plan to be, how about a 4 hour spin on one of their awesome carbon bikes? They have a “Factory Demo” program that allows you to reserve one of their bicycles of choice for a $20 fee (donated to local trail building).  http://www.santacruzbicycles.com/en/us/factory-demo On-line reservations are highly recommended, though you can try a walk-in.

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Just like in the video in the link above, I walked into the showroom, with my helmet and gloves, ready to ride, and was warmly greeted and set up with an awesome bicycle.

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I chose the 27.5 inch “Bronson”, which took the mountain biking world by storm a few years ago by being the first (one of the first?) carbon mountain bikes (http://www.outsideonline.com/1926996/six-month-shootout-santa-cruz-bronson-versus-devinci-troy-carbon-sl) Their demo models usually include the carbon wheels and the lighter “CC” frame. This one listed for ~$8600, but less expensive versions are available, with carbon wheels being the priciest option. (If pink / magenta is not your style, you can buy them in different colors. The demo model colors are random. No whining!)

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The Santa Cruz folks will help you find the awesome Wilder Ranch State Park http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=549 which is a very short ride from their showroom. In the correct season you’ll pass a field of pumpkins and brussels sprouts!

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…and a map at the bottom of the hilly part of Wilder Ranch.

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Pick some trails and up you go! Note carefully that some trails are wide-open fields and fire roads, while others are steep, twisty and jumpy. The more difficult ones usually are the ones that cross canyons and gullies between the ridges. Rocks, roots, (usually dry) creeks, and steep switchbacks…

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The Pacific Ocean is down there in the haze or “marine layer”

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One of the steep-but-direct single track trails. Looking uphill:

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…and looking downhill behind me. Down in the redwoods below were some seriously steep and twisty trail sections. I’m not afraid to admit I walked up AND down some portions. My balance and riding skills not perfect and I’m not interested in broken bones or a broken helmet!

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If you’re a younger or more experienced rider you’ll enjoy these bits. THESE are the trails that these bicycles were developed on and for…

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On the way back I passed a few polite equestrians. They were quite used to the many local cyclists and were grateful that I approached with caution and courtesy.

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That was my ride! I returned to the showroom and asked a few questions and gave my impressions. There was absolutely no sales pressure. They are professional, courteous, and let their fine machines speak for themselves!

(Last year I tested the “5010”, which used to be called the “SOLO” until they had a  trademark issue. Very similar to the Bronson, except for the frame geometry. Next I’ll try the 29 inch “Tallboy”. I’ve been told the Tallboy may fit my less-technical riding style and cruises nicely for someone used to a road bike. The Tallboy is also more budget-friendly, starting around $2600.)

Great demo program, great trails, and a GREAT bike! Compared to my old hardtail, I loved the lightness, the drop-post seat, and the very convenient 1×11 gearing. Give it a try and you might buy!

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Gear Review: UST’s ParaKnife 3.0 and Paracord Bracelet

 

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I’ve done a few gear reviews before…some I’ve purchased (http://alpharoaming.com/2014/05/26/merrell-moab/) and loved enough to share my experiences, and some were freebies. A few times I’ve had a gear manufacturer send me a freebie where they were not necessarily asking for a review. In the interest of “paying it back” I’m happy to do a short review for my blogging audience.

UST (https://www.ustbrands.com/) specializes in survival and emergency preparedness equipment. The first item they sent is a 7 inch Paracord Glo bracelet. This is a glow-in-the-dark version of what you’d wear just in case some parachute cord would come in handy. It looks well made, with a handy plastic snap clip. The 7 inch model is a bit snug on me, and I don’t have large wrists. Medium-to-large guys should look at their 8 inch models. Nice! (Available direct on their website, or $6.95 on Amazon http://amzn.com/B00FI8H976 or support your local retailer!)

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The second item is their “Paraknife 3.0 Glo”. This sucker is sharp! Be careful when removing it from the package! It’s a handy little fixed-blade knife, with a sturdy sheath. It’s made of a single flat piece of steel and the 5 feet of cord **is** the handle! As someone who has a few old knives that are in dire need of sharpening, THIS ONE will now be my go-to knife. Excellent little item. Thanks for the goodies! (Available direct on their website, or $11.94 Amazon Prime http://amzn.com/B00PG1YASQ or support your local retailer!)

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Archery Range in Silicon Valley (Bowhunters Unlimited at Stevens Creek County Park)

Didja know that there are three Archery Ranges in Santa Clara County that are FREE and open to the public? They’re maintained by local clubs, with the County’s permission. The closest one to me is near Stevens Creek Reservoir, between Cupertino and Saratoga. https://www.sccgov.org/sites/parks/Activities/SportsFacilities/Pages/Archery.aspx

Easy to miss on Mt Eden Road

Easy to miss on Mt Eden Road

Find “Mt Eden Road” from the back of the Stevens Creek Reservoir or from Pierce Road, coming from Saratoga (past Garrod Farms and Cooper-Garrod Winery, which are also nice stops to rent a horse http://www.garrodfarms.com/ and sample some local wine http://www.cgv.com)  and look on the uphill side of the road for the range. (The entrance is at N 37° 16.585 W 122° 04.177  if you’re a Map Geek. It’s about 1000 feet NW of the intersection of Mt Eden Rd and Orchard Meadow Dr.)

Turn left if you're coming from the reservoir

Turn left if you’re coming from the reservoir

The range in Cupertino is nicely maintained by “Bowhunters Unlimited” http://bhuarchers.org/bow7/

The Archery Range and shelter with picnic tables

The Archery Range and shelter with picnic tables

There is a series of hay bales, with targets attached, at varying distances from the shady shelter, near the parking lot. “Porta Potties” too!

View from the target range shelter

View from the target range shelter

There’s also a “field course” of 32 targets, spread out across the steep hillside.

Walking Course entrance, to the right of the target range

Walking Course entrance, to the right of the target range

All the targets are safely backstopped against the hillside. With normal caution, often called-out by nearby signs, you can shoot from a wide range of distances.

Walking Course in the woods

Walking Course in the woods

Shoot from as far or as close as you want!

Shoot from as far or as close as you want!

The trail is steep in some places, and I did get briefly disoriented around #17 ~ #19, before I saw the “exit” sign behind me. Generally the course is well-marked and even has a few stations with bottled water and shady tables along the way.

Beware of the Troll

Beware of the Troll

…and views of the surrounding hills

Nice views from the Walking Course

Nice views from the Walking Course

If you’re interested, it’s open to the public to come in and look around. If you decide to try archery, there are shops in Gilroy (http://www.predatorsarchery.com/) and one up in San Mateo County. A beginner’s kit will run you around $200 for a reasonable bow, arrows, a quiver, a finger guard and a wrist guard (http://www.predatorsarchery.com/in-store.shtml#bow-packages) (No, I don’t know them or get a kickback if you buy anything!). Those shops can set you up with some lessons, or Bowhunters Unlimited can do the same for free at the range (http://bhuarchers.org/bow7/lessons). Give it a try!

FOOTNOTE on the California drought: I stopped at the nearby Stevens Creek Reservoir back in March and was happy to see that it was almost full…about a foot below the spillway on the dam.

Full in March 2015 (dam in background)

Full in March 2015 (dam in background)

This past week, 6 dry months later, the level was a (very sad) 10 feet down. Can we have some rain…please?!?

About 10 feet down (Sept 2015)

About 10 feet down (Sept 2015)

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