Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hiking at the Montalvo Art Center - Saratoga, CA

I love to hike - love love love it! - but I rarely have the time to do it, which is crazy considering I live within 20 or 30 minutes of a trillion local preserves and county parks, with miles and miles of hiking trails.

To tell you the truth, it's not just the "time" issue for me.  I've come to realize that my biggest pet peeve about hiking in the local preserves, especially the ones near town, are the people.  I was raised in a family that respected nature - tread lightly, keep your voice down, and no littering. 

When I hike, I walk quietly and enjoy the sounds of nature around me: the birds tweeting, the creeks flowing, the crackle of the underbrush as lizards and ground squirrels run away from me.  The last thing I want to hear is some loudmouth woman yakking so loud on her cell phone that you can hear her coming half a mile away.  Or the troupe of kids who are destroying the trail and surrounding area while the moms trail behind, talking to one another and not minding their brats!  I return home from those trips feeling more stressed out than when I went - the opposite effect I wanted.

So, I've been looking for some alternatives - something close to town but not well known or used.  That's when I stumbled across the Montalvo Art Center located on the outskirts of the small village of Saratoga, CA.  All the signage along the road says "Montalvo Villa" - it's all the same thing.  The property is a Santa Clara County Park and free to enter, though their hours are more like banker hours than anything else (probably why not a lot of people go there).  The center includes an arts residence, arboretum, a large lawn, the villa (used as a museum and rented out for events) and an amphitheater.

I didn't go to Montalvo to see art but rather to hike.  As you can see from their map (PDF) there are a plethora of trails in the surrounding property, some easy, like the nature trail that runs behind the villa, and some more difficult, but all short and well marked.

I walked the "Lookout Trail" this morning, which meanders along the hills surrounding the property, with an additional spur that takes you up to the top of the hill, where you have a magnificent view of the San Jose valley.

Fall in San Jose, CA - As you can see, we don't get a lot of color change here

Climbing that hill was a good workout and I found myself having to stop to catch my breath.  The trail was well graded with very few rocks or roots to trip you up - a good thing for a clumsy person like me!  ;-)

I ran into a few other hikers, mainly couples taking their morning walk, but not as many as I ran into at Rancho San Antonio Open Space just down the road.  One group, a group of 8, were a bit rowdy for me but once they saw me approaching on the trail, they settled down.  Guess they didn't realize there were others around.

I plan to return to this park often, though next time, I'm bringing my real camera.  My cell phone camera just didn't do it any justice.  ;-)

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