Tuesday, May 26, 2015

We're lucky. So many Bay Area visionaries have protected our parklands. Imagine our world without Jack London State Park, Muir Woods, or Point Reyes. Although they are not as well known as some, we have the Duvenecks to thank for a little piece of heaven on the peninsula.
Beginning of Hostel Trail at Hidden Villa

In 1924 Josephine and Frank Duveneck bought 1000 acres in Los Altos Hills. The property stretches west to Adobe Creek's headwaters and encompasses woods, chaparral, and a charming little valley. Hidden Villa is the Duveneck's legacy, a "nonprofit educational organization that uses its organic farm, wilderness, and community to teach and provide opportunities to learn about the environment and social justice." The valley is home is a hostel and organic farm, and during summer months the property is closed to the public for a kids' camp. The rest of the year hikers can walk on easy paths through the woods or use Hidden Villa as a trailhead for intense long treks into adjacent Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve

On Memorial Day when I hiked Hidden Villa with my son and husband the complex and trails were bustling with energy -- families with small kids were picnicking near the creek and exploring the farm, and we crossed paths with many hikers on the trails. 
View to Ewing Hill (foreground) and Black Mountain from Hostel Trail

We started near the entrance kiosk and walked along the edge of the meadow to easy-to-miss Hostel Trail, which begins just past its namesake. I had forgotten just how steeply this narrow path climbs -- it's a calf burner! The first section ascends through mostly California bay and oak woods. We saw a few fairy lanterns, paintbrush, some California larkspur, and a good display of Indian pink. Past the first junction (we went left) the trail continues climbing, now in chaparral. Coyote mint, sticky monkeyflower, and chamise were in bloom. Loads of puffy clematis were draped across the trailside shrubs. At a viewpoint near the top of Toyon Hill, we savored views of Black Mountain to the west. Then we began a long zigzag down to the junction with Grapevine Trail. 

Here, under the shade of a buckeye tree, we lunched and considered our options. I wanted to continue on a longer loop, but my son was feeling hot and unwilling. I left them lounging and pressed on uphill on Hostel Trail. I had a mission.
Wind poppy, blooming on Hostel Trail in Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve

Last week, I heard wind poppies were blooming in the area. I have only ever seen them on Mount Diablo, so I was eager to catch them before they went to seed. Up through chaparral I went, seeing the first of about a dozen new-to-me lizards. I entered Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve and enjoyed the wide, freshly-brushed trail. Just before I was about to give up I saw them -- the wind poppies! I love these orange flowers. I counted only about a dozen plants, and they seemed to be at their peak. Mission complete, I retraced my steps back to Grapevine Trail.

The narrow path descends steeply through chaparral. We saw hummingbirds, more of the same lizards, and the back end of a fox escaping into the bushes. We were glad to reach the cool canyon and Adobe Creek, and followed the level trail back toward the farm area. 

Total mileage for the described loop: about 3.3 miles
No dogs or bikes on trails.
$5 entrance fee.
Hidden Villa closes for the summer on June 11. Get there soon!
BAHiker's Hidden Villa page
View lots more photos of this hike on the BAHiker Facebook page
Map of hike


Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing! You're such an inspirational, I hope to hike my way around California(:
Looking forward to see more of your posts. Hope you had a great day!

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed the Bay Area Hiker website for many years. Almost much as the land grants that created our open spaces, you have have helped me hike in joy and wonder, in places I never would have known existed. Thank you.

It's great that your family hikes with you, and that you are able to hike your own hike(s) as well. The social aspects of hiking are hard to tune.

Now I am off to figure out how wind poppies differ from other poppies. The plants are exotic, and it helps to learn what you saw on a given hike so I can find it in a wild flower book. Like so many other weeds, I am not native to this area. :-)

Happy trails!

finn said...

We were on the same route (Hostel to the end and back down Ewing Hill) a few days later and saw a bunch of California Whiptails ... did they have really long tails (as long as the rest of the body) and a kind of black-and-white mottling in the neck area?

Jane Huber said...

Finn, they looked different than those whiptails. It was so odd to me, because I have never seen lizards like these before, in 20 years of hiking!. There is a photo of one on the BAHiker Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bay-Area-Hiker/138877479476343
(not sure how to link directly to the photo)

finn said...

This one? That's a Whiptail. (Compare the 3 photos of "adult, contra costa" in the second row on the calherps site.)

Jane Huber said...

Finn, I guess so (thanks for finding the photo). I wonder why that part of Hidden Villa is such a whiptail hotspot. Thanks!

Rohit Rathore said...

Such beautiful places.

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