Today D. and I visited the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains west of Mountain View. It is one of the many park areas run by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, which tries to keep various San Francisco Peninsula landscapes and ecosystems undeveloped and in as natural a state as possible.
The Monte Bello preserve is stunning, with rolling grasslands, dense creekside mixed evergreen forests, Douglas fir forests and chaparral, blessed with many spectacular vistas. We took a trail which started out in open grasslands, went down into a canyon full of thick trees and continued along the headwaters of Stevens Creek, which finds its way into San Francisco Bay at the shore in Mountain View down below. As a matter of fact, the mountain the preserve is on is the origin of the city name Mountain View.
Not too far along the trail we came to a dramatic vista point, where visitors can look down Stevens Creek Canyon to see Mt. Umunhum and Loma Prieta, the epicenter of the 1989 earthquake. The San Andreas Fault runs through the preserve, a reminder that the landscape is continually changing. A sun-warmed stone bench was right there, allowing us the opportunity to sit and enjoy the view.
A sharp cry overhead alerted us to a pair of red tailed hawks in the middle of their courtship flight. They called to one another, talons locked together, spiralling downward toward the ground, but breaking apart in time to fly off to a nearby tree, no doubt to consummate their bond.
In one trail section we found a matted furry substance, which I guessed was a mountain lion hairball. There were mountain lion warning signs in the parking lot, so it was not unplausible. (Boy, can you imagine having to clean up a mountain lion hairball from your carpet?? Yuck! It's bad enough when little Kitty does it!)
If I had to name that trail, I'd call it the Lizard Trail, because it seemed there was a lizard every 10 feet along the path, scurrying into the cracks and holes in the ground, basking on warm rocks in the sun, running among the dry tawny grasses. The hillsides whispered with the soft, high-pitched rustling of the wind through the grass. Here and there were various wildflowers and butterflies, and wild roses in the shady areas along the creek.
The coolest part, though, was the geocache D. found. He went a few yards off the trail near the stream and spotted what looked like an ammo box in a hollow tree. But upon closer examination we saw the Geocaching sticker on it. Inside was a ziploc bag of goodies, and another ziploc bag with a pen and a logbook. It looked like it was begun last November, and no one had written in the log for the past couple of months. The dealio is, if you take a goodie from the bag (toy car, little stuffed animal, etc), you have to leave something similar in its place. We wrote an entry saying how we'd found the cache by accident, and Osiris left a penny. (We didn't go there prepared to leave a Geocache offering today. Who knew?)
On the drive back down into town we passed a small corral with a llama and a few pygmy goats. There are a lot of horse ranches in those hills, but the llama was a surprise to see.
This evening after dinner we took a stroll through the neighborhood, stopping to pet the local kitties, smell the neighbors' flowers and admire the almost-full moon rising through the treetops.