On a very hot Sunday afternoon D. and I took a walk along part of the Stevens Creek Trail.
Stevens Creek runs down through Stevens Canyon and then through Cupertino, Los Altos, Sunnyvale and Mountain View on its way to San Francisco Bay. Like the many other regional creeks that arise in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Stevens Creek used to run free on the surface and periodically overflowed its banks, fanning out as it neared the Bay, forming tidal estuaries and merging with the marshes and tidal swamps.
In recent history, however, the needs of agriculture and industry have corralled these creeks into cement culverts to control and contain their flows in deep, straight channels all the way to the Bay. This has unnaturally cut off the flow of fresh water from the surrounding habitats; water that used to seep down into the local aquifers is now discharged far downstream. But even so, there is still a lot of beautiful scenery and wildlife to see along its length.
The trail follows Stevens Creek in Mountain View through woodlands, tidal marshes and neighborhood parks. It gets a lot of use from bicyclists, bird watchers, dog walkers, hikers, joggers, runners, walkers, scooterers, rollerbladers, skateboarders and even commuters.
Here's some of what we saw.
Stevens Creek Trail.
Here's a little side path going closer to the creekside, alongside the main trail.
A mallard pair enjoys the creek on one foot.
Seasonal closure sign. No chance of that happening this time of year.
California buckeye (Aesculus californica) blossom. Very sweet and fragrant.
Chestnut tree (Aesculus species) blossoms in Whisman Park. It's related to the California buckeye.
A small bridge crosses Stevens Creek to link to adjacent Whisman Park.
Party preparations, Whisman Park. We weren't invited.
Traffic on Hwy 85. The trail crosses under Middlefield Rd in a tight (and noisy) squeeze alongside an existing Hwy 85 underpass.
Colorful red pods on a California redbud.
McCain controls when we walk! (Crossing Moffett Blvd is the only time when trail users have to deal directly with vehicular traffic.)
Mallard drake on the creek.
Mallard hen on the creek.
Tiny snail at trailside. We saw 3 of them on the grass blades, little babies estivating.
Common egret fishing in Stevens Creek. It caught a lot of minnows while we watched.
Black-crowned night heron on the creek. It just stood there downstream from the egret. Maybe it was trying to pick up fishing pointers.