Silicon Valley



Saturday 23 May 2015

There was a broom-pulling volunteer event at Bear Creek Redwoods, but it only started at 9:30, and I’m up and about much earlier than that. Stopped at Rancho San Antonio for another pass at the purple star thistle, and I was 2 minutes late getting to Bear Creek. Not to worry. As it happened, volunteer coordinator Ellen had seen me at Rancho, honked hello as she went past on her way to Bear Creek. So she knew I’d be along.

I’m recovering from tennis elbow, but I am recovering, so I’m willing to do an hour or two of work, mostly with a weed wrench, which doesn’t stress the forearm muscles as much as gripping and pulling. When I had had enough, Ellen asked me to reconnoiter some nearby trails. She didn’t like the answer: broom and more broom everywhere. But that’s how it is.


We are right across highway 17 from Lexington reservoir, and we could hear a helicopter doing training, scooping water from the lake to fight fires. Later on, we saw it, first hovering over Mt Umunhum, then coming a lot closer and lowering crew on a winch. I got no good photos of that, unfortunately, but if you Google “CDF 106,” you find interesting videos of this particular chopper, here and here.

Sunday, 24 May

I decided to do a trail patrol at Rancho. Skipped the usual side trip to the top of Black Mountain, because I may want to do something strenuous tomorrow as well. But I added on a couple miles of other trail, to keep it from being trivial.

I checked the side trail to Hidden Villa, just to see whether it was closed to the public already — they run summer camps, and close it every summer, but not yet. As I reached the top of the little hill, I met a loop hike from Hidden Villa, half a dozen adults, six or eight kids in the 8-10 range. Nice.

In the same general clutter (sorry: cluster) were a couple of guys who wanted to go prowl through the tall grass looking for whiptails. Have to admit I had to look up whiptails when I got home. I hope they found some.


Just above the pond, a deer. Completely relaxed about my presence, close enough I could hear it munching on that delicious salad.


From the outside (above) and the inside (below). Nice!


Three hikers came up behind me and passed, and I got a minute or two of their conversation. One was going on about game theory, finding the point that represents the maximum willingness to pay, versus the customer’s desire to pay as little as possible. He mentioned that he worked at Google, whose business is built around auctioning ads. The second said he was also contracting with Google, developing computer science classes for impoverished kids. The third said he had started out as a poly sci major at Columbia. Decided after one semester that it wasn’t for him, dropped out, travelled, bummed around, and now that he’s in Silicon Valley … well, I couldn’t hear the rest of it.

Do you suppose you would overhear that conversation anywhere and everywhere in the world? … maybe, yes. Pretty cool!


This is probably not a whiptail, though I have no good reason to assume that.

After completing the trail patrol, I went back and tidied up the loose edges around the thistle sweep I had done yesterday. Good to tie up the package, and still get home in time for a beer.

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2 Responses to “Silicon Valley”

  1. Steve 'Behind the Chapel' Says:

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for keeping the memories here alive. I’m glad you and the volunteers have been active keeping the place– Bear Creek Redwoods– maintained as best as you with the meager resources you have. I know it’s a tough job. I’m glad MPOST was able to buy the place and preserve it for all of us. Like many others, I helped donate and lobby to help make this happen. I am disappointed, though, how badly the historic buildings have deteriorated over time and the vandalism that’s occurred since my last visit. This is extremely disheartening.

    I’m more than familiar with the place. I lived on the grounds for many years and explored the area extensively. I have always enjoyed researching the spot and know much of its past and present history. I recognize all of the photos you took. Thank you for that, David! It was a trip down memory lane.

    May I add a few interesting things?

    We all know that big tree up on the upper property. It’s a longtime beauty. Near that tree was the old springbox that fed the property’s many wood water tanks. You may find some of the old pipes abutting from the hillsides here and there farther down below– they were old redwood logs lined with tar from the late 1800s that collected water from different locations. Later, the Jesuits replaced them with metal piping. The pipes fed down the rolling hillside into a tremendously large concrete tank holding a million gallons of water, below the spot of that old fireplace you found. The spot of that old fireplace was called Villa Joseph– a Jesuit retreat area and a moderately extensive spot up just from Alma College, consisting of a church, housing, kitchen, shop, bathrooms, a camping area, tennis and handball courts, and an almost-Olympic size swimming pool (The Jesuits had two large pools; one here and one below at Alma College). The old church sadly burned down around 1979. All the remaining buildings were bulldozed after the Loma Prieta earthquake and you’d never know they were ever there.

    The area has a fascinating history of so many different things. Briefly, it was written up in Ripley’s Believe It or Not three times for various reasons (World’s Largest Madrone; DeAnza and John C. Fremont’s expedition; a fire put out by a winery’s vats).

    John Steinbeck didn’t live directly on the property, but he did live nearby in a small cabin across the road for a short period.

    On the upper dirt road and above Villa Joseph, you may have noticed some old metal junk on a hillside near the fallen down remains of an old shack. That has historical significance. It was the ham radio site of the Jesuits– and it relayed the very first transmission of the Pearl Harbor bombing for the entire Pacific coast. That ‘junk’ is the actual remains of the radio tower, I believe.

    On the road across Bear Creek, and across the Sisters of the Presentation, is a flat area of the Bear Creek Redwoods property– the old Dougherty Mill spot. That spot had a very notorious murder of a family (and sensational court trial) in 1883 that was the talk of the town in Los Gatos, known as the McIntyre-Renowden murder.

    Also, very near the Alma College property and on the old MurdockHebard property, is an old pioneer grave cemetery from the 1860s to 1887.

    The Alma College/Villa Joseph property had many owners over the years: Captain Stillman Knowles (1860s), James L. Flood (1894; the son of James Clair Flood, the wealthy owner of the Comstock Lode Silver Fortune, who named the place ‘Alma Dale’ for his wife), Dr. Harry Tevis (1906), and then the Jesuits (Sacred Heart Novitiate of Los Gatos, 1934).

    Enrico Caruso, severely frightened by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and its burning buildings, fled here by wagon as an invited guest to recover from his terrified wits after performing in SF. Later in the 1920s, Charlie Chaplin swam in the pool at Alma Dale. Many other famous folks of the day visited as guests of both the wealthy Floods and the well-known socialite Tevis’ families.

    Originally, the property had 7 trout ponds and a very extensive water system of pipes and cement culverts and arches, along with many extensive and extravagant buildings and roads built by the different owners. Many of those ponds remain to this day. It was the first property to have its own self-contained electrical power generation system in what was then a fairly remote spot in the hills.

    Down the dirt road from Alma College heading to the Alma fire station, near where the largest old madrone tree once stood, are Indian grinding holes worn into the rocks.

    There is so, so much more to say and add here, but this is entirely too long enough as it is. Sorry. I hope it is interesting for you and others.

    Let me just close by saying that one of my most treasured little books on the history of this sweet spot (and of the Santa Cruz Mountains in general) which contains far more detail on the above is Ghost Towns of the Santa Cruz Mountains’by John V. Young. You can likely find it available online. My copy is from 1979 by the Paper Vision Press but the last time I checked, Tanager Press had the rights and may be reprinting it.

    Young’s book is a compilation of news accounts first written in 1934 and it delves far back into archival history. It’s a fascinating must-read and sure to please anyone who loves the little-known history and exploration of this place– the Bear Creek Redwoods and Santa Cruz mountains.

    Happy travels and further exploration, David. There’s much more to see and find and read, believe me. And thank you for keeping the place up. I hope someday MPOST compiles all of the fascinating history of the place into one museum spot for visitors at the property. If they ever do, I have some pictures, news clippings, and a few old Jesuit plates I’d love to give.

    My best wishes and regards to you,
    Steve ‘Behind the Chapel’
    Freshwater, CA.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 86dave Says:

      Thanks, Steve. It’s obvious that a lot of history happened here, but it’s great to get some of the details filled in, things that we don’t see just by walking around the area.



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