Elephant Mountain
Ewing Hill

Thu, Jun 11, 2009

With: Ryan Burd
Jackie Burd

Story Photos / Slideshow Map Profile

It was the last day of school and the kids were out at 10:30a for the summer. My relaxing stay-at-home-Dad routine was suddenly going to no longer be as relaxing. Oh well, time to start hiking!

I took the kids to Hidden Villa, in part because there are cool farm animals to entertain the kids, and partly (ok, mostly) because there are a couple of named hills in the area that I'd yet to visit. Hidden Villa has been around for generations, run as an organic farm and education center that most every kid in the South Bay or the Peninsula visits for at least one field trip. The place is run by mostly volunteers, and so it has a somewhat run down, hippy kind of place that you can't help but find charming. Parking is $5, not really enforced during the week, but how can you skimp on donating to this place? Maps are available at a kiosk a short distance south of the parking lot.

We started off by visiting the farm animals, feeding the goats and sheep from the surrounding leafy vegetation, petting them and the large, friendly dairy cows. Both of the kids found this great fun. What's not to love about friendly fellow mammals?

I took them up the Hostel Trail (conveniently located right next to the Hostel) to Elephant Mtn. Armed with long, thin reeds with nooses fashioned at the ends, we hiked the trail slowly, looking for lizards to harass along the way. If you haven't tried catching lizards with this method, it is surprisingly effective and interesting to watch. The lizards will run off from an approaching human or a reaching hand, but a two-foot reed with a loop on the end does not seem to bother them. Some will try to snatch at it, thinking it's a bug or something, but most just sit quietly and let you slip the noose right over their head. Really quite amazing. Of the dozens upon dozens we saw during the hike, Ryan managed to capture two or three, but they all busted out of the noose before he could grasp them with his hands. Jackie had less luck, as did I. Seems the lizards today were very active and spooked into the brush upon our approach. Once in the brush, the reeds are useless for catching them and they are as safe as could be.

The summit of Elephant Mtn offers a modest view of the South Bay, though it was clear enough to see all the way to San Francisco, somewhat surprising for such a low hill, just 1,200ft high. We continued on the trail east towards Ewing Hill, again taking our time in order to harass more lizards. We passed a trail junction then met up with the Black Mtn Trail. This trail passes by the east side of Ewing Hill, but it does not have a spur trail leading to the summit. We went back to the northeast side of the hill where the kids took a short break on a fence while Dad hunted around for a way up.

Not far from this fence I found a use trail that did the trick nicely. There was no sign, but it led up to the top of Ewing Hill as I'd hoped. A similar view as on Elephant Mtn, none of us was very impressed, especially the kids who could hardly see over the surrounding chaparral.

Heading back down, we took the Grapevine Trail that leads to Adobe Creek on the south side of Elephant Mtn. The trail that follows the creek is a delight, shady and cool with a very lush environment in contrast to the drier chaparral that covers much of the two hills. Jackie took delight in playing in the water, tossing in rocks, and such. Ryan, at 12yrs of age and two years older, not so much. The trail eventually led back to Hidden Villa and the farm animals where they got to feed and pet the animals some more.

In all we spent two and half hours at Hidden Villa, and it was enjoyed by all of us. Well worth a visit!

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