Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lands End

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  • Hiking Trail
  • USS San Francisco Memorial
  • Lands End Point
  • Labyrinth at Lands End
  • Mile Rock Beach
  • Mile Rock Lighthouse
  • Eagle’s Point
  • Scenic viewpoint of Marin County, Point Bonita lighthouse, Golden Gate Bridge, China Beach
  • Birds – Pelicans, Sea gulls

More Info
  • Free parking and free admission
  • Visitor center at the parking lot
  • Restrooms at the visitor center
  • Two parking lots, each about 0.2 miles away from the other
  • Bring flash lights if you decide to stay back until sunset
  • Bring a jacket, it gets cold close to the ocean

Coastal Trail

Length: ~3 miles; Time: 4 hours; Difficulty: Easy

Hiking the Lands End has been on our to-do list for a very long time. As soon as we found a warm and sunny weather forecast that week-end, we grabbed the opportunity. The Coastal Trail in the Lands End begins in the parking lot next to the Visitor Center. We parked our car here and merrily took the trail that soon connected with the second parking lot where the USS San Francisco Memorial is located. The memorial was built to honor those who fought on the navy cruise ship in the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II.

After skimming through the placards that offer profound information about the battle, we continued on the picturesque Coastal Trail that took us along the Pacific Coast, offering sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin County, Hawk Hill, Point Bonita Lighthouse, Mile Rock Beach, Mile Rock Lighthouse.

View of Golden Gate Bridge from a lookout in the trail

Located in the rockiest north western corner of San Francisco, the Lands End is known for its history of landslides that took away the lives of many people. The wild ocean currents, treacherous rocks and foggy weather have also caused 300+ ship wrecks. Although we could not spot, it is said that the remains of three ships can be seen from the trail during low tides.
Mile Rock Lighthouse in the middle of the ocean

Following a devastating shipwreck in 1901, the Mile Rock lighthouse was constructed in 1906 in the ocean to warn ships of the perilous rocks. The lighthouse was later dismantled and converted to a helicopter pad. This is the first time I saw a lighthouse constructed in the ocean itself!

Trail to Lands End and Mile Rock Beach

We reached a point in the trail where a detour took us down through a long fleet of stairs to the Lands End and the Mile Rock Beach. The Lands End has a labyrinth, which was originally created by Eduardo Aguilera in 2004 for meditation purposes. It was a lot of fun walking in the maze. Another fleet of stairs took us to the Mile Rock Beach. It is hard to miss out the sea gulls and pelicans flying over the ocean.

Labyrinth at Lands End

We continued on to the Coast Trail and reached the Eagle Point, which is the entrance to the San Francisco harbor. An amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge and China Beach to the right awaited us here. This marks the end of the Coastal Trail and we returned to the parking lot via the same route.

Eagle Point - Overlooking China Beach and GG Bridge

However, as it was time for sunset, we stopped by the Mile Point Beach to capture a breathtaking view of the sunset. The strong ocean currents, huge rocks, Marin County on the other side of the Pacific, Point Bonita Lighthouse in the Marin headlands and Golden Gate Bridge to the right offer dramatic views that any photographer would fall in love with.
Sunset at Mile Rock Beach

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve

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  • 24 miles of Hiking Trails
  • Panoramic view of Bay Area 
  • Grounds to fly model airplanes
  • Deer Hollow Farm (Educational center for schools)
  • Mountain Biking
  • Equestrian Trials
  • Wildlife

More Info
  • Free parking and free admission
  • Dogs are not permitted
  • Restrooms at the main parking lot trailhead
  • Maps available for free pickup at the trailhead
  • BBQ pits
  • Picnic tables

Missing gym on a Friday filled me with guilt and I wanted to make up to it by going on a fairly long hike during the week-end. I remembered one of my colleagues raving about the hiking trails in San Antonio Ranchero Preserve and after doing our research, decided to take the 8 miles PG&E trail, the longest trail in the preserve.

On a Saturday morning, we packed sandwiches, snacks, water and drove for about 20 min to reach the San Antonio Ranchero Preserve. There are several parking lots, each a little away from the other. We hunted high and low for a parking space and pretty soon found one, near the ground to fly model airplanes. It was entertaining to see so many people out there, enjoying the sunny weather and flying model airplanes.

Model Airplanes

PG&E Trail - Upper High Meadow Trail - Wildcat Loop Trail - High Meadow Trail - Deer Hollow Farm

Length: 8 miles; Elevation: 1200 feet; Time: 5 hours; Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous

At one of the trailheads, we picked up a map and were ready to roll on our long hike. We started on the Coyote trail, which soon connected with the PG&E Trail. The trail commences with a gradual ascend for about a mile that beguiled me into thinking that this hike was going to be a cake walk. I was so wrong! I never realized that I would be taking back those words soon. After the first mile, the trail undulated in steepness. There are a few parts of the trail where the clamber is so steep that my heart was pounding insanely hard. The nice thing was that the trail was well-shaded by the tall trees every now and then.

PG&E Trail

After lots of huffing and puffing, we finally made it to the top! A gorgeous view of the entire bay area with a clear view of the Dumbarton Bridge and a hazy view of the San Mateo Bridge stood in front of us. We took a break to grab a bite to eat, while enjoying the beautiful landscape and with the sense of accomplishment that we made it.

Panoramic View of Bay Area from atop the trail

We took the Upper High Meadow Trail to return to the parking lot via the Deer Hollow Farm. The trail started with a steep descend for a couple of minutes, then became gradual throughout the remainder of the trail. It took us through meadows that were not shaded at all whatsoever. The trail is rich with wildlife; we noticed several small flamboyant birds, lizards, rabbits leaping into the bushes and a deer grazing on the meadows. We then reached a spot where the trail forked into 5 different trails, with a small detour leading to a scenic viewpoint of the bay area. 

Flowers along the trail

We continued on to the High Meadow Trail, which to our pleasant surprise was well shaded by the tall trees on either sides of the trail. As the Deer Follow Farm closes by 4.00pm, I was bent on reaching the farm before then. Being a popular educational center, the farm was bundled with kids with their parents. It has a small garden, two pigs, hens, ducks, rabbits, cows catering to kids for educational tours. This farm is just about a mile away from the parking lot and it is stroller friendly as well, so most of the crowd is here. 

Deer Hollow Farm

The Deer Follow Farm trail has BBQ pits, picnic area with benches and tennis courts open to general public. We will definitely come back again, to take other trails.

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hakone Estate & Gardens

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  • 18-acres Japanese garden
  • Fish, Turtles and Duck in Koi Pond
  • Hakone’s Lanterns and Carved Stones
  • Tea Plantation
  • Bamboo Garden
  • Flora
  • Photography
  • Marriage/Birthday Events   

More Info
  • $7/person admission fee; Free admission on Tuesdays
  • Credit cards accepted
  • Dedicated parking space
  • Gift shop
  • Guide and map provided at the gift shop

On a bright Sunday morning, while pondering over a nice place to visit and take a leisurely walk, Hakone Gardens came to our minds. We passed by the Hakone Gardens while on our way to Big Basin a few months ago and since then I have been waiting for spring to visit this place.

We went to the gardens at 2ish to avoid the sun being directly above our heads. A tapering, steep, half a mile road from Big Basin Way took us directly to the garden parking lot. We bought the tickets from the gift shop and the lady gave us two gold colored coins and a map of the gardens. We dropped the gold colored coins to open the turnstiles at the garden entrance and with the map in our hands, we were all set to explore every nook and corner.

Koi Pond

Our first stop inside the garden was at the Koi pond, where there was a plethora of fish, turtles and ducks. The small, flamboyant turtles basking on the stones made me contemplate whether they were fake, but apparently they were not.
Turtles in Koi Pond

The fish did several somersaults like dolphins and showed off other aerobatic stunts that made me wonder whether I was in my dream world. I believe these fish know that we will never harm them, so they daringly come to the edge of the pond. The fish are so big and they open their mouths so wide that I could even peek into its mouth by bending down a little bit. Kids just love this place!

Fish in Koi Pond

We used the map as a guide to take us around the park, where there are several observation decks, Bamboo gardens, Tea plantations, waterfalls and culturally significant Japanese statues. As the garden is at an elevation, there are a few spots along the trail, where you might be able to spot a panoramic view of the valley.


The garden is very well maintained and it was soothing to walk among the lush gardens and colorful spring flowers. Unconsciously, the greenery around filled us with tranquility. We were surprised and happy that such a beauty exists just within a 30minutes drive from San Jose.


These gardens are also a popular sight for weddings and to take photo shoots. We noticed several couples dressed up and taking pictures. We will go back again, better dressed up to capture a few good photo shoots here.

Spring Flowers