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Bay Area Backroads
Q: I will be in the south Bay Area during the 1st part of June...I'm going to San Francisco one day and would like to see some whales or country/parks for a day trip. Any suggestions?
A: See my hiking page for parks:
See the Santa Clara County parks page:
No whales in SJ unless one swims up the Alviso Slough. You
need to go
to the coast. Take Hwy 9 from Saratoga to Santa Cruz. Stop and see the
giant redwoods at Henry Cowell State Park in Felton. See the Long
Lab in Santa Cruz. It has a real whale skeleton. You might be able to
whales from the cliffs there with binoculars. The Santa Cruz City
has a full-size concrete whale in front. Go to the Santa Cruz Harbor
ask about whale-watching tours.
I was just kidding about seeing whales in the Bay. By strange
a pod of whales was spotted in the Bay just south of the Dumbarton
yesterday. See this story:
Who knows. If they keep swimming south, they just might end up in Alviso.
By the way, there is a bicycle/pedestrian path along the south
of the Dumbarton Bridge, so you can go up on the bridge and look for
Q: Old WWII bomber (B-52) - with Grandma Goose Cookies logo on it - you can sign up for a ride over the bay area on this plane - I think it leaves from Moffet - anyone know of this?
A: A B-52 isn't a WWII bomber. It's a 1950's Cold War-era jet strategic bomber still in use by the Air Force. I doubt they'd give rides in it.
I remember there was a Backroads story about Otis Spunkmeyer
which gave rides in an old DC-3 from the Oakland Airport:
I heard they stopped, though.
Q: There is an impressive antenna farm located in the Palo Alto Baylands near the Palo Alto Airport. It is merely described as an "old maritime radio station" on their website for the wetland park areas off of Embaradero Road. I would love to know more about this closed station's history. If you know of who to contact, it would be great to get a tour to photograph the grounds, interior, etc. to post to a website.
A: I don't know if this is it, but it sounds like it. Check it out:
You can get close to the radio station from the Bay Trail.
Q: I want to know if there are any roller blading trails in the Bay Area.
A: I'm a bicyclist, not a skater, but many of the paved multi-use bike trails are excellent for roller-blading. The best are the Stevens Creek Trail, the Los Gatos Creek Trail, the Alamitos Creek Trail, the Coyote Creek Trail, and paved sections of the Bay Trail. See these links:
Miles of trails are under construction, with some complete, in
San Jose at the Guadalupe River Parks and Gardens:
If you don't mind driving a little, the East Bay has some excellent trails: the Alameda Creek Trail, the Iron Horse Trail, the Lafayette-Moraga Trail, and the Contra Costa Canal Trail, among others.
Q: Where can I find websites about the big sur's history, geography, interesting facts etc.?
A: The Backroads stories are good. They've been to Big Sur a
have an old Webpage on state parks with links to the Big Sur area. I
updated it in a couple of years, but most of the links are still good:
Here are some more links:
Ventana Wilderness Society BIG SUR CULTURAL AND NATURAL
Natural History Of Big Sur (book):
Pelicannetwork - Hwy One in Big Sur:
Pelicannetwork - Eco Guide to Big Sur:
Go Monterey.com - Spotlight Big Sur:
Big Sur: California State Parks System
POINT LOBOS & BIG SUR TOUR:
Guestlife Monterey Bay - Big Sur:
Webtraveler Big Sur Virtual Tour:
Big Sur Geographic Overview:
JACK KEROUAC'S ENCOUNTER WITH MADNESS AT BIG SUR:
The Central Coast Bioregion:
Wild Coast And Lonely: Big Sur Pioneers (book):
Q: We are going to Pt. Lobos tomorrow for the first time! I've downloaded wonderful info from their website, but are there any other tips/info on what to expect?
A: Check this out:
Point Lobos is relatively compact, so it's easy to see everything. Nowhere else will you find such awesome coastal scenery in one spot.
Q: What fantastic walking paths in the Bay Area can you recommend? We've been on a few up in Santa Cruz mtns..
A: There are lots of places. You can see some on my hiking
Some of my favorite places in the South Bay are Santa Teresa
One of my favorite places is the Pt. Reyes/Tomales Bay area in
Here's a great guide to viewing the flora and fauna of the Bay
Q: Coming to the Bay Area to help a friend celebrate their birthday. Looking for some unique, fun, adventurous indoor and outdoor suggestions (activities, places to see, eat, etc.) for birthday celebration in early July.
A: There are a number of possibilities, but a novel idea just
Bonfante Gardens in Gilroy should be open by then. Check it out:
Q: I spent a day in Auburn last weekend and fell in love with it. I would love to spend some more time at other "mining towns" with that same type of charm. However, since I'm relatively new to this area, I don't know of any other towns like Auburn. Any suggestions?
A: Placerville is a lot like Auburn. It's an historical town
excellent historical museum. It also has a hard rock mining tunnel that
you can go into. It's called the Gold Bug Mine in Bedford Park. You can
see a picture of the mine and some other pictures of Gold Rush towns
Other nice Gold Rush towns, all along Hwy 49:
Q: Does anyone remember the name of the State Park in which the Trail known as "The Skyline To Ridge Trail" is located?
A: Are you sure you don't mean the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail? It goes through Big Basin State Park from the mountains down to the ocean north of Santa Cruz.
There's also the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which runs through a whole series of parks along the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains and around the Bay Area.
There's Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve, which is at the junction of Skyline Blvd. and Page Mill Road.
Q: I am a oyster lover. My friends tell me there is a place in North Bay that I can find cheap oysters to eat. I think it is a oyster farm or something like that. Can anyone tell me where the location is?
A: There are several places to get oysters around Tomales Bay
Reyes. There's the Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall. See;
There's Johnson's Oyster Company on Drake's Estero in Point
Q: I was born and raised at Hayward, and one of the most beautiful sights I remember is a water temple (I think). I don't remember the name of the site but it seems that it was south, east, or southeast of Hayward. Can you help me locate it because I would like pictures, if the Temple is still there?
A: This is the Sunol Water Temple in Niles Canyon. It's
sad shape. See these links:
On the other hand, the nearly identical Pulgas Water Temple is
shape, surrounded by a beautiful park, and easily accessible along
Road north of Edgewood Road, off Hwy 280. It is a popular spot, perhaps
too popular. Teens were using it as a hangout, so they restricted
to limited hours during weekdays. It is easily accessible by bike or
however, anytime. See:
Q: Does anyone know any way to ride your bike from Concord to Berkeley in the shortest way possible?
A: The easiest way is to ride to the Concord BART station and
BART, which allows bikes, to Berkeley.
Otherwise, these Websites may lead you to people who can
routes and maybe ride with you:
Also try this:
Q : Trying to go away this weekend from SF, but we don't have a car. Any thoughts on a fun day or two reachable by BART/Muni/GG Transit/other?
Q: Does anyone out there have any info on where the general public can go to, in the Northern CA Bay Area region, a flight simulator for an hour or two?
A: There is (or was) a place on Shoreline Blvd. in Mountain
block east of 101, that had fighter plane simulators. It was called the
Magic Edge, then later Fightertown USA, but the last time I went by
they were closed. It's mentioned in this article:
There is a place in Southern California that has flight
Q: My son's fist birthday is coming up soon. Where is a good picnic place for his birthday party? We're looking for something not too far from San Francisco.
A: Try Coyote Point Recreation Area. See:
Another good place is Junipero Serra County Park. It has picnic areas overlooking SFO and the Bay, with some nice playgrounds.
If you don't mind crossing the Bay, Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley is a great park, with train rides, a merry-go-round, pony rides, a petting farm, a swimming lake, a playground, and lots of picnic areas.
Also, don't forget Golden Gate Park.
Q: My mom is turning 73, and she loves to sit in the passenger seat and ride for the day (round trip) from the bay area? Any ideas???
A: Here are some:
I updated this Web page above, adding a really scenic drive from San Jose to Napa and back, taking the scenic backroads all along the way. I wouldn't recommend taking this whole route in one day (I've never done it), but it gives you some ideas of some scenic segments to take.
Edgewood County Park in the hills above Redwood City is one of
places in the Bay Area to view springtime wildflowers. I visited the
at the end of March and took pictures of the wildflowers and trails. I
put them on this page:
Q: My boyfriend and I are planning a 5-day trip sometime in June. We would like to go somewhere scenic with lots to do since we have 5 days to spend. Please help us, we have no idea where to go!!! Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
A: If you go down the coast, you may face the infamous "June gloom" in many places - overcast and fog along the coast. On the other hand, this is a good time to visit the Sierras, either the eastern or western side. On the western side, you can travel up Hwy 49 and stop at the many historic Gold Rush towns along the Motherlode. On the Eastern side, you can travel along Hwy 395 and take side trips up into the lakes and resorts in the Sierras or into Nevada. Or you can do both, crossing over from one side to the other at Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, or Tehachapi.
Another alternative is to go up the Central Valley, stopping off at Sacramento, Marysville, Colusa, Chico, Red Bluff, Lassen National Park, Redding, Lake Shasta, Castle Crags, Mount Shasta, the Klamath River, then into Oregon to Ashland and Crater Lake. It will be warm in the Central Valley, but you can go swimming. If you go up to the mountains, like, Lassen, Shasta, or Crater Lake, you're likely to find snow. You can keep going up further through Oregon or come back down along the North Coast and see the giant redwoods.
My travel page may give you some more ideas:
This Sunday's Backroads story on Almaden Quicksilver County Park and New Almaden was an excellent introduction to a true backroads gem. It's hard to believe so much history and rugged, scenic open space is just minutes away from shopping malls, homes, and Silicon Valley industriesBackroads did a good job showing the highlights of the area, but there are still more secrets for visitors to discover. The county park alone is huge - almost 4 Golden Gate Parks can fit into it. With 29 miles of trails, some climbing to nearly 1700 feet, it would take days to explore it all. I've been hiking there for years, and there are still places I haven't seen. For more details and pictures of the park and New Almaden, see this Website I made:
By the way, Doug was brave to go so far into the San Cristobal
Did he go in all the way? It gives me the creeps every time I go in
One time a bat flew over my head while I went into the tunnel entrance
without a flashlight, which scared the heck out of me. There's a
of the mine tunnel here:
The official park page, with trail map, is here:
Q: Hello, I just got married and have a couple extra vacation days. My hubby is from Oregon, so I'd like to show him around the Bay Area. Any cheap, fun ideas out there? Something that wouldn't require a lot of driving would be good.
A: That's easy. The easiest way to see the Bay Area
Bay itself) without a car and for little money is to hop on a bike (or
walk) and take the Bay Trail. See:
One of my favorite sections is the ride from Redwood Shores to SFO, which is about 30 miles round trip. It can be broken into smaller segments. Coyote Point is along this route and is a good destination in itself. Another is to take the Stevens Creek Trail to Shoreline Park in Mountain View and the Palo Alto Baylands. One of the best, longest, and most challenging rides is from Menlo Park's Bayfront Park, over the Dumbarton Bridge to the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters in Newark, through Coyote Hills Regional Park, then up and down both sides of the Alameda Creek Trail to Niles Canyon, then back down to the Bay. A nice short route, which takes you along the edge of the Bay with some little pocket beaches, is along the San Leandro Shoreline to Marina Park.
Q: Anyone have suggestions for approx 30 people for a day trip?
A: Where are you located, how far are you willing to go, what kinds of activities do you want to have, do you want it catered, and how much do you want to spend? Those are the considerations. Ideas can range from a city park where you bring your own food to a commercial establishment where everything's provided. Here are some ideas:
Catering and planning:
Q: I want to take my girlfriend somewhere, and I'm thinking like a remote beach that not too many people go to that is really beautiful. Are there any around Santa Cruiz or somewhere within a 2 hour drive from Sunnyvale?
A: Here are some nice beaches:
Indian Beach at Tomales Bay State Park requires a short hike from popular Hearts Desire Beach so is much less crowded. There are other beaches on the shores of Tomales Bay, some reachable only by boat. Kayakking is a popular activity in the calm bay. The beaches on the Point Reyes side are windier and wilder, but wider. The beaches extend for miles and are less crowded the farther you go from the parking areas. Limantour Beach is particularly nice.
Closer to Sunnyvale, try Wilder Ranch State Park. You can walk
along the cliffs to some remote pocket beaches. See:
Q: I will be getting married in August 2001 in San Jose and I'm trying to find a nice scenic area within SJ to take wedding photos. Can anyone help with suggestions?
A: Villa Montalvo and Hakone Gardens are excellent and popular
Some other ideas in the South Bay, depending on your tastes:
Here are links to some gardens:
You could also visit some professional photographers in the area and ask to look at some examples of their work, showing different locations.
Q: Does any one have any information about real kid friendly resorts near by or other kid friendly day trips an hour or so away? Also any kid-friendly bed and breakfasts in SF? Thanks.
A: I can't help you with resorts or B&B's, since I don't
go to them,
but you'll find ideas for day trips on my old Website:
Q: I saw a Backroads show a while ago that ran a story about a Gold Rush town that had a haunted hotel. The proprietors commented that an apparition was often seen walking down the stairs. I checked the website, and found a story about the Cary House Hotel in Placerville, but I don't think that's it. Any comments would be appreciated.
A: The only story I remember about a haunted hotel was the
It's in the Santa Cruz Mountains off Hwy 9, so it's closer to the Bay Area than the Gold Country.
Q: I'm trying to plan a weekend getaway for 5-10 friends. Looking for a place closer than Yosemite where we can camp, hike, bike (many skill levels), and bring the dog. Wanted to do Pt. Reyes but that's booked solid on weekends through mid-August. Any other suggestions would be really appreciated.
A: Did you try the Olema Ranch Campground? It's in the Olema
near the Bear Valley entrance to Point Reyes. That's where I usually
when I go camping at Point Reyes. I was able to get a campsite there on
Labor Day weekend with only a few days notice. They have a couple of
meadow overflow areas for latecomers. To get the best spots, which are
in the trees near the shower rooms, reserve early. You can see them, as
well as other places to go camping on my family camping page:
My friends are going to Spring Lake in Santa Rosa soon, so I
Web page on camping at Spring Lake as well as things to see and do in
Q: Is the Petrified Forest still around? I believe it was located somewhere near the Russian River area.
A: It's been around for millions of years, and it's still
between Santa Rosa and Calistoga. It's closer to Calistoga. You'll find
They mention it in the Backroads story on Calistoga:
Q: Any *real* caves near San Francisco area? Sizeable ones with large stalagmites and underground ponds? Would appreciate links to such attractions.
A: Unfortunately, there are not many caves around the Bay
are sea caves along the coast, but they're small. There are lots of
and mine shafts in the Santa Cruz Mountains and at Almaden Quicksilver
Park, but most of them are closed. The only caves with limestone
that I know of are in the Sierras or the Cascades. The ones in the
are California Cavern (which has an underground lake), Mercer Caverns,
and Moaning Caverns. These are in the Gold Country around Sonora and
Camp. There's also Boyden Caverns in Kings Canyon, which has a little
running through it.
Up in the Cascades, there are caverns formed from Lava tubes.
are some by Mt. Shasta and Lava Beds National Monument. Shasta Caverns
is up by Lake Shasta. Farther north is Oregon caves. See:
There are caves in Pinnacles National Monument south of
they are formed from fallen rocks. The Bear Valley Cave is huge and has
a creek flowing through it.
Other cave links:
In Reply to: Re: Caves on May 27, 2001 at 21:59:56:
I did some more research.
a feeling there were some secret caves in the Bay Area. Here's one at
Santa Cruz, which the University
More cave info:
For serious cavers:
The Cave Page:
Q: I saw a show within the last year about a light house in the north bay that could be visited. I now live in OK but am going to be visiting back there soon and would like info, or show transcript. I seem to remember that one had to walk down from cliff and small walkway to get to the light house.
A: There are 2 lighthouses in the North Bay that you can visit. One is the Point Bonita Lighthouse on the Marin Headlands in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is closest to San Francisco. It is reachable by going through a tunnel and crossing a long, narrow suspension bridge crossing over waves crashing on the rocks far below. This is not recommended if you have acrophobia. The other is the Point Reyes Light Station at Point Reyes National Seashore. It is reachable by walking down 300 steps, so your legs should be in good shape. Point Reyes is one of the foggiest and windiest points on the coast, even when the inland areas are warm and dry, so be prepared.
Here are the Backroads
Here are some links on them:
Both and other
In Reply to: Re: light houses on June 19, 2001 at 22:09:44:
Q: Just wondering about Bay Area lighthouses. location and
web sites or any other interesting sites to see around the Bay Area.
told me about a lighthouse where you can occasionally see whales... a
would be really helpful.
There's a hostel at the
Point Lighthouse north of Santa Cruz:
South of San Francisco,
Montara Lighthouse also has a hostel:
135 miles north of San
on Hwy 1 is the Point Arena Lighthouse and museum. Lodging is available
in one of 3 1400 square foot 3-bedroom keeper's homes :
The Point Cabrillo Light
near Mendocino is good for whale watching:
In Pacific Grove is the
On the Big Sur coast is
More on California
As for other things to see in the Bay Area, that's what Bay Area Backroads is for. Check out their past stories and watch the shows.
Q: I am interested to know if anyone knows the location of Samuel P. Taylor State Park. A buddy said there's good camping there, & I want to go there the weekend of the 22nd of June.
It is in West Marin
miles west of San Rafael on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. just east of Olema
and Point Reyes National Seashore.
This is a very popular
If you don't already have reservations, you may be out of luck. Don't
though. Olema Ranch Campground is just a few miles away in Olema and
Q: I am planning to take my whole family (around 20 people) to Clear Lake around July 6 - July 10. Does anyone know where we can find information of the clear lake? We are looking for a place where we can do horseback riding, boating(?), and fishing altogether in one place. We are open for lake front camping sites or cabins.
A: I haven't been to Clear Lake since I was a kid, but here are some links that may help you:
Here are some links for
info on the Clear Lake (Lake County) area:
Q: I am going on a day hike with some friends in the bay area. Can you suggest some good lunch ideas? What types of foods will stay good for 4 hours or so without spoiling?
A: I like to travel light. I don't believe in hauling around a refrigerator and stove. When I go day-hiking, I take Power Bars, jerky, trail mix (nuts and raisins), or sometimes rice crispy bars, along with lots of water. I also take Lifesavers, Mentos, or other hard candy. Do not take a tuna sandwich. Do not take caffeinated drinks, because more goes out than comes in.
Those little Hickory Farms sausages would probably work, but they're high in cholesterol. Packaged cheese sticks would also be OK, but would tend to get soft on a hot trip. Those little snack-size fruit cans would be good if you don't mind the weight. (Fruit roll-ups would be lighter.) The same with the small cans of Vienna sausages.
Created 6/3/01, update 11/18/09 by Ronald Horii