August 2009

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A short windy drive from the hectic college-life of University Avenue in Palo Alto lies the Monte Bello Open Preserve, perfect for a quick shop-and-hike. A couple weeks ago, Closet Granola and I visited Palo Alto to do a bit of pre-vacation shopping and some organic California lunch dining, but still wanted to squeeze in a quick hike. The solution: Monte Bello Open Preserve.

Since it was summer, the area was a bit warm for my taste…Hiking Diva does not like to sweat…it’s rather unbecoming. We were determined to power through it given that it was the most exercise we were likely to get. We squeezed in 6.4 miles in less than 2 hours. Parking in a lot off Page Mill Road, we walked 3.2 miles out on the Canyon Trail and then turned around and headed back. We didn’t have much of a plan, so an out-and-back hike was perfect.

The trail was about 50-50 exposed vs. shade, so the temperature was pretty comfortable in the shade and too hot in the sun. In the shaded areas, we were constantly harassed by bugs that I could have sworn were mosquitos. Closet Granola thought they were gnats or flies, and I didn’t end up getting any bites, but just to be safe, I would recommend Off or another bug spray. The mosquitos, my constant nemesis, were the least of my problems. On the way back, a huge tarantula-looking spider crossed the trail. It was hairy and ugly and creepy. And just when we thought there couldn’t be more pests and vermin, we stumbled upon a snake. Of course, I freaked out again, but thankfully there was no crying. Just lots of yelling, and back-pedaling as the snake slithered away. Mosquitos, spiders and snakes…I would rather have seen lions, tigers and bears.

I know I’ve been spoiled by Point Reyes and Yosemite, so take my review with a grain of salt. I just did not enjoy Monte Bello Open Preserve. There were no fabulous views of the ocean or waterfalls to picnic by. There were no cute deer or other wildlife to catch a glimpse of. There was just open space.

One of my summer interns is from Indiana and he thinks California is beautiful. When I asked him how California is different from Indiana, he said that California has hills while in Indiana, it’s just flat. Monte Bello does have some nice views of rolling hills, but to this California girl, it’s just not enough. Monte Bello Open Preserve (at least in the summer when it’s dry and there are no wildflowers) is a good alternative to working out in a gym, but it’s nothing to drive out for or write home about…unless your home happens to be in Indiana.

Overall Rating: Pumas

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Tip #1: Grab lunch or dinner in Palo Alto downtown. If you live in the city, you’ll appreciate being able to eat outdoors in the summer.

Tip #2: If you’re sensitive to the Deet used in Off, check out Avon SKIN-SO-SOFT Bug Guard.

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