Milpitas Camera Club Field Trip
Field Trip: Monte Bello Open Space Preserve
Trip Date: April 2, 2005
Report Author: Scott Hinrichs
Report Date: April 13, 2005

Twelve persons showed up for the Monte Bello ridge field trip, held on the morning of Saturday, April 2. The majority of those present were camera club members. The faithful who rose early and took the winding road up to the top of Page Mill Road were rewarded by vistas of beautiful, green rolling hills speckled with numerous varieties of wildflowers. We still have yet to hit Monte Bello Open Space Preserve in full bloom, but Saturday's venture proved fruitful for those who appreciate our local floral pulchritude. I've seen one abundant season where there were carpets of colors on the hills - we'll try to hit peak once again on another spring excursion.

Monte Bello Open Space Preserve was formerly a large ranch, which fortunately became public-use land. Monte Bello is Italian for "beautiful mountain." The park is very close to the ridgeline of the Santa Cruz Mountain Range and contains 2,800-foot Black Mountain within the park boundaries. The preserve is a large 2,758-acre park with about fifteen miles of well-used trails. Being so close to Palo Alto (only 7 miles to the west) you see numerous hikers, cyclists, runners, backpackers and other park users busily engaged in their particular behavior. The Page Mill parking lot is also a frequent site of "star parties," put on by local astronomy organizations.  Monte Bello OSP shares borders with several other parks, including Skyline Ridge OSP, Los Trancos OSP, Rancho San Antonio County Park and Stevens Creek County Park. There are also campsites for backpackers in Monte Bello OSP. The Canyon Trail follows Stevens Creek down Stevens Canyon and the Adobe Creek Trail is also a very scenic riparian trail.

Probably the most interesting fact about Monte Bello park is that the infamous San Andreas Fault cuts right through the middle of it.  The fault created the rift valley, which forms the course of Stevens Creek from its source in the park, down toward Stevens Creek Reservoir to the south. When you begin your hike from the parking lot where we gathered, and go southward toward the creek, you look right down the San Andreas rift valley toward the distant peaks of Mt. Umunhum and Loma Prieta. To longtime Santa Clara Valley residents, the 3,486-foot peak of Mt. Umunhum was the site of a radar station that could be seen from just about everywhere in San Jose. The name Umunhum is a Costanoan Indian word, derived from the southern Costanoan word for hummingbird. In local Native American mythology, the hummingbird, the coyote and the eagle created the universe. Apparently, in light of the name, Umunhum was the source of the mythological hummingbird. The 3,789-foot Loma Prieta peak is the second highest point in Santa Clara County. Named by the Spanish, the term Loma Prieta means "dark knoll," and was the epicenter of the 6.9 earthquake that jarred the Bay Area, Santa Cruz County and Watsonville into a panic in October of 1989. The peak is about one mile away from the main fault line. The fault is also the boundary of two continental plates, hence the abundance of powerful earthquakes in our region. If you are a rock person you can see that the predominant rock to the east of the fault line is serpentine and limestone to the west. The fault line also forms a dividing line between two distinct ecological communities. To the west are forests of conifers and oaks and to the east are grasslands, oak woodlands and chaparral. Riparian zones full of moss-covered oaks follow the course of the creeks. The moisture of winter makes for wonderful hiking in the intense green grottos of the riparian zones. 

If you hiked with our group down to the "sag pond," where we saw cattails and water lilies (and played with the banana slugs), then you were dancing on top of the San Andreas Fault. (Sorry, I should have warned you!)

Thanks to those who came and thanks to those who shared their wildflower images from this pleasant spring outing.

© 2005 S.R. Hinrichs