Milpitas Camera Club Field Trip
Field Trip: Milpitas "Back Yard"
Trip Date: Febuary 28, 2009
Report Author: Scott Hinrichs
Report Date: March 2, 2009

About seven camera a club members and a couple of associates showed up for the "In Your Own Backyard" Field Trip to gather images of beautiful Milpitas on Saturday morning, February 28, 2009. About half the group met at a longtime Milpitas haunt, Mil's Diner, and fanned out from there. Club advisor Larry Voellger made some arrangements for us to go over to the Milpitas Athletic Center and begin the day by taking pictures of the sports activities going on over there. Thanks for your efforts, Larry!

Two of us walked over to the baseball diamonds and found a great group of half-pint tee ball players. It must have been the preschool league - they were all so cute, and were still trying to figure out what the ball was all about. Perhaps one of these tykes will become a home-run record breaker or legendary major league pitcher.

Several of us then went to Ed Levin County Park and found the wild mustard in bloom; the redwing blackbirds trilling merrily, engaged in another mating season; the resident flock of turkey vultures collecting their daily offering of road-kill; and the trees around the lake in early spring bud ready to burst in flowers and tender green leaves. It was all so beautiful! (And should remain that way for a few more weeks for those of you who wish to share in this year's spring bloom.)

Above us, a mercuric gray sky flashed small patches of occasional blue - it was the prelude to a big change in the weather. When this happens, a large contingent of hang gliders and Para gliders from the Wings of Rogallo flying club show up with their 4-wheel drive vehicles ready to take the treacherous, winding dirt trail up to "the top." We saw them flocking up Calaveras Boulevard with their long, bagged up hang gliders strapped to their roof racks.

My companion and I approached some of the hang gliders and asked if they needed a driver to bring their rigs back down the hill. It only took three attempts before I had a driving job, and five minutes later I was off to the top with a truckload of hang gliders and their equipment. The road to the 600-foot launch site is closed to outside traffic and protected by locked gates. The eager fliers had us up on the top in minutes after a jolting ride over the rough, rocky and gulley-etched dirt road. From the launch site you can see the most spectacular view of Milpitas and south San Francisco Bay, with all its winding sloughs and geometric pattern of salt evaporation ponds. A lone wind sock next to a microwave tower and other fenced-in apparatus is the only man-made structures at the launch site, except, of course, for the ancient rock fences that stretch for miles along the ridgelines of these East Bay mountains. Nobody in California knows who built this extensive system of rock fences (also found in the western Sierra foothills). One of the hang gliders claimed they were 6,000 year old. But, by the looks of them they could be 10,000 years old with all the lichens and moss encrusted on the tops of the rocks. Most certainly they were not built by Chinese laborers working for ranchers during the Gold Rush days - a common misconception of California history put forth by those who fail to recognize the presence of any history in the state before the Spanish Mission Period. Could the fences have been built by ancestors of the Miwoks, or an by an entirely different culture? Nobody knows for sure. Regardless of the theories, it looks like a lot of people worked together for a many years to construct the miles and miles of fences along the tops of these hills. And why did they build them? To hold their livestock, to forma barrier to trap herds of animals during hunts? Perhaps we'll never know the answer.

If you want to go up and see the fences, you have two choices: learn to drive a 4-wheel drive mountain mule or walk up there on the hiking trail that begins at Ed Levin County Park.

After the bumpy ride to the top, my companion was a bit shaken by the steep hill and jostling she got, but awed by the amazing scenery and the ancient fence lines. The hang gliders, oblivious to the scenery, almost ran to assemble their gliders and leap off the face of the hill. We had about fifteen minutes of sightseeing before we were given our orders to drive the vehicle back down the hill to meet them at the landing site near Sandy Wool Lake. Upon our arrival at the landing site parking lot we handed over the keys and I felt like I had accomplished a great day of shooting. I hope the rest of the group got their share of the jollies, too.

© 2009 S.R. Hinrichs