Saturday, April 6th: Wildflower Hike & Wine Tasting at Picchetti Ranch

When you enter Picchetti Winery’s rustic tasting room, you take a welcome step back in time.

When you enter Picchetti Winery’s rustic tasting room, you take a welcome step back in time.

4 easy miles with options for additional mileage; early Spring wildflowers

Meet: 9:30 a.m.
Hike: 9:45 a.m.
Duration: approximately 3–4 hours
How to confirm your attendance: Simply add a comment at the bottom of this post.*

Picchetti Ranch & Winery
13100 Montebello Road
Cupertino, CA
(650) 691-1200

After a short drive up a winding mountain road, Picchetti Winery appears as a little slice of heaven. Picchetti wines are produced at one of the oldest wineries in California, and are well-made, with attention devoted to producing consistently good wines every year. Plus, it is one of the rare few California wineries that offers a hiking trail right outside the tasting room! If you haven’t yet tried the 2007 Leslie’s Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Picchetti Winery, this event is your opportunity to try a world-class winner.

The Zinfandel Trail winds through a cool forest of bay laurel.

The Zinfandel Trail winds through
a cool forest of bay laurel.

The hike is an easy and enjoyable walk. We’ll journey through a classic local mix of cool woodlands and sunny chaparral, with views of Fremont-Older Open Space Preserve and Stevens Creek Reservoir. From the trail, we’ll see an assortment of plant communities ranging from lush chaparral brush and oak woodland to picturesque madrone and bay forests. We’ll even see a stand of nutmeg trees! And if we’re lucky, we’ll see several species of wildflowers blooming along the Zinfandel Trail.

After the hike, let’s enjoy a potluck lunch on the Picchetti picnic grounds, pool a few pesos, and taste those fabulous Picchetti wines.

Here’s a Google map showing the route from San Francisco to Picchetti Ranch that includes driving directions. As you get close, the following tips may prove helpful:

  1. Hiking the Zinfandel Trail is always a fun group experience.

    Hiking the Zinfandel Trail is always
    a fun group experience.

    Once you reach Cupertino and are traveling southwest on Foothill Blvd. (with Highway 280 behind you), be aware that when you cross the Stevens Creek Blvd. intersection at the signal light, Foothill Blvd. will change its name to Stevens Canyon Road.

  2. As you continue through a residential section, Stevens Canyon Road will begin to climb and wind and you will pass lower Stevens Creek County Park, then Stevens Creek Dam and Reservoir, all on your left.
  3. Around a bend to the right and immediately after passing the entrance to the quarry (on your right), the road will make a horseshoe turn to the left and the steep entrance to Montebello Road will appear pretty quickly on your right.  A good place to gear down!
  4. Wind your way carefully up Montebello Road about 0.6 mi. and enter Picchetti Ranch on your left. Take the immediate right fork and park in the upper (dirt) parking lot, and look for my black Dodge Dakota pickup and camper shell. It’s likely you’ll see me sitting on the tailgate lacing my boots.

If you’re coming from the South Bay, I’ll see you when you arrive at Picchetti Winery. For those of you arriving from The City or elsewhere, please contact others near you to arrange carpooling.

Inside the Picchetti tasting room.

Inside the Picchetti tasting room.

Parking at Picchetti Ranch is free. Drive time from downtown San Jose may take 20-25 minutes; from SF, perhaps 20-30 minutes longer. Please allow adequate time to arrive by 9:30; our hike will begin promptly at 9:45.

Parking should be adequate at Picchetti; nevertheless, I urge hikers to please carpool if possible (see above). Dogs are not allowed on this hike.

For our post-hike potluck lunch, I recommend preparing picnic items that you will enjoy sharing with your fellow hikers. You won’t have to bring your potluck items on the trail; instead, pack them into a cooler that you’ll keep in your car during the hike.

Picchetti peacocks: a sure sign of Spring!

Picchetti peacocks: a sure sign of Spring!

Nevertheless, be sure to bring plenty of snacks and water for the trail. I highly recommend bringing an extra pair of shoes – even clothing – to change into after the hike. Please allow plenty of time to arrive, and watch for cyclists during your drive.

Also, wear sturdy shoes for this hike – we may be hiking over rough terrain in places, and sections of muddy trail may present themselves.

The phone number above is for the Midpeninsula Open Space District.

Meet 9:30 a.m., hike 9:45 sharp.  See you at the trailhead!

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Would you like to attend this hike?
If so, let me know you’re coming: simply reply in the Comments box below.

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*Your comment on this post is your RSVP. Consider also checking the box labeled “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” so that I can share my cell phone number with you a few days prior to this hike – just in case you need to contact me on your way to the trailhead.

This event is listed on my 2013 Schedule of Hikes.



An ace up my winehiking sleeve

I’ve been holding back these last 3 seasons, keeping the Fall Creek Loop to myself. It’s one of those special, magical outdoor locations that, while so close to the megalopolis that is Silicon Valley, can seem so remote, uncharted, and gloriously far away from everything.

Ah, but I invited my crew there to hike with me Saturday; it was time to play my hole card and share a little magic.

Aces. You got to know when to hold ’em.

Aces. You got to know when to hold ’em.

They say that the Fall Creek Unit at Henry Cowell State Park, with it’s rugged “chutes and ladders” trails, is the longest seven miles they’ve ever walked. I’m sure that’s true, being as it’s actually more like nine miles, but it’s nine miles through some of the loveliest redwood and big-leaf maple forest that you’ll ever see, especially in late summer when those maple leaves are turning to gold and the tanoaks are dropping their acorns.

But even in September, what you hear as you descend the Fall Creek Trail is equally enchanting. Serenaded by the murmuring voice of the creek, you can’t help but feel mesmerized by its siren call. There’s something about the endorphin-inducing combination of a semi-steep morning hillclimb followed by a descending romp alongside a trailside creek – not to mention a chomp down a creekside lunch – to put one under Nature’s spell. I consider it mandatory to volunteer for such duty to the point of addiction.

I was glad to have fellow outdoor blogger Tom Mangan along, too. But golly, if you would think that I’m a hiking addict, then my addiction needs tweaking – this was Tom’s fourth day of hiking in a row.

(Hey Tom, don’t you have a day job?)

At any rate, it was good to talk shop with Tom about the world of blogging, the worlds of wine and hiking, and the world in general. And, bless his heart, Tom has graciously shared his thoughts about the day, too.

Give him a read, won’t you? And enjoy Tom’s photos. Then take time to heed that Fall Creek siren call for yourself. It’ll become an ace up your sleeve, too.


Why I hike, too

Tom Mangan, in his blog Two-Heel Drive, this week posted some eloquent reasoning behind why he got started hiking. They’re good reasons, and they match my own. Often there are people who make an impression upon us, giving us just enough cause to make the leap, buy the gear, and get out there to where Nature waits. The following is from my “feedback” response to Tom’s post.

There are moments out there – real, honest, emotion-inducing moments wherein the eyes well up, the spine tingles, and the captured memory – of such a single astounding yet fleeting blip in your Life – finds itself inescapably resonating with you long after you’ve left the trail. Be it a tree growing out of a rock and thriving, or two rattlesnakes mating, or a night filled with horizon-to-horizon meteors, or directly making eye contact with a bobcat, there is nothing like hiking in Nature to bring balance and absolute harmony to one’s Life – not to mention endorphins and the smell of a forest.

We need to be thankful that we have such bounty around us that we can escape into when the feeling calls. I, for one, cannot fathom what it would be like for me to forsake regular visits to the wilderness – even when it’s just the local paved bike path along the creek at lunchtime.

Come to think of it: there was an extraordinary man in my early life who shaped much of the person I am today, and his name was Don Carre; he was my music teacher in high school, but also (lucky for me) an avid backpacker who advised our student’s backpacking club. I learned so much from Don about organizing trips, menu planning, wilderness ethics – even how to tie climbing knots. I remember less about playing the tympani for him than I do the fundamental grounding – and desire to be out there – that he left with me.

If you and your wife Carol are still out there tramping trail, Don, I sure hope to walk with you again.


Phoebe on a fencepost

Diesel engines belched to the heavens. Tires swished along the four-lane. I ventured onto the crossing, safely navigating to the opposite sidewalk.

A mild descent to the corner gave way to a multi-use paved path paralleling a local road. I turned uphill and, as I walked, the natural earth barrier between the path and the road grew in height and breadth to graciously diminish the assault of road noise.

It's a working lunch for this Black Phoebe. (Sayornis nigricans)

It’s a working lunch for this Black Phoebe. (Sayornis nigricans)

I then heard the crows, wheeling overhead and cackling at each other like bitter old men under a gentle warm sun. Squirrels chattered and scurried in the tall grass lining the trail, seemingly happy to be on the clock, going about their routine. Beyond the tall grass and the oak trees, the hills were aglow, having fully traded away their vivid Spring green for a pelt of velvet gold. I crossed Deer Creek, my eyes upon those magnetic hills. I let the sun ooze into me and just let my feet carry my body forward, as if with portentous anticipation that these carefree moments should also spin my thoughts into gold.

In sun-warmed reverie, I began to reflect on the nature of an embankment alongside my trail, its growth of short grasses – in contrast to the greater bulk of surrounding tall grasses – signifying a unique drainage pattern. Indeed, a moderately large patch of mugwort was flowering merrily just ahead on the opposite side of the trail. It suggested that water was collecting there, close to the surface, providing a home for the thirsty mugwort. Something in the soil beneath the surface – a large rock field, perhaps – seemed to be diverting the hillside’s water flow slightly upstream to where it could meet the tiny creek.

I emerged from an overhanging oak to witness a male phoebe darting overhead, a vivid image of flycatching prowess. I stopped to watch the tufted tuxedoed bird patrol his small patch of sky. With sharp eyes spying insects on the wing, he flitted about at quick and regular intervals to return within seconds to his fencepost headquarters.

I returned too, along the asphalt trail, musing in and out of shadow and sun, the road traffic and the pressures of the morning consumed by the warm sun and breeze.

And that’s how I spent 20 minutes at lunch today.