Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Tag: park

Pescadero Creek County Park

Last week my wife and I went on a ride through Pescadero Creek County Park, a park outside La Honda.

Pescadero Creek County Park
via flickr

Most of the park is hiking trails only, but there’s an old logging trail that is open to horses and bicycles. From the entrance to the park, it runs about 5 miles, through some hilly but not overwhelming terrain.

Pescadero Creek County Park
via flickr

It’s a very pretty ride, but I’m partial to redwood forests.

There are a number of hiking trails, including on that leads to Tiptoe Falls, a small but charming waterfall surrounded by ferns; we meant to go find it, but took the wrong trail, and never got there.


tiptoe falls, photo by GlennFrancoSimmons, via flickr

Even if you don’t see the falls, though, it’s a good ride.

Pescadero Creek County Park
via flickr

Biking with my son

This afternoon my son and I went biking in Bayfront Park.

Biking in Bayfront Park today
Yes, he’s wearing a t-shirt that says “Hamsters Love PLOS” [Public Library of Science]. No, he doesn’t get beaten up for it. This is why we live where we live. Via flickr

It’s a beautiful afternoon, and we had a good time biking up and down the hills… though I need to adjust my derailleur.

Biking in Bayfront Park today
via flickr

Now it’s back to refreshing Ezra Klein’s blog every five minutes to see what’s going on with the HCR vote. We may let the kids watch TV during dinner tonight. They’ll be disappointed it’s not Mythbusters, but so be it.

[To the tune of Sarah Shannon, “Watch Over You,” from the album City Morning Song (a 2-star song, imo).]

Hiking in Castle Rock State Park

Yesterday the family went on a hike in Castle Rock State Park.

Castle Rock State Park
via flickr

Castle Rock’s about an hour south of our home, and is one of the many excellent parks on Skyline Ridge, the mountains that divide Silicon Valley from Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, and the Pacific coast.

Castle Rock State Park
via flickr

The kids have been getting into rock climbing recently (our local Y has a climbing wall equipped for top-roping), and I wanted them to have a chance to do a little outdoor climbing. Castle Rock is famous for having lots of very interesting sandstone formations that are weathered and great for climbing; they range from smaller rocks that are good for kids, to some very difficult technical climbs.

Castle Rock State Park
via flickr

There’s one outcropping in particular, at Goat Rock, that the kids found hard but not impossible, and offered a terrific view of the mountains– and a steep drop on the other side.

Castle Rock State Park
via flickr

One of the things I’m trying to teach the kids (particularly my self-described daredevil son) is that you need to respect the fact that while it’s fun, climbing can kill you if you don’t pay attention. Being smart about the risk is part of the challenge.

Castle Rock State Park
via flickr

There are two major trails in the park, Saratoga Gap and Ridge. Ridge leads to Goat Rock, and is a good steady climb from the parking lot. It has some beautiful sections, but I thought Saratoga Gap was even better: not only are the views spectacular, but the trail runs over a couple streams and rocks that the kids enjoyed scrambling over.

Castle Rock State Park
via flickr

Parts of the park look like something out of a Roger Dean album cover for Yes. I found that a little disorienting in a pleasant way.

Castle Rock State Park
via flickr

There’s a waterfall that’s supposed to be great during the rainy season; it was a bit anemic yesterday, but the observation deck beside it has a terrific view.

Castle Rock State Park
via flickr

[To the tune of Van Morrison, “And It Stoned Me,” from the album Live at the Fillmore West (April 26 1970) (a 4-star song, imo).]

The great Strawberry Street Cafe reunion

Wednesday night I got together with some high school friends, and my high school choir director, for dinner at Strawberry Street Cafe, a restaurant in the Fan.


strawberry street cafe, via flickr

These are people I was pretty close to in high school– I spent a huge amount of time doing choir stuff, and several of us were also the core group for the school’s honors and AP courses– but haven’t seen in person for a very long time, and reconnected with on Facebook over the last year or so.

I chose Strawberry Street Cafe because everyone knows where it is, it’s kid-friendly, and because I didn’t really know it. The place was just a couple years old when I started high school, and it advertised regularly on the radio, so I heard about it… but never went there. It remained part of a cool grown-up Richmond that I was too young and poor to visit myself. Reconnecting with my past social reality in a place from a past imagined landscape seemed nicely symmetrical.


strawberry street, via flickr

It was especially lovely to see my music teacher, who was a terrific influence on me, and who went on to run a very successful intensive performing arts school, from which she’s retiring in a few weeks. She was an influence not just because I spent a lot of time in her classes, or because I’ve continued to play (I have my old guitars, but don’t really use them; I expect my daughter is going to take them over sooner or later). Of course I continue to love music, but I peaked as a musician in college (I didn’t want to devote the time to meeting ever-higher performance standards, to say nothing of taking the hit on my grades).

But I learned a lot from her about how to perform, and those bits of craft and instinct have been a great help. It’s not just that workshops and talks are performances, obviously they are; but I think you can fruitfully think of a lot of knowledge work as one kind of performance or another. As the Bard said, all the world’s a stage; so knowing how to play is always going to be useful.

IMG_0758.JPG
me and my music teacher

It was a nice reminder that some of the organizing tools I use for work and research are ones that I can use in my social life as well. When you spend a lot of your time with books and words, and come from a profession that alternated solitary contemplation and intensive gossip about colleagues, but featured very little genuine planned collaboration, it’s easy to develop a sense of yourself as not that social, and maybe not that good at it. Wrong. As one of my daughter’s friends once told a boy who was teasing her about being introverted, “I’m not an introvert. I’m very extroverted. I just don’t like you very much.”

And even if I do test as an introvert on some psychological scale, I can fake it.

There were eleven of us at the dinner, including two kids, four and five years old. (Most of my class seems to either have 5 year-olds, or 15 year-olds; I’m the only one with a child in the middle.) Two of my cohort married each other, two others had remained in regular contact these last 25+ years, but the rest of us were at best erratically connected. So it wasn’t just me parachuting into an old social circle for an evening; it was a chance for the circle to reconstitute itself. I don’t know why I assumed that people who’d remained in or returned to Richmond after college would have stayed in touch– Richmond is a big place after all, and life does intrude on old connections– but the fact that many of us were reconnecting after years was pleasant. It wasn’t any less something that people were doing for me… but it was also something I was able to do for them.

And Strawberry Street Cafe was a good choice: the food is good, they were very gracious about our ever-expanding party, and they were welcoming of the kids. For me, it was good for another, entirely unexpected, reason.

For whatever reason I had no desire to go back to my old high school, to the apartments we lived in, or other places I saw on a daily basis; both Mom and I opted for the places that we always thought were special, like the VMFA and Maymont Park. (As one of the characters in Dune memorably put it, “People I miss. A place is just a place.” While I admire that gruff practicality and emphasis on loyalty to comrades and family, I don’t actually agree with it at all– places do matter– but some places remain more attractive than others, for whatever mysterious reason.)


the fan, via flickr

Walking through the Fan, I was struck by how well it compares with similar neighborhoods in Philadelphia or Boston or San Francisco, and how it feels like a great urban area for kids and families; I could appreciate the immense amount of energy that’s gone into restoration and renovation of the turn-of-the-century housing stock. As someone intimately familiar with parenting and property ownership, I could appreciate things I couldn’t twenty-five years ago, and imagine myself there.


virginia museum of fine arts, via flickr

Likewise, I always liked VFMA, but it felt like an expression of Richmond polite society, a UFO populated by Izod-wearing aliens. But in the year since, I’ve spent time in the British Museum and MOMA and the Smithsonian and DMA, I’ve given a talk at the Globe Theatre, I have a wallet full of membership cards to Bay Area institutions. I’m no longer alien to these people, I am them.

And I can now appreciate that the nicest parts of Maymont compare favorably with similar places in England and the Continent: it’s not just a lonely Old South wannabe of a great estate, it IS a great estate.


maymont park, via flickr

Staying away from my high school Richmond and planting myself squarely in the places I imagined as defining grown-up Richmond let me start seeing the place differently. Maybe it’s the start of a relationship with the place that has less to do with who I was, than with who I am. Which is good, because in the last year I had the very distinct sense of part of my old self being sloughed off, to make room for something new.

I thought I was visiting to reconnect with some of my past. But maybe I was visiting to create a future.

[To the tune of Carly Simon, “You Belong to Me,” from the album Carly Simon: Clouds in My Coffee 1965-1995 (I give it 3 stars).]

Hunters Point and Maisie’s Peak

Today I biked in the Fremont Older Open Space Preserve, one of the parks in the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. It was only about eight miles, but a huge amount of it was spent getting really familiar with the lowest gears on the bike.

The view from Hunters Point
my trusty bike on Hunters Point, via flickr

I’d never been to this park before, but that’s not a surprise: the Midpeninsula District, like the Unseen University library, seems to stretch out into an alternate universe, and contain an infinite number of parks, open spaces, hiking trails, etc.. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, when you’re tired of hiking this, you’re tired of life.

I parked at the Prospect Road lot, which surprisingly was not overflowing, maybe because it’s beside a golf course and there are warnings about flying balls.

Park at your own risk!
danger: flying golf balls, park at your own risk, via flickr

From here, I rode up to Hunters Point. The good news is that you get the hard stuff out of the way first (the Cora Older Trail in particular is a challenge); the bad news is that it’s more or less straight uphill to Hunters Point, with a few brief level patches or downhills. But the view is terrific.

Cora Older Trail
Cora Older trail, via flickr

After that, I followed the Woodhills Trail for a bit, then doubled back and picked up the Hayfield Trail, and headed for Maisie’s Peak. It turned out that Hunters Point was just the warm-up. Both in terms of difficulty and reward, Maisie’s Peak was the real prize.

Maisie's Peak
Maisie’s Peak, via flickr

Once I got to the top of Maisie’s, I stopped for lunch, wrote a bit, and then headed down. I briefly considered doubling back, but decided to continue south to the Toyon Trail, which I knew would loop pack to the road to my car.

Toyon Trail
Coyote Ridge Trail, via flickr

One of the things that I consider most fortunate in my life is that when I travel, I manage to go to places that allow you to just wander, and reward your faith that something interesting is just around the next corner. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in London or Budapest or Singapore, decided to just go a little further or see what was around the next corner or down that side street, and come upon something really incredible.

Seven Spring Trail
Seven Springs Trail, via flickr

This kind of biking offers the same sort of experience. I know that I can bike on a path I’ve never been before, and no matter what, I can get back to the car– it might end up taking hours longer than I expect, but I’ll make it. Toyon Trail turned out to be really fun: a single-lane path, winding through oak and eucalyptus, and mainly downhill. It dumped me out on Hayfield, and from there it was a short ride to the Seven Springs Trail, which I’d meant to ride before.

Toyon Trail
Seven Springs Trail, via flickr

The trail follows the Seven Springs Canyon, through some great wildflowers, trees, and eventually down into (and out of) the canyon.

Seven Springs Trail
Seven Springs Trail, via flickr

It’s not a trail I can take the kids on any time soon, though parts of it would be okay for hiking, so long as we took our time. And it’s not for someone who likes remote hikes where you’re not going to see another soul for hours: you can almost always see someone else on the trail. However, if you like a challenge it’s definitely a terrific ride, and I know that there’s a lot of the park that I still have yet to explore.

This was the first real off-road bike ride I’ve done in years. I’ve been sticking to paved roads and things that are kid-friendly, and not doing more technically challenging stuff. It’s past time to change that. (On my way home, I stopped at a sporting goods store and bought more cycling shorts– that padding is a life saver, or at least it saves certain parts of your life– and a Camelbak, which basically is a two-liter bottle with shoulder straps and a zippered pocket for your keys. I have a headache now that I’m pretty sure is dehydration-caused, and this summer I’m going to be doing plenty more rides like this, so I expect the investment will pay off. I know a couple people who have them, and swear by them.)

However, I don’t want to give the impression that the kids have done nothing but keep me from my natural place on the road. To the contrary: recently their example has revealed a part of me that I hadn’t really thought much about.

I never thought of myself as an athlete, or as someone who had athletic ability. Sure, when I was at Berkeley I biked to Tilden Park a lot, and that was a pretty strenuous ride, but somehow that didn’t count. I played soccer in high school, but as anyone who grew up in Virginia can tell you, that does not count. I did intramural sports in college, but those don’t really count, either. The problem is, before high school I was a pretty fat little kid, one of those doughy kids who was unlikely to be picked for teams. Further, I associated “athlete” with sports, which I don’t follow, and in high school I thought of athletes as jocks– which I very definitely was not. Stir in years of academic socialization that encouraged a mild (or not so mild) contempt for the body, and it was easy to think of myself as not interested in athletics– and more fundamentally, just not athletic.

But my kids swim three or four days a week, and love sports. They’re pretty indiscriminate about what they do, and their interests tend to jump around a bit (from swimming to soccer to basketball to baseball to fencing), but still they’re pretty consistently enthusiastic about sports in general. My father was (so I’m told) a black belt in judo, and a pretty ferocious skier in his youth. He’s 72 now, and still swims a couple miles a week– and he lives in Colorado, about 7,500 feet above sea level.

When you see your parents and your kids both exhibiting the same abilities, it helps you see them in yourself. So after 25 years of repeating it to myself, the line “I’m not an athlete” is not true at all. All these years I’ve told myself that, I’ve been wrong.

Maybe it’s a function of my getting older, but I find that I have more energy when I’m better shape, I work better, and of course I feel a lot better about myself. I’m still not quite where I want to be physically, but I’m moving in the right direction. And just as important, the fact that I’ve been able to drop 50+ pounds and am remaking my body through several hours a week at the gym (and a hundred sit-ups every morning, while the kids hold down the sofa), is a constant tangible reminder that I can change things for the better.

This spring I’m working to finish up some old projects, and start some new things (more on all this later). The pace of change is only going to accelerate. At times like these, being able to look in the mirror (especially a full-length one) and see that I can make changes, or to see a hill in front of me and know that I am able to climb it, is very valuable.

Nimitz Way, Tilden Regional Park

When I was a postdoc at Berkeley, most weekends I would take about half a day, and ride up to Tilden Regional Park. Usually I’d start with a couple espressos at Cafe Milano (a beginning to strenuous activity that would probably kill me now, but this is the kind of thing you can do when you’re 28), then ride through the Berkeley hills, to Grizzly Peak Road, and thence to Wildcat Canyon. Tilden is a huge park, and the section I usually went to was the northern end, which has a terrific botanical garden, and a road with one of the best views of the entire Bay: Nimitz Way.

Views from Tilden Park
via flickr

Pop tells the story that when the Oakland town fathers were talking about naming part of 880 the Nimitz freeway (for those of you who don’t know who Chester Nimitz was, go find out), his widow objected, on the grounds that she didn’t want people hearing about her late husband’s name in the context of traffic jams and car crashes. She couldn’t have objected to Nimitz Way, which is a great paved trail that runs from Tilden Park in to Wildcat Canyon.

Today, the kids got to ride Nimitz Way, and they had a great time.

Nimitz Way, Tilden Park
via flickr

Nimitz Way starts at Inspiration Point, on Wildcat Canyon Road.

Inspiration Point
via flickr

From Inspiration Point you can see the San Pablo Reservoir, but Nimitz Way takes you in the other direction, to the west.

Nimitz Way, Tilden Park
via flickr

The path is paved, and reasonably smooth, so it’s popular with joggers, bicyclists, parents with strollers, etc.. There’s a pretty healthy proportion of groups of older hikers or bicyclists.

Nimitz Way, Tilden Park
via flickr

The path runs uphill and down, but none of it is really strenuous, and it goes through some redwoods and eucalyptus groves (all planted, it seems, by one or another local group). For me, the real payoff is Peace Grove, which is about a mile and half from the trail head. You leave your bike at the bottom of the hill, and take a short hike, past the Peace Grove trees (one might sense a theme here), and up to a circular stone monument– more like a really big conversation pit– finished in the early 1960s.

Views from Tilden Park
via flickr

The view is spectacular. The pictures I took today– on an overcast day, with a camera that’s rapidly dying– don’t do it justice, but even on a day like today, the place is phenomenal. I don’t know if there’s anywhere else where you can see Marin, the Golden Gate and San Francisco, south to Palo Alto, then north to Orinda.

Views from Tilden Park
via flickr

It’s been about fifteen years since I was last there– maybe thirteen– and I wonder why in the world it’s taken me so long to get back there. It’s one of those places that mentally seems far away, but really isn’t, and richly rewards the time required to get there. There are lots of places, or people, like that: closer than you think, and well worth spending time with.

The kids complained occasionally about the inclines, but I think even they enjoyed the view. And they didn’t even get to visit the botanical garden or steam trains. Next time.

Wunderlich Park, Woodside

Today we went with some friends to Wunderlich Park (here’s a map), just outside the town of Woodside. A century ago the land was owned by James Folger, the founder of Folger’s Coffee (like Levi Strauss, Folger had come to California during the gold rush, but made his money not by extracting wealth from the mines, but by extracting wealth from the miners).

Wunderlich Park
via flickr

The park was a pretty big hit with the kids. We took a roughly two-mile hike that took us through coast redwoods, eucalyptus, and oak. (I’m a complete pushover for redwoods, especially when the paths– like the one in Wunderlich– has lots of switchbacks and curves.)

Wunderlich Park
via flickr

The terrain is hilly, but not outrageous, and trails are pretty well-kept and -marked.

Wunderlich Park
via flickr

Of course, most of the kids enjoyed themselves mainly because they had company (if there’s one essential piece of equipment to keep kids happy on a hike, it’s not water or snacks or good shoes, but other kids). But my son, who likes to complain about hikes, even enjoyed himself. I caught up with him walking by himself on the trail– the girls had run ahead– and he seemed self-contained and perfectly content. Which is unusual for a 6 year-old.

Wunderlich Park
via flickr

© 2017 Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑