Docents ready to hike Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve

Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve

Upper Penitencia Creek slashes a deep gorge in the Diablo Range near the northeast corner of San Jose. The lower portion of the gorge comprises Alum Rock Park with trails and picnic grounds close to the creek. Most of the lands you see rising high above Alum Rock Park are part of Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve, a 1,676-acre area that virtually encircles the cavernous Upper Penitencia Creek drainage.
Kathy Dollard and Alice Lynch, docents at the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, generously offered to lead a group of hikers onto properties adjacent to Sierra Vista OSP that are not open to the public. But just because these properties are closed to the public doesn’t mean you can’t hike them too. Stay tuned.
Once through the locked gate at the top of Alum Rock Park, we began a long hair-raising ride up a very narrow Alum Rock Falls Road. It edged up the slope and followed the canyon’s steady but gradual right turn. We crossed the creek and continued to climb until we finally arrived at an abandoned residence tucked back in the hills about 1,700 feet above Santa Clara Valley. From there, we would walk two separate loops into two different properties.
Across Alum Rock Falls Road, we entered the Kammerer property, an open oak woodland nestled in the wrinkles and folds of the hills below Poverty Ridge where Upper Penitencia creek is born. The countless dark tangles of mistletoe in the forest of leafless blue and valley oaks cast a curious polka dot pattern across the hills above us. Milkmaids, Indian warriors, shooting stars, hounds tongue and hillside gooseberry plants brightened our way. As we turned toward home, we skirted past Cherry Flat Reservoir.
Refueled and refreshed after lunch back at the cars, we turned south toward the Vilas property and gently edged up into a spacious open landscape above the surrounding hills. We could see miles of the Diablo Range with Mt. Hamilton as a backdrop. We turned around and looked down on every rooftop in the South Bay Area. We descended from the hilltop down to a surprising scene. Hidden from view, and set in a surprising long level slot in the hills, was the former landowner’s private airstrip.
Our private guided trip through these classic California hills was not an exclusive opportunity. You can arrange your own private docent-led hike on OSA lands not open to the public simply by contacting Teri Rogoway at the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority at (408) 224-7476 or email [email protected] It is only a matter of arranging a time when a docent is available to accompany your party.
After a short conversation with Teri, you will see that she brims with excitement at the prospect of sharing these properties and other OSA lands with people who would like to walk them. Take her up on it. She is waiting to hear from you.

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