Hey, I’m on a roll here with this hiking thing. Two days in a row now after months of struggling to get my shoes laced up to work on my resolution to hike most of the trails in the Bay Area. (And, folks, there are a LOT of them.) Well, full disclosure, today’s jaunt wasn’t a hike, but rather a dog walk. However, my terrier peeps know that walking terriers has a definite aerobic component and a certain amount of upper body strength-building as you try to rein in two 20 lb. bundles of muscle who are leaping and yapping at every squirrel and bird. But semantics aside, I just have to write about today’s venue, Vasona Lake County Park, because it is one of the most amazing city parks I’ve ever strolled through.
European cities have some great parks, but they are very, very urban. As in an espresso stand or a bar around every corner. Basically, they are boulevards and strasses with some grass. Perhaps I’m biased, but I like the American approach — started in the energetic Victorian Era — of creating a bit of wilderness within easy walking distance of city streets. Again, I’m biased, but I hold Golden Gate Park up as a model. There are plenty of museums, lawn tennis courts, and even snack stands within the park, but there are also areas where, for a little while, you can get feel you are actually getting in touch with Nature. As opposed to just admiring a landscaper’s work. The flip side is that in some of the wilder areas of a park such as the Golden Gate, New York’s Central Park or San Diego’s Balboa Park, you might run into some unsavory characters. And in Golden Gate Park, you might even come face to face with a coyote — which may be a little more wilderness than you bargained for when you crossed the street clutching your latte.
Would you like the best of both worlds? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Vasona Lake County Park. It’s technically in Los Gatos, but San Jose is such a sprawl, you won’t have any sense whether you are in San Jose, Campbell or Los Gatos when you are out this way. They all kind of merge together.
But back to Vasona. It is hand down the cleanest park I’ve ever been in. Not a speck of litter. Immaculate bathrooms and lots of them. There are loads of amenities from picnic benches to playgrounds to kayak rentals to a little child size working railroad station and train. What we liked is that the Los Gatos Creek Trail runs through it — which offers a paved trail winding along one of this area’s major water ways. Yes, I said paved, so it isn’t exactly wilderness, but there are areas where it goes through thick enough stands of trees and the trickle of the Los Gatos Creek that it feels kind of like a walk in the woods. Make that urban woods with no drunks, hobos, and general no-goodniks.
In fact, the only negative we could find at Vasona Park were the huge number of Canada Geese. On one of the many helpful information kiosks, we read that, because people are feeding the geese, they aren’t migrating anymore. They just hang out, honk and do enormous poos. We also read at the kiosks that the park is now employing the services of an Australian Shepherd to chase the geese away.
But other than that goose thing, we really enjoyed this lovely park even if some of us had to stay leashed. And we need to give a special shout-out to the Viola Anderson Native Plant Trail, a meandering path through the woods featuring the main indigenous plants of the area — all helpfully marked with their names and how they were used by local Native tribes.
Park: Vasona Lake County Park
The Trails: Los Gatos Creek Trail, but I mostly just meandered
Best: What’s not to like? Beautiful, clean and scenic
Worst: It’s not wilderness, it’s a city park, best for running, kids, dogs, picnics
Facilities: Abundant and clean restrooms and many water fountains
Why I’ll Go Back: A good place to take the dogs on a long walk