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Two Decades of Kids and Counting

By Sally Torbey

About this blog: About this blog: I have enjoyed parenting five children in Palo Alto for the past two decades and have opinions about everything to do with parenting kids (and dogs). The goal of my blog is to share the good times and discuss the ...  (More)

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Foothills Park: a world away

Uploaded: Aug 23, 2014
Last weekend we celebrated the end of summer vacation with a church camping trip to nearby Foothills Park. This camping trip has become a popular tradition, probably due to the wonderful cuisine. A talented church member organizes the meals for the weekend, shops for the ingredients, preps many of the dishes and brings all the cooking gear. This is camping at its easiest and most accessible, as the rest of us only have to worry about bringing tents, sleeping bags and clothing, and lending a hand with meal preparation and clean up. And, the food is fantastic. It is a rare experience to feel pampered after a weekend of family camping!

Foothill Park is just a few minutes up the hill, but a world away. The campground is tucked away in the woods down a dirt road, with the sites only a short walk from the parking. As long as the clumps of poison oak are avoided, it is the ideal setting for a raucous game of capture the flag. The proximity to home allows for stress-free packing, even with small children along. No need to remember four formulations of Tylenol. If somebody runs a fever, home is only 20 minutes away. Although I've never personally resorted to this, the rumor is that pizza can be delivered to the campsites. My spouse has brought up lattes and bagels in the morning, and they are still warm upon arrival. There is even the possibility of a short jaunt home for forgotten items, or to sneak in a quick mid-weekend shower. Avoid the mistake of one husband, who gave himself away by returning to the campground in clean clothes. As the rest of us were coated in a thick film of sweat and dust by that point, he was pretty conspicuous.

The campsites are located close to trails ranging from a mile of flat strolling to a hilly eight-mile loop. We enjoyed a three-mile loop that included part of the Los Trancos Trail. In less than an hour of mildly strenuous climbing, we had gorgeous views of the Bay and beyond, worth every sore muscle. There is also a small lake in the park with plentiful birdlife, loud bullfrogs, fish, and a small bridge-accessed island to explore. Large expanses of meadow allow for multi-generational games of volleyball, football, Frisbee and kite flying. At dusk, a herd of deer arrived to graze, undeterred by the flying balls.

In the evenings we concluded with s'mores, singing around the campfire, and star gazing during a meteor shower, all accompanied by the peeping of tree frogs. It was a much appreciated and restorative weekend in nature before the busyness of back-to-school engulfed us this week!
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Posted by BLH, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 23, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Camping there really is so easy. What a great way to celebrate the last few moments of summer. We miss you at WH!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 23, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks BLH! Hope you had a great summer. It is very disorienting to not have an elementary schooler anymore. Thank goodness I have the dog to walk!

Posted by Debbie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 24, 2014 at 8:36 am

A fine farewell to summer. It is nice to be able to visualize this beautiful spot so close to home.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 24, 2014 at 9:00 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Debbie,
Yes, just thinking about it has a calming effect!

Posted by Erin, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Aug 24, 2014 at 6:25 pm

On my most stressed out days during college I would head up there to Vista Hill and just look out over the bay. The peace and quiet, the spectacular views, and nature brought me back to a place of grounding, reminding me that the world was bigger than myself. We are so lucky to have that gem of a park.

Posted by LJ, a resident of another community,
on Aug 25, 2014 at 9:05 am

The freeze dried is okay if you are exhausted and hungry. Real food must be out of this world! Fun piece, Sally!

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 25, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Is this a bad place to post that apropos of parks, I am running for City Council and casting about for supporters that if Fry's leaves the Ventura neighborhood when their lease expires we the people should try with our tax dollars to buy the site from Sorbrato Development Co and turn it into a large park, not housing? We are actually behind our standard for parks here, what I call a parks deficit, according to our Comprehensive Plan or General Plan.

Who wants a big new park in Ventura? Say "hooooooo" (like an owl) or 'Grrrrr" like a cougar.

Let 'em hear, peoples!

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 25, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Erin,
Thanks for commenting and sharing your enthusiasm for Foothills Park. I used to take my dad up there to picnic on tunafish sandwiches. Vista Hill is conveniently wheel-chair accessible. Midweek in winter we usually had the place to ourselves, so I was surprised to see a UPS truck up there one day, until I saw that the driver was enjoying the view on his lunch break!

Hi LJ,
Everything does taste better in the out-of-doors, but last weekends' meals would have tasted good even in civilization.

Hi Mark,
Thanks for reading and commenting. Good luck on your campaign. Parks enhance our community in countless ways.

Posted by Julian, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 26, 2014 at 8:08 pm

To Mark Weiss:
That's very interesting. It doesn't surprise me in the least that the city would forego the General Plan when there's a chance for a developer to make money. Does your statement mean that there would be a legal basis for rezoning that area to parkland?

Posted by J. Mather, a resident of Los Altos,
on Aug 28, 2014 at 4:06 pm

If one orders Pizza to be delivered - as is mentioned in the article, is it required that the delivery truck driver be a resident of Palo Alto to get in? :-)

If PA does build another open space park where Frye's is now, will it have a large fence around it with a gate to check in PA residents only?

Our Los Altos and Mountain View Parks are open to anyone, as are the camping parks in Woodside. Wouldn't it be more egalitarian as well as neighborly to even charge a fee from non residents, but let them enjoy the nearlby bucolic scene as well?

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 28, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi J. Mather,
Thanks for reading and commenting. I haven't succumbed yet to the temptation to order pizza while camping, so not sure how they would deal with the delivery. I have noticed, though, that on week days there hasn't been a ranger checking addresses at the entrance.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 29, 2014 at 8:10 am

There is a lot of bad feeling by non-Palo Alto residents about the exclusivity of Foothill Park. The history of why is almost irrelevant now, but for those who can't use it, this blog rubs salt in the wound.

It is a gem which I love. But for those who are unable to use it, they probably don't want to be reminded what they are missing.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 29, 2014 at 9:10 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Resident. Thanks for reading and commenting. Recently, I have not been aware of any checking for residency in the quiet winter months, and during the week in the summer I have not noticed any monitoring except on weekends. The park is open late every day in summer until 9pm.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Aug 29, 2014 at 9:49 am

Let's not encourage violations of Municipal Code 22.04.150, a misdemeanor. Non-residents may enjoy the park while accompanied by a Palo Alto resident. In addition, hiking access through Foothills Park is available to all via the Bay-to-Ridge trail from the Arastradero Preserve to the MidPen Los Trancos Open Space.

Posted by Sylvia, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 29, 2014 at 11:48 am

Pardon me for being picky, but the name of this wonderful place is Foothills Park. I camped overnight there once, and our largish group had a wonderful time.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Sally, are you saying that non residents should illegally sneak in when nobody is watching?

Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 29, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Resident,
Sorry, didn't realize it was still officially a law. No, I do not endorse breaking laws. I was under the impression that since attendance wasn't being monitored in off hours as it has been in the past, that perhaps those in positions of authority had deemed it okay for non-residents to use the park during lower use times. I was mistaken. BTW, the municipal code is interesting reading. There seem to be an abundance of laws that are routinely ignored and not enforced.

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