Getting Away From It All Some Of It

We want Claire to enjoy nature, and it can be a challenge to find unsullied open spaces close to home. Last weekend we went to Los Gatos Creek Trail to walk. We decided to try the trail head in Los Gatos proper. Well, first parking was a challenge. And then the many people biking and running made it difficult for Claire to pursue her own meandering path. But what was most intrusive was the traffic. This part of the creek trail runs alongside Highway 17, which at this location is a six lane highway.

So, Claire did get to see trees, smell flowers, and — thrill of thrills — stand at the creek side and throw stones into the water. She loved the ker-plunk sound and the splash. But it certainly wasn’t a pastoral experience. I believe I’ve hiked another part of the trail that was quieter; I need to find out where that entry point is.

Last night at dinner with some friends, a woman mentioned Penitencia Creek Park. I’d driven by it on my way to Alum Rock Park but not stopped. This morning on a whim I took Claire. This park, too, resides in the midst of urban life, but what a difference location can make! While we still heard traffic, sirens, and airplanes, it was all in the distance. The weather was gently warm and sunny. The creek burbled cheerfully as we walked by. Claire got to throw stones into it and to test what happens when you throw leaves into the water. (They rapidly float away!)

There is a pond in this large, green open space as well, and it is populated by Canadian and white geese, American Coots, and white as well as Mallard ducks. The pond is fringed with thick cattail plants which make a great landing spot for red-winged blackbirds to sit and sing. We saw a robin red-breast hunting for worms, and many fat squirrels chasing each other. And, while the trail was well-populated by people, it didn’t feel crowded. Claire found a large white duck feather which she used “to tickle the water” of the creek. And the best experience of all for her was an encounter with a small black caterpillar on the paved path. She enjoyed the feeling of it crawling over her fingers and declared, “Her name is Sam.” She put the caterpillar in the grass so it wouldn’t get squished.

As for me? For a change I felt my body relax with the release from all agendas; I was content to meander and look with Claire at whatever caught our eye. We spent a lovely hour there and came home content.

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