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Coyote Valley Ride
(This was a few months ago, but I never wrote it up….)

Up early I went off for a ride to rural San Jose, and south of town is Coyote Valley.
Officially it is part of the city, having been annexed in the 60’s or 70’s, but otherwise you wouldn’t know you weren’t in the 1800’s, or a stone's throw away of 1,000,000+ people.



Bordered on the east by Hwy 101, and the Diablo Range, the western edge is formed by spurs of the Santa Cruz Mountains of the coastal range. The relative narrowness between these two ranges forms a natural corridor for wildlife.


Just past sunrise


There is a plan for development of a upwards of 75,000 residents, and associated jobs, yet today it is still mainly agriculture and open space.


Much of the acreage is owned by big players, including as this sign notes: Sobrato, a local developer and commercial real estate landlord, worth billions.


The development was planned back in the heyday of the 90’s during the tech bubble. To try and mitigate traffic concerns and total gridlock, housing construction was tied to a trigger of job creation. When the bubble burst, Coyote Valley fell by the wayside. There is still zoning battles between landowners and the city, with hundreds of millions tied up in the balance.

One campus out there is IBM.

It is one of there R&D labs.


Lots of open space still being farmed




Rolling oak foothills


A red-tailed hawk hunting


Lots of traffic on a weekend morning


Two kinds of walnuts:
The native California black walnut


The cultivate English walnut


What is the norm in California is the English walnut, with a much larger and easy to shell nut, is grafted to the native rootstock of the California black. Much more fungi resistant and adapted to the local soil, it is the best of both worlds.

Roadside art






A local landmark is the “Box on the Hill” Mt Umunhum. A 1950’s US Air Force Base, it was a radar station vigilant for a Soviet sneak attack, that fortunately never came.

Now the mountain is part of a local parks district and will be open to the public in the next few years for hiking and an amazing view. What will be come of the Box, is still an open debate, historians vs those that want the park returned to it’s natural state. I hope it can be converted to some sort of interpretive center, it would be a shame to lose such an important part of our local history.

While the area looks natural


it has another ghost of past use: mercury contamination.


In the watershed is New Almaden, what was the 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] largest mercury mine in the world, second only to the Almaden Mine in Spain. Cinnabar, a red mineral was used historically as a pigment by peoples everywhere it was found. Unfortunately it is extremely toxic, the main element in the compound being mercury. It was mined in California to extract elemental mercury for gold and silver extraction. The residual contamination is still in the food webs 50+ years after the mines were last active.

Almost all local creeks have these warning signs not to eat the fish, that bio-magnify the mercury, by eating numerous smaller organisms that have minute amounts in their bodies.

The Mad Hatter character in Alice in Wonderland is based on hatter’s occupational hazard of mercury exposure in tanning and preparing hides for hat making. Not good stuff.

Riding out of the valley it connects to several county parks with endless miles of hiking and preservation of the valley’s agricultural and historical past.

 

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A mule deer, faster than I was with the camera


Wild turkeys rooting in the morning warmed duff.


A great blue heron hunting gophers and other burrowing rodents. It’s pretty impressive to see them spear a gopher, toss them up in the air, catch them and swallow them whole.


I always have to admire a fine split rail fence


The area is criss-crossed with high voltage power lines, but it is still a beautiful area and an important thoroughfare for large wildlife such as mt lions and elk.


About the only way I like to see wild pigs….
They are horrible for the habitat, tearing up meadows and devouring native plants, especially our precious oaks.

Thanks for coming along on another of my Bay Area Rural Rides.
Ride On!
 

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Very nice Joe!
Some great pics there! Having lived in San Diego, Alpine, San Francisco, Salinas, Monterey and Soquel your pics look all too familiar, I have been up and down California many times. I always like pics from there, brings back lots of memories. There used to be a stretch of road in Morgan Hill (I think) that was just a few miles long but was so dangerous and many people got in accidents or died on that road. I can't think of what they used to call it, but you would probably know.
Thanks Joe for the pics and write up!
 

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You weren't kidding about the wildlife corridor, plenty of critters in your picture's, which is a good thing.

"A local landmark is the
“Box on the Hill” Mt Umunhum. A 1950’s US Air Force Base, it was a radar station vigilant for a Soviet sneak attack, that fortunately never came."
This reminds me of a place I use to drive by when I lived in Lewiston, ID, Cottonwood Butte. Legend had it there was a radar site similiar to this site. Looked it up on Flash Earth and Geocache site. Sure enough, there is an old radar site up on this hill too.
Cottonwood Radar Site.jpg


I'm glad you mentioned this. Cottonwood Butte is a days ride from where I live now, I'll put it on my list of places to visit. And I thank you for mentioned the "Box on a Hill", as a reminder of C.B.

The photo of the Red Tail Hawk is cool.
 

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You can ride almost to the box via Mt. Umunhum Rd., which is off Hicks Rd. The road is closed near the top.

Hicks Rd. is a nice ride, though not particularly long it is in pretty country.
 

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Great ride report, Joe. I appreciate the informative narrative (I didn't know Blue Herons did that), the Google Earth and map shots, the beautiful shots of the scenery, and the wildlife pics. Very well done, thanks. I was cruising home from work yesterday, glanced to the right, and there was some wild turkeys feeding between the freeway and the rest area, not more than 25 or 30 feet away. Surprised the heck out of me to see them that close, and I hadn't seen any turkeys in the area for quite awhile.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Nice RR and photos besides your camera needs a good sensor cleaning...:)
you caught my UFO eh? it's since been cleaned. :)

You can ride almost to the box via Mt. Umunhum Rd., which is off Hicks Rd. The road is closed near the top.
Hicks Rd. is a nice ride, though not particularly long it is in pretty country.
i tried to hike there once.... trails got narrower and narrower.... and the poison oak got thicker and thicker... is a very pretty area.

I'm glad you mentioned this. Cottonwood Butte is a days ride from where I live now, I'll put it on my list of places to visit. And I thank you for mentioned the "Box on a Hill", as a reminder of C.B.
so many cool old historical sites. just north of the golden gate bridge there are old nike missile batteries.... really cool to wander around and you can even camp in one of the old horizontal silos.
 

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Thanks for all the great pics and the history.
 

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That is a nice write up. Thanks. You don't know how good that sunshine looks...were getting down to like 29f this last week, and after looking at that ive got a jones to head south for a spell.
 

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That is a nice write up. Thanks. You don't know how good that sunshine looks...were getting down to like 29f this last week, and after looking at that ive got a jones to head south for a spell.
truth be told: that ride was last thanksgiving... turkeys on turkey day.

we're scheduled for some rain today, but yesterday was sunny.
 
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