Open sky, hills, valleys and the reservoirLos Vaqueros Watershed

Turkey vulture soaring

Grace and Beauty

The ridge trail in Los Vaqueros Watershed lets you feel you have escaped from development. Apart from the windmills to the south there is no sign of buildings or roads, just the hills of Morgan Territory to the west, Round Valley to the north and the reservoir to the south.

While we admired this view we were treated to a display of Turkey Vultures wheeling above our heads. Sometimes they were close enough that we could take pictures, hard to do with a “point and shoot”.


surface of the lake sparkles in the sun

Sparkling Lake

We returned to the east bay in anticipation of cooler weather. LVW is always attractive to me – on a summers day the water sparkles under the blue sky and this somehow feels rejuvenating.

Starting out in the Marina we walked up to the red barn. Initially the shore is littered with anglers but as we get further up the trail they peter out and we are left in isolation. Just us, the birds and a flock of sheep.

The water is unusually high, in places the edge of the trail has collapsed and repairs are underway. Compare this with Lexington Dam in Los Gatos, which seems almost empty.

green oak tree contrasts with burnt grass

Oak tree flourishes in arid landscape

The landscape is arid and I wonder how the trees survive, but you can see from the size of the trunks that some of them have been here for a long time. I cannot help but reflect how these trees stand here day after day for perhaps hundreds of years, withstanding cold driving rain in the winter and temperatures that exceed 100 degrees in the summer. The LVW management is planting more trees around the meadows, I wonder what the watershed will look like in 50 years.
Trees live on a different timescale!

We go east at the red barn just as the sheep decide that its time to investigate some feed troughs nearby. They run in groups down the hill raising a cloud of dust (for some reason this reminds me of the movie Lawrence of Arabia, but I don’t see the connection) but then they see us and stop. This is interesting behavior. They are in groups and when the leader of each group stops the whole group stops. No sheep in the group will go past the leader. When the leader moves on they all move on. This seems un-American. Perhaps we need a new breed of American sheep who all act as individuals.

a deer watches us from the hilltop

Watching us, watching them, watching us.....

Following the Peninsula Trail we encounter our first climb of the day. At the junction with the vista point trail there is a deer in the distance feeding from a tree. I frequently see deer in the daytime in this park. This seems contrary to their normal behavior. It also reminds me of the unseen lives in the world. These deer live here from day to day experiencing whatever challenges – there are mountain lions around if nothing else – and successes they have in their lives. To some extent the world is like this. Everyday over six billion lives are lived and for the most part what we see and experience are the lives of just a few people. Its as though the whole world is hidden from us but perhaps thinking about the life of the whole planet is just too much.

At the metal pier we stop to take pictures of a Pelican that is nearby. In spite of being very careful the bird is spooked and takes off leaving me with just a low level flying shot.

Pelican flying low over the water

Pelican taking off

With no water flowing into the reservoir from the local creeks many of the inlets are green with algae. Funny, its a bright green but seems very unattractive – I wonder what that association is?

We take Los Vaqueros trail. This is the only steep climb on today’s hike but its not very long and soon we are walking along the Vista Grande Trail. LVW is connected to Morgan Territory and Round Valley Parks. The combined area gives a sense of freedom and openness. Walking along the ridge you almost feel as though you can open your arms and embrace the blue sky and become part of it, part of its vastness and purity (don’t think about pollution).
Above us Turkey Vultures are wheeling around, sometimes up to half a dozen birds. I love to watch their graceful flight, the profile of the outstretched wings and the streamlined body seems like a perfection in graceful design. We sit on the bench to soak up the view and take pictures of the birds.

We go west on Eagle Ridge Trail. Our expectations of cooler weather were not met, its 98 degrees according to my watch. However, it doesn’t feel that intense so perhaps the breeze is having an offsetting effect. On the lower reaches of the trail we meet a “ranger” driving a pickup truck. He generously offers us bottles of ice cold water from his cooler. Then he takes time to answer some of our questions about the landscape and the animals – yes there are mountain lions in this vicinity.

We head back to the red barn. The path is dusty and the day is hot. This is typical east bay summers day, intense and yet quiet and peaceful. Nothing stirs in this valley save for the occasional flurry of ground squirrels running for cover as we walk by. In spite of the dry feeling to everything there is plenty of life here in the park.

A white flower opens to the sun

Plant life flourishes

The odd flower here and there is easy to miss but if you stop and look at them they’re amazing. Look at the subtle shift in color from the white petals to inner green core. Each petal is perfectly formed sitting next to its partner to form a complete circle.

Past the red barn we meet three fisherman who tell us they have only been here 20 minutes and caught one fish. A half a mile down the path we meet another group who tell us they have been here since 7 am and caught nothing. We give the the good/bad news about their fellow fishermen and I wonder how you make a decision about where to fish. Given the size of a fish this reservoir seems gigantic, why would the fish be over on this side of the lake, why don’t they all cluster on the other side where there are no fisherman. But, perhaps people who fish don’t come just to catch the fish perhaps there is more to it.

Finally back at the parking lot we take stock of the walk. Its about 14.5 miles. Not too much ascent on this walk but the views were great. I reflect that by contrast we have climbed many steep hills in the last few weeks and not seen any views because we were shrouded by trees.
There is something about these wide open views that makes you feel you are breathing the very life of the plant, rejuvenation in an unseen way.

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