Here’s a free-write I did this morning while ruminating on a hike I took my Golden Retriever on this weekend.
Silicon Valley is an interesting place.
In some parts brown and dusty, in others dotted with sage-green trees – magnolias, crape myrtles, eucalyptus – that increase in number atop the rolling hills. A mess of buildings and individual cities surrounding islands of preserves and state parks. One city blends into the other in a rolling wave, Palo Alto becoming Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Saratoga…
One short drive up the freeway – although spoken without the ‘the’ up here – and it’s easy to get lost in the dusty but beautiful landscape. Blackberries grow in the parking lots of trailheads, cars coming and going enough to stir up the loose soil, making it swirl up in the slow-moving air. The hills themselves aren’t all that spectacular if one focuses only on putting one dust-coated shoe in front of the other to get to the top.
However, the view from the trails…now that’s the true wonder of these hills all covered in dead grass and sagebrush.
From the steep part of a hike in Portola Valley, on the side of a hill covered in a strange mix of conifers and desert plants, my sweaty shirt, ragged breath, and sunburned shoulders suddenly disappear. I look backwards – not up at the next step I need to take to continue the climb, but back down, down into the valley behind me. From that vantage point, the whole of San Jose and the neighboring cities is spread out below, the salt flats of the bay shine white in the sun, and the outline of downtown San Francisco is just barely visible in the midday fog that still lingers there.
Here, however, the fog has all but burnt off. Errant wisps still hover around the top of the hill above, weaving through the out-of-place-looking pine and redwood trees clustered there. The sun beats down hot and merciless below that point, claiming victory over the weathermen who predicted clouds.
Something about seeing the world spread out before me makes me feel hopeful. Looking down upon the roads and houses, malls and schools, the issues that seem to trip us up seem more manageable.
And so does the rest of the 6 mile hike, despite the unexpected heat. The view from the top was well worth it.