Spring has sprung… or is it summer? The lovely weather lately has us out and about, doing all of our favorite things, including biking and hiking. After any adventure in the heat, we aim to cool off, and we were delighted to find a new shaved ice shop, Island Style Shave Ice, just a short distance from a favorite hike.
After my birthday in April, I grabbed the kids and headed out for a brief hike in the heat of the afternoon. We ventured to one of our favorite hikes – Picchetti Ranch (http://strollerhikes.com/location/picchetti/) in the Cupertino hills above Stevens Creek Reservoir. We revisited the same park two weeks later to repeat our adventure, upon request of my son, Max — it was that good the first time!
Picchetti is old ranch land that has since been converted to a trail-laden open space. The trails are well kept, though some are quite steep along the reservoir side. There are several short trails that can link up to make some fun loops. We like hiking down Zinfandel Trail, then taking Orchard Loop trail, which junctions with a nice grove of old Oak Trees. Hiking through the grove, then down toward the lake, one passes past well inhabited but decaying trees, tons of fragrant wild sage, and many wildflowers, such as Monkey Flower and Indian Paintbrush. This time of year, we also see lots of orange California Poppy, yellow Buttercups, and purple Brodiaea, and tons of other flowers – I play a game with my kids to see if they can find every color of the rainbow when we hike.
The lake is not your typical lake. In fact, it’s not even there most of the year. This is a vernal or ephemeral pool, meaning that it dries up most years. This one, in fact, appears to skip some years entirely, or will hold water for such short amounts of time to make me think it’s skipping a year. I took a limnology class one year, craving a clear definition distinguishing between a lake and a pond. I still don’t have a clear definition, and with vernal pools added to the mix, I wonder what the difference is between wetlands, ponds, lakes, and puddles.
When we visited in early April, we were delighted to find that the lake looked like a small lake, complete with a mated pair of ducks, tons of frogs, thousands of tadpoles, and at least five salamanders. My kids and I enjoyed walking all around it, looking for more and more frogs, and noticing the abundant insects visiting the area. There were butterflies, moths, and all sorts of bees (or things that looked like bees), as well as ladybugs and big spiders. This area was teaming with life! While we saw two salamanders well far from the lake when we visited again two weeks later, we still found our pair of ducks, tons of tadpoles, and abundant insect life.
We usually only imagine what the lake looks like. In the bowl of space for it, there is a clearing with many dead branches from nearby trees. These become ready supplies for “driftwood” forts. Wood gets stacked against one of three large (and relatively immobile) dead branches below eucalyptus trees; you cannot miss the landmark if you go looking for the lake, but there is no water there. The local oak trees also abandon gall balls, which make excellent, albeit small soccer balls for a quick match or some distraction for tired hikers whining on the return journey. The oak trees tend to drop them in the fall. At this time of year, you can see plenty growing in the branches, in response to wasp “infection.” For more about how these form, see http://strollerhikes.com/gorgeous-litter/.
After marveling at liquid water housing so much life, we were thirsty for some chilled liquid of our own. Driving home along Stevens Canyon Road, we found Island Style Shave Ice, a new storefront for the shaved ice business you may see regularly at your local Farmer’s Market. Max got his pucker on, with some super sour flavors, Holly enjoyed some very sweet reds, and I enjoyed a walk down memory lane with one of their classic combinations. Just as the lake at Picchetti will be gone before most hikers will see it, it took the kids and I no time to consume our frozen water treat. Island Style Shave Ice is located at 10631 S. Foothill Boulevard in Cupertino (Stevens Canyon Road becomes Foothill Boulevard as you enter suburbia) and you can find their Farmer’s Market schedule on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/IslandStyleShaveIce?fref=ts. Try to visit Picchetti before May so you can see the ephemeral pond for yourself!
– Debbie, Max, and Holly