We had a wonderful Toddler Trek at Alviso Marina / Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge on Thursday, with Chelsea and Ryder. It’s so fun to share these open spaces with other people; others’ experiences and perspectives really flavor our experiences in nature. With our active toddlers, we really got busy looking at plants, for footprints, and talking about all of the features of the area, from the construction to the train to the ponds, to the old and current uses of the area. Two of my most treasured discoveries were (1) the chorus of croaking as dusk fell and the frogs began to sing along the small ponds that border the entrance to the park, and (2) pickle grass.
We’ll have to check out the ponds the next time we visit and look for frogs, but the pickle grass is a far less allusive gem. When we walked down to the salty bay, Chelsea stopped to ask Ryder if he remembered what a low-growing plant was. My immediate impression was that it was Ice Plant, the succulent that is planted roadside all over California and has become somewhat invasive, but I was far from correct. Chelsea and Ryder both plucked a leaf from the plant and laid it on their tongues a puckery, pickle-flavored delight.
How wonderful to taste nature! Max and I have laid fresh chips of pine sap on our tongues when we find pine trees newly ripped apart by storms, sucked the nectar from clover flowers, chewed Miner’s Lettuce, and tasted Sour Grass (a new discovery last Friday, which Jenn shared with us on her Friday morning hike), but pickles in nature? Chelsea reminded me that a lot of plants that grow in saltwater areas have to have adaptations to endure the otherwise drying impact of the salty air, soil, and tides. These wonderful little plants secrete salt actively outside their leaves, working hard to keep water inside, much like several animals do with their kidney-like structures. To compel water to stay in its leaves, Pickle Grass produces acid, which creates a wonderful pickle flavor. Pickle Grass (also called Samphire, Salicornia, Sea Beans, and Sea Asparagus) is quite abundant along the East Coasts and intertidal regions worldwide, and even gets sold at some farmer markets and served as a luxury food in France and the United Kingdom. While it’s not as plentiful here, it tastes similar to tumbleweed, which our local CSA has provided for the last two years.
Talking with several other Stroller Hikes moms the other night, the difficult patterns of Toddler eating came up, and I can’t help but think of this topic as I mention tasting nature. All the moms that were part of that conversation struggled with getting their kids to try new things or eat their vegetables. Eating socially and recreationally has done wonders for me to try new things, and maybe a little social tasting would do our kids good. Certainly be mindful of what you’re tasting, by consulting a good guide, but how exciting to engage the sense of taste on our hikes, tasting more than our pre-packed snack time goodies.
Here are this week’s events:
Saturday, February 27th at 6:30 pm join Jennifer and little Kayla for a Full Moon Hike at Harvey Bear / Coyote Lake Ranch Park near Gilroy. What a treat to share sunset and witness some critters settling down to rest, while other creatures come alive at night! We’ll hike Martin Murphy Trail, a 2 mile paved loop, with excellent vantage points for seeing stars and looking for bats flying to catch insects, while offering plenty of safe space for toddlers and children to hike with us. Jennifer will alert you to nature at dusk and beyond, by the light of the moon. All family members welcome! This is a Santa Clara County Play Here (http://www.parkhere.org/) activity. Register at the Santa Clara County Website or by calling or e-mailing Carrie Grisenti at 408-355-2240 or Carrie.Grisenti@…, or just come out to join us! To get to the trailhead, drive towards Gilroy on Highway 101. From the Highway 101 exit at San Martin Avenue, drive East for 2 miles on San Martin Avenue. The Harvey Bear Ranch entrance to the park is on the left, a quarter mile East of Foothill Avenue, on San Martin Avenue. Call Jennifer at 408-470-0463 if you’re running late. The event is free, but a parking fee may apply.
Tuesday, March 2nd at 9 am Loren and little Angelo will lead a Toddler Trek at Guadalupe Oak Grove Park. We will meet at the Vargas Dr. Entrance which is a break in the fence with plenty of street parking. The walk is unpaved and stroller friendly. Dogs welcome. We will make a 1 mile loop stopping midway at a playground. This will be very unstructured with plenty of time for the kids to explore and collect treasures. If we are lucky we will see some squirrel friends, acorn woodpeckers, and maybe even a hummingbird. To find this trail head south on Almaden Expressway, take a right onto Coleman (just before Almaden Lake Park), then a left onto Recife Way. Recife Way will dead end at Vargas Dr. and the trail head. If are running late give Loren a call at 831-227-6737. Come join on our adventure!
Tuesday, March 2nd at 1:30 pm Amy B. and her wee ones will lead a hike at Sunnyvale Baylands Park. This trail is entirely paved, so any stroller will work! Meet next to the recycled water test garden (take a left after entering the park). For more information or directions, see the Baylands Page (http://www.strollerhikes.com/Hikes/BaylandsPark/BaylandsPark.html). The park does not charge a fee for parking this time of year. If you’re running late, call Amy at 408-368-7161.
Thursday, March 4th at 4:30 pm join Debbie and little Max for a Toddler Trek at Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills. Hidden Villa is a fully functional, educational farm, with chickens, pigs, goats, cows, and more! Toddlers will be encouraged to walk, run, and explore. We’ll talk about farm animals and organic gardening. Meet at the farm’s parking lot near their visitor center. Bring a suggested $5 donation for parking. Baby backpacks or carriers or a jogging stroller work best if your toddler doesn’t want to walk. Sorry, dogs not allowed. For directions or more information, see Hidden Villa Page (http://www.strollerhikes.com/Hikes/HiddenVilla/HiddenVilla.html). Call Debbie at 650-776-1082 if you’re running late.
Friday, March 5th at 9:45 am Jenn W. and little Scott will lead at Rancho San Antonio in Cupertino/Los Altos Hills. Meet at the main lower parking lot at the water fountain in front of the bathrooms(just past the entrance, turn right, then follow the road until it ends). For more information or directions, see the Rancho San Antonio Page (http://www.strollerhikes.com/Hikes/RanchoSanAntonio/ranchoSanAntonio.html). Sorry, dogs not allowed. The hike will be to the farm and back – about 2 miles, with a stop at the farm for a break. This hike is at least half shaded. If you’re running late, give Jenn a call at 210-859-8721.
Sunday, March 7th at 10 am come out for the Second Annual Jenny’s Light 5K or 1/2 mile children’s Fun Run. The 5K race is a flat, paved loop through Vasona Park, beginning at Gateway Pavilion, near the entrance to Vasona near Blossom Hill Road. Prizes will be awarded to top males and females in age groups as well as top males and females with baby joggers. Walkers are welcome! Silent auction and raffle will also occur. For more information, visit www.jennyslight.org. Jenny’s Light is a 501-c-3 public charity working to increasing awareness of all perinatal mood disorders, including postpartum depression.
– Debbie and little Max