I saw at least a dozen turkeys, a half-dozen red-winged blackbirds, a quarter-dozen deer. I didn’t see the mountain lion, but I may have stepped in its poop.
Well, I certainly stepped in something, and it shouldn’t have been doggie-doo because dogs aren’t allowed on the trails at Calero County Park in far-south San Jose. I’ll tell myself it was a coyote or bobcat, to reassure myself a much larger feline hadn’t been watching me wander by and thinking, “hmm … not much to look at but he’ll do if the deer dry up.”
What happened: I got back to the car after five and half hours zigzagging through the hills at Calero and a hiker walked to the next car and asked, “So, did you see the mountain lion? It was over on Figueroa Trail. The rangers know about it.” No such luck for me, but I had started out on the same trail, and it was where I’d had my scat encounter.
It’s always somebody else spotting the mountain lions, which, come to think of it, is probably for the best. They’re fairly common in these hills and pose no threat as long as they’ve got plenty of deer to dine upon. The few deer I saw bolted at the first site of me, which is refreshing because that’s what deer are supposed to do, as opposed to, say, coming into your back yard and eating all your tulip bulbs.
The turkeys, as usual, seem to have barely enough sense to remember they have wings, and move much more slowly.
All this is a prelude to my admitting there’s nothing especially remarkable at Calero, trailwise. You won’t see any mountain bikers, but you have to share the trails with horses. It has hills, but they’re not particularly high. It has vistas, but they aren’t stunning. It has a few streams, but no waterfalls. It has excellent oak trees, but so do most of the other parks around here.
All of these things mean Calero’s not exactly in high demand among the South Bay’s hiking masses. I set off at 9 on a Saturday morning and saw nary a soul till noon. I walked through still woods, hearing birds and bugs making conversation. Found the occasional hillside dotted with wildflowers.
So despite the lack of must-see attractions, it’s a fine place to spend a few hours in the outdoors. The trails are mostly easy and the hills are borderline humane, a nice break from the cruelty so common on trails built for drivers rather than walkers.
Calero’s primary trail considerations are: a) you can’t take your dog; and b) you can take your horse. So, your experience will vary according to which domesticated animal you prefer.
Yeah, I took pictures. Let’s take a look:
Rare patches of blue sky on an otherwise overcast day. This is along the same trail where the mountain lion was spotted.
Farther down the same trail. Double-track is preferable to single at a park with horses.
A male turkey splays his tail feathers in an attempt to seduce a nearby female. Couldn’t tell for sure from this distance but I think she yawned and made some of those gobbling noises that roughly translate as, “buzz off, loser.”
This is pretty cool: a batcave on stilts. It’s on the Javelina Loop Trail.
Gotta have one of these every week.
Little blue guys getting ready to bloom.
Looking down on Calero Reservoir from the Bald Peaks Trail.
The first people I saw after about three hours of hiking.
This pic might’ve looked better in black and white.
Met a very friendly horse in a corral near the reservoir. Could’ve had me a friend for life if I’d have had some carrot chunks.
Los Cerritos Pond is about a half-mile from the traihead — there’s a deck with a bench where you can check out the wildlife at the water’s edge. Lots o’ birds gather in the reeds.
Trails I hiked (I’m going to start cataloging this stuff in case I want to write about it in my column for the paper) :
Figueroa Trail. A left turn at the first trail junction. Stayed on it for two miles to the Pena/Javalina Trail junction. Mostly unshaded.
Javelina Loop: Hiked the northern half, which passes the Bat Inn, for a little over a mile. Mostly downhill to a short connector to the Cottle Trail. Mostly shaded.
Cottle Trail: Headed east for about a mile, gradually uphill but not terribly steep. Includes a couple easy stream crossings. Almost all shaded. Stopped for lunch at the Cottle Trail Rest Area, which has a horse trough and a spring.
Chisnatuk Peak Trail: Single track, steep in places, for a mile. Mostly shaded. Some of the prettiest hiking in the park; lots of wildflowers near the top.
Bald Peaks Trail. Tracks a ridge top for a mile and a half; no shade. Vistas would’ve been much better on a sunny day.
Canada Del Oro Trail: Steep descent through the forest for a mile and a quarter. Mostly shaded; would be a pretty good slog coming up this way.
Vallecito Trail: Half mile, open, mild climbing.
Pena Trail: Quarter mile, mostly uphill but not difficult, open.
Los Cerritos Trail. Downhill mostly for a bit under two miles. Passes Calero Reservoir and Los Cerritos Pond before returning to main trail junction.
So that’s the story on Calero County Park. Looks like wildflower season still has some good shows in store this year, and Calero should be a good place to see them.