Stevens Creek County Park

I currently live in the middle of Silicon Valley which is pretty much a suburban area that spans across multiple cities. However if you grab your bike and ride just a few kilometers south you will quickly find yourself surrounded by nature. Last week we did precisely that and we ended up in Stevens Creek County Park.

Stevens Creek County Park is located a couple of kilometers south of Cupertino and it shares name with the trail that takes me to work every day, Stevens Creek trail. The park’s main official attraction is a lake in the middle of it. The park’s main unofficial characteristic, though, is the sound of rifles coming from a nearby shooting range. From the moment we arrived to the park until we left about five hours later we could hear people shooting almost non-stop. The park is surrounded by mountains and makes for great acoustics. Besides that the night before we watched Jack Reacher, a movie whose plot involves a guy shooting at five people with a sniper rifle so you can imagine why I found this trait of the park memorable.

Soon after we arrived we stopped by a visitor center we stumbled upon. There we were greeted by Bob, a volunteer ranger. While he was explaining the various available routes we could see signs that warned us about mountain lions, rattlesnakes and ticks. Now I spent all my childhood in Madrid, Spain. It’s a great place for fiesta, night life and holidays but my home country doesn’t appear in any dangerous maps of the world maps that I saw as a kid. The hot areas were always in America, Asia or Australia. Now I was quite close to one of the hot zones so you can understand my excitement! Bob gave us a couple of maps, some directions and let us on our own.

Some people may focus on the scenery, some on the fence, some on Loes. I was focused on the pointy rocks on the trail and on my road bike delicate road tires.

The park wasn’t that big and after twenty minutes we reached the end of the trail that was closest to the lake. We decided to sit down and read for a bit. It was all lovely and bucolic. Nice shadows were protecting us from the sun, we had a beautiful lake in front of us and we were surrounded by hummingbirds, crickets, ducks and the sound of sniper rifles in the distance.

View of the lake from our vantage point.

Then, suddenly, we heard a hissing sound coming from very close behind our backs. As I was turning around my brain finished its preliminary evaluation and told me that it was most likely one of our bikes unless rattlesnakes had learned yoga and were now able to exhale monotonously for more than a second. Until that point in my life I had never had tires suddenly burst on me so I naturally still expected to see either a rattlesnake or a mountain lion destroying our means of escaping. Alas that was not the case. There was no predator that we could see and the bike, resting in the shadows, couldn’t have a more innocent look over it. As far as I’m concerned the tire had lead a happy life and had decided to join his ancestors in that peaceful moment.

As you could have expected that was the last part of the tire that we checked.

Loes’ parents happen to be Dutch and they recently gave me a tire repair kit which I had brought with me. However a repair kit is of little use without an air pump, fact that we briefly considered shortly after leaving home and proceeded to discard. For people who listen, their inner voices are full of advice.

We pushed away the nagging fact that we were about 15 kilometers away from home, the fact that the average walking speed is 5 kph and the fact that the deceased bike was made of steel. Instead we focused on the nature surrounding us, we spied on some hummingbirds and lizards, took more photos and read for a bit.

This is the closest we got to a real rattlesnake. It's also the closest we got to a mountain lion.
What looks like a big black hummingbird but probably isn't.
American suburbs, at least the ones I have visited, are full of parks and trees but nothing compares to the real thing. Can you spot the hidden animal in this photo?

After some time the nagging facts we pushed away came back demanding our attention and we decided to head home and hope for a lucky encounter on the way back. When we reached the visitor center the gentle volunteer ranger from the morning was still there. He was extremely nice and helped us bring our steel bike back to life. This involved a four mile trip to a nearby bike shop but the ranger went out of his way to help us. Thanks Bob!

Our trip to this lovely park mirrored my experience so far in the US. You can find extremely polite and helpful people but there are unforgiving dangers around every corner for the unprepared.