Bucket-List Assist: Berry Creek Falls Loop

Lizzy Thomas © 2013

Lizzie Thomas © 2013

A few months ago, my dear friend and former POST colleague, Catherine Waterston, left us to go travel the world (lame, I know).  Over the past couple of years, Catherine had been my go-to hiking buddy—we pretty much covered the entire Bay Area together on foot.  One of the hikes she hadn’t done yet and was on her “Bay Area Bucket List” (things she wanted to do and see before leaving the area) was the Berry Creek Falls Loop at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which is famous in the hiking world for the incredible old-growth redwoods and not one but THREE waterfalls you pass along the way.  That’s a lot of bang for your buck.

The only reason that we hadn’t hiked this one yet was that I’d already done it more than three years ago when I first moved to California.  I remember being incredibly unprepared on many levels—especially with the amount of water I brought along.  Daydreaming about a plethora of ice-cold beverages really detracted from my enjoyment that day, so I was ready to try it out again as a more experienced hiker.

Neal Sharma and Catherine Waterston

Neal Sharma and Catherine Waterston © 2013

On a fine Saturday afternoon, Neal Sharma, another POSTie, picked up Catherine and me and we started off on the long and windy road (Hwy 9 then 236, which is a carsickness-prone person’s mortal enemy) to the Park.  Now, this hike is quite long—11 miles—and not at all easy.  There are considerable and constant changes in elevation, so you should start early in the morning as it takes most people between 5-6 hours to complete.  We didn’t follow that advice and ended up not getting there until about 3:00—cutting it pretty close to being able to return before sunset.

Needless to say, we really had to speed through this hike.  My legs were NOT thanking me the next day.  I almost didn’t go along because I was catching a cold, so my chest felt like it was on fire the whole time.  But I knew this might be my last opportunity to hike with Catherine for a while, so I rallied!  Even with our time limitation and my body fighting me every step of the way, the scenery makes this hike totally worth it.


Waterfall beyond a redwood grove © 2013

We started the loop from the Visitor Center and took the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail for about 4 miles.  We then made a right onto Berry Creek Falls Trail, which took us to said waterfall—a 70-foot, spectacular site.  From there, we turned right on Sunset Trail, which leads past Silver Falls, which you literally climb up alongside (it really feels like you are in the rainforest during that section).  Last up is Golden Cascade Falls, which was pretty much dried up since we went at the end of summer.  I recommend doing this one during the rainy season, although it’s also a nice escape on hot summer days.

We ended up making it back in plenty of time before sunset (I think we hiked it in under 4 hours—hence all three of us not being able to walk at work the next day).  And we crossed another item off Catherine’s Bay Area Bucket List!

Lizzie Thomas,
POST Grants & Government Relations Manager

“What We Did on Our Summer Vacation”

Despite their tender years, Peninsula natives Adam Lipson and my son, Jacob Kantor (ages 11 and 12), have been appreciating POST’s work for a long time. The boys love nothing more than hiking in local redwood forests or exploring tide pools on the beautiful unspoiled San Mateo Coast.

Photo of  Jacob Kantor, Walter Moore and Adam Lipson

Left to right: Jacob Kantor, POST President Walter T. Moore and Adam Lipson
Photo: Ann Duwe ©2013

This summer, they spent some time giving back to POST. Adam and Jacob volunteered as part of the Tzedakah project at Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City. Their hard work has raised more than $2,000 to help preserve even more open space, close to home.

So how did they help?

Imagine a pile of beat-up, outdated computer equipment collecting dust in a POST headquarters closet, waiting for an eventual trip to the recycling center. Adam and Jacob worked to turn those old POST assets into cash. They researched the technical specs (processor speed, memory, screen size, etc.) and scanned the Internet to determine fair-market value.  Then they cleaned off the dust and erased the hard drives to get the machines ready for their new owners.

In addition to learning about technology, Adam and Jacob learned that there is often a market for used equipment if someone is willing to take the time to figure out the details. (And reusing the computer equipment is good for the planet as well!)

Marketing for a good cause is not new to them. On hot summer days the boys frequently set up a lemonade stand near our homes in San Carlos (Adam is our next-door neighbor) to raise money for POST. Their efforts—whether selling refreshments or recycled equipment—show how each of us can do our part to contribute to something we believe in.

Heather Kantor
POST Chief Financial Officer

Paying It Forward, Silicon Valley-style

Steve Blank

Steve Blank, former POST Board member

Visitors to Silicon Valley continually mention how willing entrepreneurs are to help, network and connect, and how seriously those who’ve made it give back to the next generation. We take it so for granted that we never bother to talk about this “pay-it-forward” culture–the unspoken Valley ethos of giving back.

This culture of generosity has deep roots in the Valley. When the first spinout companies began to leave Fairchild Semiconductor in the 1960s, they discovered that fabricating semiconductors reliably was a black art. At times you’d have the recipe and turn out chips, and the next week something would go wrong, and your fab couldn’t make anything that would work. Engineers in the very small world of silicon and semiconductors would meet at the Wagon Wheel restaurant in Mountain View and swap technical problems and solutions with co-workers—and competitors.

In 1975, a local set of hobbyists with the then-crazy idea of a computer in every home formed the Homebrew Computer Club and met in Menlo Park at the Peninsula School, then later at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab. The goal of the club was “Give to help others.” Each meeting would begin with people sharing information, getting advice and discussing the latest innovation (one of which was the first computer from Apple.) The club became the center of the emerging personal computer industry.

This same “pay-it-forward” mentality within the Valley’s tech community also extends to how we think about giving back to our community.

David Packard, co-founder of HP, found time to sit on the Palo Alto school board while building a love of the wilderness on his San Felipe Ranch in the hills above Morgan Hill and San Jose. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation later became one of POST’s largest supporters.

Gordon Moore, co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, grew up in Pescadero with a love of the San Mateo Coast. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation later became one of POST’s largest supporters, as well.


Pescadero © Courtesy of Steve Blank

Today, Donna Dubinsky, founder of Palm and Handspring; Andrew Bosworth, head of advertising at Facebook; and other Silicon Valley executives continue the tradition of supporting POST as Board members and donors.

POST allows Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to “pay-it-forward” by giving back to their community while being able to measure the results. Historically, that approach hasn’t commonly been part of philanthropy, but it’s a major part of engineering and business.

Ultimately, having POST as a recipient of “pay-it-forward” support from successful entrepreneurs and executives makes Silicon Valley more attractive to the next generation of entrepreneurs. Because of POST’s land-saving work, our Silicon Valley coast is not wall-to-wall condos, our hillsides are still unspoiled, and our connection to nature thrives in the midst of high-tech commerce. The global workforce is drawn here by a fertile combination of stunning landscapes, temperate climate and the opportunity to innovate and prosper. Most importantly, our children can still see what attracted their parents to the most exciting and unspoiled region in the world. By “paying it forward” through POST, we set a powerful example that will continue paying back for generations to come.

Steve Blank
POST Board Emeritus

Steve Blank is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and former Board member of POST. He is a consulting associate professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford and teaches at UC Berkeley, Columbia University, and UCSF. A native of New York City, he lives in Pescadero.

My Natural Track

Cowell-Purisima Trail, photo: Paolo Vescia © 2011

Cowell-Purisima Trail
Photo: Paolo Vescia © 2011

I remember the days back in grade school when running laps around the track was required for PE class and the view consisted of four laps that looked the exact same every time around.  Can you imagine if that was our only option of running trails?  No dirt paths winding you through majestic redwoods or breathtaking coastal views, just that same track around and around. Not motivating.


Cowell-Purisima Trail
Photo: Jitze Couperus © 2011

I love the outdoors, and I love exercise, so for the past few years my sister, Emily, and I have competed in the Santa Cruz Triathlon.  We swim around the Santa Cruz wharf, run along West Cliff Dr. and bike out to Davenport and back.  While I was nervous for my first race, I was able to find comfort and strength in the open spaces around me, taking in the fresh coastal air that helped propel me forward. As I biked down Highway 1 past rows and rows of agriculture and ran along the water, I was struck by how important organizations like POST are for protecting the unique and gorgeous lands around us.  Even while out in the open water, not on land, I could see the vast landscape that makes up our coast all in one panoramic view, and the importance of saving and connecting these lands together.  Without protection, my view from the water wouldn’t be one of fields and rugged coast, but of beachside condos and high-rise apartments.  Not what I want to see when trying to stay motivated in the cold open water. While these triathlons are a time to push myself to the physical limit, it is also time that I take for myself, taking advantage of my natural surroundings.

When I’m not competing and just want to go for a run or bike ride outside and train, there are so many options that it can be hard to choose! I recently started running alongside POST-protected Bair Island in Redwood City, starting at the San Carlos Airport and taking the path along the slough. From the trail I could see the occasional egret, scurrying rabbit or falcon flying overhead.  I’ve hiked with friends along the Cowell-Purisima Trail, run along Skyline Boulevard and biked throughout the open spaces, around Palo Alto and Santa Cruz.  These beautiful trails have prepared me for my races and with each “lap” I get to see different views and landscapes around me and under my feet rather than the synthetic rubber of a track.

We have the opportunity to enjoy the scenic beauty and clean air, use the locally grown food as fuel for a race, and see these lands protected forever for future generations.  We really do live in an extraordinary region. While I still get nervous before each race, I find comfort in the water, hills and fields that are all part of my race. It always makes me come back for more.

Hillary Nicholson

Hillary is a former POST employee who worked as an advancement assistant
for two years.

Lizzie’s Challenge: My New Go-To Redwoods Spot

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park with the cousins

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
with the cousins!

Every time I have out-of-town visitors, they (understandably) want to see the redwoods.  When I was living in San Francisco, I always followed the masses and took them to Muir Woods in Marin County.  As anyone who has been there probably knows, Muir Woods is almost always packed to the brim with tourists.  I find it somewhat difficult to reflect on the beauty of the redwood forest when there are multiple children crying in the vicinity!

When I moved to the Peninsula, I decided to switch it up.  No need to drive two hours to Muir Woods when there are so many beautiful redwood parks right here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, right?  So when two of my nature-loving cousins came to visit recently from Chicago and Montana, I decided to check out Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park for our redwood adventure.

Henry Cowell2b

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park’s canapy covered walking trails provide
a breathtaking forest stroll.

I’d heard through the grapevine that this park can also get pretty packed, especially on the weekends and in the summer.  But on a Thursday in late spring, it was shockingly, and perfectly, quiet.  After a scenic drive down Highway 17 and through old-timey Felton, we arrived at the park and immediately found a parking spot right near the visitor center.  The parking lot only had about 10 or 15 other cars—basically the polar opposite parking experience from those I’ve had at Muir Woods.

One aspect that is similar to Muir Woods is Henry Cowell’s beautiful main loop, the Redwood Grove Trail, a flat, less than 1-mile circuit around some of the biggest old-growth redwoods in the region.  A much more enjoyable experience without the crowds!  And a perfect walk for visitors that aren’t up to hiking.

Lizzie at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

The Redwood Grove Trail, some of the biggest old-growth redwoods in the region.

Once my cousins and I completed the main loop, we decided to hike up to a scenic viewpoint off Ridge Fire Road.  We started on the Pipeline Road/River Trail to Eagle Creek Trail.  From there you take a right on the Pine Trail, after about a mile of sandy trails you reach an overlook with scenic views of the ocean, sand hills and the redwood forest below.  Retrace your steps or take the Ridge Fire Road, then take a right on Pipeline Road all the way back to the Visitor Center (about 5-6 miles round trip).

After our hike, we headed to Santa Cruz, which is only about a 10-minute drive from the park.  A hike in the redwoods followed by the beach and some good fish tacos = the perfect day!

Lizzie Thomas,
POST Grants Officer

In Memory of Olive “Ollie” Mayer

Olive Hendricks Mayer passed away in March at the age of 94. A memorial service was held for her over the weekend of May 25.

Devil's Slide Exhibit_4002b_©AnnDuwe12

Ollie Mayer and daughter Judy O’Brien at a Devil’s Slide celebration.

Years ago when I was a staff writer for The Almanac and covered city council meetings in Portola Valley and Woodside, I had the pleasure of seeing local legend Olive (Ollie) Mayer in action. When she addressed decision-making bodies, she always had her facts lined up and delivered them with conviction. Ollie leaves behind an enormous legacy of goodwill on the Peninsula.

Ollie was a visionary who frequently took positions unpopular with the public at large. She wanted a world with no war, and no discrimination over race, gender, housing, civil rights or political opinions. She was determined not just to save the distinctive landscapes of the Peninsula, but to introduce scores of people of all ages to the joys of hiking and camping.

Devil's Slide Exhibit_4008_©AnnDuwe12

Fellow activist Lennie Roberts with Ollie Mayer

As her son-in-law Brad O’Brien, chairman of POST’s Board of Directors, says, Ollie generated support that “stalled the tide of development long enough to enable POST and its partners to do their work.”

Of all the challenges she tackled, perhaps none was greater than the drive to protect the San Mateo County coast by building a tunnel rather than a bypass highway at Devil’s Slide between Half Moon Bay and Pacifica. Ollie passed away just days before the official opening of the tunnel on March 25. She did, however, attend a related celebration and exhibit at the San Mateo County History Museum a few months earlier. At this victory party she helped recall the science and the sociability generated by this successful, 35-year citizens’ fight.

Ollie Mayer is proof that one determined individual really can change the world.

Ann Duwe
POST Lecture Series and Public Relations Manager

Read more about Ollie Mayer’s work on the Devil’s Slide Tunnel Project on KQED’s
The Turns and Twists of the Devil’s Slide Tunnel .

Lizzie’s Next Redwood Adventure: Sam McDonald County Park

The redwood adventure continues!  A couple of weeks ago, I rounded up another pair of POSTies, Lindsay Dillon and Brooke Mead, to continue my quest to hike all of the redwood parks in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  We decided to check out Sam McDonald County Park, adjacent to Pescadero Creek County Park in San Mateo County.

Lizzie Thomas and fellow POST staffer Lindsay Dillion

Lizzie Thomas and fellow POST staffer Lindsay Dillon

The park is located about 45 minutes from Palo Alto.  The main parking lot is off  Pescadero Creek Road, just south of La Honda.  Parking was ample, especially for a Saturday, and the day use fee is $5, payable via an envelope system—make sure to bring exact change.

From the parking lot, we took the Heritage Grove Trail, the start of our loop hike around the entire southern portion of the park (under 5 miles, with an extra mile-long side trip). After about 1.5 miles of somewhat flat terrain along the top of a ridge, we reached the Heritage Grove, which contains spectacular old-growth redwoods.

From that point, the trail becomes a bit more steep as you climb up to the Hikers Hut, which is a Sierra Club-owned facility that can be rented overnight (holds up to 14 people).  As soon as we saw the Hut, I knew we’d be coming back at some point to stay there.  It has a huge deck overlooking rolling grassy ridgetops down to the ocean—and I love the idea of having to work to get there.

With this incredible view, we couldn’t resist stopping to relax and have something to eat.  I’m convinced this is the most ideal picnic spot I’ve ever enjoyed (see photo).  Forcing ourselves to get up and keep moving, we continued downhill on the fire road, which leads to the Towne Trail.  Continuing on the Towne Trail for a couple of miles, we reached the junction with the 1-mile Big Tree Trail loop.  With a name like that, we figured it must be good.  And we were right!  Down in the gulch, there are some massive old-growth stands that I’m glad we didn’t miss.


Lizzie Thomas, Sam McDonald State Park 2013 – (click for full image)

Just like at Portola Redwoods State Park, we barely saw any other hikers all day—maybe 10 people for the entire length of the hike.  Again, I’m amazed by the ease with which you can completely escape the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley and be alone with nature—just a few miles from the heart of our country’s technological epicenter.

To me, the highlight of Sam McDonald is the varied mix of terrain.  The constantly changing scenery keeps it interesting, and you feel like you’ve accomplished and seen so much after only a couple hours of hiking.   Next time, I’ll extend my hike into Pescadero Creek County Park—so many possibilities!

I hope that everyone has been able to enjoy this beautiful spring weather in our region’s many parks and open space preserves!

Until my next hike,

Lizzie Thomas,
POST Grants Officer


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