Rancho Cañada del Oro is an Open Space Preserve just south of San Jose. It is one of my go-to parks for a quick hike since it’s such a short drive for relative solitude. Even on its busiest day you’d never guess you were a 20 minute drive from the 10th largest city in the US! I decided to head there on Sunday morning to get in a couple of hours of hiking in the ‘pineapple express’ – the warm rain that is currently falling over California.

Although I didn’t get the typical sweeping views or blankets of wildflowers, the hike was still beautiful. The lack of views made me look more closely at my immediate environment where I discovered newts, twisting ancient oak trees, and fresh tracks from the large mammals that live in the park.

I started up the Serpentine Trail which parallels the approach road for a short distance. Along the way, you walk through an old walnut orchard.

Walnut Orchard, Serpentine Trail

Walnut Orchard, Serpentine Trail

As I climbed higher and the rain continued to fall, I started to notice the newts out enjoying the moisture that they have been waiting for. I had to watch every step to avoid these guys – I saw more than I can count. I hope I didn’t step on anyone! It is so much fun to watch them move.

Newt along the Serpentine Trail

Newt along the Serpentine Trail

I almost always hike over Bald Peaks when I do this trail, but there would be no views of San Francisco today. Instead, I decided to head down the Catamount Trail. I don’t think I’ve hiked that one before since I almost always loop over the high point (I have a hard time saying no to a summit!)

Bald Peaks in the fog

Bald Peaks in the fog

Selfie on the Catamount trail. I was really happy I brought my Switch Axo sunglasses on the trail. The rose lenses were perfect in the muted sunlight and the large face coverage kept the rain out of my eyes. Also, I need to get my hair cut. My braid kept popping out of my jacket and getting wet.

Selfie on the Catamount Trail

Selfie on the Catamount Trail

It wasn’t long ago that this land was farms and ranches. Old fences and structures can still be found throughout the park.

Old fence along the Catamount Trail

Old fence along the Catamount Trail

A short distance down the trail I found some fresh mountain lion tracks. Kitty! They went on for about 1/4 mile before disappearing off trail. Fresh, too! They are known to roam this park.

Mountain Lion track along the Catamount Trail

Mountain Lion track along the Catamount Trail

I had the perfect conditions for gear testing today! I was trying out some new Ahnu boots and Mountain Khakis pants. Both passed with flying colors, I can’t wait to put some more miles on them.

Gear Testing Fun!

Gear Testing Fun!

Thanks for joining me on my short little hike through Rancho Cañada del Oro.


Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd

Mountain sports addict. Dog Mom. Craft beer drinker. Tech nerd. The best days are those spent above 10k ft. Meet me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google +

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