Getting Out: 'The Dish' serves up beauty - The Gilroy Dispatch: Ron Erskine

Getting Out: 'The Dish' serves up beauty

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Posted: Friday, January 18, 2013 5:00 am

The Dish. Pop into any Palo Alto coffee shop or deli and you are likely to overhear someone talking about the Dish.

You have passed the Dish many times. It is the huge radio telescope that sits on a hilltop overlooking Interstate 280 near Alpine Road on the peninsula. And like the levee is in Gilroy, the Dish is the handy go-to location for walkers of all types in the Palo Alto area.

My good friend Libby Vincent invited me recently to “do the Dish” with her. I knew the Dish was a walking mecca, but I was skeptical. It sits on a naked hill barely a driver and a 5-iron away from the freeway. How exciting can it be? Libby assured me that charms lurked there, and few people know a good trail better than Libby does.

I parked close to 280 on Alpine Road across from the entrance to the Stanford Linear Accelerator. Libby explained that this entrance is the least used of three entrances. The other two are along Junipero Serra Boulevard at the edge of the Stanford campus. Each entrance is gated and locked when the Dish is closed.

From the gate, the wide paved trail climbed gently through eucalyptus, valley oaks and a lone Monterey pine. A little higher, the landscape opened onto rolling green hills dotted with an occasional oak or buckeye. A mile out, we reached the Dish itself and the property’s main divide. Here, we had our first view east over Palo Alto and toward the bay. It was just a tease of what was ahead.

At the Dish, we intersected the main 3.5-mile loop that circles the property. Other trails just connect the loop to the three entrances. We turned right and rolled along the ridge top, the views improving all the while. Just before the trail started to descend, Libby stopped to point out the immense view – and remarkable it was.  A hazy sky hampered our view, but the entire bay and the hills that encircle it were before us. On better days, Libby said, one can see Pine Ridge at Coe Park and even the Sierra, but our limited view was still breathtaking.

On the Dish Trail, you will see moms pushing double strollers, runners with dogs, grandma and grandpa – people of all ages and types. There is no solitude on the Dish Trail, but there is everything else. Red-tailed hawks, acorn woodpeckers, egrets, western bluebirds, and white-crowned sparrows were busy and indifferent to us passers-by.

Thanks for setting me straight, Libby. The setting, the terrain and the views are fabulous.

Update: Clouds Rest Challenge – New Year’s Hike

The day before the New Year’s hike, our first prep hike of the Clouds Rest Challenge, I printed some sign-up sheets to get names and email addresses of folks interested. I put five sheets on a clipboard, then laughed at myself. Wake up, Ron – you’ll be lucky if you get halfway down the second sheet. So, I pulled two out.

Imagine my surprise and delight when cars kept coming into the Mendoza Ranch parking area at Harvey Bear Ranch. I filled my sign-up sheets, and even then, I missed some of you. I am guessing that 100 people were there. You are a great group. I hope you will keep coming. If I missed you, or you are newly interested in walking with us to Clouds Rest in Yosemite, email me at for information.

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