Doing the Stanford Dish Trail

A great hike to tighten the gluts and see fantastic views of San Francisco and Stanford University.

The Stanford Dish or the ‘Dish’ as the locals call it is an old ranch turned hiking/jogging trail. Located between Junipero Serra Boulevard and I-280, the land is owned by Stanford University and is open to the public every day.

I decided to walk the loop one Saturday morning around 9:00 which I thought was early until I noticed that the parking spots were full. I drove down the road and discovered a middle school but had to drive around a couple of times to wait for a free spot.

Stanford Dish

What is the Dish?

The Dish is a radio telescope locate in the Stanford foothills. It’s pretty massive with a 46 meter (150-foot diameter). Built in 1961 by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) and funded by the US Air Force, the Dish was originally used to study the chemical composition of the atmosphere. Later is was used to communicate with spacecraft and satellites and even transmitted signals to NASA’s Voyager aircraft.

How do I get to the Dish?

You can enter the main entrance from Stanford Avenue but keep in mind, U-turns are prohibited, so you have to slow down and reverse-angle park, if you are lucky enough to find a spot. Alternatively, you can drive down Stanford Avenue to the Lucille M. Nixon Elementary School (1711 Stanford Avenue) and park there outside of school hours unless you want your vehicle to be towed.

From the middle school, the walk to The Dish is about five minutes past some nice Stanford homes tucked away in the lush greens.

Stanford Dish Hiking Trail Tree

The Main Loop Trail

The main loop trail is about 3.5 miles and takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to walk. I thought it would take me longer because after the main entrance the trail had a steep incline, I would have estimated the percentage, but I was breathing heavily and feeling embarrassing unfit. Apparently it’s a 15% incline but gradually levels off thank goodness.
Along the way, you pass by a few reservoirs to a ridgeline and finally the Dish. Yes! You have arrived at your destination.

Along the trail, you’ll pass by cows, some curious squirrels, maybe even some deer, wildflowers, as well as hawks, woodpeckers, and bluebirds. The paved trail is wide and there’s plenty of room for strollers, walkers, and runners to share the road.

Stanford Dish Hiking Trail Cows
As you cruise back to your starting point, in my case the main gate, don’t forget to say thanks and good-bye to the gate guard.
On a clear day you can see the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west, the San Francisco Bay, and Stanford University.

Stanford Dish Hiking Trail

If you are ready to ‘Do the Dish’, go early, really early, bring plenty of water and remember the Dish is open only during daylight hours.

A Deprived Expat’s Fish Taco Recipe

It’s not easy being an expat, especially when you’re deprived of fish tacos.

This post is mainly for any of my readers deprived of your favorite home foods, especially since you are living the ‘good life’ across the pond somewhere. Therefore, today’s post is about fish tacos. Why? Because it’s Cinco de Mayo of course. And because fish tacos rock!

We don’t have access to fish tacos around these parts and when I first heard about them, the idea sort of turned me off. Yes, I like fish. In fact, I eat fish at least twice a week, but fish and tacos just didn’t seem a likely combination. But then on a recent trip to California, I decided to try them. I was hooked from the first bite and took every chance I could to eat them.

Fish Taco Recipe

As I was looking for recipes for our Cinco de Mayo celebration, the idea of a plate of fish tacos made my tongue jump for joy (again).


So, What is a Fish Taco?

It’s simple math really. Fish + taco = Fish taco. Hee-hee, let’s break it down even further.

Fish tacos were reborn in Baja, the second earth’s second-longest peninsula off the Northwest coast of Mexico, but have been extremely popular in Southern California for many years.

Let’s step back a bit and give credit where credit is due. Anthropological evidence shows that the indigenous people living in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico traditionally ate tacos filled with small fish. Praise for fish tacos, now onto the recipe. 🙂

A Simple Fish Taco Recipe

You can make fish tacos (Tacos de Pescado) with a hearty white fish such as, salmon, cod, tilapia, or even with shrimp (Tacos de camarones). The taco filling generally consists of shredded cabbage, a sour cream or Greek yogurt-based dressing, and fresh cilantro. Interpret your own fish taco recipe as I have below.

Ingredients (Makes 4 medium-sized tacos)

  • 1 pound (450 grams) salmon fillets (cod, tilapia, or shrimp)
  • Flour
  • Creole seasoning
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • Sunflower oil
  • Cooked corn kernels (roasted adds an intense flavor)
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 lime
  • Mexican oregano
  • Chipotle (optional)
  • Soft shell tacos
  • 1/2 red or yellow pepper, thinly sliced
  • Arugula

Fish Taco Yogurt Salsa

In a medium bowl, mix together Greek yogurt and 1/2 teaspoon each of ground Mexican oregano and fresh lime juice until the consistency is not too runny. Add sea salt and chipotle to taste.

Cooking Instructions

  1. Heat a heavy pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Season fish on meat side with Creole seasoning or salt and pepper.
  3. Lightly dust the fish with flour and shake off the excess.
  4. Add a tablespoon of sunflower oil to the pan.
  5. Cook fish pieces until lightly golden brown, break into chunks, and set on a paper towel.
  6. Remove excess oil from pan and lightly fry the tortillas, they should still be soft to handle.

To serve, place fried fish pieces in a tortilla, add the healthy colorful toppings of your choice such as roasted corn, red pepper slices, fresh cilantro, fresh basil, yogurt sauce, and arugula. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo by cooking some healthy fish tacos served with a glass of refreshing Aguas Frescas.

¡Buen provecho!


The Bodacious Redwoods of Big Basin

Big Basin Redwoods National Park is home to the largest grouping of massive redwoods that you must see to believe.

The plan was to drive north to Muir Woods really early one Saturday morning to participate in a hike with a ranger, but the sound of rain drops on my window was too tempting. I simply turned off the early alarm and said, perhaps another day. But as my time in Silicon Valley came to an end, I discovered Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and just in the nick of time.

A fallen redwood at Big Basin Redwoods State Park
A fallen redwood at Big Basin Redwoods State Park

The last weekend before my flight back to Germany, we had a strong desire to see some redwoods. We have some baby redwoods in Germany, but wanted to see the ma and pa of redwoods at Big Basin Redwoods National Park.

As fate would have it, a strong rain storm was predicted for my last weekend in California and the dream of seeing the redwoods was quickly fading away. The Saturday storms were monumental and as much as that region of California needed rain, I was disappointingly going to have to give up the idea of Visiting Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

California State Parks
Morning views at Castle Rock State Park on the way to see the Big Basin redwoods

Saturday evening every hour on the hour I methodically checked every weather app and channel I could in hopes of a glimmer of light, but the forecast was rain, winds, rain, and more of it. Sunday morning a glimmer of hope crept through my window—the sun attempting to shine through the grey clouds which told me let’s do this, but do it fast. I checked the weather apps again and they confirmed we had a 3-4 hour window to enjoy the park before the next downpour.

The long and winding road

I had been warned that the drive to Big Basin Redwoods State Park is full of hair pin curves and indeed it was. Normally, I have no fear of twisty windy bends but trees and debris had fallen making the drive a bit more problematic, so I enlisted my husband to drive. Actually, my driving was scaring him, so he was happy to take the wheel. 🙂

Road to Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Road to Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is about 30 miles (48 km) from Palo Alto and 22 miles (36 km) northwest of Santa Cruz, so if you’re in Silicon Valley it makes a nicer alternative to the very crowded Muir Woods State Park north of San Francisco. The drive to the Big Basin is pleasant and slow due to the turns, but if you start early you’re virtually alone on the road.

A humble view of the redwoods from Big Basin Redwoods State Park
A humble view of the redwoods at Big Basin Redwoods State Park

When we arrived at the park headquarters there was the 1930s lodge-style building with redwoods all around to greet us. After a short chat with the ranger, we paid the $10 fee to park in the headquarters area, where parking is limited, especially on a sunny weekend day. If you don’t mind a hike, you’ll find free parking near China Grade Waddell Beach, or Whitehouse Canyon Road.

All trails lead to the redwoods

Since we only had a few hours of sun and dry weather, we began our hike on the Redwood Trail. It’s an easy 0.5 mile long flat hike that is also wheel-chair accessible. We began our journey by purchasing the Redwood Trail map for 50¢ which provides descriptions of some of the signed areas of the trail. The Redwood Trail features some of the most immense old-growth redwoods in Santa Cruz County and is a great starting point no matter your hiking experience.

Largest Redwood at Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Father of the Forest tree at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Height 250 ft (76 m), circumference 67 ft (20 m).

Next we hiked half of the Sequoia Trail since the skies were becoming cloudy and returned through the camping grounds then back to HQ. The Sequoia Trail is an easy to moderate 4 mile hike that will take you about two hours to complete and will lead you to the Sempervirens waterfall.

Never thought I could find a slug adorable, but …

As much as I was impressed by the massive redwoods with a gentle appeal, I was hoping to see more of the park’s diverse flora and fauna as well as foxes, coyotes, and perhaps a bobcat from afar of course.

We were lucky that day as we found a couple of Big Basin’s little creatures–the Pacific banana slug. The bright yellow slow-moving slug feeds from the forest floor which is full of organic matter, plants and mushrooms. I normally cringe at the site of the slimy looking brown slugs we have here, but the Pacific banana slug is really cute.

Do not touch or get too close to the banana slugs! They are sensitive delicate creatures that just want to live life in peace and cut off their mating partner’s penis after copulation. Yes, they really do that!

Pacific banana slug at Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Pacific banana slug at Big Basin Redwoods State Park

After the slug sighting, the downpour began just as the weather apps had predicted. We ran back to HQ and vowed to return to visit Big Basin Redwoods State Park soon. Next time we’ll attempt some of the more strenuous trails such as Ocean View or Berry Creek Falls. But for now, we’re off to Santa Cruz where the ocean beckons us with sun, rolling waves, and if we’re lucky, we just might find a restaurant serving a bowl of delicious clam chowder to counter balance the calories we burned hiking.

On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service turns 100! Celebrate the Centennial by visiting one of America’s great national parks.