Tue09162014

News

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council last week approved the installation of two new directional signs on Foothill Expressway pointing motorists to the Woodland Plaza Shopping District.

The Los Altos City Council voted unanimou...

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Schools

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Edsel Clark, new Los Altos School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, above, facilitates a junior high mathematics curriculum meeting last week.

Edsel Clark, Ed.D., new assistant superintend...

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Community

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China


From IncredibleTravelPhotos.com
Jacque Kae’s “Mischievous” is one of the many photographs on display at Foothill College this month.

Photographs of the land and culture of Huangshan and Zhangjiajie, China, are on exhibit through Sept. 26 at t...

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Sports

Spartans shine in opener

Spartans shine in opener


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Frank Kapp snares a touchdown pass from quarterback Owen Mountford in Friday’s win.

Leading by a point at halftime, the Mountain View High football team outscored visiting Del Mar 20-0 the rest of...

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Comment

A look ahead to the Nov. 4 election: Editorial

Election season is upon us. In Los Altos, we have three major local races ahead – two seats on the Los Altos City Council, and three seats each on the Los Altos School District and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District boards of tr...

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Special Sections

Renovation complete,  Villa Siena looks to future

Renovation complete, Villa Siena looks to future


Above and Below Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier; Left Photo Courtesy of Villa Siena
Villa Siena in Mountain View recently underwent a $35 million face-lift. The five-year project expanded their senior living community’s space and ability to serv...

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Business

Transitioning from postage to pets

Transitioning from postage to pets


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A new Pet Food Express store is scheduled to open at the Blossom Valley Shopping Center this month.

A site that previously existed to meet postal service needs will soon have an entirely different purpose – serving pe...

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Books

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights


A good story about aliens is always great fun to read – after all, it’s only by attempting to understand the human race from another perspective that we can see ourselves more objectively.

But readers who might be tempted to dismiss ye...

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People

JEANNE PACKARD

After suffering a stroke in May, Jeanne Packard died August 10, 2014 at age 83. She was born in 1931 in Berlin, Germany, the only child of Emily Channel and Frank Howe Packard of Chicago, IL. Jeanne is survived by 5 great grandchildren. She was a lon...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos


Courtesy of Los
The cast of Los Altos Stage Company’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” includes, from left, Mylissa Malley as Lin, Vanessa Alvarez as Betty, and Christina Bolognini as Pickles. Altos Stage Company

Los Altos Stage Company...

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Spiritual Life

9/11 survivor Michael Hingson finds purpose

Imagine walking down 78 flights of stairs – 1,463 individual steps. You are in imminent danger as you walk, unsure whether you can make it out of the building before it collapses or explodes. Struggling for each breath, you smell the heavy sten...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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Wonderful Watsonville: Day trip highlights agricultural roots


Eren Göknar/ Special to the Town Crier
A mural painted on the side of a Watsonville building pays homage to the area’s agricultural legacy and promotes its bounty of crops.

It may not have the cachet of some other Northern California hot spots, but a day trip to Watsonville brings you closer to nature and to Steinbeck country.

When you live in the suburbs, it’s easy to take California’s bountiful agricultural regions and rural communities for granted. It’s only when traveling to, say, Michigan in December that you’ll miss a good head of lettuce like the kind we get year round.

Taking the winding Hecker Pass Road/State Route 152 through the redwoods, we witnessed dramatic views of the fields below. Sugar beets and grains used to be the major regional crops, but by the 1920s, strawberries and lettuce took over.

In the 1930s, field workers arrived from Oklahoma, and John Steinbeck chronicled their mistreatment in his books, including “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Cannery Row” and the lesser-known “In Dubious Battle,” set in his native Salinas and on the Monterey Peninsula.

Agricultural legacy

Despite sunny skies, the weather was brisk when we arrived at our first stop in Watsonville, the Codiga Center and Museum at 2601 E. Lake Ave. (aghistoryproject.org), run by the Agricultural History Project.

Set in a quaint two-story barn, volunteers staff the museum from noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Exhibits document the history of the region, including the once-flourishing apple industry and the legacy of the vaqueros.

“Most members of the Agricultural History Project come from farming families,” said volunteer Gloria Van Dierendonck.

In addition to running the museum, the Agricultural History Project collects and restores tools and equipment.

The museum’s Porter Implement Shed includes hand tools like a wood rasp and Cooper’s axe, augers and something called a “fro.” Rickety plows and a one-row potato planter round out the display.

An outdoor garage for restored tractors would probably interest young and old. A model 1937 John Deere tractor and a 1933 Ford truck give an idea of how far machines have evolved.

As part of its educational mission, the group sponsors events the second Saturday of each month. In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Feb. 8 event will combine chocolate and roses. Member John Borena will offer pruning tips, and a local chocolatier promises to hand out delicious morsels.

For tour reservations, call (831) 724-5898 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Immediately adjacent to the museum sits the Rodgers House (santacruzeventcenter.org), once owned by Steinbeck’s sister, Esther Rodgers. She donated it to Santa Cruz County, and it’s been restored to its original 1870s Victorian state. Historical archives include stories of the Pajaro Valley.

El Mercado Popular (elmercadopopular.com), the local farmers’ market, is scheduled year round 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays at Pajaro Valley High School, 500 Harkins Slough Road, and Sundays at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, 2601 E. Lake Ave.

Birding on the sloughs

Hidden from the road, the Watsonville Wetlands (watsonvillewetlandswatch.org) remain one of the last freshwater marshlands in the state. The sloughs make an ideal spot for birdwatching.

Following directions on the Wetlands Watch website, we found Ramsey Park, 30 Harkins Slough Road, and the Nature Center, which serves as a jumping-off point for several trails. Free guided nature walks are offered on Sundays.

According to city officials, the marshlands provide crucial downtime for birds migrating on the “globally important Pacific Flyway.” More than 200 species of shorebirds, raptors and songbirds gravitate to the wetlands.

Children might enjoy looking at the Nature Center’s interactive exhibits, which explain the importance of the wetlands. An estimated 26 endangered species make their home in the wetlands, currently undergoing restoration.

We had no trouble spotting egrets, mallards and swallows as soon as we started our walk. The trails meander through private and public lands on 800 acres, so it’s easy to get lost. Download the trail map at cityofwatsonville.org.

The city boasts 6 miles of paved walking and cycling trails, with 29 accessible trail entrances. Another trailhead, for the Watsonville Slough Trail, sits hidden behind the Body Zone fitness center, 1810 Main St., in a strip mall. Check the map.

Farm-fresh fruits

Crystal Bay Farm at 40 Zils Road (crystalbayfarm.com) sponsors an unmanned, roadside farm stand operated via the honor system.

The farm grows organically certified berries, pumpkins, herbs and other crops. Crystal Bay offers customers the chance to pick their own strawberries ($3 a pound) and raspberries ($8 a pound) from mid-April through October.

Gizdich Ranch at 55 Peckham Road (gizdich-ranch.com) invites visitors to pick all the pay-by-the-pound strawberries they can eat.

Downtown highlights

Once you work up an appetite, head downtown. Visitors will notice the historical apple-crate murals on the sides of buildings. Exact copies of crate labels from the 1900s, they are exclusive to Watsonville and the Pajaro Valley. Download a walking tour brochure from the city’s website.

Watsonville houses plenty of historical homes with interesting architecture built circa the late 1800s and early 1900s. William Weeks, a celebrated architect of the Victorian era, designed most. He also produced the plans for the Gothic Revival-style St. Patrick’s Church at 721 Main St., with an ornate slate-roof steeple that dramatically enhances the building.

Other must-sees include the Resetar Residential Hotel at 15 W. Lake Ave., which Weeks designed in 1927 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style.

The Pajaro Valley Historical Association, headquartered in the Bockius-Orr house at 332 E. Beach St. (pajarovalleyhistory.org), is quite active in town. Godfrey M. Bockius, a Pennsylvania merchant, settled here and commissioned Alex Chalmers to design a Victorian addition in 1870. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

End of the day

Jalisco Restaurant at 618 Main St. (jaliscorestaurant.com), in an enormous space with full bar, serves great steak and chicken fajitas with rice and beans for $14.95. A full Mariachi band plays on Friday nights.

For dessert, try the Tamale Factory at 611 Main St. for sweet tamales.

Surrounded by strawberry fields, sand dunes and pine trees, Sunset State Beach at 201 Sunset Beach Road may be hard to spot, but it’s worth finding for its dramatic coastal views. Watching a spectacular sunset on the Pacific Ocean is a great way to end the day.

For more information, visit cityofwatsonville.org.

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