There’s no getting away from it. Every historic park, church, and school in Silicon Valley has a sign noting that Juan Bautista de Anza Bezerra Nieto—de Anza to you and me—passed through that spot. This Spaniard’s 1776 California expedition has created the Bay Area’s “de Anza stepped here” equivalent of the east coast’s “George Washington slept here” phenomenon.
It’s no surprise then that the first thing you’ll notice as you enter Cupertino’s McClellan Ranch Park is a stone-and-steel marker memorializing the Lieutenant Colonel’s passage through the parking lot.
The history of the ranch
A century after that expedition William and Eveline McClellan family started a horse ranch at the same location. It’s this ranch that forms the basis of the 18-acre nature preserve, located in the Monta Vista neighborhood of Cupertino.
The McClellan family’s 1930’s ranch house, milk barn, and livestock barn remain, along with a water tower moved from Memorial Park and a recreation of Billy Baer’s blacksmith shop, which stood at “the crossroads” in Cupertino at the beginning of the last century.
What to do
The best things about the park are the multiple uses going on there. Here’s a partial list:
· The original buildings that are open Friday and Saturday afternoons.
· The Nature Museum, which is open Friday afternoons during the school year for teaching kids about the flora that grows and blooms, and the fauna that creeps, and runs, and slithers, and swims, and flies in the area.
· The easy-peasey ½-mile nature loop that leads you along Stevens Creek and across meadows. Be sure to enjoy the signs naming the various types of trees and plants that line the trail.
· The even easier-peasier paved path that leads from the park to Blackberry farm, with opportunities to play bocce ball, volleyball, and horseshoes along the way.
· The Rolling Hills of Cupertino 4-H Club, with the pigs, sheep, and other hoofy animals they are raising at any one time.
· The apiary. (I won’t make you Google this, it’s a bee yard, not a place where they keep chimps and orangutans.)
· The Nature preserve.
· The Master Gardeners of Santa Clara’s community garden.
· Bird-watching, with one hundred different bird species having been spotted here.
· The Audubon Society’s Santa Clara headquarters and nature shop at the front of the parking lot. It’s in the original ranch house and fronted with a lovely little garden that is in perpetual blossom. Step inside to find the perfect place to learn about the birds you’ll see on your walk there.
The McClellan Ranch Park is a nice change from the typical Cupertino park and a chance to stretch your legs in a different part of town. Time to get off that city concrete and onto that ranch.
If you go
McClellan Ranch Park
22221 McClellan Road, Cupertino
Open 6 am to dusk
Open house hours are Fridays from 3 pm to 5 pm and Saturdays from 11 am to 3 pm.