Existential Fortune Cookies: Take a hike!

Opinion by Sebastain Gould
April 13, 2012, 12:28 a.m.

Existential Fortune Cookies: Take a hike!Sometimes, when you are feeling stressed out and you have no time at all in your schedule, you really just need to take a break. The first week of class this quarter was exceptionally busy for me. I had all sorts of meetings to attend, classes to shop and rehearsal for a play every night. The day-to-day grind of class and meetings and practices leaves you exhausted. By Friday I didn’t even want to get out of bed.

Friday night, I thought, “Ah, the weekend is finally here. I can catch up on everything that I haven’t done yet.” Of course, there will always be time to catch up on those things. But how often do we sit down at our computers and look at lolcats? I decided that this weekend would be different. I wanted to enjoy something out of the ordinary by finding something very ordinary to do. I went for a hike.

Catherine and I drove down Galvez to Embarcadero and kept going until we got to the Bay. Once we crossed over 101, we were at the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve. It is a great place to go for day hikes and bike rides. Of course the hike only lasted about half an hour because we ran out of time. Despite having left shortly after arriving, I highly recommend it as a place to go and relax.

The water itself smells a little because of the bacteria that builds up in the marshes, so be warned. Another thing that you want to watch out for is the wind and the cold. It gets quite chilly and I only had a light jacket on. The trails are peaceful though, and the traffic is very light. I am surprised that there weren’t more people there. One of the great things about the place is the openness. You can sort of get a sense of that when you go to the Dish, but it is usually even more windy there, and it’s really steep. The Baylands aren’t much further, and you can even ride your bike there, although it’s a long ride.

The best thing about the Baylands for me wasn’t the flying fowl, the giant odd-looking dog on a leash or the lady painting landscapes that didn’t represent what she was looking at. The thing that really made the experience worth it for me was the fact that the parking lot we parked in was directly under the flight path of the small private aircraft landing at the local Palo Alto Airport. I can’t really estimate the distance, but they were close enough to touch…figuratively. One of the other things I thought about while there, besides wishing I had an airplane, was my hunger. I regretted not bringing a bunch of sandwiches to enjoy at the picnic tables that border the water and the trails.

Besides the airplanes and animals and fellow human beings, the water itself is just peaceful. I spent less than an hour there, but I felt a lot more relaxed. It was like going to a zoo, but I didn’t have to pay and there were no kids running around screaming everywhere. Once back at Stanford, I realized that the Baylands have had a more profound impact on my day-to-day life. When I am walking to class or sitting at home on the computer and start to get stressed out about all the things I need to do, I think about returning to the park and walking around again. Even if I don’t go back to the park, thinking about the peaceful experience brings comfort to me.


Sebastain hopes you will all take the time to check out this awesome local spot. In the near future, he will be going to some of the other Bay parks and preserves, so if you want to hear more make sure to shoot him an email at sjgould “at” stanford “dot” edu.

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