In one day
you can hike pleasant walking trails through mixed forest, view the entire
Silicon Valley from a 1200-foot high outlook, tour formal gardens
surrounding a historic Mediterranean-style villa, visit a fine art
gallery, perhaps meet with resident artists, and attend a concert at one
of two theaters. You might even have time to exchange wedding vows in the
Oval Garden or the Love Temple. Do it all at Montalvo.
Located off Highway 9/Saratoga-Los Gatos Road near
Saratoga, this 175-acre county park and multidisciplinary art center
beautifully integrates the natural environment, the arts and some
California history. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon, evening or
day. The trails are safe enough to walk alone. (You are never far from
civilization, and it’s almost impossible to get lost.) The manicured lawns
and gardens are romantic enough to share with a significant other. And the
walks are easy enough for the entire family.
Katy Rees, public relations manager for the non-profit
organization now known simply as "Montalvo," gave me an orientation,
complete with a package of brochures, news releases, article reprints,
maps and photos. Then she gave me a tour of the facilities--the theaters,
art gallery, gardens and a new artist residency complex, now under
construction. After this informative briefing, I was ready to hike.
I walked from the main building complex to parking lot
2. There I found the Creek Trail. It took me downhill through a light
forest of maple and bay trees, then across a little bridge over Wildcat
I found a crumbling stone barbecue and steps that led
nowhere. I followed several trails that looped around from the northeast
to the northwest. Although I had a map, I sometimes found it difficult to
identify the trails. Some signs were missing, and the trails were a
veritable rabbit warren, frequently crisscrossing. Not that it made any
difference. The walk to the next trail junction was always short.
Understanding the general layout of the trails and working my way around
the loop and uphill kept me on track.
The Nature Trail and Nature/Lookout Trail, a 1.5 mile
loop around the western section, took me through young redwoods, mixed
evergreen forest, and at higher elevations, chaparral. I liked these
trails. Although they were little more than dirt footpaths, they had a
nice layer of soft duff, relatively easy grades and quiet, natural beauty.
After a relatively short walk on Nature Trail, I was
directed up a steeper grade to the lookout point. Fortunately, the walk up
is through shade and extends only about 2/3 of a mile.
At the top, the trail opens up to a small clearing with
a view across Santa Clara Valley. Framed by chaparral and flowering toyon,
Black Mountain is to the north, Moffett Field hangers to the northwest and
Mount Umunhum to the south. A metal bench provides a nice place to eat a
sandwich and enjoy the view. I also enjoyed a long conversation with a
fellow hiker. We talked about everything from the vagaries of the computer
business to hopes for world peace.
I walked back down the Outlook Trail, then turned right
on the Nature Trail to complete the loop. The trail took me north and
east, behind parking lots 3 and 4, then in back of the main complex to the
outdoor theater and a return to Lot 2.
I spent the next hour photographing the beautifully
designed and maintained grounds, statuary and architecture. Built in 1912
by United States Senator James Phelan, this grand estate was a center of
artistic, political and social life until 1930. Upon his death, Senator
Phelan asked that Villa Montalvo be used for the development of art,
literature, music and architecture. The non-profit arts organization now
responsible for Montalvo has as its mission "… to inspire a love of the
arts in everyone through creation, presentation and education in
extraordinary ways and settings."
One of the most interesting sites for photography was
the Love Temple, a spectacular place for weddings designed in the
Greco-Roman tradition, located at the lower end of the estate.
You can rent the Oval Garden or Love Temple for three
hours at fees from $2400. You can also hold a wedding reception at the
Villa itself for $12,500. The good news is that fees over $3,500 are
considered a charitable, tax-deductible contribution.
Although I decided to pass on the wedding, I did return
the same night for a concert at the intimate and comfortable 300-red-seat
Montalvo Carriage House to hear the worlds’ most innovative chamber music
ensemble: the Kronos Quartet. They played a special program, The Nueva
Collection, a portfolio of arrangements and new work co-commissioned
by Montalvo that is now one of my favorite CD’s. Avant-garde music may not
be your cup of expresso, but never fear, Montalvo presents more than 150
shows each year.
Hiking forest trails. Viewing scenic vistas. Enjoying
elegant gardens, art and architecture. Then hearing exciting music. It was
a wonderful way to enjoy a day. If you would like to arrange your own day
at Montalvo, visit www. villamontalvo.org or call 408-961-5800.