Anybody Can Go to Stanford – for a Walk

(see 2014 update below including maps)

Last weekend we went to Palo Alto, home of relatives and Stanford University.

The flat land from El Camino to the back end of the main campus make for acres of walking opportunities. Paths are wide and paved and while you may have to share with bikes, in many areas you don’t have cars or even nearby cars.

Stanford University started in 1891 on 650 acres donated by the Stanford family. Today, Stanford has almost 8,200 acres in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Someone has counted the trees. 43,000. Someone has counted the bushes and you could look it up. Apparently, even the groundskeepers must be accountable.

There are hilly areas to hike. From Hwy 280, you may have seen the “Dish,” a gigantic radio telescope.  Many, as in 500,000 per year, people hike here. (Stanford likes to quantify the facts.) I have climbed that hill a few times. Jasper Ridge Preserve sits on 1,200 acres in the western hills. Their website is very dense, so I can’t read all of it. You need permission to hike there or to take a class for access.

Meanwhile, back to walking…On the campus from El Camino to the main buildings, giant oaks and eucalyptus stud the grounds. For the more exotic feel, giant palms line Palm Dr. (No, I don’t know how many.)

First we went to the Cantor Arts Center; looked at an exhibit (Mami Wata, see below); wandered the Rodin Garden and walked over to Andy Goldsworthy’s “Stone River.” You could study this excavation-looking creation while having a picnic under an oak. (Free parking on Sundays and the Cantor admission is free, Wed-Sun.)

Then we went to an area near the quad with a large green in front of this entrance to the University. Weddings and volleyball both take place here. Graceful arches surround the yellow sandstone buildings. Courtyards popped up with trees and gardens and fine places to sit and contemplate what it’s like to have a first-class education.

The Stanfords and Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of the University (and NY’s Central Park) had a knock-down-drag-out fight. Not really, but apparently they didn’t have each other for dinner. However, the result is one beautiful campus and a good place for a flat stroll, if you’re not getting educated.

Stanford Arches

As we walked west, the buildings were of more recent construction. We went in the bookstore that has finer wood bookcases than most extravagant homes in our county. In White Plaza, outside the store, splashes a fun fountain. We returned to the car, perhaps doing a mile of strolling. We weren’t counting.

If you were a student here, you might want to get a bike. Either walking or cycling, you would pile up the miles on this vast campus. Personally, I would be distracted by the architecture and museums to do much formal studying.

Stanford courtyard

Here’s a link to a map. Printed brochures exist for outdoor sculptures on campus. You can create your own tour or take one of Stanford’s tours.

At the Cantor Arts Center, we went to an exhibit titled “Mami Wata, Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and Its Diasporas.” Mami Wata or Mother Water is protector and punisher, sometimes a mermaid, snake handler or both. I was fascinated by the presentation showing the process of assimilation and attack on a changeable cultural icon. Mami Wata  moved across the ocean to the Caribbean both enveloped and embellished. Eve Sandler’s poem, part of an alter piece by her, intertwines the spirit with the slave experience in the Americas. The exhibit runs until January 2, 2011.

Other Walks

Foothills Park is 1,400 acres and for Palo Alto residents only. We picnicked by a ‘lake’ and took a short hike through lovely oak woodlands up Vista Trail for the view. We could see Mt Diablo, Mt Hamilton and the “Dish”.

We also travelled to nearby Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park. On 3.5 acres an arts guild was created by the Delight and Garfield Merner in 1929. The older buildings were frame and later Spanish Colonial style buildings were added. Ansel Adams took some of the first pictures of the buildings. The gardens were designed in the Spanish style. Today, the shops are busy with working artists’ crafts and arts. The gardens provide a welcome resting spot.

See you on the trail!

Lynn Millar

Photos by Mike Millar

PS: 2014 update – I’ve heard the museum has expanded

and here’s a link to Walking and Biking Maps on the Stanford Campus.

Rodin in Cantor Arts garden

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