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Schilling Lake

Thornewood Open Space Preserve

January 19th, 2009

1.5 miles
210 vertical feet
Total Time: 2:25

Starting elevation
658 feet
Max elevation
959 feet

Rating: 4/10

Directions: From San Francisco, take Interstate 280 south. Take the Woodside Road exit and turn right onto Woodside Road. Follow it through town. When you reach the split between La Honda (Highway 84) and Portola Road, stay to the right to stay on Highway 84. Head uphill about 1.6 miles and turn left into what looks like someone's driveway. The entrance is framed by brick, with the numbers 895 - 897. If you're going too fast you will miss it. Turn left into the driveway, then go for about a tenth of a mile on a narrow paved road. Turn right into the small parking lot on the right.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

Despite the fact that I knew how far I was supposed to go before turning into the driveway, I still missed it. It totally looks like someone's driveway, although there is a sign saying it leads to Thornewood Open Space Preserve. I had to go more than a half mile up the road before finding a decent place to make a quick U-turn.

The lot is only big enough for a few cars, but there were only 3 other cars there when I arrived on this Monday, Martin Luther King Day. My company is too cheap to give me the day off, but I had to take it off anyway because my kids' schools were closed. This would be the first time I've gone on a hike with the two of them (and not Jean).

The road actually continues past the parking lot, but that's a private road; be sure not to pass the sign. There's a display here showing a map and a box of paper trail maps. There are also warnings about mountain lions. I was keenly aware of this since I was hiking with two kids known to wander ahead. I warned them, although I've never actually seen a mountain lion myself.

View of Stanford and the south bay

There's not much to the trail. Pretty nondescript for the most part. Generally flat, mostly shaded. Hardly any people on this holiday Monday. We passed one hiker with a dog on our way to the lake (dogs must be leashed). At one point the trees give way a bit, providing some views to the left of Stanford (Hoover Tower is clearly visible) and the south bay.

Two boys on the trail

We crossed a foot bridge, then shortly came to a trail sign. The trail continues to the left on a wide dirt road. At this point we're about 0.5 miles in with 0.2 miles to go. I could just begin to make out the lake below to the left when we passed a very small redwood grove.

Trail leading to the lake

Just as we reached the lake a pickup truck approached. From the map, it looks like Espinosa Road passes by here. The truck did a U-turn and stopped. Out leaned a park ranger, offering the kids Junior Ranger stickers, which they were happy to take. Afterwards, we continued to the lake shore, where we stopped for lunch. I must say that it feels strange to call it a lake, since it's really just a pond. The water is a dirty green and covered with algae. Having since looked at my pictures, I can honestly say that my pictures make the lake look a lot nicer than it actually is. Be forewarned.

Schilling Lake

Schilling Lake shore

Reflection in Schilling Lake

Schilling Lake shore

At least we had the lake to ourselves. We had a little picnic, although it would have been nice to have some sunlight (only a bit of sun on the far shore). Despite some of the recent record winter warmth in the Bay Area, it started to get a bit chilly in the shade. I also started to suffer from my pollen allergies. I don't think I've ever had problems in January before, but from anectodal evidence, I'm not alone in my problems. Perhaps the warmer weather is bringing spring early this year.

Dried plants on Schilling Lake shore

My new 500mm lens makes the lake surface look abstract

Tree roots next to Schilling Lake

Redwood trees on trail above Schilling Lake

We returned to the parking lot exactly the way we came. All in all, there's not much to recommend for this hike. If you happen to be in the area and have hiked in all the other local parks (like I have), then you might do this one. Otherwise, you're not missing much.

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