Fences Divide Civilization and Wilderness

August 2018 Hiking


  • Location: Mt. Madonna County Park
  • Date: 5 August 2018
  • Distance: ~6 miles
  • Info: Santa Clara County Parks, Yelp
  • Fee: $6 per vehicle
  • European White Fallow Deer: 3

The tale

The southern most park along the proposed Bay Area Ridge Trail, Mt. Madonna CP is relatively inland. Get a map, climb steep hills, marvel at tall trees — you know the drill. But even a “typical” area park like has its surprises. Like Mt. Madonna CP’s pale, antlered denizens.

On the way, I passed a dozen-odd local vineyards on Santa Clara Valley’s wine trail.

It was sunny and 65°F when I arrived, and the day promised to warm up quickly. (Spoiler alert: 82°F when I left.) Luckily the park didn’t lack for redwoods. I left the car at a parking area near the Manzanita campground, mistakenly thinking it was near Blue Springs Trail. It was closer to the Meadow trail, not to be confused with the Miller Trail.

Where was I going with this? Right, rambling at random down the Redwood Trail, where I ended up after an hour without a fixed plan. Most first-time visits, I set a general goal but improvise as I go. This time, my goal was to find the Miller Estate Ruins. Which I did. After I took a few wrong turns.

There were hills. There were trees. There were few people, at first, though I did run across a wide campsite full of 50+ screaming school kids playing something like soccer with beach balls. This park struck me as relatively civilized, including an amphitheater with electric lights and stadium seating, flush toilets, and multiple covered picnic areas.

After completing a few hillside trails, I found the area’s white fallow deer locked behind tall fences. A century ago, Miller Estate was a local cattle baron’s summer retreat. I found its foundations not far from the deer, crumbling and partially overgrown. Both the deer and the ruins were unusual, but inert, hallmarks of the park.

As I was preparing to leave, two full-sized school buses pulled up for the 50+ noisy kids. My ride back through wine country, like my hike at Mt. Madonna CP, was a bit quieter.


Abandoned archery targets
Abandoned archery targets.
Markers near the archery targets
Markers near the archery targets.
Crumbling steps at the Miller Estate ruins
Crumbling steps at the Miller Estate ruins.
The remains of Miller Estate
The remains of Miller Estate.
Covered picnic and cookout areas abound
Covered picnic and cookout areas abound.
Signs of logging and fires
Signs of logging and fires.
White fallow deer looked bored
White fallow deer looked bored.

For next time

  • The park is smaller than I expected, so “ambitious” might include its longer trails.