Big Sky in the South Bay

December 2018 Hiking Photo & Video


The tale

There’s a little more sky atop the ridge south of Stanford University.

The low, rolling hills have few oak trees compared to the open fields of short grass. This is a great site for the 150-foot radio telescope antenna, commonly called the Dish.

Trail leading to the dish
Trail leading to the dish.

The Dish is visible for miles around. I’d first seen it from highway 280, half a mile to the south, driving back from San Francisco. The sight made my to-do hiking list when I learned the grounds also had an easy pedestrian loop.

This late in the year meant the dish trail was my first sunset hike in California, even though I arrived around 3pm and left two hours later. The timing worked out well for dramatic lighting.

Tree at sunset
The remains of an old tree sunset.

The trail itself is more of a paved, well-kept road, wide enough for trucks and smooth enough for baby strollers. I saw several of each, plus many people walking and jogging around the 3.6-mile loop. The hills added a few stretches of up and down which kept me warm in the mid-50s weather.

Wide, paved road of a trail
The trail is more of a wide, paved road.

There was more to see than the Dish, including Stanford’s Hoover Tower and views of the surrounding metro area, what looked like a hawk, and a ground squirrel a Stanford-savvy coworker of mine later described as a “nuisance.” I also saw at least two other smaller dishes pointed in different directions, as if the sky was too big to capture in one go. Which it was.

Hoover Tower at Stanford University
Looking north to Hoover Tower at Stanford University.

I was surprised how close I could get to the Dish, which is fenced off — and even more impressive up close.

Symmetrical view of the Dish

The area has two parking lots that I know of. I started at the unimaginatively-named and troubled Stanford lot, which put the dish about half-way through the 3.6-mile walk. The sun disappeared as I completed the hike, leaving the clouds with golden linings.

The Dish at sunset
The Dish at sunset.

The Dish was great. But the most impressive sight was all around.

For next time

  • If you go in the summer, prepare for heat. There’s no shade on the paved road/trail.
  • I wonder how often the dish moves, and if I could get its motion on video.
  • Walking shoes are a must. Hiking boots, not so much.