Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Family daytrip: a hike and a mission
Every California parent knows that it's coming: that day when your fourth grader will have to study California's historic chain of 21 missions. So why not make it fun for the whole family and plan a day around a mission outing? And heck, you might even figure out that these charming old adobe buildings are kind of neat to visit even if you don't have a kid currently studying them.
Recently, I spent a day exploring a lesser-known nearby site, Fremont's Mission San Jose and topped it off with a hike up nearby Mission Peak. The cost: $3 ($2 for kids) in the donation box at the mission (the park is free), so it's almost free fun for the whole day (don't forget your picnic lunch).
The mission is a pretty cool re-creation of the 1809 church, completed in the 1980s using real adobe bricks and careful methods; it was the last reconstruction of an entire mission done in California.
The hushed, dark intorior of the church is bright with a gilded reredo (altar) and lots of painted garlands and floral decorations on the walls. Look up at the church's chandeliers (kind of gaudy-looking) and you'll notice they're mismatched, a mark of the reconstruction's historical accuracy. It reflects how the remote outposts received their decorative objects in their earliest days: a bit here, a bit there, and if it didn't match, so what? There's also a model of a monk's room or cell (stark), a neat cemetery, and a scale model of the mission with a cutaway section so you can peek inside.
The hike to the summit at Mission Peak Regional Preserve takes about 5 hours, but the beauty of this park is you needn't go to the top to have an enjoyable day. If you've got youngsters along (or you're slightly out of shape), you can get breathtaking views of the south bay after just a few minutes on the trail.
Yes, that means the trail rises steeply, so bring hiking poles if you've got 'em and set a leisurely pace. I saw tons of families with little kids there the day I visited (some with in strollers, obviously planning to walk just to the first viewpoint and then spread a picnic). I hiked for a while, then sat down to just scan the skies, look out to the bay, and watch the hang gliders who launch here spin in lazy circles.
Details: Mission San Jose, 43300 Mission Blvd., Fremont; www.missionsanjose.org.
Mission Peak Regional Preserve is accessed from the east end of Stanford Ave. off Mission Blvd.,
Fremont; note that parking is tough on weekends, so arrive early. But go soon: the hills are fresh and green and the days are sunny and cool; this is not a hike for a warm summer day.
Fremont is in the south east bay; easiest way to reach the mission is via I 680 and Mission Boulevard.