I’ve spent a lot of column space this year bemoaning a culture of restlessness at this university, but I haven’t presented many specific places where people who agree with my message can find the tranquility they’re looking for. With that in mind, I have decided to open up the chest of secrets and share my sacred spots on and around campus with the next generation. What I’m counting on here is that the people who actually want profound solitude, and the times when they seek it, are few and far enough between to ensure that, if you follow my words into the wild, you’ll still find a place quiet enough to actually hear yourself think.
1. Where: Arizona Cactus Garden
How (to get there): Follow Palm Drive toward Palo Alto, left oblique to the walkway to the mausoleum, follow it around to the backside
Best time to go (When): Late afternoon, spring
Why: I used to love how it reminded me of home, but then I realized that it was man-made nature and started abhorring it. Typical. But I have seen somebody else there literally once in four years, so it’s a great place to get away.
2. Where: Second/Third Floors of Pigott Hall
How: Internet, seriously.
When: In the morning with a cup of coffee
Why: Soft leather armchairs, warm-colored carpet and wood, secret nooks where you’re assured some peace. Looks like the Bradbury Building in LA.
3. Where: Rope swing on old oak bough, up Frenchman’s Road.
How: Mayfield past Slav, take a right on Frenchman’s Road, follow it to a confluence of two streets and you’ll see the rope hanging from the tree
When: I like walking these streets late at night with a good friend. There are few lights, so you can see the stars, but again, go with somebody close to you.
Why: Many of my most intimate conversations have happened along these roads. They feel profoundly private.
4. Where: “Bench of the Stars”
How: Take Peter Coutts Road between Stanford Avenue and Page Mill, park the car/bike by the side of the road, and climb what is marked on maps as “Kite Hill”
When: Cold winter night
Why: Awesome view of the south bay and surrounding exurbs. The clearest views with the least light pollution that I have seen were winter evenings.
5. Where: Boyd and Jill Smith Family Stadium
How: Take the path between Maples and Arrillaga Family Sports Center toward Avery, turn right at Nelson Road then left at Churchill Mall
When: Another nighttime spot, when all the athletes have gone home and the bleachers are empty
Why: Perhaps nostalgia for baseball (or softball) gets me in the mood to be reflective, but the stands are cozy when they’re not scorching in the sun and I had my best conversation this year at this spot.
6. Where: Alpine Inn
How: Take Alpine Road south past the 280, for a ways, it’ll be on your left
When: Lunch or an early dinner
Why: The burgers are delicious, really, they are, and their fried sides and pickles are the best in the area. Way cheaper and less bougie than Dutch Goose or the Counter. It’s got a pleasantly kitschy feel, kind of like Shenanigans as described in the movie “Super Troopers” (you know what I mean), and is close to the cool hiking trails in Portola Valley.
7. Where: Big Basin
How: Take the 280 southeast to California Highway 85, take that south to the CA9, then that roughly west to CA236. There will be signs for Big Basin.
When: Early on a Saturday morning
Why: The day hike to the waterfall in Big Basin is great. Just enough distance, and a great resting spot for a picnic lunch. Alternatively, you can take about the same distance as a day hike for an overnight to a wilderness beach, which is gorgeous. Hike back the next day. Watch out for parking, there are special designations and if you park in the wrong lot, you’ll get a ticket.
8. Where: Bamboo Grove
How: Between Mudd Chem and Lorry Lokey Labs
When: Any time of day, really
Why: Feels so far away, and you can peer in on the exhausted researchers in Lokey late at night.
9. Where: Boulware Park
How: Take El Camino east to Fernando Ave.
When: Sunny afternoon
Why: For some reason, this little segment of Palo Alto has lower rents and way better food than downtown and the Menlo Park area. There is some great Chinese food around (Da Sichuan), and the area actually has some community. Very close to my apartment for the summer.
Of course, there are so many more than I am able cover here, so don’t imagine that I’m holding back. Many of you already go to these places, but I hope that some of them are novel, and that you can find peace in these quiet spaces when you need it most. Next week, I’ll be covering housing on and off campus, and providing some more suggestions for finding a balance between the two.
You can find inner tranquility another way, too: by emailing Taylor at email@example.com.