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New warm-up park and an old adobe on the San Mateo coast.

As you wind along the coast highway south from San Francisco, you pass a wealth of beach parks. Until recently, if you wanted to dart inland for a sheltered picnic or hike away from coastal fogs, you'd find almost no place to stop before Pescadero and the turnoff to Butano State Park. That's all changed. Now a new San Mateo County park in Pacifica offers sheltered picnic grounds, easy hiking trails, and a small visitor center.

Although it's just 2 miles inland, San Pedro Valley County Park can be significantly warmer, sunnier, and less windy than the nearby beaches. Tucked in the creek valley for which it's named, the 1,150-acre park offers a surprising variety of terrain and wildlife.

Two of the county's few remaining steel-head spawning creeks are here--the south and middle forks of San Pedro Creek (no fishing allowed). You can take a 1-mile loop tail to see Brooks Falls, a pretty little gusher after a wet spring. The walk takes you through lush woods of Douglas fir and redwood. A short, signed nature trail near the visitor center follows the creek and points out major plants found in the park (pick up a free brochure in the visitor center).

For a long walk, head up the Valley View Trail. The 3-mile loop follows the old Weiler Ranch Road for a bit; artichokes and cattle were the mainstays here until the county bought the property. The trail then climbs steadily up through chaparral and grassy meadows to overlooks that encompass the whole valley and the view out to the coast. Spur tails from here will someday link up with a trail to Sweeney Ridge (just acquired by the National Park service).

Along the way, keep an eye out for brush rabbit, badger, feral goat, gray fox, and the shy bobcat and coyote, all common here. You might stop in at the visitor center to pick up a bird, mammal, or wildflower check list. Center displays point out the various plant and animal communities in the valley and include hands-on games to show children how the creatures interact. The visitor center is staffed by volunteers; if you want to become a docent (training class offered), call (415) 355-8289.

The visitor center is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 1 to 4; admission is free. The park is open ($2 holidays and weekends) every day from 8 a.m. to dusk. To get there, take State Highway 1 to Pacifica, then take Linda Mar Boulevard east about 2 miles to the park entrance.

A wayside adobe. Also along Linda Mar Boulevard, just before you reach San Pedro Valley Park, the Sanchez Adobe is a San Mateo County historic site that's worth a stop. The two-story adobe brick building was constructed between 1842 and 1846; it has served as a family ranch house, hotel, speakeasy, and artichoke storehouse. The structure was completely restored and reinforced in the 1950s.

The grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk (you can walk around the building). The adobe is open Tuesdays and Sundays from 1 to 5. Inside you'll find displays on county history and a volunteer historian to answer questions. Admission is free.
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Date:May 1, 1984
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