The Trail Companion
Theme: Parks with a Past
Names on the Land
The names of features on the SF Peninsula and Santa Cruz
Mountains reveal a rich and sometimes surprising history.
The following are largely from Dr. Alan K. Brown's
Place Names of San Mateo County (San Mateo County
Historical Society, 1975).
Part 1, San Mateo County
Alambique Creek (Huddart CP): Tom Bowen
of San Jose built an illegal still on the creek in 1842;
the original name was Arroyo del Alambique,
Alpine Road: Despite the lofty
connotations, the road was named for the ridge district
bounded by Mindego Creek (Russian Ridge OSP) and Peters
Creek (Skyline Ridge OSP), which in turn had been named by
the early Californios as El Pino, from a large
pine near the junction of present day Alpine and Portola
Park roads. The section now closed to cars and a mountain
bike favorite was built in 1894-95, and for many years
called the Fitzhugh Grade or Martinez road, from the local
Butano State Park: Named for the creek
and surrounding area, known as The Butano, which is
Californian Spanish for a drinking cup made from cow's
horn. No convincing reason for the name has been found,
although some suggest a bútano may have
been found in the creek that bears the name. The area has
been so called since at least 1816. Although many place the
accent on the second syllable, the stress is properly on
the first, and has been variously pronounced byut'-(e)-no
and bu'-te-no; sometimes ending in -n(e).
Coal Mine Ridge: A small low-grade coal
mine opened near the top of the ridge in 1855 and worked
sporadically until the early 1860s, lending its name to
both the ridge and the nearby creek. A small seam is
exposed near in the road cut at the present dead end of
Alpine Rd. above Joaquin Rd.
Crazy Petes Road (Coal Creek Preserve):
Named after "Crazy Pete" Martinez, who owned the land in
the 1890s and built the road in 1895. The reason for the
nickname is unknown.
Devils Canyon (Skyline Ridge OSP): So
named in 1863 by the Calif. Geological Survey. In the early
1890s, a realtor attempted to rename the canyon "Glen
Gloaming; " The Dropoff (the waterfall on Peters Creek),
"The North Brae;" and Peters Creek (formerly known as
Devils Canyon Creek), "Afton Water."
Grabtown Gulch (Purissima Redwoods OSP):
Gulch below the site of the trading center and lumber camp
of Grabtown on Tunitas Rd., originally called Gilbert's
Camp in the 1880s. The origin of the name is attributed to
the tendency of its inhabitants to lay claim to land and/or
anything of value that wasn't nailed down.
Mindego Ridge (Russian Ridge OSP) and Mindego
Hill: Juan Mendico, a Basque, settled on the hill
The name has been variously spelled Mendico or Mindego, and
sometimes pronounced mendigo; both are attempts to turn the
name into the regular Spanish word mendigo, begger
(with the accent on the second syllable). According to
Brown, the accent is on the first syllable and he points
out that Juan Mendico's name in his own Basque dialect
means "John of the Mountain."
|Mindego Ridge, Russian Ridge
Photo by Geoffrey Skinner
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