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Theme: Parks with a Past

A Brief History of Bay Area Parks and Open Space
   Pt. 1, 1840s-1950s

A Conservation Timeline
   Pt. 1, 1840s-1950s

Up and Down the Peninsula and South Bay

Names on the Land
   Pt. 1, San Mateo County

Other Features

Sudden Oak Death

Oak Mortality Syndrome

Grazing Through Huckleberry Heaven

Old-Fashioned Huckleberry Muffins

Wild Lit

Note from the Literary Editor

Blacksmith Fork and Fox - Megan E. Hansen

Down Harkins Fire Road (El Mar de la Purissima - Greg Dunn


From the Editor

Park News

Trail Center Notes

Upcoming Events

The Trail Companion

Fall 2000

Theme: Parks with a Past

Names on the Land
Part 1, San Mateo County

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).

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, Stillhouse Creek.

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 landowners.

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 in 1859.

Mindego Ridge, Russian Ridge OSP.
Mindego Ridge, Russian Ridge OSP.
Photo by Geoffrey Skinner
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."

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