I’d heard about “The Dish,” a trail through the hills in the western part of the Stanford University campus, for at least two years. It’s a favorite local trail with enough elevation gain to get your attention, but not enough to be exhausting. Then one day I actually noticed the beginning of the trail while driving along Junipero Serra (at Stanford Ave). Somehow I’d driven past it countless times over the years without noticing the trail. Rather than feel silly about my oversight, I decided to walk the loop soon – so I did.
I decided to go more or less first thing in the morning, with a tentative plan to walk around the loop twice. I’d read that parking along Stanford Ave can be a challenge, but I was lucky to find a spot. Perhaps it was a little easier that day with fewer people on the trail due to the fog; this is a speculation.
The loop itself is straightforward. The trail is clearly marked as a recreational trail, so it’s easy to know what to do at the few side trails: if walking clockwise, as I was, just go right at all intersections until you get back to your starting point.
Starting from the Stanford Ave trailhead there is a pretty steady hill for about 0.9 mile, with an elevation gain of 300 feet. The rest of the loop is a little more rolling and gradual. This elevation profile shows both passes around the loop, plus the short access trail from the trailhead.
As I mentioned, there was some morning fog. There are many beautiful oak trees along the trail. I experienced an aura of discovery as each tree emerged from the mist as I approached.
I love to observe and appreciate the beautiful structure of tree branches, and these are striking examples.
It turns out that there are actually two dishes (radio telescopes) along the trail. The first time around I didn’t even see this one, which is the smaller dish. The second time around the fog was starting to lift, so it was visible from the trail.
The namesake of the trail, The Dish, is even larger at 150 feet in diameter. This radio telescope has been used for research, satellite tracking, and similar scientific activities. It is quite an impressive sight – exaggerated on this occasion as it gradually became visible through the fog at a local high point in the trail.
It is no wonder that this is a popular trail: it’s close to campus, yet has the feel of being separate from all of the busy activities. It was special to have the experience of the mist and fog, and I’ll look forward to return on a clear day.