From Los Altos To The Pacific Ocean

Posted on August 22, 2014 by  
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Arriving at the gateway to Waddell State BeachWhen a group of local teens from Los Altos Boy Scout Troop 33 wanted to go to the beach, they chose the scenic route to get there, backpacking 55 miles in five days over the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Their Los Altos-to-the-Sea journey began on the drizzly morning of Aug. 6. Starting from the corner of El Monte Avenue and Springer Road, seven boys – ranging in age from 13 to 16 – and three adult scout leaders hiked up Springer to Magdalena Road, and then progressed through Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve to Black Mountain.

While it’s not uncommon for Boy Scouts to go on campouts and hikes, few scouts take full advantage of the challenging local trails that practically start at their front doors.

Using Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District preserves and the state parks system, the scouts trekked through Rancho San Antonio, Monte Bello and Skyline Ridge open space preserves and Portola Redwoods and Big Basin Redwoods state parks.

The scouts carried their own food and filtered water along the way and slept under the stars. The group hiked an average of 11 miles per day, climbing a total of 11,430 feet while wearing packs that weighed more than 40 pounds.

Their only taste of civilization during the trip was a stop for ice cream at the Big Basin Redwoods Store.

Eagle Scout Zachary Ottoes served as crew leader for the hike.

“These scouts have a lot of backpacking experience under their belts, and we all really enjoyed this trip,” said Ottoes, a junior at Los Altos High School. “Being able to walk from our homes across the Santa Cruz Mountains and making it to the beach is really cool. It was not easy. Still, the journey was very rewarding for all of us.”

Just before noon Aug. 10, ahead of schedule, the scouts arrived at their destination of Waddell State Beach near Davenport. Their families greeted them with a picnic before everyone returned to Los Altos by car.

For more information on Boy Scout Troop 33, visit


Preparing Local Students For STEM Careers

Posted on August 17, 2014 by  
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STEM Summer CampFrom designing roller coasters to developing biodegradable plastics, high school students received an introduction to an array of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at STEM Summer Camps at Foothill College. The camps, featuring hands-on and experiential lessons, concluded last week on the Los Altos Hills campus.

Free for students, the annual camps proved to be in high demand. This year’s program enrolled more than four times as many students as last year’s – from 90 to 480 – with an additional 1,000 on the waiting list.

Organizers added two classes for middle school students to pique students’ interest in STEM at an even earlier age, according to organizers. The camps are only one piece of a program Foothill College offers via its Science Learning Institute (SLI).

Under the SLI umbrella, the college is undertaking a major push to increase STEM literacy and its number of STEM graduates by engaging the large and untapped talent pool of female and underrepresented students. Over the four weeks of camps, students could select from several classes – including 3D Printing, Robotics, Biomedical Engineering, Biotechnology, Forensic Technology, Understand Your Health, Astronomy, Nanotechnology, Green Chemistry, Amusement Park Physics, Build Your Own Radio, Build an App and Video Game Design.

For more information, visit


Draeger’s Looking To Expand

Posted on August 14, 2014 by  
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Draeger'sDraeger’s Market has its sights set on expanding its grocery store at 342 First St., according to city planning officials.

Los Altos Senior Planner Zach Dahl told the Town Crier that the family-owned grocer – which has additional locations in Menlo Park, San Mateo and Danville – submitted plans in early July to expand the rear portion of its existing 21,000-square-foot store. Draeger’s has called its First Street store home since December 1986, when the company purchased the former Whitecliff Market property and remodeled the building. A call to Draeger’s management was not returned by the Town Crier’s press deadline.

Los Altos Planning Services Manager David Kornfield added that initial plans call for expanded storage area and a new loading dock in the rear of the building. The expansion incorporates the former dry-cleaning property adjacent to Draeger’s. Plans call for a net increase of approximately 3,000 square feet.

“Essentially what they want to do is add to the back of the building and improve their loading activities by getting big trucks (unloading goods) off the street,” Kornfield said.

In addition, Dahl noted, plans include a new stone facade for the market and an improved seating area near the store’s front entrance.

Other features, he added, include new wood trellises and updated landscaping. The grocer also plans to reconfigure its parking lot in a bid to add 15 more parking spaces. The current lot holds 72 cars.

As part of the reconfiguration, Kornfield noted that Draeger’s plans to relocate its driveway closer to the midblock point of the parking lot. The current entry point is near the entrance of the store and a crosswalk. The grocer, he added, is also expected to make sidewalk improvements as part of the project.

Overall, Dahl said the project remains in the city staff review phase. A public hearing on the project at the commission level has yet to be scheduled.


Downtown Movie Nights Return

Posted on August 5, 2014 by  
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Movie NightLos Altos’ free outdoor movie nights light up starting Friday evening, and this year’s roster of films introduces young viewers to high-flying, witch-battling, sorcerous adventures spanning the last century. The lineup will also likely delight parents who’ve gone too long without remembering Falkor and Atreyu, Mr. Tumnus the Faun and, of course, Dorothy.

The Los Altos Village Association (LAVA) hoists a screen across Main Street for Friday Movie Nights as families spread out blankets, chairs and picnics at downtown’s core. Beginning at 6 p.m., bounce houses, a face painter and a balloon artist entertain children, and stores and restaurants remain open across downtown.

Friday evening, local merchants and other First Friday organizers are sponsoring a “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”-themed scavenger hunt to complement the first film of the season, “The Wizard of Oz.” LAVA plans to offer movie theater-type snacks on-site, and the curtain rises at 8:30 p.m.

In the weeks after “The Wizard of Oz,” LAVA has scheduled “The Indian in the Cupboard (Aug. 8), “The NeverEnding Story” (Aug. 15), the BBC adaptation of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (Aug. 22) and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (Aug. 29).

Themed family activities precede each film – after the “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” scavenger hunt, LAVA has scheduled a craft night for “The Indian in the Cupboard,” a favorite stuffed animal show-and-tell for “The NeverEnding Story,” a mythical creature bingo game for “Narnia” and a costume night for “Harry Potter.”

LAVA has hosted the summer film series for more than a decade. The organization acquired its own audio/visual equipment in the early days of the event.

“I’ve had many calls over the years wanting to know how we do it,” LAVA Executive Director Nancy Dunaway said, noting that the movie-night phenomenon has spread through neighboring cities. “It’s just so much fun – it’s Americana. The moment 6 o’clock hits, people are running out with their blankets and chairs.”

The series attracts anywhere from 400 to 700 participants, as families return from holidays and the event crescendos in the waning days of summer.

For more information, visit