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Walking San Benito - The Art and Science of Downtown Hollister

This is the eighth in a series of articles in which local adventurer Jim Ostdick will introduce readers to the many walking opportunities throughout San Benito County
Eric Tognazzini scupture in front of the Briggs Building.
Part of the Car Lot Mural on San Benito and Hill Street.
Vista Park Hill Community Garden on Hill Street.
Part of the Veterans' Mural on Third Street.
Damaged curb on Fourth Street near Powell.
San Benito County Courthouse on Fourth Street.
Fremont Memorial Tunnel under Fourth Street.
Deformation along retaining wall on Sixth Street across from Dunne Park.
The Bounty in Browns Alley between Sixth and Seventh.
Johnny's classic mural in Wentz Alley between Fifth and Sixth.

You don’t have to pack up the minivan and drive big miles on the highway to find a good walk in San Benito County. Downtown Hollister offers walking tours that will stretch your legs and stimulate your imagination. In this segment, I combine the Hollister Public Art Walking Tour with the Calaveras Fault Earthquake Walk for a lively four-mile exercise in self-improvement.

The Public Art Walking Tour map can be found on pages 42-43 of the The Guide, compliments of the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce. To start, park in or near the Briggs Building at Fourth Street and San Benito. In front of the building, you will see a sculpture of a smiling man riding an adult tricycle. Created by Sean Monaghan, it is called In Loving Memory and Spirit of Eric Tognazzini.  For background information about the dedication of this memorial, please click here.

Next, walk across Fourth Street to see La Bamba Box by Joel Esqueda.  This box honors the 1987 biographical film about Ritchie Valens by San Juan Bautista’s famous playwright, Luis Valdez. Continuing north on San Benito Street, turn right on Third Street one block to the Hollister Super. Here, you will find an outstanding mural called El Sueno de la Humanidad (The Dream of Humanity) by Ronald Rocha. This one is my personal favorite.

Retrace your steps to San Benito and find the Farmers’ Market Box by John Elliot. That puts you in line toward two more murals another block north at Hill Street and San Benito. The larger one, called The Used Car Lot Mural by Phillip Ray Orabuena, Joel Esqueda, and Adam Valentino, faces San Benito and a smaller one, The Hill Street Mural by Adam Valentino and Phillip Ray Orabuena, faces Hill Street. At the corner of North and San Benito is the colorful Ballet Folklorio Box by Joel Esqueda.

Okay, go back to Hill Street, turn right, and discover why they call it Hill Street. Fasten your fanny packs, hikers, because here comes a little feet-on science. The short climb up to the Community Garden comes courtesy of what geologists call a pressure ridge, a feature that forms as a result of deformation along a fault. Think of it as a wrinkle in a rug that is being tugged sideways in opposite directions. In this case, the “rug” is being pulled toward the northwest on the other side of Vista Park Hill from where you are now huffing and puffing. The hill itself and everything behind you to the east is being pulled to the southeast. Vista Park Hill is a ridge that has crumpled up in response to all that side-to-side pressure along the fault.

It’s a nice place for a garden, don’t you think? In the Vista Park Hill Community Garden, for your viewing pleasure, is Totem Pole by Fred R. Cabrera.  Take a look around while you are up there. You can see for miles.

Across Hill Street from the garden, go down the dirt use path next to a chain link fence. That connects to a paved ramp which winds down to Third Street to The Veterans’ Mural by Phillip Ray Orabuena. Continuing west to Locust Street, examine the curb in front of the corner house that faces the hill. See how warped it is? The Calaveras Fault continues northwest from here alongside Vista Park Hill and out across the valley.

From this point, you can toggle between the Earthquake Walk and the Art Walk all the way to San Benito High School and back. Head south toward Fourth Street on Locust and turn left on Fourth. You will immediately see where the sidewalk has been damaged over time by movement along the fault. This damage repeats itself on all the east-west streets between here and Nash Road. The effects dissipate the further south you go. A slide show describing the Calaveras Fault is included as a pdf below this article.

Staying east on Fourth, cross West Street and take a look at the beautiful Etched Canopy Roof by the Smith Group JJR atop the San Benito County Courthouse.  Then duck into the unique Fremont Memorial Tunnel by Arturo Rosette and pop up on the south side of Fourth Street. Turn right to see the rock sculptures at the end of the block. They represent the mountains that flank the east and west sides of San Benito County — the Gabilan and Diablo Mountain Ranges by Richard Deutsch. 

Next, turn left on West Street and keep looking to the right as you pass each cross street. In the middle of these blocks, explore the offset sidewalks, crumpled curbs, and large dips in the road, all caused by the fault. The most obvious of the features are located on Sixth Street and in Dunne Park. They really are amazing and you can’t miss them, especially if you watch the slide show before you go.

Keep walking along West Street, checking out the deformation on the side streets all the way to Nash Road. This is the end of the Earthquake Walk.

Turning left on Nash, head over to San Benito Street and walk north down the homestretch. When you get to South Street, just outside the doors to the Country Rose Cafe, you will find a bucking bronco on The Western Box by John Elliot. Behind the Veterans Memorial Building on Seventh and San Benito is the moving Veterans’ Voices Project by Phillip Ray Orabuena.

Another one of my favorite murals, called The Bounty by Arturo Rosette, is in Browns Alley next to Fisher’s restaurant. Makes me hungry! Marlon Brando fans will smile when they see the classic mural Johnny’s – Birthplace of the American Biker by Ronald Rocha in Wentz Alley.  Across San Benito Street from there is the elegant Maddux Mural by Carol Ann Huboi.  And rounding the corner on Fifth Street, on the wall facing East Street is Remembering Our Veterans Past and Present by Ronald Rocha. 

Wrapping up this hike is the iconic Biker Box by David Gutierrez on Fifth and San Benito, followed by the City of Hollister Historical Downtown Guide in Briggs Alley by Ernesto Pedro Valles.  Whew, that’s a lot of self-improvement for one day! Now go treat yourself to something good to eat at one of the terrific restaurants on San Benito Street. You earned it.

And please, my friends, do not litter.

For a map of downtown Hollister, please click here.

About:
Jim Ostdick (Palomino Dream)

Jim Ostdick is a retired Earth Science teacher and author who has resided in San Juan Bautista since 2005. His primary interests are energy conservation, clean water and air, outdoor recreation, and human-powered travel. An avid long-distance hiker and bicycle tourist, he has backpacked the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada (2009), bicycled the perimeter of the contiguous United States (2013-14), and walked from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast (REACH Across America, 2016). He is the author of Palomino and the Dream Machine: A Retired Dude's Bicycle Tour Around the Lower Forty-Eight United States (Amazon.com, 2015) and the soon-to-be published Palomino Nation: My 2016 Coast to Coast Walk Across America (Amazon.com, 2017). He is a dedicated Adopt-a-Highway volunteer in San Benito County and has served on the board of directors of the R.E.A.C.H. San Benito Parks Foundation since 2015. jim.ostdick@gmail.com Palomino Dream blog http://www.palominodream.blogspot.com Palomino and the Dream Machine http://amzn.com/B00V7OT70W

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