Walking San Benito: Baler Strong

This is the fifth in a series of articles in which local adventurer Jim Ostdick will introduce readers to the many walking opportunities throughout San Benito County.

The closest thing we have to a River Parkway so far in San Benito County is the San Benito High School cross country course off Nash Road near Powell Street, just southwest of campus. Circling abandoned river terraces, the well-worn dirt path cuts through a mile and a half maze of oat grass and cottonwood trees.

This savannah-like terrain is a nibbling paradise for cottontails and jackrabbits, plus the occasional feral cat or a dog on the lam from the adjoining neighborhood. This is not the prettiest walking venue in the county, but it’s convenient and safe and an easy, a flat track to pound out some morning or evening miles whenever school is out. Early or late on a clear day, the views of the Diablo Range and the Gabilan Mountains can be stunning. Two or three brisk laps around the fields will get your heart pumping and make you glad you came.

On a recent cloudy Memorial Day morning, I met several Hollister hikers taking their daily exercise and getting a glimpse of the still-flowing San Benito River. Most of the year the riverbed is a dry, sandy wash, but abundant winter rains have provided sufficient groundwater to produce a nice ribbon of moving water at the surface. We know it won’t last, but seeing and hearing the river in motion is a real treat. Meeting all these nice folks out for a holiday stroll gave me a lot to think about.

There are many ways to enjoy a walk. A solo hike can give you time to sort out your thoughts or just let them come and go as they please. Many folks use walking alone as a form of meditation, a calming way to center themselves in the present. It can also be an exercise in independence, just getting out on your own and seeing what the day has to offer. A personal encounter with a hawk or a crow or a turkey vulture can lift your spirits and the sudden bolt of a jackrabbit can jump start your motor in an instant.

Few things are more pleasant than sharing a walk with a friend or a loved one. The miles fly by when you are solving the world’s problems together or swapping old tales of hoops glory or getting that argument you had with your teenager off your chest. Just sharing a golden sunrise or a cherry red sunset and saying absolutely nothing works, too. This is what friends are for.

What really lights me up and gives me hope is seeing a young family out for a walk together. Children get plenty of screen time and lots of worksheets and concentrated verbal instruction. Many of them, however, lack much meaningful time with loved ones just relaxing and experiencing the connectivity of nature. There is intrinsic joy in that family circle, but it has to be nurtured. Having outdoor fun together knits tight, lasting bonds in ways nothing else can.

Whatever your walking style, solo or with a buddy or in a group, the point is to get out and recreate. Re-create! Make yourself whole and refreshed one footstep at a time. Individually, you will be healthier and more productive. As a couple, you will be closer and more loving. As a family, you will be stronger and more dynamic. My dream is  to one day see all kinds of San Benito walkers strutting their stuff on a continuous path from Aromas to San Juan Bautista to Hollister to Tres Pinos.

There is so much to enjoy and discover here – on bike trails and river footpaths and country roads – let’s work together to connect the dots.

And please my friends, do not litter.

For a location map of San Benito High School, click here.

Jim Ostdick

Jim Ostdick is a retired Earth Science teacher and travel writer. A resident of San Juan Bautista since 2005, Ostdick's primary interests are California geology, energy conservation, outdoor recreation, and human-powered travel. He is the author of Palomino and the Dream Machine: A Retired Dude's Bicycle Tour Around the Lower Forty-Eight United States (, 2015) and Palomino Nation: My 2016 Crazyass Walk Across America (, 2017). [email protected] Palomino Dream blog Palomino and the Dream Machine Palomino Nation