Soccer at Veteran's Memorial Park. Photo by Jim Ostdick

Most of us, if we had our druthers, would prefer to walk in a giant Sequoia forest on soft pine duff with the fresh scent of autumn and the sound of cawing magpies in the air. But family, employment, school, and other important responsibilities often conspire to keep us close to home. How can we balance our need for exercise and nature within our busy time constraints? One way is through urban hiking adventures to our local parks.

Try this five-mile loop that links McCarthy, Veterans’ Memorial, and Dunne Parks in Hollister. Look up as you are walking. You will probably see someone you know.

Last Saturday, I parked near Off the Chain Bikes at 101 McCray Street to start my walk at McCarthy Park. Right now there isn’t much to this park, but the city recently announced plans to completely revamp the whole thing. Until then, it is one of the only unlocked places in San Benito County where you can shoot hoops outdoors. We need more hoops!

From the park, head east to Chappell Road, walk south to Meridian Street, and hang a left. See those sidewalks? They are for walking! Pass along behind the neighborhood homes toward Memorial Drive, noticing the newly improved landscaping and the neat, proud campus of Marguerite Maze Middle School. Go Hawks!

When you get to Memorial Drive, turn right. The cross streets are all orchard streets, named after fruit trees. If you keep your eyes peeled, you will see many imaginative lawn decorations. My personal favorite is the side yard with all the colorful frog statues – stay classy, frog house, you are awesome.

Soon you will reach the sprawling playfields of Veterans’ Memorial Park at Meridian Street and Hillcrest Road. In addition to honoring the loyal men and women of our county who have served in the nation’s military, this is where local baseball, soccer, and skating legends are born. Is there anything more entertaining than watching little ones in shiny numbered jerseys chase a soccer ball around the bright green pitch on a sunny September Saturday morning? I think not.

The baseball diamonds were not in use on this particular Saturday, but there were some skater and bike kids at the park honing their skills. This is a more serious, independent bunch. There is an air of competition and daring about skate parks that is different from the organized and supervised team sports. It’s fun, but it’s also “chill.” You have to be pretty focused to do this sport without eating some serious concrete.

From the skate park, continue south on Memorial to Sunnyslope and turn right. Coast down past all the streets with the World War II names like Versailles and Calais and Verdun and Black Forest. Cross Airline Highway and turn right by the Walgreens to McCray Street. Look to your left as you pass the playing fields to see grownups running or walking laps on the track and still more kiddie soccer games. Circling around the block on East Park Street, you will come to the front of Rancho San Justo School. Go Broncos!

From there, go straight to Nash Road and turn right to Monterey Street and the front of San Benito High School. One of my favorite trees in Hollister is the huge, mighty pine directly in front of the band room on Monterey Street. That tree, like most of the Baler band kids I have met, is smart and strong and full of good character. Go Balers!

Keep walking north until you get to Haydon Street and turn left to West Street, where you hang a right toward Dunne Park. The Joshua Inn at 712 West Street is a bed and breakfast in a beautiful house just across Seventh Street from the park. If you are staying at the Inn, of course, this would be the logical start and end point for your loop walk.

Dunne Park has tennis courts and a nice grassy lawn with a noticeable dip where the Calaveras Fault slices between Sixth and Seventh Streets. Years ago, there was a fault-related sag pond located in the low spot of the park where today’s tennis courts are. As homes filled in around the historical district, the pond was drained and the park was engineered to prevent its re-occurrence.

From Dunne Park, walk north past the San Benito County Historical Society Museum to Fourth Street and turn right. Pass the San Benito County Courthouse, the Masonic Temple Clock Tower, and Bill’s Bullpen on your way back to McCray Street and Off the Chain Bikes to finish the hike. Good one!

And please, my friends do not litter.

For a location map of this loop hike, please, click here.