With the glow of early-morning light, a flock of pelicans forage for food in a pond next to Emily Renzel Wetlands at the Palo Alto Baylands. Post-dawn runners pass by, making their way down a dusty patch.
Palo Alto has 35 parks and fields, 162 acres of which are in an urban setting. Some parks are small -- just a quarter acre -- while others span foothills and shorelines.
Each park-goer is drawn for a special reason -- be it to play a set of tennis, create a painting at the Baylands, sit and ponder life or unwind under an oak tree at Foothills Park as the deer graze nearby.
Whatever the reason, a look at Palo Alto parks is a reflection of the community -- revealing how people unwind, socialize and seek solace.
At the Greer Park skateboard bowl Palo Altan Roake Horstmeyer, 22, a recent graduate from Duke University, spent a sunny Sunday afternoon skate-boarding in his "favorite bowl." For the last four years, every time Horstmeyer had a break from school he would spend part of it at Greer.
What skaters like so much about the Greer Park Bowl is the fact that it is an old-fashioned type of bowl -- below ground and without a railing at its lip.
Alex Tranovich of San Jose declared it a "safe and an awesome place to skate."
At Rinconada Park along Embarcadero Road, the Palo Alto High School class of 1977 has met under the same oak tree once a year for the last six years for an informal class reunion.
"We had so much fun the first time, they decided not to wait every five years but have one every year instead," according to Laurie Weber.
This year, two drama friends spent the afternoon looking over old theater-production photos from high school and elementary school, as fellow classmates caught up with each other on what has happened in the last 30 years.
At noon, a group of middle-aged men were playing basketball at Scott Park, a mini park that is tucked away between Channing Avenue and Scott Street. Since 1989, every weekday between noon and 1 p.m., downtown Palo Alto workers have spent their lunch hour dreaming of playing in the NBA.
Now that they are getting older, some of them can't expect to display court domination every day, said a player as he warmed up.
"If you just had a great day on the court, the next day you're on the bench," he said.
At around dusk at Foothills Park, Sego Segoviano spent time fishing on Boronda Lake, but that Friday night the fish were not hungry and fishing was slow. Segoviano would rather spend time close to nature then in front of the TV.
"We are so lucky to be so close to nature," he said.
Down on the meadow a couple spent the evening sitting under an oak tree waiting for deer to come graze on the lawn. On the other side of the valley, a group of children from South Korea tried to sneak a closer look at a group of deer, but once the animals heard the children, they moved farther away.
Driving down Page Mill Road from the 1,400-acre Foothills Park and returning to the 1,618-acre Palo Alto Baylands, one can stop and watch as a full moon gently rises. At that hour, all that can be heard is the chirping of crickets and the occasional quacking of the ducks.