As Sand Hill Road/Portola Road curves from the Interstate 280 towards Portola Valley, the scenery quickly changes from suburban to rural. Trees line the roads, breaking occasionally for a glimpse of a yellow meadow, and the wooded hills to the west come into sharper focus.
With all the foliage and views to admire, it can be easy to miss the two Woodside neighborhoods that rest just to the east of Portola Road: Family Farm and Hidden Valley. The pocket of land beneath Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve is expansive, and the lots are also large, with quite a number over Woodside's 3-acre minimum. That leaves many of the residences secluded and embedded into the countryside.
Roberta Kerwin and her husband were living in Ladera when they decided they wanted to build a home. After looking around, Mrs. Kerwin chanced upon an empty lot in Hidden Valley, and they quickly "fell in love with it" — especially the views of the nearby hills afforded by a knoll on the property. Their home, which they moved into in 1975, was built to maximize those vistas.
"You have to like country living to live here really," Mrs. Kerwin says, sitting in her living room. Through her window, two women riding horses on a nearby path can be seen. "(If) you like the city, you don't move here."
The original development of Hidden Valley was done by Hare, Brewer & Kelley in the early '50s, but some lots were left empty. Today's residents have built and continue to build new homes (sometimes replacing old ones) — sprawling estates with styles showing Spanish, Mediterranean and East Coast influences, to name a few.
Mrs. Kerwin notes that most residents seem to settle down long term, but when they move away, younger families tend to take their place, bringing new energy to Hidden Valley. While no formal neighborhood association exists, residents do get together for an annual Christmas party and can contact one another through an email list in case of emergency.
Though she doesn't ride horses, Mrs. Kerwin enjoys walking a few miles each day along the neighborhood's manicured, undulating streets and the region's various walking paths.
"Walking is wonderful, wonderful," she says. "Sometimes I never see a car."
To the north of Hidden Valley lies Family Farm, which if anything feels even more enmeshed in its natural surroundings. Overarched by trees hung with moss, its private roads wind past fenced lots covered in a carpet of dried leaves.
Judy Levin, a bronze sculptor who also works in real estate, has lived in Family Farm with her husband for about eight years. While they keep the portion of property around their home well-maintained, they let the majority of the land be.
"We prefer the rest of the property to be in its natural state, and I think all the neighbors prefer it that way," Mrs. Levin says. "We like the country feeling."
A Family Farm resident since 2000, Mary Henry agrees that the neighborhood prizes its "rural nature." One neighborhood legend tells of how two women lay down in front of the graders when former Apple CEO and Family Farm resident Mike Markkula wanted to pave the road, which had been previously gravel. It is now paved.
Ms. Henry remarks that the neighborhood is also distinguished by its continuity. The majority of residents have lived on what she affectionately calls "the Road" for decades, and many have carefully preserved their homes, which she says serve as various examples of traditional Northern California architecture.
The Family Farm Road Association exists to take care of the neighborhood's private roads, but the sense of community goes much deeper. Every year there is a summer barbecue and holiday party, and neighbors often gather to welcome a new addition with wine and appetizers, or simply for any excuse to celebrate, Ms. Henry says.
"When there's a great band playing at the Pioneer Saloon, you'll find residents of the Road getting together," she says.
Residents are animal people, both Ms. Henry and Mrs. Levin say, and Family Farm is home to horses, sheep, goats, chickens, pigs, cats and many dogs. It's regular for residents of all ages to cross paths while out walking their dogs on Family Farm Road.
Ms. Henry recently completed a major renovation of her home — proof that she doesn't think she'll be going anywhere any time soon.
"I regard this as a Camelot," she says. "It feels very remote, but you can be anywhere in minutes. The weather is beautiful, the views are gorgeous, the neighborhood is very ... warm and caring. I really cannot imagine a lovelier spot."
-- Sam Sciolla
CHILDCARE & PRESCHOOLS: Woodside Parents' Nursery School, 3154 Woodside Road, Woodside; Woodside Preschool, 3195 Woodside Road, Woodside
FIRE STATION: 3111 Woodside Road, Woodside
LOCATION: north and east of Portola Road to Family Farm Road (north entrance) and west of Westridge Drive
PARKS: Huddart County Park, 1100 Kings Mountain Road, Woodside; Wunderlich County Park, 4040 Woodside Road, Woodside
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Portola Valley School District — Corte Madera School, 4575 Alpine Road, Portola Valley; Ormondale School, 200 Shawnee Pass Road, Portola Valley
Sequoia Union High School District — Woodside High School, 199 Churchill Ave., Woodside
SHOPPING: Woodside Road, Woodside; Portola Road, Portola Valley