As State Route 84 climbs farther into the mountains, throngs of redwood, oak and eucalyptus trees thicken, dappling the winding road to Skywood with shade. The Woodside neighborhood is a nature lover's paradise, hidden among the trees just off the mountain highway.
Suzanne Muller, a Skywood resident for 12 years, calls it "heaven."
"We love being near nature," she says.
Dry, grassy hills and lush foliage give Skywood its quintessential Northern California feel, and the nearby Wunderlich Park offers residents 942 acres of hiking trails through its forests and meadows. The neighborhood is still, warm and quiet, protected by its trees and also its altitude, which sets it away from the bustle of the Peninsula.
Many of the homes play with levels to accommodate the uneven mountain terrain. Expansive glass windows let in the natural light that streams through the trees. The styles vary; each custom-built house is unique.
"It's an eclectic mix of architecture," Ms. Muller says. Her own midentury modern home stands among ranch-style properties, Japanese-inspired retreats and chalet-like cobblestone cabins.
The properties vary in size from about one to five acres, with large yards well incorporated into the surrounding landscape. Woodside's "Backyard Habitat" program, designed by the town's open space committee, recognizes residents who aim to preserve the lush and expansive wilderness often a part of their home. The Mullers, who fenced their property's immediate acre, left the other four acres for the deer, earning them a 3-foot tall, forged metal Backyard Habitat Award to display in their yard.
Despite the private, secluded feel of many of the homes, residents are neighborly, Ms. Muller says.
"The people, that's huge," she says. "We've made a lot of friends up here."
This close-knit community is also home to Mani Kulasooriya, his wife and three children. The family moved in a few years ago from Cupertino when they found their home, a Spanish mission-style in need of repairs, and thought the views too beautiful to pass up.
Mr. Kulasooriya and Ms. Muller share a similar appreciation for the neighborhood.
"You almost feel like you are way out in the countryside," Mr. Kulasooriya says, adding that "People are very friendly."
Skywood's neighborhood association "has been pretty inactive," Ms. Muller says, though she largely attributes this to a change in neighborhood resources. Residents now have access to a Portola Valley email forum, in addition to private social networking site Nextdoor, assets that allow neighbors to keep in contact regarding local news and current events. And according to Mr. Kulasooriya, members of the neighborhood gather for social events four or five times per year.
Mr. Kulasooriya estimates that close to 15 families, along with his own, have children that attend school in the Portola Valley School District. His two older kids attend Corte Madera School; his youngest is at Ormondale School.
The commute to school is easy, he says. Despite the seemingly remote location, Mr. Kulasooriya and Ms. Muller agree that it's a comfortable drive to the Peninsula's hub.
"It's really only 10 minutes to 280," Mr. Kulasooriya says.
Other Skywood residents might agree that Old La Honda Road's twists and turns are a small price to pay for a piece of paradise in the mountains. In general, the Woodside neighborhood's residents are there for the long haul.
"I don't think we have a lot of turnover," Ms. Muller says.
-- Lena Pressesky
FIRE STATION: Cal Fire - Sky Londa Station, 17290 Skyline Blvd., Woodside
LOCATION: south of Wunderlich County Park between Highway 84 and La Honda Open Space Preserve
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Portola Valley School District — Ormondale School, 200 Shawnee Pass Road, Portola Valley; Corte Madera School, 4575 Alpine Road, Portola Valley
Sequoia Union High School District — Woodside High School, 199 Churchill Ave., Woodside