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Richard and Yvonne Tryce were among the first residents of Vista Verde, and here they share their first-person historical account of our community


By Yvonne Tryce © 2002 by R. & Y. Tryce


We started our search by looking on a contour map. My husband, Richard Tryce, is a ham radio operator and wanted a home with a good radio location. The spot we found was a fourteen hundred foot knoll labeled Rattlesnake Hill. I had a college friend, Peggy Dickinson, and had visited her home on Lake Road. I knew they were planning to build a home toward the hill, and so I called her. She said their place would be down on Old Spanish Trail, but that she knew who owned the hill.

She gave us Jack Simonic's phone number, and we called him to see if the lot was available. He said he was planning to subdivide, and so could not sell off a lot at that time. However, he said he would keep in touch with us. As it turned out, we became good friends with Jack and his wife, and Rich even did a research project on Portola Valley for him in 1961. Jack's wife, Pearl, was the one who coined the name "Vista Verde" because the view would always be green with Foothills Park next door.

During the years before we bought the lot, Jack drove us around the area in his little red jeep and told us some of the history of the area. He explained that there had once been a coalmine in the area (opened in 1850), but that the entry had collapsed in an earthquake and landslide in 1890. The sunken area filled in with water and became the lake at the end of Ciervos. However, the coalmine is still commemorated in the name "Coal Mine Ridge", and small pieces of the low-grade coal can be found in outcroppings along Alpine Road above Joaquin Road.

Jack also told us stories about James Rolph, the flamboyant San Francisco mayor and later governor of California who once owned what is now called Pony Tracks Ranch. The stone entry posts on Ciervos were gates that entered the ranch in the early days, and we rode in the jeep up that early road. Jack pointed out exotic plants that Rolph had imported and especially he showed where heavy planting had been done to cover slides that occurred in the 1906 earthquake. One notable area was the grove of redwoods above the intersection of what is now Old Spanish Trail and Vista Verde Way.

One of the most thrilling jeep trails we took was the "Old Spanish Trail". It was exciting to actually be riding along the same path taken by Indians as they crossed from bay to ocean before white men arrived and in the same deep ruts worn by the heavy wooden wheels of ox drawn carts that were used by the Spanish to carry hides over the hills to the ocean. Our area was awarded to Maximo Martinez as a land grant by Mexico in 1832. It was known as the Rancho del Corte de Madera. It was the wood cutting place for the Mission Santa Clara. When Maximo died, the land was divided among his descendents, and the Vista Verde area was received by Jose Antonio Martinez and then passed to his heirs who later sold the land.

Some of Jack's stories were more of legend, but he had some basis for them, too. One was that the Spanish bandit, Joaquin Murieta, hid in caves in the hills on upper Alpine Road, and another was that there was once a cannonball "factory" in the hills. To prove the story, Jack had some amazing round rocks that he said had been made by Indians at that site.