Archive for January, 2010

Waterman gap, Big Basin

January 31, 2010

Sunday, 31 January 2010

On the trail at Waterman gap just at 8. The recent storms have brought down a lot of needles and small fronds from the trees. When the ground is covered with them, it sometimes becomes difficult to see where the trail is. More of a problem is the large branches and the whole trees that come down. On the first stretch to China Grade, there was a large madrone across the trail, but it was easy to walk around. Fortunately, the understory is *not* full of poison oak here.

Beyond China Grade, we enter Big Basin Redwoods state park. Here’s a view of the basin from the slickrock that borders this corner of the park.


Slick rock? It’s sandstone, a rough grainy surface. How could it be slick? Well, much of it was wet today, and I’m now a believer! Didn’t fall, but there were a few skids.

Below the slickrock, the trail goes through a sparse pine forest, a south slope sheltered from the weather. Eventually we drop into redwoods, and that’s where it gets interesting. Redwoods just love to fall over during the rainy season, and a goodly collection of them had fallen across the trail. Scrambling around, over, under and through, quite an adventure.

It was noon when I reached Big Basin headquarters. Bought a new trail map; the one I had showed only 200 foot elevation contours and was dated 1991. I can hardly claim it didn’t give me good service, but it was time for a new one.

Talked with a friendly, knowledgeable woman about returning by way of the east ridge trail. Even if it isn’t a lot better than Skyline to the Sea, it will be a change, and I prefer loops to out-and-back. She wasn’t sure about the distance. That could be a problem: it took four hours to get here; I could afford five hours to get back, but more than that would leave me benighted. The last few miles of trail runs along near the road, so in the worst case, if I couldn’t see in the darkness of the forest, I could always go walk on the road. Let’s try it.

In fact, I even added on just a bit more by going to see the Sempervirens fall. Nice

After the fall, I hiked on toward the east ridge trailhead. According to the map, I should have had a stream to my right, but it was on my left instead. That makes me uncomfortable. For the first time ever, I read out the lat/lon from my GPS receiver and located myself on the map (the old map didn’t show lat/lon – yet another reason I’m glad I got a new one). Turned out I was on the right trail, just not as far as I had expected to be. The stream on my left was just seasonal runoff, too trivial to show on the map.

Some steep climbs on the east ridge trail, but that’s not a problem. The forest was mostly douglas fir here, and douglas firs don’t fall over in the winter. Much better trail conditions. Now, how about the time? Will I end up hiking in the dark?

The GPS told me that sunset would be at 5:30. We’re a couple of days past the full moon; the GPS told me that moonrise wouldn’t be until 7:15. I set the starting point as destination for the GPS and asked it to track back. It estimated that we would arrive at the car at 5:30. Ok, no dawdling! Let’s do it.

I think the GPS has a pretty heavily weighted moving average function, because once I started walking, the ETA improved significantly. When it moved ahead of 5:00, I relaxed and took it easy. Even stopped for a few fungus pictures.

Black fungus is interesting: it hides so well, you just never see it at all.

The GPS trackback beeped just before each significant turn in the trail. After a while, I decided it was getting pretty smug. It would beep, and moments later, I would turn. The GPS doubtless thought of itself as the rider on a well-trained horse named Dave. (This is not the first time I have noticed my brain getting soft toward the end of a long day.)

Back to the car at 4:38. Not fully dark, but dark enough, with the sun well below the hills and the forest blocking the remaining light from the sky. 20.5 miles, 3000+ vertical feet. Nice day.

Marin waterfalls: Cascade creek

January 29, 2010

Thursday, 28 January, 2010

They say the locals don’t know about the places nearby; only the visitors find them out. My colleague Brian lives in Texas, so it was only to be expected that it was he who came up with a URL for what claims to be a really great waterfall hike on the back side of Mt Tam in Marin county. It was certainly new to me:

Brian was flying home Friday, didn’t have a free weekend day. So we met Thursday at 5AM in San Jose and drove to the trailhead at Alpine lake near Fairfax. I had overestimated the time it would take to get there, and it was still quite dark when we pulled the car onto a roadside parking area around 6:30. Sunrise isn’t until about 7:15. We waited around for a few minutes, but there was a full moon, and at least the early part of the trail was visible and held no unpleasant surprises, so we set off.

The first few photographs were throw-aways; there just wasn’t enough light.

Really a great hike. I’ll let the pictures tell the story: Cascade creek.

Something upward of a thousand feet of climb on a hike that only runs 3.7 miles round trip, according to the GPS.

We were back off the trail around 10, and in the office in San Jose before noon.

January 26, 2010

Not long ago, I noticed the name of a colleague on the list of donors to the Cato institute. I asked him whether he was indeed the same individual whose name had appeared on the list.

He was greatly offended.

I of course apologized for having thought, even for a moment, that he might have been the sort of person who believed in voluntary relationships to mutual benefit.

It takes all kinds…

Rose peak

January 24, 2010

25 April 2009

A killer hike seemed like the right thing for today, since next weekend I’ll be at the tender mercies of Air France. The forecast was for cool but sunny, a good opportunity to go to Rose peak. I was already on my way when I realized that I had forgotten to take along a heavy pair of hiking socks. Moomph! Well, I’m not going back for anything less than risk of a house fire.

Hiking boots are the right thing for a long hike in the hills, but I wasn’t sure about only one pair of socks, so I stowed trail shoes in my backpack, just in case. As it turned out, the boots were fine except on the downhills, which bruised my heels. At about 17 miles, I changed to the trail shoes. Good idea; they had better padding in the heel, and just the change was a relief. I will still have pretty sore feet for a day or two.

Pretty country. The grass is already beginning to fade toward gold, even as the wildflowers are at the peak of their season and some of the late trees (oak, sycamore) are only just starting to leaf out. Doris tells me my little friend  is a horned lark, an early bird.

Wildlife: a gaggle of wild turkeys near the park entrance. One bunny. Lots of crane flies, a swallowtail. One frog in a pond, no sign of tadpoles as yet.

I frequently see no one all day on this route, but the trail was quite busy today, and not just the half mile from the parking lot crowd. Many of them were out near Rose peak itself. I like having the world to myself, but it’s good that people know about some of these great places and use them.

19.5 miles total, 4920 vertical feet

Home wildlife

January 24, 2010

27 April 2009

As I got home this afternoon, I noticed a cluster of little yellow dots on the garage doorframe. I grabbed the camera, but as I set it in place, the cluster disintegrated in all directions. I still got a shot, however. Nice.

Well, with camera in hand, what else might we find? A cranefly, that’s what,  clearly showing its intertial navigation system. I continue to think that’s really great!

Well, and then there was yesterday at the baylands (my feet are a little sore, but not enough to be a problem). I’m discovering more of interest in the mudflats.

Above, we see muddy foam at the very edge of the water. Interesting that the foam is also full of chunky stuff. Blue from the sky is to be expected, but I was surprised to see blue even in the shadow over at the right side. Below, we have a barnacle-encrysted pier, with evidence of some interesting things living there under the crust. Maybe I’ll take along a tool next time and see what I can uncover.

As to birds, well, you’d expect chicks, and this will one day grow up to be an avocet, believe it or not.

And I just can’t believe how artificial the cormorant’s eye looks.

Fall creek redwoods

January 24, 2010

13 June 2009

Up a few minutes early, about 5:10. While the coffee brewed, I considered where to go today. Pulled down a handful of trail maps; near the top was a map of the San Lorenzo valley, never used, purchased a few months ago with the best of intentions. Well, why not! Out of the house about 6:15, on the trail by 7:15. Cool and foggy, raining in the redwoods. Glad I had casually stuffed my rain jacket into my backpack, even though it hadn’t occurred to me that I might need it.

I think I was here once before, many years ago, but I have no visual memories of it, merely words that recognize the name and the word, “beautiful.” And it really is. Exceptional, truly.

I usually just leave the white balance setting on my camera set to auto, and I get blue pictures in the forest. Today, I set it to the cloudy day setting. The difference is dramatic.

Not far up the trail is an old lime kiln area, where they mined limestone from a nearby cliff and burned it in a redwood fire for three or four days, then packed it in barrels and sent it to the new city of San Francisco, where it was turned into mortar. Hours later, I passed the ruins of the barrel mill, also pretty interesting.

A couple of runners who passed me said they had heard there was snow at the top. I don’t believe it, but – wouldn’t that be wonderful!

I don’t know the history, but the names are provocative: Lost Empire trail, Lost camp. The road somewhere over there is Empire grade, and I came out once on Pine Flat road, a road whose claim to being flat is that its grade is *only* 7%, a mental calculation I once did while riding it on my bike, back when I had an altimeter bicycle computer.

There’s a Big Ben tree that anchors the center of the park, more or less. Above it, the trails are out and back; below it, you can make a loop. I did all of the out and back trails, since – who knows – it may be a long time before I’m here again.

Completely quiet but for the patter of raindrops nearby and the hiss of raindrops further away and the soft pad of my boots on the forest duff. And a few banana slugs yelling, “Gonzo!” as they rocketed downhill at full speed. Well – the shouts of the banana slugs didn’t disturb the quiet very much.

The sand in the creek showed flecks of gold – wow !!! So I fished up a little of it: the finest of pyrites, right here for the taking.

I hiked something like two thirds of the total trails in the park (17 miles, 3700 vertical feet), and met fewer than twenty people all day. The locals know it, but no one else. It would be possible to do an easy hike along the creek – admittedly it gains a thousand feet in about four miles – and there are enough alternatives to construct a serious industrial grade hike for those who want more. And it could be precatenated with an afternoon in Santa Cruz for those who didn’t want to spend a whole day hiking. Definitely a place for friends and family, one to come back to.

Mission peak hike

January 24, 2010

22 August 2009

On the trail about 7:50. Mission peak is always popular on weekends, and I had to park further away than ever before, perhaps as far as half a mile from the parking lot. A cool, pleasant morning, just right for discovering interesting creatures.

I hiked over the shoulder of Mission peak and down the other side, but did the Laurel canyon trail rather than the complete hike to Sunol and back. Groin pain; I don’t want to aggravate the pull I had two or three weeks ago. But still, rather than hiking back over the shoulder of MP, I went on up to the top. Wouldn’t want the day to be excessively easy, and I need the exercise.

Glad I did. On the way down, I discovered only the third straw mantis I have ever found. Cool! And although I had been carefully watching for a mantis, it’s still true that I never would have seen it, had it not been out in the trail initially.

And something to look forward to: one of these weeks, it’s going to be tarantula season!

Good beer

January 24, 2010

First, let’s be clear that I do my very best to avoid horse piss. I refuse to drink it.

Well, I’ll drink it, but I won’t enjoy it.

Well… I’ll enjoy it, but not as much as a good dark beer.

Ok, what beers do I like?

From Germany – hoo boy, this is a semi-infinite list

  • Andechser doppelbock
  • Weihenstefan has some good ones

From the mainline breweries:

  • Franziskaner dunkles weissbier (in German beers, weiss means weizen – wheat – not white)
  • Spaten Optimator
  • Paulaner dunkles – if you’re not a big fan of Tsing Tao, seek out the Paulaner Bräuhaus in Beijing

From England

  • Samuel Smith’s Tadcaster oatmeal stout
  • Old Peculier
  • Newcastle brown ale, if I can’t get anything better


  • Negro modelo

USA – Hmmm…

  • Stockyard stout
  • Moose drool

Grant ranch hike

January 24, 2010

23 January 2010

It has been raining hard and steadily for several days now; the flatlands have received several inches, and the hills even more. So I was only moderately ambitious when I went to Grant ranch – it might well not be possible to do a whole lot.

As expected the Mt Hamilton road was closed at Grant ranch, due to snow further up the mountain. No problem. I started off on the hotel trail, but after jumping across one stream, I decided to turn back at the second. It’s really unpleasant to have boots full of water; there is a stretch further along where the trail goes along the streambed for some distance, further than I would want to walk barefoot. Even so, I had to take off the boots and ford one stream barefoot to reach the higher country where there was not so much standing and running water.

Ended up at Antler point, overlooking the old line shack (now Pala Seca cabin), and Mount Day.


I should investigate whether there are publicly accessible trails on Mt Day, and how to get there. It would be new terrain.

Just down the hill from Antler point, I spotted a family of wild pigs heading for an oak tree to graze on acorns. The guard saw me before long, and they eventually decided that somewhere else would be a good place. They are big and mean, and I was just as glad to be a hundred meters away and well up the hill.


It was a variable day: rain, cold wind, sun, warm enough to take off the jacket, then more cold wind. No problem; a beautiful day. Probably pretty unpleasant on the higher hills.



One thing about this kind of weather is that you get outstandingly beautiful views.


Lick Observatory was largely obscured by its own private weather, but when the clouds opened, it added to the beauty of the scene.



Although I saw one mountain bikie, I actually met no one all day until I was down to the lake, almost at the parking lot. Nice to have the world to myself.

It was after 3. The road up the mountain was still closed. It seemed that everyone in the bay area had decided to come up the hill to see the snow. Ha! – no snow here, sorry. As much traffic as I think I have ever seen on Mt Hamilton road.

Nice day, even if it was only 16 miles, 2500 vertical feet.

Portola Redwoods state park

January 17, 2010

Within the last six weeks or so, I have hiked all of the long routes in my repertoire of usual suspects, and I asked myself how to get in a long hike without repeating a recent route and without having to drive too far.

So I left the car at Saratoga gap and hiked down Ward road into Portola Redwoods state park. I almost always enter from this direction, if for no other reason than that it saves driving time. I was last here with Grace just over a year ago. We found an abandoned orchard and picked apples in the rain.

Portola is one of the prettiest of the redwood forests, unknown to the tourists, maybe not even to most of the locals. I have always liked the trail along Slate creek to the site of the old Page sawmill, which gave its name to the well-known Page Mill Road on the bay side of the ridge.

There is a spur trail to the Peters creek loop, which I attempted a number of years ago. At that time, it was overgrown with poison oak, waist and chest high, and there was simply no way to get through without severe consequences. So I gave up on it, and really never checked it out again.

This time, I thought I’d go have a look. If it was still inaccessible, I could always add on a few miles back up at the Skyline end of the hike.

Glad I did. It’s an old road for some distance, then it becomes single track. Lots of undergrowth, but I didn’t see much poison oak. Even so, I tried to avoid contact with the vegetation as much as possible. I won’t forget two really unpleasant weeks in January 2007, one of which was spent at the FSAN meeting in Vancouver, recovering from insufficient paranoia about naked vine stems.

The trail descends around 800 feet to a short loop that goes back and forth along Peters creek, crossing the creek several times. I said that Portola Redwoods state park was one of the prettiest, but this loop raises the bar even further. Really nice.

I have rarely been able to photograph a redwood forest in a way that does justice to its beauty, so I contented myself with photos of some of the interesting fungi. If you want to see the creek and the forest, go there :).

I thought this park, and especially the Peters creek loop, were pretty much unknown territory, but there were actually quite a few hikers out. Well, I don’t mind sharing, especially something as beautiful as this.

Back at the end of the former road, I noticed a junk car. It looked like something out of the 1920s or maybe 30s; I suppose that’s when this route stopped being just an ordinary road.

I have resented the junk cars I see along the trails that parallel the roads. It seemed really sleazy to dispose of a worthless car by just pushing it over the edge. But some of the junkers are too far from the road to have just been rolled over the edge. To get where they are, they must have started at high speed, or have moved under their own power, or both. So I started wondering. When there’s an accident and a car runs off the road, do you suppose the authorities just recover the bodies and the license plates and leave the cars where they are?

Although the junk is an eyesore, there may be mitigating circumstances.

Back out of the state park, much of the hike is in open country, and I watched the black weather moving in on me for upward of an hour before I finally stopped and put on my rain shell.

I had been thinking that the overgrown undergrowth would become prime tick territory in another month or two, once things warm up, but when I stripped for my shower, I found a good-sized tick on my wrist. See? I’m not paranoid – they really are out to get me! To fully acknowledge my paranoia, I also washed my hands and legs with Tecnu poison oak soap.

20.26 miles, 4365 feet of climb. A new trail, which is pretty unusual for me, for this area, hard work, and well worth it.

Skyline to the sea trail

January 10, 2010

This weekend’s hike: 20.9 miles, 4400 feet of climb. Saratoga gap to Waterman gap, then over to the Toll road, a connector through a damp area where I got the following pictures. A detour around the Michael’s summit loop off the toll road, and then back to Saratoga summit.


Although it’s hard to imagine a big enough insect to produce this much biomass, I originally thought these were insect eggs, and indeed their common name is insect egg mass fungi. Upon further research, I believe they are actually Leocarpus fragilis, a slime mold.

Republican survey of Obama agenda

January 10, 2010

2009 12 21 — Letter from the Republican national committee, a survey on 2009 Obama agenda. Or maybe a 2009 survey on Obama’s agenda.

First, it’s highly presumptious of the RNC to assume that I am a Republican. I have never been a registered Republican, and as best I recall, I have never even voted for a Republican. (In fairness: as best I recall, I have never voted for a Democrat, either.)

Second, the survey is an excellent example of invalid arguments. Just to take one at random: “Do you believe that Barack Obama’s nominees for federal courts should be immediately and unquestionably approved for their lifetime appointments by the US Senate?”

Third, why would I believe that the Republicans are any different from the Democrats? They had their chance, and it will be a long time before some of us are prepared to believe there is the slightest difference.

Charity and government

January 10, 2010

After Hurricane Katrina, the local grocery stores asked for hurricane relief cash donations at the checkout stand. I declined to contribute because, as I explained to one checkout clerk, “I guesstimate that the US government has already committed something like $50 000 of my tax dollars to Katrina relief. That more than uses up my budget.”

There’s no question, of course, that the commitment of my tax dollars is pretty much wasted, but that doesn’t reduce the cost to me, nor increase my ability to use the money for some more useful end, even if that more useful end were related to Hurricane Katrina.

There is another point to this story. If there is virtue in helping others, then charity by way of government completely destroys that virtue. When the conservatives are compassionate with other people’s money, it is the height of hypocrisy for them to pretend to be virtuous (at least the current administration doesn’t blather about compassionate conservatism). And I can hardly claim to be virtuous when I pay the taxes about which I have no choice.

Airport security

January 7, 2010

We hear reports that air travellers are generally supportive of ever-increased levels of inconvenience. Where do you suppose the pollsters stand when they ask these questions?

Do you suppose that anyone is foolish enough to exercise his first amendment rights, or even foolish enough to express an honest opinion, anywhere near the TSA? – always assuming that he wants to get on his plane, of course.

The beauty we have all around us

January 4, 2010

2009 November 1, Sunday

We went to Arastradero today rather than Grant ranch. Found no tarantulas, but we did see some really beautiful things.

Trying to improve bike path safety

January 3, 2010

An email exchange from summer of 2009. Surnames and email addresses deleted…

-----Original Message-----
From: Dave
Sent: Friday, June 12, 2009 5:29 PM
Subject: Website Inquiry

Comments: Now that the Moffett blvd bicycle overcrossing is nearing completion, I am concerned at what I see in the striping and fencing. It appears that those of us who come southwest on Moffett Blvd, wishing to turn onto northbound Stevens Creek trail, will have to make a 135 degree right turn into a single-wide gate to the trail. The potential for accidents is clear, particularly in the presence of children, wet weather, etc.

There is a perfectly good entrance a hundred feet further north, a 90 degree right turn onto a paved segment that joins up with the main trail. But the Moffett Blvd side is blocked by chain-link fence.

It would be good if these improvements at least did not make things worse for any of us. Please tell me you are going to keep the sensible entrance open.


From: Jack
Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 9:34 AM
To: dave
Cc: Vroman, Mike; Macaraeg, Rodrigo; Fakhry, Sayed;
Kagiyama, Robert; Salvador, Angee; Wong, Wanda; Grimm, Louise
Subject: RE: Moffett blvd bicycle overcrossing


My name is Jack and I am the city’s project engineer for the Stevens Creek Trail Overcrossing at Moffett Boulevard project.  The city appreciates your interest in our project, and I will try to respond to your concerns described below.

I have attached two photos of the northbound entrance to the trail taken prior to beginning construction.  As you can see, the fence and old remaining portion of the trail have been returned to the same configuration that existed before construction of the new overcrossing. In the past, riders going southbound on Moffett previously had to make a sharp turn onto the trail, the same as now.  Except for the time of the trail detour during construction, this trail entrance has not changed. The reason for the fence narrowing at the entrance is to help prevent users of the trail from inadvertently riding out into traffic.  There is a similar fence configuration on the southbound entrance to the trail at Moffett as well.

I agree with you that the paved vehicle entrance to the north of the trail entrance is a convenient access point for bicyclists.  However, this gate needs to be kept closed in order to prevent unauthorized vehicles from entering the trail.

For the reasons stated above, the city plans to keep the entrance to the trail at Moffett Boulevard the same as it is currently constructed.  We do suggest that, for safety, riders walk their bicycles as they enter the trail.  Please feel free to call or email me if you wish to further discuss this issue.  Thank you.

Senior Civil Engineer
(650) 903-6079

From: Dave
Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 5:06 PM
To: Jack
Cc: Vroman, Mike; Macaraeg, Rodrigo; Fakhry, Sayed;
Kagiyama, Robert; Salvador, Angee; Wong, Wanda; Grimm, Louise
Subject: RE: Moffett blvd bicycle overcrossing

Thanks for the response, Jack.

Before construction began, my company was at Central and San Tomas in Santa Clara, so on my evening commute, I always came from Middlefield onto Easy street, past the school, through the parklet, onto the trail and straight across Moffett. I never had to make the right turn from Moffett onto the northbound trail. After the overpass project had begun, my company moved to the vicinity of north 1st and 237, so my commute now goes past Moffett park – I cross 101 at Ellis and come down the frontage road – and the right turn affects me every day.

I accept your word that the right turn was difficult and dangerous immediately before the project began, though I don’t remember it always being that bad. My recollection is that both lanes of the trail were once accessible, and only fairly recently – say a year before the overpass began – was the right side boarded off.  The pavement in the photos is evidence that t’was not ever thus.

Even in the days of my straight-through commute, the resulting narrow clearance made it difficult and dangerous to meet other trail users, especially since both directions are always focussed on the traffic light. It makes for some cursing when the northbound cyclist, going as fast as possible to stay within the light, meets a southbound rider or runner also trying to catch the light, and maybe at the same time someone comes down Moffett wanting to turn north/right, unable because of the tight turn to watch the cross traffic, endangering everyone. Rather than buying into the claim that it’s the same as before, I’d urge you to reconsider that aspect of the crossing as well, especially since the overpass will now collect most of the weekend casual users, and therefore the grade-level access will more often be used by experienced riders.

When you say the chainlink gate keeps unauthorized vehicles from entering the trail, I assume you’re talking about motor vehicles, not bicycles. It would be surely possible to gate that entrance in such a way that you couldn’t get a car through without unlocking a padlock and opening the gate, while leaving a gap in the fence wide enough for a bicycle. We have similar arrangements on most trails: gates that block bikes and/or horses during wet weather, but allow hikers to pass.


From: Jack
Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2009 4:10 PM
To: Dave
Cc: Vroman, Mike; Macaraeg, Rodrigo; Fakhry, Sayed;
Kagiyama, Robert; Salvador, Angee; Wong, Wanda; Grimm, Louise
Subject: RE: Moffett blvd bicycle overcrossing


I didn’t want to leave you hanging. We have a couple of people looking into the issues you raise. We will respond to you next week.


From: Dave
Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2009 5:26 PM
To: Jack
Subject: RE: Moffett blvd bicycle overcrossing

Thanks, Jack. I appreciate the consideration.


From: Dave
Sent: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 4:46 PM
To: Jack
Subject: RE: Moffett blvd bicycle overcrossing

I was away on a business trip last week, Jack, and first commuted by bike today. I heartily approve the way you have resolved this issue. Thanks.


From: Jack
Sent: Monday, July 13, 2009 10:00 AM
To: Dave
Cc: Kagiyama, Robert; Macaraeg, Rodrigo
Subject: RE: Moffett blvd bicycle overcrossing

Glad we were able to resolve this issue for you.


From: Dave
Sent: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 7:04 AM
To: Vroman, Mike; Macaraeg, Rodrigo; Fakhry, Sayed;
Kagiyama, Robert; Salvador, Angee; Wong, Wanda; Grimm, Louise
Cc: Jack
Subject: Mountain View bicycle friendliness

A recent exchange with Jack resulted in improvements to the entrance from Moffett Blvd onto the northbound Stevens Creek bicycle trail, and much appreciated. Though not perfect, it’s good enough that I don’t expect to get hurt there.

But then the merge area between the street-level trail entrance and the overcrossing was turned into a dangerous three-way blind junction, where only yesterday I narrowly averted a collision with another cyclist. And if this was intended to protect the younger, inexperienced cyclists, I might mention that the rider I avoided at the last second was ten years old or thereabouts.

This merge was perfectly fine when I mistakenly thought the overcrossing project was completed. But then a forest of orange posts blocked off the safe route and steered all traffic into what is a blind junction from at least two directions. The sharp turn collects sand, which itself causes bicycle crashes. It just seems really perverse to actively create a hazard when none existed before.

It is probably not to be expected that the various people responsible for these facilities and projects are knowledgeable cyclists themselves. This leads me to the real point of the email: does Mountain View have a bicycle advisory group? If so, do they not provide input on this kind of issue, or is their input not accepted for some reason?

Turning to other bicycle-related topics, there are vehicle detectors that need to be adjusted, but there is no way to report them to the city of Mountain View. There should be.

The statements above are just bottom-line summaries, and it is fair to ask for explanation and justification for all of them. I am more than willing to explain or even better, demonstrate on a brief ride, the hows and whys of all these issues.

Although I live in Palo Alto, my daily commute goes through Mountain View, so I care. And unlike Palo Alto (imagine making Alma Street bicycle friendly), Mountain View could improve dramatically with little or no expenditure of money.


From: Jack
Sent: Thursday, August 13, 2009 3:21 PM
To: Dave
Cc: Vroman, Mike; Macaraeg, Rodrigo; Fakhry, Sayed;
Kagiyama, Robert; Kim, Helen; Jenkins, Joan
Subject: RE: Mountain View bicycle friendliness


Thank you for your interest in bicycle issues in the city of Mountain View. We are very interested in getting the views of bicyclists like yourself.

On the recently constructed portion of Stevens Creek Trail, it is the city’s goal to try and eliminate high-speed merges. This is the reason that the old trail from Moffett Boulevard is directed to a tee intersection with the new through portion of the trail leading to the overcrossing. With this design, trail-users riding from Moffett Boulevard must slow down and/or stop and look both ways before proceeding on to the trail, similar to traffic on city streets. The orange delineators were installed to help slow riders to merge safely.

The plan to close the short section of the trail with the delinators was reviewed and approved by city park personnel and new trail overcrossing plans were reviewed by the city’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC). If you are interested, the BPAC is usually scheduled to meet the last Wednesday evening of each month at city hall. Specific information regarding BPAC meetings and other relevant information for cyclists is available on the city web page. I hope this helps with your concerns.

Thank you.

Senior Civil Engineer
(650) 903-6079

From: Dave
Sent: Thursday, August 13, 2009 5:27 PM
To: Jack
Cc: Vroman, Mike; Macaraeg, Rodrigo; Fakhry, Sayed;
Kagiyama, Robert; Kim, Helen; Jenkins, Joan
Subject: RE: Mountain View bicycle friendliness

You could prevent high-speed merges by just removing about half of the orange posts. No blind intersections, and riders would have to slow down to go through the barricades. Far, far safer. (In a way, it’s too bad you don’t have a way to collect accident statistics on bikeways. No way to learn from bad experience.)

I guess the point about maladjusted vehicle detectors is just my tough luck.

Once upon a time, Mountain View installed a light at the intersection on Charleston where today you go into REI. I had the wonderful experience of meeting a MV traffic engineer who came to adjust the detectors and actually worked with me on my bike to verify that they were indeed adjusted properly. Once in a lifetime!


From: Dave
Sent: Friday, August 14, 2009 5:30 PM
To: Jack
Cc: Jenkins, Joan; Kim, Helen; Kagiyama, Robert;
Fakhry, Sayed; Macaraeg, Rodrigo; Vroman, Mike
Subject: RE: Mountain View bicycle friendliness

Great news, Jack – I solved my problem (and it was clear that it was just my problem).

Instead of dealing with the maladjusted detector from Leong onto Moffett Blvd and the hassles of the grade-level access to the Stevens Creek trail, I came along Whisman (where I met a wrong-way cyclist: no problem), through the Whisman School park (mother and toddler: no problem), and flew over the flyover. The no-high-speed-merge hazard isn’t blind from the flyover descent, no problem.

An extra quarter mile, but far safer. How much safer? Hard to quantify, but this route is one that won’t give me cold sweats when I wake up in the middle of the night.

Much better, and thanks for giving me the incentive to try something different.



I thought it was especially interesting that, while we both claim to be concerned about safety, Jack’s version is from an abstract point of view, with zero regard for how real people will behave in real situations (imagine anyone stopping at a trail junction?). My version is based on experience with road rash, broken bones and expensive bike repairs.

We knew, of course, that you can’t fight city hall, but you have to keep trying. At a minimum, this exchange might prove useful someday if someone sues the city of Mountain View for negligence.

Ohlone wilderness, Rose peak

January 3, 2010

2010 January 2, Saturday

What better way to start out the new year than a hike to Rose peak, one of the more difficult of the bay area hikes – 20 miles, 5000 vertical feet, out and back from Sunol park headquarters?

I started just before sunrise, and climbed fast enough to stay in the clear, ahead of the fog that was filling in the valleys behind me. Met a couple guys at the backpack camp, but no one else until I reached Rose peak itself. A group there, had come up from Del Valle, also a 20 mile hike; guy told me there were 23 people.

There was an eagle at Rose peak; got a few shots that turned out not too badly, if I do say so myself. Doris says it’s a golden eagle, even though it seems darker than I would have expected.

Also a view of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada in the distance.

The hike down was above and within the fog that had continued to advance over the course of the day. Pea soup sometimes, but beautiful all the time. An exceptionally beautiful day.

The slide show (6 MB): Rose peak

Huddart-Purisima fungi

January 3, 2010

I left the car at Huddart park and hiked over the ridge into Purisima. Down the hill to the bottom, back up Harkins ridge trail and over the ridge again, where I returned by way of the Phleger estate.

Beautiful hike, and in December, the fungi are out in their full glory. View the slide show (12 MB): Huddart-Purisima fungi

Pinnacles, San Luis Obispo, Big Sur

January 3, 2010

Thursday, 24 December 2009

We violated our usual arrangment by getting up at the normal hour and having breakfast at home. As a consequence, it was 10AM by the time we left the car at the east parking lot at Pinnacles national monument. A late start, but with temperatures in the low 30s, we maybe wouldn’t have wanted to start a lot earlier.

We walked along the bench trail, possibly the first time we have gone that way, turned toward the west entrance, then veered off on the high peaks trail. Of course, as soon as we got out into the sunlight and started climbing, it warmed up a lot. Stowed jackets and gloves in my backpack and since there wasn’t enough room inside, through its loops. Nice day.

Not only are the pinnacle rocks pretty from a distance –

But they are even prettier close-up:

What a nice day! This is a good place to see over and over again. We again violated our usual convention by turning away from the steep descent of the high peaks trail in favor of the tunnel trail. For once, we had remembered to bring along flashlights, and were hoping to explore the tunnels.

This tunnel trail has only one short tunnel, and you can see through it, so we didn’t need lights. It did drop us down some distance on the west side, and we had to climb back over a shoulder to return to the high peaks trail leading back toward the parking lot. Jacky ran out of calories, but recovered after a break at the crest of the climb.

It was getting late enough in the afternoon that we decided to skip the longer tunnel in Bear gulch. Next time.

Dark by the time we reached San Luis Obispo. Neither of us had thought to bring along information about our hotel, so we stopped at a gas station where Jacky looked it up: the Garden hotel is on Garden street, and Garden street is downtown, teeing south from Higuera.

Paul welcomed us and invited us to Christmas dinner tomorrow. We’ll see. Meantime, even tonight, most places are closed. We browsed through the menus in the living room, noticed Oasis Moroccan restaurant, and went there.

Definitely informal – order at the counter – but friendly and the food was good. Back to the room for a bit of reading before we fell into slumber.

Friday, 25 December

The hotel is really more of a B&B, and they fix good breakfasts, just a little on the skimpy side for hungry hikers, but then….

We thought we’d go to Morro rock and Morro Bay state park. But along the way we passed a sign to El Chorro park, where we’ve never been, so we turned in, just to see what was there.

A golden eagle atop a sycamore, for one thing.

A couple miles of hiking through forest and open country to Eagle rock, for another. Very nice.

And finally, a botanical garden. Very interesting already, and what we see here is but the beginning of the plan they have in place for their ultimate garden. It will be well worth stopping again someday when they have it complete.

Then we drove on to Morro rock, where we enjoyed the contrast between the warmth of the sun and the chill of the breeze. Phoned the Garden hotel to let them know we would accept their invitation; stopped at a tourist trap store to get a small gift to carry in to dinner.

On down the coast a bit to a parking area marked on the map as a blue heron rookery. We saw two big blues on the tidal flats, but no evidence of nesting. February is when all that begins.

There is a natural history museum on the point, closed today. A state park campground where we found washrooms, and then it was time to head back to SLO for Christmas dinner.

Stopped at a pub, one of the few places that was open, for a brew. They were also serving food, but we wouldn’t want to spoil our appetites.

Our host had warned us that they started early, so we were in the living room by 4:30. It was a bit before 5 when they invited us to come sit down. Or well, more precisely to come help ourselves, since it was buffet style. Two kinds of lasagne, ravioli, salad, garlic bread. Really excellent food and company.

Saturday, 26 December

After breakfast today, we drove back to Morro Bay. First stop was a short hike at Los Osos Oaks natural preserve. First time we have been to lots of these places; well worth seeing.

Then on to Morro Bay state park, where we spent the morning hiking Quarry trail to Cerro Cabrillo – the trail was too steep to reach the top, so we contented ourselves by going out to the head at the right of the picture. The projection near the top is called Tiki head, for obvious reasons.

Took Park ridge trail back to the car, which we reached before the rain started. Pretty views of the estuary on the way; we’re told that the Audobon society conducts a migratory bird census here every December, but didn’t see anyone.

It didn’t really rain, not all that much, but it would have been uncomfortable had we not had jackets and such. We stopped at the natural history museum, but didn’t stay long. Not only was geared to kids but it pushed the green agenda well beyond the limits of our tastes.

Back down to the tourist trap part of Morro Bay, where we walked around, found bowls of clam chowder (comfort food on a cold windy rainy day), strolled through a farmers’ market where Jacky bought some strawberries, and checked out a used book store. Saw what might have been an immature black crested night heron, and a pelican that let me get within a few feet before taking off.

Back in SLO, we first went to the Downtown Brewery where we found seats looking out the window and away from the ubiquitous TVs while we enjoyed oatmeal stouts. Then a turn up and down the shopping streets until hunger overtook us – which was pretty soon.

Nova is a good restaurant, and expensive. We didn’t hold back. Korean short ribs as a shared appetizer. I had green Thai curry (scharf); Jacky’s squash curry also had a bite. Macaroons for dessert for her; a cheese and fruit plate for me. And we staggered back to the hotel, yet once again spoiled.

Sunday, 27 December

The forecast said there was a 60% chance of rain today, and the Monterey coast is likely to be wetter than San Luis itself, but we still wanted to go that way. And the day dawned cloudy, but not all that threatening.

We had all day to get home, and stopped at a few places along the coast. First was the elephant seal overlook at San Simeon. Lots of newborns there; we thought we might even see a pup being born, but it didn’t happen, not while we were there watching.

A docent once told us that elephant seals have no maternal instincts whatever, but when the bull (below) came at her pup, this mother warned him off angrily.

Here’s another bull attempting to mount someone who may or may not be much too young; certainly she could be crushed by his weight.

Another bull comes along and challenges the first…

Whereupon the first bull, intimidated, lapses into torpitude – and the newcomer attempts to mount the child himself.

Stopped again at Ragged point, a little oasis of stores and lodging, mostly just for a washroom break, then drove on to Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park. They say this is the home of the only California waterfall that dumps directly into the sea. You can see how this coast gets captured on any number of picture postcards.

Then we stopped at Pfeiffer Big Sur state park, where we hiked to the waterfall. The official waterfall trail, still shown on all the trail maps, no longer exists, but there is an alternate trail that goes up and down the hills, rather than just along the stream.

We then tried for the trail to the Big Sur gorge. But it was getting on into the day, chilly, and we called it quits at a bridge that had washed out, even though there might have been a trail along the shore that went further upstream.

A good mini-vacation, and very nice to be home.