Archive for August, 2011


August 27, 2011

Saturday, 27 August, 2011

Hiking 20 miles is a way to get sore feet, and maybe not a whole lot more. The benefit in cardiovascular fitness and weight control comes from adding the 4000+ feet of vertical gain that characterized today’s killer hike, up the ridge from the bay side, down the ocean side and back.

I left the car halfway up King’s Mountain road, in the usual spot, in the middle of the fog zone. As usual, I hiked down through Huddart park to the Phleger estate. I took the Raymundo trail just to add a little distance to the hike, and climbed out to Skyline.

Purisima redwoods open space preserve lies across Skyline. Most places were sunny now, but there was still fog over the ocean and inland some distance. By afternoon, maybe (or maybe not) all the fog will have burned off.

I don’t take the upper Purisima trail (fire road) all that often. Turned off at the Craig Britton trail, hiked over to Harkins ridge and down. First wildlife of the day was a pair of banana slugs making mad, passionate love.

At the bottom of the trail, we come right down along the creek, which runs year-round. Very pretty. There was a log fallen across the creek, with a fairly deep pond just downstream, and in the pond, crayfish!

I bet not one visitor in a thousand knows there are crayfish in this creek!

And a very pretty butterfly, willing to wait motionless while I photographed him.

A nice day indeed, but it was starting to become work by the time I got back up to Skyline. Crossed the road to Skyline trail, which I took to Chinquapin trail and back down.

Spoiled again!

Kudos to PAMF

August 27, 2011

After writing up the disastrous experiences of a friend at Stanford’s allegedly world-class medical center, it is a great pleasure to describe my own experience at Palo Alto medical foundation. I needed a 30,000 mile checkup, the sort of thing that involves a surgeon and anesthesia.

First, I stopped at the lab for a blood test (I passed), then I walked into the family practice group for a vaccination that was due. No problem. Off to the surgecenter, where I met several very nice people. Nice is nice, of course, but that’s not what impressed me most.

Three or four times I was asked (nicely) to confirm my name and date of birth, to help them make sure that I hadn’t been slotted into the wrong place. After changing into a nothing, I was offered reading material while I waited, but this checkup is no big deal: I told myself I had lucked out and gotten a flat bed on an international flight, and zonk! right out!

The surgeon apologized for waking me when he came in to chat, to make sure I was comfortable with what was going to happen. They wheeled me into the service bay, joking about my name (they thought it sounded like a movie title; I supplied the likelihood that it would be a midnight horror movie). Then they wanted me to state the purpose of my visit, again checking that everything was aligned. I told them that if they did heart surgery on me, that would be the wrong thing!

The anesthesia was said to leave me semi-conscious, but to remove all memory of the experience. The last thing I remember is the conscious decision to remember what was going on during the procedure. Next thing I recall is fragments of being walked out with Jacky to the car.

And in the morning, they called me to make sure there were no complications or questions.

Best practices, indeed. Good people to do business with, and as expected, the checkup says I’m good for at least another 30,000 miles.

Grant ranch

August 21, 2011

Saturday was for a short hike at Windy Hill. Nothing special except that I came upon a tiny garter snake, longer than a pencil but smaller in diameter. It was lying motionless across the trail. To see whether it was alive, I nudged its tail, and had time to think, “Too bad, it’s dead,” before it reloaded its cached state from disk and vanished into the grass.

Sunday seemed like a good day for a longer hike. I hadn’t been to Grant ranch for a while. It was foggy and chilly when I left the car at Grant lake.

But before I reached the crest of the first trail, I had climbed out into the sun. Very pretty.

I went past the Pala Seca cabin, then south, eventually to cross Mt Hamilton road and take Bonhoff trail (I can never believe the spelling of that name), where I stopped for calories at the little sometime stream that crosses the trail. Not much water left, the only pond maybe a foot in diameter, along with some seepage here and there. Still enough for a few water striders and underwater beetles and snails. I guess that’s the only wildlife I’ll see today.

Eagle lake (below) is a beautiful oasis off in the corner of the park. It’s interesting how the shallows support different vegetation, from tall reeds in standing water, to heavy grasses, to the blue wildflowers, fringed by a row of white daisies, and then tapering off into the dry brown grass of summer.

It is starting to feel like autumn. Some of the trees and bushes have started turning yellow, and much of the poison oak is going red. I suppose we’ll start seeing tarantulas before long, presumably as soon as the tarantula hawks go away for the season. (An early tarantula is unlikely to pass along his DNA.)

Portola Redwoods state park

August 14, 2011

2011 August 14, Saturday

Last weekend’s hike was sunny, dry, hot and open, from Sunol to Rose Peak. Time for a hike in the forest. And what forest more beautiful than the redwoods at Portola RW state park! Left the car on Skyline, the first stop north of the forestry fire station, and hiked down Hickory Oaks trail and Ward road. I always do it this way: it’s more work and less driving than just going to the state park directly. (17.4 miles, 4040 vertical feet)

The real redwood forest begins about the time we cross Slate creek. At times, I have contented myself with the old Page Mill site as a destination, but it only took two hours to get there, and it was a nice day for a walk. Went on out Bear creek trail to the Peters creek loop, a really nice little excursion. Lots of poison oak, but I think (I hope) I was able to circumvent all of it. Steep downhill, about five hundred feet, into the Peters creek watershed.

The ubiquitous oxalis gives the landscape a textured look.

At this time of year, the creek is easy to cross. At the bottom of one of the quiet pools, I found a newt, just hanging out, keeping cool.

And one lily. Very nice indeed.

When I stopped for calories, I noticed a little guy on a nearby fern. At first glance, a spider, but on second glance, it didn’t quite look like a spider. Sure enough, a harvestman. I didn’t actually know they existed around here, so this counts as a major discovery in my wildlife log!

— Dave