Archive for October, 2012


October 28, 2012

Yielding to the continued insistence of her son, the aged aunt finally moved into an assisted living home in San Jose. We met her for dinner last week. The place is a block away from Santana Row, just across from Winchester Mystery house. Medium rise, with its own restaurant that knows how to cater for the elderly and infirm.

The aged aunt no longer even bothers with her hearing aids, which is less of a problem than it seems, because she is more interested in talking than listening anyway. Taking a cue from the life of Beethoven, Jacky always takes along a pad of paper and a pencil so she can conduct something like her half of a conversation. It’s better than nothing.

Let’s discuss events somewhat out of order:

After we ate, we went up to see her apartment. She has not been there all that long, but it bore an uncanny resemblance to the previous apartment, the one she vacated to come here: overstuffed with clutter, completely disorganized, dark and not very clean. Smaller than her old apartment, but otherwise indistinguishable.

Which made it doubly interesting that she had commented during dinner that she was determined to resist temptation and be good. She reasons that, if she behaves herself for a while longer, maybe they will let her go home! Sad that she thinks of it as a prison.

The staff were very nice. All of the restaurant people were overweight (sign of a good cook?), including the cook herself, who came around to talk with everyone.

The kitchen staff may have been well fed, but the meal I ordered was distinctly on the short side. I learned later that my cousin Jan had ordered two meals; it looked like just about the right amount. So after we said our good-byes, we walked a block down the street to the Subway sandwich shop, where I added on a six-inch Subway sandwich to make up for the deficit.

Montebello and Saratoga gap

October 20, 2012

First, a few small animals from the back yard.

These two (above and below) may be different developmental stages of the same species. The adult was pretty good at simulating a leaf moving in the breeze; I only spotted it because the tree trunk isn’t really festooned with leaves. The young one above was so small it was almost invisible.

The male garden spider outside the kitchen window caught a bee or a wasp.

We move around to get a head view, but there really isn’t much to see.

No idea what this one was. It bears some resemblance to a ladybird larva, but I don’t think that’s right.

Saturday, 20 October

Up early, drove to the Montebello open space preserve at the top of Page Mill road. As usual, I got there before the gates were unlocked, so I parked on the road. Not a problem. On the trail by 7:20 for a hike on a cool, pleasant day of 20 miles, 3700 vertical feet.

In the cool, quiet of the dawn, a coyote trotted along the trail a couple hundred feet ahead. It eventually turned off, but came out on the Canyon trail fire road just ahead of me. It stopped in the middle of the trail, thinking, “Well, what shall I do today?” A deer stood further back, watching the both of us. Neither the deer nor the coyote seemed particularly excited about the other — they both know the coyote stands no chance of being able to run down a healthy young deer.

With the exception of poison oak, the native vegetation is not very colourful in autumn. On the basis of these two photos, one might forgive my colleague Mike G for not recognizing poison oak in its ground cover form — to his regret!

I got to Saratoga summit about 11. A handful of Christian motorcyclists there (well, why not!) offering water to hikers and cyclists passing through. I refilled my water bottle, with thanks. They didn’t try to convert me, and thanks for that, too.

Much of the area was fogged in until afternoon. Some nice views to the west from Skyline ridge.

Where the little bridge crosses Peters creek, leaves floating in the water.

Just beyond, a two-point buck supervising a flock of half a dozen wild turkeys.

And a final calorie break sitting on the bench at Horseshoe lake, one of the more romantic places I know. Then back to Montebello, where I arrived about 3:15.

This is perhaps the easiest of my standard killer hikes, so I wore trail shoes instead of hiking boots and pushed the pace a bit. As a result, I found my calf muscles cramping up after I got home. As they say, no pain, no gain. Good day.

Killer hikes and pumpkins

October 14, 2012

Saturday, 13 October 2013

The Half Moon Bay art and pumpkin festival is this weekend. We haven’t been to that for donkey’s years… by the time we got started, there was already something of a backup in the traffic on highway 92. The locals were charging $10 (and up) for parking, but we went on down behind the shopping centre to the park and ride area, no charge, almost deserted.

Wall to wall people! This is something to do once in a donkey’s years, and in between, go somewhere quiet. But we walked the six or eight blocks of displays and vendors. Some nice art, but we’re cheapskates. The nicest thing was the free glass of water from the local filtration plant. This year’s massive-est pumpkin came in at 1770+ pounds. I remember when the world’s largest pumpkin was less than half that weight! All that mass is mostly water, of course, but the pumpkin is big enough to fit a person into, maybe two persons if they were good friends.

Sunday, 14 October

I don’t like crowds, but the world is far better shared with a friend. My hiking buddies have included Shan, Jie Hyun, Albert, Elmar, Jaume, Doris, Anna and of course Jacky, but I don’t have a regular hiking buddy for here at home. When I’m doing it alone, I might as well do a killer hike. The last time I did Grant Ranch was June 2… I’ll try it again. My route is from a roadhead at the old barn around the outermost loop of trails in the park, 21.2 miles and about 4400 vertical feet of climb.

The sun had just topped the mountains when I started. The first mile descends to a creek bed (dry at this time of year), after which the trail gains 1500 feet in two additional miles. I like getting this grunt out of the way early, while the day is still cool; it warms me up and avoids the knee-breaking downhill that would be necessary if I went the other way around.

We tend not to have that much colour in the foliage around here, but autumn does have its special points.

Even the poison oak is attractive (look but don’t touch!).

The sun had not completely illuminated the world…

From the top of the climb. The barn at the far right, Grant Lake at the far left. We hike along this ridge, which more or less curves around to the left, then descend into the valley, climb out the other side and close the loop along the ridge on the far side.

In the valley below the Pala Seca cabin, I came upon half a dozen wild pigs grazing for acorns under an oak tree. They didn’t see me for a minute, and I shot a few pictures before they ran off.

These are the most dangerous wild animals around. They are large, intelligent, fast and vicious. I don’t know whether they are intelligent enough to understand the concept of roast pork, but they run from humans, and I’m glad they do. I wouldn’t want to surprise one in tight quarters.

I met one mountain bikie, and one dog walker near the Twin Gates parking area where I crossed the road, and that was it for the entire day. How different from the mobs at the pumpkin festival!

Well, it gets to be a long hard day, hot on the uphills, pleasantly cool when the breeze blows. This time, I brought enough water! And about 4:30 in the afternoon, I got a look at the barn from the other side.

The morning’s hike was approximately along those grassy ridges, left to right. Lick Observatory high above it all. Nice place, but the rains of winter will be welcome.

Rose peak

October 7, 2012

We start with two pictures of the garden spider outside the kitchen window. Very colorful, but as we see in the second picture, he (definitely a he!) is a shameless exhibitionist!

We’re shocked! shocked! or well, I suppose we ought to be.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

I spent most of today buying a Kia Soul+. How long does it take to buy a car? Longer than you would think… I did get a loaner from the dealer and disappeared for a few hours to get a new battery for my watch, and get a computer for my new bicycle. But if I had intended to do anything else today, well, it didn’t happen.

Nice car. The first automatic transmission I have ever owned. Six speeds, better gas mileage than the manual, which is not available on this particular model.

Sunday, 7 October

No exercise yesterday, so I’ll do the Rose Peak killer hike that I deferred last weekend because of hundred-degree temperatures in the east bay. I haven’t been here since May, and I had remembered that the gates didn’t open at a reasonable hour. So I got there a few minutes after 7, and the gates only open at 8.


Drove up Welch Creek road, which I also remember as suboptimal. Yes, well, it’s one lane (if you like narrow lanes) and mostly blind. Not a good choice. But I parked at the lower Eagle View trailhead, and was on the trail by about 7:40.

The commercials always feature their car in some exotic adventure locale. Well, why not? Here’s the clean and shiny new Kia, looking better than it ever will again, high above Sunol.

An hour later, along Cerro Este road:

She was out of her den, sunning herself. “Please god, send me a horny male,” she thought. And the next thing she knew, there was Dave, taking pictures and being a general nuisance.

She retreated into her burrow. “Clarification: please god, send me a horny male tarantula.”

A sexy rear-view shot. Tarantulas rub hairs off their abdomens in defence. The little clouds of hairs cause distress in the nasal passages or eyes of predators. She has a fairly bare rump. I wonder if this is how she fights off horny males of the wrong species.

Today’s only other interesting small animal was a beautiful gopher snake.

Dry grass, not a whole lot of animal life. When I was last in the east bay, in early or mid September, there were only one or two early calves among the free-range cattle. Today, almost every cow has a calf, and the calves are old enough that the cows are beginning to lose their agressive protectiveness.

When I came over a little rise, three turkey vultures flew up and started circling. Circling me! Ha! Optimists.

But after a while, I saw a dead cow, and it was upwind. Fortunately the trail turned off a hundred meters away, so it was only mildly unpleasant, instead of revolting.

The scream!

There is a section of trail that runs along the clifftop, and it slopes outward. Nothing below the trail but low bush, probably enough to catch a hiker who slipped, but I can certainly imagine a horse sliding on over the edge, and maybe a bike, too. Part of this trail is loose, steep and narrow, and is bordered with poison oak. Not really the best place to hike.

This is the first time I have done Rose Peak from the top of Welch Creek road. I had originally thought it would be substantially less work than the usual route from Sunol park headquarters. When I got back to the car, I was dragging my butt, and thought I was more out of shape than usual. But the GPS tells me it was 19.7 miles, while the normal route is only a shade more than 19 miles, and both routes include 5 000 feet of vertical gain.

A good day. Home for a shower, after which Jacky and I drove the new car to Menlo Park and wandered around looking for a restaurant. Found a Polish place on a side street, pretty good.

Some of us are seriously spoiled!

Redwoods: Slate creek, Bear creek, Peters creek

October 1, 2012

Sunday, 30 September 2012

I had originally intended to do the Rose Peak killer hike today, but the predictions are for possible record-breaking temperatures, over 100F, especially inland. Maybe I’ll save Rose Peak for a cooler day. It will be hot in the redwoods, but maybe not that hot.

I haven’t hiked the Peters creek loop in Portola Redwoods state park for quite a while. I remember it as a difficult hike; I can turn it into a killer hike by leaving the car at Saratoga gap, adding 3 or 4 miles to the distance. 7:40 by the time I was on the trail, and already warm. I’m drinking water even on the downhills: it’s going to be a dry day!

The upper reaches are open space preserve, and accessible to mountain bikes. After leaving that section, I saw only two other people all day.

And not a whole lot in the small animals department, either. The upper regions are open grassland, but there were no tarantulas in evidence. Further down, the day started with a beautiful garter snake, and by being careful, I was able to actually get very close for a few candid shots, before it decided it had better things to do than pose for pictures.

I’m outta here!

Not long after, I found a spider.

And then it was into the redwoods, where there’s not much to find but banana slugs, and in dry weather, not even many of those. Slate creek was cool and pleasant, as always, and I stopped at the Page Mill site for munchies. Then on over a low ridge (600 feet of climb) to the steep 900 foot descent into the conjunction of Bear creek and Peters creek, where a short loop goes around some of the prettiest scenery I know of anywhere. I spent an hour dawdling around this little loop, seeking out photo ops of interesting or beautiful things (not mutually exclusive).

Fungus on the vertical surface of a fallen tree. Interesting or beautiful?

Moving on into the more conventional scenery…

The ubiquitous oxalis gives the landscape a shingled or mosaic look, depending on perspective. Very attractive!

On the sandy beach by the creek, a butterfly nozzling up a drink of water.

Compare the iridescent colours of the two photos, taken from slightly different angles.

By the time I reached Slate creek again, I was ready to refill my belt water bottles from the backup bottle I had in my backpack, and it was clear that it was not going to be enough. Once I got away from the creek, the air was hot, and I was committed to something like 1500 feet of elevation gain.

The forest was at least shady. When I came out of the trees, the direct sun was even hotter, but there was an occasional light breeze, and that helped. Heavy breathing through my mouth tends to dry out mouth and throat, and I rationed the water I had to keep them wet. Drained the last of the water just as I reached the parking lot about 5 PM, but probably dehydrated by as much as a quart. 20.8 miles, 4300 feet of climb for the day. Nice.