Archive for November, 2012

Santa Cruz

November 24, 2012

Friday evening: a wolf spider was kind enough to come and pose in the middle of the breakfast room floor. Thank you, little friend!

Saturday, 24 November

We drove over the hill to Santa Cruz. Haven’t been there for quite a while, and it’s a pleasant place to spend a day. We left the car in the usual place near Mission Plaza. The first interesting thing we saw was the dew on the flowers.

We walked down into the town. It was early enough that nothing but the breakfast restaurants were open as yet, and chilly enough that we stayed on the sunny side of the street. Eventually we ended up on the wharf. Walked out to the end, had a look at the sea lions, then walked north along the shore.

Geneva has statues of heroic figures, but they are clearly giving their all to inspire the collective. Socialist realism, pure propaganda, absolutely off-putting. If we are to have heroic figures, my preference is for a surfer dude.

This is the surfing museum.

Further up the coast, we find the first of the natural bridges and a beach that caters for dogs; the dogs were having at least as much fun as the people.

Looking back toward the surfing museum / lighthouse, and that same natural bridge, from the other side.

Lots of very nice houses overlooking the ocean, and lots of people (and others) enjoying their good fortune.

Another natural bridge. Birds like to nest on islands as protection against land-borne predators.

Pelicans and cormorants, maybe a seagull or two.

We walked inland to find a way back into the town. Here’s evidence of the salt fog and drizzle that characterize many days here.

Had lunch at a place called the Parish Pub, which advertised a much larger selection of beers than they actually had in stock. But we did okay. No complaints. Then we walked back downtown and strolled along enjoying the crowds, stores with their wares out on the street, street musicians, bums.

One of the bums was making a sign explaining that he had come all the way from New York to get marijuana for his brain tumor, and he was now broke and homeless and donations would be appreciated. We chatted with him, but of course did not give him anything.

This could be a street in any number of European towns. Very nice.

Back to the park, where we napped briefly on the lawn and then headed for home. A nice day, a good thing to do.

The only people in Palo Alto to see a harvestman on Thanksgiving

November 23, 2012

Thursday, Thanksgiving day

The weather is supposed to be nice through the long holiday weekend. I started out with a short run, followed by lunch with the aged aunt. We went to Flames coffee shop, where the closest we got to a turkey was the soup that came with my chicken souvlaki plate. A good time was had by all.

In the afternoon, Jacky and I wandered out to enjoy the day. Beautiful fall colours!

Jacky’s brother Roy sends her a flower of the week photo. I figure this is one she could send back to him!

We went to the Gamble house and garden, where I kept an eye out for small animals. It really isn’t the season to find very many small animals, but I spotted one of my favourites! — a harvestman! Cool!

Friday, 23 November

Happy birthday, Marian.

I went to Wunderlich park with the idea of crossing Skyline and extending the hike down the other side in Corte de Madera open space. But the trail into Corte de Madera was closed for rebuilding. The sign says there will be an access road and a parking area, which will indeed be an improvement.

So I hiked the trail along Skyline to Huddart park instead. I turned back not long after noon, a little bit short of Huddart: I didn’t recall what time sunset was, and did not want to be benighted out here. Back to the parking lot at 4, getting chilly, but not yet dark. 20.5 miles, 3500 vertical feet.

Here is a wet-season small animal! These tiny salamanders are found under loose bark. Their legs are so small that people frequently mistake them for tiny snakes. Fortunately (from the photographer’s point of view), they tend to freeze when threatened, rather than scrambling away. The same habitat caters for red centipedes, but they don’t stay around to have their pictures taken!

Redwoods and rain

November 18, 2012

Saturday was rainy. I drove to Purisima creek redwoods open space preserve, which was foggy as well as rainy. Steady rain throughout my hike. Whenever a bit of wind stirred the trees, the trees shed their accumulated load of water, so it was at least as wet in the forest as in the open.

A foggy redwood forest is a beautiful place. And as they say, there is no such thing as bad weather, merely inadequate clothing. I had the world to myself until about fifteen minutes before I got back to the parking lot.

It was the first time this season to see the newts out on the trail. Of the ten I saw, half were scrambling away at full speed. (Full speed would be on the order of 10 cm/sec.) The others froze, hoping to be invisible. One of the scramblers probably started as a freezer, but changed tactics when its onboard ballistic computer indicated a high probability of being stepped on. Given the motion preference of my visual filter, I imagine I passed by a lot more freezers that I didn’t notice.

A nice day. By the time I got drove back down into the valley, the sun was even peeking through. Not a long hike, just a pleasant one. Ten miles.

Sunday started cloudy, but also showed signs of improving. I ran to the baylands, around the levee loop, back through the town. It turned out to be just over ten miles again, which is further than I have run at one time for many years. Really nice to have the ankle back in working order! I don’t know whether I aspire to work up to a marathon, but a half-marathon is clearly attainable.

It is certainly the prettiest time of year here in town.

These are all imports — the native vegetation is not colourful. A reminder of how the opponents of global eclecticism impoverish their lives.

First 100km ride on the new bike

November 11, 2012

Saturday, 10 November 2012

I had a few things to do today, so I didn’t go for an all-day outing. It was around noon when I went out wandering, hoping to find something interesting to photograph.

After a few minutes at the Elizabeth Gamble gardens, I meandered over to Stanford, which was having a football game. Crowds everywhere near the stadium, the eucalyptus forest a parking lot for the day (at $15!).

In the center of the academic areas was a crowd of young people, very dressed up, all wearing name tags. Maybe on a campus visit, hoping to attend Stanford next year? At Memorial church was the usual weekend collection of brides with their maids and their photographers.


I went on over to the succulent garden, which is not as colourful at this season as at some other times, but still… not bad.

Notice (above) the nubs of two more flowers, one well visible at the lower right, the other just a point below the two red thorns.

Sunday, 11 November

Because of the Achilles trouble, I had not done a 100 km ride for several years. And my new bike has closer ratios, which means it won’t be as good on steep uphills. But… the Calaveras loop is a fairly easy 100k, less than 2 000 feet of climb.

It was about 36F on a cold, clear, beautiful morning when I bundled up in all my winter cycling gear and headed out. I have not ridden this route for so long that I thought I might have trouble remembering my way through Newark and Fremont — but the hindbrain (or something) remembers. Stopped at Ardenwood farm to shed the winter gloves, earband and outermost layer of jacket.

I think I might do better with electrolye replacement, rather than just water. On a recent hike, I took along a quart of Gatorade. Today I had a bottle of stuff from GNC. I discovered when I read the label that the GNC drink had only 5 calories! I had been thinking something like the 200 from the bottle of Gatorade.

I had only put about 200 calories worth of munchies in my rackpack. Fortunately, there is a mini-mart at Sunol junction, where I was able to tank up with a sweet roll and a package of peanuts. Much better.

I only needed to use the small chainring when the road started climbing as it passed the turnoff to Sunol regional park, and then it’s a steady grunt to the top, where I stopped for views of the Calaveras dam reconstruction.

The water level has been low for years, and I had always thought it was because of inadequate rains. The story turns out to be that the old dam was seismically unsafe. With the new dam, they will be able to store a lot more water in the lake.

I see the work in progress from the distance of the hills in Sunol park, but I haven’t been along here to see the details. Very quiet — I’m glad it’s not a weekday.

Big project.

I don’t  know a good way to take Calaveras through Milpitas, so I turned over to Yosemite Avenue, which gets across I-680 to Milpitas Boulevard, thence Montague Expressway to the Great Mall of the Bay Area (!), which gets me across I-880 and into the neighborhood of the Ericsson offices. I know my way home from there.

Stopped in Sunnyvale Baylands park to soak up the rest of my calories and much of the GNC funny water. 100k is not a particularly long or dramatic ride, but it’s nice to be able to do it. No ankle pain, just tired muscles.

Mission Peak, Sunol Flag hill

November 3, 2012

First, a note on yesterday’s blog. Our redwood deck has a significant amount of space under the floor. For a while, raccoons thought it would be a good place to live, until I put chicken wire around the periphery. For the last year or so, it has been home to an alligator lizard (below, photo from last May).

We have always had a lot of small spiders in, on, under and around the deck. Until the alligator lizard came along. Then there were no spiders (burp!).

But I haven’t seen the lizard since last spring, probably about the time I took this picture. And the spiders are back!

Lizards have to eat, too, but it’s nice to have spiders.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

If I go to the Stanford avenue entrance to Mission Peak well before sunrise, maybe I will even be able to park in the lot, rather than down on the street below. So I thought. Wrong! The sky was only just beginning to show a bit of light in the east, and I had to park as far away from the trailhead as I ever have before. People like to do this in the dark!

And indeed, I saw a number of lights from flashlights carried by hikers on the way up. I guess they like to be at the top when the sun comes up.

As for me, I relied on the fact that the first part of the route is fire road, so I don’t need to see anything in detail. After half an hour, there was enough light to see color — we had our first rain of the season last week, and the grass is already green! — and take off my padded vest, having climbed several hundred feet and warmed up.

I was almost at the top when the sun finally rose. A pretty view over the Sunol valley to the north and east; I believe I have never before seen it fogged in. Mt Diablo to the right.

As I crossed the shoulder and started down the other side, I saw a coyote. We looked each other over and went our separate ways. Thirty seconds later, another coyote. Mom and pop? And then yet another. I hope they’re well fed on rabbit and wild turkey — dealing with three at once — oop! make that four! — would be quite a challenge.

These coyotes probably don’t have direct experience, but maybe they bring in guest speaker coyotes from Nevada or Wyoming, speakers who tell them tales about rifles.

Lots of dew in the early morning. It promises to be a wonderful day.

I noticed a rock made of fragmented seashells and had a minor epiphany: I bet shell and shale are derived from the same root word!

Well, the hike to Sunol is an industrial grade trek, but it’s not a killer hike. 15 miles or thereabouts. But I was early, it was a nice day, and well, why not! So I went on up to the top of Flag Hill (below). It adds a few miles and a thousand feet of climb (total: 19 miles, 4900 vertical feet).

At their request, I had photographed a group of half a dozen other hikers here. They enjoyed the hilltop while I went on down.

And what should I discover on the trail, but possibly the last tarantula of the season! Great!

Sunol park was celebrating its 50th birthday, and the visitor center area was full of rangers, docents, pavilions and exhibits. Not that many participants: maybe the real events happen this afternoon. I wandered around, refilled the water bottle, soaked up a few calories and went on.

As I neared the bottom on the Mission Peak side, I was behind Mom and four-year-old daughter, and Dad and six-year-old son were behind me. I stepped carefully across the rails of the cattle gate, and the son remarked, “You know, you can walk at the edge.”

I turned and said, “Sometimes we choose not to do things the easiest way. It’s more of a challenge.” So the boy came up and walked with me. Quite a conversation, about running on the downhills, about my GPS receiver, and then on into skiing, skateboards, snowboards and that was only the limit because we reached the parking lot and had to say our good-byes.

What a terrific day!

A wolf in the back yard!

November 2, 2012

I stepped out onto the back deck to enjoy the autumn sun, and noticed a spider. Well, of course I took a closer look. A wolf spider, complete with the 747-style upper deck that includes side (and maybe rear) windows!

Not very big, nowhere near as big as they sometimes get. This one could run around on a dime. But she was carrying a dozen or so eggs, that were just in the process of hatching out.

Not far away, I found another spider, this one really small, enjoying lunch.