Archive for March, 2013

Sanborn and Castle Rock: newts and scorpions

March 30, 2013

Saturday, 30 March 2013

I have been having some muscle pain that has inhibited running. Left leg, either the soleus or the medial belly of the gastrocnemius, or maybe both. But interestingly enough, I can walk without much pain. So I drove to Saratoga, went halfway up the hill and left the car at Sanborn county park. If I’m sore, I’ll do a short to moderate hike, and if I’m okay, maybe I’ll go check out Travertine springs in Castle Rock state park.

I don’t know exactly how far that would be; at least an industrial grade hike, and if it’s a bit more and becomes a killer hike, well, there is an extra hour of daylight now. As it happened, it was 23 miles, well over 5000 vertical feet. Definitely a killer hike.

Heavy forest, cloudy and chilly, and the newts were out in force. I had to watch where I was stepping to be sure I didn’t squash any of them.

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But newts are a dime a dozen around here. What I’m hoping to find is a scorpion. This is the season, and this is the place. I spent the day pulling up slabs of loose bark from dead trees. Et voila … !

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It has been two or three years since I found a scorpion. I don’t recall why the dearth; maybe I just didn’t get up into this area during the right season.

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This one is a juvenile, about 1 cm long, not counting the tail. Very little pigmentation as yet; you can see its alimentary canal.

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All told, I saw four scorpions, although I only got photos of these two. But under slabs of bark, we find more than scorpions. I have a mental image of something large, red, blue, white, gyrating violently and vanishing under the log, before I could even get a good look at it, much less bring the camera to bear. A snake, I think, but I’m not sure. Too bad it wouldn’t pose for a photo.

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Centipedes usually scurry away too fast for photos, too, but I did pretty well today.

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It’s not impossible that these are juveniles and will all grow up to be big and red like the one above, but my bet is that we have at least two and possibly three different centipede species here.

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As we gain elevation, we start seeing the exposed rock. The soft colours are beautiful; I cannot but think these would make wonderful bases for fabric designs or wall hangings.

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All this is before we reach the top (well, the baby scorpion was on the west side, but I grouped it with the first one). I met no one in Sanborn park, but Castle Rock is far more popular, and although the trees were raining a little, the day was clearing up. So there were quite a few people around.

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This is rock climber paradise. Everything from serious climbers down to girlfriends who just came along so they could climb onto something hard. The shots below would suggest a fairly serious climber.

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I think this is the one they call goat rock.

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The tree is determined to grow here, regardless of having to carry around a couple tons of rock.

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The formations are wonderful, and make the site a real attraction, even for non-climbers such as I.

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Here’s how it looks from some distance away, as I hiked around the San Lorenzo basin toward Travertine springs.

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Twice today, I surprised pairs of deer — well, one of those times, the pair of deer surprised me! large animals bursting out of the bush right in front of me — be still, my beating heart! What I was going to say was that, in both cases, the deer ran off in different directions after the encounter. It seems doubtful they have a way of hooking up with each other again, which leads me to conject that the social groupings of deer are random, rather than continuing associations with friends.

The name Travertine springs suggests a picturesque cliff of clean and well-cleaved rock, but what it actually is, is an overgrown marsh of horsetail ferns. Now, horsetails are attractive enough in their own right, but it is always a disappointment to go past the springs and see nary an interesting rock.

It was already mid-afternoon, and I realized that I needed to get moving if I was to get back to the car by nightfall. Took the Saratoga toll road trail to Saratoga gap, then Skyline trail back to Sanborn trail and down. It was getting quite chilly, windy, dark; the rain had begun, and I scurried along as fast as I could, still carefully watching to avoid stepping on the newts, which were even more numerous as the day waned.

Another really good day.

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Windy Hill, twice

March 24, 2013

Sunday, 24 March 2013

I have been taking it easy due to some knee pain (fibular collateral ligament, and thanks for asking). I know from experience that doing too much, too soon, is a bad idea. But it’s almost not hurting at all, so maybe I’m okay.

I didn’t want to invest a lot in driving to a trailhead, in case I needed to cut the hike short, so I just went to Windy Hill. I can do a short loop, or a long loop, and if I feel good, I can even do it twice. Which I did, 15 miles, 3200 vertical feet. Nice day.

The most interesting animal sighting of the day was a coyote, which was loping across the road as I approached the turnoff into the parking area. Rabbits, deer, banana slugs, lizards, nothing I particularly wanted to take pictures of.

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(I have to admit, this one would have won the animal of the day award, had I encountered it on the trail.)

The world has turned green, and the wildflowers are coming out. But the more interesting vegetation of the season is in town.

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I have no idea what these are, but they sure are interesting, as they start in tight, fuzzy curls that unfold into stalks.

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The flowers of spring are worth a look.

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As to small animals, I poked around in the duff and got a pillbug to ball up for me.

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I waited quietly, camera poised, and sure enough, after a minute or so, it decided the coast was clear.

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It ended up on its back, but quickly righted itself and took off to continue doing whatever it had been doing before it was so rudely interrupted.

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This guy (below) is impossibly small, but you will notice that there is a second one, even smaller behind the “big” one.

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Look delicious, don’t they! So we find a full array of spiders hoping for lunch.

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Snowing mud

March 20, 2013

The air quality in Beijing is well-known to be absolutely abhorrent. Today, my Beijing friend Xu tells me that a late-season snowfall yesterday produced not snow, but mud.

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At least, the early snow washed some of the garbage out of the air, and the rest of the overnight accumulation is beautiful against a blue sky. Thank you, Xu, for the photo.

Tall ships, Foothills park

March 16, 2013

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Jacky and Treena and I visited the tall ships that are on display at the port of Redwood City.

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Admission is “free” but they request a $3 donation. Not a problem. We can manage that.

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It’s a popular sight from the boaters’ viewpoint, as well. Not only kayaks, but several other small craft were around, enjoying the unusual sight.

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Certain parts of the ships were off limits, but mostly, we were free to wander around and explore. Lots of kids, of course.

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I asked about the fuzzballs. The sail unfurls between the two ropes, and the fuzzballs are to prevent chafing. They are made from untwined rope strands. There is a word to name them, but I’m afraid I lost it.

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Sailing ships they are, but not absolutely at the mercy of the winds.

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Treena is into letterboxing, which is a hobby or game that follows clues to seek out hidden boxes containing rubber stamps. We sought out and found one at the nearby Discovery site. Cool.

After dropping Treena off, Jacky and I went to Palo Alto Foothills park, up the hill a ways. A 5 mile hike with about 900 feet of gain was just right for a pleasant cool sunny afternoon.

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We even found a few small animals.

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Maples, I think, getting started with unexpected and interesting little structures.

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And it is indeed becoming wildflower season. We even saw the first California poppies of the season.

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Orlando, and home

March 15, 2013

Friday, 15 March 2013

Home again, home again. Orlando was okay, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Lots of people would disagree.

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By dint of searching a little, I actually did find a few small animals to photograph, starting with a tiny insect on a leaf of the hedge outside the conference center.

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I stood patiently, hoping to see something more, and spotted another insect. On the camera’s small preview screen, it wasn’t clear what we were seeing, but on the big screen, it’s clear that this is predation, not sex.

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I stood perfectly still, moving nothing but my eyes, and suddenly — schloop! — out onto the top of the hedge, a face appeared!

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There were actually two, at least two, geckos in the hedge right here.

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I suspect that the ubiquitous gecko is responsible for the dearth of insects.

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Some of the conferees said they had seen an armadillo. That would be a small animal worth a photo! Someone commented that the armadillo’s evolution has trailed behind the contemporary environment: when confronted with an emergency, the armadillo tends to jump straight up — which puts it just about at grille level!

Others saw wild turkeys, right at the conference center. I saw a pair myself, on a subsequent morning, but didn’t try to photograph them.

As a change of pace, a sample of the art on the walls of the conference center. It looks like tapestry, but on careful inspection, we see that it is really water color. Nice.

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And after a few restaurants, I returned to Landry’s seafood restaurant, next door to the hotel, because they have good beer! Here we see sediment swirling and settling into the brew.

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Friday was for another long day, flying home. Not as long as my next trip, though: to Aachen.

Orlando

March 10, 2013

Saturday, 9 March 2013

I had an early flight out of San Jose. Early means 6:30 takeoff, due to a noise-abatement curfew. We sat at the end of the taxiway until 6:29:30, then rolled into position and headed for Houston, where I changed to an Orlando flight that was chock full of children on their way to see Disney.

Took the Mears shuttle to my hotel, the Holiday Inn Lake Buena Vista. Mine was the last stop of several, which was a little annoying, but I did get the scenic tour through Disney world. Not my cup of tea, but I suppose they make a bundle of money from those whose teacups are filled thereby.

After dark by the time I checked in, so I just went next door to the steakhouse.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

The hotel’s restaurant, Applebee’s, opens at 7. Allegedly. The clocks changed to daylight time overnight, and although the doors were unlocked at 7, the employees were drifting in for the first hour. The manager should certainly have reminded the staff of the time change!

Slurbs here, wide roads with heavy traffic and endlessly long lights. Poor land, sandy, pine forests with palmetto. The maps show a lot of lakes, but they are either mudholes or surrounded by private property or both, and don’t offer the parkland I might have hoped for. So I went running along Vineland, to International, and down to World Center drive, where I stopped at the Caribe Royal hotel, the venue of the upcoming IETF meeting. Wandered through quickly, but didn’t see anyone  I knew, so I ran the rest of the circuit back to the hotel, about 5.6 miles total, according to Google maps.

Although I had taken the camera with me on the run, I didn’t take any pictures. Had I been walking, I might have spotted some small animals. Maybe next time.