Sanborn and Castle Rock: newts and scorpions

by

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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