Archive for August, 2013

Grant Ranch — Are we there yet?

August 25, 2013

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Mid-Peninsula Open Space District had its annual volunteer appreciation fest today. Jacky and I drove to Montebello open space preserve, where there was a considerably larger than expected crowd of volunteers and staff. There were two ranger-led hikes; we went on the Los Trancos hike, a little over 3 miles. Then we stopped at the food wagons, where Jacky restrained herself to one entree. I also had one entree, one, that is, from each of the three food wagons. Plus, for both of us, a stop at the ice cream truck.

Sunday, 25 August

Grant Ranch today. I haven’t been here for a while, and the temperature is predicted to be only in the low 80s, so it shouldn’t be too bad. I parked at my usual spot, on Mt Hamilton road near the old barn on the Washburn road trail.

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Nice to see wildflowers, even this late in the season, some of them really pretty.

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The trail descends to cross a creek, dry at this time of year, then cilmbs out the other side. As a vague general rule, when you see mostly blue sky beyond the trail horizon, you can conclude that you’re getting close to the top.

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We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!

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We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!

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We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!

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We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!

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We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!

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We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!

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We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!

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We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!

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We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!

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We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!

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We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!

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We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!

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We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!

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That post marks the junction with Tamien trail, so yes, we really are just about there.

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The view from the Tamien trail junction, looking down at the old barn, my car a white dot at the far right of the expanded picture below.

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We go around the curve. Are we there yet?

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All right, all right, enough of this. Yes, we are there. Nothing but down in all directions. 1500 feet of gain in about 2 miles. Drenched with sweat, even though it’s still the coolth of the morning.

Even though I have done this many times, I still succumb to the fond illusion that I’m almost there.

Down the other side, nowhere near as far down as it was up, into the valley of the Pala Seca cabin. When I first began hiking Grant Ranch, it was shown on the trail map as the Line Shack. But then they discovered that President Theodore Roosevelt used to use it as a hunting lodge, so they fixed it up a little and dressed up its name.

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A herd of maybe 20 wild pigs running along the hill above me, then across the trail and down the other side. Glad they’re afraid of humans; if they wanted to, they could easily kill me and eat me. Really! The most dangerous things in the park. Let’s hope they never get smart.

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From the back steps of the Pala Seca cabin, where I stopped for calories, a view of downtown San Jose. I don’t think I had ever noticed that particular view before; it’s a clear day.

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Doris, what flavour woodpecker are these? (Acorn woodpecker, she says.)

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Many hours later, after having met two hikers, the only two of the day, and two mountain bikies, the only two of the day, I stopped again for calories, overlooking a small pond with a drastically subsided shoreline. Frogs, frogs everywhere. This picture shows at least 7, and that’s just on the mud.

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Even though it’s not all that hot, it seems muggy. Clouds building up, and we see that a flying saucer has attacked Lick Observatory, which will never again be so foolish as to report little green men on Alpha Centaurus.

Muggy it was. Using more water than I expected, so I shortened the course a little, down to about 19 miles and 3600 feet of climb. Even so, the water bottle was reading E when I got back to the car.

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A busy, busy day chez Dave

August 21, 2013

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Nothing happened today on the deck reconstruction project.

That’s the only thing that didn’t get some action.

First was Charley from AT&T, who replaced the power supply for my U-Verse service. Especially during the heat of the day, it has been sounding AC failure alarms, which gets pretty annoying after a while. While we talked, Charley checked my service and told me my bonded pair VDSL2 loop length was 3200 feet, so I guess 18 Mb/s is about as good as I could expect. Well done, thank you Charley.

Three men from Alten Energy showed up next, to put the solar hot water panels back up on the roof, now that the roof rebuild project is complete.

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But I took the first pictures of the day after the Carpeteria crew had stripped the old carpet from the family room and put down a new pad. Quite a different perspective!

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They unrolled the new carpet on the driveway to measure and cut it approximately to size.

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The solar panels have been lying on the ground, so it was easy to give them a Scotchbrite scrub before putting them back up. When the face is clean, we can actually see the dozen or so pipes for water running along the axis, bound together with copper heat-collecting plates.

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Rather shocking, really, to see bare plywood in an otherwise finished setting. The stairs carpet was wearing through at the nose of the treads, which was the factor that finally got us into the carpet replacement project.

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We’ll get another look at all of this from the ground, but here’s the view from the second story roof. The two on the ground wrestle the solar panel into place at the foot of the ladder, and attach a pair of rope slings to it.

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The panel is pulled up along the ladder by those two ropes, but the crew numbers only three, and one of the men on the ground has to get onto the roof. So he and his buddy stand the panel upright, and he scrambles up the ladder.

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A minute later, hauling on the rope.

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The panel appears over the edge.

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First order of business is to remove the two rope slings.

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The panels had to be brought up into the area where they will ultimately be installed, so they need to be stored over on the other side of the roof until all of them are up.

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While all this was going on, the Hi-Tech termite guy showed up to treat a bad case of subterraneans. He went around the house drilling holes in the concrete, discovering that this house was built with 3000 psi concrete, rather than the conventional 2000 psi spec.

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Frankly, I’m glad this mound was raised by the drill, and not by the termites!

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I promised another look at the solar panel lift process. Here we see the ground crew getting the panel into place.

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Attaching the ropes.

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And one of them scrambles up the ladder, while his buddy prevents the panel from crushing him.

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Now the roof crew pulls it up, assisted by the third man on the ground. Well, he’s no longer on the ground, exactly.

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Adios!

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Still drilling holes in the concrete.

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The carpet guys have laid out the carpet stripped from the bathroom, upside down, so they can use it as a template for a rough cut at the new carpet.

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We now have all four panels on the roof. Here’s how we install the one closest to the edge. I don’t think I would volunteer to walk backward toward a second-story edge, carrying maybe 80 pounds of the load.

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Holding their loads with one hand, the standing two attach it to the wall bracket.

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After a little sealant, a little leveling, a little lag bolting, we are ready for the second panel.

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Slurping toxins into the soil beneath the concrete. May the termites enjoy them to the fullest.

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The upstairs hallway is beginning to look real.

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Four panels installed, and the plumbing project under way.

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The day is getting along. Those shadows are from trees on the far side of the neighbor’s property.

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Not too bad.

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All it takes is money!

Progress on the deck

August 18, 2013

Loyal fans will recall the deck renovation exercise. The first phase is finally coming together.

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Here’s the view from the back door as of yesterday evening.

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The deck surface is manufactured wood. We have homemade spacers that keep the right spacing between boards, which are held onto the joists with clips,

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Detail of the spacers. Nothing but the finest, here. You can buy a spacer commercially, but these work just as well, and we have six of them instead of just the one that we would have purchased.

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A close-up of a clip. Theoretically, each new board just slides onto those ears and life is simple. Well, not quite that easy, but it does eventually come along.

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The clips on the deck boards actually pulled loose the wooden block on one of the newly installed piers. The only explanation is that the pier must have settled an eighth of an inch or so after having been placed. Anyway, Roger mixed up some quick-set concrete and worked it into the gap under the wooden pad, so that it will have a surface to rest on. We don’t need it to resist horizontal pressure, just carry a vertical load.

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Evening today, and phase 1 is complete. The view toward the back door, above, and from the door, below.

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We will start working on the area to the right, and the outdoor worktable (formerly known as a picnic table) is to the left. So that big pile of plastic tarp in the background gets spread across the new surface to minimize damage that would otherwise be caused by gravel-encrusted shoes and who knows what!

But it’s real progress. Thanks, Roger, for doing a good job on it.

Wunderlich to Huddart

August 18, 2013

Saturday, 17 August 2013

I did pretty well on last weekend’s hike, so maybe I’ll try for a killer hike today. Supposed to be hot and muggy (!) inland. I went to Wunderlich park and hiked along the Skyline trail to Huddart park. I was worried that I might not exceed 20 miles, which is more or less the criterion for a killer hike, so I took Summit Springs road trail across Huddart to Richards road trail and looped back on Skyline trail. Then about halfway back, I crossed by way of the new Molder trail — new since last I was here — into El Corte de Madera open space preserve. Long enough, 23.5 miles.

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Early on, I encountered a family of deer, peacefully munching on the poison oak. Three or four does not in the picture, but what surprised me was the two bucks, apparently getting along just fine.

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The other interesting wildlife of the day was this woodpecker. Update: Doris tells me it’s a northern flicker. Thanks, Doris; you are always very helpful and knowledgeable.

Good to get out, get a little fresh air and exercise.

Where hath summer gone?

August 11, 2013

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Before talking about today’s hike, I thought it would be fun to post a picture Jacky took with her phone when we were in downtown Palo Alto the other evening.

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I don’t know exactly what I would do with one free shoe, but I suppose they are aiming at the market of three-footed people that like to ski.

On Saturday, I volunteered at the open space district’s Deer Hollow Farm. Helped build some benches for the 4-year olds to sit on during the ranger talks.

Sunday, I left the car at Foothills park, hiked up the hill to Los Trancos open space preserve, then to Montebello, Alpine road, Russian ridge, Skyline ridge and back through Montebello. Almost 19 miles, almost 4000 vertical feet. Not quite a killer hike, but then, it has been several weeks since I did a really serious hike.

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Only the middle of August, but it’s definitely getting late in summer. Admittedly, poison oak starts turning red very early, but there’s at least as much red as green now. Interesting how it changes. Above, for example, we see one leaf that has been thrown under the bus while its erstwhile buddies busy themselves rearranging the deck chairs.

Some leaves fade uniformly, some go blotchy red and green.

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It’s also quite common to see the skeleton of the leaf remaining green, while the web turns red. I thought I had seen one with a red skeleton and green web, but that makes no sense, so I must have imagined it.

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I saw two tarantula wasps. One of these days, I’ll see a tarantula. Then we’ll know it’s fall, for sure.

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Some pretty late-summer vegetation, seeds and fluff.

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The view toward the coast from the top of Borel hill, with Mindego hill to the right of the picture. It is not unusual to see fog lying over the ocean, but the brown fog on the left half of the picture suggests there is a wildfire down there somewhere in the Pescadero-Butano area.

The view 180 degrees away, over the bay, was similar. It’s not unusual to see bad air pushed by the prevailing winds into the south end of the valley over San Jose, but San Jose’s air looked pretty good today, brown air further north.

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I stopped at Alpine pond to soak up calories and refill the water bottle. Nice flowers!

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Back across Skyline, in Montebello OSP, I saw this butterfly limping — I can think of no other description — across the trail. It was not obviously damaged or injured. When I get it up on the big screen, I see it’s wet. I think it must have just emerged from its cocoon, and was hoping to survive Dave’s boots until its wings stiffened up and it could learn to fly.

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The stream was so dry that it only drip-drip-dripped, enough to keep the surface of this little pond constantly agitated. The water striders take it all in stride.

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A dead oak lending majesty to a marshy pond at the top of Canyon trail, near Page Mill road.

I like summer, but I certainly had no complaints about today.

Book story, story book

August 7, 2013

My aunt Helen, who died earlier this year at age 90, liked this story – we heard it more than once. And thinking about it, it really is worth the telling. At least, that’s what I claim.

Think of this story as set in something like 1930, when Helen and her kid brother Ted were around 10 years old, in Chadron, Nebraska, a little town in the panhandle that you never heard of unless you happen to have grown up there.

Helen and Ted loved reading, and liked to go to the library, where they would go through everything the library had in stock. On the day of this story, they approached the checkout counter, each laden with a pile of books. The librarian was someone new, someone they didn’t know. She informed them about the rules: children were only allowed to check out one book at a time.

Imagine the horror, disbelief, shock and outrage if you were to learn all at once about Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny – and the library rules.

They protested – no shy, shrinking violets in this family! – but those were the rules. In those days, libraries were supposed to be Quiet! and the fuss attracted the attention of the real librarian, who had been elsewhere at the time.

“Is that the Hood kids you’re talking to?” she called to her colleague.

“Yes, it is.”

“The Hood kids are allowed to check out as many books as they like!”

And that was that.

Well, the kids took their pile of books outside, sat on the library steps and began reading. Some time later, they came back into the library, asking for more books.

“You, again!” said the green librarian, “Why are you back already?”

From the kids: “We’ve read these books. We’d like to get some more.”