Archive for May, 2014

Pillar point, Princeton by the sea

May 25, 2014

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Jacky and I started out at a reasonable hour, drove to Half Moon Bay. Well, more precisely, we drove to Princeton-by-the-sea. Left the car and wandered west along the shore.


Inside the breakwater, the beach is covered with what looks like spinach. Yummy!


I’m told that this is radar for SFO air traffic control. I often see this distinctive landmark from high on the ridge on my Purisima open space hikes.


Beyond the breakwater, the world-class surfing area Mavericks. Not much going on today.


But if you’re less insistent about mammoth waves beyond the breakwater, you can at least find interesting shells washed ashore. Inside the breakwater, just fine sand and spinach.


A motorized paraglider came over and disappeared behind the cliffs. A few minutes later, he returned and flew back inshore.


Although we started by walking along the beach, we couldn’t resist going on up the cliffs for the high view. Nice.


There were at least three of these crosses. Surfers who didn’t make it, maybe? Or just hikers who got too close to the edge?


Not excessively worried about getting too close to the edge, a millipede. Just about the only small animal we saw, other than birds.


We walked back into Princeton, wandered around the marina.



The beat-up rusty tubs are more interesting than the fancy boats. They have to offer a business case for their existence. Well, so do the fancy boats, if they are used for charter, but many of them are just luxury items.



Here we see three or four cyclists purchasing fresh seafood directly from the fisherman. I thought it would be necessary for the fisherman to provide enough ice to support some amount of delay in getting the fish home, and indeed, the cyclists were carrying good-sized plastic bags, doubtless packed with crushed ice as well as fish.

The clam chowder smelled good, but there was a line, so we went on into Half Moon Bay and ate at our favourite Mexican restaurant. Then a stroll around the HMB streets, and home.

Traffic heading toward the coast was moving along at a pretty good pace, which is surprising for early afternoon on a weekend. It’s usually stop and go by that time of day. But at the foot of highway 92, we came upon any number of emergency vehicles; they were still working on a downed motorcyclist, and westbound traffic was backed up well beyond I-280. Glad we hadn’t been caught in that mess.

Grant Ranch killer hike

May 24, 2014

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Last weekend I did the Rose Peak killer hike. I haven’t circumambulated Grant Ranch yet this year, so that’s my goal for today. Last time I was here was August; I recall running short of water on that visit, and today is likely to be pretty hot, so I have two large cycling water bottles and a quart bottle as well.

This is the are-we-there-yet hike, and even though I have done this many times, I still find myself thinking, for the last three or four false summits, “My God! Surely that must be the top,” when, well, it just isn’t. First water bottle half empty by the time I finally peaked out. Going to be a long day, I can tell.

Down the backside, thinking I should have seen the Pala Seca cabin from above. The grass was so tall, I didn’t even notice until I was right beside it.


This has to be arson! What a shame!


I checked the news when I got home; this happened in February.

When I first started hiking Grant Ranch, the map showed what was called a line shack back here, and it really was, just a tumbledown shack. Then it got some kind of a new lease on life, probably because it was of historic interest, and the map upgraded it to show it as the Pala Seca Cabin. Grant used to take his buddies out hunting, and this was a hunting lodge. His buddies included at least one president of the US, McKinley maybe? Or Teddy Roosevelt?


Anyway, they fixed it up quite a bit, but never finished the job. For all these years, the inside was full of construction materials, and maybe a ladder or two. The picture above was taken in 2006.

I always liked to stop here; there was a shady porch on the north side, with a picnic table, a good place for water and calories. A few memories here, too: the biggest rattlesnake I’ve ever seen, finding a cool shelter under the porch. A wolf spider covered with her babies.

What a shame.


Its color is almost right, but Dave’s nasty, suspicious eye picked out the spider, above, lurking for some innocent insect. (I have no idea why it didn’t go after the insects that were already there.)


Of course, as soon as it saw me, it ducked behind the petal, on the well-proven theory that if it can’t see me, I can’t see it.


So I hummed and said, “aw shucks!” and looked in other directions and wandered over and found another interesting flower (above), and then sneaked back and shot the spider from behind (below).


Many hours later, many miles further along, I crossed through what is a little stream in the rainy season, a muddy patch today. The water was yet enough to attract several different types of butterfly.



The same butterfly on the wing, looking less graceful than when it lit.



Notice the nozzle thrust into the mud. I suppose it’s small enough to filter out at least the larger pieces of grit.

I had been on the trail for 5 hours when I met other people for the first time today, two of them. Two and a half hours later, I met another two and a half people (baby in a stroller), and that was all. Terrible when the trails are so crowded.


The barn down there in the yellow flowers is not the one where I’m parked. I’ll cross that valley by bearing hard to the left out of the picture, then climbing to the forested crest, eventually coming out on the bare hills in the background, at the foot of which I expect to find my car.


This little guy wasn’t very vigorous at all. Not sure whether he was just slow in re-booting his context from offline storage (they do that!) or whether maybe he had been struck by a speeding baby stroller.

The day was hot enough, and the water was going to last just until I got back to the car, just right. We don’t get points in heaven by bringing water home from a hike!

A very difficult day. Everything hurts! 21.1 miles, 4400 vertical feet.

Rose Peak killer hike

May 18, 2014

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Washing my car is one of my least favorite ways to spend time, but I’m willing to do it, once every year or thereabouts. This time, I was urged onward because of a big ugly splotch that I thought indicated a visit from a very large and very ill-mannered bird. But it was sticky. Even the car-wash goop on a wet sponge did nothing more than smear the stickiness. Spray stain remover from the laundry room worked, also on specks of tar on the rocker panels. I suppose the paint will now come off, but it sure looks nice for a few days.

I have been increasingly unhappy with my GPS receiver, which is a few years old. So I blew a large pile of money on a Garmin 650t. Big hunking thing, but the screen is at least large enough to see. It even has a camera, geotagging of course, which leads me to the thought that Garmin should get together with either Google or Samsung, or maybe both, and make a ruggedized GPS receiver smart phone. (If it happens, you saw it here first.)

Sunday, 18 May

I wanted to try out the new GPS receiver, of course, and haven’t been to Rose Peak yet this year. A cool, overcast morning, breezy and actually chilly.


This is just about as late in the season as I’d want to do this hike. Much of the trail is overgrown with grass, some of it chest-high, and the seed is fading to brown and starting to fall off. Another week or two and you’ll need gaiters to keep this stuff out of your boots.

And it turns out that today is also the running of the Ohlone Wilderness run, 50k and almost 8000 feet of gain. They started at 8 from Mission Peak in Fremont, and are going to Del Valle near Livermore. I started at 8:10 or 8:15 from Sunol. There is no chance I will make it to Rose Peak before they catch me, but it would be good if I could get past the single-track trail onto the fire roads that form the more distant part of the route.

And so it was. The first of the runners passed me only a few hundred feet from the widening of the trail. Near Goat Rock, I passed an aid station. They offered me calories and electrolyte, but I wasn’t really in the market. I told them I’d take them up on their offer if they were still there when I returned. They estimated that they would be packing it in by 1:30; it was 10:30 and easily an hour and a half to the top. Marginal. Well, it would be nice, but I hardly need an assist.

They tell me that registration is limited to 250, and they got 170 or so today. Some of them are training for the Western States 100, a hundred-mile race in the Sierra Nevada. One woman of not inconsiderable age told me this was her 112th ultra-marathon. These people are just amazing.

Not a whole lot further along, the two runners ahead of me veered to go around a rattlesnake. I had my camera out and ready by the time I came up. I warned a runner coming up behind me to keep to the other side of the trail.


The snake was completely unconcerned, which is just fine with me. I don’t want to be around an excited rattlesnake. It made a slow slither across the road and into a hole, the beginning of which is visible at the right side of the picture below.


The first rattler of the season. I’m not even sure I saw any last season. They’re not all that common.



The higher country is still mostly green, and very pretty.


And there is a micro-climate right at Rose Peak itself with these double-headed prickly flowers and their pink neighbors. Didn’t see either of them anywhere else.


Got to the top right at noon. Runners crossing over, picking up a wrist band from a volunteer stationed there, as a token of achievement. From now on, I’m facing into the traffic, and I imagine that, by the time I reach the single-track trail, the lanterns rouges will have passed, and I’ll have it to myself.


And so it was, again. I got to the aid station about 1:15, just as they were packing up, but they gave me water and calories. Thank you, friends!


Really pretty country, especially when there’s still some green to be seen.



These little wildflowers were also localized to a small area. No idea what factors create a habitat that they like, but something clearly does.


I didn’t see it until I got this photo (above) onto the big screen, but notice that spider lurking hopefully for some innocent insect to come along!


And here’s the high view of the dam construction. The old dam was seismically deficient, and was drained completely — the pond is just the low area below the foot of the old dam. I’m told that the new dam is now estimated for 2019 completion, and opening hours will remain at 8 until then.

19.16 miles, 5002 vertical feet. Even on a cool day, it counts as a killer hike.

Mother’s day at the baylands

May 11, 2014

Sunday, 11 May 2014

I didn’t want to moomph around the house all weekend (see yesterday’s blog …), so I went to the Palo Alto baylands. I thought I might see some hatchlings.


I conclude that I’m maybe a week too early for the wading birds.


We can see something blue under this avocet. It may just be folded-up leg, rather than an egg.

The swallows were nested in mud under the eaves of the nearby nature center, but in brooding mode, not yet feeding the young.


But I came upon some Canada geese that had hatched only a few minutes ago. Still wet from the egg, still with floppy feet.




And further along the shore, families of Canada geese in convoy.


We’ll be back next weekend!

Sunol from Ohlone college

May 10, 2014

Saturday, 10 May 2014

I have not been to Mission Peak for a long time, and the reason is that it’s too crowded. But I decided to give it a try today, anyway. Foof! I never even attempt to find a slot in the trailhead lot, which parks maybe 50 cars, but I usually find a slot somewhere down the hill near Mission Blvd. Not today, nor on the side streets, nor on the next block. I understand that after fighting my way through the trailhead clutter, the route I like to take will not be crowded, but still…

So I drove on up the road, parked in the neighborhood below Ohlone College. It’s another mile of driving, and I haven’t been here for years. Busy trail here, too, but not as bad as the main trail from Stanford Ave.


We don’t know whether the hillside is supporting the tree or vice versa, but they both have a vested interest in the present arrangement.


The day was chilly, even on the uphill, but the sun, and the climb, made it okay. Here we see the top of Mission peak, and all those little black dots everywhere are, yes, the crowd of hikers.



Glad I’m not going there!

I went around the shoulder of the mountain and down the backside to Sunol. Even here, I met a dozen or more other hikers, well beyond the usual quota of one or two, but I can deal with that. Some trail runners passed me, and I caught and passed quite a number of slower hikers. An off-leash dog came charging at me; I put out a barricade of sharp points from my hiking sticks, but it was friendly, and the master called it away.


On the way back, a couple of hikers just ahead of me spotted a wild turkey. The hiker gobbled at the turkey, which gobbled back. They had quite a conversation going. When I passed them, I remarked that he was a certified turkey whisperer.

16.2 miles, 3800 vertical feet. Nice day.

Huddart and Purisima

May 4, 2014


Saturday, 3 May 2014

A nice day for a walk in the woods. Cool, even chilly, but very pleasant. The usual hike from mid-way up Kings Mountain road down to the Phleger Estate, thence up to skyline. I bypassed the Kings Mountain village completely this time, turned north on a trail somewhat lower down the hill, a trail I haven’t taken before, and crossed Skyline considerably further north than usual.


Lots of newts; I saw four in one 10-foot length of trail. Populations fluctuate year by year, and this seems to be an exceptionally good year for newts. While I’m on the topic of populations, I think I’ve seen far fewer ground squirrels this year than usual.

From the north Skyline gate of Purisima, I returned by way of the Craig Britton trail, much of it open and sunny. Because it gets so much more rain (from fog condensation), the west side of the ridge is far more lush. Huddart (above) is beautiful, but dry and open.

15 miles, 3000 vertical feet. Qualifies as an industrial strength hike. Nice day.