Archive for June, 2014

To Steamboat Springs

June 30, 2014

Monday, 30 June 2014

We were not that impressed by breakfast at the motel yesterday, so after collecting coffee, juice and bananas from the motel’s spread, we went down the street to a place that’s half library, half restaurant. I bet it’s a great social location on a miserable winter’s day.

Just west of Granby is a wildlife viewing area at Windy Gap reservoir. We stopped for a look, but the waterbirds were much too far away for anything less than a powerful telescope.

We did stop at Hot Sulphur Springs a few miles yet further down the road, walked along the Colorado river. From there, the road goes through Byers’ Canyon, a pretty stretch of a few miles. The map also showed wildlife viewing at Kremmling, but we didn’t see a sign. Stopped briefly near Wolford reservoir, but didn’t see anything more than sagebrush.

And then we climbed into a whole new ecology, over Rabbit Ears pass.

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I have no idea whether that rock is the Rabbit Ears; it is far from the pass by that name, but it also looks like an obvious appellation.

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It was so pleasant and so much cooler that we stopped at an arbitrary turnout along the top. It turned out to be Bruce’s trail, only a few km long, well suited for high altitude hiking as a brief interlude.

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I have no idea what these little yellow flowers are, but they were everywhere. Very nice!

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Steamboat Springs is back in the valley, a mere 6700 feet above sea level.

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Hard core yuppie vacation land. We may end up paying an arm and a leg to stay here. Left the car and wandered around. Eventually tried the Nordic Lodge motel, and were pleased enough to sign up for two nights. Dropped off a few things and went out for a walk.

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There are many springs here. We visited a few of them, some smelling fairly bad. There is a rec trail along the Yampa River, which we took in the direction of the botanic garden.

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Along the way, we watched a couple of rafts navigating the rapids.

Quite a way to the botanic garden, and it was a hot day. But definitely worth seeing. Unlike many horticultural venues around the world, this one seems to specialize in local vegetation, albeit some of it from high mountains or desert.

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There were also a few small animals of note.

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Back into town, where we stopped at a downstairs sports bar for brews. Then back to the motel for naps and showers, and almost next door to Sumatera, a very small restaurant hidden in the back of a building occupied by a much larger Italian restaurant. Only half a dozen tables, walls screened with bamboo, friendly people, and great food.

We had half an hour before the library closed, so we stopped and enjoyed it. Nice town, this. A little out of our way, but I’m glad we came here.

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Rocky Mountain national park

June 29, 2014

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Breakfast was advertised for 6:30. The sign says Bed and Bagel, and that’s pretty much what there was. Well, we have trail mix and snack crackers, so we won’t starve.

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We drove to Grand lake, where there is a really short (0.3 miles) trail to Adams waterfall, cool, pretty and deery.

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The waterfall turns at a 90 degree angle, and as it happened, the spray was in the early sun.

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Fast-moving water is always an irresistible temptation for a fast shutter.

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Above and below, experimenting with the fast shutter. Not sure which I like better.

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Above the fall, a pleasant but vigorous stream, with more interesting wildflowers.

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And wildlife, too. I continue to marvel at the wings, whose leading edges are open.

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We drove on up the valley to the Green Mountain trailhead, where we hiked uphill toward Granite Falls. High altitude, and we’re pretty slow; we declared victory at the Big Meadow trail junction.

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Fairy slippers, very inconspicuous, easy to miss completely, but well worth a look.

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This little guy was busy dissecting a pine cone, and knew perfectly well that I was harmless. “Want to take my picture? Go right ahead!”

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The Big Meadow. I’m sure it’s largely marsh — the trail goes around it, not across, but very pretty.

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Jacky, showing off our new REI burnoose baseball caps. They work pretty well to keep the sun off, and also resist being blown off by the wind.

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Back down in the valley, we stopped at the Holzwarth historic site. From the parking area, it’s a quarter mile in, and crosses the Colorado river. No comparison with the Colorado river in Utah, Arizona or California!

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Lots of elk in the distance, and a couple of moose nearby.

Holzwarth is an interesting story. He and his wife homesteaded this land in the 1910s, eventually turned it into a resort.

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During prohibition, it was legal to make alcoholic beverages for your own use. There is no doubt, of course, that none of Holzwarth’s production found its way to his friends or resort guests.

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A footstool, and no mistake. In fact, there was quite an array of stuffed animal artifacts around the house. Holzwarth learned taxidermy by correspondence course, and good for him!

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We drove partway up toward the high country and the continental divide, but turned  back at a turnout that give this beautiful view further to the west. Enough. Back to Granby, where we did a little research and discovered Brickhouse 40, where the beer was fine and the food was Greek. Too salty, but they’re hardly the only restaurant to commit that sin.

To Granby

June 28, 2014

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The car rental place only opened at 9, so we didn’t get out of Denver as soon as we normally would have. We started off toward Estes Park, thinking to go to Rocky Mountain National Park, but I had seen warnings about congestion at the east side entrances, so we decided to go to the west side instead. Probably not the best idea, after we had already put a number of miles on the car: we had to loop back considerably further to the south to get around the mountains. But we did have the opportunity to drive through some really pretty country. Stopped at Golden Gate canyon state park for great views from a panoramic point. We would have stopped at Black Hawk or Central City, but they seem to be 100% casinos with no free parking.

The road from Idaho Springs climbs to Berthoud pass, open, sunny, windy and cold! But beautiful.

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Lots of bikies around. Here is a pair getting jacketed up for the fast descent.

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We arrived in Granby early afternoon, found a motel, signed up for two nights, so we don’t have to mess around with lodging tomorrow. There is a forest service information office here, where a very pleasant fellow gave us some maps and some advice. We adopted his suggestion to do the hike around Monarch lake, not too far north from Granby.

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The trail is very popular, and there is a small info stand at the parking lot, where we got a map and watched the hummers swarming around a feeder.

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This is a small lake, about 4 miles around. We’re starting at 3:15, so that’s just about right. By the time we get back and drive back into town, we will be hungry.

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The Colorado state flower is the blue columbine. Very pretty!

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Around on the far side is an old steam engine. It could have been used to winch logs down from the mountain, maybe onto lake boats, or it could have been used to run a sawmill, or maybe both. I suppose it would be possible to find out with a little research.

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A downy woodpecker, not far away, but moving fast enough that it was hard to get a good shot.

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And swarms of gnats. Just amazing how dense they were. If they were biting insects, this area would be completely uninhabitable.

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Our friend from the forest service told us there were osprey nests along the lakeshore drive, and we watched for them as we drove out. Pretty special; no visibility of chicks, but there is certainly some kind of family situation in progress here. Great!

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Granby is a small town, a bike shop, a home-brewing shop, three Mex restaurants along with two or three other kinds of restaurant. We tried Maverick’s grill, which also had Mex cuisine, along with other choices such as burgers and elk sausage. Ok, but nothing to brag about.

Then a quick trip to the laundromat, where we did what we could to be spiffy for tomorrow’s trail.

Ready for vacation

June 27, 2014

Friday, 27 June 2014

From a couple days ago… At the top of 16th is a bridge over the railroad tracks. There is a sign:

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As to who might try to ride a bike on the stairs:

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By Friday, I had had more than enough of conferring, I bailed out about noon. About 75% of my colleagues had already bailed, so this was nothing special.

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Jacky and I wandered over to a nearby Mediterranean place for lunch, then went back to the hotel to be conscientious and do a few more work-related things. After some time, we went out strolling, through the university and eventually over to the Elitch amusement park. Just as we arrived in the vicinity, it began to rain, so we ducked under an overhang at Centennial park for a few minutes, then went on. Should have brought along jackets, but we didn’t expect more than sprinkles at most.

We thought we might find a brew along Platte street, but the only one that appealed was not yet open — that’s why it seemed quiet! Eventually we ended up at McLoughlin’s, where we found a table looking away from the TVs and watched it rain pretty hard for a while.

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When the rain let off, we went on down 16th. It began to rain again just as we got to the Tattered Cover bookstore. An excuse, as if we needed one. They mix new and used books, which is nice. What I especially liked is their machine that allows self-publication!

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Having once again outlasted the rain, we continued along the mall.

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What’s a puddle good for, if not splashing around?

We noticed a Mongolian Barbecue restaurant off on the side street, the kind of place where you load up a bowl with some of everything and they cook it up on a grill. Jacky had chicken from the menu, and we neither of us starved. All this hard work, and now we begin vacation!

Walking Denver

June 24, 2014

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

This conference likes to do editorial minutiae in the meetings, and it gets old fast. About 2, I gave up on the day and went out walking.

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The Denver conference center is just across from the hotel, and guess what they’re conferring about today! Good for them.

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Then over to the centralized government buildings center, where I didn’t pay $10 to see the Denver Art Museum, but did photograph a couple of the driftwood horses outdoors.

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Wandering with no particular destination. Some fairly attractive places around here.

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The doors to the cathedral were closed and had a locked kind of look to them. I didn’t bother to try to go in.

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It was pretty hot, so I thought I’d head north and maybe pick up the river trail to loop back into the Centrum. Eventually I found myself walking past Coors field, where a few employees were drifting in, presumably in preparation for a game this evening. I notice that parking is $14 here! What a racket!

There are highways here, leading eventually to freeway ramps. They fly over the railroad tracks.

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One part of the track area is used to stage Loks. The one in the far upper right was just backing into place as I arrived, but the four in the nearground were  being prepared to go out on a run, and were a lot closer anyway. So I stopped to watch.

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Notice the blue sign in front of the cab. Stop, it says on this side; safety first on the other side.

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Just ahead of the foursome, this deadman prevents possible runaway Loks from escaping their sandbox.

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There was quite a crew prowling around all over everything. Presumably checking fuel, lube, pressure, fittings, signs of wear, loose bits, you name it.

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I would like to get a day’s education on how they control Loks in tandem, not only how they get equal power from each but in particular how they make it fail-safe.

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Sign-off from the ground crew, he removes the safety first sign.

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Here’s the before (above) and after (below) of removing the deadman (flagged with the D sign) from the track.

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Free to go. I waited for a few minutes, but they didn’t roll. Presumably they were waiting for a clear way through to the freight they will be hooking up.

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Beyond the Lok staging area was a Diesel shop. I am reminded of the days of yore when Mike P and I would go to the shops in Lincoln of an evening. They’d let us wander around and see everything they were doing. Car shops, Lok repair, the hump.

One evening, we told them we were engineering students and asked if we could ride along in a switch engine.

Sure, they said. Would you like to take the controls?

Wow! Fast back-pedal! Sorry, we’re electrical engineering students at the university, not Lok engineering students. He apologetically kicked us off the train, said he wasn’t allowed to take people along.

A great adventure! I bet you could never do that today.

The highway bridge flew over the river, and there was indeed a bike path down there, but no way down. I looked at the GPS, which gave me no encouragement about maybe another nearby bridge I could reach. There was a bike path, but it just worked its way around the freeway ramps and headed on out into the boondocks. So I went back.

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By the time I reached Coors field, the crowd had begun to arrive, the sidewalk vendors were putting out their tee shirt and munchie wares, and I was just as happy to be going the other way.

(6.55 miles. Of course, as soon as I put the GPS track up on Google Earth, I see how I could have gone down to the river. Oh, well, next time.)

Denver

June 22, 2014

Sunday, 22 June 2014

On the 7:30 flight to Denver, arrived about 11. My boss was on the same plane; we shared the ride into the city, checked in at the Embassy Suites. Pretty nice room, expensive, but all of the hotels here are expensive.

I would like to get one of these baseball caps with a burnoose shroud that protects cheeks and neck, so I asked my smartphone if there was a nearby REI. Yes, it was a mile or so north-ish on 15th street. An excuse (if I needed one) to go out for a walk.

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Not a bad city. Fair number of people out, restaurants, pubs, some worthwhile architecture.

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REI is just north of the S Platte river at Confluence park, where Denver started out, some number of years ago.

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Pretty classy park, lots of people (and dogs) enjoying the day, enjoying the water.

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Shortly there will be some new art overlooking the scene.

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REI occupies this old warehouse, three stories, mostly open space. In comparison to the REI stores I have visited before, it’s enormous. Pleasant young woman steered me toward the triathlon department, where such caps would be, if they had any in stock. She thought they might be out of stock, and they were indeed.

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The REI building shares part of its space with a Starbucks, busy with all kinds of folks, but especially cyclists. There is a riverside bikeway that goes on much further than I cared to explore. There is a big amusement park here, enormous swing, waterslide, at least three rollers coaster and who knows what else. The riverfront used to be industrial dump, broken pavement, discarded railroad ties, abandoned vehicles, and such, with warehouses on the streets. Now it’s mostly parkland, and the warehouses have  become upscale loft apartments.

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Back in the city, I walked along 16th street, a mall whose vehicle traffic is restricted to bicycles and shuttle buses.

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Bicycles of all kinds.

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One block had several chessboards set up, a couple of which were in use.

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Pedicab entrepeneurs.

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Each of four or five blocks had a piano, most of which were in use. The talent ranged from minimal to not bad.

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But I eventually drifted to the end of 16th and around to what its posters proclaim to be a Pride festival. I had been noticing various forms of weird costume and make-up, and here’s where it all centered. I have no idea how to estimate the size of crowds, but I would be greatly surprised if there were fewer than 10 000 people here. Loud, crowded, but mellow. The smell of smoke was definitely not that of tobacco.

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Back to the hotel just as a few sprinks started. Got on the web and ordered a couple of burnoose sun hats for store pick-up at the end of the week.

Anything worth doing …

June 21, 2014

… is worth overdoing.

Saturday, 21 June,2014

It was supposed to be fairly warm today, so I thought I’d go do a trail patrol at Purisima Redwoods open space preserve. On the trail by 7:15, I started by hiking out North Ridge trail. I have been on this trail before, but not for a while, and it is not maintained all the way to the end. I turned back when the poison oak became too much of a barrier.

P1130831Then the more traditional hike down Wittemore Gulch trail and back along Purisima creek. I’m looking for new trails and also something of a killer hike (20.1 miles, 5400 vertical feet: I succeeded!). So I went up Borden Hatch Mill trail and explored Bald Knob trail (above), which I have never done before.

There is a closed gate, but no keep-out sign, and a poorly maintained spur trail that goes to the top of Bald Knob. The name suggests grand panoramas, but it’s forested, and we see no more than the usual slots between the trees.

To see a distant view, we go back down, on south along Irish Ridge trail (below). Notice the poison oak asserting itself in the center foreground.

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There is yet another trail branching off from Irish Ridge, namely Lobitos Creek trail, another 2 miles out and back, but I was beginning to think I had already committed myself to as much as I really wanted to do today. I’ll come back another time, park on Tunitas Creek road, and finish this particular adventure.

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I have no idea what these flowers are, but they’re really elegant. Their seed pods are balls, sized somewhere between a big peppercorn and a small blueberry.

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And who could resist a rich slurp of nectar!

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On the way down Skyline toward home, I could see the fog blowing in off the ocean, brilliant in the sunlight, and soon to come boiling across the ridge to cover the bay with the usual summertime blanket.

Nice day, good to get out. Tomorrow I’m on a plane for Denver.

Getting out

June 15, 2014

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The open space district has an award for anyone who patrols all of its trails.The actual award? An anvil. Well, not the hundred pound chunk of iron kind, but there’s something appropriate about the idea anyway. There is something north of 200 miles of trail in their jurisdiction, so it will take a while, but the real issue is likely to be that some of them are far away, enough to be a bit of a nuisance getting there.

But there is certainly low-hanging fruit. Foothills open space preserve, for example, only has one trail, only about half a mile long, and I have never bothered to stop there. Today I did. New trail, new preserve, one low hanging fruit.

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Then I went on up Page Mill road to the end of Montebello road, where I hiked several other trails that I have never done before (above: the view of Silicon Valley from the Adobe Creek trail, Mission peak across the bay), and other trails that I have done before but not for a long time.

The most interesting name is Watermill creek trail; there is a small spring in an area where we could imagine there once was a waterwheel. Today, we see only a few pipes. It would not be a surprise if one of the pipes takes the water over to the nearby backpack camp.

Having done this corner of Montebello preserve, I drove back down the hill. It was still early in the afternoon, so I went to Windy Hill, where I put in a couple hours in the coolth near the creek along Eagle Trail cleaning out broom. I hope I succeeded in avoiding the poison oak.

For the log: 16 miles. 2700 vertical feet.

Sunday, 15 June

There is more low-hanging fruit along the baylands. The best way to visit these two areas is by bicycle. First, we go to Ravenswood, the section just south of the Dumbarton bridge. Nothing much there, except the Hetch Hetchy aqueduct coming ashore from the east side of the bay.

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When I first saw these from a distance, I was reminded of a train of tank cars. Close up, we see that they are not as big as tank cars, but they are more than big enough!

From here, back around on the streets to the other section of Ravenswood, namely Cooley’s Landing. This one connects via continuous trails that go all the way down to Sunnyvale. Next stop was the Palo Alto duck pond.

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The black-crested night herons breed in the trees above the duck pond.

Nearby, shallow marsh where I saw shorebirds setting their eggs when I was here a few weeks ago. They don’t seem to still be setting, but I also don’t see any fluffy little chicks. Curious.

Further south, I deduced the presence of a school of fish from the large number of cormorants fishing from the surface and a matching number of terns fishing from the air. A good time was being had by all, well, all but the fishes.

I downloaded a trail map from the open space district, which shows all kinds of trails in the Shoreline park area, most of which I’ve never ridden before. As it turns out, only one small section is open-space district, and it’s on my bicycle commute route anyway, but it was an excuse to go ride pretty much all of the trails shown on the map. Nice day.

Also got to be work after a while. Although it’s all baylands, there are a fair number of hills here, some of them fairly steep, and many of the trails are also covered with loose deep gravel. The whole thing turned out to be 39 miles, more than I would have predicted, and I hadn’t taken any calories along. Enough; two more low-hanging fruits in the bag.

A weekend in the open space

June 8, 2014

Saturday, 7 June 2014

I volunteered for a trail maintenance day at the Chestnut orchard trail. Here’s the orchard, near where we parked, and where we later had lunch. It was a hot day, but fortunately, most of the trail we maintained was down in the shade, much cooler than the area around these chestnut trees.

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When a trail is first built, it is graded into an L shape as it goes across grades; over the course of time, the angle in the L fills in with silt and duff, so it looks more like a J. Most of what we were doing was cleaning out the angle of the L, effectively widening the trail. They call it duffing, so I suppose that makes us duffers.

We also created or improved drainages on the low side of the trail, so it won’t become a mudpot during the winter. Hard work.

Sunday, 8 June

Today was the second of two training sessions for the open space district volunteer trail patrol. It was at the top of Page Mill, only a mile or two from yesterday’s trail work.

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Being an early person, I went on up as soon as I finished breakfast. The photo is the pond at the Daniels nature center, Page Mill and Skyline.

I am also signing up for what they call the ARMS program: advanced resource management stewards, so I met with Ellen for ARMS training. It went pretty fast, because much of the detail overlaps with the volunteer work I have already been doing. But now I have my own weed wrench, along with a khaki vest and a name tag, and permission to uproot all the weeds I like. I must be crazy.

The training session started at 10, so I went for a hike on the Russian Ridge trails. The loop was just a little too long to get back in time, and I was running … when some other hikers called my attention to a dark area in the shadow. Glad I stopped!

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I didn’t really want to take the time to wait for this guy to move on, so I went around it on the trail. It coiled into a striking position and rattled at me, but didn’t strike.

That was my excuse for being 3 minutes late to the start of the training session.

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After an hour or so of classroom material, we went out, where Paul, the volunteer coordinator, rode past several times against a radar gun, to give us some feel for what the 15-mph speed limit means.

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Then we went out on the trail where we play-acted several scenarios of the type that we may experience as trail patrollers. They emphasize training for emergency situations. Of course, the odds of actually encountering an emergency situation are pretty low, but we need to be prepared, just in case.

Not a whole lot of lower body exercise this weekend: maybe 10 miles, 1500 vertical feet, but I’m now an official volunteer. For whatever that’s worth.

Net neutrality

June 6, 2014

My thoughts on the FCC proposed rules at http://88dave.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/net-neutrality/