Bagging OSPs

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Saturday, 12 July 2014

I had signed up for a volunteer project at Los Trancos open space preserve, but it ran from 9:30 to 2:30. I’m much earlier than that. Also, I’m in the process of hiking all of the trails in all of the Mid-peninsula regional open space district preserves. What could be more obvious? As soon as I had finished breakfast, I drove up the hill.

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On the trail by 7 AM. Cool and pleasant, a little fog on this side of the ridge, probably indicating heavy fog and overcast on the ocean side.

As I came around a curve in the trail, something dark ran across and down into the wood below. Too small to be a mountain lion, deer or coyote. The idea that came to mind was fox, and I did indeed see a fox around here once, many years ago. Not sure.

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By 9:30, I had hiked most of the trail, not all. The picture above shows the kind of thing I look for on trail patrol: fallen trees that block part or all of the path. My disreputable hat is to provide a sense of scale when the open space maintenance people look at the picture.

From the main parking area, the 9:30 volunteer group car-pooled down to the low end of the preserve and spent several hours working on yellow-star thistle. I did a yellow-star thistle project in another preserve, a year ago, and found it very discouraging because there was so much of it. Today’s area was first attacked eight years ago, and we were sweeping through open grassland looking for stragglers. And finding them, but few enough that we covered a lot of ground.

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Paul (above) discovered two straw mantis, and I found another. We would never see them if they didn’t move.

When finally we gave up for today, I skipped the car-pool, hiked back to the parking area. On the way back, the same (probably) fox was on the trail, ran along a hundred yard ahead of me for several seconds. Big bushy tail, as large as the rest of the animal. No question what it was. Cool!

Through judicious choice of trail, the afternoon return completes my effort to hike all the trails in this preserve (some of them three times over!). About 11.5 miles for the day, about 2000 feet of climb.

Sunday, 13 July

There is more low-hanging fruit in the idea of hiking all the trails in particular preserves. I started today by parking at the bottom of Old La Honda road and covering the Thornewood preserve.

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Yet another cool start in a beautiful mostly redwoods forest. The red in the distance is mostly poison oak, already calling it quits for the season. There are only two official trails in this preserve, plus a small lake, but there were a lot of side trails, and a pair of trails that are officially closed, although still showing evidence of use. I covered the entire place in considerable detail. A pretty place, although there are stream crossings that could be completely impassable in a wet winter.

Then I drove to Stevens Canyon park, where I left the car at the foot of the Bear Meadow trail in the Picchetti Ranch open space preserve. Hot and dry, nothing like as cool and pretty as Thornewood. I met a couple California forest fire fighters checking out the trail; I suppose they also explore to familiarize themselves with the terrain.

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Near the top, a view over the industrial quarry next to the zillion-dollar homes along Montebello road.

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The Picchetti winery still operates as a leasehold from the open space district. I stopped in to refill my badly depleted water bottle, with many thanks!

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They have a fair number of picnic tables here. One group spread out a picnic lunch and went inside for a little wine tasting. When you put out a picnic, you expect to have guests, right? Right.

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I was busy photographing the proceedings, not intervening, but one of the picnickers came out to rescue the food before it had been irretrievably lost.

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This area is heavily infested with yellow-star thistle.

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There are several insects that help control it. One of them is a weevil, of which we found a specimen yesterday (looking more like a large tick). There is also a peacock fly that does yeoman duty, but this turns out not to be one of them. They are said to have striped wings, and this little guy doesn’t qualify.

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I returned along Zinfandel trail, quite pretty.

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The trail back down left me a quarter mile from the trail up, where my car was, so there was a short walk along the road.

It was only 1 or so, but it was a hot day, I had put in another 11.5 miles, 2000 vertical feet, and the water bottle was empty. So instead of going on to another preserve, I called it a day. There are 26 preserves total, but I certainly won’t be able to knock off 3 every weekend!

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