Archive for August, 2014

Completing more anvil trails

August 30, 2014

Saturday, 30 August 2014

The anvil award goes to those who patrol all of the open space district trails. For today’s increment, I started just after 7 on Page Mill road at the head of Montebello road, and completed my remaining trails in Montebello with a hike of a bit less than 5 miles.

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Then I drove to the Horseshoe lake parking area at Skyline ridge, and with a bit less than 7 miles, completed the set of trails there. Fir knoll trail, very pretty, and from the high point on Butano ridge trail, a look back at Montebello ridge. I started this morning on the left, at the top of that ridge, and hiked to a point just beyond the communications towers.

In the nearground, the tree farm, and in between, Stevens Canyon, along which runs the San Andreas fault.

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From the Ipawa trail, an overlook view that goes on forever. Butano ridge in the background (well, Pacific ocean really in the background), and any number of creeklets that, if it were ever to rain again, would ultimately deliver water to Pescadero creek, thence to the sea.

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Some of the oaks are amazingly large, not so much in trunk size as in sheer span. It is not surprising that branches come crashing down every now and again.

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As far as I know, oaks live until something kills them. Disease, I suppose. Elegant in death, and they give the woodpeckers something to do.

From Skyline ridge, I went to Long ridge, where I invested another 5 miles of hike in the northerly trails. I’ll need to come back once more to complete the trails here, but I can probably combine that visit with the Saratoga gap trails.

Historically, I have tried to hike the biggest loop I could construct on the map, or failing that, killer out and back routes. By committing to hike all of the trails, I discover any number of really pretty little fill-in choices that I have either never hiked before or have forgotten over the course of the years. Glad I’m doing this!

It has been three weeks since I finished my yellow-star thistle project at Windy hill. I know it’s impossible to get them all, and the seeds continue to germinate, even in the absence of rain. So I stopped to have a look. The yellow star thistle was fairly minimal; I did a good job. But I also attacked a small colony of purple star thistle, which filled my bucket to overflowing, likewise the garbage can when I took it home. Overall, I’m pretty happy with that project.

17 miles, 3200 feet of climb. I earned my beer.

And as it nears its second birthday, my car turned over 10 000 miles on the way home. Being mostly a telecommuter now, I don’t need to drive all that much. Nice.

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Another busy weekend

August 24, 2014

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Today’s volunteer project was to clear weeds from the Powell property, a recent acquisition not open to the public, in the Montebello open space preserve near the top of Stevens Canyon road. And thank you very much, Google Earth, for displaying the GPS track (blue line) on aerial photography. I actually went further uphill, back and forth, and around, but my GPS was in my backpack, and I didn’t wear the backpack through the whole exercise.

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The excuse for the venture was stinkwort, which had gotten a start when the old houses on the property were demolished. It looks as if there must have been quite a little village here; someone said the houses were reminiscent of the Flintstones: made of stone, and very crude.

This was my first exposure to stinkwort; from the name, I was expecting a pretty unpleasant experience, but it only has a mild somewhat medicinal smell, not at all unpleasant. Wikipedia says it smells like camphor, and I guess that’s as good as any description. There was also yellow star thistle and even broom. So no matter what your pleasure, there were at least as many weeds as you could ask for.

We finished the project by mid-afternoon — they always schedule projects that way, to avoid burning out volunteers. And even with a lunch break, 5 hours of hard work is enough!

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But being in the area already, and it being only mid-afternoon, I did a trail patrol hike at Fremont Older. From high up on Coyote ridge trail, we see two quarries. Only the one on the left is visible from most locations, and most people are probably completely unaware that there is a really big one further back. The Google Earth shot below indicates the comparative sizes.

Coyote ridge trail

Sunday, 24 August

There was a magnitude 6 earthquake overnight, which woke us up, but did no damage here. Napa, about 100 km away, sustained quite a bit of damage. But I thought it would be interesting to hike the San Andreas fault to see whether there were any exceptional deadfalls or rockslides.

Montebello open space preserve again. I started at Page Mill road, top of the picture below, and hiked down Canyon trail until it becomes a road. (In terms of San Andreas faults: notice how straight the track is!) The Powell project from yesterday is just a bit further down, just to the left of the diagonal orange line. And we see the upper part of yesterday’s quarry.

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Oh, and if you’re wondering, there was nothing untoward at all about this or any other trail. There are always minor deadfalls and rockslides, but nothing more than you’d find any time.

From the canyon, I climbed out toward the bottom of the picture, a steep difficult grunt to Skyline.

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The first part of the climb is the crossing of Stevens Creek. I have seen this so full of water that I crawled across on a fallen tree. Except during winter rains, its usually possible to keep your feet dry by stepping across the stones. But I have never seen it completely dry before!

Grunting my way up Charcoal road, I met a group of about 15, who looked like Chinese tourists. They were going down, and having a good time. I began to suspect that they had no idea what they were getting into; no boots, no water, no sun protection. So when I reached Skyline and got a cell signal, weak though it was, I called the Open Space dispatch center and suggested that it might be a good idea for a ranger to patrol that road in an hour or two.

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I hiked back through Long ridge and Skyline ridge preserves, with a detour down Peters creek into the rock climbing area where it begins to lose a lot of elevation, fast. Not a whole lot of water here, either, just a few puddles. If it rains this winter, every day for four months, no one will complain.

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Caught up with some mountain bikies, one of whom had broken a chain. Ouch! They said they had tools to repair it, and good for them. I never carried that much toolkit myself!

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At the top of Chestnut trail, an alligator lizard. I especially like the projecting sets of scales every three or four columns! They are good photographic subjects because they freeze. Other lizards freeze, too, just until you get the lens cap off, then zip away.

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I went through the tree farm on the trail just next to Skyline, and talked with a guy who had pulled off the road to photograph the christmas trees. He didn’t really know anything about the open spaces around here, so I showed him the map, gave him some idea what was here, and maybe enticed him to come out here and explore!

I put the GPS tracks up on the big screen, on Google Earth. In the forest, the tracks are noisy, not that accurate, but in the open — wow! I can see where I stepped into the bushes; I can see where I stepped over to the fence to talk with the tree farm photographer. Cool!

Anvil trails: Purisima and Teague hill

August 17, 2014

The anvil award goes to anyone who patrols all of the trails in the open space district. It means nothing, of course, but it’s a challenge, and I’m seeing a lot of trails I haven’t hiked before.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

As often happens, the bay area was fogged in, and as I drove up Kings Mountain road, I passed through the fog and into morning sunlight. Down Tunitas creek road to the pull-out from which access to Pusisima redwoods open space preserve is possible. On the trail by 7:30, heading along Bald Knob trail, through some really beautiful redwood forest.

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Irish ridge trail descends almost a thousand feet into the Lobitos creek basin. Back into the fog.

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The junction of Irish ridge trail with Lobitos creek trail.

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Irish ridge trail itself goes on another tenth of a mile, and so did I. I was surprised to find a row of Monterey cypresses here. Certainly not native to the redwood forest, growing in a straight line, approximately uniformly spaced. Once upon a time, they graced someone’s nice home.

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The map tells us that Lobitos creek trail is not maintained. We’ll do what we can. We start with a massive redwood growing another massive redwood from its elbow. The same tree, below, from the other side, showing that the smaller massive tree is itself growing a yet smaller massive tree. Quite a sight! There must be a story, if one only knew.

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Theoretically, the trail goes 2 miles, but eventually they really mean it when they say not maintained. I was willing to push through undergrowth taller than myself for a while, but when I saw a massive barrier of poison oak ahead, I called it quits. 7.6 miles on this little exploration, 1400 vertical feet. Beautiful, beautiful, so remote that very few see it.

Then I drove to the main Purisima parking lot, off Skyline, where I started by checking for ivy along the section of trail cleared by a bunch of volunteers four weeks ago (the poison oak I got then is almost gone, but not quite). Found quite a bit of ivy, pulled up some of it, but a lot of it is embedded in the poison oak, and I’d rather not do that all over again.

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Hiked down Wittemore gulch trail, stopped at the bottom of Harkins ridge trail for calories. Sat on a fallen log, one end of which was in Purisima creek. The picture above is the view from my little picnic bench; the drastically shrunken creek runs in a narrow channel at the far left of the picture. We hope the whole streambed will be full in a few months!

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The stream is so narrow, there’s a pleasant overlook spot from the trail on the other side, directly opposite. A really pleasant area, and no mistake.

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Harkins ridge trail leaves the creek early on, climbs the side of the ridge, and spends most of its distance offering great views to both left and right. It is also the shortest, and therefore steepest, route. From the creek to the parking lot is only 3.5 miles, but it includes 1700 feet of climb, much of it very steep (see above). That’s an average 10% grade, but of course the grade isn’t uniform. Allison can attest to the fact that it’s seriously hard work. Makes my skin leak.

When the sun heated up the open trail, it caused the air above it to rise. Whenever I approached a shadowed area, it was more than pleasant to get a cool breeze, pulled out of the shade by the rising hot air. How come I never noticed that before?

Today, I had enough water. But after 15 miles, it was mid-afternoon, and I wasn’t up for a whole lot more. Not to worry: Teague hill open space preserve was on the way home. It’s a pretty good sized preserve, but there is only one trail, a half mile or so section of the 4.8 mile trail between Huddart and Wunderlich parks. Unfortunately, much of the trail runs along beside a pair of high-voltage transmission lines (which is to say: one line of towers), and the forest under the lines has been clear-cut. If MROSD won this section of trail in a lottery, I’d recommend they give it back.

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The forest before and beyond is pleasant enough, and includes a rock with an interesting little cave.

Top o’ the Page Mill to ye

August 16, 2014

Saturday, 16 August 2014

I was on the job at Los Trancos open space preserve a few minutes before 7, Dave the volunteer, ready to attack the yellow star thistle along Page Mill trail.

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But first, I check out a tiny moth, which was itself checking out one of the flowers.

I have two buckets for YST, and spent two hours filling them, without getting out of sight of my car. There’s a lot of that stuff around. Tramping through tall grass trying to find it. Many of the stalks have faded to a reddish yellow, so they’re harder to spot; many of the flower heads have already fallen off, and many others fell off just from being waved around when I uprooted them. In this particular microclimate, I think the season for picking them is over.

Which is fine. It gets pretty old.

After dumping the dregs into a covered compost heap, I hiked most of the remaining trails in Montebello open space preserve, and crossed Skyline into Skyline Ridge open space preserve, where I hiked as far south as the stand where they will sell chestnuts in a few months. There are a few picnic tables nearby, one of which was in the shade, a nice place to soak up some calories.

On the way back, I hiked all of the grid of trails that runs through the christmas tree farm, and around Horseshoe lake (below).

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Skid Road trail returns on the Montebello side, where a family of wild turkeys crossed the trail ahead of me. The turkey chick is as big as a full-grown chicken.

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I have mentioned previously that, to hike all of a given set of trails, it is very often necessary to hike a given segment twice, not unusual to do it three times, and sometimes four times. My route took me up the White Oaks trail, past the parking lot (where I tanked up with water that I had left in the car), then back down along some of the trails I had already done this morning.

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Back on Canyon trail, where a former lake is now a marsh and will be a meadow on of these years. Beautiful pure white skeleton of a tree across the way that might have drowned in the lake (assuming the lake was created by a dam).

There were more trails I could have hiked, but I drained the last of my water as I got back to the parking lot, so I said 14.5 miles, 1900 feet of climb, was enough for today.

Russian Ridge, Rancho and more

August 10, 2014

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Got to Windy Hill about 7. Cold, blowing fog; I wore my jacket for the entire 2.5 hours I spent cleaning out the last of the thistle. Nice, in a way, a real break from the hot summer days we’ve been having. Of course, there is no hope that I really did find all of the thistle in all that tall grass. Maybe I’ll come back again, just to comb things one more time.

Then I went to Russian Ridge, where I hiked the trails I had omitted last time, to finish off all of them. Admittedly, there are two trails awaiting completion and opening, so if I’m not fast enough finishing the round of patrolling all the trails in all of the open spaces, I will have to come back.

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The view from the newly built Audrey’s lookout. The Pacific under all that fog, Pescadero creek draining most of the valley we see, and Mindego hill on the right. The trail to its top is one of those that has not been opened. I have actually been there, on one of my trail-building volunteer days, but I don’t think that counts.

Heard a deadfall in the forest. Not long after, I came upon a trunk chunk that had fallen partially across the trail. It was big enough that I expected to need a maintenance man with a chain saw, but I gave it a push with my boot, and discovered that it had been rotting and dehydrating so many years that I could roll it off the trail myself.

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Some of the trails are in oak forest, and beautiful they are, shady and cool. Others are dry grass. Here we have a pair of mountain bikies at the top of Borel Hill.

The day was yet young, so I went across the road to Long Ridge open space preserve to do a few more trails. Stopped at the nature center to talk a minute with the docent.

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I thought I’d hike down to the end and back on old Page Mill trail. It’s a mile and  a half each way. Nicely marked by some large rocks at the turnoff from Sunny Jim trail.

At the bottom, I met another hiker, another loner who goes off into the boondocks. He even more than I, goes extensively off-trail; he tells me he isn’t allergic to poison oak. Good for him!

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We walked out together. Nice to find a garter snake. By the time we reached the top, it was after 4, and 4 o’clock is Bierzeit. Time to call it a day. 15.7 miles, 2700 vertical feet.

Sunday, 10 August

We had a commitment at 2, so I didn’t want to spend a lot of time driving. Went to Rancho San Antonio, where I would like to be able to complete all the trails here today. Last time, I hiked the long, distant trails; today I only (!) need to hike the mesh of intermediate trails.

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Got there about 7. Wild turkeys under the trees, deer everywhere. This is the first time I’ve seen fawns this season, but every doe has one.

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Hiked up the PG&E trail. Last time, I went all the way over the skyline here, but the fill-in trail turns off after something around 1400  feet of climb, at the last tower visible below the skyline. I was able to do most of it before the sun came out; nice to do the hard work in the coolth of the morning.

As with other preserves I’ve hiked, there is a lot of out and back tracking, double-hiking some trails, even tripling a few. I found a pair of earbuds, stowed them in the backpack to turn in when I got back down to the ranger office.

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A large percentage of today’s trails were completely new; I almost always do this as a killer hike with only the long and distant trails. But one could make a very nice moderate hike, much of it through really pretty woods, much of it on quite moderate grades. I revise my opinion; I had always thought this one was uber-popular because it was close and convenient. Well, it is that, but it’s better than I knew.

The ranger office was closed, locked gate across the drive. Got on the phone, called the open space district dispatch operator, who agreed to send a ranger around and suggested I leave the earbuds at the gate. I did, but the ranger showed up just as I was leaving, so I was able to touch base with him. My good deed for the day.

16.6 miles, 3200 vertical feet. When I first tried to fill in the map from memory, I thought I had missed a little out-and-back, but when I got the GPS trace up on the big screen, I found that I had in fact hiked it after all. Nice to finish this one off; it’s a big one.

I insisted on washing my hands and changing shoes before rushing off to the 2 o’clock rendezvous with some friends at the Museum of American History. Their current exhibit is on clocks and watches.

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We finished off the day with a stroll to downtown and a visit to La Boulange, where I made up for a calorie deficit with a (blue) pear and goat cheese tart, just to get ready for dinner.

Windy Hill, Russian Ridge

August 2, 2014

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Last weekend, I discovered yellow star thistle at Windy Hill. Not very much, but it would be good to eradicate it before it can spread.

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So I left the car on Skyline at the top of Spring Ridge trail about 7, hiked down to the area I had skipped last weekend. It was just at the top of the fog that was blanketing Silicon Valley, cool and pleasant.

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I think the temperature was around 60F, cool enough that this bee was lethargic. A bee never lets a camera get that close! I’m sure that the warmth of the sun rejuvenated it a few minutes later.

The thistle colony on Spring Ridge trail proved to be fairly small and local; although I swept the area on either side of the trail, I didn’t find anything more. For completeness, I thought I’d go back to Anniversary trail, along the top, where I had tried to clean it all out last weekend. It’s impossible to get them all; a second pass is a good idea.

And there were indeed a few along the trail, where I had been last weekend. But in being thorough, I went up the steep embankment above the trail, into the tall grass, and found a lot more. A lot more.

I ended up spending three hours on this stuff, at which time I had run out of hauling capacity and enthusiasm. Maybe I (or someone) will come back and get the rest of it.

Stopped at another gate on Skyline, did a quick hike to pick up a little stub trail that I had missed in last weekend’s effort to hike all the trails at Windy Hill. Now it’s complete.

Then I went on to Russian Ridge, parked at the vista point along Skyline, and hiked all of the trails in the northwest area of the preserve.

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We hear about Langley Hill, and in particular, Langley Hill quarry. It has the look of a long-abandoned dig, until we zoom in, and then it looks pretty active. Not as big as the massive Permanente quarry west of San Jose, but big enough.

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The windmill, turning lackadaisically in the light breeze. It has the appearance of being in full working order. Maybe it keeps that tank filled from a well, and provides reliable water pressure to the few homes below here.

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Stopped at Alder spring, which really does have a few alders. I think they’re not native here; maybe imported by some settler long ago. Under their shade, a thick growth of berries, a dozen of which were both ripe enough to eat and accessible. After wet winters, there are berries all over the place, but they’re pretty rare during the drought. A good thing to do.

Only 11.5 miles, 1800 vertical feet today, but with an investment of 7 hours, it still seemed like a fair bit of work.