Another busy weekend

by

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.

Powell

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.

Montebello

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!

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