Archive for January, 2015

Grant Ranch killer hike

January 17, 2015

Saturday, 17 January 2015

I wanted to do a killer hike today, and what better killer hike than the circumambulation of Grant Ranch? (21.3 miles, 4500 vertical feet). Left the car at the gate near the old barn and started out about 7:30.

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Fog in the lowlands, but burning off quickly.

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Jacky thinks these pictures suggest drought. Well, yes, if you think of dust instead of fog and attribute the bare trees to lack of water rather than winter.

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They do rather have a tintype look, don’t they!

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Interesting that the grass under the oaks is greener than elsewhere. I assume this is because the elsewhere retains the tall grass from last season, while the area under the oaks was lower and less hearty. Why should that be? I wonder whether the oak exudes anti-growth hormone from its roots into the surrounding soil.

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I saw a total of three coyotes. This was one of a pair hanging around the open range cattle, who were not the slightest bit concerned about their presence. Other wildlife: six hikers, one mountain bikie, and … well, wait and see.

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It looks to me as if Silicon Valley is having a cloudy day today.

Stopped at the Antler point trail junction to eat an apple. Stopped again for munchies at a tiny stream in the piney woods, a rare feature in the bay area, and again about 3 o’clock at the high point on the west side, a bit beyond the next three pictures.

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A stock pond, surrounded by oaks.

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Acorn woodpeckers leave behind more holes than wood. I was wondering whether the woodpecker finds an acorn first, then makes a hole, or whether it just makes holes on spec, hoping to fill them with acorns later.

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Taking life easy.

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A view from the overlook. 3 PM, and it still doesn’t look like there’s any sun down there. Life’s tough.

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Going on down Edwards trail the last mile to the car, I came around a turn, only to find a lynx. I need to have a serious talk with my camera: why doesn’t it focus on what I’m interested in? Thinking about it, I bet wearable technology will track my eyeballs and do exactly that within five years, maybe a maximum of ten.

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I wasn’t completely sure the bobcat knew I was there. It was just moseying along the trail, checking things out.

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I shouted, “Hi,” just to make friends. Still, the cat isn’t much impressed.

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Better things to do, hoping for a mouse or a vole.

Good start to the weekend. Beautiful place, at least in springtime, Grant ranch.

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Up the hill again

January 11, 2015

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Poison oak from yesterday? My right forearm was a little itchy this morning, so I scrubbed it (again) with TecNu and a Scotchbrite pad. I hope that’s enough. Scotchbrite? Yes; the idea is to sacrifice a few layers of epidermis before the poison soaks in all the way.

Drove to Arastradero preserve, at the foot of the ridge, and hiked up the hill. Turned out to be 20.6 miles, 3200 feet of climb. Not quite enough elevation gain to qualify as a killer hike, but something a bit more than industrial grade.

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The day started with fog, but turned bright and clear as I climbed. This is something like the tenth 2015 spare-the-air day in the Bay area, and it was pretty murky down there in the flatlands. As well as poor air quality, the stationary high-pressure ridge means we also get no rain. Damn!

I usually take Los Trancos trail through Palo Alto Foothills park, climbing to the Los Trancos creek watershed, but leaving the park before actually entering it. Just for a change, I went up the other direction today, the trail entering the watershed almost immediately and climbing along with the creek. It adds a mile or two to the route, but the point is to be outdoors, not to go anywhere in particular. In the event, I had thought to go as far as Horseshoe lake, beyond Skyline, but ended up making a loop at Montebello: White Oak, Skid Road and Canyon trails, and back down.

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Interesting lichen on a rock at Montebello preserve.

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I was of course doing a bit of trail patrol as I walked through the Mid-Pen preserves. I started to record the tree fallen above the trail just beyond this bridge, then noticed that the bridge railing itself was damaged, maybe because of branches that had fallen onto the bridge.

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Then I noticed: the bridge rail had been cut out in an arc to make space for a big tree. But there is no air space between the tree and the bridge. The tree is leaning ever further out into the creekbed, looking for light, and even if it doesn’t fall soon, it will destroy the bridge if it gets a chance.

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I inspected the bridge piers and structure and saw no evidence of shifting or damage. Reported it to the district; they now have an opportunity to save several thousand dollars in bridge reconstruction.

As I walked back through Foothills park, I noticed a beautiful raptor in a nearby tree. Not in any hurry, it sat there and posed for as long as I wanted to shoot pictures.

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My guess is golden eagle, but I’ll check with Doris for confirmation. Nice! (Lynn thinks it’s a red-shouldered hawk, and Google images tends to confirm that.)

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By the time I got back down into Arastradero preserve, it was past mid-afternoon, getting chilly, but still a very nice day.

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Some of last year’s glory, above, and this year’s promise, below. Do you suppose all willows create pussy-willows?

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Quick stop at the store for groceries, and home. Nice day.

Miramontes volunteer day

January 10, 2015

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Today’s volunteer party was scheduled to meet at the Purisima parking lot at 9:30, to shuttle to the Miramontes Ridge open space preserve. This is not open to the public, so it was another new venue for me.

I got to Purisima a few minutes after 7 and spent some time searching and destroying ivy and broom. The more I seek, the more I find. I think this is penance for my sins in some previous lifetime!

Miramontes is exceptionally pretty, even though contaminated by acacias, which we are mostly ignoring today.

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There were half a dozen volunteers, along with two from the open space district. They were all people I knew from previous ventures. Weed wrenches for all; it has been a month without rain, and even the small broom is hard to extract. I contented myself with the small size, although I had to borrow a larger one once or twice to attack some of the big stuff. Much of the broom is taller than we, much of it is embedded in coyote bush, brambles, and other undergrowth, and much of the undergrowth is poison oak. Gloves, gauntlets, watchfulness, and luck.

Neighbor Mason came over from his nearby home, to see what we were doing. He’s in second grade, brought along his pet snake (blow-up plastic) to show off.

We worked hard for a couple hours; it was time to break for lunch, and progress seemed discouraging. That was looking forward at how much remained. But when we turned around and looked at where we had been, it was clear that we had done a good day’s work.

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We retreated to the top of the hill for lunch, where we had nice views of Half Moon bay and the coastal hills. No photos, it was a bit hazy. Following lunch, we cleaned up broom along the trail to the top of the hill, then diverted onto another side trail, where we removed a few dozen random spurge plants and a little more broom.

Summary for the day: a new place, a pretty place, hard work. Did I succeed in avoiding a serious case of poison oak? Ask me tomorrow.

Antler point

January 3, 2015

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Another of these days about as nice as could possibly be imagined. Lena and I parked at the lake in Grant Ranch park, hiked to Antler point, then around the Pala Seca loop. Chilly, sunny, icy crusts even into the afternoon in the shadows, and great to be out here.

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It was Lena’s first visit here, and a wonderful time of year to introduce the park. Antler point was a good stopping place to soak up apples and scenery. Hazy down in Silicon Valley — it’s a spare-the-air day down there. We’re glad we’re up here in the clear air, Lick Observatory crisp on the skyline in the other direction.

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From Antler point, the remains of the old Pala Seca cabin, burned about a year ago, surely by vandals. What a shame. We hiked down along that trail and through the valley below it, where on occasion, I have seen wild pigs.

On the climb from the valley back to the ridge, we did indeed see a single wild pig. A little unusual to see only one; maybe it’s just a bit early to see families out here. And while we’re on the subject of wild pigs, we saw two large ones from the road as we departed later on, pigs to the right, and a flock of maybe thirty wild turkeys to the left. We could have stayed in the car and let the wildlife come to us! Well, not really.

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Looks like one of those Chinese paintings, horizon behind horizon behind horizon behind …

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It sounded like a bird chirping, but it wasn’t. Fun to watch its whole body puff up to lend weight to its chirp. No idea what the chirp is suppose to communicate, or to whom. Certainly no fear of us.

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Speaking of birds, as well as TuVus, we also saw several acorn woodpeckers in the oaks, and woodpeckers of some description, possiby acorn woodpeckers, in the eucalyptus grove further down.

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Half a dozen couples and groups of hikers to meet and talk with, but we had the world mostly to ourselves. Just shy of 11 miles, just shy of 2000 feet of climb. Nice!

Mellow

January 2, 2015

Friday, 2 January 2015

Yesterday I went to Purisima open space preserve and put in five hours searching and destroying broom. Also exploring one or two informal trails and ancient logging roads. Today, I hiked what might be thought of as the four corners, the open space preserves surrounding Page Mill and Skyline roads.

I didn’t want to do a killer hike today, because I’m meeting a friend tomorrow to visit Grant Ranch. Still, I ought to make the hike long enough to justify driving up the hill. So I decorated the basic loop with a few extras (14 miles, 2000 vertical feet). For example, there is a closed gate where the official trail ends at Alder Springs, in Russian Ridge, but the trail goes on, and there is no Keep Out sign. New country for me, down the Mindego creek watershed to a point above some private homes where it really is a closed area.

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Along Hawk ridge trail, a really beautiful rock.

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Cold this morning — crunchy mud, better than squidgy mud — but I was down to shirtsleeves (two layers!) by late morning. There was no commitment to wonderful weather over the holidays, but that is certainly how it has turned out.

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This is the redwood railing over the bridge that spans Lambert creek, the drainage from Horseshoe lake in Skyline ridge preserve. Nice to look at, but I wouldn’t run my hand along there!

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More decorations of the basic hike: a detour down Lambert creek trail as far as a fallen tree, which wasn’t worth my time trying to work around. Then there was the official Bay trail, which goes over Fir Knoll, despite the availability of a 90% shortcut. But the Fir Knoll trail is really pretty, and the right thing to do.

Back in Montebello, several fallen trees to report for a visit by the chainsaw crew. None of them were problems, and when I met a couple with a stroller, I didn’t see any reason to warn them about fallen trees: they would need to lift the stroller over, but it wouldn’t be the slightest problem. The woman greeted me, “Another perfect day in paradise.” Right.

I had almost used up the plastic tape with which I flag fallen trees, so I stopped at the open space district office in Mountain View when I got down the hill. They had been open today, but had closed at 2. Fortunately, someone was still around, and gave me enough tape to keep me going for a while. Then I stopped at REI to indulge my hobby of acquiring trail maps, and called it a day.