Archive for September, 2016

Hot weekend

September 25, 2016

Saturday, 24 September 2016


Today was for a run in the coolth of the morning, then a mid-day event,  Mid-Peninsula Open Space District volunteer recognition day, at Ravenswood — Cooley Landing. Sunny, breezy, and I crossed the threshold to a thousand volunteer hours. Considering that I only started in summer 2013, that’s not too bad.

And then in the evening, the annual traditional Oktoberfest hosted by Alex and Sigrid. Nice.

Sunday, 25 September

Supposed to be hot today, so I did a short one, close by, Windy Hill. I could go somewhere cooler, but with far less chance of finding a tarantula. Didn’t find any anyway, but at least I was out there just in case.

As I walked up Betsy Crowder trail, I met a woman with a dog, who told me she had just seen a bobcat near the BC bench. She decided to turn back. I, of course, dug out my camera. No bobcat at the bench, but I found it on Spring Ridge, just below the BC junction. It saw a bunny, which put it into skulking mode. It was happy to let me stand there quietly shooting off photos, but when a couple of trail runners came along, it disappeared into the bush.


On Spring Ridge just below the spring, I found a curious vee of snake trails, only 2/3 across the trail, one much bigger than the other. My interpretation: a medium-size gopher snake making its way across the trail, surprised by (say) a mountain bike. Fast 180 and a scramble back where it came from, this time making a much wider track because it was pushing hard on the dust.

Found a purple star thistle at the top of the hill, and three or four yellow star thistles along Anniversay trail. I had no way to carry them away, so I wrapped a trail map around them, wrote up a note, and left them in the map kiosk at the picnic area, hoping a ranger will collect them.

I came here because the day promises to be hot and unpleasant, but up here along the ridge was quite pleasant. So I detoured to Skyline and back on the top stub of Razorback Ridge trail.

Talked with a runner at the Lost Trail-Razorback Ridge junction, who was consulting his map, wondering whether Eagle Trail was paved. Always glad to get a question whose answer I know.

As I came back down from Skyline, I met another visitor at the same junction. This one was hoping to be able to go to Skyline and connect to some trail there that would allow him to make a wider loop back to Willowbrook parking. Told him he could connect via Crazy Pete’s road, but he would have to walk on Skyline to get there. He wondered why the Bay Area Ridge Trail sign pointed that way if there was no connector trail. Fair question.

Other wildlife: a garter snake, too shy to photograph.


Back at the parking lot, I saw two hang gliders on the adjacent field, two more in the air. By the time I got over there, a third had landed, but I got a chance to photograph the fourth. They thanked me for being on the volunteer project that put the chain at the top; they say it works well. Good to hear.


Jacky says I have far too much fun. She would know!

Arachnids rule!

September 18, 2016

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Five of us cleared three areas of Fremont Older open space preserve of stinkwort, all of it that we could find. The day was bright and sunny, but started out cool and gray, with wonderful condensation patterns on the cobwebs and indeed, on their proprietors.



Garden spider season, and no mistake.

Sunday, 18 September

Speaking of which, it’s also getting on into the time of year when the tarantulas come out. Do you suppose, if I go trail patrolling in the open grasslands, I’ll find one? So I drove up Page Mill road and hiked a loop through Montebello, Coal Creek, Russian Ridge and Skyline Ridge open space preserves.


No tarantuli, but I did find two gopher snakes and a garter snake. That’s three-up from the usual count.





Only recently did I learn that the forked tongue is actually a stereo sensor, able to differentiate the taste of the air left to right and help the snake locate smelly things such as, well, me.

A spare the air day here, not much breeze, highs estimated at 90 in San Jose, 100 in Livermore. Maybe a bit cooler on the ridge over the ocean, but still a hot day. Glad I have water.

A week ago, Ellen, Tom and I scoured Mindego Hill for purple star thistle. It was part of my hiking plan anyway, so I took along a trash bag and scoured it a second time. If we got 90% of it last week, and I got 90% of what was left today, we’re down to 1% remainders. Hard to estimate these numbers, of course, but I think they’re not too far off.

This left me with a trash bag to carry out. I tied it to the back of my backpack, where it probably looked silly, but didn’t get in my way. Dropped it off at the Midpen Skyline Field Office (always known, confusingly, as SFO), where I talked with Ranger Frances for a few minutes.

I used up all of my water before I got there, but I was able to tank up again at Alpine Pond. A life-saver, and no mistake. Too bad there are so few sources of drinking water up there, but that’s how it is.

As to big spiders, the season is yet young, and I’ll be out there looking for them next week, and the next and the next.

Fence removal

September 11, 2016

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Ellen and Tom and I met at Russian Ridge open space preserve and spent a few hours on Mindego Hill working mostly on purple star thistle (PST). We found enough to be worth our while, and enjoyed the views out over the coastal plain.


Tom and Dave on the rocks!

Around on the side of the hill is another area, more wooded, a couple of ponds, a place where there was once a house. We picked an area there to work on stinkwort, but discovered a massive growth of PST, below.


These are about as big as PST ever gets. We almost closed our eyes, turned around and left, but, well, we came here to work on PST, so … we worked on PST.


Here’s the same view an hour later. Ellen’s truck wasn’t big enough to haul away the garbage bags, so we left them for later pick-up by an open space tech.

Sunday, 11 September

Ellen has another project today, this time removing fence from the neighborhood of an old barn in Coal Creek open space preserve. As is my wont, I arrived a couple hours early, checked several miles of trails at Russian Ridge for PST, and found enough to be worth my while.


Great to watch the sun rising over the fog banks.



The sunlit hill to the right is Mindego Hill, where we were yesterday. You can see the ridge trail running across the picture to the base of the hill. The trail, and the area we worked, is roughly along the edge of the forested part, and the subsequent attack on the PST forest was to the right, in the deep shadow just below the forest.

Well, ten of us, including Ellen, a Midpen ranger, and Jordan, a Midpen employee, cleared fence. Tom was there yet again, another glutton for punishment. There is an old barn, with several wire fences around and about. The fences are impediments to the free movement of wildlife, so we’re taking out as much as we can.


Thanks, Tom, for the above picture, showing a before view. The nearground is only one bit of the fence, which pretty much surrounds the whole area.

Most of it is what they call hog fence, square wire mesh about four inches on a side. There is also some barbed wire and some tighter mesh. We also removed rotten wood posts and all of the steel posts. Hot, hard work. Our wire cutters weren’t really capable of dealing with the gauge of the fence wire, and many of the lower strands of fence were buried, some of them further anchored underground by additional barbed wire. Hot, hard work!


Here’s what the spoils looked like; by the end of the day, the piles were even a bit higher than this. I couldn’t help thinking of bed springs all day!


Last, and also least, I rescued a little friend that decided to explore our buckets just as we were getting ready to stack them and leave.