Archive for the ‘Mid-peninsula Open Space District’ Category

Black Friday: a time for fungi

November 25, 2016

Friday, 25 Nov 2016

When I have several free days, or even two for that matter, I alternate long (more or less) hikes with weed removal. Today was for hiking, El Corte de Madera open space preserve. I haven’t been here since August. I did the usual perimeter trail hike, only 15 miles but 3950 vertical feet, very close to the 4k vertical feet that would make it an official killer hike.

A cool, nice day. I started at 7 and had the world to myself for three and a half hours. At three hours, I was all the way down, as far down as it goes in this preserve, at the creek bridge, enjoying the first calorie break of the day.

Finally I began to see mountain bikies, though not a lot. I was all the way back up to Skyline before I saw the day’s first hikers.

If I saw only a few people, wheeled or otherwise, it was more than made up by the number and variety of fungi.

This new Olympus Stylus camera has a close-up mode in which it shoots a burst at differing focal lengths and then combines the images. Above, the single-shot close-up of the fungus; below, the merged image. I am impressed!

This almost looks like stalactites!

And many hours later, some interesting mushrooms inside the burnt-out interior of a redwood.

More fungi inside the burned cavern.

I wouldn’t upturn a mushroom myself, but someone else had turned this one over, so I got up close for a look at its gills.

This and the two following photos are from a vertical embankment.

For some reason, this strikes me as a bit obscene. No idea why.

A jelly fungus. Without the multi-shot composite close-up the branch is blurred, and the redwood frond in the background it just a stripe of color.

It really is a day for the fungi to come out!

I walked the last quarter mile to Skeggs Pt parking with a couple of mountain bikies who had had enough hard work for the day. From there, it was a fairly flat couple of miles for me back to the parking lot. On the way I talked with three groups about scenery and hikes in the preserve. It was mid-afternoon, and it only occurred to me later that I should also have called to their attention the fact that sunset today was at 4:52. I hope everything worked out well for them.

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New boots, day 2: Industrial grade hike

November 13, 2016

Sunday, 13 Nov 2016

REI had an offer of 20% off more or less anything. I like my boots, but they’re getting to the point that I can see air through the bottom. Asked the REI clerk if I could get the same thing again, and I pretty much did. 20% off a pair of boots is a noticeable amount of money.

Saturday’s volunteer project was about 5 miles of hiking, something over a thousand feet of vertical gain, a good opportunity to check out the boots.

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Monterey cypresses, clearly planted by someone who presumably lived here back in the day.

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We had lunch under a big broken redwood, the side branch showing evidence that it has been broken off and regrown several times.

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The crew, photographed by Ellen as we started back to the car. Dave, Lynn, Doug, Scott, Bill, Miki.

Sunday, I thought I’d do a longer hike. Russian Ridge, for example. 18 miles, 3100 vertical feet. Industrial strength hike, not a killer.

On Mindego Road trail, I saw a bobcat. It stopped long enough to check me out, then went on its way.

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Spent much of the day looking for purple star thistle (above), removing all I found. Yes, I could wait a few months, while more of it germinated, but I might as well stay ahead of it as best I can. Also worked on bull thistle; mostly too late for this season, but many of the seeds are sprouting, and it’s also worth keeping ahead of next season’s crop.

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Fog over the ocean, but here it was a beautiful day, just about perfect. View from the top of Mindego Hill.

A 3-inch Douglas fir had fallen across Charquin trail. That’s small enough I can saw it off and clear the trail.

I found thistle in small clusters in a number of places, and had a chance to talk with a number of visitors as I worked on it. Collected some fresh purple star flowers and seed in a trash bag for landfill disposal.

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As the day wended its way along, the afternoon light became horizontal. Here, a pretty area along the aptly named Ancient Oaks trail.

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A late look at Mindego Hill, from whose summit I took the first picture of the day.

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Oh, yes, the new boots. Tired feet, but that’s hardly unexpected. I think they and I will become good friends.

Killer hike at Purisima

November 6, 2016

Saturday, 5 Nov 2016

On this last day of daylight time, I started off in twilight so dim that I could not yet see colors, even out in the open. It turned into a cool, partly cloudy, beautiful day, perfect for a long hike in the redwoods, up to Bald Knob, down Irish Ridge on the other side to Lobitos Creek trail, and on around. A bit more than 20 miles, well more than 4000 vertical feet, either of which qualifies it as a killer hike. And I got back to the parking area just about the time I was no longer able to see colors in the fading light. Great day.

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At the bottom of Irish Ridge, we find redwoods indeed, but also a row of Monterey cypress, presumably planted to adorn the drive of a country estate that we hypothesize might have been here at one time.

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Far from the madding crowd, along the largely deserted Lobitos Creek trail, mushrooms find themselves free to sprout with little concern for damage from passing traffic.

My Canon camera died from getting wet. I resurrected a Panasonic that I had put on the shelf due to some kind of internal failure. Although it more or less works, I Photoshopped these pictures artistically — the quality out of the camera reminds me why I had scrapped it. New one on order, coming soon, an Olympus, and waterproof!

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Here’s Purisima Creek trail, one of the prettiest redwood trails I know of, but this section is unusual, prettified without redwoods. Nice.

When I reached the landmark stone bench dedicated to Craig Britton, I needed a calorie break and a transfer of water from the spare bottle in my backpack. A couple was already there; they readily made room for me. While I ate, they asked about trail patrol and my assortment of weaponry (saw and digger). Then the woman sat up on the back of the bench, clamped her Significant Other between her knees, and proceeded to massage his neck, shoulders, back.

“Pretty decadent,” said I.

“Would you like one, too?”

“I wouldn’t say no!”

And so it happened that my special adventure of the day was a massage break, about eight hours and seventeen miles into it, and very welcome it was indeed. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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.

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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.

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

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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.

ARMS at Rancho

June 19, 2016

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Got an early start at Rancho San Antonio, working on the purple star thistle area that I’ve been visiting since December. Found more, but there is less and less as time goes on.

At 8, met Tom and Ellen, and we three piled in a Midpen truck for a day of work on stinkwort (smells like camphor), bull thistle and poison hemlock.

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We started by finding the Fremont’s bush mallow along Chamise trail, the only one on Midpen property. It had been mowed to the ground a year ago during brush clearing, and we wanted to help prevent the same from happening again this year. So we captured GPS coordinates, cleared the area around it by hand, and put up a number of red flags marked Do Not Brush! Ellen will notify the crew to avoid it.

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Pretty flowers!

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On the way back later, we found a second bush mallow, which Tom had seen a couple years ago and which had then disappeared (under the wrath of the mower). So we also got its GPS coordinates, cleared the area around it, and marked it with flags.

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Our first target was an area of old quarry tailings, with a flat that could have been a house site, and evidence of one or two old roads. Such open spaces, especially where water can form small ponds, are attractive to stinkwort, and indeed we found enough to be worth taking out.

Above and below, a form of buckwheat called wickerstem. There are a lot of wildflowers around, very pretty, but so small, most of them, that they’re easy to miss.

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Here’s another, above and below, this one skunkweed. Guess what it smells like.

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And this one, above and below, is Davy’s centaury.

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These, and more, identified by Tom, who IMO knows damn near everything about the botany of the region.

In Rogue Valley, we parked the truck at successive locations and worked our way along, dealing with bull thistle and poison hemlock. Tom gets nauseated by the smell of poison hemlock, so he peeled off to work on yellow star thistle instead. As for me, I hadn’t worked on hemlock before, so it was an experiment. Seems to have turned out better for me than it did for Socrates.

(BTW: ARMS means advanced resource management steward, an important-sounding title granted to us volunteers who go around pulling weeds. I probably shouldn’t go through a TSA checkpoint wearing a tee-shirt that says I’m ARMed.)

Sunday, 19 June

Did a trail patrol at El Corte de Madera Creek open space preserve. Sunny day, lots of people out, mountain bikies mostly behaving themselves, which makes me happy because there are a lot of gnarly, steep, blind, single-track curves.

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Redwoods and creeks are pretty much impossible to photograph. This does not even begin to do justice to the view of ECDM creek from the Virginia Mill bridge.

Good days to be outdoors

June 12, 2016

Sunday, 12 July 2016

When she has no formal projects planned, volunteer coordinator Ellen is available for ad hoc projects. We met on Saturday to work on broom along Razorback Ridge trail at Windy Hill. Pleasant day, and we made a dent, but there is so much that it was only a dent. It will need to be sprayed next season.

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I talk a lot about broom. Here’s a broom in bloom. This one is Spanish broom, rather than the more common French, and far more difficult to uproot. This one is above Horseshoe lake, a reminder to someone with a big weed wrench some day. Or maybe a pickaxe.

I was on the trail by 7 Sunday morning, up through Los Trancos, Montebello, Coal Creek, Russian Ridge and Skyline Ridge preserves. Pleasantly cool in the breeze, nice day. I should have gone to Mindego summit, but I wasn’t sure how much I had committed myself to, so I skipped it today. Next time: it turned out to be less than 16 miles, even with several little extra side excursions.

One of the side excursions was around Fir Knoll at Skyline Ridge. This is a trail that adds an extra 0.6 miles with no utilitarian purpose whatever; its only justification for existence is that it runs through a very pretty forest. Well, what more could we ask!

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And Ellen told me yesterday that there were still wildflowers on the walk around Horseshoe Lake. There are still wildflowers everywhere, but that’s a route I rarely take, so it was a good opportunity.

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I don’t think I had previously noticed the wild columbine turning up their sex organs for all to enjoy!

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Flowers are to enjoy, right? Small animals in just about every one, enjoying.

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Well, maybe not this one. It’s about a sixteenth of an inch across.

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To those who know better: yes, some of these pictures came from later, but I put them in pictorial order here.

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The eye spots on the dragonfly make it look as if it has a real face.

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And I presume the presence of the nymph is purely coincidental, nothing to do with the adult’s presence. I continue to boggle at the fact that the leading edges of their wings are open.

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Ellen said there was larkspur on the Horseshoe lake circuit, one of the reasons I wanted to do it. Maybe what she said, or what she meant, was: there is even a light smattering of larkspur. Certainly nothing like a rich growth.

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I never noticed these little guys before. Tom tells me it’s Fitches spikeweed, and pretty unusual around here.

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I like its compound flowers.

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Well, I mentioned earlier that every flower has its small animals, not all of which are vegetarian. The Mariposa lilies are especially rich in photo ops. Above, we see a spider that has caught a little bee of some sort, while meanwhile, lunch goes on across the way. (Side comment: I think there are far more Mariposa lilies this year than usual, especially in comparison with California poppies.)

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Here’s a hungry spider, and below a good-sized carnivorous insect.

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Saving the best for last, I was delighted with this picture. No sooner do you start eating lunch than you find that you are lunch!

Getting on toward summer

June 5, 2016

Saturday 4 June 2016

Supposed to be a hot day, so I decided to hike Purisima, possibly the coolest of the preserves. Parked halfway up Kings Mountain road, hiked down through Huddart Park, back up through Phleger Estate to the Kings Mountain volunteer fire station, where I refilled the water bottle. Then along Skyline to the North Ridge entrance.

As well as a garter snake (no photo), interesting and unusual sights included a slime mold on a stump.

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Looks like scrambled eggs, doesn’t it!

Not far down the Purisima North Ridge trail, I met Michael, who was a bit unsure what he wanted to do here today, if anything. Turned out he was from Fort Collins, Colorado, taking a day’s break from a week of work, staying at a B&B in Half Moon Bay. We walked and talked for a while; I confirmed his identification of poison oak — probably the single most important thing to do! — and we talked about grades, redwoods and Douglas fir, Audobon birds, and any number of things. Fortunate enough to find another garter snake to show Michael.

Hot enough day that I kept it to 17 miles, 3000 vertical feet — industrial grade, not a killer hike.

Sunday, 5 June

Coming down Kings Mountain Road yesterday, I passed workers out painting brightly coloured arrows on the road, and was reminded that the first Sunday in June is always the date for the Sequoia Century.

I don’t want to add congestion to the roads today, so I decided to visit Pulgas Ridge open space preserve, well away from the century routes, close and convenient, and a place I almost never go. Probably worth a circuit to have a look for bull thistle.

Got there during the coolth of the morning; the sun and heat didn’t really break through until I reached more or less the high point of the outer loop trail, so it worked out well. Short hike, but pleasant.

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And the special feature of today’s hike was seeing the lawn mowers in action. My favourite thing!

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They eat pretty much anything and everything. It’s only a shame they can’t be turned loose on more of the preserves.

Wilder Ranch with Jacky

May 29, 2016

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Up early, spent two hours working on purple star thistle at Rancho San Antonio open space preserve. It’s a month since last I was here, and the ones I missed earlier on are starting to bolt upright. Fortunately, none of them were yet flowering, quite, so I didn’t have to haul away the carcasses to prevent them from developing viable seed. There were also quite a few newly sprouted rosettes, and I’m sure that the tall grass concealed more than I didn’t find. I do what I can.

I left just enough time to make it to the 9:30 start of a broom-pulling group volunteer event at Bear Creek Redwoods open space preserve, and would have been on time, but for slow merging traffic onto highway 17 toward the beaches at Santa Cruz. Not a problem, in any event.

Hot day, eight or ten volunteers found plenty of broom, and poison oak, in the shade of the forest. Good company, hard work, happy to quit around 2 when we had all run out of time, energy and the sliced watermelon that Ellen had brought along.

Sunday, 29 May

Jacky and I took our own trip toward Santa Cruz, veering north up the coast a mile or two to Wilder Ranch state park. It has been a long time; I searched my log files, and find 24 May 2009 as the last visit here, also with Jacky. That day, we logged 7.2 miles, 400 vertical feet. Today was 8 miles, 940 vertical feet. Cool, pleasant overcast day, lots of mountain bikies, most of them well-behaved.

Back at park headquarters, we wandered around the historic ranch house and exhibits.

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I especially liked the steering mechanism on this John Deere General Purpose (it says so) tractor.

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An old barn, big deal. What’s special about this is that the siding has simply disappeared in places over the years, in small pieces, remaining in place where the wood was a little better at resisting the attack of time.

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We remembered a great old bald cypress tree at the ranch house, and missed it as we came in from the parking lot. It’s just that, from the backside, all we see is a great mass of green that isn’t obviously a single tree.

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The blacksmith shop is not all that unusual, but I think this is the first one we’ve ever seen that was clearly dedicated to plumbing fittings.

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A factory, adjoining the smithy, overhead belts driving all the tools.

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And we’ve always thought Pelton wheels were pretty classy. Here’s a broken one, but I bet it was good for a few horsepower when it was in working order.

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We stopped in Santa Cruz for a quick lunch, then back over the hill before the return traffic built up. A pretty good day!

Rancho and Montebello

April 30, 2016

Saturday, 30 April 2016

I haven’t done a killer hike for a while now. Spending time working on thistle and fallen trees, which is fine, but I’m getting soft. For reference, a killer hike includes 20 miles or 4000 vertical feet; today’s was both. Rancho San Antonio open space preserve.

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Almost as soon as I left the car, I saw a deer, and a pair of tom turkeys challenging for dominance, a nearby female of course elaborately uninterested.

Up the ridge along the transmission line access road, the trail that runs above the quarry, and to the top of Black Mt. Nice day, and a busy trail. These are some of the more distant and difficult trails in the preserve, ofttimes semi-deserted. Not today. Several groups, many one-sie and two-sie hikers. In contrast, the middle of the road Chamise trail, where I returned later to the parking area, was almost deserted. Nice to see people choosing the challenges.

I had not been to Waterwheel creek trail for quite a while, so I added that onto today’s hike, a way to bring the distance and elevation total up a bit. Pretty, pretty country: it’s really wonderful during the green of spring.

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Met a swallowtail on the way down. Pretty classy!

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Spring has definitely arrived; the lizards are also out scampering about.

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Eventually, back at the bottom, the zero-effort trails near the model farm. California poppies everywhere.

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It strikes me that these flowers are so bright because they contain super-pigment. Rather than just reflecting the red, orange, blue or whatever colour they like from the ambient sunlight, I bet they pump the pigment with high-energy short-wave photons and actively emit light in their preferred wavelength(s). This would make them more attractive to pollinators. In contrast, so to speak, it would be a waste of valuable energy to re-emit green wavelengths from stems and leaves. The result is that flowers are exceptionally bright, both absolutely and in comparison with their background.

I have no idea whether this is true, but it would make sense!

Having done the hard bit, I stopped at the Gate of Heaven cemetery, which abuts the preserve. Talked with the manager about the purple-star thistle I had seen on their side of the fence, offered to go work on it with her permission. The permission was easy; as the rains taper off for the season, the ground has turned very hard very quickly, and the cemetery has a massive infestation problem. So I cleared back from the fence fifteen or twenty feet and told myself it might alleviate next year’s crop on the open-space side.

Outdoors again

April 24, 2016

Saturday, 23 April 2016

I spent eight hours hiking a bit less than 14 miles in the preserves around the top of Page Mill road. Obviously, much of the time working on weeds, specifically thistle and broom, and even taking a picture or two. Very nice.

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I don’t think I had ever noticed the miner’s lettuce being red before.

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Nice day.

Sunday, 24 April

I had a couple of honeydew projects, so didn’t go off into the wild today. But by midafternoon it was indeed time to get outdoors.

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I first went to the Palo Alto duck pond, where the only bird in the migratory waterbirds area is, well, hardly a waterbird. Too breezy for the small animals, too chilly for me to hang in there very long. So I headed back into town.

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Only to stop while this big guy crossed the road. Classy!

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And a bit further on, another stop while mother Goose and papa Goose escorted six or eight younglings across the road.

I stopped at the allotment gardens next to the library, where there are occasionally things worth seeing. Today, for example.

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Still breezy. The wind blew the butterfly away from the lunch table, but only for a moment.

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A milliscopic fly on an artichoke.

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Don’t know what these are, but I’ve seen them around before. I had never noticed the flowers within the flowers.

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Aphid hiding under the leaf, hoping the giant ladybug larva won’t find it.

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I’ve seen these before, too. Someday I should learn all the names.

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And an unusual shot, the wing shields spread just before it buzzed off.

The new Mindego Hill trail

April 3, 2016

Sunday, 3 April 2016

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Mid-Peninsula open space district formally opened the new Mindego hill trail this week, so of course that was my destination today. I was here on a volunteer trail-building project a couple years ago, but it was long enough ago that today was new. Mid-Pen makes a big deal of Mindego hill, and it’s justified.

I parked at the Los Trancos gate on Page Mill road, where I talked with ranger Frances, who had arrived to unlock the gates for the day. I told her I was planning to visit Mindego hill. “You know there are closer parking places than this,” she said.

“Of course, but why would I want to do that?” She agreed — she knows me.

So it was a few hours later by the time I got there.

Yesterday I had swapped my folding saw for a different one; the new one has a spring steel blade, or something similar, considerably sharper than the previous one. I did well on a deadfall with branches maybe four inches in diameter, where two or maybe three inches was about the max for the old saw. Nice.

I also opportunistically removed bull thistle, trying, not always successfully, to take only the big ones near the trail and not get sucked into taking out all the neighbors as well. I could spend all day and not make it to Mindego hill.

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The first stop was the little side trail to what is called Council circle, a stone disk with a bench around about a third of it, from which we get a wonderful view of Mindego meadow and pond.

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The pond is off limits. The volunteer project I was on went there, where we talked with a grad student who was doing a research project on endangered species. I believe the San Francisco garter snake was one of the species of interest.

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And then the hike to the top. I have to agree with the district that this is pretty special. Almost perfect — almost, I say, because there was just a bit of haze on the ocean, and I couldn’t be more than 99% sure that the irregularity I saw out there really was the Farallon islands.

Lots of people out. For many, this is a difficult hike (4.6 miles round trip, about a thousand vertical feet). I met a number of families heading down from the Alpine Road parking area, with kids from 0 to maybe 6 or 8. It would be safe to predict a number of tired, sore, cranky kids (parents, too) by the time they made it back up to the parking area later.

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Well, and of course Mindego hill was not the only interesting thing I saw today. First garter snake of the season. Jacky and I have just watched David Attenborough’s Cold Blood series about reptiles and amphibians. Very good; one of the things we learned is that the forks of a snake’s tongue are differentially sensitive, so the snake can turn toward, or away from, an intersting scent.

I even saw a ringneck snake later, also the first of the season, but there wasn’t enough light in the deep forest to get a picture worth keeping.

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As I approached the Daniels nature center, an opportunity to refill the water bottle, a little insect landed on the grip of my hiking stick. I feel as if I ought to be able to put a name to this little guy, but it doesn’t come to me. [Update: it’s a snakefly. I forgive myself for not instantly knowing that.]

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Another interesting bit of nature, these little red spiky guys. No idea what they are.

Of course, this was a trail patrol, so I had to do a little trail patrolling as well as sightseeing and taking pictures.

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Here’s a fallen tree across White Oak trail in Montebello preserve. Hikers had worked their way around to the right, but even that detour was pretty difficult. So I pulled and sawed and had at it for a while. Eventually, a couple of mountain bikies came down the trail toward me. In trail patrol mode, I told them this trail was closed to bikes in winter, but of course as a volunteer, I can do nothing more than convey a possibly interesting fact. (As a libertarian, I probably wouldn’t write very many citations, even if I had the authority.)

Their car was on beyond, so they weren’t eager to turn back. They decided to help me clear the deadfall.

Big difference. They were bigger and stronger than I, and especially with the three of us working together, we moved some big branches. From their accents, I asked whether they were German; turned out they were from eastern Austria. Nice.

As I thanked them, I suggested that, if they met a ranger, they might (or might not) get out of jail free by explaining how they had helped me.

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The result, above. There is still one large log to step across; a chainsaw crew will need to clear it. Backed with lots of vegetation, the log in the right foreground blocks off the previous detour.

These hikes turn out not to be all that many miles or all that many vertical feet, but there is a fair bit of work involved anyway.

Saratoga Gap volunteer project

December 5, 2015

Saturday, 5 December 2015

I like to get up and get going, so I stopped at Rancho San Antonio to work on star thistle before going on to the 9:30 volunteer project at Saratoga Gap open space preserve. Which, by the way, was at the bottom of the hill, not the top, along Stevens Canyon road. There were two from the open space district, and three volunteers, the real hard core. We worked on broom, ivy and yellow star thistle.

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A creek draining down through some old-growth redwoods. Very pretty.

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Full of ladyfinger ferns, among many other vegetables.

There is an orchard on the property, fruit of various kinds, and a house whose cellar I’m told was once a cidery or winery and speakeasy. There is also an old swimming pool, with a foot or two of water in the deep end.

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Newts get into the swimming pool and can never climb out. So we checked it out, found one, and returned it to the nearby creek. Our good deed for the day.

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And we found what I believe is a goats’-beard fungus. Very classy!
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Along with what I’m told is a year-round creek, spilling water onto a stone that it has polished to a mirror finish over the decades.

Nice day. Hard work, poison oak, tired and sore, and of course happy.

Autumn hiking

November 22, 2015

Sunday, 22 Nov 2015

Although I went for a run Friday, there have been enough other recent claims to my time and attention that I have had very little exercise for the last two weeks. So I was motivated to get out and do something strenuous today. 21.7 miles, 3700 vertical feet. Strenuous enough.

Parked at Los Trancos, near a place that has llamas. Usually they are some distance away from the road, but they had come down to the fence today to hobnob — or maybe sneer — at four deer on the Free side of the fence.

When I do these trails, I usually go around clockwise, but I reversed the order today. Makes a difference; not only to the trails have a fresh look as seen from the other side, but I have energy to hike a couple of the frill detours that I always skip when they’re at the end of the hike, rather than the beginning.

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Sunny, mostly, but cool. Beautiful day. Peters creek bridge here, not long before I turned uphill and hiked to a calorie stop at a stone bench in memory of Wallace Stegner.

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Peters creek runs into the ocean. Two or three hours later, here we are at Stevens creek, at the bottom of Table Mountain on the other side, draining into the bay. And from here, we climb back to the ridge where the car was parked. Nice day, hard work.

Time for a beer.

Albino redwoods

November 8, 2015

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Prompted by a comment from last week’s post, I hiked the perimeter of El Corte de Madera open space preserve today, hoping to find another giant salamander.

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No luck, but the cool autumn day was wonderful, no matter what. I would have been happier with fewer crazy mountain bikies, but you take what you can get.

Sunday, 8 November

Ellen had very nicely organized a short hike for open space volunteers, into an area that’s completely closed off from public access, to visit a couple of groves of albino redwoods. There were about ten or a dozen of us.

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It was a little rainy, but beautiful.

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Even without albinos, this would be worth a visit. Very nice.

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Here is the larger of the two albino groves. The trees in the background are not albinos; the albinos have no chlorophyll, and cannot photosynthesize, so they grow as much as they can, and die off. We see lots of the dead earlier growth here.

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The group looking and talking.

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This is what they look like close up. Full redwood foliage structure, just no color.

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We went on to the second albino observation. This one is actually a burl on the side of a tree. Someone said this might be caused by a virus, and the idea of having an anomalous structure on an otherwise normal tree would tend to reinforce that idea.

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More beautiful views, these along the creek.

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There were at least two newts at the bottom of those little ponds. Don’t see them?

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Here’s one.

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Later, we found a couple more, out hiking along the trail.

Great place, great day! Thanks, Ellen.

Purisima, again

October 31, 2015

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Hiked Purisima for the second time this week. This time, with a little more sweat, over 18 miles, 4300 vertical feet.

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Dawn alpenglow in the west, out over the ocean. Very pretty.

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I have been thinking that I should have a self-portrait in hiking gear. No sooner said than done.

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I went up Borden Hatch Mill trail and down Irish Ridge, where there were some terrific views. This would probably be San Gregorio State Beach.

Even though it is still daylight time, it felt like the day was getting on by the time I got back down to Purisima Creek trail. And what should I discover but a giant salamander! In thirty years, I have only seen three, and as it happens, all three were here at Purisima. The next preserve down has a Giant Salamander trail, but I think it’s just marketing fluff.

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If I can’t see you, you can’t see me!

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But I can lift the leaves off, and then what do you have to say?

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Nothing, that’s what. These guys are completely torpid except when they actually panic. Because it was out in the middle of the trail, I was concerned that a mountain bike might come along and splat it. So two of us got little sticks and encouraged it over to the side of the trail. It panicked, of course, which was actually okay, because otherwise it wasn’t entirely clear that it was capable of more than a twitch.

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A beautiful clear day. Onshore, anyway. Half Moon Bay bright and sunny, even though the ocean is fogged in. Mavericks surf visible to the left of the radomes.

Outdoors again

October 26, 2015

Monday, 26 October 2015

Saturday was for pulling broom at a group project at Bear Creek redwoods, nothing to post. Sunday I hiked the loop of preserves surrounding the Page Mill — Skyline — Alpine road junction. Pleasant day, started out chilly and breezy, then warmed up.

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These beautiful little guys stick their rear ends up in the air when they feel threatened. I touched it with the tip of my hiking stick to see if I could provoke a spray of noxious fluids, but unsuccessfully.

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Pat’s conference finished Sunday, so I took Monday as vacation, and Jacky, Pat and I spent the day loafing.

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We started by hiking Purisima Creek trail, one of the prettiest redwood hikes anywhere. Discovered a ladybug colony setting in for the winter along the creek. My favorite thing!

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Stopped for a Mex lunch in Half Moon Bay, then went on to Fitzgerald Marine Preserve, knowing that low tide would be about 4:30 this afternoon.

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Nice day, jackets zipped all the way up.

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From the main parking area, we went on up to the Monterey pine forest. A bright shiny beetle going about its business on the trail. Pretty!

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The red is algae. I believe it does not damage the trees.

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At the south end is another way down to the beach, where there were two or three docents showing off the various creatures in the tide pools.

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I learn at least a little bit every day. This is a chiton, an animal with a pseudopod like a snail. They don’t like direct sunlight; this one is in a little hole that’s usually covered by alga, which I pulled back to take the picture.

Home in time for a brew on the patio. Nice day. Truly spoiled, yet again.

Page Mill killer hike

October 3, 2015

Saturday, 3 October 2015

I like to park at Palo Alto Foothills park and hike up from there, through Los Trancos open space preserve, Montebello OSP, Coal Creek OSP, Russian Ridge OSP, Skyline Ridge OSP, and back through Montebello and Los Trancos. It’s something over 20 miles, 3500 vertical feet.

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I always wonder whether insects and spiders don’t notice dewdrops or just accept them — that’s the way it is.

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Nice day. I had originally thought to hike some of the preserves further north, but it is definitely tarantula season, and I’ll have a better chance of finding one in the open grasslands down here. As it happened, I saw two tarantula hawk wasps, but no tarantulas. Schade!

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Poison oak mostly red by now.

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Stopped at Horseshoe lake for an apple and to look for small animals.

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It turned out that the great Cruz hike was today, and one of the parking areas at Skyline ridge OSP was given over to a couple of awnings and sag support. Busy and happy place.

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I started back down the hill. It was around 2 PM, far too early for the fog to be blowing in off the ocean, but here it comes! In times past, I have been up there on my bike during that kind of thing. Amazingly beautiful, bright sun and fog alternating, wisps and clouds, blowing and boiling across the road.

Strong, gusty winds, and chilly. In the car later, I heard a high wind warning for points further north, so this was just on the edge of it. I imagine some trees will come down.

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A wildlife camera. Do you suppose I count as wildlife?

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And nearing the end, this is Wildhorse Valley in Palo Alto Foothills park. It would be a good place to herd horses; open at one end, the sides are high and steep. Most horses could probably be captured here; a horse with the spirit to climb out would be tired and easy pickings for a few more riders waiting at the top.

Autumn at Rancho

September 27, 2015

Sunday, 27 September 2015

I haven’t been to Rancho San Antonio for a while — when I check my log, I find it was May! — so today seemed like a good time to have another go. As usual, I started by going out the PG&E trail to the top of Montebello, a bit more than 3000 feet of climb.

Met twenty kids going down Quarry trail, presumably having camped at Montebello last night. As sometimes happens, the ones in the pack were more or less asleep, not watching the trail, and quite prepared to run into me.

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As usual, great distant views from the top, but today my eye was caught by a small lizard on a nearby rock.

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Today I realized what’s different about this preserve, or at least much of this preserve: it’s a bay laurel forest! That’s unusual around here; leaves instead of duff on the ground, and leaves at and above eye level instead of far overhead. And it smells nice, too.

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There are two trail stubs leading off to Hidden Villa, and I always like to make the detour (an extra 3.2 miles, 900 feet of gain). I always forget to look for drinking water, but I was thinking of it today, and found a small sink off out of the way. In this country, water from a pipe, and especially water from a faucet, is safe to drink unless there is a sign stating otherwise. So I tanked up. Glad I did; the day turned muggy and I was down to the final droplets by the time I got back.

The picnic area was populated by several pavilions, lots of kids and a buffet meal. As I walked through, the official fairy made her appearance: flouncy dress, heavily made up, and baby talk in her voice. Barf!

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I returned via Hostel trail, where I found some unusual berries. No idea what they might be.

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More lizards, and quail that were surprisingly tame. Usually they run or fly if anyone gets within ten or fifteen feet, but these were busy enough collecting seeds that they didn’t care.

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Killer hike? Well, it was only 17.5 miles, but the 4100 vertical feet makes up for the shorter distance, so the answer is probably yes.

Mid-Pen volunteer recognition

September 19, 2015

Saturday, 19 September 2015

The Mid-Pen open space district sponsors a volunteer recognition event every year. They spend a few thou on a party, and the accountants estimate that the volunteers contribute about half a million dollars worth of work that doesn’t have to be paid for out of pocket. Not a bad deal.

Today was the day for 2015. An old rodeo grounds just west of La Honda, in La Honda creek open space preserve, which is not yet open to the public. The day began with a short hike, led by the district GM. With recent knee troubles, Jacky decided to stay under the shade of the pavilion instead. Not necessarily a bad decision: it was a pretty hot day, and the trail was out in the open.

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The hike was advertised as strenuous, 800 feet of gain in only a little over a mile, but someone got tangled up in the arithmetic. The top was a little over 800 feet, and the starting point was well over 200 feet, total gain about 560 feet, nothing like as difficult as they made it sound.

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Pretty good-sized group, and some fairly nice views from the top, including the ocean over that-a-way.

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I noticed later that the old USGS map shows eight oil wells right here at the top. Ancient history, nothing to see now. I wonder how old that information is.

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A couple of old buildings, picturesque as tumbledowns.

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My loyal fans will recall that I spent a few months last summer and fall hiking all of the trails in all of the preserves in the district. The reward is an anvil, duly presented at today’s ceremonies. Pretty classy!

It also turns out that I have put in something upward of 750 hours of volunteer work, so I got a nice stickpin award for that, suitable for putting into my disreputable hat.

Lots of food, lots of awards, lots of recognition. Mid-Pen does a great job of recognizing volunteers. Considering that we are pretty much all of us volunteers at our places of employment, it’s curious that our companies are really not very good at this at all.

What a glorious feeling; I’m happy again!

August 29, 2015

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Got to Purisima parking about a quarter after 7, cool, foggy morning. As I was lacing up my boots, another car came into the lot, parked next to mine. Turned out to be Jim, a friend from a dot-com startup some years ago. (We didn’t get rich, but we had fun. One out of two ain’t bad.) He and his friend Bob were going to do much the same route that I had in mind, and add on a few miles to boot. Good for them. But we left separately, and didn’t encounter each other on the trail.

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There is nothing as beautiful as redwoods in the fog.

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Fairly wet under the trees, as fog condensed on the overhead foliage. But sometimes, even out in the open, the fog condensed upon itself and fell out of the sky. I seem to recall there’s a word for that, isn’t there? Oh, yes: rain! Been so long I had almost forgotten. I didn’t bring a shell, got thoroughly wet, but who cares! More! More!

Lots of people out today. Even on the side trails (Borden-Hatch Mill trail), where I sometimes encounter no one at all, I met easily upward of thirty hikers, singly, in pairs, some in groups as large as six or eight. Some kind of organized outing, I suppose, and good for them.

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Redwoods live a long time unless they have the misfortune to grow at the edge of a creek whose bank erodes. Actually, if there is enough root in contact with the soil, daughters will sprout from the root and carry on the family tradition indefinitely.

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Not a redwood in the fog, but still very pretty.

The drive home was sunny, east of Skyline Ridge, sheltered from the Pacific fog. The upper half of the ridge was invisible, just a billow of brilliantly white cloud. Only those of us who had been up there knew how great it also was from the inside.