Archive for the ‘Volunteer work’ Category

Outdoors, as always

August 23, 2015

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Ellen put out a call for volunteers to go to La Honda Creek open space preserve and attack slender false brome. As well as Ellen (below r), we had Lynn, Doug and myself. Pretty country, and places I had never been. After working over the first area, we even walked down La Honda creek bed, which involved scrambling over rocks more than avoiding the occasional puddle of water.

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Although the target was slender false brome, we took a fair bit of broom as well. But we left a few that were covered with broom caterpillars. Wouldn’t want to reduce the population of anything that devours the stuff. If the parent plant survives, which it probably will, we’ll get it next time.

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The Lodge. Yes, it really was a lodge once upon a time.

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It almost looks as if it could be made usable again.

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But clearly with considerable work.

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Not far away from The Lodge is The Cabin. This is in much worse condition, and is planned for demolition shortly.

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Near The Cabin is, well, I suppose this might be called The Deck. Nice day, good company, and Ellen always brings great munchies.

Sunday, 23 August

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Did the Montebello loop through Saratoga Summit and back, a bit over 20 miles, a bit under 4000 vertical feet. Tired and sore.

Because I don’t like gooping up with sunscreen, I always wear long sleeved shirts. But for ventilation, I leave the wrists unbuttoned. I was hiking along today, felt something near my right elbow. Thought it might be a dangle from my backpack, brushed at it. No dangle.

Then I thought I might have picked up a bit of duff on my shirt sleeve. No.

Finally I explored the situation with the other hand and felt something on my arm, under the cloth. Duff inside my sleeve?

To make a long story short, it turned out to be a grasshopper, whose idea of safety was to go up. My idea was for it to go down, and after a certain amount of back and forth, my idea prevailed. The grasshopper emerged considerably the worse for wear.

In the barn-door category, I buttoned the wrist buttons. Completely pointless, of course.

… and if that’s my biggest adventure of the day, well, that’s okay.

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‘Nother rattlesnake !

August 15, 2015

One of my volunteer projects is to eradicate — well, try to eradicate — yellow star thistle (YST) at Windy Hill open space preserve. I went to the Anniversary trail section this morning to sweep for YST. At this time of year, I think once a month is about right, and it has been about a month. I found enough to justify the effort, but it really is getting pretty sparse. Definitely making progress. The seed remains viable for a few years, so it is a continuing effort, but there’s hope.

The air was heavily hazy in all directions, as wildfires burn everywhere. My venue was windy, cool and pleasant until about mid-morning, when the smell of smoke became stronger and I called it quits.

Today’s adventure: as I uprooted a small thistle, my eye noticed several smooth and tubular things about a foot from my hand. My first thought was a pile of droppings of some kind; when my eyes zoomed out, I realized it was a heavily squinched rattlesnake.

I am very happy to report that we each went our separate ways without confrontation. No picture; I reached for my camera (having retreated to a safe distance), but it didn’t stay around. As it disappeared into its hole, it shook its rattles goodbye.

Two rattlesnakes in two weeks. That’s pretty special.

Snake day at Windy Hill

August 9, 2015

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Today was for hiking all the trails at Windy Hill, a bit more than 18 miles, a bit less than 4000 feet of vertical gain. Nice to get out and get a little exercise.

I haven’t seen very many snakes this year, nor for the past few years. I think the drought has reduced the amount of vegetation available for the little field mice and voles that form the snakes’ diet, and the snake population has declined accordingly.

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So I was delighted to find a rattlesnake today.

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It was quiet and relaxed. I was quiet and relaxed. Two or three minutes, during which I fired off a number of photos, and then it oozed off the trail into the bush.

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I mentioned having seen a rattlesnake to several dog walkers I met afterward. Some of them tightened up their leashes. It’s good if no one gets hurt, including the snake.

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Not much further along, another snake, this one a gopher snake. My cup runneth over!

And just to gild the lily, I came upon two hikers a few minutes later, still looking off the trail into the weeds, where they told me a ringneck snake had just disappeared.

Great day, great place!

Golden summer

July 3, 2015

Friday, 3 July 2015

A couple days ago, I worked on yellow star thistle at Windy Hill open space preserve. This requires going off-trail into the tall grass, and I spent half an hour picking seeds out of my socks afterward. Today I tried a pair of gaiters that I have had for quite a while and possibly never worn before. They helped a lot, but I need to figure out how to properly fasten them down.

Los Trancos today, where I spent four hours, prevented hundreds of thousands of seeds from entering the next-generation ecosystem, and didn’t even make a dent. Foof! Only the photos made it worthwhile.

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From a distance, this looked like a fox lurking in the tall grass.

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I found two manti, this one in amongst the YST (that’s what we regulars call yellow-star thistle). There were probably a few thousand that I didn’t see, and if this one hadn’t moved, I wouldn’t have seen it either.

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It wasn’t really happy about posing for photos, but I fired off fifty or eighty shots, and a few of them turned out not too bad.

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Later on, a big spider hiding behind a grass seed pod. If it can’t see me, I obviously can’t see it. When I worked around behind it, it scurried down the stem and disappeared on the ground.

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Hot day, hard work, good to bail out after a while and head for home.

Last killer hike of spring

June 20, 2015

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Two weeks since I had any serious exercise (the Aachener Wald last Sunday was a nice walk of maybe 15 miles, but not very vertical). Can I handle a killer hike today? Parked at Los Trancos entrance well down Page Mill road, and hiked 21.75 miles, 3600 vertical feet, on a sticky, muggy day. Not as much fun as it might have been, and I ran out of water, but that’s what happens. For the locals: down Canyon trail, up Table Mountain, to Saratoga gap, back on the west side of Skyline.

Someone at Saratoga gap had let his front wheels come forward off the pavement down three or four inches onto the dirt, and didn’t have enough traction (front wheel drive car) to get back up onto the pavement. Three mountain bikies and I teamed up to lift and push the car onto the pavement. Our good deed for the day.

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Since last I was here, the green of spring has faded completely. The open areas are California golden, chest high dry grass. The pretty areas are in the woods and along the streams. Above: Peters Creek. There are a few ponds here and there, with newts lazing on the bottom, sometimes swimming desultorily around. Notice the one below exposing his butt to the coolth of the air.

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Also a day to find insects, busy drinking syrup from the flowers.

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Hard work today, but I get a beer as a reward. Well, I would have had a beer anyway, but today I earned it!

Photon accumulation

June 19, 2015

Thursday, 18 June 2015

I try to minimize jetlag by collecting all the photons available. So of course, I did a trail patrol at Windy Hill today, spent an hour or so removing thistle, and came upon this beautiful alligator lizard.

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Alligator lizards are especially good photographic subjects because they freeze instead of running. I was only a couple of cm away from it when I shot that last photo. Just to make sure it was healthy, I then nudged it with my toe, and it took off into the bush.

Good to be home.

Silicon Valley

May 24, 2015

 

Saturday 23 May 2015

There was a broom-pulling volunteer event at Bear Creek Redwoods, but it only started at 9:30, and I’m up and about much earlier than that. Stopped at Rancho San Antonio for another pass at the purple star thistle, and I was 2 minutes late getting to Bear Creek. Not to worry. As it happened, volunteer coordinator Ellen had seen me at Rancho, honked hello as she went past on her way to Bear Creek. So she knew I’d be along.

I’m recovering from tennis elbow, but I am recovering, so I’m willing to do an hour or two of work, mostly with a weed wrench, which doesn’t stress the forearm muscles as much as gripping and pulling. When I had had enough, Ellen asked me to reconnoiter some nearby trails. She didn’t like the answer: broom and more broom everywhere. But that’s how it is.

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We are right across highway 17 from Lexington reservoir, and we could hear a helicopter doing training, scooping water from the lake to fight fires. Later on, we saw it, first hovering over Mt Umunhum, then coming a lot closer and lowering crew on a winch. I got no good photos of that, unfortunately, but if you Google “CDF 106,” you find interesting videos of this particular chopper, here and here.

Sunday, 24 May

I decided to do a trail patrol at Rancho. Skipped the usual side trip to the top of Black Mountain, because I may want to do something strenuous tomorrow as well. But I added on a couple miles of other trail, to keep it from being trivial.

I checked the side trail to Hidden Villa, just to see whether it was closed to the public already — they run summer camps, and close it every summer, but not yet. As I reached the top of the little hill, I met a loop hike from Hidden Villa, half a dozen adults, six or eight kids in the 8-10 range. Nice.

In the same general clutter (sorry: cluster) were a couple of guys who wanted to go prowl through the tall grass looking for whiptails. Have to admit I had to look up whiptails when I got home. I hope they found some.

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Just above the pond, a deer. Completely relaxed about my presence, close enough I could hear it munching on that delicious salad.

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From the outside (above) and the inside (below). Nice!

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Three hikers came up behind me and passed, and I got a minute or two of their conversation. One was going on about game theory, finding the point that represents the maximum willingness to pay, versus the customer’s desire to pay as little as possible. He mentioned that he worked at Google, whose business is built around auctioning ads. The second said he was also contracting with Google, developing computer science classes for impoverished kids. The third said he had started out as a poly sci major at Columbia. Decided after one semester that it wasn’t for him, dropped out, travelled, bummed around, and now that he’s in Silicon Valley … well, I couldn’t hear the rest of it.

Do you suppose you would overhear that conversation anywhere and everywhere in the world? … maybe, yes. Pretty cool!

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This is probably not a whiptail, though I have no good reason to assume that.

After completing the trail patrol, I went back and tidied up the loose edges around the thistle sweep I had done yesterday. Good to tie up the package, and still get home in time for a beer.

Cloudy and chilly

May 17, 2015

Sunday, 17 May 2015

I spent 3.5 hours yesterday working on broom and thistle, but when I had used up my quota of enthusiasm for the day, it was so cold and windy that I called it quits, rather than going for a hike. (Well, it made a difference that I had forgotten to take along a jacket.)

Today, Sunday, I’d like to do a killer hike. Someplace I haven’t been for a while? Went to Wunderlich park, left the car, hiked to Skyline, thence to El Corte de Madera Creek open space preserve. Well, at least the first part was a place I haven’t been for a while. As to ECDM, I completed the first draft of my trail signs audit a few days ago, and it was an opportunity to ponder my conclusions. Worthwhile, too. I developed a couple of new insights that will go into draft 2.

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The new bridge across ECDM creek is not complete, but is open for traffic. Beautiful red wood. Too bad it won’t stay this color; enjoy it while we can.

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Just below the bridge is the stream crossing that was the official detour while the bridge was under construction. Half a dozen mountain bikies were attacking the grade on the right side, without a great deal of success. Of course, they were just playing. I munched a munchie while watching them. One of them invited me to give it a try. Ha!

Nice day. I was concerned at the outset that I had only one water bottle, but it was so chilly that I still had about a quarter of it left when I got back to the car. Almost 22 miles, over 5000 vertical feet.

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This is your brain on mushrooms.

Yet another busy weekend

May 3, 2015

Saturday, 2 May 2015

I had originally signed up for a trail-building volunteer project, but my tennis elbow suggests I should take it easy for a week or three, so I begged off. Instead, I thought I’d park at Palo Alto Foothills park and do a serious hike from there, but the gate was still closed when I arrived, so I went on up the hill as far as the first gate into Los Trancos, and improvised a hike that turned out not to be as long as I had intended (16.5 miles, 2800 vertical feet). Nice day, and the wildflowers are out everywhere.

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I stopped at the Stevens Creek crossing along Canyon trail to photograph the underwater newts (three in this picture).

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Many hours later, I entered Coal Creek preserve on my way back toward the car. Given that I am pretty sure I saw a mountain lion at Coal Creek a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t want to sell life insurance on that cow.

Wildlife: as well as the newts, a garter snake. Nice.

Sunday, 3 May

Given that yesterday was less than what I wanted to do, I filled in today by visiting the rest of the trail junctions in El Corte de Madera open space preserve. This is part of my trail signs audit project, which I am going to have to sell to the district.

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The overnight fog was just lifting. Very nice.

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Tafoni is a kind of sandstone, subject to interesting letterboxing, and one of the attractions of this preserve. There is more tafoni around here, for example at Bean Hollow state beach, but not as close and convenient.

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In 1953, a DC6 crashed in the fog on this ridge. This was still during the time when aircraft had names, and this one was the Resolution. So the trail that runs past the site is the Resolution trail. I doubt they had the equivalent of ATVs to help with salvage, and there may or may not have even been a trail along there. Likely as not, whatever was recovered was carried out on horses or mules.

After recovering the bodies and personal effects, the next priority would have been forensic evidence. Then whatever small things might have been of value would have been salvaged, for example instruments or computers. Things that were too big or too heavy to justify removal would have been left behind, where they have probably been picked over by souvenir hunters for sixty years.

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I haven’t come along this trail for a few months, and don’t recall that there was much of anything to see. Today, there was all kinds of aircraft debris along the trail, more visible down the hill below the trail. Surprising, in a way, that there still remains this much that’s both interesting and movable.

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My guess that that scavengers have been prowling around down there, and for whatever reason, just didn’t have a chance to haul away the latest set of goodies.

Hours later, I had been down to the further reaches of the preserve and was on the way out, having talked to a number of mountain bikies, found a rotten plank in a bridge for my trail report, and generally had a good time (14 miles, 3300 vertical feet). The fog had blown in off the ocean and it was chilly and windy.

A group of hikers came past, and the red madrone tunnel suggested a perfect photo. (And yes, they agreed. But I shot them before they were all posed.)

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Rancho weekend

April 19, 2015

Sunday, 19 April 2015

All this pulling weeds puts stress on my arm, which eventually makes it sore. Lateral epicondylitis, says the doctor, more commonly known as tennis elbow. Slow to heal, and not good to continue to stress it. So I begged off the Saturday broom attack volunteer project. But the purple star thistle at Rancho San Antonio may (or may not) still be young enough to be worth going after. And maybe I can do that left-handed. Worth a try.

Six hours later, I had destroyed roughly 42 thousand thistle plants. Or at least it seemed like that. My tank of enthusiasm was empty for the day.

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And the wildlife highlight of the day was finding a tiny mantis in the debris (the white thing, head-down in the center of the picture). I would have just trashed the picture, but I rather liked the wild modernistic abstract art feel of it.

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The other thing I saw was a couple of jackrabbits, one of them returning to the wild after a visit to this pond. Not a whole lot of water around here, and I imagine there is quite a bit of traffic when the people aren’t around.

Oh, and a wild turkey also came out of the woods twenty feet in front of me, as close as I have ever been. It walked unconcernedly across the trail and off into the grasslands to see what was going on there.

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And there are these little puffy balls on the trail here and there.

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Close-up makes them look like tiny cabbages. No idea what they really are. [Follow-up: Tom C tells me they are woolly marbles.]

Sunday, I went back to Rancho, but just for a hike. Usual sort of thing, about 15 miles, 3400 vertical feet.

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A meadow full of owls clover. Nice!

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Why the name? Because the little faces look like, well, something. Maybe owls?

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What I hadn’t noticed before was the little balls above the owls’ heads. At first, I thought those were dewdrops, but clearly they are part of the plant. I think they are the pistils of the flowers.

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And these have to be aphids, but the largest I have ever seen. A good half-centimeter.

Update: Bug Guide says these are katydids, but clearly nymphs. I see no sign of wings, not even budding wings, much less developed wings that would give them the characteristic longer shape I think of as a katydid.

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I consider this photo to be reasonably artistic, but also notice the butterfly’s coiled-up hose and nozzle. (click to zoom)

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Globe lanterns

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Some of the yellow daisy-kind of flowers didn’t have outstanding stamens, but the pollen on these is quite obvious. [Follow-up: Tom C says they are smooth hawksbeard. According to Google, this is considered invasive in some places, and has not previously been reported in Santa Clara county.]

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What could be more innocent than a little yellow bowl? [Follow-up: Tom C says it’s a mariposa lilly.]

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With, of course, guests, dining on the goodies.

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And guests, once removed, dining on the diners.

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I have seen yellow crab spiders in these flowers, also in California poppies, but I don’t recall white.

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What I especially like about this picture, in addition to the spider’s textured body, is the way its eye bugs out.

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More wildflowers. [Tom C says this is the fruit of the lomatium.]

The season is really in full swing here. Lots of variety, enthusiasm everywhere.

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This bush would not necessarily be that impressive in its own right, except that it is the only one anywhere near here. Don’t know what it is, but it certainly stands out amidst its neighbors. [Follow-up: Tom C says it’s a bush mallow.]

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[Follow-up: Tom C says these are Wind Poppies.]

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Spring, indeed, and all of us enjoying it to the max.

Purisima

April 11, 2015

Saturday, 11 April 2015

The lining of my boots is shredding, so I bought a new pair. I fully expect that my new boots and I will be good friends, but perhaps I shouldn’t assume that by going on a killer hike on day one. The default hike at Purisima is about 10 miles, and there’s a loop option that adds another 5 miles and a thousand feet of climb, if the boots are happy by the time I get to the choice point.

And so it was: 15 miles, 3600 feet of climb. Not a killer hike, but industrial strength.

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A beautiful, clear day, lots of people out enjoying it. I started by working on broom out along North Ridge trail, cleaning up some that I had missed, and using my newly-acquired folding saw to work on some that were too big to get otherwise. But I’m wearing shorts and have only wrist-length gloves, so I’m doing what I can to stay out of the poison oak, and that gives some of the broom a reprieve.

Then on down Whittemore Gulch trail, and back along Purisima creek, with a detour up Grabtown Gulch trail and down Borden Hatch Mill, finally picking up Craig Britton trail back toward the parking area.

A surprising number of downed trees, given that there hasn’t been a storm recently. I carry plastic tape on which I note my initials and the date, just so the next volunteer knows he doesn’t have to report the same fallen tree yet again. One of the fallen trees had already been flagged, with a date of February 10. That’s one to report a second time!

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The one above was on Purisima creek trail. Passable, but you would have to duck-walk under it.

There were so many fallen trees that I ran out of tape. Came upon someone putting up colored tape along the trail. His flags were long streamers, and I stopped to consider whether I could, in good conscience, steal half of one of his streamers. He saw me looking at the tape and came back to talk.

Name of Will, he was marking the route for a run tomorrow. He had jumped to the conclusion that I objected to his tape, so he wanted to assure me that the course would be swept tomorrow, after the run. I believe him.

He went his way and I went mine. I found a poison oak vine wafting itself out into the trail, where a runner (or anyone else not paying attention) could easily brush against it. I was able to pile a chunk of deadfall onto it, to anchor it to the embankment beside the trail. My good deed for the day.

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Everyone was enjoying the day, even the insects!

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As I went on, it occurred to me that the low-overhang fallen tree (above) would be a nuisance for the runners. And it just so happened that I met a ranger as I was hiking up the last steep stretch to the parking lot. He didn’t have a chainsaw in his truck, but he did have a bigger hand saw than mine, and volunteered to go around and remove the tree today. His good deed for the day.

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And in the parking lot, I discovered a pet. Put her on my thumb while I took a picture or two, then gave her the brush-off. I heartily approve of females climbing onto my bod, but not that kind of female, sorry.

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Look closely (click to enlarge), and you’ll see the droplets of topical anaesthetic she exudes from her feet, so she can crawl across my skin without triggering a reaction.

Easter, Windy Hill

April 5, 2015

Easter Sunday, 5 April 2015

Russian ridge yesterday, with a volunteer crew, working on Italian thistle and broom. Cool and clear, nice day.

It was supposed to rain later today, so I didn’t want to spend a lot of time driving. Better to hike before the rain starts. Windy Hill is closest, and by doing a figure-8 on the trails, I can make it a non-trivial hike (almost 15 miles, 3300 vertical feet).

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When the wild flowers are out, the wild animals can’t be far behind.

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Yum!

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Not sure what these are. Interesting. [Follow-up: Tom C says they are dwarf owls clover.]

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I have no idea what the English (latin) name for these would be (above), but in Caterpillar (below), they’re called Delicious.

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Collected my first tick of the season. I gave her the brush-off before it occurred to me that I should have photographed her first. Well, there will doubtless be other opportunities.

Never did get real rain to speak of, a cool pleasant day. The weather discouraged the heavy turnout that might otherwise have happened, but those of us out there on the trail had a great time.

Hiking in the rain

March 22, 2015

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Intimidated by heavy mountain bike use, steep grades, blind curves, I don’t visit El Corte de Madera open space preserve very often. Even when I was a mountain bikie myself, I didn’t come here, same reason, as well as the fact that it’s more technical than I’m really up for. But I haven’t been here for a while, and it was a rainy day, with fewer bikies than usual. Parked at the newly opened lot off Skyline and hiked the perimeter trails clockwise. A bit less than 16 miles, but 3800 vertical feet. I earned my beer.

Nice to hike in the rain and the coolth. Two or three times it stopped raining and I stowed my rain shell, and two or three times I dug it out again.

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Especially recalling the lost hikers I helped last September, I have long been unhappy with the state of the trail signs here. Today I decided to photograph the signs at all of the trail junctions on my route. I documented inconsistencies with the paper map, absent signs, erroneous signs, vandalized signs … (what else is there?). Needs a clean-up.

For broom too large to take by hand or with a small weed wrench, I now have a small folding saw – I can at least girdle them. I added the saw to my hiking kit, and found several uses for it today, clearing the trail of debris that would otherwise have required a trail report.

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This year’s new growth is a lighter, brighter green than the old foliage. Makes the trees look as if they’re decorated.

Broom at Bear Creek

March 21, 2015

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Another open space volunteer event. Today’s was in Bear Creek redwoods open space preserve, the area west of Bear Creek road that isn’t open, even by permit. It was a fairly large group and we made a serious dent in a non-trivial area of broom, though there is enough for any number of additional days in the future, should we like.

Mostly redwoods, and very pretty. After a morning of work, the lunch break was in a cool and pleasant redwood grove. Not far away, a single broom plant stood a foot high in a tiny patch of sunlight, highlighted by the ubiquitous god Taunt. After a few minutes of increasing irritation by all of us, Paul got up, walked over and uprooted the thing.

After lunch, we took a short hike to see a couple of the really old-growth redwoods.

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Ellen, shooting a picture up the tree. It’s hard to appreciate how big these are without something of known size as a reference, for example a person.

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What Ellen sees up there.

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This same tree is very interesting inasmuch as it has an off ramp around on the back, and toward the end of the off ramp, another tree springs forth, goodly sized in its own right.

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Not only that, but the next tree over has much the same arrangement. I have no idea why this happened. Ellen thinks they are genetic duplicates, siblings sprouted from a long-lost parent, but I have trouble thinking that this is a natural growth pattern, regardless of DNA mutations.

I remarked to a friend that it’s a good weekend when I don’t show symptoms of poison oak on Monday. We’ll see!

Springy day

March 8, 2015

Sunday, 8 March 2015

After almost seven hours attacking broom at Purisima yesterday, I wasn’t sure I would be up for a killer hike today. So I parked at Palo Alto Foothills park and hiked up the hill and around a loop comprising Los Trancos open space preserve, Montebello, Coal Creek, Russian Ridge, Skyline Ridge and back through Montebello and Los Trancos. Turned out to be 19.7 miles, killer distance, but only 3500 vertical feet.

The adventures began as I parked the car: two deer browsing in the woods just above the parking area. I crossed the hill and down into Wild Horse valley, where I found a bull turkey showing off. Jacky says it should be called a Tom, but she didn’t see how big it was !

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Do you suppose he knows how delicious he looks?

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“Just ignore him, Margaret, he’ll go away.”

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None of us males really looks that great from directly to the rear!

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At Los Trancos, I was happy to see that the bridge whose pending destruction I had flagged in January (above) has been rescued (below).

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Not quite so happy to see that a downed tree I had also reported in January is still there. I’ll report it again.

The wildflowers are out in profusion. Very nice.

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Near the bottom of Meadow trail in Coal Creek OSP, I saw what I think was a mountain lion. Only a second, and I didn’t get a good luck, but it was dark, bigger than a deer or a coyote or a bobcat, low to the ground, and running, rather than bounding along the way deer do. The only other possibility I can think of is a wild pig, but a) I have never seen one on the peninsula, b) it was making less noise than I would expect from a wild pig, and c) at this time of year, it probably wouldn’t have been alone.

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Russian Ridge, Mindego hill to the left, fog over the ocean. Very nice.

Insects are beginning to feed on the California poppy blossoms. I looked for yellow or orange spiders lurking to feed on the insects, but didn’t see any. Well, it is early in the season yet. They’ll be around shortly.

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I was reading a book set in Sweden recently, in which the protagonist watches carefully for the first butterfly of spring. The species was an omen of good or ill fortune. No chance here! I saw practically every kind of butterfly we ever have, even including a swallowtail. Impressive.

Also found an empty cicada shell on a blade of grass.

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Confirmed wildlife sighting: a gopher, Russian Ridge. Not as exciting as a mountain lion, but I take what I can get.

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This wildlife camera is at the top of Los Trancos trail in Foothills park. I suppose it took a picture of my mid-section.

I found a big blossomy broom near here, stopped at the gate when I got back to the car to tell the ranger about it. Don’t know whether they’ll do anything, but it doesn’t hurt to let them know.

Quite a day for mini-adventures. Great to be out, even if my feet are sore.

Crisp

March 1, 2015

Sunday, 1 March 2015

I have been bothered for a long time about broom along the North Ridge trail at Purisima Redwoods open space preserve, so today I did something about it (5.6 hours). Hard work, but I made a visible difference.

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Yesterday’s drizzle cleared the air completely, along with some overnight rain. The view from the trail, with the radar dome at Princeton visible at the far right (part of SFO’s traffic control).

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From a little further along, the head at Princeton, the harbor breakwater visible, with the surf of Mavericks extending to its left. The town of Half Moon Bay is partly visible at the near left.

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But I think what impressed me more than these nice crispy views of Half Moon Bay was the fact that the Farallons were visible, a cluster of small uninhabited islands about 30 miles off the Golden Gate. I don’t think I have ever seen them from here; truly an exceptionally clear day. According to Google Maps, the nearest of these islands is almost exactly 40 miles from me, as the photon flies.

Checking out Thornewood

February 28, 2015

Saturday, 28 February 2015

There was supposed to be a volunteer event a few weeks ago, removing broom at Thornewood open space preserve, but rain on the Coal Creek project day caused a reshuffle and at least a delay, if not a cancellation. I had limited time today, so I thought I’d visit Thornewood, which is a small preserve, and perhaps remove some broom myself, or at least see what needed to be done.

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Rainy kind of a day. Well, drizzly, really. Hardly worth putting on the rain shell. The wildflowers are coming out in profusion. Next time, I’ll shoot some shooting stars as well!

I didn’t find very much broom, a few sporadic plants along one of the trails, and a goodly infestation on the non-trail that used to be a paved road, once upon a time, above Schilling lake. (By the way: this is the Schilling family of spice renown. By the byway: the Folger estate over at Wunderlich park is the … yep, you got it!)

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So I spent an hour or a bit more, trying to avoid the poison oak and removing everything I could reach. The picture above shows grist for my mill in the background, and in the foreground, well, milled grist, I suppose. I never did see enough broom to justify a multi-volunteer project, so I suppose there’s an infestation off the trail somewhere.

A cool, pleasant day, pretty in the redwoods, pretty with the wildflowers. This preserve is so small that I hardly ever come here, but it’s certainly close and convenient, and rather nice.

Trail patrol in the rain

February 8, 2015

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The radio predicted a chance of rain, scattered showers with the possibility of a thunderstorm. That’s much less ominous than yesterday’s forecast. Having a nasty, suspicious mind, I looked at the weather radar. Clear now, and a solid block of green and yellow and orange pixels off the coast, heading this way. Right! So much for the radio optimists.

But there is no such thing as bad weather, merely inadequate clothing. And although I did some work yesterday, it wasn’t cardiovascular exercise. Start early, maybe avoid the worst of the rain?

And it was raining, fairly seriously, as I drove to Windy Hill, the closest and most convenient of the preserves that offer a route to Skyline ridge. Having washed the urushiol off my jacket and cap yesterday (I hope), I was back in business with some level of resistance to water. The newts are out, and good for them. Haven’t seen any for a while.

I decided to wear my padded vest over the long-sleeved tee shirt. Glad I did; the wind and rain were vicious at the top. Well, not vicious enough to make me zip the armpit vents of my rain shell, but vicious enough. I turned back down Hamm’s Gulch trail, and after descending not very far at all, the weather was vastly improved.

As always under these circumstances, there was debris on the trail, much of which was small enough that I could remove it myself. Only one that I had to report for subsequent attention by the chainsaw crew.

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This photo shows a situation that’s worth special mention, a tree just getting ready to fall, levering its root up out of the ground. I don’t know whether it has minutes or hours, but I bet it won’t last for days before coming down.

Nicely timed. As I got back to the parking lot, the desultory rain turned into hard rain. Had I been a minute later, I would have been in the car, rather than on the way to the car, but then, I would have missed the photo above. Nice to get home where I draped jacket and cap over the bicycle handlebars in the garage, dropped socks and gloves on the slate floor of the solarium, shed everything else into the bathtub to drain and dry, and stepped into a hot shower!

Long ridge trail patrol

February 1, 2015

Sunday, 1 Feb 2015

I thought I might start at Skyline and hike down to the Peters Creek redwood grove in Portola state park. One of the prettiest places I know, and I haven’t been there for quite a while. It’s also at least a semi-killer hike.

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A nice day, fog over the ocean. I had the world to myself for a while. Deer everywhere; I counted thirteen in one herd. They really do need some natural enemies. Venison, anyone?

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I thought the eroded wood on this old stump was worth a closer look.

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Ward road descends into Portola State Park. Very pleasant trail, even if there are no redwoods right here.

Unfortunately, the trail that turns off the fire road and descends to Slate creek was completely obscured, maybe closed, or maybe, for whatever reason, beyond the No Trespassing sign. Not good.

So I went back up and made a different loop. Garden variety trail patrol. Helped a Chinese family with a map check, talked with a couple of women about volunteering. Passed Dad and two little guys walking their mountain bikes up the steep grade. Found some broom, some of it too far up a slope that was too steep to climb, but I took what I could.

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.