Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category

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.

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.

‘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.

Monterey

June 28, 2015

Sunday, 28 June 2015

We arrived in Monterey mid-morning, stopped at the Estero park, across from which there is a bury patch. Wandered around for a while, but not a lot of interest in these stones.

Across the street is a playground with an old Lok that the kids love to play on.

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Much to our disgust, it’s closed off until the city figures out how to comply with the California mandatory minimum standards for playground safety. We wandered around the rest of the playground, and were even more disgusted. Not just the nanny state protecting kids from the real world, but parents, too. Chastising a kid because he was climbing up the slide! Fortunately, fortunately, kids have imagination and courage, and will probably find a way to experience the real world despite the best intentions of the suffocator state.

Ask me what I really think about all this!

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We parked near downtown, in a slot that isn’t subject to Sunday restrictions, and walked down to the marina, and eventually to Cannery Row and back.

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Sea otters, above, and harbor seals, below. The seals like to lie out on rocks that are only just submerged, or maybe not quite, and it gives the appearance that they can lie on the water’s surface. Cool!

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At the whale-watching ticket office, a couple of gull chicks up on the roof. Didn’t see mother, but they certainly aren’t equipped to fly yet.

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And a bird rock, complete with pelicans.

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A little further down, a beach where the divers go. Divers in training, that is. There were far more here than we would ever see if they were serious divers. Weekend trainees, all of them. Maybe one in a hundred, or one in a thousand, will get interested enough to take it up as a hobby.

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Jacky’s leg is still giving her trouble, so we stopped to sit here and there. Hungry; I went back to the car and fetched the apples and carrots we had brought from home. Later on, we stopped at a Nob Hill grocery store and  bought calories to tide us over. The best were the no-salt  beet and sweet potato chips. Now we won’t feel guilty about having a real meal tonight.

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The historic old town was having an arts and crafts weekend. Lots of people around. Live entertainment, and the best of it was that the amplifiers were reasonably quiet; we could hear ourselves think.

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Stopped at Britannia Arms pub for a little refreshment, then went on to the Stevenson house motel for check-in. A mile from Cannery Row, 30% less expensive.

There are two Thai restaurants within about two blocks. A good part of town! We ate at the Siamese Bay, and it was fine. Then a stroll to see if we could be irresistibly tempted by something decadent — even tried Trader Joe’s, whose prices are an order of magnitude better than a dessert shop — and manfully resisted.

Big Basin

June 27, 2015

Saturday, 27 June 2015

We wandered over to Linda’s Seabreeze cafe for breakfast. We thought we might stay another night here, but the motel is full, except for a $300 suite. That is to say, the motel is full.

Hmmm… what if we spent the day at Big Basin and the night at a really, really, really classy joint: home! The price is certainly right, the accommodations are predictably excellent, and we can go on to Monterey or Pacific Grove tomorrow. Talked ourselves into it.

Jacky’s leg is still causing trouble, so she entertained herself at park headquarters (liberally surrounded with redwoods, so she didn’t suffer from lack of scenery), while I went for a little hike. Maybe about 15 miles.

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I continue to hope that someday, someone will explain why trees grow in spirals. Especially madrones.

I would also like to hear someone explain why madrone has only two syllables in Californiano pronunciation! This is Mexamerica, after all!

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The usual trail to the Berry creek falls was busy, as expected for one of the most popular destinations in the park. I suppose it’s on the order of 9 miles round trip, default routes. Naturally, I wanted more distance and fewer people, so I took the Hihn-Hammond fire road, and Howard King trail, to the 1740′ high point Mt McAbee lookout, from where we can see the surf at Waddell beach! Nice.

It is a long way up this trail and a long way back down. Steep and difficult, as I explained to a group of up-bound lightweight hikers near the bottom of the grade. If they carried on, and I sincerely hope they did, they earned their beer this evening.

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As for me, I crossed Waddell creek and went up the trail along Berry creek. As expected, lots of traffic, including several scout troops, some of them camping and doing Skyline to the Sea in three days.

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Silver fall (above) is the first, and the prettiest. The trail ascends steeply to some indeterminate number of additional falls, which I believe are jointly known as golden falls.

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Along part of the golden  falls, the trail is a series of steps, sometimes with cable railings.

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This is the upper part of golden fall, probably the centerpiece of the attraction.

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The creek above the fall. You can see how it gets the name golden.

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I went on up, turned toward the trail camp, and on uphill on Anderson Landing fire road. This looks a lot like the Sierra Nevada. Eventually topped out at the junction with Gazos Creek road, which runs from the coast over the ridge and down to park headquarters.

At the junction of Gazos Creek and Johansen roads, the sign said 6.5 miles to park headquarters. It was 1:45, and I was supposed to meet Jacky at 3. Oop! 4 is more likely. No cell phone coverage, but she has years of experience in the matter of Dave being late to return.

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While here, of course, I’m not going to waste opportunities to photograph interesting things, such as tree houses in private inholdings.

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As I mentioned, the main trail to the falls was packed solid. On the route I chose, except for the Berry creek trail itself, and the area at park headquarters, I saw, let’s see: one equestrienne, one hiker, three cyclists.

I stopped one of the cyclists, asked him to let Jacky know that I would be closer 4 than 3 getting back down. And he did.

A great day, indeed!

Vacation begins

June 26, 2015

Friday, 26 June 2015

After a couple of confcalls this morning, we loaded the car full of far more than we would have taken along, had we been traveling by air, and headed out for a week of vacation of some sort. Temperatures predicted to be at or near triple digits inland, so we’ll stay along the coast. The day was mostly overcast, and we often needed sweaters or jackets. Just right!

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First stop, Fitzgerald Marine preserve, Montara, north of Half Moon bay.

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The tide was receding, but still high, so there wasn’t much to see in the way of tide pools.

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I had forgotten about the nasturtiums that grow all along here. Delicious as a light snack!

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From up on the cliff, we had a good view of the sea lions, mostly on the beach but also playing in the water. Life is easy.

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The monterey cypress forest, tinged with red algae.

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Drove to Half Moon Bay, the town, wandered around, went to the Mex place across from the art deco middle school where we always like to eat.

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This is said to be the world’s largest marble run. It wasn’t in operation when we went past, probably worth seeing when opportunity presents.

Over the little hill to the Purisima Creek Redwoods open space preserve, where we wandered along the creek for a few minutes. Jacky has a sore leg, so we’re walking neither far nor fast. It will be a strange vacation if we can’t spend it on our feet.

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Next stop, Bean Hollow state beach, a pebble beach with letterbox tafoni sandstone liberally surrounding the area. A little better tide pooling, but the water is still fairly high.

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And then to Santa Cruz, where we wandered the main drag, found a brew.

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The sign above is dedicated to Loren.

We had a bag of cherries from home, so we ate those, then wandered down to the beach boardwalk and found clam chowder. Out on the wharf, where we saw three sea otters nearby. Unfortunately, the light and distance were inadequate for photography.

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.

Aachener Wald

June 14, 2015

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Why will it surprise none of my friends to hear that I wanted to get out into the countryside for a hike today? According to Google maps, the biggest green area is south of the city, between here and the Belgian border. Sunday breakfast only available at 7, and I was on my way by 8.

I had done a bit of research last evening; one of the recommended longer hikes began at Adenauerallee and Eselsweg (donkeys way, for those who don’t know), so that’s where I headed. A bit after 9 by the time I got out of the urban area, a bit delayed by the choice to take Robert-Schumann-Strasse instead of Karl-Marx-Allee, obviously a good tradeoff.

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The hike begins at the upper left and wends randomly to the southwest and west, heading back into the city from somewhere off the map to the right. Black line at the bottom is Belgian border.

Shortly after getting into the wood, a woman noticed my camera and recommended a side trail to see a special root. What could be special about a root? See below…

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Needless to say, that conversation was in Englisch. It was far enough outside my expectations that I would probably never have understood her, even had she used only words I knew.

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Most of the country is forested, but ranging fairly widely in density and undergrowth. Some gravelled tracks big enough for maintenance vehicles, some single-track, everything in between. Cyclists, hikers, a lot of trail runners, people with strollers, equestrians, and a little kid walking along behind a mini-horse. Say what ?!

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What’s this about a mini-horse? Mom and dad on the trail, leading one. 4-year old Junior walking along behind. He was considering it, but wasn’t at all sure he wanted to get up on that thing. His parents were encouraging him, but not pushing. That’s good.

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Not far beyond, the stable that rented out the mini-horses, obviously going to do a good business today.

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I’m also keeping an eye out for small animals. Above: these have to be some kind of world record antennae, in comparison with body size. Below: a robber fly enjoying Sunday brunch. One got tangled up in my leg hair later on; I gently brushed it away, without annoying it.

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Eventually, back into the city from the far southwest side, very close to the Belgian border here. Luetticherstrasse becomes Jakobstrasse, and evidence of a Jewish neighborhood.

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The black plaque above is a 1952 memorial to 1700 Jews whose homes were here prior to the Holocaust. I found it interesting that racism is now abhorrrent, but Karl Marx still gets an Allee here, and not far away, Bismarck is also honored. (Commercial: Friedrich Hayek explains the connections Marx-Bismarck-Hitler in considerable detail. Of course, it didn’t have to unfold against the Jews, but there does have to be a readily identifiable common enemy.)

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Well, after that we need some humour, and what better way to honor Labor than this!

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Back to the Marktplatz and around to the hotel. Tired and sore, but a good day.

Later: walking through the overgrown paths, I wondered whether European meadows were infested with ticks. Answer: yes. Only found one (so far), but that’s enough.

Aachen

June 13, 2015

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Checked out of the hotel after breakfast, walked to the Darmstadt Hauptbahnhof through a cool, gray morning. Claimed my reserved tickets from the automat after fiddling around a while. You get the tickets by entering an identifier number; okay, that’s fine. I had a confirmation number — nope. Well, there was an order number — no. And then there were distinct numbers for the two legs of my journey. Those worked. I’m glad; I was just about to run off the end of the integers I knew about.

Short hop from Darmstadt to Frankfurt Hbf, where I had time to wander a little before boarding the ICE train to Aachen.

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How often do you suppose a train overruns the end of the track?

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… at speeds of less than 15 kph? I’d like to see their test bed.

By the time we reached Aachen, the sun had come out, and it was a cool, pleasant day. Pulled up GPS and the local map on my iPhone and found the hotel. Deviated slightly from the shortest route to get there, but it’s okay. Dropped my things and went out to explore the town.

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First thing (well, the first thing I photographed) was a vocal rehearsal in a church. Nice. I especially liked the passage where one of the men in the back row (off the picture to the right) whistled the background accompaniment.

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Cherries for sale, and enthusiastic customers. Busy town, people out enjoying, shopping. Setting up stands for craft or flea markets later on, planning some live music.

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Marktplatz, though it isn’t full of Markt today. The Rathaus fronts one side of it.

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The view from the Rathaus.

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Dom in the background, a whimsical fountain in the foreground.

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I didn’t see any indication that there is a story to be told. Just whimsy, I guess.

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Continuing the wander, I came to the Elisenbrunnen, a sulphur spring and spa. Been here forever, I understand; several signs about the world’s rich and famous who deigned to spend time here.

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The space in front of the Brunnen, and a little girl who knows exactly what it’s all good for.

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More wandering. Nice town; I like this.

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Not yet performing, just getting ready.

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Beautiful things for your dog. This Foto dedicated to Eve.

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Further along, a Doctors without Frontiers stand, and next to it, Engineers without Frontiers. Unfortunately, their schtick seemed to be growing beans to save water, in comparison to raising beef and pork and things of higher value. A bit disappointing: engineers ought to be able to compare values. But they also had flyers about helping with earthquake remedies or prevention in places like Nepal.

Back to the hotel for a short crash, then out for … dare I admit it? After wandering out to the Pont Tor, near the Technische Hochschule, I returned to the Marktplatz and had fajitas at Sausalito’s. I like all cuisines, and it has been a while since I had Mex. Especially since they had Dunkelweizen, which is not at all Mex.

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Late sun on the Rathaus as I left the restaurant. Just after shooting this, I bumped into a colleague, with his wife. They were going around enjoying the choral festival that’s happening in half a dozen churches this evening. Small world, ties into the rehearsal I heard earlier today. Nice.

Burg Frankenstein

June 12, 2015

Friday, 12 June 2015

Busy week, good week. After we all wrapped up for the day, Hans-Joerg invited a few of us to a nearby mountain that featured a Schloss, Biergarten and restaurant. Great idea, danke !

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The place is called Burg Frankenstein. As expected, it exploits its special name at suitable times of year, for example Halloween, which is not particularly a Festtag in Germany — except here.

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Andy in the foreground. We will see more of him.

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Must be a real building; it’s covered in scaffolding.

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From the top, you can see the skyscrapers of Frankfurt. Not in the reduced resolution of the Foto, of course.

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Being up a hill in the forest, this is of course a mountain bike destination. Great to see this sign, especially since most signs everywhere identify things that are verboten !

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Tried the local brew, a Schwarzbier, then switched to Dunkel-weizen for the second round. Hans-Joerg to the left, Fabian in the red tee-shirt. Fabian’s wife off the frame to the right; Hans-Joerg’s wife and kids arrived later. The menu offered a dozen more or less equivalent choices;  my eye was caught by the one that came with sour cream — horseradish sauce. Right choice!

Good Bier, good food.

We watched the weather move in as we ate on the terrace. Lightning off in the distance, and it started to rain just as we were ready to leave. Terrific outing, thanks Hans-Joerg, and it’s time to head for Aachen tomorrow.

Darmstadt day 1

June 7, 2015

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Had time to go for a run and help Jacky set up a yard sale before I had to go the airport. Plenty of time; we were an hour late getting on our way. United claims to have upgraded the quantity and quality of in-flight cuisine. Well, yes, maybe. The bar was pretty low. But I can agree that the sweet potato puree was a welcome addition to the meal, as was the mango sorbet.

Sunday, 7 June

I never sleep well on planes, and this was worse than usual. An hour of dozing, perhaps, but that’s about it. I had some idea how to find an airport bus when we arrived in Frankfurt, but didn’t know the scale of things, so although I was actually going mostly in the right direction, I thought I was mostly lost. Bus was nice enough, and the trip wasn’t long, but I failed to demand a stop where I wanted to get off, and no one else did either, so I had an extra long block to walk from the next stop. Well, I need the exercise. It was just noon on a sunny day, pleasant in the shade, but tending toward muggy overall.

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The whole area is Telekom, along with a few other high-tech companies. Deserted on Sunday, of course. Hotel is close by, and it isn’t all that far into town. Dumped my things, asked for an Ortsplan. Receptionist thought I was asking about internet access, so we switched to English. Once I got a map of the area, I went out walking. Glad everyone speaks English; whatever Deutsch I might have had has pretty much deserted me, especially on zero sleep.

No photos of Bismarck. After seeing Hayek’s history of the rise of collectivism, socialism and naziism, I consider a statue of Bismarch in taste as poor as the statues of Marx and Engels that remain standing in Berlin. At least the Russians pulled down the statue of Stalin!

Time was, Germany was completely dead on Sunday. Today, for example. But I did eventually come upon a flea market in the market square, with background that should convince anyone that I really did go to Germany.

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This is the Schloss. Wandered around the outdoors, but when I peered in the door of the Schloss museum, the first thing I saw was the Kasse. Not kostenlos, so I went on.

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All real buildings have scaffolds, so I guess the Schloss qualifies.

From there through some parklands, which were surprisingly dry and yellow. There’s not supposed to be a drought here, is there? Maybe there is, I wouldn’t know.

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Eventually came to a little complex, a gold dome church, a jugendstil wedding tower, and a few statues so grumpy, I can’t help wondering whether they married the wrong persons. Of course, Beethoven here may just object to being visually jammed up against that kiosk in a way that looks like styrofoam cup litter on his shoulder.

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There were pollarded London planes, very nice.

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And a Biergarten, even nicer. Didn’t stop; if I have a brew now, I’ll collapse in a snoring heap.

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On from there, I passed several high-tech academic locations, including at least one Fraunhofer Institute presence.

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Imagine the screams of outrage from the overprotective parents we have in the US?

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“I assure you that I am not as bad as my reputation.”

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Graffiti in the underpass, very well done.

Staggered back to the hotel for an obligatory nap. Met Malcolm as he was heading out to meet Stephen. Not sure I’m up to joining them later; I suspect mine will be a short evening, very close by.

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.