Archive for the ‘Flowers’ Category

Kirkwood

July 27, 2016

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Up, eat, out. A moderate drive today, to Kirkwood Mountain Resort, where we hope to enjoy the shade of high-altitude forest, even if it’s hot.

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The first stop of any significance was at Carson Pass. After the salt desert of Utah and the basin and range of Nevada, it’s wonderful to be back in the Sierra Nevada.

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I talked to the bikie. He said he lives in South Tahoe, just decided to come out and ride today. Thought he’d go as far as Kirkwood, then turn around and go back. Good for him!

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We too found ourselves at Kirkwood not much later. We’ve gone past here any number of times, but never turned in. It’s actually quite a big place, condos and lodges, surrounded by a U of volcanic cliffs, with ski lifts going up in all directions. These places are trying to turn themselves into four-season attractions, but I think Kirkwood is falling short. Few people here, trails almost deserted, lots of empty parking places, For-Sale signs everywhere. Only food in walking distance is at the general store, which closes at 5.

While we wish them all success, we’re happy to have the world more or less to ourselves. Jacky and I went out for a hike, along the Dangberg trail.

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Wildflowers everywhere, enough water that they can exuberate well beyond the level possible where we live.

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At the junction of Dangberg and Sentinels trails, we parted company. I wanted to do more work than did Jacky, so I hiked on up to the rim and some distance along it toward Thunder Mountain. Jacky continued on Dangberg trail.

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I heard a loud whoosh, and this guy passed within inches of my head, soared off into space, perched on this snag, turned its head back to look at me and ask, “What are you going to do about it?” Notice the band on its leg.

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A view from the top, showing pretty much all of Kirkwood Meadows. We’re staying in one of the buildings down there.

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Different angle from much the same vantage point, showing a sliver of Caples Lake and highway 88 as it comes down from there.

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Yet a third view, yet further to the left, showing the exposed granite north of here. It is somewhat different geology; the local rock is lava, often containing embedded chunks of rock, which are themselves broken chunks of earlier lava flows.

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I presume that these two large rocks are the Sentinels for which the trail was named. The one on the right is visible from Kirkwood valley.

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Looking the other direction from the top of Sentinels trail. We’re near the tree line; much of what we see here is alpine meadow.

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The flow of lava is clearly visible in this outcropping.

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At the top, and maybe in the depths of the ridge as well, the lava is a barrier only 20 or 100 feet thick; the trail runs below the crest, on the side away from Kirkwood valley. I thought there might be views of Silver Lake down the back side, but not from the part of the trail I hiked.

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I hiked into the trees at the top right of this picture, but declared victory before reaching the patch of snow. I have only one water bottle, it’s mid-afternoon, and I’m not entirely comfortable with an unfamiliar trail and a minimal to nonexistent map.

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Showing how thin the wall of lava rock is at the top.

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We usually don’t think of evergreen patterns as particularly artistic, but this one impressed me.

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Having already seen some of the distant views, I looked more closely at the wildflowers on the way down.

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Went back to the Resort office to see about getting checked in. We’re in a separate building several hundred feet away, a condo room that’s just fine — windows on two sides that can be opened to let in the overnight mountain air! Walked back to the general store for munchies, then returned to the lodge where we sat in the lobby and worked on photos and such.

Home tomorrow; nice to end the vacation on a high note. But no more three-week vacations: it’s just too long.

 

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Steamboat

July 24, 2016

Sunday, 24 July 2016

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Allan, one half of our B&B hosting team, is pretty versatile. As well as having done some very impressive athletic things, he also sketched these, which adorn our room.

After yet another great breakfast, we said our good-byes and headed for LaGrange, Cheyenne, Laramie, where we stopped for gas and to get some blueberries and apples for later.

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Later turned out to be Walden, Colorado, where we sat in the grass on the courthouse lawn for munchies. Just across was the Pioneer Museum. Well, why not? The lady on duty told us it was bigger than it looked and she was right. Full basement, two second story sections, more stuff than you could imagine.

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An area of military gear, with rifles as its centerpiece.

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Forestry. Some of these are amazingly long, but when you think of the size of some of these trees, it’s clear that they have to use big saws to take them down.

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Moving away from outdoors violence, we see some telephone equipment.

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I hadn’t realized that Dodge has used the Ram symbol since forever, at least since 1936.

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My mother had a sewing machine like this, except that the treadle mechanism had been retrofitted with an electric motor.

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Just outside Walden, a little nature stop, and a view of more poles than you could count. I thought they were destined as utility poles, until we saw something about material for log houses. Makes sense.

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Some little distance further on, a pull-out with a view of Rabbit-Ears Pass; then a long climb up there and a long descent down the other side into Steamboat Springs.

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We’re staying at the Bristol hotel, above. Nice enough, except that the rooms are very small. Left our things and went out to wander.

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The corner building is a drugstore, where Jacky stopped, while I went on to the second store, with the yellow sign. They had been advertising Lee and Levi jeans on their billboards for miles, as well as Stetson hats. Jacky thought I should get a Stetson.

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Well, certainly not Stetson boots. Does Stetson make boots?

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As to the hat, I don’t anticipate needing to give my horse a drink any time soon, so I skipped the hat. I was able to resist getting a classy western shirt, too.

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We found a place to enjoy a couple pints of stout in a shaded outdoor nook, wandered some more, napped in the hotel, went to Mahogany bar and grill, which was a definite disappointment.

Overall, that’s our reaction to Steamboat, too. When we were here a couple years ago, we liked Steamboat, tourist trap though it obviously was even then, but the appeal is less and less as time goes on. It is becoming so popular that its essence is disappearing. Aspenizing, should it be called, perhaps?

Making our way through the wilderness

July 21, 2016

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Up early and out of our BnB (no breakfast: just a B, I guess) in Spearfish.

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Drove to Deadwood where we parked curbside, hoping to eat before the parking meter enforcement began. No problem. Pricey breakfast in Bullies hotel and casino, and we headed on south on the scenic route.

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Next stop was two or three points around Pactola reservoir, surrounded by pine forest, with a few boaters already out on the water. Pleasant place.

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Then a quick stop at Hill City to enjoy the trains. Big crowd already lined up waiting for the train ride in an hour. We don’t see any point in that kind of thing, but it’s fun to wander around and look at the  big machines.

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Further south, the map showed Cascade Spring and Falls as notable roadside stops. We didn’t stay long at the spring; signs warned of poison ivy right at the picnic area and more down along the water, and we believed them. Not the kind of adventure we need today.

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But we stopped longer at the Fall, a distinctly optimistic description of a few vertical feet of rapids. Pretty place.

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I like to view the texture in fast-flowing water by setting the shortest exposure possible.

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A family was there, also enjoying the water.

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Much of the Black Hills region is quite pretty, but as we got further south and into Nebraska, we got more into the long stretches of rolling grassland that don’t have much to offer. Stopped briefly in Crawford, where we talked with an Information volunteer for a few minutes, and then we went on to Fort Robinson.

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The fort is back into the pretty country, probably as much because of water as anything else. Cavalry and infantry, late 19th century. Brick buildings, many of them, some adobe, some wood-frame. Big (big!) stables, as would be expected for a cavalry base.

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And stagecoach rides. The employee hitched up the team while we watched, and drove the coach out. The girl got to sit up top with him, and on the way back, she got to drive.

And then, more long miles in the hot, until we reached Agate Fossil Beds national monument.

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Above the visitor center is a trail to a couple of the hills where the big finds originated. We hiked up in hundred-degree heat, glad that it crossed the green of the Niobrara river flood plain, and that the total loop was only a couple of miles.

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When seeing the name, I have always wondered why agate geology and fossils were compatible. Turns out they are not, of course. The ranch was called Agate Springs ranch because of what’s called moss agate found in the springs here, and the spring got lost from the subsequent name. No quartz around here anywhere.

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Gazillions of insects along the trail, mostly grasshoppers, but also those who are happy to prey on grasshoppers.

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Even grasshoppers can be interesting sometimes.

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I think this little guy is a robber fly.

Getting on in the afternoon, and we need to find our BnB in Scottsbluff.

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Scott’s Bluff is the left end of this ridge, and Mitchell Pass is the low point between. Why, we ask, did the pioneers not just go around the end of the ridge, rather than climbing the pass? Good question. Apparently the badlands and muddy terrain along the North Platte flood plain were more difficult than the pass. (But Google Earth shows that the railroad builders went level along the river instead of winding back and forth up the grade.)

Our B&B is the Barn Anew, an old horse barn (percherons: big rooms on the ground floor!) that has been rebuilt for lodging. We’re told that the framing is original, but I imagine that the rest of it was reconstructed. Picturesque.

Into Gering for an evening with Dorthey, another long day, happy to be out of the car.

Boise

July 16, 2016

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Boise lies in the flat country just west of the mountains. A little online exploration reveals that there are no end of trails nearby, most of them in the mountains. The Table Rock loop sorted to the top of the list, and seems to be pretty interesting, so that’s where we went today. Parking at the old Penitentiary.

Which reminds me … what a misnomer that is! Had this truly been a home for penitents, it would not have needed guards or locks. It might have been called a monastery. The current equivalent is correctional institute, equally a misnomer.

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There were no paper maps, but the kiosk at the trailhead showed the options. Pretty simple; we took trail 15A up, went around the hill on 16, and came back down 15.

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There was a volunteer crew busy uprooting weeds. I thanked them for the effort. Always makes me feel good when I’m in their shoes and someone thanks me.

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The whole area burned recently. Long enough ago that it only weakly smells of smoke, but not very attractive.

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It was great to see the vegetation beginning to come back. For example, this green grass shooting out from the lump of burned grass.

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The photo above came from the non-burned area, just to show what the single orphan flower further up will look like if it has a chance to mature.

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Once we finally topped out and had a wide view further east, we could see the extent of the burn area, looking for all the world like cloud shadow.

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It’s called table rock because it was once the sedimentary solid floor of a lake, now elevated a couple thousand feet above the surroundings.

Up here at the top, a man with a dog. The dog running around, full of energy, full of life, full of joy. It had three legs.

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There are communications antennas up here, consequently a road. But only a few cars; most people walked up and back down.

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One of the bikies was a woman, who walked most of the way down, not confident in her brakes. The other bikie was a guy who rode the whole way. Not far from the bottom, and just ahead of us, he hit a rock the wrong way and took a spectacular fall. Not hurt beyond the usual scrapes, which is good.

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We found a shady picnic table outside the walls of the old penitentiary and enjoyed the views of the warden’s house and the bishop’s house while we munched our apples. Didn’t sign up for the penitentiary tour itself; we’d rather spend the time at the botanical garden.

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And so we did. It’s just outside the penitentiary walls itself, so we saw some of the outside.

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I loosed off a raft of shots at this dragonfly, and am delighted that a couple of them turned out well. They clearly show that the leading edges of the wings are open.

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Well, the botanical garden was very much worth the time, and I have a boatload of photos. But I won’t bore you with more than just a few.

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There was a little creek, possibly with pumped recirculating water, covered with water striders. Cool!

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Back to the B&B for naps, then laundry, then a cool beer in the back yard, then to a middle eastern restaurant for goodies.

Nice day. Tomorrow, Logan, Utah.

Boise

July 15, 2016

Friday, 15 July 2016

Almost every business in Nevada has some kind of gambling. The motel restaurant was on the far side of the casino. Breakfast was good and  very inexpensive; they figure the Scylla-Charybdis ordeal of the slot machines will make up the difference. Not for us, but thank you for the exceptional food value, anyway.

We took highway 95 north out of Winnemucca, a road that runs absolutely straight as far as the eye can see, until it needs to go over the low pass between a pair of mountain ranges. Then it jogs a little, comes down the other side and makes a beeline for the next pass. If the phrase basin and range didn’t already exist to describe this country, it would have to be invented.

Deadly dull, most of it. Sagebrush. Further north, we get into the volcanic lava flow, presumably from the Yellowstone caldera, which is phenomenally ugly where it is exposed at the surface.

Eventually, we got to the junction with highway 78 in Oregon, and turned east. Almost immediately the country got better. There is still a thin layer of hard volcanic capstone, but it has collapsed in many places, exposing sedimentary underlayers that have eroded into pretty formations.

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These are called the Roman columns, naturally located at Rome, Oregon.

But the pretty sedimentary formations don’t last long, either, and we’re back to dreary scrub desert. Better as we approached the Snake river, at Marsing, where we pulled off for a very welcome look at water, grass, trees. Wonderful!

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Suitably refreshed, we went on into Boise. It was only within the last ten years or so that I realized what the name of this town really is; having lost the accent off the trailing e, and anglicized its pronunciation, it was not as obvious as it certainly ought to have been. Better late than never: now we often pronounce it the French way, just for grins.

Found our airBnB without a whole lot of trouble. Our hostess is away at the Grands Tetons today, so we’ll meet her tomorrow. No worries; we dropped off our things and went out to explore.

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Found the Double Tap pub, where I enjoyed a Moose Drool and Jacky found a porter that she liked.

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Then we walked back over to this building, which houses an Indian restaurant. Spoiled again.

On the way back to the BnB, we stopped at an Albertson’s grocery — turns out to be the same site as the first supermarket opened by Mr Albertson in 1939 — and bought breakfast fixings. Saves us some money and will be healthier and very likely better too.

Big Trees and Ebbetts Pass

July 14, 2016

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Big breakfast at Hillbillies restaurant, Murphys. Then we headed on up highway 4. First stop, Calaveras Big Trees state park.

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We have been here before, of course, but not for a long time. Pretty classy.

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Not everything here is gigantic. By the way, the understory is mostly dogwood. We need to come back here some time when it’s in full bloom; it must be spectacular.

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Cyclists heading uphill, most likely training for the Markleeville Death Ride. Good to see them out. The road is wide and good as far as the ski areas, then becomes challenging. Good pavement, but too narrow for a center line, sharp, blind curves, steep grades. We stopped several times for scenery breaks, but were happy when we bottomed out along the east fork Carson river going into Markleeville.

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From the junction with highway 88 north of Markleeville, we took the same route that we rode on our trans-continental bicycle tour, through Fallon and then to Winnemucca. Found a motel and dumped our stuff.

Very hot day, but of course we went out looking for a brew and a meal. Maps on our smartphones are not very helpful, but we did find a cool quiet place for a couple of beers — then saw another couple places later on. We decided on Martin’s Hotel, a basque restaurant. You order your own entree, but the rest is family style. We shared a long table with a couple from Hanford Ca, and three from near Tampa. Good food, nice to talk with some new people.

ARMS at Rancho

June 19, 2016

Saturday, 18 June 2016

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

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

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

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Pretty flowers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 19 June

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

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

Good days to be outdoors

June 12, 2016

Sunday, 12 July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I like its compound flowers.

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

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

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

Wilder Ranch with Jacky

May 29, 2016

Saturday, 28 May 2016

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

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

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

Sunday, 29 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new Mindego Hill trail

April 3, 2016

Sunday, 3 April 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edgewood with Jacky

February 28, 2016

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Yesterday, I did 20+ miles of trail patrol and thistle attack at Rancho San Antonio. So I was happy to do something less ambitious today. There were so many wildflowers at Rancho that I thought it might be a good time to visit Edgewood county park, and I suggested to Jacky that she come along. Good idea; it has been a while since we were here.

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Mt Diablo across the bay mudflats and the bay and the east shore and ….

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Turned out that we’re just a bit too early for the real riot of wildflowers. Not that there weren’t flowers to be seen, of course. Just that the hillsides weren’t covered with color. Yet.

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Little guys growing on the serpentine, starting off looking like sea creatures, but eventually turning into plants.

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Lots of really small little guys.

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These are so dark that they look black until the camera brightens them up to red.

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One of three women we met asked me, “Are we right in thinking that everything we see is poison oak?” I agreed emphatically. Everything from naked stalks to red proto-leaves to fully leafed-out bushes, everything from ground cover to vines in trees, strands wafting out across the trail to brush against. “Maybe we’ll find somewhere else to hike,” said the woman.

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We got to the visitor center just as it was opening for the day. Very pleasant volunteer told us to watch for mouse ears, hard to spot, but there for the diligent seeker. So we sought diligently, and sure enough!

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Even amongst the tiny plants, these are hard to spot, but well worth watching for. Nice day, nice place, nice company.

Page Mill killer hike

October 3, 2015

Saturday, 3 October 2015

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

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

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

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Poison oak mostly red by now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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.

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.

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.

Morgan territory

March 29, 2015

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Kent and I have been trying to arrange a hike for years, and something has always come up at the last minute. But today, we’re really going to do it! I went to his house in Livermore at 1, having spent the morning attacking purple star thistle at Rancho San Antonio open space preserve.

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We hiked at Morgan Territory regional preserve. I’m not sure I’ve ever been here before, but it’s a beautiful place, especially at this time of year while everything is green. Open oak forest, mostly, with manzanita at one corner, and the poison oak fairly well contained: large and visible where it exists.

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Wildflowers everywhere. Most of them not very dramatic in themselves, but they add up to a nice show.

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And a swallowtail, first one of the season, I believe.

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The view off toward the east or southeast, the windmill farm not doing much right at the moment. Looking further north, we could see snow-capped Sierra, dimly, but unmistakably.

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And my favorite, as you would predict: a wolf spider, and pretty good sized for this early in the season.

A good hike in good company, a great day.

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.

To Steamboat Springs

June 30, 2014

Monday, 30 June 2014

We were not that impressed by breakfast at the motel yesterday, so after collecting coffee, juice and bananas from the motel’s spread, we went down the street to a place that’s half library, half restaurant. I bet it’s a great social location on a miserable winter’s day.

Just west of Granby is a wildlife viewing area at Windy Gap reservoir. We stopped for a look, but the waterbirds were much too far away for anything less than a powerful telescope.

We did stop at Hot Sulphur Springs a few miles yet further down the road, walked along the Colorado river. From there, the road goes through Byers’ Canyon, a pretty stretch of a few miles. The map also showed wildlife viewing at Kremmling, but we didn’t see a sign. Stopped briefly near Wolford reservoir, but didn’t see anything more than sagebrush.

And then we climbed into a whole new ecology, over Rabbit Ears pass.

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I have no idea whether that rock is the Rabbit Ears; it is far from the pass by that name, but it also looks like an obvious appellation.

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It was so pleasant and so much cooler that we stopped at an arbitrary turnout along the top. It turned out to be Bruce’s trail, only a few km long, well suited for high altitude hiking as a brief interlude.

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I have no idea what these little yellow flowers are, but they were everywhere. Very nice!

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Steamboat Springs is back in the valley, a mere 6700 feet above sea level.

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Hard core yuppie vacation land. We may end up paying an arm and a leg to stay here. Left the car and wandered around. Eventually tried the Nordic Lodge motel, and were pleased enough to sign up for two nights. Dropped off a few things and went out for a walk.

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There are many springs here. We visited a few of them, some smelling fairly bad. There is a rec trail along the Yampa River, which we took in the direction of the botanic garden.

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Along the way, we watched a couple of rafts navigating the rapids.

Quite a way to the botanic garden, and it was a hot day. But definitely worth seeing. Unlike many horticultural venues around the world, this one seems to specialize in local vegetation, albeit some of it from high mountains or desert.

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There were also a few small animals of note.

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Back into town, where we stopped at a downstairs sports bar for brews. Then back to the motel for naps and showers, and almost next door to Sumatera, a very small restaurant hidden in the back of a building occupied by a much larger Italian restaurant. Only half a dozen tables, walls screened with bamboo, friendly people, and great food.

We had half an hour before the library closed, so we stopped and enjoyed it. Nice town, this. A little out of our way, but I’m glad we came here.

Rocky Mountain national park

June 29, 2014

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Breakfast was advertised for 6:30. The sign says Bed and Bagel, and that’s pretty much what there was. Well, we have trail mix and snack crackers, so we won’t starve.

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We drove to Grand lake, where there is a really short (0.3 miles) trail to Adams waterfall, cool, pretty and deery.

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The waterfall turns at a 90 degree angle, and as it happened, the spray was in the early sun.

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Fast-moving water is always an irresistible temptation for a fast shutter.

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Above and below, experimenting with the fast shutter. Not sure which I like better.

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Above the fall, a pleasant but vigorous stream, with more interesting wildflowers.

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And wildlife, too. I continue to marvel at the wings, whose leading edges are open.

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We drove on up the valley to the Green Mountain trailhead, where we hiked uphill toward Granite Falls. High altitude, and we’re pretty slow; we declared victory at the Big Meadow trail junction.

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Fairy slippers, very inconspicuous, easy to miss completely, but well worth a look.

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This little guy was busy dissecting a pine cone, and knew perfectly well that I was harmless. “Want to take my picture? Go right ahead!”

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The Big Meadow. I’m sure it’s largely marsh — the trail goes around it, not across, but very pretty.

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Jacky, showing off our new REI burnoose baseball caps. They work pretty well to keep the sun off, and also resist being blown off by the wind.

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Back down in the valley, we stopped at the Holzwarth historic site. From the parking area, it’s a quarter mile in, and crosses the Colorado river. No comparison with the Colorado river in Utah, Arizona or California!

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Lots of elk in the distance, and a couple of moose nearby.

Holzwarth is an interesting story. He and his wife homesteaded this land in the 1910s, eventually turned it into a resort.

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During prohibition, it was legal to make alcoholic beverages for your own use. There is no doubt, of course, that none of Holzwarth’s production found its way to his friends or resort guests.

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A footstool, and no mistake. In fact, there was quite an array of stuffed animal artifacts around the house. Holzwarth learned taxidermy by correspondence course, and good for him!

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We drove partway up toward the high country and the continental divide, but turned  back at a turnout that give this beautiful view further to the west. Enough. Back to Granby, where we did a little research and discovered Brickhouse 40, where the beer was fine and the food was Greek. Too salty, but they’re hardly the only restaurant to commit that sin.