Archive for the ‘Fungi’ Category

Black Friday: a time for fungi

November 25, 2016

Friday, 25 Nov 2016

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

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

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

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

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

This almost looks like stalactites!

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

More fungi inside the burned cavern.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting on toward summer

June 5, 2016

Saturday 4 June 2016

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

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




Looks like scrambled eggs, doesn’t it!

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

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

Sunday, 5 June

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

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

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


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



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

Saratoga Gap volunteer project

December 5, 2015

Saturday, 5 December 2015

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


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


Full of ladyfinger ferns, among many other vegetables.

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


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




And we found what I believe is a goats’-beard fungus. Very classy!

Along with what I’m told is a year-round creek, spilling water onto a stone that it has polished to a mirror finish over the decades.

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

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.


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.


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.


This is your brain on mushrooms.

Purisima Redwoods open space preserve

December 21, 2014

Sunday, 21 December 2014

I was expecting to meet a hiking buddy to explore the trails at Teague Hill that are not on the official map, but she had to cancel. So I went to Purisima redwoods instead. The usual ten-mile loop, but with clearing storm debris and uprooting broom and ivy, I spent upward of five hours on it. Nice day, cool and rainy. Some of the rain doubtless came from the clouds, but much of it came down from the trees.


The fungi are having the time of their lives!



As always, I found plenty of fallen trees to report. This one fell across the creek, so it doesn’t get reported. I thought it was a good illustration how these massive monoliths come down, often when their hillside (or stream bank) collapses.



The open green country of yesterday was nice, but nothing beats a redwood forest!


I have no idea what these little red tendrils are. I suppose if I were to mark them so I could find them again, I’d find out what they will be when they grow up.


We have two gingkos, the other off the picture to the left. That one shed all its leaves before this one even started turning yellow, but now we get a second round, a golden sidewalk, ephemeral beauty that will last about a week.

Outdoors and Brahms

November 23, 2014

Saturday, 22 November 2014

I flew back from Stockholm Friday, so Saturday was for collecting anti-jetlag daylight and getting a little exercise. No matter that it was raining. Went to Windy Hill with the idea of both hiking and uprooting weeds. Found some purple star thistle on Spring Ridge trail, the carcasses of which must be carried out — it cannot be left where it lies, because it will go ahead and develop seed. I carry a flimsy bag in my backpack for eventualities such as this, so it wasn’t a problem.

Over on the other side of the preserve, I went off trail and attacked broom for almost three hours, a total of about 7 hours outdoors. Thoroughly wet, tired, dirty — a great day. The sun had come out, and I was happy.

Sunday, 23 November

My gloves were still soaked from yesterday, so I just went hiking today. Short hike, because the late afternoon is committed. Parked at Arastradero and went up the hill, through Foothills park and Los Trancos open space preserve, 15 miles total, the Los Trancos part counting as a volunteer trail patrol contribution because it’s a Mid-Pen preserve.



Looking into the sun in Wildhorse valley, mist rising from the wet grass of yesterday’s rain as the sun hits it. The exposure makes it look like a snowy scene, very pretty if I do say so myself.


Back in the woods, it was good to find the colourful and interesting fungi getting started, now that the rains have begun.


Los Trancos, where you would not be well-advised to rely on the mossy side of the tree to determine north.


More Los Trancos, fallen leaves, a beautiful time of year.


And speaking of fungi … I have never seen anything like this before.




Tilt-a-world. No, the camera is not off-vertical; these trees really are growing off to the left, leaning into the open space of the stream valley below. Bay laurel especially does this, sometimes resulting in trunks growing completely horizontal with new trunks sprouting vertically from them. In other cases, the trunk bows over far enough to reach the ground on the other side of the stream and form an arch. But sometimes, the torque is too much and the trunk breaks off. I found such a break during my trail patrol, noted its GPS coordinates, photographed it, and included it in my trail report.

Home in time for a quick nap before we went out again.

For my birthday a few weeks ago, Jacky got us tickets to Brahms’ Requiem, whose performance was today. It had no orchestra, rather four hands of piano, an arrangement done by Brahms himself. Goose bumps, tears in the eyes. More than once. A superb performance of a superb piece of music. Quite possibly the best birthday present I have ever had.

Bear creek anvil trails

October 18, 2014

Saturday, 18 Oct 2014

Today I hiked all of the trails at Bear Creek redwoods open space preserve. It claims to have 10.3 miles of trail, so I wasn’t surprised that the day turned out to be 15.3 miles of hiking. This preserve is open by permit only, although I have been here before on volunteer projects. Broom, and the whole preserve is chock full of it. If 7 maids with 7 mops broomed it for half a year, they would stand no chance of sweeping it clear.

Started the day by going uphill, into the redwoods. Pretty nice; and at the top is a Presentation Center. Never heard of it. When I got home, I checked its web site: hosted by a convent (below), its purpose is legal training in the advocacy of social justice. Barf!


Whatever my views of their positions, I have to admit it’s a nice place. Walked through the campus to a trailhead on the far side, and back down into the redwoods.


There are a lot of ruins here; this is where Alma college once was. But this chimney base was far up in the redwoods, well away from the little townlet that used to be here.


A cornish pastie fungus. Looks delicious!


A quiet little pondlet where it would be possible to have lunch. I didn’t; I went on and perched later on a rock at the side of what might be a stream if it ever rains again.

Much of the lower part of the preserve is open grassland, devoid of charm and interest. Just a matter of putting in the time. Met an equestrienne and two other hikers, but mostly had the place to myself. Found three deadfalls; two of them I was able to clear myself; took a photo and reported GPS coordinates of the third for a preserve maintenance visit.

Back to the car early, about 2 — this is a moderate hike, after all. The parking area is shaded by trees above the shore of a pleasant little pond (larger than the pond we see above). As I stepped up to the trees, I flushed a bobcat from the vegetation at the shore. First bobcat I’ve seen for two or three years. My adventure du jour.

Wunderlich park, El Corte de Madera

April 15, 2014



Sunday, 13 April 2014

Today’s hike started at Wunderlich park in Woodside. Two hours later, I was at Skyline, where a pavilion marked a rest stop for a trail run from Huddart park and back. They told me they expected the first runners to show up around 10, about an hour after I got there. No problem, I’ll avoid the clutter by going over the ridge to El Corte de Madera on the west side. They have closed off the direct diagonal entrance across Skyline, but there is a new connector trail that I haven’t taken before.


The west side gets a lot more water, condensation from the fog, and is pretty and green, far more than the sheltered side. Nice.


Being wetter, there are more opportunities for interesting fungi to find a foothold.



I have been past Skeggs point a number of times in recent years, but never actually stopped here for quite a long time. It’s probably the single most significant staging point for mountain bikies in the north Skyline region, arguably equivalent to Saratoga summit on south Skyline.


An hour or three later, down in the forest, this same group passed me, heading back toward the parking lot.


Nice day, nice scenery. When I got back on the east side of the ridge, I met a fair number of trail run stragglers on their way back. Some of them looking okay, some of them — and this is only the halfway point — looking like it was going to be a long day.

It was a long enough day, also for me. But nice to get out and do it!

Windy Hill, Purisima Redwoods

March 30, 2014

Sunday, 30 March 2014

I often write about volunteer work for the open space district, more often than not, pulling weeds, and more often than not, pulling broom. Here’s what broom looks like. The large bushes are full of pretty yellow flowers, starting right about now.


Last weekend, I did a quick hike at Windy Hill open space preserve. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary, except for these pretty little green bells. I have no idea what they are, but I like the way they try to hide, showing their true selves only to a view from below.



Today, I hiked Purisima creek redwoods open space preserve. It has been rainy this last week, but I got my annual REI dividend and bought myself a new rain shell, so I was happy to try it out. (So of course it didn’t rain, but that’s fine, too.) I volunteered here a few weeks ago, unplugging invasive ivy from a slope, and today picked off a few stragglers that had been overlooked the first time.


Tis the season. The caterpillars are out in force, roughly a gazillion of them!

This hike is not all that long, not all that hard (Allison would disagree), but I can make it a mini-industrial strength hike with a 4-mile 800-vertical feet extension up Borden Hatch Mill trail and down Grabtown Gulch trail (total: 14 miles, 3500 vertical feet). And yes, once upon a time, there really was a Grabtown up in these hills.


Nice to see a few fungi, fresh from this week’s rains.


I also flagged six downed trees at various spots along the trail. The drill is to catch a GPS location and a photo, and file a trail report to the open space district. I’m only scheduled for trail patrol volunteer training in June, but I know the login password, so why not!


The hiking sticks are there to provide a scale for evaluating the problem.


And I spotted a tiny gray furry mammal, most likely a vole, as it ducked into the duff. I fired up my camera, then pulled away the duff, but it could burrow faster and deeper than I could uncover it. I loosed off a few desperation shots with the camera, but of course nothing came out.

Nice day, good to get out.

Not yet spring, but close

January 13, 2013

 Saturday, 12 January 2013

With rainy weather and vacation and various things going on, I have not done a killer hike for a number of weeks now. There may not be enough daylight for some of the usual routes, where for example, the gates at Sunol only open at 8. But I can drive quickly to Arastradero open space preserve, and hike from there through Palo Alto’s Foothills park, thence to and through Los Trancos open space preserve, Montebello open space preserve, and maybe end up at Horseshoe lake, in the Long Ridge open space preserve.  (Yes, there are strings of parks and you can go for a long way from one to another to another. Nice!)

And do I did. Several degrees of frost when I started, but as soon as the trail started uphill, I took off the two outer jackets. I had cool-weather gloves, which I put on and took off innumerable times over the course of the day, according to the nano-climate of the moment.


We are watching a video course on particle physics, and I am reminded of the professor’s comment that the hexagonal nature of snowflakes tells us a lot about the molecular structure of water. I don’t see any hexagons here. Is it possible that the cross section of these crystals might be hexagonal?

Saw several deer, a number of rabbits. A coyote came across the trail not far away, turned in my direction but ran off when it saw me.


A sunny, cold day, but definitely showing signs of spring.

I got to Horseshoe lake by taking the Canyon trail in the Montebello preserve, then cutting over to the Skid Road trail. It was quite squidgy, really the only extended difficult section of trail all day. I considered going back by way of the Russian Ridge open space preserve and the Coal Creek open space preserve, but it would add another couple miles to the hike, and I wanted to be sure there was enough daylight to get back to the car.

As I got back down into Foothills park, I clearly had enough margin to take a short photo break. All of the following photos come from a little area of duff and deadfall of only two or three meters along the trail.


The things we see when we look carefully.


Last week, I got down on my knees for some of the close-up photos, and ended up acquiring a tick. They like to hang out on the grass, which is a good reason not to brush against the vegetation. They like to drip down from the overhead, which is a good reason to wear a wide-brimmed hiking hat. But it hadn’t occurred to me that they would also be lurking in the duff. Once bitten, and all that. Today, I didn’t get down into the duff.






This last one is a horse chestnut in the process of sprouting.

Got back to the car a few minutes after 4, as intended. Plenty of margin before a 5:20 sunset. 21.4 miles, 3300 vertical feet.

Sunday, 13 January

I may have blogged about the leaking pipe last weekend. It was repaired properly during the course of the last week, but the follow-up was a disaster. So I started the day by spending two hours digging out mud, by hand, and resetting the utility box around the irrigation system.


These pictures are the before view, as left by the plumbers. The after picture would show the box flush with grade, and an interior view would show the wiring, solenoids, valves and manifold exposed. Moomph!


Another chilly day, but it was good for a 5-mile run after lunch. It turns out that the ring of major roads around home is a 5.0 mile circuit, according to Google maps, so it’s very convenient. There are a few traffic lights, but most of them are secondary and the odds of having to stop and wait for more than a second or two are fairly low.

The fungi of winter

January 6, 2013

Sunday, 6 Jan 2013

A leaking pipe in the yard used up much of Saturday, leaving only enough time for a 5-mile run. Therefore, Sunday was for hiking. It rained overnight, but promised to be only overcast on Sunday. Because of the duff, trails in the forest are less likely to be muddy, so I left the car at the usual Kings’ Mountain road turnout, hiked down into Huddart park to the Phleger estate, climbed to Skyline, and returned to the car. About 10 miles, and a nice day. It is the time of year for fungi.

Rather than embedding today’s photos inline, I assembled them into a PDF presentation. CTRL-L puts the presentation into full-screen mode. Enjoy!

Huddart park, Phleger estate

— Dave

The only people in Palo Alto to see a harvestman on Thanksgiving

November 23, 2012

Thursday, Thanksgiving day

The weather is supposed to be nice through the long holiday weekend. I started out with a short run, followed by lunch with the aged aunt. We went to Flames coffee shop, where the closest we got to a turkey was the soup that came with my chicken souvlaki plate. A good time was had by all.

In the afternoon, Jacky and I wandered out to enjoy the day. Beautiful fall colours!

Jacky’s brother Roy sends her a flower of the week photo. I figure this is one she could send back to him!

We went to the Gamble house and garden, where I kept an eye out for small animals. It really isn’t the season to find very many small animals, but I spotted one of my favourites! — a harvestman! Cool!

Friday, 23 November

Happy birthday, Marian.

I went to Wunderlich park with the idea of crossing Skyline and extending the hike down the other side in Corte de Madera open space. But the trail into Corte de Madera was closed for rebuilding. The sign says there will be an access road and a parking area, which will indeed be an improvement.

So I hiked the trail along Skyline to Huddart park instead. I turned back not long after noon, a little bit short of Huddart: I didn’t recall what time sunset was, and did not want to be benighted out here. Back to the parking lot at 4, getting chilly, but not yet dark. 20.5 miles, 3500 vertical feet.

Here is a wet-season small animal! These tiny salamanders are found under loose bark. Their legs are so small that people frequently mistake them for tiny snakes. Fortunately (from the photographer’s point of view), they tend to freeze when threatened, rather than scrambling away. The same habitat caters for red centipedes, but they don’t stay around to have their pictures taken!

Geneva: a hike in the haute-Jura

December 11, 2011

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Mont Blanc, I believe, wearing a curved cap of cloud. View from the Jura.

My first order of business was to change hotels. Expecting that I might not be able to get a room early in the morning, I loaded my small pack with day trip things for a hike, and stuffed everything else in the large pack. And so it happened.

Took the 14 streetcar to the end of the line, which turned out not to be CERN. I guess there may be two routes for the 14 line, or something. Anyway… after half an hour of walking, I got to CERN, where there were #14 streetcars ready to take me back into Geneva, not where I want to go right now.

CERN is right at the border with France. Through malice and forethought, I had brought along my passport, just in case, but the border crossing was unattended. Pretty much open country here, with nice views of the haute-Jura, where I hope to go hiking today. I have no real information about trails up there, but if I can’t get into the mountains… well, die Reise ist das Ziel. Nice day for a walk, and all that.

If you’re the type who believes the glass is half empty, you could point out that, no matter whether you read this in a mirror or directly, it’s half bass-ackward.

First town is Saint-Genis-Pouilly, followed by Sergy and Haut-Sergy. By this point, we are getting into the hills, and the roads sometimes dead-end. I just keep making my way uphill, toward the mountains. I have it in mind to go up to the snow line, if I can find a trail.

I did find a route that appears to go along the base of the mountain, Vie de L’Etraz, from Thoiry to Crozet and very likely beyond. Branching off from it, I found a trail going steeply uphill. That’s how I like it: hard work, get the heart going.

On a day of views both grand and grander, it’s good to notice the small things as well.

The trail just went up and up and up. Eventually crossed a paved road, believe it or not, which was more or less level. If it is the one I see on the map, it also runs along the contours for a long way before dropping back into the valley. Probably not the right choice to go downhill, when the time comes.

The trail got even steeper, if that were possible, and I started running out of steam. Even more, the trail was invisible in the open forest, and it was a matter of looking for blazes. There were very few blazes below, fairly frequent up here. No sign of snow; there is so much forest that I can hardly see the trees, much less the mountain. I eventually decided to declare victory and abandon the field.

No option to take a gentler downgrade; very tricky on a trail of fallen leaves and rocks the size of baseballs. And my impression turned out to be correct: the trail below the road was, with a few exceptions, not nearly as steep as the trail above the road. My guess, based on subsequent examination of Google maps, is that I climbed around 500 meters. Nice workout.

Mont Blanc is now hidden in the clouds, but the surrounding Alps make a nice backdrop to Geneva (the jet d’eau is the spike just left of center).

Just before I popped out into the lowlands trails, I met a woman going up, first person I had met on the entire hike. Friendly exchange of bonjours, and I went on. At the junction was a pair of markers; I wanted to go to Sergy and the arrow seemed to be in the wrong direction. While I stood there puzzling, the woman came back down, having apparently reached the limit of her intended excursion.

She offered me advice about Sergy, but it was clear that my French wasn’t keeping up with the advice. I understood enough French to answer her question about me speaking Anglais. I suggested Deutsch, which she said she didn’t speak very well. Hers was considerably better than mine, however, and we were able to converse as we hiked together Richtung Sergy.

She lives in Geneva, but has a country retreat here in the Jura. We walked along the Sergy-Crozet trail until she reached the turnoff to her country home. She said she had two friends showing up for picnicking and invited me to join them. Very nice of her, but I begged off and continued the walk back to Switzerland.

That’s where we were, somewhere up there. Yet another great day!

Ottawa, May 24

May 25, 2010

Sunday, 23 May

We got up early and drove to Frontenac provincial park, most of the way to Kingston.

More forest, predominantly deciduous, rock at and near the surface, lots of lakes and streams and mosquitoes. Well, not as many mosquitoes as there could have been. It was okay. As always, beautiful things to see, some of them obvious from a distance, but many of them only visible to those who looked carefully.

We saw plenty of evidence of beavers, but no beavers themselves.

One of the small animals we found was what is commonly called a daddy long-legs. Not to be confused with the spider of the same designation, these are not spiders at all, but harvestmen. Among other differences, harvestmen have center-mounted eyes atop turrets.

There were lots of dragonflies of several designs. Many, many pictures, most of which I’ll spare you. But notice on this one that the leading edges of the wings is open, not covered with a membrane.

When we first saw her, I thought she had an ovipositor embedded in the soft dirt of the trail. I still think that’s true, but I don’t know whether it is natural and normal for her to shed her tail down there for the hatchlings to eat. The sacrifices a mother makes!

We saw several of what looked like dragonflies from the head and body point of view, but resembled butterflies with their wings folded. They also flew more like butterflies than like dragonflies. As best I could tell from the insect book later, they are a variety of robber fly. But later, I concluded from further web research that they are probably damselflies, possibly calopteryx demoiselles.

The most interesting things were small animals, but there were also some really pretty fungi.

Jacky saw a leaf move, turned over the leaf and found this little guy:

We found two more of them back at the parking lot:

As we left the park, we came upon a painted turtle crossing the road. We saw two or three more of them as we drove back to Ottawa.

Another good day.

Monday, 24 May

We moved into town today. I spent the day in meetings, while Jacky and our hostess wandered downtown Ottawa. I got out for a walk along the canal.

After the meetings, Jacky and Anna and Mike and I wandered over to Bytown market, where we came upon the Black Tomato restaurant. Outdoor courtyard, very nice. Hot jambalaya, really hot. Enough, even for me.

 It’s the Queen’s (Victoria’s) birthday, a holiday. On the way back from the restaurant, I stopped to take a picture of the parliament buildings with its celebratory illumination. A city bus came along in front of me, but the driver stopped and waited until I had taken my picture. I thought that was just really exceptionally nice. Thank you very much!

Fall creek redwoods

February 7, 2010

It rained pretty enthusiastically overnight, and they predicted a rainy day, but the radar weather map looked to me like the beginnings of a nice day. So after breakfast, Anna and Jacky and I drove over the mountain – through fairly heavy rain at times – to Felton and the parking area for the Fall creek area of Henry Cowell redwoods state park.

It was misty and perhaps raining just a bit when we set off. We expect the trees to drip on us anyway, but the water standing on the trail was more of a nuisance than the drips. Jacky suggested we climb away from the creek, a good idea.

Eventually the sky turned mostly blue, and it was a wonderful day. A memorable sight, once the sun came out: raindrops falling through the sunlight, highlighted against the dark backdrop of the redwoods. Truly beautiful.

The day’s other exception came when I pulled up a large chunk of bark from a fallen tree and discovered a mouse. First time I have ever seen one in the woods. Well, we knew they had to live somewhere.

As always, the most interesting photos are of the tiny things.

Fall creek redwoods

It was mid-afternoon when we drove on to Santa Cruz, where we spent a few minutes at the mission. We had a choice then, either to wander the streets of Santa Cruz or to go back over the hill and visit Stanford. We decided on Stanford.

Good choice. We strolled around the campus, but most of our time and attention was on the Rodin sculptures, both indoors and out.

Rodins at Stanford

Dinner at Lavanda in Palo Alto, where the day’s specials included sturgeon. Unfortunately, it was raw (tough) on the inside, but Lavanda did it right: admit you messed up and fix it. Good for them.

Waterman gap, Big Basin

January 31, 2010

Sunday, 31 January 2010

On the trail at Waterman gap just at 8. The recent storms have brought down a lot of needles and small fronds from the trees. When the ground is covered with them, it sometimes becomes difficult to see where the trail is. More of a problem is the large branches and the whole trees that come down. On the first stretch to China Grade, there was a large madrone across the trail, but it was easy to walk around. Fortunately, the understory is *not* full of poison oak here.

Beyond China Grade, we enter Big Basin Redwoods state park. Here’s a view of the basin from the slickrock that borders this corner of the park.


Slick rock? It’s sandstone, a rough grainy surface. How could it be slick? Well, much of it was wet today, and I’m now a believer! Didn’t fall, but there were a few skids.

Below the slickrock, the trail goes through a sparse pine forest, a south slope sheltered from the weather. Eventually we drop into redwoods, and that’s where it gets interesting. Redwoods just love to fall over during the rainy season, and a goodly collection of them had fallen across the trail. Scrambling around, over, under and through, quite an adventure.

It was noon when I reached Big Basin headquarters. Bought a new trail map; the one I had showed only 200 foot elevation contours and was dated 1991. I can hardly claim it didn’t give me good service, but it was time for a new one.

Talked with a friendly, knowledgeable woman about returning by way of the east ridge trail. Even if it isn’t a lot better than Skyline to the Sea, it will be a change, and I prefer loops to out-and-back. She wasn’t sure about the distance. That could be a problem: it took four hours to get here; I could afford five hours to get back, but more than that would leave me benighted. The last few miles of trail runs along near the road, so in the worst case, if I couldn’t see in the darkness of the forest, I could always go walk on the road. Let’s try it.

In fact, I even added on just a bit more by going to see the Sempervirens fall. Nice

After the fall, I hiked on toward the east ridge trailhead. According to the map, I should have had a stream to my right, but it was on my left instead. That makes me uncomfortable. For the first time ever, I read out the lat/lon from my GPS receiver and located myself on the map (the old map didn’t show lat/lon – yet another reason I’m glad I got a new one). Turned out I was on the right trail, just not as far as I had expected to be. The stream on my left was just seasonal runoff, too trivial to show on the map.

Some steep climbs on the east ridge trail, but that’s not a problem. The forest was mostly douglas fir here, and douglas firs don’t fall over in the winter. Much better trail conditions. Now, how about the time? Will I end up hiking in the dark?

The GPS told me that sunset would be at 5:30. We’re a couple of days past the full moon; the GPS told me that moonrise wouldn’t be until 7:15. I set the starting point as destination for the GPS and asked it to track back. It estimated that we would arrive at the car at 5:30. Ok, no dawdling! Let’s do it.

I think the GPS has a pretty heavily weighted moving average function, because once I started walking, the ETA improved significantly. When it moved ahead of 5:00, I relaxed and took it easy. Even stopped for a few fungus pictures.

Black fungus is interesting: it hides so well, you just never see it at all.

The GPS trackback beeped just before each significant turn in the trail. After a while, I decided it was getting pretty smug. It would beep, and moments later, I would turn. The GPS doubtless thought of itself as the rider on a well-trained horse named Dave. (This is not the first time I have noticed my brain getting soft toward the end of a long day.)

Back to the car at 4:38. Not fully dark, but dark enough, with the sun well below the hills and the forest blocking the remaining light from the sky. 20.5 miles, 3000+ vertical feet. Nice day.

Portola Redwoods state park

January 17, 2010

Within the last six weeks or so, I have hiked all of the long routes in my repertoire of usual suspects, and I asked myself how to get in a long hike without repeating a recent route and without having to drive too far.

So I left the car at Saratoga gap and hiked down Ward road into Portola Redwoods state park. I almost always enter from this direction, if for no other reason than that it saves driving time. I was last here with Grace just over a year ago. We found an abandoned orchard and picked apples in the rain.

Portola is one of the prettiest of the redwood forests, unknown to the tourists, maybe not even to most of the locals. I have always liked the trail along Slate creek to the site of the old Page sawmill, which gave its name to the well-known Page Mill Road on the bay side of the ridge.

There is a spur trail to the Peters creek loop, which I attempted a number of years ago. At that time, it was overgrown with poison oak, waist and chest high, and there was simply no way to get through without severe consequences. So I gave up on it, and really never checked it out again.

This time, I thought I’d go have a look. If it was still inaccessible, I could always add on a few miles back up at the Skyline end of the hike.

Glad I did. It’s an old road for some distance, then it becomes single track. Lots of undergrowth, but I didn’t see much poison oak. Even so, I tried to avoid contact with the vegetation as much as possible. I won’t forget two really unpleasant weeks in January 2007, one of which was spent at the FSAN meeting in Vancouver, recovering from insufficient paranoia about naked vine stems.

The trail descends around 800 feet to a short loop that goes back and forth along Peters creek, crossing the creek several times. I said that Portola Redwoods state park was one of the prettiest, but this loop raises the bar even further. Really nice.

I have rarely been able to photograph a redwood forest in a way that does justice to its beauty, so I contented myself with photos of some of the interesting fungi. If you want to see the creek and the forest, go there :).

I thought this park, and especially the Peters creek loop, were pretty much unknown territory, but there were actually quite a few hikers out. Well, I don’t mind sharing, especially something as beautiful as this.

Back at the end of the former road, I noticed a junk car. It looked like something out of the 1920s or maybe 30s; I suppose that’s when this route stopped being just an ordinary road.

I have resented the junk cars I see along the trails that parallel the roads. It seemed really sleazy to dispose of a worthless car by just pushing it over the edge. But some of the junkers are too far from the road to have just been rolled over the edge. To get where they are, they must have started at high speed, or have moved under their own power, or both. So I started wondering. When there’s an accident and a car runs off the road, do you suppose the authorities just recover the bodies and the license plates and leave the cars where they are?

Although the junk is an eyesore, there may be mitigating circumstances.

Back out of the state park, much of the hike is in open country, and I watched the black weather moving in on me for upward of an hour before I finally stopped and put on my rain shell.

I had been thinking that the overgrown undergrowth would become prime tick territory in another month or two, once things warm up, but when I stripped for my shower, I found a good-sized tick on my wrist. See? I’m not paranoid – they really are out to get me! To fully acknowledge my paranoia, I also washed my hands and legs with Tecnu poison oak soap.

20.26 miles, 4365 feet of climb. A new trail, which is pretty unusual for me, for this area, hard work, and well worth it.

Skyline to the sea trail

January 10, 2010

This weekend’s hike: 20.9 miles, 4400 feet of climb. Saratoga gap to Waterman gap, then over to the Toll road, a connector through a damp area where I got the following pictures. A detour around the Michael’s summit loop off the toll road, and then back to Saratoga summit.


Although it’s hard to imagine a big enough insect to produce this much biomass, I originally thought these were insect eggs, and indeed their common name is insect egg mass fungi. Upon further research, I believe they are actually Leocarpus fragilis, a slime mold.

Huddart-Purisima fungi

January 3, 2010

I left the car at Huddart park and hiked over the ridge into Purisima. Down the hill to the bottom, back up Harkins ridge trail and over the ridge again, where I returned by way of the Phleger estate.

Beautiful hike, and in December, the fungi are out in their full glory. View the slide show (12 MB): Huddart-Purisima fungi