Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Good days to be outdoors

June 12, 2016

Sunday, 12 July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I like its compound flowers.

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

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

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

Getting on toward summer

June 5, 2016

Saturday 4 June 2016

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

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

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Looks like scrambled eggs, doesn’t it!

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

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

Sunday, 5 June

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

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

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

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

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

Wilder Ranch with Jacky

May 29, 2016

Saturday, 28 May 2016

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

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

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

Sunday, 29 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rancho and Montebello

April 30, 2016

Saturday, 30 April 2016

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

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

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

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

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Met a swallowtail on the way down. Pretty classy!

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

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

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

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

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

Outdoors again

April 24, 2016

Saturday, 23 April 2016

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

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

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Nice day.

Sunday, 24 April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A milliscopic fly on an artichoke.

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

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

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

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

SF water district, Fifield-Cahill trail

April 17, 2016

Saturday, 16 April 2016

On Saturday, I did a trail patrol at Windy Hill. Ten miles, but I spent a total of six hours attacking various kinds of thistle, broom and ivy.

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I was here at Windy Hill two weeks ago, on a volunteer project to install a fence, to discourage people from cutting the steep grade at the top of the hill, causing erosion. Plastic fence, with snap rings and removable center posts, because this is also a launch site for hang gliders, so we needed it to be easy to remove and restore.

From the trail below, it looks very elegant. I was also pleased to see that it has not been vandalized, and there’s not too much evidence of people bypassing it.

Sunday

SFWD Fifield-Cahill hike

Today, Sunday, was an opportunity to hike the Fifield-Cahill trail through the SF water district property north of highway 92. It’s only open to guided groups, and by permit, so I was glad to have the chance to visit a place I’ve never seen. The organizers are the Bay Area Ridge Trail group, and this was a warm-up hike (13 miles, 1600 feet of gain) for the Ridge to Bridge fund-raising outing in two weeks.

Have to admit I had never heard of them, but in Marin county, it seems to be a pretty big deal. Hikes up to 26 miles, bike rides, equestrian event.

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We met at the Quarry gate just off highway 92. Easy to believe this was a quarry once upon a time.

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A few of us drove shuttles to get the group to the north trailhead, at the end of Sneath Lane in what is probably San Bruno. Popular place. The trail is a paved road that steeply ascends Sweeney Ridge. At the top is the site from which Gaspar de Portola discovered SF bay in 1769.

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Bob, doing the talking here, was the organizer and leader, the one with the permit that kept the rest of us out of jail today.

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There were sixteen of us total, several of whom were supporting the Ridge to Bridge event, one of whom was on the board of BA Ridge Trail, others of whom were planning to do the 26 mile hike. Some had done a 17-mile hike yesterday at Mt Diablo, just as a warm-up for today’s warm-up. A pretty fit group.

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Views from the top. Above, toward Daly City or South San Francisco, the bay north of the airport.

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The airport itself, Mt Diablo in the background.

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On the other side, we look down into Pacifica. At the upper left of the picture, the Farallon islands, with more ocean visible beyond.

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At 3 miles, we entered the permit-only SF WD area; not much further was a ranger, probably counting noses. We are all properly permitted, so he was friendly, wished us a good hike.

Being highly sensitized to bull thistle and especially purple star thistle, it was jarring to see both along today’s hike; I had to keep reminding myself that they were someone else’s problem. Although I admit that I did dig out a couple of bull thistles with my hiking sticks at one of the stops.

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Lots of wildflowers; this was the most spectacular site.

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Much of the earlier part of the hike was in the open, bright and sunny, pleasant because of the chill breeze. The last half, more or less, was mostly in forest. Nice view down onto Pilarcitos Reservoir. And eventually, we descended a fairly steep final trail back to the old quarry.

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Beautiful day, great scenery, and as we all agreed, a pretty easy hike.

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.

Christmas, San Rafael

December 25, 2015

Christmas, Friday, 25 December 2015

We are getting away for a few days. But not being the type to spend all day in the car, we only came to Marin, specifically San Rafael. We haven’t been north of the Golden Gate for years.

No point in getting there early, so we turned off at Tennessee Valley road to explore the Golden Gate national recreation area. Chilly day, but sunny and clear. We wore jackets until we had gained a couple hundred feet of elevation and warmed up.

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Views of the north bay area in pretty much all directions. Very nice!

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Not so nice, San Quentin federal prison. (They call it a penitentiary, but I have my doubts about the penitence of its occupants.)

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Not crowded, but there were others on the trail, mostly hikers but a few mountain bikies as well.

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Mt Tamalpais over there.

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The trail down into Muir Beach is called Green Gulch. We thought about driving over there later, but it turned out that left turns are not permitted from Tennessee Valley road onto Highway 1, and it wasn’t worth the trouble to find a place to turn around after having turned right.

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Great texture on the ocean.

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And this is probably the clearest view I have ever had of the Farallons. Very clear day.

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Downtown San Francisco visible through a gap in the hills.

Beautiful day, beautiful hike.

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We had parked near the stables, where a couple of women were training a couple of horses. I’d say the horses were having a terrific time.

The hotelier phoned to see what time we would arrive, so the staff could knock off early. Because we couldn’t easily drive over to Muir Beach, we just went on to San Rafael. Staying at the Panama Hotel, a funky, strange place. Our room is called Honeymoon, but the room two doors down is called Bordello. Bathtub-shower in the corner of our room.

Of course, we went out to explore the town. By and large, the restaurants that are open today are Asian of one kind or another. We stopped in a pub, but it was crowded and loud, not our kind of thing. Walked and wandered, came upon some wonderful shell sculptures at a store called Namaste.

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The upper-crust Thai restaurants closed at 3 and didn’t re-open until 5, and we were hungry. Eventually found a durchgehendes Thai restaurant, hole in the wall, pretty good, pretty inexpensive. Stopped at a 7-11 on the way back to the hotel for a Lagunitas Imperial stout, which we enjoyed in our room.

Nice day!

Saratoga Gap volunteer project

December 5, 2015

Saturday, 5 December 2015

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

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

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Full of ladyfinger ferns, among many other vegetables.

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

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

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

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

Shoreline

November 28, 2015

Saturday, 28 November 2015

I haven’t been to Shoreline for a long time, so I spent an hour or two today wandering around there.

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A nice day for a little stroll.

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Of course, there’s still the little matter of making a living, and it can get pretty dirty at times.

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Enough egrets for you?

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It looks chilly, and it is.

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Drying off his armpits …

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And checking his deodorant.

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Fun to watch half a dozen pelicans wheeling around over the pond, watching for fish, diving and catching them.

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Yep, seriously spoiled, living in a place like this.

Autumn hiking

November 22, 2015

Sunday, 22 Nov 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Time for a beer.

Albino redwoods

November 8, 2015

Saturday, 7 November 2015

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

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

Sunday, 8 November

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

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It was a little rainy, but beautiful.

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

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

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The group looking and talking.

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

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

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More beautiful views, these along the creek.

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

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Here’s one.

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

Great place, great day! Thanks, Ellen.

Purisima, again

October 31, 2015

Saturday, 31 October 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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If I can’t see you, you can’t see me!

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

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

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

Outdoors again

October 26, 2015

Monday, 26 October 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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Nice day, jackets zipped all the way up.

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

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

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

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

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

Tarantulas at Grant Ranch

October 10, 2015

Saturday, 10 October 2015

I found no tarantulas on the peninsula last weekend, so I went to Grant Ranch today. It would be a shame to go through a season and not find any at all.

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I started off from my usual pull-out near the old barn, hiked Washburn Road trail, best known for a dozen false summits as it gains 1500 feet in a mile and a half. Seriously hard work, and I begin to think I’m not at 100% today. Down the other side to the site of the old Pala Seca Cabin, which, after having been burned down by arsonists a couple years ago, at least now has a plaque.

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And on the ridge trail, yes, there was a big beautiful tarantula. My favorite thing in the fall season — well, except for a few other favorite things.

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As with all other males, these guys have but one idea in their tiny brains, and it isn’t fighting or eating. Babes!

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In times past, I have picked up tarantulas bare-handed, but sometimes they are a little feisty. My volunteer work means that I have a pair of leather gloves in my backpack, and I’m a lot less hesitant to pick one up with gloves on. True, the fangs could probably penetrate the glove, but the risk is a lot lower. In any event, this one was very docile. Thanks, little guy.

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After a few pictures, I put him down, and he went on his way. I had laid down my hiking sticks when I first saw him; he just climbed over them, no big deal. By the time he was a foot into the tall grass, he was completely invisible, even though I knew where he was.

Rather than a killer hike, I decided to cut it shorter, took one of the alternate trails back down. Another tarantula! It’s hot in the sun, and this one was attracted to my shade, snuggled right up to my boot, happy as a clam.

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The view from the trail down. The old barn is about midway vertically, two thirds to the right, and the road where I parked is to the left. I’ve been parking there forever, but today I got a citation: emergency parking only (and no, there is no sign). Foof! Not likely to do that hike again!

Page Mill killer hike

October 3, 2015

Saturday, 3 October 2015

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

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

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

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Poison oak mostly red by now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Autumn at Rancho

September 27, 2015

Sunday, 27 September 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-Pen volunteer recognition

September 19, 2015

Saturday, 19 September 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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A couple of old buildings, picturesque as tumbledowns.

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

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

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

What a glorious feeling; I’m happy again!

August 29, 2015

Saturday, 29 August 2015

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

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There is nothing as beautiful as redwoods in the fog.

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

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

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

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

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