Archive for the ‘Small animals’ Category

Arachnids rule!

September 18, 2016

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Five of us cleared three areas of Fremont Older open space preserve of stinkwort, all of it that we could find. The day was bright and sunny, but started out cool and gray, with wonderful condensation patterns on the cobwebs and indeed, on their proprietors.

img_3657

img_3663

Garden spider season, and no mistake.

Sunday, 18 September

Speaking of which, it’s also getting on into the time of year when the tarantulas come out. Do you suppose, if I go trail patrolling in the open grasslands, I’ll find one? So I drove up Page Mill road and hiked a loop through Montebello, Coal Creek, Russian Ridge and Skyline Ridge open space preserves.

img_3667

No tarantuli, but I did find two gopher snakes and a garter snake. That’s three-up from the usual count.

img_3671

img_3677

img_3709

img_3703

Only recently did I learn that the forked tongue is actually a stereo sensor, able to differentiate the taste of the air left to right and help the snake locate smelly things such as, well, me.

A spare the air day here, not much breeze, highs estimated at 90 in San Jose, 100 in Livermore. Maybe a bit cooler on the ridge over the ocean, but still a hot day. Glad I have water.

A week ago, Ellen, Tom and I scoured Mindego Hill for purple star thistle. It was part of my hiking plan anyway, so I took along a trash bag and scoured it a second time. If we got 90% of it last week, and I got 90% of what was left today, we’re down to 1% remainders. Hard to estimate these numbers, of course, but I think they’re not too far off.

This left me with a trash bag to carry out. I tied it to the back of my backpack, where it probably looked silly, but didn’t get in my way. Dropped it off at the Midpen Skyline Field Office (always known, confusingly, as SFO), where I talked with Ranger Frances for a few minutes.

I used up all of my water before I got there, but I was able to tank up again at Alpine Pond. A life-saver, and no mistake. Too bad there are so few sources of drinking water up there, but that’s how it is.

As to big spiders, the season is yet young, and I’ll be out there looking for them next week, and the next and the next.

Advertisements

Dinosaurs

July 25, 2016

Monday, 25 July 2016

Up early, and ready to go. One good thing about this outdoors-oriented town is that the breakfast restaurants open at 6. We were on the road at 7. We had thought to go to Grand Junction today, but decided instead to stay on US 40 and go to Salt Lake City. Good choice: pretty grassland and forest scenery along the Yampa valley to start with, then getting into open plains, then into the eroded land near the Flaming Gorge, the Green, Yampa and Colorado rivers.

Our early adventure was successfully braking for a deer in the road, which was busy demonstrating why deer are poor life insurance risks.

IMG_3047

We stopped to enjoy blueberries and apples at a rest stop, quite different scenery to the west and to the east.

IMG_3050

IMG_3051

IMG_3053

A phallic close-up of the rock to the east.

IMG_3058

And the Jacky borrowed my camera and wasted a shot.

IMG_3064

A couple of little birds across the way, pecking for something yummy. No idea what they are.

Next stop was the Dinosaur National Monument gift shop, where we learned that the fossil exhibit was seven miles north of Jensen. Well, why not! (Why not could be that the entrance fee is $20 per car; but we have a parks pass, so that wasn’t a problem.)

IMG_3067

IMG_3077

IMG_3120

There is a large building over the site of many of the fossil excavations. In the beginning, they removed them and shipped them off to various universities and museums, but close to a hundred years ago, they decided it was best to leave the fossils in situ. And so they are.

IMG_3106

Two grad students were climbing around on the quarry, taking notes. The ranger said they were working on a Master’s project.

IMG_3130

Some of the fossils have been cast in plaster and are more easily seen.

IMG_3131

And models have been constructed for a few of them, too. The allosaurus is of course the favourite, as the biggest carnivore in the local menagerie.

Very hot day, so we didn’t go hiking, although there were plenty of trails. Drove on, enjoying a brief thunderstorm, until we reached I-80 east of Salt Lake. Slow (slow!) trucks making their way up the Wasatch grade on the east side, but on the west side, all of us, including the 18-wheelers, took it out of gear and let it roll. Speed limit 65, actuals up to about 80, except of course for the curves.

A little tricky finding our B&B, getting in, getting ensconced, but we did. Out for a beer and a meal, to Bayou, a nearby cajun restaurant. Pretty good, and only about three blocks. The heat was so uncomfortable that we didn’t go wandering, just headed back to the B&B to mellow out.

 

Gering

July 21, 2016

Thursday, 21 July 2016

We did nothing much today, visited Dorthey, spent most of the afternoon in the air-conditioned library, took Dorthey to dinner at a godawful good-ole-boy restaurant that was just what she wanted. And escaped with our three remaining bottles of oatmeal porter to the deck on the back of the Barn Anew B&B, looking out at Mitchell Pass.

IMG_2742

While sitting there spoiled, what should my wondering eye behold but a fox. Don’t see many of those, at least not where we live! Cool!

IMG_2753

After doing our duty to the beer, we wandered the grounds of the B&B. We are the only guests tonight, as it happens.

IMG_2759

They have about four sheep wagons, at least two of which appear to have been fixed up such that they could be used for overflow guests. No plumbing, I suspect, so likely just a place to sleep.

IMG_2766

IMG_2763

And the head of a windmill. We don’t see those close-up very often.

IMG_2769

I think I mentioned that the B&B had been reconstructed from a barn. There was also a house that was in pretty bad shape. The house itself was demolished, except that its bay window has been turned around and now forms the backdrop for the weddings that are performed here. Nice.

IMG_2772

This the the old barn itself. We sat on the porch and watched the sunset.

IMG_2774

IMG_2791

The sprinklers were busy keeping the wedding venue green, and the spray in the sunset light was purely fortuitous.

IMG_2796

One of several cats came around to make friends, but when we didn’t pet it, it decided that a nap was the better part of valor. Agreed. Good night.

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.

IMG_2321

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.

IMG_2334

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.

IMG_2352

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.

IMG_2362

IMG_2368

IMG_2374

IMG_2382

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.

IMG_2387

IMG_2430

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

IMG_2425

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

IMG_2438

A family was there, also enjoying the water.

IMG_2443

IMG_2448

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.

IMG_2463

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.

IMG_2512

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.

IMG_2544

IMG_2593

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.

IMG_2602

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.

IMG_2657

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

IMG_2664

Even grasshoppers can be interesting sometimes.

IMG_2673

IMG_2682

IMG_2716

I think this little guy is a robber fly.

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

IMG_2725

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.

IMG_1939

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.

IMG_1940

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.

IMG_1957

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

IMG_1955

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

IMG_1963

IMG_2013

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.

IMG_1968

IMG_1965

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.

IMG_1971

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.

IMG_1980

IMG_2009

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

IMG_2001

IMG_2005

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.

IMG_2015

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.

IMG_2053

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

IMG_2056

IMG_2081

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.

IMG_2150

IMG_2096

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.

IMG_2116

IMG_2036

IMG_2125

IMG_2129

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

IMG_2131

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.

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.

IMG_0737

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!

IMG_0700

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.

IMG_0708

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

IMG_0714

IMG_0722

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

IMG_0727

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

IMG_0736

IMG_0891

IMG_0900

IMG_0902

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

IMG_0774

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

IMG_0699

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.

IMG_0778

IMG_0792

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.

IMG_0820

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

IMG_0822

I like its compound flowers.

IMG_0755

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.)

IMG_0881

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

IMG_0751

IMG_0856

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.

IMG_0671

IMG_0665

IMG_0668

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.

IMG_0676

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

IMG_0673

IMG_0679

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

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.

IMG_0492

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.

IMG_0502

Met a swallowtail on the way down. Pretty classy!

IMG_0522

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

IMG_0510

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

IMG_0533

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.

IMG_0139

IMG_0133

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

IMG_0134

IMG_0151

IMG_0163

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.

IMG_0176

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.

IMG_0202

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

IMG_0225

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.

IMG_0276

IMG_0269

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

IMG_0293

A milliscopic fly on an artichoke.

IMG_0348

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

IMG_0347

IMG_0382

IMG_0457

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

IMG_0407

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

IMG_0414

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

The new Mindego Hill trail

April 3, 2016

Sunday, 3 April 2016

IMG_1784

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.

IMG_1781

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.

IMG_1778

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.

IMG_1788

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.

IMG_1807

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.

IMG_1891

IMG_1896

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.]

IMG_1905

IMG_1923

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.

IMG_1940

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.

IMG_1943

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.

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.

IMG_2292

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

IMG_2287

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.

IMG_2303

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.

IMG_2300

IMG_2295

IMG_2314

And we found what I believe is a goats’-beard fungus. Very classy!
IMG_2307
IMG_2327

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.

IMG_2109

A nice day for a little stroll.

IMG_1862

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

IMG_1860

IMG_1974

Enough egrets for you?

IMG_1993

It looks chilly, and it is.

IMG_2015

Drying off his armpits …

IMG_2024

And checking his deodorant.

IMG_1901

IMG_1938

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

IMG_1939

IMG_1940

IMG_1954

IMG_1948

IMG_2039

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

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.

IMG_1353

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.

IMG_1409

It was a little rainy, but beautiful.

IMG_1480

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

IMG_1370

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.

IMG_1478

The group looking and talking.

IMG_1440

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

IMG_1515

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.

IMG_1548

IMG_1549

More beautiful views, these along the creek.

IMG_1528

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

IMG_1538

Here’s one.

IMG_1563

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.

IMG_1253

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

IMG_1265

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

IMG_1274

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.

IMG_1322

If I can’t see you, you can’t see me!

IMG_1324

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

IMG_1336

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.

IMG_1340

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.

IMG_0965

IMG_0972

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.

IMG_0999

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

IMG_1015

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!

IMG_1028

IMG_1030

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.

IMG_1102

Nice day, jackets zipped all the way up.

IMG_1112

IMG_1146

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!

IMG_1180

IMG_1193

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

IMG_1198

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.

IMG_1241

IMG_1250

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.

IMG_0744

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.

IMG_0745

IMG_0787

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.

IMG_0848

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

IMG_0805

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.

IMG_0892

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.

IMG_0931

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.

IMG_0460

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

IMG_0466

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!

IMG_0518

IMG_0528

Poison oak mostly red by now.

IMG_0548

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

IMG_0565

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.

IMG_0583

IMG_0591

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.

IMG_0602

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

IMG_0603

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.

IMG_0400

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

IMG_0412

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.

IMG_0416

IMG_0417

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!

IMG_0430

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

IMG_0437

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.

IMG_0452

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.

Outdoors, as always

August 23, 2015

Saturday, 22 August 2015

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

IMG_0202

IMG_0226

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

IMG_0206

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

IMG_0228

IMG_0209

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

IMG_0210

But clearly with considerable work.

IMG_0216

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

IMG_0215

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

Sunday, 23 August

IMG_0230

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snake day at Windy Hill

August 9, 2015

Sunday, 9 August 2015

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

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

P1190286

So I was delighted to find a rattlesnake today.

P1190285

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

P1190282

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

P1190289

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

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

Great day, great place!