Posts Tagged ‘Bear Creek redwoods open space preserve’

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.




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


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.




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.


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.




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


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.



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

Silicon Valley

May 24, 2015


Saturday 23 May 2015

There was a broom-pulling volunteer event at Bear Creek Redwoods, but it only started at 9:30, and I’m up and about much earlier than that. Stopped at Rancho San Antonio for another pass at the purple star thistle, and I was 2 minutes late getting to Bear Creek. Not to worry. As it happened, volunteer coordinator Ellen had seen me at Rancho, honked hello as she went past on her way to Bear Creek. So she knew I’d be along.

I’m recovering from tennis elbow, but I am recovering, so I’m willing to do an hour or two of work, mostly with a weed wrench, which doesn’t stress the forearm muscles as much as gripping and pulling. When I had had enough, Ellen asked me to reconnoiter some nearby trails. She didn’t like the answer: broom and more broom everywhere. But that’s how it is.


We are right across highway 17 from Lexington reservoir, and we could hear a helicopter doing training, scooping water from the lake to fight fires. Later on, we saw it, first hovering over Mt Umunhum, then coming a lot closer and lowering crew on a winch. I got no good photos of that, unfortunately, but if you Google “CDF 106,” you find interesting videos of this particular chopper, here and here.

Sunday, 24 May

I decided to do a trail patrol at Rancho. Skipped the usual side trip to the top of Black Mountain, because I may want to do something strenuous tomorrow as well. But I added on a couple miles of other trail, to keep it from being trivial.

I checked the side trail to Hidden Villa, just to see whether it was closed to the public already — they run summer camps, and close it every summer, but not yet. As I reached the top of the little hill, I met a loop hike from Hidden Villa, half a dozen adults, six or eight kids in the 8-10 range. Nice.

In the same general clutter (sorry: cluster) were a couple of guys who wanted to go prowl through the tall grass looking for whiptails. Have to admit I had to look up whiptails when I got home. I hope they found some.


Just above the pond, a deer. Completely relaxed about my presence, close enough I could hear it munching on that delicious salad.


From the outside (above) and the inside (below). Nice!


Three hikers came up behind me and passed, and I got a minute or two of their conversation. One was going on about game theory, finding the point that represents the maximum willingness to pay, versus the customer’s desire to pay as little as possible. He mentioned that he worked at Google, whose business is built around auctioning ads. The second said he was also contracting with Google, developing computer science classes for impoverished kids. The third said he had started out as a poly sci major at Columbia. Decided after one semester that it wasn’t for him, dropped out, travelled, bummed around, and now that he’s in Silicon Valley … well, I couldn’t hear the rest of it.

Do you suppose you would overhear that conversation anywhere and everywhere in the world? … maybe, yes. Pretty cool!


This is probably not a whiptail, though I have no good reason to assume that.

After completing the trail patrol, I went back and tidied up the loose edges around the thistle sweep I had done yesterday. Good to tie up the package, and still get home in time for a beer.

Broom at Bear Creek

March 21, 2015

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Another open space volunteer event. Today’s was in Bear Creek redwoods open space preserve, the area west of Bear Creek road that isn’t open, even by permit. It was a fairly large group and we made a serious dent in a non-trivial area of broom, though there is enough for any number of additional days in the future, should we like.

Mostly redwoods, and very pretty. After a morning of work, the lunch break was in a cool and pleasant redwood grove. Not far away, a single broom plant stood a foot high in a tiny patch of sunlight, highlighted by the ubiquitous god Taunt. After a few minutes of increasing irritation by all of us, Paul got up, walked over and uprooted the thing.

After lunch, we took a short hike to see a couple of the really old-growth redwoods.


Ellen, shooting a picture up the tree. It’s hard to appreciate how big these are without something of known size as a reference, for example a person.


What Ellen sees up there.


This same tree is very interesting inasmuch as it has an off ramp around on the back, and toward the end of the off ramp, another tree springs forth, goodly sized in its own right.


Not only that, but the next tree over has much the same arrangement. I have no idea why this happened. Ellen thinks they are genetic duplicates, siblings sprouted from a long-lost parent, but I have trouble thinking that this is a natural growth pattern, regardless of DNA mutations.

I remarked to a friend that it’s a good weekend when I don’t show symptoms of poison oak on Monday. We’ll see!

Bear creek anvil trails

October 18, 2014

Saturday, 18 Oct 2014

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

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


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


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


A cornish pastie fungus. Looks delicious!


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

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

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

Everything hurts

April 6, 2014

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Another volunteer day with the open space preserve. Back to Bear Creek Redwoods, just south of Los Gatos at the base of the hills. A new part of the preserve today, one I haven’t seen before. Very pretty.


There is a lot of broom around, much of it in bloom at this season. We are not ambitious enough to even dream of eradicating it; our volunteer coordinator Ellen wants to protect the meadows from encroachment. So we’ll focus on the meadows themselves, along with their bordering forests.


I worked alone all morning in an open forested area, where the broom had been previously mowed and sprayed. The mowed ones were the hardest: only a few inches tall, they had root systems far beyond their visible size. In damp duff, even some of the larger plants came out with a pull by hand; in hard-packed clay, even many of the smaller ones required the weed wrench.

There’s poison oak everywhere, but I’m wearing long pants and leather gloves, and keeping a suitably paranoid eye out. Boot-high growth isn’t too much of a concern.


By afternoon, I was ready for a change of scenery, so I joined the main crew, a few of whom are visible here. We see impressive piles — waist-high — of broom to the left of the roadlet; these piles continue for a hundred feet or more, as each of us attacks on a parallel front. I had rather imagined wandering around taking pictures, but there was a supersize Extractigator (good name!) not being used, so I added a few large bushes to the pile myself.

These sessions only run 4.5 hours, including a lunch break, but that’s enough. It’s seriously hard work, bending, twisting, turning, crouching, squatting, pushing, pulling.

Sunday, 6 April

So I’m not at all surprised that I hurt everywhere this morning, everywhere but my butt. The implied course of action was obvious, and after 51 miles and 2000 vertical feet on the bicycle, I’m back in total balance.

Bear Creek redwoods volunteer day

November 23, 2013

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Jacky and I volunteered to help uproot invasive French broom at Bear Creek redwoods open space preserve. Some or all of this area is not open to the public, as it turns out, one of the unsung benefits of volunteering.

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It was a bright, sunny day — at the pond, where we parked. Most of our work was in the forest, so we didn’t see all that much sun. Very nice, anyway. There were quite a few of us; I think someone said 17.

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A previous broom-clearing expedition had discovered a long-forgotten bridge framework across a creek down here. They said it was completely invisible until they had cleared away the broom. A pretty substantial investment, once upon a time.

We worked along a ridge (dubbed Old Bridge Ridge), starting by pulling out sparse and small broom plants here and there, but eventually homing in on a dense forest of broom, much of it as tall as we ourselves. By the end of the session, we had made a serious dent in it, but there was enough more to soak up several additional volunteer days. Lots of work.

We went back to the pond for lunchies (I had never heard of peanut-butter Oreos!). Jacky and I volunteered to walk around the pond, looking for stray broom. As we set off, we saw several of the party heading off toward some ruined buildings down the way. Someone said there was a history talk, so we deferred the pond until later and joined it.

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Dave wearing blue jeans today, carrying an orange mini-weed wrench. Jacky the photographer (we both had only our cell phones; sorry if the pictures are a little unprofessional). The buildings are fenced off from trespassers.

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I believe our guide’s name is James, the one in the red baseball cap. He actually lived here for a number of years — someone said 20, but there seemed to be some confusion about the number — and himself built some of the infrastructure that we see here.


Originally, I understand that this property was the country mansion estate of a wealthy San Francisco family. At some later date, it was a school run by the Jesuits. The building below was the chapel.




The Jesuits had a bookbindery a bit further down the road. We didn’t go that far; don’t know whether anything remains at what was called the Village or not.


At some even later date, the Jesuits moved out and it was a school run by those who thought the noble savage was the right model, leaving the children free to do whatever they wanted. There was a large masonry wall on which our guide said the name of the school — Daybreak — had once been written, but they misspelled Daybreak …. Such a pain, this civilization stuff!


Jacky responds to the initial posting:

The history is even longer and more colorful than we heard today. Two other wealthy owners before Tevis.

The tour guide today was part of the West Heights Christian School; he built the roof of the chapel. The DayBreak School that came in later is not mentioned in this story. There is a Yahoo Group for former DayBreak students:

Another site I visited said that the Jesuit College moved to Berkeley and became a seminary. That article says, “There are two different possible origins for the name of the town [Alma]. The first is that the town was the location of a branch road that led to the New Almaden mine. The second, and more fanciful, origin is that the town was named after a local prostitute.”


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A good day, a good thing to do. We just hope we didn’t get too much into the poison oak.