Posts Tagged ‘Fremont Older open space preserve’

Fremont Older, St Joseph’s Hill

October 5, 2014

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Yesterday I went to Purisima and spent five hours pulling French broom. Hard work. Jacky’s hiking class went to Wunderlich park.

Today was promised to be a little cooler than yesterday, so I thought I would finish hiking all the trails at Fremont Older, then go to St Joseph’s Hill and hike all the trails there.

Parked on Stevens Canyon road, entered the preserve from the west side. Lots of mountain bikies, hikers, horses. Horses? The place adjoins Garrod Farms, which boards and rents out horses. Not as many dogs as one could imagine, but it may be too hot and too far for the dog-walkers. Steep, hot and sunny, hard work. I heard a couple of mountain bikies trading information about a ranger with a radar gun (15 mph maximum speed). A few minutes later, I saw him. I told him the bikies were swapping information about him. “That’s fine,” said he, “They’re doing my job for me.”

On a previous visit, I had missed a couple of loose ends all the way at the other side of the preserve, so I had to pick them up. One is just a paved back road — moomph! But along its course was a beautiful little shrine. Ok, that makes it worth the while.

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Saw two other rangers, talked with both. They really patrol this place heavily! I told one ranger I was thinking of going on to St Joseph’s hill this afternoon; he tried to discourage me.

This preserve has 14.7 miles of trail, and I hiked 11.8 miles here today, 2600 feet of vertical gain. This is my third visit, but clearly, I haven’t been efficient in minimizing redundant trail distance.

Running low on water — I have another full quart bottle in the car, having already drained the quart bottle I took with me, along with a big bikie bottle — when I passed through the picnic area on the way back to the car. There was a drinking fountain, so I refilled my big bikie bottle. Glad I did; I would have been negative by the end of the day without that boost.


It was only noon, so of course I went to St Joseph’s hill. Never been here before. It’s a small preserve, only 4.2 miles of trails (7 miles of hiking to cover them all), but presumably vertical (yes: 1800 vertical feet by the time I had hiked all of them). More hot and dry, alleviated by a bit of a breeze now and then. On the way home much later, the car thermometer read 97 degrees F, so I had an excuse for dragging my ass by the end of the day.

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The trail passes under a pair of high-voltage power lines. Highway 17 runs through the valley here, the major route from the bay area to Santa Cruz, and they have taken measures to protect the wires from low-flying aircraft and vice-versa. I suppose news and traffic helicopters would be most at risk.

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Jones trail drops down into Los Gatos, where there is a loop called the Flume trail. As expected, it has a very uniform grade, until the very end where it steeply switches back to rejoin Jones trail. Pressurized iron pipe renders flumes obsolete; I think that’s the Los Gatos creek trail down along the pipeline, which looks like a dreadful place to hike. Actually, much of St Joseph’s hill is also pretty unattractive: the trails run right along the property boundary, and the neighbors to the north and east have erected chain link fence topped with barbed wire.

The major higher trails are associated with the monastery: Novitiate trail, but if you were a brother instead of a novice, you could use the Brothers Bypass trail.

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Limekiln canyon back into the Sierra Azul range, and a quarry that I didn’t even know existed. To the right, a collapsed hillside, revealing blue rock that may be serpentine. The Limekiln trail runs past its base, so I will get a closer look when I hike that preserve.

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Redwoods aren’t the only red wood here. This is a eucalypt!

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We have a view out over Lexington dam reservoir, which is so low that the old towns, long inundated by the lake, have re-surfaced. I thought the picture below might in fact be the old town of Alma, but when I zoom further in, it’s clear that these are just rocks.

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In terms of the anvil award for patrolling all the trails in the entire open space district, I am down to only three more preserves. They are all down here in the south end of the region, where I have been putting them off until the weather cools. I have a volunteer project next weekend at Mt Umunhum, so it will be a chance to see how the autumn is evolving there.

Another busy weekend

August 24, 2014

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Today’s volunteer project was to clear weeds from the Powell property, a recent acquisition not open to the public, in the Montebello open space preserve near the top of Stevens Canyon road. And thank you very much, Google Earth, for displaying the GPS track (blue line) on aerial photography. I actually went further uphill, back and forth, and around, but my GPS was in my backpack, and I didn’t wear the backpack through the whole exercise.

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The excuse for the venture was stinkwort, which had gotten a start when the old houses on the property were demolished. It looks as if there must have been quite a little village here; someone said the houses were reminiscent of the Flintstones: made of stone, and very crude.

This was my first exposure to stinkwort; from the name, I was expecting a pretty unpleasant experience, but it only has a mild somewhat medicinal smell, not at all unpleasant. Wikipedia says it smells like camphor, and I guess that’s as good as any description. There was also yellow star thistle and even broom. So no matter what your pleasure, there were at least as many weeds as you could ask for.

We finished the project by mid-afternoon — they always schedule projects that way, to avoid burning out volunteers. And even with a lunch break, 5 hours of hard work is enough!

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But being in the area already, and it being only mid-afternoon, I did a trail patrol hike at Fremont Older. From high up on Coyote ridge trail, we see two quarries. Only the one on the left is visible from most locations, and most people are probably completely unaware that there is a really big one further back. The Google Earth shot below indicates the comparative sizes.

Coyote ridge trail

Sunday, 24 August

There was a magnitude 6 earthquake overnight, which woke us up, but did no damage here. Napa, about 100 km away, sustained quite a bit of damage. But I thought it would be interesting to hike the San Andreas fault to see whether there were any exceptional deadfalls or rockslides.

Montebello open space preserve again. I started at Page Mill road, top of the picture below, and hiked down Canyon trail until it becomes a road. (In terms of San Andreas faults: notice how straight the track is!) The Powell project from yesterday is just a bit further down, just to the left of the diagonal orange line. And we see the upper part of yesterday’s quarry.

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Oh, and if you’re wondering, there was nothing untoward at all about this or any other trail. There are always minor deadfalls and rockslides, but nothing more than you’d find any time.

From the canyon, I climbed out toward the bottom of the picture, a steep difficult grunt to Skyline.

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The first part of the climb is the crossing of Stevens Creek. I have seen this so full of water that I crawled across on a fallen tree. Except during winter rains, its usually possible to keep your feet dry by stepping across the stones. But I have never seen it completely dry before!

Grunting my way up Charcoal road, I met a group of about 15, who looked like Chinese tourists. They were going down, and having a good time. I began to suspect that they had no idea what they were getting into; no boots, no water, no sun protection. So when I reached Skyline and got a cell signal, weak though it was, I called the Open Space dispatch center and suggested that it might be a good idea for a ranger to patrol that road in an hour or two.

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I hiked back through Long ridge and Skyline ridge preserves, with a detour down Peters creek into the rock climbing area where it begins to lose a lot of elevation, fast. Not a whole lot of water here, either, just a few puddles. If it rains this winter, every day for four months, no one will complain.

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Caught up with some mountain bikies, one of whom had broken a chain. Ouch! They said they had tools to repair it, and good for them. I never carried that much toolkit myself!

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At the top of Chestnut trail, an alligator lizard. I especially like the projecting sets of scales every three or four columns! They are good photographic subjects because they freeze. Other lizards freeze, too, just until you get the lens cap off, then zip away.

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I went through the tree farm on the trail just next to Skyline, and talked with a guy who had pulled off the road to photograph the christmas trees. He didn’t really know anything about the open spaces around here, so I showed him the map, gave him some idea what was here, and maybe enticed him to come out here and explore!

I put the GPS tracks up on the big screen, on Google Earth. In the forest, the tracks are noisy, not that accurate, but in the open — wow! I can see where I stepped into the bushes; I can see where I stepped over to the fence to talk with the tree farm photographer. Cool!