Posts Tagged ‘Grant Ranch county park’

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.


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.



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.


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


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.


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.


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!

Grant Ranch killer hike

January 17, 2015

Saturday, 17 January 2015

I wanted to do a killer hike today, and what better killer hike than the circumambulation of Grant Ranch? (21.3 miles, 4500 vertical feet). Left the car at the gate near the old barn and started out about 7:30.


Fog in the lowlands, but burning off quickly.


Jacky thinks these pictures suggest drought. Well, yes, if you think of dust instead of fog and attribute the bare trees to lack of water rather than winter.



They do rather have a tintype look, don’t they!


Interesting that the grass under the oaks is greener than elsewhere. I assume this is because the elsewhere retains the tall grass from last season, while the area under the oaks was lower and less hearty. Why should that be? I wonder whether the oak exudes anti-growth hormone from its roots into the surrounding soil.


I saw a total of three coyotes. This was one of a pair hanging around the open range cattle, who were not the slightest bit concerned about their presence. Other wildlife: six hikers, one mountain bikie, and … well, wait and see.


It looks to me as if Silicon Valley is having a cloudy day today.

Stopped at the Antler point trail junction to eat an apple. Stopped again for munchies at a tiny stream in the piney woods, a rare feature in the bay area, and again about 3 o’clock at the high point on the west side, a bit beyond the next three pictures.


A stock pond, surrounded by oaks.


Acorn woodpeckers leave behind more holes than wood. I was wondering whether the woodpecker finds an acorn first, then makes a hole, or whether it just makes holes on spec, hoping to fill them with acorns later.


Taking life easy.


A view from the overlook. 3 PM, and it still doesn’t look like there’s any sun down there. Life’s tough.


Going on down Edwards trail the last mile to the car, I came around a turn, only to find a lynx. I need to have a serious talk with my camera: why doesn’t it focus on what I’m interested in? Thinking about it, I bet wearable technology will track my eyeballs and do exactly that within five years, maybe a maximum of ten.


I wasn’t completely sure the bobcat knew I was there. It was just moseying along the trail, checking things out.


I shouted, “Hi,” just to make friends. Still, the cat isn’t much impressed.


Better things to do, hoping for a mouse or a vole.

Good start to the weekend. Beautiful place, at least in springtime, Grant ranch.

Antler point

January 3, 2015

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Another of these days about as nice as could possibly be imagined. Lena and I parked at the lake in Grant Ranch park, hiked to Antler point, then around the Pala Seca loop. Chilly, sunny, icy crusts even into the afternoon in the shadows, and great to be out here.


It was Lena’s first visit here, and a wonderful time of year to introduce the park. Antler point was a good stopping place to soak up apples and scenery. Hazy down in Silicon Valley — it’s a spare-the-air day down there. We’re glad we’re up here in the clear air, Lick Observatory crisp on the skyline in the other direction.


From Antler point, the remains of the old Pala Seca cabin, burned about a year ago, surely by vandals. What a shame. We hiked down along that trail and through the valley below it, where on occasion, I have seen wild pigs.

On the climb from the valley back to the ridge, we did indeed see a single wild pig. A little unusual to see only one; maybe it’s just a bit early to see families out here. And while we’re on the subject of wild pigs, we saw two large ones from the road as we departed later on, pigs to the right, and a flock of maybe thirty wild turkeys to the left. We could have stayed in the car and let the wildlife come to us! Well, not really.


Looks like one of those Chinese paintings, horizon behind horizon behind horizon behind …


It sounded like a bird chirping, but it wasn’t. Fun to watch its whole body puff up to lend weight to its chirp. No idea what the chirp is suppose to communicate, or to whom. Certainly no fear of us.


Speaking of birds, as well as TuVus, we also saw several acorn woodpeckers in the oaks, and woodpeckers of some description, possiby acorn woodpeckers, in the eucalyptus grove further down.


Half a dozen couples and groups of hikers to meet and talk with, but we had the world mostly to ourselves. Just shy of 11 miles, just shy of 2000 feet of climb. Nice!

Grant Ranch killer hike

May 24, 2014

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Last weekend I did the Rose Peak killer hike. I haven’t circumambulated Grant Ranch yet this year, so that’s my goal for today. Last time I was here was August; I recall running short of water on that visit, and today is likely to be pretty hot, so I have two large cycling water bottles and a quart bottle as well.

This is the are-we-there-yet hike, and even though I have done this many times, I still find myself thinking, for the last three or four false summits, “My God! Surely that must be the top,” when, well, it just isn’t. First water bottle half empty by the time I finally peaked out. Going to be a long day, I can tell.

Down the backside, thinking I should have seen the Pala Seca cabin from above. The grass was so tall, I didn’t even notice until I was right beside it.


This has to be arson! What a shame!


I checked the news when I got home; this happened in February.

When I first started hiking Grant Ranch, the map showed what was called a line shack back here, and it really was, just a tumbledown shack. Then it got some kind of a new lease on life, probably because it was of historic interest, and the map upgraded it to show it as the Pala Seca Cabin. Grant used to take his buddies out hunting, and this was a hunting lodge. His buddies included at least one president of the US, McKinley maybe? Or Teddy Roosevelt?


Anyway, they fixed it up quite a bit, but never finished the job. For all these years, the inside was full of construction materials, and maybe a ladder or two. The picture above was taken in 2006.

I always liked to stop here; there was a shady porch on the north side, with a picnic table, a good place for water and calories. A few memories here, too: the biggest rattlesnake I’ve ever seen, finding a cool shelter under the porch. A wolf spider covered with her babies.

What a shame.


Its color is almost right, but Dave’s nasty, suspicious eye picked out the spider, above, lurking for some innocent insect. (I have no idea why it didn’t go after the insects that were already there.)


Of course, as soon as it saw me, it ducked behind the petal, on the well-proven theory that if it can’t see me, I can’t see it.


So I hummed and said, “aw shucks!” and looked in other directions and wandered over and found another interesting flower (above), and then sneaked back and shot the spider from behind (below).


Many hours later, many miles further along, I crossed through what is a little stream in the rainy season, a muddy patch today. The water was yet enough to attract several different types of butterfly.



The same butterfly on the wing, looking less graceful than when it lit.



Notice the nozzle thrust into the mud. I suppose it’s small enough to filter out at least the larger pieces of grit.

I had been on the trail for 5 hours when I met other people for the first time today, two of them. Two and a half hours later, I met another two and a half people (baby in a stroller), and that was all. Terrible when the trails are so crowded.


The barn down there in the yellow flowers is not the one where I’m parked. I’ll cross that valley by bearing hard to the left out of the picture, then climbing to the forested crest, eventually coming out on the bare hills in the background, at the foot of which I expect to find my car.


This little guy wasn’t very vigorous at all. Not sure whether he was just slow in re-booting his context from offline storage (they do that!) or whether maybe he had been struck by a speeding baby stroller.

The day was hot enough, and the water was going to last just until I got back to the car, just right. We don’t get points in heaven by bringing water home from a hike!

A very difficult day. Everything hurts! 21.1 miles, 4400 vertical feet.

Grant Ranch — Are we there yet?

August 25, 2013

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Mid-Peninsula Open Space District had its annual volunteer appreciation fest today. Jacky and I drove to Montebello open space preserve, where there was a considerably larger than expected crowd of volunteers and staff. There were two ranger-led hikes; we went on the Los Trancos hike, a little over 3 miles. Then we stopped at the food wagons, where Jacky restrained herself to one entree. I also had one entree, one, that is, from each of the three food wagons. Plus, for both of us, a stop at the ice cream truck.

Sunday, 25 August

Grant Ranch today. I haven’t been here for a while, and the temperature is predicted to be only in the low 80s, so it shouldn’t be too bad. I parked at my usual spot, on Mt Hamilton road near the old barn on the Washburn road trail.


Nice to see wildflowers, even this late in the season, some of them really pretty.



The trail descends to cross a creek, dry at this time of year, then cilmbs out the other side. As a vague general rule, when you see mostly blue sky beyond the trail horizon, you can conclude that you’re getting close to the top.


We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!


We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!


We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!


We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!


We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!


We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!


We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!


We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!


We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!


We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!


We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!


We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!


We go around the curve. Are we there yet? No, but I bet that’s the top!


That post marks the junction with Tamien trail, so yes, we really are just about there.


The view from the Tamien trail junction, looking down at the old barn, my car a white dot at the far right of the expanded picture below.



We go around the curve. Are we there yet?


All right, all right, enough of this. Yes, we are there. Nothing but down in all directions. 1500 feet of gain in about 2 miles. Drenched with sweat, even though it’s still the coolth of the morning.

Even though I have done this many times, I still succumb to the fond illusion that I’m almost there.

Down the other side, nowhere near as far down as it was up, into the valley of the Pala Seca cabin. When I first began hiking Grant Ranch, it was shown on the trail map as the Line Shack. But then they discovered that President Theodore Roosevelt used to use it as a hunting lodge, so they fixed it up a little and dressed up its name.


A herd of maybe 20 wild pigs running along the hill above me, then across the trail and down the other side. Glad they’re afraid of humans; if they wanted to, they could easily kill me and eat me. Really! The most dangerous things in the park. Let’s hope they never get smart.


From the back steps of the Pala Seca cabin, where I stopped for calories, a view of downtown San Jose. I don’t think I had ever noticed that particular view before; it’s a clear day.


Doris, what flavour woodpecker are these? (Acorn woodpecker, she says.)


Many hours later, after having met two hikers, the only two of the day, and two mountain bikies, the only two of the day, I stopped again for calories, overlooking a small pond with a drastically subsided shoreline. Frogs, frogs everywhere. This picture shows at least 7, and that’s just on the mud.


Even though it’s not all that hot, it seems muggy. Clouds building up, and we see that a flying saucer has attacked Lick Observatory, which will never again be so foolish as to report little green men on Alpha Centaurus.

Muggy it was. Using more water than I expected, so I shortened the course a little, down to about 19 miles and 3600 feet of climb. Even so, the water bottle was reading E when I got back to the car.




Grant Ranch

June 9, 2013

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Saturday was hot, hot, hot, so I went for a bike ride rather than a long hike. The air motion was enough to keep me comfortable. Sunday was to be much cooler, so I thought I’d try Grant ranch. I haven’t been here for quite a while, and I need to keep negotiating with the new boots.


The grass is mostly golden from a distance, but some of the fluffy parts are nicely coloured.


In areas with a bit more moisture, there are still quite a few wildflowers.


And where there is a stream in winter, we find a muddy patch today, swarming with butterflies nozzling up the water.


I stopped at a little pond to see what there was to see. The tadpoles all have legs!



The one above still has quite a cape, if that’s what we agree to call it.


The bottom of the pond, halfway house.


This little frog is so cool, just hanging out there.


While these two have an insect buffet to choose from.


There are insects in the pond, too.


Some of them having a grand time!


The high point was the helicopter attack. Really impressive!




Leaving the pond, I found what looks very much like lady-bug larvae. Usually they hang out near a colony of aphids (yum!), but I didn’t see any.


I was getting tired, the boots weren’t cooperating very well, and I was a little concerned about running out of water. So I dropped down into the central picnic area of the park and walked back to the car along the road. Takes about 5 miles and a thousand vertical feet off the hike, leaving me with a bit less than 17 miles, 3200 feet of climb.

Killer hikes and pumpkins

October 14, 2012

Saturday, 13 October 2013

The Half Moon Bay art and pumpkin festival is this weekend. We haven’t been to that for donkey’s years… by the time we got started, there was already something of a backup in the traffic on highway 92. The locals were charging $10 (and up) for parking, but we went on down behind the shopping centre to the park and ride area, no charge, almost deserted.

Wall to wall people! This is something to do once in a donkey’s years, and in between, go somewhere quiet. But we walked the six or eight blocks of displays and vendors. Some nice art, but we’re cheapskates. The nicest thing was the free glass of water from the local filtration plant. This year’s massive-est pumpkin came in at 1770+ pounds. I remember when the world’s largest pumpkin was less than half that weight! All that mass is mostly water, of course, but the pumpkin is big enough to fit a person into, maybe two persons if they were good friends.

Sunday, 14 October

I don’t like crowds, but the world is far better shared with a friend. My hiking buddies have included Shan, Jie Hyun, Albert, Elmar, Jaume, Doris, Anna and of course Jacky, but I don’t have a regular hiking buddy for here at home. When I’m doing it alone, I might as well do a killer hike. The last time I did Grant Ranch was June 2… I’ll try it again. My route is from a roadhead at the old barn around the outermost loop of trails in the park, 21.2 miles and about 4400 vertical feet of climb.

The sun had just topped the mountains when I started. The first mile descends to a creek bed (dry at this time of year), after which the trail gains 1500 feet in two additional miles. I like getting this grunt out of the way early, while the day is still cool; it warms me up and avoids the knee-breaking downhill that would be necessary if I went the other way around.

We tend not to have that much colour in the foliage around here, but autumn does have its special points.

Even the poison oak is attractive (look but don’t touch!).

The sun had not completely illuminated the world…

From the top of the climb. The barn at the far right, Grant Lake at the far left. We hike along this ridge, which more or less curves around to the left, then descend into the valley, climb out the other side and close the loop along the ridge on the far side.

In the valley below the Pala Seca cabin, I came upon half a dozen wild pigs grazing for acorns under an oak tree. They didn’t see me for a minute, and I shot a few pictures before they ran off.

These are the most dangerous wild animals around. They are large, intelligent, fast and vicious. I don’t know whether they are intelligent enough to understand the concept of roast pork, but they run from humans, and I’m glad they do. I wouldn’t want to surprise one in tight quarters.

I met one mountain bikie, and one dog walker near the Twin Gates parking area where I crossed the road, and that was it for the entire day. How different from the mobs at the pumpkin festival!

Well, it gets to be a long hard day, hot on the uphills, pleasantly cool when the breeze blows. This time, I brought enough water! And about 4:30 in the afternoon, I got a look at the barn from the other side.

The morning’s hike was approximately along those grassy ridges, left to right. Lick Observatory high above it all. Nice place, but the rains of winter will be welcome.

Grant ranch: Mountain lion!

August 11, 2012

No, this is not a mountain lion.

As a continuing part of recovering from Achilles tendon surgery, I had it in mind to try Grant Ranch this weekend, try to get in more than ten miles and more than two thousand feet of gain. It has been hot, so I started early. Parked at Grant lake, hit the trail about 7:20. Glad I didn’t wait until later; it was hot enough!

There was enough pain in my ankle that I considered whether to turn back, but decided to keep going. Pain is not the problem, as long as I’m not damaging myself. Even so, I decided to skip the line shack, which I had first imagined as my destination. When I reached the ridge at the top of Halls Valley trail, I turned south rather than north. There are additional trails leading back down into the valley if I need them.

Stopped for calories along the ridge, and spotted a coyote out foraging for its own calorie fix. They are usually quick to dart away, but I remained quiet and moved slowly, and was able to shoot a few pictures.

My ankle was not complaining too much, so I went on to the road crossing at Twin Gates. Here I decided that discretion would be the better part of valour, so I descended on Cañada de Pala trail. As I came around a fairly sharp bend, I heard a deep grunt of some kind, and saw motion in a bush off the trail not too far ahead.

As I saw an animal break into a run, my first thought was bobcat. Definitely a cat, but it was too big for a bobcat. And then I saw the long tail, short fur, dark reddish brown, like one of these elegant plush bell pulls you might find in an English manor, or at least in a play that was set in an English manor. My first mountian lion ever! I had no time to even reach for the camera before it was gone.

Cool! I have lived in the Bay area since 1980, spent many tens of thousands of hours outdoors, and this is the first mountain lion I have ever seen.

Well, did I achieve my stated objective? No: 9.2 miles, 1700 vertical feet. More than last Saturday, but not as much improvement as I would have hoped for. I can’t complain, though: got in a certain amount of exercise, and saw one of the local wildlife rarities.

Sunday update

My ankle felt okay this morning, so I went up Skyline and hiked Purisima Redwoods open space preserve. This is the one where you start by hiking downhill, and once you get to the bottom, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices but to go back up. Allison can tell you about that.

Cooler than yesterday, once I got a few hundred feet down from the ridge. Beautiful day. And although I’m not pushing it too hard, I did clock my heart rate at 144 on the final grunt back up to the parking lot.

Bottom line: 19.4 miles for the weekend, 4200 feet of vertical gain. Not bad.