Posts Tagged ‘Grant ranch’

Grant Ranch killer hike

February 10, 2013

10 February 2013

I haven’t been to Grant Ranch yet this year, and with more daylight, I can commit to circumambulate the outermost ring of trails (21 miles, 4400 vertical feet), even if I get a late start. It was almost 8:20 when I started out on Washburn trail, past the old barn. Although it was quite chilly, I went out in shirtsleeves, knowing that after the first half mile, I would turn uphill and generate enough body heat to be comfortable. And so it was.


Toward the end of the day, I sometimes photograph the early part of the hike from the far side. Today, I photograph the end point from the midmorning ridgetop.


Hours from now, I will come back from the left, along those grassy hills, and drop down on the train that’s visible at the far right of the picture.


Here’s what it looks like, zoomed out. The old barn in the previous picture is about 1 pixel, 80% toward the right side.

Well, and a nice day it was, indeed. It was three hours before I met anyone, and I only met six people all day, excluding the wheeled traffic I saw at the road crossings. One hiker insisted on showing me the photos he had just taken of a bobcat. Cool! I saw three coyotes myself, but coyote sightings are nowhere near as rare as cat sightings.


Spring is definitely on the way.


And here we are, about 4:30, looking down on the old barn from the south and west. Nice day, long day. As they say, it’s a good hike if you can walk away from it. And I can — just barely — still walk.

I started back down the road, turned on the car radio, to learn from the traffic reports that a hotshot Corvette driver had gone off the road further down and they had the road closed for emergency vehicles. (Well, they didn’t say hotshot, but you can imagine the details for yourself.) So I turned around and went home via Quimby road, which is a substantially longer route, but it beats sitting there waiting for the main road to be opened again.

Some adventures are less fun than others

December 9, 2012

… but it is always an adventure.

Friday, we went to Capitol Kia, where Jacky bought a red Soul+ (mine is white). The dealers swap cars on demand, and they had to get this one from a dealer in Concord, so even though Jacky concluded the transaction today, the car wasn’t instantly available to drive home. No problem; we can go pick it up Sunday. Sunday, because I want to go out for a long hike on Saturday.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

I was driving up to Grant Ranch when I blew a tire. Entirely my fault: It’s a narrow road, and I let a wheel go off the edge of the pavement on a hard right turn. My previous car, a Subaru Forester, would have just laughed at that, but when the Kia came back up onto the asphalt, the hard edge of the pavement compressed the tire against the rim and that was the end of that. I considered the Kia for my new car because the Forester was clearly overkill for the kind of driving I need to do… but maybe it wasn’t that much overkill after all!

Much of Mt Hamilton road offers no option to get out of the traffic lanes, but as it happened, there was a convenient pull-out just ahead. So I got the car safely off the road.

Unfortunately, the Soul+ does not come with a spare tire. There is a compressor and a can of goop, and you are supposed to be able to seal a nail puncture well enough to at least make it to wherever service is available. But the sidewall was badly damaged in two places on the lateral surface, and very likely two more places on the medial surface, and nothing less than a tow truck was going to get me back on the road.


Well, Kia offers no-charge roadside assistance for this kind of thing. But there was no cell coverage, and my cell phone was already showing low battery. Not good.

After a few minutes of irrational optimism about a patrol car maybe coming along, I donned my backpack and started walking. I thought I might be able to use a phone at the entrance station to Grant Ranch park. After a mile and a half, I came to a roadside call box at the Quimby road junction, so I called from there. By then it was about 9:30.

I had recorded the 800 phone number of Kia’s roadside assistance people in my cell phone. The operator patched me through to that number. I read the Kia support operator the VIN from my insurance card, he confirmed that I was eligible for a tow, and told me that D&M towing would have a vehicle there within the hour. The Kia operator also asked for my phone number, and I gave it to him, after warning him that it was useless — no signal and dead battery. I told him I would meet the tow truck at the call box.

An hour passed. Moomph. Another half hour passed. No tow truck. I used the call box again. A different call box operator patched me through to the CHP, who told me they didn’t show any dispatches for D&M towing at the moment, but they would check. I again confirmed that I would wait at the call box — this is the only place I have any kind of communications capability whatever.

Another hour and a half passed. No tow truck. I got on the call box phone again, to of course yet a third call box operator, who connected me again to Kia roadside support. Just as we began that conversation, a CHP officer pulled up in his black-and-white.

He didn’t know anything about Kia’s contacts or contracts with towing companies, but told me he could order a tow on his own behalf, and I could argue with Kia about who pays what later. The current situation was certainly not productive, so I said okay. I rode in his patrol car (there’s a first!), front seat, and we drove back up the road to where I had left my car.

It was gone.

Somewhere in the process, the fact that I was expecting to meet the tow truck at the call box got lost. They picked up the car and disappeared.

The CHP probably couldn’t just leave me out there in the boondocks, but he certainly could have taken me no further than the nearest bus stop down in San Jose… instead, he drove me all the way to Capitol Kia. At speeds I associate with air travel (takeoff and landing), rather than road travel, but who’s going to stop him? No complaints — it was very nice of him to do it, and I told him so.

And there sat my car at Capitol Kia. They have just started opening their service department on Saturday, so I was able to talk with the service manager, and maybe get back on the road, even though it’s a weekend. He sent his parts man off to see whether they had a tire of the right size in stock. He also told me they sell a mini-spare tire kit that fits into the Soul. Definitely something I want. Did they have one in stock? The parts guy would go find out.

While waiting, I went out to my car, connected the USB charger from the dashboard to my completely dead cell phone, and tried to call Jacky, just to let her know what was going on. No answer at the home. That’s okay: she could be shopping or at the gym or whatever, and it later turned out that I didn’t have her current cell phone number in my contacts list.

While I was doing that, Jacky’s salesperson Elizabeth came past, completely coincidentally, and recognized me from yesterday. She thought I might be there with Jacky to pick up Jacky’s new car. I told her I was not there to pick up Jacky’s car; I had just been towed in and was not having the best day of my life. Moomph, moomph, moomph.

The parts guy: they did have a mini-spare tire kit, but they didn’t have a tire to replace the damaged one. They could order one, but it wouldn’t arrive until Monday. Still, if they install the mini-spare today, I can at least drive away.

At this point, Elizabeth returned with the service manager. Keeping in mind that we have bought two new cars in the last two months, they wanted to be sure I was happy, or at least no more unhappy than necessary. So they offered me the mini-spare tire kit at no charge. Well, moomph, moomph, mumble … well, ahem, that’s exceptionally nice, thank you very much, and maybe today isn’t as bad as I thought. Certainly beyond the call of duty!

And just to put icing on the cake, because they didn’t have a replacement tire for my car, they suggested I leave my car there until Monday and offered me Jacky’s car as a loaner. (I couldn’t just take delivery of it then and there because Jacky still needs to sign one more piece of paper, and my offer to sign on her behalf was not good enough.)

When I got home and told Jacky about the day’s adventures, she called Capitol to see if they can order a mini-spare kit for her car, too.

It is always an adventure. Some adventures are less fun than others. At the end of the day, it turned out far better than it might have.

Oh, and by the way: a shaggy dog story is one in which an infinite sequence of minutiae lead up to the punch line, and it turns out not to have been worth it. You get to decide whether this is a shaggy dog story.

The grand vistas of Grant Ranch

June 2, 2012

Another weekend, another killer hike. The circumambulation of Grant ranch, in this case: 21.2 miles, 4400 vertical feet. Hot in the sun, cool in the wind. Today’s biggest problem was the tall grass.


I heartily approve of females getting up very, very, very close to me, but not this kind of female!

Tall grass can also harbor surprise snakes, but if there were any snakes out there, they didn’t surprise me. I’m half glad, half disappointed. Worse was the grass seed that filled my socks and jabbed into my feet. It is well and truly time to give up on the grasslands for the season, until such time as the park people run a mower over the trails.

The beauties of Grant ranch

November 26, 2011

26 November 2011

The weather is good, so I want to do a hike every day during the holiday weekend. Therefore, I’m not going to do any killer hikes, which would imply rest days. Grant ranch today, but only an inner trail loop (14 miles, 3000 vertical feet).

When I arrived at the Grant lake parking lot, five pigs were busy rooting up the grass. I had never realized before how destructive they are, but they really tear up the turf. In small quantities, this is no problem, but they seem to have overrun the park.

These guys were small, probably born last spring, but they had no fear of humans. That’s bad, because when they grow to adulthood, they will be big, nasty, vicious and very dangerous. Speaking as a human, our best protection is their propensity to stay far away from us.

Indeed, I came upon an extended family of about ten later on, and they scurried away as fast as they could. The trails were heavily pitted with the marks of cloven hooves. It’s well past the time for a hunt to clear them out. Suckling pig for holiday dinner, anyone?

It was a cool, clear day, with almost no one on the trail. I came upon a feather, its fluffy bits filled with dew. Nice! And worth a few photos.

What I like in this last one is the little insect off there on the side.

The other micro-adventure of the day was the coyote, walking straight toward me in the middle of the trail, head in the clouds, maybe meditating. It was a full five seconds after we came into each other’s field of view before it noticed me.

A quick 180 and off it ran at full speed.

Tarantula season again!

October 2, 2011

I have done a fair amount of walking in my recent world travels, but walking on flat pavement mostly just guarantees sore feet. Nice to be home, nice to be able to get out and get in some vertical gain on one of my favorite killer hikes, Grant ranch (21 miles, 4400 vertical feet).

Besides, it’s tarantula season again. And indeed, I found a tarantula only fifteen minutes into the hike, but it was dead on the trail. Score: zero. I found a number of small gopher snakes, too, and several of them were also dead. That’s depressing; I wonder whether there’s an epidemic amongst the small animal population.

But then I came upon two more very small gopher snakes, both of whom were healthy and active. That cheered me up considerably.

Along with a coyote, all of this wildlife was north of the twin gates road crossing. No idea why the separation in habitat, maybe because the forestation changes subtly on the south side. The next wildlife sighting was the little pond in the back country, populated by more frogs than I think I have ever seen in one place!

No tarantulas, and the day is wending along, getting toward mid-afternoon. There’s a stretch of open forest two or three miles from the finish point that I always like, and today is even better, with the newly fallen red leaves, and the hard bright colors of the poison oak.

Forty-five minutes before I reached the car, I entered the stretch west of Quimby road, tall dry grass, straw really. And out of the grass came a big beautiful tarantula! Yes! Callooh! Callay! I chortled in my joy.

A good day: tired, sore, tarantula score = 1.

Grant ranch

August 21, 2011

Saturday was for a short hike at Windy Hill. Nothing special except that I came upon a tiny garter snake, longer than a pencil but smaller in diameter. It was lying motionless across the trail. To see whether it was alive, I nudged its tail, and had time to think, “Too bad, it’s dead,” before it reloaded its cached state from disk and vanished into the grass.

Sunday seemed like a good day for a longer hike. I hadn’t been to Grant ranch for a while. It was foggy and chilly when I left the car at Grant lake.

But before I reached the crest of the first trail, I had climbed out into the sun. Very pretty.

I went past the Pala Seca cabin, then south, eventually to cross Mt Hamilton road and take Bonhoff trail (I can never believe the spelling of that name), where I stopped for calories at the little sometime stream that crosses the trail. Not much water left, the only pond maybe a foot in diameter, along with some seepage here and there. Still enough for a few water striders and underwater beetles and snails. I guess that’s the only wildlife I’ll see today.

Eagle lake (below) is a beautiful oasis off in the corner of the park. It’s interesting how the shallows support different vegetation, from tall reeds in standing water, to heavy grasses, to the blue wildflowers, fringed by a row of white daisies, and then tapering off into the dry brown grass of summer.

It is starting to feel like autumn. Some of the trees and bushes have started turning yellow, and much of the poison oak is going red. I suppose we’ll start seeing tarantulas before long, presumably as soon as the tarantula hawks go away for the season. (An early tarantula is unlikely to pass along his DNA.)

Grant ranch circumambulation

May 9, 2010

In late 2002 I damaged both Achilles tendons; my logbook for 2003 is almost empty. That’s when I had to quit doing long distance bike rides and take up long distance hiking instead. It’s better now, but I still need to be careful: if my ankles hurt, I take a day or two off. The steep hike on China’s great wall was enough load on my ankles that I have been taking it easy since then, 15-mile hikes on the weekends with less than 3000 feet of elevation gain. But I thought I might be okay for a serious hike this weekend: the Grant ranch circumambulation, 21.2 miles, 4500 vertical feet.

Sore ankles. I’ll take a few days off.

Usually the camera focusses on the nearest objects. Once in a while, it actually pays to read the user manual: there is a setting on this camera that causes it to focus on the most distant object instead, in this case Lick observatory.

One of the more interesting spots on this hike is a little stream whose bed is actually the trail for some little distance. It tends to dry up in summer, but at this time of year, there are likely to be small animals if you look carefully, maybe turning over a rock or two.

I have no idea what these little guys are. Insect larvae, I suppose.

I don’t think I have ever seen a western skink in previous years, but this is the second one in a month. Interesting how either the population of various animals waxes and wanes over the years, or maybe how my ability to perceive them changes.

These are more along the lines of the usual lizards we see all over the place.

Lots of butterflies. I liked the way this one was just casually perched on a nascent grass seed.

Grant ranch hike

January 24, 2010

23 January 2010

It has been raining hard and steadily for several days now; the flatlands have received several inches, and the hills even more. So I was only moderately ambitious when I went to Grant ranch – it might well not be possible to do a whole lot.

As expected the Mt Hamilton road was closed at Grant ranch, due to snow further up the mountain. No problem. I started off on the hotel trail, but after jumping across one stream, I decided to turn back at the second. It’s really unpleasant to have boots full of water; there is a stretch further along where the trail goes along the streambed for some distance, further than I would want to walk barefoot. Even so, I had to take off the boots and ford one stream barefoot to reach the higher country where there was not so much standing and running water.

Ended up at Antler point, overlooking the old line shack (now Pala Seca cabin), and Mount Day.


I should investigate whether there are publicly accessible trails on Mt Day, and how to get there. It would be new terrain.

Just down the hill from Antler point, I spotted a family of wild pigs heading for an oak tree to graze on acorns. The guard saw me before long, and they eventually decided that somewhere else would be a good place. They are big and mean, and I was just as glad to be a hundred meters away and well up the hill.


It was a variable day: rain, cold wind, sun, warm enough to take off the jacket, then more cold wind. No problem; a beautiful day. Probably pretty unpleasant on the higher hills.



One thing about this kind of weather is that you get outstandingly beautiful views.


Lick Observatory was largely obscured by its own private weather, but when the clouds opened, it added to the beauty of the scene.



Although I saw one mountain bikie, I actually met no one all day until I was down to the lake, almost at the parking lot. Nice to have the world to myself.

It was after 3. The road up the mountain was still closed. It seemed that everyone in the bay area had decided to come up the hill to see the snow. Ha! – no snow here, sorry. As much traffic as I think I have ever seen on Mt Hamilton road.

Nice day, even if it was only 16 miles, 2500 vertical feet.

Grant ranch 09 12 21

December 23, 2009

2009 December 21, Monday

Saturday, my colleague Elmar and I hiked 16 miles (3000 vertical feet) in Stevens canyon. Sunday was a rest day. On Monday, I decided to try for the circumambulation of Grant ranch, about 21 miles, 4500 vertical feet.

Started at Washburn trail at 7:30. After an hour or three, I wondered whether I had enough daylight for the complete circumambulation. Running numbers in my head, but I don’t know what time sunset is… After a while, it occurred to me that GPS really ought to know such things, and sure enough, my GPS receiver told me that sunset was at 4:52. A cloudy day, so it would be good to finish at least by then.

I met no one all day long. Lots of deer, including a buck with one antler, two good-sized herds of wild turkeys, a coyote. Nice day.

Well, nice except for the rain. An hour of moderate rain over in the corner closest to Lick observatory, then a break for an hour, and then real rain for the remainder of the hike. I was especially concerned about the last part, Heron trail and Edwards loop, which can become real muckholes when they’re softened by rain and the cows have churned them into continuous pits a foot deep. But it’s still early enough in the season that the cow tracks are only an inch or so deep into the mud, and though it was definitely squidgy, it didn’t bog me down completely.

Finished about 3:30. Good to turn the heat up all the way in the car and warm up a bit. I had a rain shell, and a padded vest under it, but my gloves were soaked and of course I was wet from the waist down. Not the most comfortable of days, but definitely a good day.