Posts Tagged ‘Horseshoe lake’

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.

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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!

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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I like its compound flowers.

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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.)

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

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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!

Catching up

October 6, 2013

I haven’t updated the blog for a while now. Apologies to my faithful followers (and the spammers, too).

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Go all the way back to September 15 (it really has been a long time, hasn’t it!). On a little sport ride out Cañada road, I noticed this mailbox.

Then last weekend, I decided to do a killer hike on the peninsula, maybe a little cooler than going inland. Montebello, Stevens canyon, Saratoga summit, and back along the trails west of Skyline, 19.3 miles, 3400 feet of gain.

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Well camouflaged. For some environments, that is. Not quite right for here, but at least I didn’t eat him. I can’t speak for the bird population.

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And horseshoe lake, near the end of the route. About 50 trail runners started from here today and ran 30 miles. These are the people who think a marathon is too wimpy to bother with. When the leaders passed me, somewhere around the 12-mile mark, they were still running faster than I can go in a sprint! Good for them.

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One reason I have been less active on the trails lately is that I am pulling down the overhead trellis structure over the rebuilt deck. The idea is to eventually rebuild something there, preferably something that won’t be full of termites and carpenter bees. Poking around up there, I met a big garden spider, just hanging out.

Removing the lattice was not a really big deal. Removing the cross braces was a little more technical, because they are heavy, and toenailed into the support beams. I left the two final cross braces for last; once they are down, the overhead beams just run out straight from the house, with not a whole lot to keep them from tipping over sideways.

Saturday, 5 October, I spent an extremely stressful morning pulling down the last of the cross braces, and three of the five beams. They are heavy enough to be beyond easy control, everything was wobbly, there were hidden toenails that I needed to cut ad hoc with a hacksaw blade, and once loose, they wanted to shift a little. A little is okay!

The two final beam sections are the ones attached to the house. They are pinned to joist hangers with bolts too large for the wrenches I had, and I was glad enough to leave them for later anyway. Not much later: they also need to come down. It will be tricky: they are longer, therefore heavier than the others, there is no good place to put a ladder on one area that’s being framed in for the new deck, and a misjudgment could damage the house as well as the deck.

Sunday, 6 October

This yard work has been anaerobic, and I have the sore muscles to prove it. But I need some aerobic exercise as well. So I hiked Mission peak to Sunol and back, 15.7 miles, 4000 vertical feet.

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Street parking below the preserve is bounded by eucalyptus on one side, houses on the other. Eucalypts are generally disliked here because they are not native Californians. I am not very sympathetic to that view, because I’m not either.

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A cool sunny day as I hiked up the secondary route. Dozens of hikers across the way on the main route; I’ll go down that way five or six hours from now.

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Half a dozen cows, each with a freshly minted calf. Not completely fresh; the ones I could check out did not still have umbilical stubs. But their mothers were in aggressive defense mode. One pair blocked the trail. I advanced very slowly, enough to stress the mother but not enough to provoke an attack — at least that was the idea. After a few minutes, she moved aside and I didn’t have to spend the day camped in the middle of the trail.

Hours later on the return trip, most of the cows had moved along to find the shade of a tree or three, but one calf had crept through some loose barbed wire, and was separated from mom. There was a nearby gate, but locked, so not a whole lot I could do about it. Everything was calm for the moment, but when Junior got hungry, I figured things might become a little stressful.

As it happened, there was cell phone coverage out there, and the parks guy I talked to said he would let the rangers know. So I hope I did a good thing today.

Stopped at Home Depot to buy two 1 1/8 inch box-end wrenches (that would be about 29mm for my metric-literate friends), the tools I need to detach the final beams from the house.

Small animals, at home and abroad

May 18, 2013

Saturday, 18 May 2013

The several mommy long-legs in the garage have produced half a dozen litters. Nice to watch them.

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Saturday, I thought I would leave the car at Palo Alto Foothills park and hike to Skyline from there. But the gate was closed when I got there, and parking on the road is verboten. So I drove up Page Mill to Montebello, where the gate was also closed, but it’s legal to park roadside. Just 7 when I started out, on a chilly, sunny day.

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From this view, you would never know there’s a drought!

Because this is not to be a long loop, I can do some of the infill trails today, trails that I rarely see. We start with a brief detour to the pond near Alpine road. The trail map just calls it Pond, no name.

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I have never been here before; I bet nine people out of eight don’t even know it’s here. I walked most of the way around, until the un-trail disappeared completely, then bushwhacked back up the hill to the real trail.

Several of the other less commonly used trails were also knee high with vegetation, and I stopped at the Russian ridge gate to check for ticks.

Three in my socks. Here’s one that I picked out and deposited on the fence post for photos.

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Interesting that this little parasite has its own little parasite, high on the left shoulder. I cannot feel very sympathetic.

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I also found a tick on my knee, heading north at full speed. Here we have a female eager to get into my pants. Sounds good, but not this kind of female.

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I have always wondered how they manage to crawl around on your skin without you feeling it. And in these close-up shots, I see droplets exuding from the feet — I bet they secrete an anaesthetic onto the host’s skin! How about that for unexpected!

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Here (below) is another tick from later. This seems quite different from the one above, which is in turn quite different from the one on the fence post. All told, I encountered six today, three in my socks, two on my legs, one in my hand. Of course, it’s the ones I didn’t see that are the real concern.

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I’m glad the bay area is not plagued with serious tick-borne disease!

There was a nice collection of other interesting wildlife, as I wandered Russian ridge, including a walk out to the end of the Mindego hill road, to see whether they have opened a trail to the top of the hill (they haven’t) .

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I spotted a spider stalking a little leafhopper kind of thing. Life and death drama here, so of course I watched.

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When the spider pounced, I could actually hear a little plop as it landed. No more leafhopper!

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Grin!

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Ever been grinned at by a spider?

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This bee really gets into his work!

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At Alpine pond, scum on the water, but clearly not random. I am reminded of Golgi bodies in histology, but have no idea what this would be. Interesting. The nature center was open; they had scooped some water from the pond, and captured a dragonfly nymph. The volunteer said the nymphs take two years before maturing into dragonflies. Who would have thought!

In the spirit of picking up some of the side trails that I don’t see very often, I hiked down the old Page Mill road trail until it ended. My new shoes are hurting my feet — that’s not good. Applied some moleskin and gritted my teeth.

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My bod is so attractive, it’s just irresistible!

Near Horseshoe lake, I saw coloured ribbons marking the trail, and there was a sign about an ultramarathon here tomorrow.  Probably as well I came here today.

Hot, tired and sore by the time I got back to the car, but it was a pretty good day.