Posts Tagged ‘Los Trancos open space preserve’

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!

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Autumn hiking

November 22, 2015

Sunday, 22 Nov 2015

Although I went for a run Friday, there have been enough other recent claims to my time and attention that I have had very little exercise for the last two weeks. So I was motivated to get out and do something strenuous today. 21.7 miles, 3700 vertical feet. Strenuous enough.

Parked at Los Trancos, near a place that has llamas. Usually they are some distance away from the road, but they had come down to the fence today to hobnob — or maybe sneer — at four deer on the Free side of the fence.

When I do these trails, I usually go around clockwise, but I reversed the order today. Makes a difference; not only to the trails have a fresh look as seen from the other side, but I have energy to hike a couple of the frill detours that I always skip when they’re at the end of the hike, rather than the beginning.

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Sunny, mostly, but cool. Beautiful day. Peters creek bridge here, not long before I turned uphill and hiked to a calorie stop at a stone bench in memory of Wallace Stegner.

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Peters creek runs into the ocean. Two or three hours later, here we are at Stevens creek, at the bottom of Table Mountain on the other side, draining into the bay. And from here, we climb back to the ridge where the car was parked. Nice day, hard work.

Time for a beer.

Page Mill killer hike

October 3, 2015

Saturday, 3 October 2015

I like to park at Palo Alto Foothills park and hike up from there, through Los Trancos open space preserve, Montebello OSP, Coal Creek OSP, Russian Ridge OSP, Skyline Ridge OSP, and back through Montebello and Los Trancos. It’s something over 20 miles, 3500 vertical feet.

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I always wonder whether insects and spiders don’t notice dewdrops or just accept them — that’s the way it is.

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Nice day. I had originally thought to hike some of the preserves further north, but it is definitely tarantula season, and I’ll have a better chance of finding one in the open grasslands down here. As it happened, I saw two tarantula hawk wasps, but no tarantulas. Schade!

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Poison oak mostly red by now.

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Stopped at Horseshoe lake for an apple and to look for small animals.

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It turned out that the great Cruz hike was today, and one of the parking areas at Skyline ridge OSP was given over to a couple of awnings and sag support. Busy and happy place.

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I started back down the hill. It was around 2 PM, far too early for the fog to be blowing in off the ocean, but here it comes! In times past, I have been up there on my bike during that kind of thing. Amazingly beautiful, bright sun and fog alternating, wisps and clouds, blowing and boiling across the road.

Strong, gusty winds, and chilly. In the car later, I heard a high wind warning for points further north, so this was just on the edge of it. I imagine some trees will come down.

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A wildlife camera. Do you suppose I count as wildlife?

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And nearing the end, this is Wildhorse Valley in Palo Alto Foothills park. It would be a good place to herd horses; open at one end, the sides are high and steep. Most horses could probably be captured here; a horse with the spirit to climb out would be tired and easy pickings for a few more riders waiting at the top.

Golden summer

July 3, 2015

Friday, 3 July 2015

A couple days ago, I worked on yellow star thistle at Windy Hill open space preserve. This requires going off-trail into the tall grass, and I spent half an hour picking seeds out of my socks afterward. Today I tried a pair of gaiters that I have had for quite a while and possibly never worn before. They helped a lot, but I need to figure out how to properly fasten them down.

Los Trancos today, where I spent four hours, prevented hundreds of thousands of seeds from entering the next-generation ecosystem, and didn’t even make a dent. Foof! Only the photos made it worthwhile.

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From a distance, this looked like a fox lurking in the tall grass.

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I found two manti, this one in amongst the YST (that’s what we regulars call yellow-star thistle). There were probably a few thousand that I didn’t see, and if this one hadn’t moved, I wouldn’t have seen it either.

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It wasn’t really happy about posing for photos, but I fired off fifty or eighty shots, and a few of them turned out not too bad.

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Later on, a big spider hiding behind a grass seed pod. If it can’t see me, I obviously can’t see it. When I worked around behind it, it scurried down the stem and disappeared on the ground.

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Hot day, hard work, good to bail out after a while and head for home.

Last killer hike of spring

June 20, 2015

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Two weeks since I had any serious exercise (the Aachener Wald last Sunday was a nice walk of maybe 15 miles, but not very vertical). Can I handle a killer hike today? Parked at Los Trancos entrance well down Page Mill road, and hiked 21.75 miles, 3600 vertical feet, on a sticky, muggy day. Not as much fun as it might have been, and I ran out of water, but that’s what happens. For the locals: down Canyon trail, up Table Mountain, to Saratoga gap, back on the west side of Skyline.

Someone at Saratoga gap had let his front wheels come forward off the pavement down three or four inches onto the dirt, and didn’t have enough traction (front wheel drive car) to get back up onto the pavement. Three mountain bikies and I teamed up to lift and push the car onto the pavement. Our good deed for the day.

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Since last I was here, the green of spring has faded completely. The open areas are California golden, chest high dry grass. The pretty areas are in the woods and along the streams. Above: Peters Creek. There are a few ponds here and there, with newts lazing on the bottom, sometimes swimming desultorily around. Notice the one below exposing his butt to the coolth of the air.

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Also a day to find insects, busy drinking syrup from the flowers.

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Hard work today, but I get a beer as a reward. Well, I would have had a beer anyway, but today I earned it!

Yet another busy weekend

May 3, 2015

Saturday, 2 May 2015

I had originally signed up for a trail-building volunteer project, but my tennis elbow suggests I should take it easy for a week or three, so I begged off. Instead, I thought I’d park at Palo Alto Foothills park and do a serious hike from there, but the gate was still closed when I arrived, so I went on up the hill as far as the first gate into Los Trancos, and improvised a hike that turned out not to be as long as I had intended (16.5 miles, 2800 vertical feet). Nice day, and the wildflowers are out everywhere.

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I stopped at the Stevens Creek crossing along Canyon trail to photograph the underwater newts (three in this picture).

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Many hours later, I entered Coal Creek preserve on my way back toward the car. Given that I am pretty sure I saw a mountain lion at Coal Creek a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t want to sell life insurance on that cow.

Wildlife: as well as the newts, a garter snake. Nice.

Sunday, 3 May

Given that yesterday was less than what I wanted to do, I filled in today by visiting the rest of the trail junctions in El Corte de Madera open space preserve. This is part of my trail signs audit project, which I am going to have to sell to the district.

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The overnight fog was just lifting. Very nice.

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Tafoni is a kind of sandstone, subject to interesting letterboxing, and one of the attractions of this preserve. There is more tafoni around here, for example at Bean Hollow state beach, but not as close and convenient.

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In 1953, a DC6 crashed in the fog on this ridge. This was still during the time when aircraft had names, and this one was the Resolution. So the trail that runs past the site is the Resolution trail. I doubt they had the equivalent of ATVs to help with salvage, and there may or may not have even been a trail along there. Likely as not, whatever was recovered was carried out on horses or mules.

After recovering the bodies and personal effects, the next priority would have been forensic evidence. Then whatever small things might have been of value would have been salvaged, for example instruments or computers. Things that were too big or too heavy to justify removal would have been left behind, where they have probably been picked over by souvenir hunters for sixty years.

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I haven’t come along this trail for a few months, and don’t recall that there was much of anything to see. Today, there was all kinds of aircraft debris along the trail, more visible down the hill below the trail. Surprising, in a way, that there still remains this much that’s both interesting and movable.

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My guess that that scavengers have been prowling around down there, and for whatever reason, just didn’t have a chance to haul away the latest set of goodies.

Hours later, I had been down to the further reaches of the preserve and was on the way out, having talked to a number of mountain bikies, found a rotten plank in a bridge for my trail report, and generally had a good time (14 miles, 3300 vertical feet). The fog had blown in off the ocean and it was chilly and windy.

A group of hikers came past, and the red madrone tunnel suggested a perfect photo. (And yes, they agreed. But I shot them before they were all posed.)

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Up the hill again

January 11, 2015

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Poison oak from yesterday? My right forearm was a little itchy this morning, so I scrubbed it (again) with TecNu and a Scotchbrite pad. I hope that’s enough. Scotchbrite? Yes; the idea is to sacrifice a few layers of epidermis before the poison soaks in all the way.

Drove to Arastradero preserve, at the foot of the ridge, and hiked up the hill. Turned out to be 20.6 miles, 3200 feet of climb. Not quite enough elevation gain to qualify as a killer hike, but something a bit more than industrial grade.

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The day started with fog, but turned bright and clear as I climbed. This is something like the tenth 2015 spare-the-air day in the Bay area, and it was pretty murky down there in the flatlands. As well as poor air quality, the stationary high-pressure ridge means we also get no rain. Damn!

I usually take Los Trancos trail through Palo Alto Foothills park, climbing to the Los Trancos creek watershed, but leaving the park before actually entering it. Just for a change, I went up the other direction today, the trail entering the watershed almost immediately and climbing along with the creek. It adds a mile or two to the route, but the point is to be outdoors, not to go anywhere in particular. In the event, I had thought to go as far as Horseshoe lake, beyond Skyline, but ended up making a loop at Montebello: White Oak, Skid Road and Canyon trails, and back down.

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Interesting lichen on a rock at Montebello preserve.

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I was of course doing a bit of trail patrol as I walked through the Mid-Pen preserves. I started to record the tree fallen above the trail just beyond this bridge, then noticed that the bridge railing itself was damaged, maybe because of branches that had fallen onto the bridge.

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Then I noticed: the bridge rail had been cut out in an arc to make space for a big tree. But there is no air space between the tree and the bridge. The tree is leaning ever further out into the creekbed, looking for light, and even if it doesn’t fall soon, it will destroy the bridge if it gets a chance.

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I inspected the bridge piers and structure and saw no evidence of shifting or damage. Reported it to the district; they now have an opportunity to save several thousand dollars in bridge reconstruction.

As I walked back through Foothills park, I noticed a beautiful raptor in a nearby tree. Not in any hurry, it sat there and posed for as long as I wanted to shoot pictures.

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My guess is golden eagle, but I’ll check with Doris for confirmation. Nice! (Lynn thinks it’s a red-shouldered hawk, and Google images tends to confirm that.)

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By the time I got back down into Arastradero preserve, it was past mid-afternoon, getting chilly, but still a very nice day.

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Some of last year’s glory, above, and this year’s promise, below. Do you suppose all willows create pussy-willows?

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Quick stop at the store for groceries, and home. Nice day.

Outdoors and Brahms

November 23, 2014

Saturday, 22 November 2014

I flew back from Stockholm Friday, so Saturday was for collecting anti-jetlag daylight and getting a little exercise. No matter that it was raining. Went to Windy Hill with the idea of both hiking and uprooting weeds. Found some purple star thistle on Spring Ridge trail, the carcasses of which must be carried out — it cannot be left where it lies, because it will go ahead and develop seed. I carry a flimsy bag in my backpack for eventualities such as this, so it wasn’t a problem.

Over on the other side of the preserve, I went off trail and attacked broom for almost three hours, a total of about 7 hours outdoors. Thoroughly wet, tired, dirty — a great day. The sun had come out, and I was happy.

Sunday, 23 November

My gloves were still soaked from yesterday, so I just went hiking today. Short hike, because the late afternoon is committed. Parked at Arastradero and went up the hill, through Foothills park and Los Trancos open space preserve, 15 miles total, the Los Trancos part counting as a volunteer trail patrol contribution because it’s a Mid-Pen preserve.

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Looking into the sun in Wildhorse valley, mist rising from the wet grass of yesterday’s rain as the sun hits it. The exposure makes it look like a snowy scene, very pretty if I do say so myself.

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Back in the woods, it was good to find the colourful and interesting fungi getting started, now that the rains have begun.

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Los Trancos, where you would not be well-advised to rely on the mossy side of the tree to determine north.

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More Los Trancos, fallen leaves, a beautiful time of year.

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And speaking of fungi … I have never seen anything like this before.

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Tilt-a-world. No, the camera is not off-vertical; these trees really are growing off to the left, leaning into the open space of the stream valley below. Bay laurel especially does this, sometimes resulting in trunks growing completely horizontal with new trunks sprouting vertically from them. In other cases, the trunk bows over far enough to reach the ground on the other side of the stream and form an arch. But sometimes, the torque is too much and the trunk breaks off. I found such a break during my trail patrol, noted its GPS coordinates, photographed it, and included it in my trail report.

Home in time for a quick nap before we went out again.

For my birthday a few weeks ago, Jacky got us tickets to Brahms’ Requiem, whose performance was today. It had no orchestra, rather four hands of piano, an arrangement done by Brahms himself. Goose bumps, tears in the eyes. More than once. A superb performance of a superb piece of music. Quite possibly the best birthday present I have ever had.

Top o’ the Page Mill to ye

August 16, 2014

Saturday, 16 August 2014

I was on the job at Los Trancos open space preserve a few minutes before 7, Dave the volunteer, ready to attack the yellow star thistle along Page Mill trail.

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But first, I check out a tiny moth, which was itself checking out one of the flowers.

I have two buckets for YST, and spent two hours filling them, without getting out of sight of my car. There’s a lot of that stuff around. Tramping through tall grass trying to find it. Many of the stalks have faded to a reddish yellow, so they’re harder to spot; many of the flower heads have already fallen off, and many others fell off just from being waved around when I uprooted them. In this particular microclimate, I think the season for picking them is over.

Which is fine. It gets pretty old.

After dumping the dregs into a covered compost heap, I hiked most of the remaining trails in Montebello open space preserve, and crossed Skyline into Skyline Ridge open space preserve, where I hiked as far south as the stand where they will sell chestnuts in a few months. There are a few picnic tables nearby, one of which was in the shade, a nice place to soak up some calories.

On the way back, I hiked all of the grid of trails that runs through the christmas tree farm, and around Horseshoe lake (below).

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Skid Road trail returns on the Montebello side, where a family of wild turkeys crossed the trail ahead of me. The turkey chick is as big as a full-grown chicken.

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I have mentioned previously that, to hike all of a given set of trails, it is very often necessary to hike a given segment twice, not unusual to do it three times, and sometimes four times. My route took me up the White Oaks trail, past the parking lot (where I tanked up with water that I had left in the car), then back down along some of the trails I had already done this morning.

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Back on Canyon trail, where a former lake is now a marsh and will be a meadow on of these years. Beautiful pure white skeleton of a tree across the way that might have drowned in the lake (assuming the lake was created by a dam).

There were more trails I could have hiked, but I drained the last of my water as I got back to the parking lot, so I said 14.5 miles, 1900 feet of climb, was enough for today.

YST and Coal Creek

July 26, 2014

Saturday, 26 July 2014

It was supposed to be a very hot day, so I set the alarm an hour early. Arrived at a side gate of Los Trancos just after 6, and spent 3 1/2 hours attacking yellow star thistle. Hard to get my work gloves on, especially the right hand, because it’s swollen and puffy from last week’s poison oak.

Dumped my bucket of spoils at the tarp-covered compost heap. The way this works is that the flower heads will continue to develop seed even after they are plucked, so they can’t be left where they lie. To keep them from germinating, the compost heap is covered with an open mesh dark green plastic tarp. Mice and voles love to eat the fluffy seed as it develops, which is fine. A high population density of mice and voles attracts rattlesnakes, which is also fine, except that, when you’re popping the top off the compost heap, it’s advisable to be prepared. Being prepared: I had my camera turned on, lens cap off, ready to go, but there was no snake for me.

Having finished the hard work for the day, I went off on trail patrol. Cut across the top of Montebello open space preserve, toward Alpine road, with a detour down to the little pond here.

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Just below the pond, a garter snake. Cool!

Today’s objective is to hike all of the trails in the Coal Creek open space preserve. The main trail here is old Alpine road, which was a complete road up-and-down, albeit unpaved, when I first started mountain biking these hills, lo those many years ago. One wet winter, the road collapsed, and because it was just a fire road, not the essential access to anyone’s home, there was no way to justify the expense of repairing it. So they built a mountain bike trail around the washout, and there it has remained ever since.

I hadn’t realized it, but the trail, and the old road, descend all the way into Portola Valley before finally crossing the boundary out of the Coal Creek preserve. I had taken extra water, to replace the water I had consumed during my thistle-pulling hours, but didn’t have enough for that much additional work.

Reluctantly, I returned to the car, having hiked only old Alpine road, none of the side trails. Drove to Alpine pond, where there is a supply of drinking water, and tanked up, two bottles and the belly. While I was there, I went down to the pond to see if anything interesting was posing for photographs.

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Interesting, indeed. I always like these little guys. How many insects have necks?

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And how many airfoils are open on the leading edge?

Drove to the Russian Ridge Vista Point on Skyline, whence I hiked the remaining trails at Coal Creek. One of the trails is old Coal Road, which does in fact go past a black embankment, but the black really just looks like mudstone. If it’s indeed coal, I bet it’s pretty low grade. The most interesting name, of course, is Crazy Pete’s road, which is a trail. It runs into Crazy Pete’s trail, which is a road. Crazy!

A really seriously hot day, and my ass was dragging by the time I finished, ten hours after the morning’s events had started. I count it as a killer hike, even though it turned out to be only 17 miles, 2800 vertical feet.

Home to plunge the swollen arms into ice water — which didn’t help much, if at all. Well past the time when I ought to be developing an immunity to poison oak, but it doesn’t seem to be happening.

Signs of spring?

February 23, 2013

Saturday, 23 February, 2013

Last time I did more or less this hike, I parked at Arastradero Preserve, and hiked uphill from there. That hike was upward of 21 miles, and I didn’t have time or stamina to complete a loop at the top, just went out to Horseshoe lake and back. Today, I parked a little further up the hill, at Foothills park, and stitched together trails through Foothills, Los Trancos Open Space Preserve, Montebello OSP, Coal Creek OSP, Russian Ridge OSP, Long Ridge OSP, and back through Montebello, Los Trancos and Foothills park. It was an industrial strength hike (17 miles, 3300 vertical feet) but not a killer hike.

It was a sunny day, cold in the shade, cold in the wind, warm in the sun. Nice.

As I hiked up Los Trancos trail in Foothills park, I met another hiker who asked me whether there was another trail off to the left, a trail that would take him back down. The Los Trancos trail swings around to the right for a good-sized loop, but left? Hmmm… In the absence of guidance, the other hiker turned back and went back down on Los Trancos trail.

Two minutes later, I came to the Castanoan trail turnoff, leading down and to the left. Now that I see it, I remember that it was there. I have never taken that trail; maybe I’ll do it on the return trip as a way to remember it next time.

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A spider web, with dew that would likely last all day, even in the sun.

From Montebello, the route went down old east Alpine road. This was the only really muddy and gunky part of the hike, mostly because it’s in the shade and graded below the adjacent hill. When I first started riding and hiking the bay area, east Alpine was a real road, that ran all the way from Portola Valley to Skyline. Unpaved and closed to cars even then, but for a mountain bikie, it was a fire road ride, not a single-track trail ride. Many years ago, part of the road collapsed in a landslide, and as a secondary road, it just wasn’t worth repairing. So they built a mountain bike trail around the landslide… today, I notice on the map a note that the route is completely impassible. Not clear whether the note refers only to the road part — that’s not new news — or also to the mountain bike trail.

In any event, I turned back uphill before reaching Crazy Pete’s road — there’s a name I like! — and crossed Skyline near the vista point into the Russian Ridge OSP. Sunny up here on the ridge, but cold in the wind.

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From Russian Ridge OSP, the trail crosses under west Alpine road into Long Ridge OSP and Alpine pond. I stopped there to soak up calories and enjoy the day. On the bulletin board, I notice that there will be a Signs of Spring event here tomorrow. Well, it’s true that the predominant colour is green, but in the bay area, that is more a sign of winter than a sign of spring. Wildflowers? Arthropodae? Not many.

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Having been primed to look for signs of spring, I kept a close eye out as I went back down the hill. Yes, there are a few wildflowers, but not many types and not very prolific. You have to look carefully for them.

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I like the 2×5 pattern of the petals on these microscopic blossoms.

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I turned off on Castanoan trail, as I had promised myself. It dropped me out at the top of Wild Horse valley, as I had also recalled. From there, it was a simple walk half a mile back to the car.

Today’s adventure: this is where I came upon a gent lying on the semi-paved trail. When I got closer, I saw that he had a camera, so I went over to see what he was doing. He had a sheet of soft white plastic and a shaker of forest duff. What he would do is shake a loose scattering of duff onto the plastic sheet, inspect it for small animals and then photograph them. My kind of guy!

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Of course, he had a real camera, with two radio-activated flashes and the whole bit. I can hardly compete… but even so, this looks like a really good idea. I think I will experiment with it myself.

As to the signs of spring, yes, they exist if you look for them, especially down a few hundred feet and inland a few miles from Long Ridge OSP. But unless something really dramatic happens overnight, anyone who drives to Long Ridge tomorrow hoping to see meadows chock full of wildflowers and arthropodae is likely to be a bit disappointed.

Not yet spring, but close

January 13, 2013

 Saturday, 12 January 2013

With rainy weather and vacation and various things going on, I have not done a killer hike for a number of weeks now. There may not be enough daylight for some of the usual routes, where for example, the gates at Sunol only open at 8. But I can drive quickly to Arastradero open space preserve, and hike from there through Palo Alto’s Foothills park, thence to and through Los Trancos open space preserve, Montebello open space preserve, and maybe end up at Horseshoe lake, in the Long Ridge open space preserve.  (Yes, there are strings of parks and you can go for a long way from one to another to another. Nice!)

And do I did. Several degrees of frost when I started, but as soon as the trail started uphill, I took off the two outer jackets. I had cool-weather gloves, which I put on and took off innumerable times over the course of the day, according to the nano-climate of the moment.

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We are watching a video course on particle physics, and I am reminded of the professor’s comment that the hexagonal nature of snowflakes tells us a lot about the molecular structure of water. I don’t see any hexagons here. Is it possible that the cross section of these crystals might be hexagonal?

Saw several deer, a number of rabbits. A coyote came across the trail not far away, turned in my direction but ran off when it saw me.

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A sunny, cold day, but definitely showing signs of spring.

I got to Horseshoe lake by taking the Canyon trail in the Montebello preserve, then cutting over to the Skid Road trail. It was quite squidgy, really the only extended difficult section of trail all day. I considered going back by way of the Russian Ridge open space preserve and the Coal Creek open space preserve, but it would add another couple miles to the hike, and I wanted to be sure there was enough daylight to get back to the car.

As I got back down into Foothills park, I clearly had enough margin to take a short photo break. All of the following photos come from a little area of duff and deadfall of only two or three meters along the trail.

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The things we see when we look carefully.

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Last week, I got down on my knees for some of the close-up photos, and ended up acquiring a tick. They like to hang out on the grass, which is a good reason not to brush against the vegetation. They like to drip down from the overhead, which is a good reason to wear a wide-brimmed hiking hat. But it hadn’t occurred to me that they would also be lurking in the duff. Once bitten, and all that. Today, I didn’t get down into the duff.

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This last one is a horse chestnut in the process of sprouting.

Got back to the car a few minutes after 4, as intended. Plenty of margin before a 5:20 sunset. 21.4 miles, 3300 vertical feet.

Sunday, 13 January

I may have blogged about the leaking pipe last weekend. It was repaired properly during the course of the last week, but the follow-up was a disaster. So I started the day by spending two hours digging out mud, by hand, and resetting the utility box around the irrigation system.

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These pictures are the before view, as left by the plumbers. The after picture would show the box flush with grade, and an interior view would show the wiring, solenoids, valves and manifold exposed. Moomph!

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Another chilly day, but it was good for a 5-mile run after lunch. It turns out that the ring of major roads around home is a 5.0 mile circuit, according to Google maps, so it’s very convenient. There are a few traffic lights, but most of them are secondary and the odds of having to stop and wait for more than a second or two are fairly low.

California — Small animals?

September 16, 2012

Sunday, 16 September 2012

I spent yesterday on airplanes, getting soft and fat. Today is to get outdoors, get a little exercise. I thought I might drive up Page Mill road to Montebello open space preserve and hike at least the short Stevens Canyon — Skyline open space loop from there, but the gas gauge was a little low. Also, I’m late getting started (almost 9:30 by the time I was on the trail), and rather than spend time driving, I’d prefer to leave the car and hike.

So I went to Arastradero open space preserve instead. I can hike up to Foothills park, then on into Los Trancos open space preserve, which connects to Montebello. I thought Alpine pond at Skyline and Alpine road might be a good destination: drinking water there, and the possibility of small animals in and around the pond.

I spotted the first small animal of the day before leaving Arastradero. The multiple black dots make it hard to tell where the eyes are. Do you suppose that’s a survival trait?

Because this was an ad hoc adaptation, I didn’t have trail maps. I picked up the Arastradero map at the kiosk, but that isn’t the problem. I have rarely, maybe never, gone into Foothills park from here, and ended up wasting significant time and distance getting that transition sorted out.

The higher elevations are okay; I have been here before. Even so, it was apparent that going to Alpine pond would be a stretch, and I’m not sure there’s a direct trail from Montebello anyway. If I need to take the roundabout trail, there is certainly not enough time.

When I reached the Montebello parking area, I got the high country trail map and confirmed that there was no direct trail; it was also 1:15, so I needed to consider the time it would take getting back. I should be smarter on the return trip, but still, there could be a false turning or two. So I turned back. It’s enough for one day, anyway: it turned out to be 19.6 miles, 3000 vertical feet.

Too bad I can’t refill the water bottle, but I still have a little left; I know there’s water at Foothills park, and I won’t need as much going down anyway.

When I got back into the upper reaches of Foothills park, I thought I would take Pony Tracks fire road down, rather than the trail route I had taken on the way up. I thought Pony Tracks would intersect the trail some distance down, and I could turn off onto the trail when I got there. Just a way to avoid backtracking.

Wrong. It was a steep descent and the fire road ended at Page Mill road. I recognize that part of the road: it’s a hard right turn, steep going in, and then with increasing steepness, the one most dangerous curve for a bicycle. I still sweat when I remember the first time I went through there, not having braked enough in advance…. I ended up on the left side of the road, thanking my lucky stars that there was no oncoming traffic.

But because I know the road, I also know that walking along the road is a really poor idea. I didn’t want to go back up Pony Tracks fire road to the place where I should have turned off. The alternative was a short spur called the Parks fire road, which ended at a water tank. Could there be a way downhill beyond the water tank?

I worked my way around the chainlink fence to check it out. There is an electrical line going downhill, probably also a water line. Both run perpendicular to the contours: the steepest possible route. But there was at least something of an access — I will not call it a trail.

What were the risks? No big trees could fall across the alleged path, because it was just bush. Probably the biggest thing would be the risk of  a heavy growth of poison oak, too much to get around. Of course, there was also a good chance of falling on this very steep grade, but that’s not too much of a concern.

And fall I did, three times. But as expected, it was pretty minor. Hardly any blood, and my tetanus shots are up to date.

The untrail does not descend to a ridge where I could pick up a real trail; it actually descends to the top of Wild Horse valley. When I finally got there, I found a picnic site — with drinking water. I knew there had to be something good about this.

Note to self: Self, don’t ever do that again.

Taking Pony Tracks fire road down was a bad idea, but not quite stupid. Not stupid, not within the meaning of the act. Stupid would have been risking serious injury or worse, or risking getting lost or benighted.

I drank as much as I could, and refilled the bottle. Further down, I went around Lake Boronda, hoping for small animals to photograph. There were a few dragonflies, but they didn’t want to pose for pictures. Along the shore of the lake, two more drinking fountains, and I took full advantage of them. Much better!

Back over Bobcat point and down into Arastradero. It was past beer time, and I was stepping right along, when lo and behold, a ringneck snake! Cool!

Ringnecks are fast and agile and don’t like to pose for pictures. Fortunately, this one was out in the middle of the fire road, and I was able to go around and head it off whenever it broke for the underbrush. I guesstimated at 2/3 overexposure, but didn’t have time to calibrate the results. I think a full stop of overexposure would have been better. A dozen shots, of which I think I’ll keep these two.

Both of today’s small animals were in Arastradero preserve. Mike would point out that I didn’t need to do the 15 miles in between.

Home to plunge the feet into a bucket of ice water. As they say, if you can walk away from it, it’s a good hike.