Posts Tagged ‘Mid-peninsula Open Space District’

Arachnids rule!

September 18, 2016

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Five of us cleared three areas of Fremont Older open space preserve of stinkwort, all of it that we could find. The day was bright and sunny, but started out cool and gray, with wonderful condensation patterns on the cobwebs and indeed, on their proprietors.



Garden spider season, and no mistake.

Sunday, 18 September

Speaking of which, it’s also getting on into the time of year when the tarantulas come out. Do you suppose, if I go trail patrolling in the open grasslands, I’ll find one? So I drove up Page Mill road and hiked a loop through Montebello, Coal Creek, Russian Ridge and Skyline Ridge open space preserves.


No tarantuli, but I did find two gopher snakes and a garter snake. That’s three-up from the usual count.





Only recently did I learn that the forked tongue is actually a stereo sensor, able to differentiate the taste of the air left to right and help the snake locate smelly things such as, well, me.

A spare the air day here, not much breeze, highs estimated at 90 in San Jose, 100 in Livermore. Maybe a bit cooler on the ridge over the ocean, but still a hot day. Glad I have water.

A week ago, Ellen, Tom and I scoured Mindego Hill for purple star thistle. It was part of my hiking plan anyway, so I took along a trash bag and scoured it a second time. If we got 90% of it last week, and I got 90% of what was left today, we’re down to 1% remainders. Hard to estimate these numbers, of course, but I think they’re not too far off.

This left me with a trash bag to carry out. I tied it to the back of my backpack, where it probably looked silly, but didn’t get in my way. Dropped it off at the Midpen Skyline Field Office (always known, confusingly, as SFO), where I talked with Ranger Frances for a few minutes.

I used up all of my water before I got there, but I was able to tank up again at Alpine Pond. A life-saver, and no mistake. Too bad there are so few sources of drinking water up there, but that’s how it is.

As to big spiders, the season is yet young, and I’ll be out there looking for them next week, and the next and the next.

Mid-Pen volunteer recognition

September 19, 2015

Saturday, 19 September 2015

The Mid-Pen open space district sponsors a volunteer recognition event every year. They spend a few thou on a party, and the accountants estimate that the volunteers contribute about half a million dollars worth of work that doesn’t have to be paid for out of pocket. Not a bad deal.

Today was the day for 2015. An old rodeo grounds just west of La Honda, in La Honda creek open space preserve, which is not yet open to the public. The day began with a short hike, led by the district GM. With recent knee troubles, Jacky decided to stay under the shade of the pavilion instead. Not necessarily a bad decision: it was a pretty hot day, and the trail was out in the open.


The hike was advertised as strenuous, 800 feet of gain in only a little over a mile, but someone got tangled up in the arithmetic. The top was a little over 800 feet, and the starting point was well over 200 feet, total gain about 560 feet, nothing like as difficult as they made it sound.


Pretty good-sized group, and some fairly nice views from the top, including the ocean over that-a-way.


I noticed later that the old USGS map shows eight oil wells right here at the top. Ancient history, nothing to see now. I wonder how old that information is.


A couple of old buildings, picturesque as tumbledowns.


My loyal fans will recall that I spent a few months last summer and fall hiking all of the trails in all of the preserves in the district. The reward is an anvil, duly presented at today’s ceremonies. Pretty classy!

It also turns out that I have put in something upward of 750 hours of volunteer work, so I got a nice stickpin award for that, suitable for putting into my disreputable hat.

Lots of food, lots of awards, lots of recognition. Mid-Pen does a great job of recognizing volunteers. Considering that we are pretty much all of us volunteers at our places of employment, it’s curious that our companies are really not very good at this at all.

Windy Hill, Russian Ridge

August 2, 2014

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Last weekend, I discovered yellow star thistle at Windy Hill. Not very much, but it would be good to eradicate it before it can spread.


So I left the car on Skyline at the top of Spring Ridge trail about 7, hiked down to the area I had skipped last weekend. It was just at the top of the fog that was blanketing Silicon Valley, cool and pleasant.


I think the temperature was around 60F, cool enough that this bee was lethargic. A bee never lets a camera get that close! I’m sure that the warmth of the sun rejuvenated it a few minutes later.

The thistle colony on Spring Ridge trail proved to be fairly small and local; although I swept the area on either side of the trail, I didn’t find anything more. For completeness, I thought I’d go back to Anniversary trail, along the top, where I had tried to clean it all out last weekend. It’s impossible to get them all; a second pass is a good idea.

And there were indeed a few along the trail, where I had been last weekend. But in being thorough, I went up the steep embankment above the trail, into the tall grass, and found a lot more. A lot more.

I ended up spending three hours on this stuff, at which time I had run out of hauling capacity and enthusiasm. Maybe I (or someone) will come back and get the rest of it.

Stopped at another gate on Skyline, did a quick hike to pick up a little stub trail that I had missed in last weekend’s effort to hike all the trails at Windy Hill. Now it’s complete.

Then I went on to Russian Ridge, parked at the vista point along Skyline, and hiked all of the trails in the northwest area of the preserve.


We hear about Langley Hill, and in particular, Langley Hill quarry. It has the look of a long-abandoned dig, until we zoom in, and then it looks pretty active. Not as big as the massive Permanente quarry west of San Jose, but big enough.


The windmill, turning lackadaisically in the light breeze. It has the appearance of being in full working order. Maybe it keeps that tank filled from a well, and provides reliable water pressure to the few homes below here.


Stopped at Alder spring, which really does have a few alders. I think they’re not native here; maybe imported by some settler long ago. Under their shade, a thick growth of berries, a dozen of which were both ripe enough to eat and accessible. After wet winters, there are berries all over the place, but they’re pretty rare during the drought. A good thing to do.

Only 11.5 miles, 1800 vertical feet today, but with an investment of 7 hours, it still seemed like a fair bit of work.

Bagging OSPs

July 13, 2014

Saturday, 12 July 2014

I had signed up for a volunteer project at Los Trancos open space preserve, but it ran from 9:30 to 2:30. I’m much earlier than that. Also, I’m in the process of hiking all of the trails in all of the Mid-peninsula regional open space district preserves. What could be more obvious? As soon as I had finished breakfast, I drove up the hill.


On the trail by 7 AM. Cool and pleasant, a little fog on this side of the ridge, probably indicating heavy fog and overcast on the ocean side.

As I came around a curve in the trail, something dark ran across and down into the wood below. Too small to be a mountain lion, deer or coyote. The idea that came to mind was fox, and I did indeed see a fox around here once, many years ago. Not sure.


By 9:30, I had hiked most of the trail, not all. The picture above shows the kind of thing I look for on trail patrol: fallen trees that block part or all of the path. My disreputable hat is to provide a sense of scale when the open space maintenance people look at the picture.

From the main parking area, the 9:30 volunteer group car-pooled down to the low end of the preserve and spent several hours working on yellow-star thistle. I did a yellow-star thistle project in another preserve, a year ago, and found it very discouraging because there was so much of it. Today’s area was first attacked eight years ago, and we were sweeping through open grassland looking for stragglers. And finding them, but few enough that we covered a lot of ground.


Paul (above) discovered two straw mantis, and I found another. We would never see them if they didn’t move.

When finally we gave up for today, I skipped the car-pool, hiked back to the parking area. On the way back, the same (probably) fox was on the trail, ran along a hundred yard ahead of me for several seconds. Big bushy tail, as large as the rest of the animal. No question what it was. Cool!

Through judicious choice of trail, the afternoon return completes my effort to hike all the trails in this preserve (some of them three times over!). About 11.5 miles for the day, about 2000 feet of climb.

Sunday, 13 July

There is more low-hanging fruit in the idea of hiking all the trails in particular preserves. I started today by parking at the bottom of Old La Honda road and covering the Thornewood preserve.


Yet another cool start in a beautiful mostly redwoods forest. The red in the distance is mostly poison oak, already calling it quits for the season. There are only two official trails in this preserve, plus a small lake, but there were a lot of side trails, and a pair of trails that are officially closed, although still showing evidence of use. I covered the entire place in considerable detail. A pretty place, although there are stream crossings that could be completely impassable in a wet winter.

Then I drove to Stevens Canyon park, where I left the car at the foot of the Bear Meadow trail in the Picchetti Ranch open space preserve. Hot and dry, nothing like as cool and pretty as Thornewood. I met a couple California forest fire fighters checking out the trail; I suppose they also explore to familiarize themselves with the terrain.


Near the top, a view over the industrial quarry next to the zillion-dollar homes along Montebello road.


The Picchetti winery still operates as a leasehold from the open space district. I stopped in to refill my badly depleted water bottle, with many thanks!


They have a fair number of picnic tables here. One group spread out a picnic lunch and went inside for a little wine tasting. When you put out a picnic, you expect to have guests, right? Right.



I was busy photographing the proceedings, not intervening, but one of the picnickers came out to rescue the food before it had been irretrievably lost.


This area is heavily infested with yellow-star thistle.


There are several insects that help control it. One of them is a weevil, of which we found a specimen yesterday (looking more like a large tick). There is also a peacock fly that does yeoman duty, but this turns out not to be one of them. They are said to have striped wings, and this little guy doesn’t qualify.


I returned along Zinfandel trail, quite pretty.


The trail back down left me a quarter mile from the trail up, where my car was, so there was a short walk along the road.

It was only 1 or so, but it was a hot day, I had put in another 11.5 miles, 2000 vertical feet, and the water bottle was empty. So instead of going on to another preserve, I called it a day. There are 26 preserves total, but I certainly won’t be able to knock off 3 every weekend!