Posts Tagged ‘mission peak’

Mission peak, Sunol

December 20, 2014

20 December 2014

While I was busy hiking all the trails in the Mid-peninsula Regional Open Space District, I pretty much ignored the other parks and open spaces. But now it’s time to revisit the old friends. Today was for Mission Peak and Sunol.

Mission peak - Sunol

As always, I went up the southern route, of which Horse Heaven trail is the best-named segment. It rained yesterday, and the trail was squidgy in a lot of places. A difficult hike under the best of circumstances, the mud made it serious hard work today. Well, I need the exercise: two weekends ago, I was on a plane. Last weekend, after flying home, I did a short 8-mile hike on Saturday and a bike ride on Sunday. So I’m out of shape, overdue.

Mission peak - Sunol

An overcast day, the fog lifting slowly. There were even a few minutes of feeble sunshine toward late morning, but not enough to warm things up. When it greens up, this country is really beautiful.

Mission peak - Sunol

Flag Hill, above the Sunol visitor center. I sometimes go up there when I want to make this into a killer hike, but I think Sunol is enough for today (15 miles, 4000 feet of climb). And as it turned out, the bridge at Sunol park is closed for repairs, and I probably wouldn’t have wanted to ford the creek anyway.

Mission peak - Sunol

 Once a trail patroller, always a trail patroller. I noted the GPS coordinates of this deadfall and reported it.

Mission peak - Sunol

I am reminded that the native rock here is shellstone. Nice.

Mission peak - Sunol

As I start down the front side of Mission peak, my eye is caught by an interesting juxtaposition of rock and tree. I never noticed that before.

Mission peak - Sunol

I stopped for calories not too far from the top, sat on a bench enjoying the world spread below. The calves in a small herd of cows were cavorting around like puppies. I was impressed by their energy.

Mission peak - Sunol

Well, it turned out that the calves had good reason to scamper around. The world’s most optimistic coyote was trying its luck. By the time I was near the cows, the calves were over on the other side of the herd, and the adult cows were studiously ignoring the coyote.

Mission peak - Sunol

Today’s other wildlife sighting was after I had already gone through the parking lot, down the street toward where I had left my car (no one ever parks in the parking lot: it’s always full!).

Mission peak - Sunol

Nice to get out, nice to do a little work.

Sunol from Ohlone college

May 10, 2014

Saturday, 10 May 2014

I have not been to Mission Peak for a long time, and the reason is that it’s too crowded. But I decided to give it a try today, anyway. Foof! I never even attempt to find a slot in the trailhead lot, which parks maybe 50 cars, but I usually find a slot somewhere down the hill near Mission Blvd. Not today, nor on the side streets, nor on the next block. I understand that after fighting my way through the trailhead clutter, the route I like to take will not be crowded, but still…

So I drove on up the road, parked in the neighborhood below Ohlone College. It’s another mile of driving, and I haven’t been here for years. Busy trail here, too, but not as bad as the main trail from Stanford Ave.


We don’t know whether the hillside is supporting the tree or vice versa, but they both have a vested interest in the present arrangement.


The day was chilly, even on the uphill, but the sun, and the climb, made it okay. Here we see the top of Mission peak, and all those little black dots everywhere are, yes, the crowd of hikers.



Glad I’m not going there!

I went around the shoulder of the mountain and down the backside to Sunol. Even here, I met a dozen or more other hikers, well beyond the usual quota of one or two, but I can deal with that. Some trail runners passed me, and I caught and passed quite a number of slower hikers. An off-leash dog came charging at me; I put out a barricade of sharp points from my hiking sticks, but it was friendly, and the master called it away.


On the way back, a couple of hikers just ahead of me spotted a wild turkey. The hiker gobbled at the turkey, which gobbled back. They had quite a conversation going. When I passed them, I remarked that he was a certified turkey whisperer.

16.2 miles, 3800 vertical feet. Nice day.

Winter bouquets

December 14, 2013

Friday, 29 November

I haven’t blogged for a while, and need to catch up. We thought we’d do a day trip somewhere not too far away during the thanksgiving break. Danville has been an attractive destination in previous years, but not now. As best we can tell, the entirety of the interesting part is in a state of collapse, possibly slated for repair, or possibly not.


We went instead to Pleasanton. Much better!



The decrepitude here is off out of the way, and in the distinct minority.


The view from the sidewalk where we enjoyed Mex food and admired the next-door Mediterranean restaurant.



I have had knee trouble since the beginning of November. I can ride, I can walk flatlands, but downhills are not fun, and running is obviously not on the menu. Rehabilitation exercises and taking it easy. By December, I was doing short hikes, such as Windy Hill (7 miles, 1600 vertical feet). I went running a couple of times, and was okay.

Then I spent a week in Naperville, with no exercise beyond the hotel exercycle (bending an elbow doesn’t count). Home on Friday, and I really need to get out. Can I do a real hike?

Saturday, 14 December

Mission peak to Sunol is a good choice. The standard hike qualifies as industrial-grade, and there are options to extend it to killer-grade or to truncate it if the knee complains.

The fact that Fremont’s Stanford avenue is completely built up with houses didn’t deter the coyote that ran across the road ahead of me as I pulled up. Parked far down the street from the parking lot, bemused as always at the amazing number of people who ostensibly come here to walk, and spend many minutes driving around searching for the nearest possible parking. Presumably these are people who consider lottery tickets to be a sound investment strategy.

As for myself, I take the first parking spot I see and get on with it. I wore several layers to start off, but after a mile, I stopped to give back some of the breakfast coffee and stow a couple layers in my backpack.


I was almost at the crest by the time the sun was high enough to illuminate the trail. Cold and windy at the top, but as soon as I started down the backside, I was out of the worst of the wind, and it was okay.

Saw a cow giving her calf a tongue bath. That’s a first! Junior seemed to be enjoying it.


The bare trees, exposed rock, dry grass, have their own beauty. Winter bouquets.


From high above, Flag Hill, which in turn stands high above the Sunol visitor center, my destination. The part facing us looks higher, but only because it is closer. From a different perspective, it’s clear that the high point is really off there to the right.




Here is where I go when I add the killer extension onto this hike. I feel good, but prudence suggests that perhaps I shouldn’t go there today. Stopped at the visitor center to check out the tarantula.

A pleasant young woman told me the breeding males tend not to live all that long in captivity (in the wild, they go out looking for beautiful babes, and never return). She said they once had a tarantula that had lived almost a year in captivity. Today’s specimen has begun to eat again (crickets), so there’s hope he will survive for a while, too. Nice.

The other interesting thing I noticed from the high trail is the evidence of slow but continuing landslides. There is a really good reason these hills are not festooned with houses, and many of the houses that do exist in hilly parts of the Bay area may find themselves in trouble some wet winter. If we ever have a wet winter again…


I still felt good when I got back up to Mission peak, so instead of just hiking over the shoulder, I went to the top. Below, the easy part of the peak trail.



Lots of people at the top, as always. Cold and windy. Put my layers back on while I perched on a rock and soaked up some calories. As soon as I got down off the peak, of course, it was warm enough that I had to take off a layer. No sweat, as they say.

16.4 miles, not all that far, but 4400 vertical feet makes it at least a marginally killer hike. And my knee feels good. Nice.

Jacky brewed up a random collection of ingredients, enlivened with habañero, and I put on Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, with the audio level set maybe just a little higher than necessary. Wonderful to be home!

Catching up

October 6, 2013

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Yellow star thistle and Mission peak

June 23, 2013


I got a hummingbird feeder to experiment with my new camera. A few shots here. I think the one above is a male, all ruffled out to show off his plumage. The one below would presumably be the female, not very much impressed.


Interesting how a slight shift in the direction of the light makes a radical difference in the colour of the feathers. Iridescence!


Saturday, 22 June 2013

I volunteered to put in a few hours work for the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District today. Pulling up thistle at Russian Ridge, especially yellow-star thistle, which is highly invasive.


Yellow star thistle


You can see where it gets its name. These photos were from Sunol on Sunday:

Sunday, 23 June

Went to Mission peak, hiked over the ridge to Sunol, up Flag Hill, and back. Almost 19 miles, almost 5000 feet of climb. The new boots were not ideal, but they were okay.


The day was chilly, foggy, condensing enough that I stowed my camera in my backpack for a while. It was windy crossing the top of the ridge, and then I went down the east side, where it was a little quieter.




This memorial to someone’s good friend Rocky has been posted on a tree in the back country for a while now. Nice, and I’m glad no one has torn it down.


There are a couple of trees on the approach to Sunol, flat-topped, something like a gallows, in fact, where the TuVus like to hold court.


This is a great photo, even if I have to say so myself!

I went on up Flag Hill, another 4 miles or so, and 1000 feet of climb, which changes this from an industrial strength hike to a killer hike.


They talk about earth tones being pretty, and they’re right.


I saw a couple of tarantula wasps. At least I think that’s what they are.


They look for tarantula burrows, but will sometimes settle for a large wolf spider. The female stings the tarantula, which paralyzes it. She lays her eggs on the spider, and when they hatch, dinner is served.


Adult tarantula wasps are vegetarians.



The poison oak flowers are especially prolific this year, more than I recall from ever before.

Still cloudy, but at least Mission Peak was no longer fogged in. Lots of people out enjoying the coolth of the day.



A hawk landed nearby and posed for pictures.


It was windy at the ridgecrest, and several hang gliders were showing their stuff.


Just below him, the Morton salt piles.


And here, we see him to the left of the Tesla factory on the near shore, with the Hetch Hetchy aqueduct crossing in the background, the the Hoover tower of Stanford University just visible in the upper left corner.


And there were several adult wild turkeys with their chicks. The chicks were the size of a chicken or a duck. Big birds.


Small animals and killer hikes

May 11, 2013

We could start off the small animals category with birds.


This one has been parked at Moffett field for several days, near the levee trail, where I pass it on my bicycle route home. The tail says Travis (AFB). I have to admit that this bird probably doesn’t count as a small animal.

Well, how about genuine small animals? When Friedrich and Petra were here a week ago, I discovered a mommy long-legs in a corner of the dining room ceiling, complete with egg sac. I was not expecting results so soon, but…



If you don’t mind my saying so, I think this is really cool!

Saturday, 11 May

More small animals later, as we get into the killer hike. Bottom line first: 19.3 miles, 4970 feet of climb. What? It’s less than 20 miles, less than 5k feet? How can that be a killer hike? Maybe because it was 90 degrees plus today?


It didn’t start out at 90 degrees. It was a bit foggy when I started, right at 7. Lots of people out; I had to park almost at Mission boulevard, further from the trailhead than ever before. As always, the street was busy with people who came here to hike, driving up to the parking lot, hoping for a spot, then turning and coming all the way back. For me, I just take the first place available and hike.

I took Horse Heaven trail, as per usual. Most times, it’s practically deserted, but today was fairly busy. I was coming up behind a group of four hikers; we had just made a right-angle turn in the trail below a heavily vegetated embankment, when from behind came a long, loud, melodious Moo-oo-ooo. Startled, the hikers in front spun around. The only animate object anywhere in sight was … Dave.

When I passed them a few minutes later, I remarked that I could claim no credit for the entertainment.


By the time I reached the shoulder of the ridge, it was a sunny, pleasant day. The top of Mission Peak is to the left; I go down the slope to the right, to Sunol.


This is an industrial-grade hike by default, just to Sunol park headquarters and back to Mission Peak. If I go past the park headquarters, on up Flag Hill (above), it becomes a killer hike, at least on really hot days.


This TuVu is today’s first comparatively small animal. It was perched in a tree where I’ve seen them before, sometimes two or three.


Crossing the bridge between Sunol park headquarters and the Flag Hill trail, I see the stream full of mossy pillows. Pretty, but I don’t think I would want to go wading there.



Here’s how Flag Hill looks from near the bottom, about 900 feet above the stream.


Small animals, as in really small.


Coming up just below Flag Hill (above), which was populated with half a dozen other hikers (below). I perched on a rock and enjoyed the view and some calories.



Looking down from Flag Hill. I emerged from the Mission Peak trail into the Sunol headquarters parking lot just above and to the left of center.


The red roof just about dead center in the picture above is a house about 200 feet above the level of Flag Hill. The trail runs very close past it. Mission Peak is the high point about two thirds of the way to the right. I come over the shoulder just to its left, and go back over a trail to the right of the peak.


Came down Hayfield road, which runs past the old JB ranch. I understand the venue is sometimes used as a group camp, but it was not occupied today, except by hikers and a couple of mountain bikies.


Unlike Sunol headquarters, drinking water is available here. Though probably not from that tank.


Ok, small animals we want, small animals we get. There were zillions of earwigs. They didn’t like posing for photos, though, so I didn’t get pictures as good as I would have liked.



While I was shuffling around in the tall grass, I acquired a tiny spider. Here’s my little friend, finding its way through the hairs on my knee.


When I started looking closely at this thistle, I discovered all kinds of small animals in addition to the bee and the earwig.




And just to break the monotony, the Goodyear blimp flew over. This is tail number N10A, named the Spirit of America.


Back to the small animals…


I dropped back down to Sunol headquarters, where I drank as much as I could from the bottled water they bring in, then refilled my water bottle. It was enough to get me back, but I would have liked more. A lot more.


And what should to my wondering eyes appear, but an alligator lizard. Their defense mechanism is to freeze, which makes them good subjects for photographers. Nice colors!


Two things to notice: first, the really interesting shapes to its scales. Second, the blue-ish bulb behind the head is an engorged tick. Often they have more than one. I’m told that there is something in lizard blood that immunizes the tick from Lyme disease. Well, and third, look at the middle toe on the front foot!


Not long after, I found a lizard on a mossy tree trunk. Usually they scurry away, but maybe the alligator lizard had been on the horn to his buddy. “Just freeze. It works every time!”


The shoulder behind Mission Peak is a fire road with a hundred feet or so of ups and downs. A hiker came along, trailed by his dog. At the low point of a roll in the trail, the dog decided it had done enough work for one day, and laid down.

The hiker went back and picked it up. Nice of him. Just as well it wasn’t a really massive dog.


There were quite a number of these little guys. Doris tells me they’re horned larks, with their horns down. Inconspicuous: I might have stepped on a couple of them if they hadn’t moved!


At the bottom, looking back up. Not so much fog at this hour, and most of the people coming down rather than going up. Two or three hang gliders at the top, and another one had just landed near where I took this picture.

A nice day.

A tale of two Saturdays

January 27, 2013

Saturday 19 January 2013

I hiked Rancho San Antonio today, one I don’t do very often because it’s always busy and crowded, and I like to get out away from things. Off at the far corner of the park is a fire road (Black Mountain road) that goes to the top of the ridge.


Here’s the view from the top, in various directions. My friend Shan was in town during the following week. We walked along the levee trail in Shoreline park, and she asked where I had been last weekend. I pointed to the ridgetop, here.


The outcroppings provide a good place to sit, soak up photons and calories, and enjoy the day.


It is not crispy crystal clear, but that variegated blue stuff below the sky is the Pacific ocean. Looking further down, we see the Christmas tree farm near the Long Ridge open space preserve, which was the destination of my killer hike last weekend.


I like to add on Hidden Villa as a side trip, an anastomosis in the trail, if you will. It turns an industrial-grade hike into a semi-killer hike (less than 20 miles, but 4200 vertical feet of gain). The trail maps of Rancho San Antonio do not show the connector trails going into the Hidden Villa, but there are signs at the trail junctions.

Mid-November is about the latest time at which we ever find tarantulas. But I found one today, dead on the trail. It was in reasonably good condition, surely not two months dead. Interesting!

There is a Bunny trail here. I have noticed the signs before, and wondered whether this is the simple loop for small children. Later, I discovered that it is named after the nearby Bunny creek, and from the topo map, it does not appear to be a wimpy trail at all. Maybe next time, I’ll check it out.

Hidden Villa has a slightly wetter and perhaps warmer climate than Rancho, and spring is in evidence.


On the fenceposts, low patches of moss, but sprouting ambitiously.


In contrast to the springy environment above, many of the low areas back in Rancho San Antonio were still heavy white with frost, the puddles hard frozen, even in mid-afternoon. Where the sun never shines….

Saturday 26 January 2013

I thought I would hike from Mission peak over to Sunol today. It was a chilly, foggy day when I started, but warm enough on the uphill (3 miles, average grade 1 in 6) that I stowed the jackets in my backpack, and climbed in shirtsleeves.

The trail was wetter than I had expected, and that made it more work. Consider the extra effort of unsticking a boot from the mud on each step, sliding backward a little with each step and having to recover both the distance and the balance. It adds up. I’m still optimistic about the day clearing up, but maybe I won’t go all the way to Sunol.

The fog got thicker as I got higher up, and near the ridgetop, the wind picked up, the air filled with tiny icy pricklets of water. Stopped to put on a jacket.

The weather continued to deteriorate. Not really rain, in the sense of large drops, but so much water in the air that everything was instantly wet. Heavy condensation on my glasses. Strong, cold wind.

The fog was so thick that I missed the trail turnoff to go down the backside of the hill, and found myself at the top instead. Maybe discretion is the better part, and all that, so I went on across the top and down the heavily trafficked main trail. At least I have adequate clothing, although a pair of gloves would have been welcome. I couldn’t believe the day hikers wearing tee shirts up here!

The main trail is mostly rock and gravel, so not as treacherous as the muddy Horse Heaven uphill trail. But near the bottom, I skidded out and fell in the mud. Messy!

When I got to the car, I spread my jacket over the seat as protection for the upholstery, muddy side up. At home, I unloaded the backpack and the few things that hadn’t gotten muddy, then went into the little utility room off the garage, stripped down and washed mud off everything. Finally, into the shower to wash the mud off the David.

As it happened, I chose the worst direction to go this morning. In every direction I looked, except the southeast, the sky was blue and clear. The rest of the bay area was having a terrific day. So I went out and wandered around town, where spring is indeed peeking out all over.




Swan song to 2012: Mission Peak

December 31, 2012

31 December 2012

2012 departed with a series of nice days. One for running, one for cycling. Today, on a cold and crisp Monday, I decided to hike Mission peak. Up Peak Meadow and Horse Heaven trails, and down the standard route. I usually go down the backside to Sunol, but it has been quite rainy lately, and some of the flat area beyond the peak turns into a muddy mess. Without extras, the peak hike is only a bit more than 6 miles, but upward of 2000 feet of gain, some of it quite steep. Good way to get a little exercise, and I didn’t need gloves or jacket until I came out on the exposed ridge at the top and stopped working.


Although the hill is mostly open country, there are a few pleasant little wooded areas, this one dipping into a small stream valley fed by a spring.


A clear day. San Francisco in the background, with Mt Tamalpais on the horizon. I’m told that the Bay bridge is the world’s only fully independent double suspension bridge.


From the top, looking west across the bay.


Very little traffic on the way up, but by the time I got back down, a moderate number of people were out. The high-res version of this photo shows seven switches and backs before the trail reaches the pass at the top right. That’s the point at which the trail becomes mostly rock and ascends that last few hundred feet to the top.


The upper part of the ridge, right from the pass we see in the previous picture.


When I got home, I tallied the logbook statistics for 2012: about 3k miles, upward of 180 000 vertical feet (that’s the part that contributes to fitness), and 450 hours out there doing it.

Mission Peak, Sunol Flag hill

November 3, 2012

First, a note on yesterday’s blog. Our redwood deck has a significant amount of space under the floor. For a while, raccoons thought it would be a good place to live, until I put chicken wire around the periphery. For the last year or so, it has been home to an alligator lizard (below, photo from last May).

We have always had a lot of small spiders in, on, under and around the deck. Until the alligator lizard came along. Then there were no spiders (burp!).

But I haven’t seen the lizard since last spring, probably about the time I took this picture. And the spiders are back!

Lizards have to eat, too, but it’s nice to have spiders.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

If I go to the Stanford avenue entrance to Mission Peak well before sunrise, maybe I will even be able to park in the lot, rather than down on the street below. So I thought. Wrong! The sky was only just beginning to show a bit of light in the east, and I had to park as far away from the trailhead as I ever have before. People like to do this in the dark!

And indeed, I saw a number of lights from flashlights carried by hikers on the way up. I guess they like to be at the top when the sun comes up.

As for me, I relied on the fact that the first part of the route is fire road, so I don’t need to see anything in detail. After half an hour, there was enough light to see color — we had our first rain of the season last week, and the grass is already green! — and take off my padded vest, having climbed several hundred feet and warmed up.

I was almost at the top when the sun finally rose. A pretty view over the Sunol valley to the north and east; I believe I have never before seen it fogged in. Mt Diablo to the right.

As I crossed the shoulder and started down the other side, I saw a coyote. We looked each other over and went our separate ways. Thirty seconds later, another coyote. Mom and pop? And then yet another. I hope they’re well fed on rabbit and wild turkey — dealing with three at once — oop! make that four! — would be quite a challenge.

These coyotes probably don’t have direct experience, but maybe they bring in guest speaker coyotes from Nevada or Wyoming, speakers who tell them tales about rifles.

Lots of dew in the early morning. It promises to be a wonderful day.

I noticed a rock made of fragmented seashells and had a minor epiphany: I bet shell and shale are derived from the same root word!

Well, the hike to Sunol is an industrial grade trek, but it’s not a killer hike. 15 miles or thereabouts. But I was early, it was a nice day, and well, why not! So I went on up to the top of Flag Hill (below). It adds a few miles and a thousand feet of climb (total: 19 miles, 4900 vertical feet).

At their request, I had photographed a group of half a dozen other hikers here. They enjoyed the hilltop while I went on down.

And what should I discover on the trail, but possibly the last tarantula of the season! Great!

Sunol park was celebrating its 50th birthday, and the visitor center area was full of rangers, docents, pavilions and exhibits. Not that many participants: maybe the real events happen this afternoon. I wandered around, refilled the water bottle, soaked up a few calories and went on.

As I neared the bottom on the Mission Peak side, I was behind Mom and four-year-old daughter, and Dad and six-year-old son were behind me. I stepped carefully across the rails of the cattle gate, and the son remarked, “You know, you can walk at the edge.”

I turned and said, “Sometimes we choose not to do things the easiest way. It’s more of a challenge.” So the boy came up and walked with me. Quite a conversation, about running on the downhills, about my GPS receiver, and then on into skiing, skateboards, snowboards and that was only the limit because we reached the parking lot and had to say our good-byes.

What a terrific day!

Achilles surgery — the end

August 19, 2012

Wednesday was a physical therapy day. I also tried an experimental run for the first time: very slow, only about a mile. Sore ankle.


Last weekend, I hiked 20 miles with 4000 vertical feet, but in two days. This weekend, my goal is to do a real hike, not a killer, but one that I might do on an ordinary weekend day, and not spread over two days. Mission Peak to Sunol, for instance (16 miles, 4000 vertical feet).

On my way into Sunol headquarters, after having crossed Calaveras road, I met six or eight hikers going the other way, up toward Mission Peak. I suppose I should describe the impression they made as immature — the word clueless comes to mind, but that’s not charitable. The leader was carrying a staff topped with a feather.

I stopped at the Sunol visitor center, talked with a very nice young woman about tarantulas (I had seen the first tarantula wasp of the season just a few minutes before), snakes, horned lizards (she told me they are water-lovers: no wonder I have only ever seen one!).

After soaking up some calories and refilling the water bottle — there is no running water, but they bring jug water, and much appreciated it is! — I started back.

Clueless is perhaps the better description. Where the trail crosses Calaveras road, both gates were wide open! Just up from the road crossing, food wrappers on the trail. Half an hour further along, someone’s baseball cap, and then further, a pair of shower shoes. Clueless, indeed.

In distinct contrast, I was overtaken by a guy who had started at the Ohlone colleage trailhead, run not only to Sunol headquarters, but up Flag Hill (twice) and on several of the other trails uphill from the headquarters. Impressive; good for him!

At the top of the climb is a more-or-less horizontal fire road that runs below Mission Peak on the east side. Two guys there, lying in the shade. Part of the Clueless gang? Another four or five over at the campground, whose appearance from a distance definitely suggested Clueless.

I didn’t go that way, turned toward the north shoulder. Where the trail breaks off to go to the top, two guys were standing, waiting, one of them striking a pose with his feathertopped stick, wondering where their loyal followers were. I answered their questions as briefly as possible, and was not in fact very helpful.

As I started down, I was asked by another guy whether that was the right trail to the parking lot. I told him there were two parking areas, but it sounded like he wanted the Stanford avenue descent. Down he went, much faster than I.

I am not wasting time, but I am also in no hurry. Today’s goal is just to do the hike. … At the bottom, my friend was waiting for the rest of his party; he confirmed that it was in fact the correct parking area.

You meet all kinds.


My ankle feels okay, so I went out for a little bike ride. 35 miles, 1700 vertical feet, nothing fancy. Only real adventure was seeing emergency medical vehicles at one of the Portola Valley churches. I wonder if they ask their god for a time-out when something like this happens? I wonder if their god grants it…. Sorry, I shouldn’t be frivolous about medical emergencies. The gods are not really involved in such things.

After going down Foothill expressway and Grant road to join the Stevens creek rec trail, I came back via the new bike bridge across 101, which mostly caters to Google. I picked it up at Amphitheatre parkway and went south along Permanente creek. Where it crosses Charleston road, there is a raised median, and you are advised to ride half a block out of your way to an official crossing. I’m disappointed: Googlers are usually pretty savvy about these things; maybe they couldn’t talk the Mountain View project managers into good sense (I have my own experiences along those lines).

In any event, a new experience.

I noticed yesterday that the laces in my hiking boots are fraying, so I stopped at REI for a new pair, then home. After soaking my feet in a bucket of ice water for a while, I walked to the library to exchange a couple of books.

I think my continuing soreness is the result of the exercises and stretches prescribed by Dave, my physical therapist. That’s fine, as long as I understand what’s going on.

So I promise that this will be the last of the medically-oriented posts.

A great tarantula season!

October 9, 2011

Saturday: I hiked Mission peak to Sunol and back (16 miles, 4300 vetical feet); as the weather cools off, it’s good to get out into the open country – which just happens to be where the tarantulas live.

I walked through a loose collection of maybe forty cows, almost all with newly born calves. A coyote loped along the trail a hundred meters ahead of me. The cows moved off the trail, but weren’t overly concerned. Both the coyote and the cows know full well that, whatever the coyote’s fantasies about veal for lunch, they just aren’t going to happen, full stop.

I saw the first tarantula of the day, crossing Calaveras road, not far from the Sunol headquarters. I helped him get across the road safely, my good deed for the day. After going on to Sunol, having some calories, chatting with the ranger at the visitor center – who hadn’t had many tarantula reports yet this season – I returned; saw the same tarantula (I think) in the same vicinity. Ten minutes later, I saw the second of the day. Two in one day – that’s pretty good!

But the most interesting spider of the day was the little orange one. I really like spiders’ eyes! In this picture, we see four on the left (and there may well be more that don’t show in the photo); they are lensed eyes, not insect-like compound eyes, and spiders are estimated to see about as well as we can, with the advantage that they can see in all directions at once. Hard to sneak up behind a spider.

Not a bit of fear in this guy. He’s the size to stand on my thumbnail, but if I’m a threat, he’s ready and willing to tear me limb from limb, chew me up and spit me out! Argh! Come and get it! And good for him!

Sore feet again, blisters. I think my shoes are sending me a message. Happily enough, REI is having a sale: 20% off one full-priced item. So I stopped on the way home and bought a new pair of shoes.

Saturday evening we visited Alex and Sigrid for their annual Oktoberfest. Yes, we all know that Oktoberfest is in September, but it was delayed this year because Sigrid was at the real one in Muenchen.

Sunday: I should go out and see whether these new shoes are going to be good friends. In case I need to take them back, I’ll stay on pavement today, or at least grass or duff. Stanford? Why not! Six or seven miles, a few hundred vertical feet.

Yes, the shoes are fine. I ran up the steeper parts of the dish trail and also some of the not-so-steep parts.

And I found four tarantulas! Outstanding: I have gone entire seasons without seeing that many. I wanted to see if I could get one to climb up into my hand.

Hmmm… on second thought, no thanks!

Mission peak hike

January 24, 2010

22 August 2009

On the trail about 7:50. Mission peak is always popular on weekends, and I had to park further away than ever before, perhaps as far as half a mile from the parking lot. A cool, pleasant morning, just right for discovering interesting creatures.

I hiked over the shoulder of Mission peak and down the other side, but did the Laurel canyon trail rather than the complete hike to Sunol and back. Groin pain; I don’t want to aggravate the pull I had two or three weeks ago. But still, rather than hiking back over the shoulder of MP, I went on up to the top. Wouldn’t want the day to be excessively easy, and I need the exercise.

Glad I did. On the way down, I discovered only the third straw mantis I have ever found. Cool! And although I had been carefully watching for a mantis, it’s still true that I never would have seen it, had it not been out in the trail initially.

And something to look forward to: one of these weeks, it’s going to be tarantula season!