Posts Tagged ‘Palo Alto Foothills park’

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.

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Springy day

March 8, 2015

Sunday, 8 March 2015

After almost seven hours attacking broom at Purisima yesterday, I wasn’t sure I would be up for a killer hike today. So I parked at Palo Alto Foothills park and hiked up the hill and around a loop comprising Los Trancos open space preserve, Montebello, Coal Creek, Russian Ridge, Skyline Ridge and back through Montebello and Los Trancos. Turned out to be 19.7 miles, killer distance, but only 3500 vertical feet.

The adventures began as I parked the car: two deer browsing in the woods just above the parking area. I crossed the hill and down into Wild Horse valley, where I found a bull turkey showing off. Jacky says it should be called a Tom, but she didn’t see how big it was !

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Do you suppose he knows how delicious he looks?

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“Just ignore him, Margaret, he’ll go away.”

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None of us males really looks that great from directly to the rear!

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At Los Trancos, I was happy to see that the bridge whose pending destruction I had flagged in January (above) has been rescued (below).

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Not quite so happy to see that a downed tree I had also reported in January is still there. I’ll report it again.

The wildflowers are out in profusion. Very nice.

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Near the bottom of Meadow trail in Coal Creek OSP, I saw what I think was a mountain lion. Only a second, and I didn’t get a good luck, but it was dark, bigger than a deer or a coyote or a bobcat, low to the ground, and running, rather than bounding along the way deer do. The only other possibility I can think of is a wild pig, but a) I have never seen one on the peninsula, b) it was making less noise than I would expect from a wild pig, and c) at this time of year, it probably wouldn’t have been alone.

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Russian Ridge, Mindego hill to the left, fog over the ocean. Very nice.

Insects are beginning to feed on the California poppy blossoms. I looked for yellow or orange spiders lurking to feed on the insects, but didn’t see any. Well, it is early in the season yet. They’ll be around shortly.

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I was reading a book set in Sweden recently, in which the protagonist watches carefully for the first butterfly of spring. The species was an omen of good or ill fortune. No chance here! I saw practically every kind of butterfly we ever have, even including a swallowtail. Impressive.

Also found an empty cicada shell on a blade of grass.

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Confirmed wildlife sighting: a gopher, Russian Ridge. Not as exciting as a mountain lion, but I take what I can get.

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This wildlife camera is at the top of Los Trancos trail in Foothills park. I suppose it took a picture of my mid-section.

I found a big blossomy broom near here, stopped at the gate when I got back to the car to tell the ranger about it. Don’t know whether they’ll do anything, but it doesn’t hurt to let them know.

Quite a day for mini-adventures. Great to be out, even if my feet are sore.

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.

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.