Posts Tagged ‘Rancho San Antonio’

ARMS at Rancho

June 19, 2016

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Got an early start at Rancho San Antonio, working on the purple star thistle area that I’ve been visiting since December. Found more, but there is less and less as time goes on.

At 8, met Tom and Ellen, and we three piled in a Midpen truck for a day of work on stinkwort (smells like camphor), bull thistle and poison hemlock.

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We started by finding the Fremont’s bush mallow along Chamise trail, the only one on Midpen property. It had been mowed to the ground a year ago during brush clearing, and we wanted to help prevent the same from happening again this year. So we captured GPS coordinates, cleared the area around it by hand, and put up a number of red flags marked Do Not Brush! Ellen will notify the crew to avoid it.

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Pretty flowers!

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On the way back later, we found a second bush mallow, which Tom had seen a couple years ago and which had then disappeared (under the wrath of the mower). So we also got its GPS coordinates, cleared the area around it, and marked it with flags.

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Our first target was an area of old quarry tailings, with a flat that could have been a house site, and evidence of one or two old roads. Such open spaces, especially where water can form small ponds, are attractive to stinkwort, and indeed we found enough to be worth taking out.

Above and below, a form of buckwheat called wickerstem. There are a lot of wildflowers around, very pretty, but so small, most of them, that they’re easy to miss.

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Here’s another, above and below, this one skunkweed. Guess what it smells like.

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And this one, above and below, is Davy’s centaury.

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These, and more, identified by Tom, who IMO knows damn near everything about the botany of the region.

In Rogue Valley, we parked the truck at successive locations and worked our way along, dealing with bull thistle and poison hemlock. Tom gets nauseated by the smell of poison hemlock, so he peeled off to work on yellow star thistle instead. As for me, I hadn’t worked on hemlock before, so it was an experiment. Seems to have turned out better for me than it did for Socrates.

(BTW: ARMS means advanced resource management steward, an important-sounding title granted to us volunteers who go around pulling weeds. I probably shouldn’t go through a TSA checkpoint wearing a tee-shirt that says I’m ARMed.)

Sunday, 19 June

Did a trail patrol at El Corte de Madera Creek open space preserve. Sunny day, lots of people out, mountain bikies mostly behaving themselves, which makes me happy because there are a lot of gnarly, steep, blind, single-track curves.

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Redwoods and creeks are pretty much impossible to photograph. This does not even begin to do justice to the view of ECDM creek from the Virginia Mill bridge.

Wilder Ranch with Jacky

May 29, 2016

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Up early, spent two hours working on purple star thistle at Rancho San Antonio open space preserve. It’s a month since last I was here, and the ones I missed earlier on are starting to bolt upright. Fortunately, none of them were yet flowering, quite, so I didn’t have to haul away the carcasses to prevent them from developing viable seed. There were also quite a few newly sprouted rosettes, and I’m sure that the tall grass concealed more than I didn’t find. I do what I can.

I left just enough time to make it to the 9:30 start of a broom-pulling group volunteer event at Bear Creek Redwoods open space preserve, and would have been on time, but for slow merging traffic onto highway 17 toward the beaches at Santa Cruz. Not a problem, in any event.

Hot day, eight or ten volunteers found plenty of broom, and poison oak, in the shade of the forest. Good company, hard work, happy to quit around 2 when we had all run out of time, energy and the sliced watermelon that Ellen had brought along.

Sunday, 29 May

Jacky and I took our own trip toward Santa Cruz, veering north up the coast a mile or two to Wilder Ranch state park. It has been a long time; I searched my log files, and find 24 May 2009 as the last visit here, also with Jacky. That day, we logged 7.2 miles, 400 vertical feet. Today was 8 miles, 940 vertical feet. Cool, pleasant overcast day, lots of mountain bikies, most of them well-behaved.

Back at park headquarters, we wandered around the historic ranch house and exhibits.

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I especially liked the steering mechanism on this John Deere General Purpose (it says so) tractor.

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An old barn, big deal. What’s special about this is that the siding has simply disappeared in places over the years, in small pieces, remaining in place where the wood was a little better at resisting the attack of time.

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We remembered a great old bald cypress tree at the ranch house, and missed it as we came in from the parking lot. It’s just that, from the backside, all we see is a great mass of green that isn’t obviously a single tree.

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The blacksmith shop is not all that unusual, but I think this is the first one we’ve ever seen that was clearly dedicated to plumbing fittings.

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A factory, adjoining the smithy, overhead belts driving all the tools.

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And we’ve always thought Pelton wheels were pretty classy. Here’s a broken one, but I bet it was good for a few horsepower when it was in working order.

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We stopped in Santa Cruz for a quick lunch, then back over the hill before the return traffic built up. A pretty good day!

Rancho and Montebello

April 30, 2016

Saturday, 30 April 2016

I haven’t done a killer hike for a while now. Spending time working on thistle and fallen trees, which is fine, but I’m getting soft. For reference, a killer hike includes 20 miles or 4000 vertical feet; today’s was both. Rancho San Antonio open space preserve.

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Almost as soon as I left the car, I saw a deer, and a pair of tom turkeys challenging for dominance, a nearby female of course elaborately uninterested.

Up the ridge along the transmission line access road, the trail that runs above the quarry, and to the top of Black Mt. Nice day, and a busy trail. These are some of the more distant and difficult trails in the preserve, ofttimes semi-deserted. Not today. Several groups, many one-sie and two-sie hikers. In contrast, the middle of the road Chamise trail, where I returned later to the parking area, was almost deserted. Nice to see people choosing the challenges.

I had not been to Waterwheel creek trail for quite a while, so I added that onto today’s hike, a way to bring the distance and elevation total up a bit. Pretty, pretty country: it’s really wonderful during the green of spring.

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Met a swallowtail on the way down. Pretty classy!

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Spring has definitely arrived; the lizards are also out scampering about.

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Eventually, back at the bottom, the zero-effort trails near the model farm. California poppies everywhere.

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It strikes me that these flowers are so bright because they contain super-pigment. Rather than just reflecting the red, orange, blue or whatever colour they like from the ambient sunlight, I bet they pump the pigment with high-energy short-wave photons and actively emit light in their preferred wavelength(s). This would make them more attractive to pollinators. In contrast, so to speak, it would be a waste of valuable energy to re-emit green wavelengths from stems and leaves. The result is that flowers are exceptionally bright, both absolutely and in comparison with their background.

I have no idea whether this is true, but it would make sense!

Having done the hard bit, I stopped at the Gate of Heaven cemetery, which abuts the preserve. Talked with the manager about the purple-star thistle I had seen on their side of the fence, offered to go work on it with her permission. The permission was easy; as the rains taper off for the season, the ground has turned very hard very quickly, and the cemetery has a massive infestation problem. So I cleared back from the fence fifteen or twenty feet and told myself it might alleviate next year’s crop on the open-space side.

Edgewood with Jacky

February 28, 2016

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Yesterday, I did 20+ miles of trail patrol and thistle attack at Rancho San Antonio. So I was happy to do something less ambitious today. There were so many wildflowers at Rancho that I thought it might be a good time to visit Edgewood county park, and I suggested to Jacky that she come along. Good idea; it has been a while since we were here.

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Mt Diablo across the bay mudflats and the bay and the east shore and ….

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Turned out that we’re just a bit too early for the real riot of wildflowers. Not that there weren’t flowers to be seen, of course. Just that the hillsides weren’t covered with color. Yet.

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Little guys growing on the serpentine, starting off looking like sea creatures, but eventually turning into plants.

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Lots of really small little guys.

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These are so dark that they look black until the camera brightens them up to red.

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One of three women we met asked me, “Are we right in thinking that everything we see is poison oak?” I agreed emphatically. Everything from naked stalks to red proto-leaves to fully leafed-out bushes, everything from ground cover to vines in trees, strands wafting out across the trail to brush against. “Maybe we’ll find somewhere else to hike,” said the woman.

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We got to the visitor center just as it was opening for the day. Very pleasant volunteer told us to watch for mouse ears, hard to spot, but there for the diligent seeker. So we sought diligently, and sure enough!

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Even amongst the tiny plants, these are hard to spot, but well worth watching for. Nice day, nice place, nice company.

Saratoga Gap volunteer project

December 5, 2015

Saturday, 5 December 2015

I like to get up and get going, so I stopped at Rancho San Antonio to work on star thistle before going on to the 9:30 volunteer project at Saratoga Gap open space preserve. Which, by the way, was at the bottom of the hill, not the top, along Stevens Canyon road. There were two from the open space district, and three volunteers, the real hard core. We worked on broom, ivy and yellow star thistle.

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A creek draining down through some old-growth redwoods. Very pretty.

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Full of ladyfinger ferns, among many other vegetables.

There is an orchard on the property, fruit of various kinds, and a house whose cellar I’m told was once a cidery or winery and speakeasy. There is also an old swimming pool, with a foot or two of water in the deep end.

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Newts get into the swimming pool and can never climb out. So we checked it out, found one, and returned it to the nearby creek. Our good deed for the day.

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And we found what I believe is a goats’-beard fungus. Very classy!
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Along with what I’m told is a year-round creek, spilling water onto a stone that it has polished to a mirror finish over the decades.

Nice day. Hard work, poison oak, tired and sore, and of course happy.

Autumn at Rancho

September 27, 2015

Sunday, 27 September 2015

I haven’t been to Rancho San Antonio for a while — when I check my log, I find it was May! — so today seemed like a good time to have another go. As usual, I started by going out the PG&E trail to the top of Montebello, a bit more than 3000 feet of climb.

Met twenty kids going down Quarry trail, presumably having camped at Montebello last night. As sometimes happens, the ones in the pack were more or less asleep, not watching the trail, and quite prepared to run into me.

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As usual, great distant views from the top, but today my eye was caught by a small lizard on a nearby rock.

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Today I realized what’s different about this preserve, or at least much of this preserve: it’s a bay laurel forest! That’s unusual around here; leaves instead of duff on the ground, and leaves at and above eye level instead of far overhead. And it smells nice, too.

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There are two trail stubs leading off to Hidden Villa, and I always like to make the detour (an extra 3.2 miles, 900 feet of gain). I always forget to look for drinking water, but I was thinking of it today, and found a small sink off out of the way. In this country, water from a pipe, and especially water from a faucet, is safe to drink unless there is a sign stating otherwise. So I tanked up. Glad I did; the day turned muggy and I was down to the final droplets by the time I got back.

The picnic area was populated by several pavilions, lots of kids and a buffet meal. As I walked through, the official fairy made her appearance: flouncy dress, heavily made up, and baby talk in her voice. Barf!

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I returned via Hostel trail, where I found some unusual berries. No idea what they might be.

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More lizards, and quail that were surprisingly tame. Usually they run or fly if anyone gets within ten or fifteen feet, but these were busy enough collecting seeds that they didn’t care.

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Killer hike? Well, it was only 17.5 miles, but the 4100 vertical feet makes up for the shorter distance, so the answer is probably yes.

Silicon Valley

May 24, 2015

 

Saturday 23 May 2015

There was a broom-pulling volunteer event at Bear Creek Redwoods, but it only started at 9:30, and I’m up and about much earlier than that. Stopped at Rancho San Antonio for another pass at the purple star thistle, and I was 2 minutes late getting to Bear Creek. Not to worry. As it happened, volunteer coordinator Ellen had seen me at Rancho, honked hello as she went past on her way to Bear Creek. So she knew I’d be along.

I’m recovering from tennis elbow, but I am recovering, so I’m willing to do an hour or two of work, mostly with a weed wrench, which doesn’t stress the forearm muscles as much as gripping and pulling. When I had had enough, Ellen asked me to reconnoiter some nearby trails. She didn’t like the answer: broom and more broom everywhere. But that’s how it is.

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We are right across highway 17 from Lexington reservoir, and we could hear a helicopter doing training, scooping water from the lake to fight fires. Later on, we saw it, first hovering over Mt Umunhum, then coming a lot closer and lowering crew on a winch. I got no good photos of that, unfortunately, but if you Google “CDF 106,” you find interesting videos of this particular chopper, here and here.

Sunday, 24 May

I decided to do a trail patrol at Rancho. Skipped the usual side trip to the top of Black Mountain, because I may want to do something strenuous tomorrow as well. But I added on a couple miles of other trail, to keep it from being trivial.

I checked the side trail to Hidden Villa, just to see whether it was closed to the public already — they run summer camps, and close it every summer, but not yet. As I reached the top of the little hill, I met a loop hike from Hidden Villa, half a dozen adults, six or eight kids in the 8-10 range. Nice.

In the same general clutter (sorry: cluster) were a couple of guys who wanted to go prowl through the tall grass looking for whiptails. Have to admit I had to look up whiptails when I got home. I hope they found some.

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Just above the pond, a deer. Completely relaxed about my presence, close enough I could hear it munching on that delicious salad.

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From the outside (above) and the inside (below). Nice!

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Three hikers came up behind me and passed, and I got a minute or two of their conversation. One was going on about game theory, finding the point that represents the maximum willingness to pay, versus the customer’s desire to pay as little as possible. He mentioned that he worked at Google, whose business is built around auctioning ads. The second said he was also contracting with Google, developing computer science classes for impoverished kids. The third said he had started out as a poly sci major at Columbia. Decided after one semester that it wasn’t for him, dropped out, travelled, bummed around, and now that he’s in Silicon Valley … well, I couldn’t hear the rest of it.

Do you suppose you would overhear that conversation anywhere and everywhere in the world? … maybe, yes. Pretty cool!

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This is probably not a whiptail, though I have no good reason to assume that.

After completing the trail patrol, I went back and tidied up the loose edges around the thistle sweep I had done yesterday. Good to tie up the package, and still get home in time for a beer.

Rancho weekend

April 19, 2015

Sunday, 19 April 2015

All this pulling weeds puts stress on my arm, which eventually makes it sore. Lateral epicondylitis, says the doctor, more commonly known as tennis elbow. Slow to heal, and not good to continue to stress it. So I begged off the Saturday broom attack volunteer project. But the purple star thistle at Rancho San Antonio may (or may not) still be young enough to be worth going after. And maybe I can do that left-handed. Worth a try.

Six hours later, I had destroyed roughly 42 thousand thistle plants. Or at least it seemed like that. My tank of enthusiasm was empty for the day.

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And the wildlife highlight of the day was finding a tiny mantis in the debris (the white thing, head-down in the center of the picture). I would have just trashed the picture, but I rather liked the wild modernistic abstract art feel of it.

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The other thing I saw was a couple of jackrabbits, one of them returning to the wild after a visit to this pond. Not a whole lot of water around here, and I imagine there is quite a bit of traffic when the people aren’t around.

Oh, and a wild turkey also came out of the woods twenty feet in front of me, as close as I have ever been. It walked unconcernedly across the trail and off into the grasslands to see what was going on there.

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And there are these little puffy balls on the trail here and there.

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Close-up makes them look like tiny cabbages. No idea what they really are. [Follow-up: Tom C tells me they are woolly marbles.]

Sunday, I went back to Rancho, but just for a hike. Usual sort of thing, about 15 miles, 3400 vertical feet.

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A meadow full of owls clover. Nice!

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Why the name? Because the little faces look like, well, something. Maybe owls?

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What I hadn’t noticed before was the little balls above the owls’ heads. At first, I thought those were dewdrops, but clearly they are part of the plant. I think they are the pistils of the flowers.

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And these have to be aphids, but the largest I have ever seen. A good half-centimeter.

Update: Bug Guide says these are katydids, but clearly nymphs. I see no sign of wings, not even budding wings, much less developed wings that would give them the characteristic longer shape I think of as a katydid.

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I consider this photo to be reasonably artistic, but also notice the butterfly’s coiled-up hose and nozzle. (click to zoom)

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Globe lanterns

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Some of the yellow daisy-kind of flowers didn’t have outstanding stamens, but the pollen on these is quite obvious. [Follow-up: Tom C says they are smooth hawksbeard. According to Google, this is considered invasive in some places, and has not previously been reported in Santa Clara county.]

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What could be more innocent than a little yellow bowl? [Follow-up: Tom C says it’s a mariposa lilly.]

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With, of course, guests, dining on the goodies.

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And guests, once removed, dining on the diners.

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I have seen yellow crab spiders in these flowers, also in California poppies, but I don’t recall white.

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What I especially like about this picture, in addition to the spider’s textured body, is the way its eye bugs out.

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More wildflowers. [Tom C says this is the fruit of the lomatium.]

The season is really in full swing here. Lots of variety, enthusiasm everywhere.

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This bush would not necessarily be that impressive in its own right, except that it is the only one anywhere near here. Don’t know what it is, but it certainly stands out amidst its neighbors. [Follow-up: Tom C says it’s a bush mallow.]

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[Follow-up: Tom C says these are Wind Poppies.]

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Spring, indeed, and all of us enjoying it to the max.

Morgan territory

March 29, 2015

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Kent and I have been trying to arrange a hike for years, and something has always come up at the last minute. But today, we’re really going to do it! I went to his house in Livermore at 1, having spent the morning attacking purple star thistle at Rancho San Antonio open space preserve.

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We hiked at Morgan Territory regional preserve. I’m not sure I’ve ever been here before, but it’s a beautiful place, especially at this time of year while everything is green. Open oak forest, mostly, with manzanita at one corner, and the poison oak fairly well contained: large and visible where it exists.

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Wildflowers everywhere. Most of them not very dramatic in themselves, but they add up to a nice show.

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And a swallowtail, first one of the season, I believe.

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The view off toward the east or southeast, the windmill farm not doing much right at the moment. Looking further north, we could see snow-capped Sierra, dimly, but unmistakably.

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And my favorite, as you would predict: a wolf spider, and pretty good sized for this early in the season.

A good hike in good company, a great day.

Feiertag at Rancho San Antonio

December 25, 2014

Thursday, 25 December 2014

There was a wind warning overnight, and I thought Rancho might have fewer downed trees than some of the other places I might go. Rancho it is! Started right at 7, took a somewhat different route up from the usual PG&E trail (so-called because it doubles as an access road to the high-voltage transmission line towers). In fact, I only touched the north end of the PG&E trail, where it joins Quarry trail and goes on up to Black mountain road.

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Although Quarry trail runs along below and to its left, we see nothing of the quarry until we’re well up on Black mountain road. We top out at the forest of communications antennas on Montebello road.

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A 1-point buck standing guard on behalf of two does.

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From the ridge, looking to the west on a clear, sunny, breezy, and very cold morning. I was expecting this, prepared perhaps to come, see, conquer and retire from the field immediately. But I donned my rain shell over four layers of padding, zipped it to the chin, and it broke the wind enough that I was able to perch in the lee of one of those rocks and eat my apple.

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Did the Hidden Villa detour on the way down, rather sparsely populated. I guess everyone sleeps late on the holiday. I always feel like these people are grinches: big signs everywhere about all the things you’re not allowed to do, and then at the bottom, the word, Enjoy! Reminds me of airlines who go through the long list of mandatories and forbiddens and conclude without a trace of irony that the skies are friendly.

Met a couple at the windmill pasture who were looking for a good hike, recommended Black mountain trail out and back, as far as they had time and energy, and assured them that the chances of encountering a mountain lion were negligible. I hope I was right. (Well, I know I was right: negligible probability. But if there really was a lion nearby somewhere… well, I’d be sorry I hadn’t seen it myself.)

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At the bottom of Chamise trail is a dam, whose basin has been dry for as long as I can remember. Today it is not only full, but overflowing the spillway. A wonderful sight!

Talked with a man who had come here just to see the pond, and walked with him back to the parking area. Only 2 PM, only 16+ miles (3700 vertical feet). Lots of people out by this time, everyone enjoying a wonderful 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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Rancho San Antonio

June 28, 2010

Jacky and I went to a party in the afternoon, didn’t get out for hiking until 5 or so. Rancho is close by, so that’s where we went. It started when we saw a lone wild turkey coming across the meadow; as she got closer, we saw that she had two chicks with her.

Her course took her right past the corner of the tennis courts, surrounded by chain link fence, and with an open gate. Sure enough, one of the chicks got on the wrong side of the gate and was steered inexorably into the tennis courts. Sure enough, mom didn’t even notice.

I walked into the tennis courts, tried to work around behind Junior, with the idea of herding him back out the gate. But before I could get anywhere close, he had found a way to burrow under the fence. As we watched from outside, he actually flew, believe it or not, up toward the trees on the other side of the trail.

He had reason to fly: a hawk came soaring into the trees after him. The next thing we saw was Mom flying up out of the bush to defend her chick. We didn’t see Junior afterward, but there were no screams of death, so we hope he survived the adventure.

Already a good day from the point of view of seeing interesting things.

And then we saw a kingsnake, coming down out of the grass to cross the trail. When it saw us, it did a 180 and went back into the grass, but we approached in a slow and deliberate way, and it escaped the same way, so there was an opportunity for a photo or two.

Beautiful! You don’t see these guys very often.

And then further on, we found quail everywhere, also accompanied by their chicks.

The whole hike was only a bit over an hour, but we saw more than sometimes graces an entire day. A good thing to do.