Posts Tagged ‘rattlesnakes’

‘Nother rattlesnake !

August 15, 2015

One of my volunteer projects is to eradicate — well, try to eradicate — yellow star thistle (YST) at Windy Hill open space preserve. I went to the Anniversary trail section this morning to sweep for YST. At this time of year, I think once a month is about right, and it has been about a month. I found enough to justify the effort, but it really is getting pretty sparse. Definitely making progress. The seed remains viable for a few years, so it is a continuing effort, but there’s hope.

The air was heavily hazy in all directions, as wildfires burn everywhere. My venue was windy, cool and pleasant until about mid-morning, when the smell of smoke became stronger and I called it quits.

Today’s adventure: as I uprooted a small thistle, my eye noticed several smooth and tubular things about a foot from my hand. My first thought was a pile of droppings of some kind; when my eyes zoomed out, I realized it was a heavily squinched rattlesnake.

I am very happy to report that we each went our separate ways without confrontation. No picture; I reached for my camera (having retreated to a safe distance), but it didn’t stay around. As it disappeared into its hole, it shook its rattles goodbye.

Two rattlesnakes in two weeks. That’s pretty special.

Snake day at Windy Hill

August 9, 2015

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Today was for hiking all the trails at Windy Hill, a bit more than 18 miles, a bit less than 4000 feet of vertical gain. Nice to get out and get a little exercise.

I haven’t seen very many snakes this year, nor for the past few years. I think the drought has reduced the amount of vegetation available for the little field mice and voles that form the snakes’ diet, and the snake population has declined accordingly.


So I was delighted to find a rattlesnake today.


It was quiet and relaxed. I was quiet and relaxed. Two or three minutes, during which I fired off a number of photos, and then it oozed off the trail into the bush.


I mentioned having seen a rattlesnake to several dog walkers I met afterward. Some of them tightened up their leashes. It’s good if no one gets hurt, including the snake.


Not much further along, another snake, this one a gopher snake. My cup runneth over!

And just to gild the lily, I came upon two hikers a few minutes later, still looking off the trail into the weeds, where they told me a ringneck snake had just disappeared.

Great day, great place!

A weekend in the open space

June 8, 2014

Saturday, 7 June 2014

I volunteered for a trail maintenance day at the Chestnut orchard trail. Here’s the orchard, near where we parked, and where we later had lunch. It was a hot day, but fortunately, most of the trail we maintained was down in the shade, much cooler than the area around these chestnut trees.


When a trail is first built, it is graded into an L shape as it goes across grades; over the course of time, the angle in the L fills in with silt and duff, so it looks more like a J. Most of what we were doing was cleaning out the angle of the L, effectively widening the trail. They call it duffing, so I suppose that makes us duffers.

We also created or improved drainages on the low side of the trail, so it won’t become a mudpot during the winter. Hard work.

Sunday, 8 June

Today was the second of two training sessions for the open space district volunteer trail patrol. It was at the top of Page Mill, only a mile or two from yesterday’s trail work.


Being an early person, I went on up as soon as I finished breakfast. The photo is the pond at the Daniels nature center, Page Mill and Skyline.

I am also signing up for what they call the ARMS program: advanced resource management stewards, so I met with Ellen for ARMS training. It went pretty fast, because much of the detail overlaps with the volunteer work I have already been doing. But now I have my own weed wrench, along with a khaki vest and a name tag, and permission to uproot all the weeds I like. I must be crazy.

The training session started at 10, so I went for a hike on the Russian Ridge trails. The loop was just a little too long to get back in time, and I was running … when some other hikers called my attention to a dark area in the shadow. Glad I stopped!





I didn’t really want to take the time to wait for this guy to move on, so I went around it on the trail. It coiled into a striking position and rattled at me, but didn’t strike.

That was my excuse for being 3 minutes late to the start of the training session.


After an hour or so of classroom material, we went out, where Paul, the volunteer coordinator, rode past several times against a radar gun, to give us some feel for what the 15-mph speed limit means.


Then we went out on the trail where we play-acted several scenarios of the type that we may experience as trail patrollers. They emphasize training for emergency situations. Of course, the odds of actually encountering an emergency situation are pretty low, but we need to be prepared, just in case.

Not a whole lot of lower body exercise this weekend: maybe 10 miles, 1500 vertical feet, but I’m now an official volunteer. For whatever that’s worth.

Rose Peak killer hike

May 18, 2014

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Washing my car is one of my least favorite ways to spend time, but I’m willing to do it, once every year or thereabouts. This time, I was urged onward because of a big ugly splotch that I thought indicated a visit from a very large and very ill-mannered bird. But it was sticky. Even the car-wash goop on a wet sponge did nothing more than smear the stickiness. Spray stain remover from the laundry room worked, also on specks of tar on the rocker panels. I suppose the paint will now come off, but it sure looks nice for a few days.

I have been increasingly unhappy with my GPS receiver, which is a few years old. So I blew a large pile of money on a Garmin 650t. Big hunking thing, but the screen is at least large enough to see. It even has a camera, geotagging of course, which leads me to the thought that Garmin should get together with either Google or Samsung, or maybe both, and make a ruggedized GPS receiver smart phone. (If it happens, you saw it here first.)

Sunday, 18 May

I wanted to try out the new GPS receiver, of course, and haven’t been to Rose Peak yet this year. A cool, overcast morning, breezy and actually chilly.


This is just about as late in the season as I’d want to do this hike. Much of the trail is overgrown with grass, some of it chest-high, and the seed is fading to brown and starting to fall off. Another week or two and you’ll need gaiters to keep this stuff out of your boots.

And it turns out that today is also the running of the Ohlone Wilderness run, 50k and almost 8000 feet of gain. They started at 8 from Mission Peak in Fremont, and are going to Del Valle near Livermore. I started at 8:10 or 8:15 from Sunol. There is no chance I will make it to Rose Peak before they catch me, but it would be good if I could get past the single-track trail onto the fire roads that form the more distant part of the route.

And so it was. The first of the runners passed me only a few hundred feet from the widening of the trail. Near Goat Rock, I passed an aid station. They offered me calories and electrolyte, but I wasn’t really in the market. I told them I’d take them up on their offer if they were still there when I returned. They estimated that they would be packing it in by 1:30; it was 10:30 and easily an hour and a half to the top. Marginal. Well, it would be nice, but I hardly need an assist.

They tell me that registration is limited to 250, and they got 170 or so today. Some of them are training for the Western States 100, a hundred-mile race in the Sierra Nevada. One woman of not inconsiderable age told me this was her 112th ultra-marathon. These people are just amazing.

Not a whole lot further along, the two runners ahead of me veered to go around a rattlesnake. I had my camera out and ready by the time I came up. I warned a runner coming up behind me to keep to the other side of the trail.


The snake was completely unconcerned, which is just fine with me. I don’t want to be around an excited rattlesnake. It made a slow slither across the road and into a hole, the beginning of which is visible at the right side of the picture below.


The first rattler of the season. I’m not even sure I saw any last season. They’re not all that common.



The higher country is still mostly green, and very pretty.


And there is a micro-climate right at Rose Peak itself with these double-headed prickly flowers and their pink neighbors. Didn’t see either of them anywhere else.


Got to the top right at noon. Runners crossing over, picking up a wrist band from a volunteer stationed there, as a token of achievement. From now on, I’m facing into the traffic, and I imagine that, by the time I reach the single-track trail, the lanterns rouges will have passed, and I’ll have it to myself.


And so it was, again. I got to the aid station about 1:15, just as they were packing up, but they gave me water and calories. Thank you, friends!


Really pretty country, especially when there’s still some green to be seen.



These little wildflowers were also localized to a small area. No idea what factors create a habitat that they like, but something clearly does.


I didn’t see it until I got this photo (above) onto the big screen, but notice that spider lurking hopefully for some innocent insect to come along!


And here’s the high view of the dam construction. The old dam was seismically deficient, and was drained completely — the pond is just the low area below the foot of the old dam. I’m told that the new dam is now estimated for 2019 completion, and opening hours will remain at 8 until then.

19.16 miles, 5002 vertical feet. Even on a cool day, it counts as a killer hike.


October 22, 2011

Saturday, 22 October 2011

After a long day Friday in airports and airplanes, I slept very late this morning; it was 7:15 by the time I got out of bed. Too late for a long hike today, so I went to Windy Hill for a short hike (7.7 miles, 1300 vertical feet). Maybe I’ll do something more ambitious tomorrow.

I like to go up Spring Ridge trail because it’s the steepest trail in the park, then come down one of the other trails. Near the top I found a rattlesnake, the first one I have seen at Windy Hill for two or three years. Cool!

It watched me, tasted my scent in the air, but never did rattle at me. After a while, it decided discretion was the better part, and all that, and turned away from the trail back into the tall grass.

It’s a good day when I find something fairly unusual, and today definitely counts.