Posts Tagged ‘Rough-skinned newt’

Montebello-Saratoga gap killer hike

March 16, 2014

Sunday, 16 March 2014

With the recent knee trouble, and two solid weeks of conferences, I am a little out of shape. But I got in two runs last week, and spent Saturday on an open space volunteer day effort. (That last may or may not have improved my conditioning.)

I first thought to hike Mission peak to Sunol, but the return trip down the front side of Mission peak is not for questionable knees. So I went to Montebello instead. Last time I drove up a mountain road in the dark, I almost hit a deer. So I took it pretty easy — unlike the guy who roared up behind me, passed like a bat as soon as I pulled over, and disappeared into the distance. His lucky day; I never saw him again.

Got to the top just as the sun rose. Left the car along the road, because the gates weren’t open yet.

There were three coyotes wandering through the parking lot. They left when I headed their direction. Half a mile further along, three deer. But the most prolific of the local wildlife was the newts. I lost count somewhere north of 30.


I pop dead bark off the fallen trees, hoping against hope to find a scorpion. No luck, but I found one of those tiny almost legless salamanders, and a beetle who’s perfectly happy standing on his buddy’s head.


A pretty day, warm in the sun, cool and pleasant in the breeze and the shade. Fog over the ocean, so there was no crisp blue horizon off in that direction.


At my second calorie stop, I met Logan and Sean. Logan would be somewhere around 4 years old, I suppose. His father Sean had relocated back here from the LA area, had worked search and rescue in some previous life, but wasn’t 100% familiar with this area. Not sure whether his S&R experience was a long time ago, or just somewhere else.

I told him my itinerary, estimated it as about 18 miles (wrong: 20 miles, 3700 vertical feet). He said, if he ever tried to do a hike that long, he’d end up crying like a baby. “I’m considering it,” said I.

There was as much pain as I needed, certainly. And I always run short of water, even on a comparatively cool day. Still, it feels great to be outdoors and feels even better to have a shower and a brew back home.

Sanborn and Castle Rock: newts and scorpions

March 30, 2013

Saturday, 30 March 2013

I have been having some muscle pain that has inhibited running. Left leg, either the soleus or the medial belly of the gastrocnemius, or maybe both. But interestingly enough, I can walk without much pain. So I drove to Saratoga, went halfway up the hill and left the car at Sanborn county park. If I’m sore, I’ll do a short to moderate hike, and if I’m okay, maybe I’ll go check out Travertine springs in Castle Rock state park.

I don’t know exactly how far that would be; at least an industrial grade hike, and if it’s a bit more and becomes a killer hike, well, there is an extra hour of daylight now. As it happened, it was 23 miles, well over 5000 vertical feet. Definitely a killer hike.

Heavy forest, cloudy and chilly, and the newts were out in force. I had to watch where I was stepping to be sure I didn’t squash any of them.


But newts are a dime a dozen around here. What I’m hoping to find is a scorpion. This is the season, and this is the place. I spent the day pulling up slabs of loose bark from dead trees. Et voila … !



It has been two or three years since I found a scorpion. I don’t recall why the dearth; maybe I just didn’t get up into this area during the right season.


This one is a juvenile, about 1 cm long, not counting the tail. Very little pigmentation as yet; you can see its alimentary canal.


All told, I saw four scorpions, although I only got photos of these two. But under slabs of bark, we find more than scorpions. I have a mental image of something large, red, blue, white, gyrating violently and vanishing under the log, before I could even get a good look at it, much less bring the camera to bear. A snake, I think, but I’m not sure. Too bad it wouldn’t pose for a photo.


Centipedes usually scurry away too fast for photos, too, but I did pretty well today.


It’s not impossible that these are juveniles and will all grow up to be big and red like the one above, but my bet is that we have at least two and possibly three different centipede species here.


As we gain elevation, we start seeing the exposed rock. The soft colours are beautiful; I cannot but think these would make wonderful bases for fabric designs or wall hangings.



All this is before we reach the top (well, the baby scorpion was on the west side, but I grouped it with the first one). I met no one in Sanborn park, but Castle Rock is far more popular, and although the trees were raining a little, the day was clearing up. So there were quite a few people around.


This is rock climber paradise. Everything from serious climbers down to girlfriends who just came along so they could climb onto something hard. The shots below would suggest a fairly serious climber.



I think this is the one they call goat rock.



The tree is determined to grow here, regardless of having to carry around a couple tons of rock.


The formations are wonderful, and make the site a real attraction, even for non-climbers such as I.


Here’s how it looks from some distance away, as I hiked around the San Lorenzo basin toward Travertine springs.


Twice today, I surprised pairs of deer — well, one of those times, the pair of deer surprised me! large animals bursting out of the bush right in front of me — be still, my beating heart! What I was going to say was that, in both cases, the deer ran off in different directions after the encounter. It seems doubtful they have a way of hooking up with each other again, which leads me to conject that the social groupings of deer are random, rather than continuing associations with friends.

The name Travertine springs suggests a picturesque cliff of clean and well-cleaved rock, but what it actually is, is an overgrown marsh of horsetail ferns. Now, horsetails are attractive enough in their own right, but it is always a disappointment to go past the springs and see nary an interesting rock.

It was already mid-afternoon, and I realized that I needed to get moving if I was to get back to the car by nightfall. Took the Saratoga toll road trail to Saratoga gap, then Skyline trail back to Sanborn trail and down. It was getting quite chilly, windy, dark; the rain had begun, and I scurried along as fast as I could, still carefully watching to avoid stepping on the newts, which were even more numerous as the day waned.

Another really good day.