Posts Tagged ‘Saratoga gap’

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.


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


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.


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.




And we found what I believe is a goats’-beard fungus. Very classy!

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 hiking

November 22, 2015

Sunday, 22 Nov 2015

Although I went for a run Friday, there have been enough other recent claims to my time and attention that I have had very little exercise for the last two weeks. So I was motivated to get out and do something strenuous today. 21.7 miles, 3700 vertical feet. Strenuous enough.

Parked at Los Trancos, near a place that has llamas. Usually they are some distance away from the road, but they had come down to the fence today to hobnob — or maybe sneer — at four deer on the Free side of the fence.

When I do these trails, I usually go around clockwise, but I reversed the order today. Makes a difference; not only to the trails have a fresh look as seen from the other side, but I have energy to hike a couple of the frill detours that I always skip when they’re at the end of the hike, rather than the beginning.


Sunny, mostly, but cool. Beautiful day. Peters creek bridge here, not long before I turned uphill and hiked to a calorie stop at a stone bench in memory of Wallace Stegner.


Peters creek runs into the ocean. Two or three hours later, here we are at Stevens creek, at the bottom of Table Mountain on the other side, draining into the bay. And from here, we climb back to the ridge where the car was parked. Nice day, hard work.

Time for a beer.

Outdoors, as always

August 23, 2015

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Ellen put out a call for volunteers to go to La Honda Creek open space preserve and attack slender false brome. As well as Ellen (below r), we had Lynn, Doug and myself. Pretty country, and places I had never been. After working over the first area, we even walked down La Honda creek bed, which involved scrambling over rocks more than avoiding the occasional puddle of water.



Although the target was slender false brome, we took a fair bit of broom as well. But we left a few that were covered with broom caterpillars. Wouldn’t want to reduce the population of anything that devours the stuff. If the parent plant survives, which it probably will, we’ll get it next time.


The Lodge. Yes, it really was a lodge once upon a time.



It almost looks as if it could be made usable again.


But clearly with considerable work.


Not far away from The Lodge is The Cabin. This is in much worse condition, and is planned for demolition shortly.


Near The Cabin is, well, I suppose this might be called The Deck. Nice day, good company, and Ellen always brings great munchies.

Sunday, 23 August


Did the Montebello loop through Saratoga Summit and back, a bit over 20 miles, a bit under 4000 vertical feet. Tired and sore.

Because I don’t like gooping up with sunscreen, I always wear long sleeved shirts. But for ventilation, I leave the wrists unbuttoned. I was hiking along today, felt something near my right elbow. Thought it might be a dangle from my backpack, brushed at it. No dangle.

Then I thought I might have picked up a bit of duff on my shirt sleeve. No.

Finally I explored the situation with the other hand and felt something on my arm, under the cloth. Duff inside my sleeve?

To make a long story short, it turned out to be a grasshopper, whose idea of safety was to go up. My idea was for it to go down, and after a certain amount of back and forth, my idea prevailed. The grasshopper emerged considerably the worse for wear.

In the barn-door category, I buttoned the wrist buttons. Completely pointless, of course.

… and if that’s my biggest adventure of the day, well, that’s okay.

Long ridge trail patrol

February 1, 2015

Sunday, 1 Feb 2015

I thought I might start at Skyline and hike down to the Peters Creek redwood grove in Portola state park. One of the prettiest places I know, and I haven’t been there for quite a while. It’s also at least a semi-killer hike.


A nice day, fog over the ocean. I had the world to myself for a while. Deer everywhere; I counted thirteen in one herd. They really do need some natural enemies. Venison, anyone?


I thought the eroded wood on this old stump was worth a closer look.


Ward road descends into Portola State Park. Very pleasant trail, even if there are no redwoods right here.

Unfortunately, the trail that turns off the fire road and descends to Slate creek was completely obscured, maybe closed, or maybe, for whatever reason, beyond the No Trespassing sign. Not good.

So I went back up and made a different loop. Garden variety trail patrol. Helped a Chinese family with a map check, talked with a couple of women about volunteering. Passed Dad and two little guys walking their mountain bikes up the steep grade. Found some broom, some of it too far up a slope that was too steep to climb, but I took what I could.

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.

Big country, small animals

April 14, 2013

Sunday, 14 April 2013

The round trip from the Montebello parking area to Saratoga gap is a hike of 20 miles, 3600 feet of gain. A sunny, chilly day. The larger of the small animals on display included ten deer and two wild turkeys.


As to the smaller of the small animals….


 I’m not sure what this one (above) is. A centipede would have longer legs and more of them. Millipedes are slow, and this little guy was scurrying around at a pretty good pace. And both of those myriapods are pretty much uniform throughout their lengths, rather than having noticeably different body sections. It’s a mystery.


Centipedes operate under the principle that, if they can’t see you, you can’t see them.


The wildflowers are out, but most of them are tiny, visible only from very close up.


Back at home…


I found this lump on the side of the house. Had I not seen legs sticking out of it, I would have taken it as just a bit of tree fluff.


After photographing the lump, I nudged it to see if it was alive. Alive, indeed! And what a strange dish-shaped abdomen! It’s amazing how many different species there are.

Montebello and Saratoga gap

October 20, 2012

First, a few small animals from the back yard.

These two (above and below) may be different developmental stages of the same species. The adult was pretty good at simulating a leaf moving in the breeze; I only spotted it because the tree trunk isn’t really festooned with leaves. The young one above was so small it was almost invisible.

The male garden spider outside the kitchen window caught a bee or a wasp.

We move around to get a head view, but there really isn’t much to see.

No idea what this one was. It bears some resemblance to a ladybird larva, but I don’t think that’s right.

Saturday, 20 October

Up early, drove to the Montebello open space preserve at the top of Page Mill road. As usual, I got there before the gates were unlocked, so I parked on the road. Not a problem. On the trail by 7:20 for a hike on a cool, pleasant day of 20 miles, 3700 vertical feet.

In the cool, quiet of the dawn, a coyote trotted along the trail a couple hundred feet ahead. It eventually turned off, but came out on the Canyon trail fire road just ahead of me. It stopped in the middle of the trail, thinking, “Well, what shall I do today?” A deer stood further back, watching the both of us. Neither the deer nor the coyote seemed particularly excited about the other — they both know the coyote stands no chance of being able to run down a healthy young deer.

With the exception of poison oak, the native vegetation is not very colourful in autumn. On the basis of these two photos, one might forgive my colleague Mike G for not recognizing poison oak in its ground cover form — to his regret!

I got to Saratoga summit about 11. A handful of Christian motorcyclists there (well, why not!) offering water to hikers and cyclists passing through. I refilled my water bottle, with thanks. They didn’t try to convert me, and thanks for that, too.

Much of the area was fogged in until afternoon. Some nice views to the west from Skyline ridge.

Where the little bridge crosses Peters creek, leaves floating in the water.

Just beyond, a two-point buck supervising a flock of half a dozen wild turkeys.

And a final calorie break sitting on the bench at Horseshoe lake, one of the more romantic places I know. Then back to Montebello, where I arrived about 3:15.

This is perhaps the easiest of my standard killer hikes, so I wore trail shoes instead of hiking boots and pushed the pace a bit. As a result, I found my calf muscles cramping up after I got home. As they say, no pain, no gain. Good day.

The Bay area in winter

January 14, 2012

Since returning from China in mid-December, I have had other claims on my time. While I have certainly been outdoors, the hikes have been 10-15 km. Time today for a killer hike.

Just a bit uncomfortably warm in the sun, even after I had stripped off layers down to shirtsleeves, but for January, who’s complaining! 20+ miles, 3600 feet vertical, Stevens canyon loop from Montebello at the top of Page Mill road to Saratoga gap and back along Long ridge and Skyline ridge. Not a razor-crisp line between the ocean and sky, but the boundary was well defined.

Lots of people out; I suppose I met upward of two dozen, most of them near the parking lots, of course. When I go off into the back trails, that counts as a busy day.

Catching and passing a mountain bikie on the uphill does my heart good. Literally.

The Sea to Skyline

May 1, 2011

Saturday, 30 April, 2011

My colleague Jaume was in town, so it was an opportunity to hike from the sea to Skyline. This is difficult to do solo because you really want to leave one car at one end and get a ride to the other end. The Skyline to the sea trail is often hiked in the downhill direction as a three-day backpacking trip, but it’s of course easier uphill, and three days is definitely on the leisurely side.

We dropped off Jaume’s rental car at the Saratoga gap parking area well before daylight, and Jacky very considerately ferried us to Waddell beach, where we got on the trail about 6:20. There was a sign at the trailhead about trail closures, but we figured there were enough alternatives that we could manage. If necessary, we could probably even ford a creek, though the day was colder than expected, and I’m sure the creeks were even colder yet. As it happened, we didn’t get our feet wet.


I had expected the wind to drop and the day to warm up as soon as we got away from the beach, but as I should have known, cold air goes to the lowlands along the creeks. I debated digging out my jacket, but decided to just tough it out. The first hour or two were pretty chilly. Berry Creek falls, above, was about the point at which the day became pleasantly cool instead of uncomfortably cold.

Berry Creek falls was also the point at which we joined the course of an ultra-marathon that was being run today, so for the next few hours and the next several miles, we had to share the trail with runners (and walkers) out doing something presumably even more ambitious than our adventure. It appeared that there were several routes, but we didn’t find out what the choices were.

Beautiful sunny day, beautiful redwood forest. Could not ask for better!

Skyline to the sea trail was in fact closed not far from Big Basin park headquarters, but the detour was a slight jog to Sunset trail, which then goes toward park headquarters almost as efficiently, or maybe even more efficiently, than the official trail. In fact, we rejoined the Skyline trail just outside park headquarters, and never went to the headquarters area at all.

The stretch from park headquarters to China grade sees the major climb of the day, out of the redwoods, through a pygmy forest and manzanita country, to exposed slickrock and a forest of California oak and buckeye. In the open sun, it was almost too warm, but still a perfect day.

We reached Waterman gap about 1:30, earlier than I would have expected, given that it’s only six or six and a half miles from there back to Saratoga gap. Getting tired, getting sore, but feeling good. We stopped a couple more times for calories, and to look for scorpions (found one, a small one), and missed our 5 o’clock estimate for the parking lot by about three minutes.

This is usually billed as something over 28 miles, so it was amazing that we had finished that soon. The GPS told me it was 25.5 miles (4970 feet of gain). I don’t think that Sunset trail detour took three miles off the route, but 25 miles fits the timing better than 28, so it’s probably correct.

A long day and a good one. Great company, great scenery.