Posts Tagged ‘Skyline Ridge OSP’

Arachnids rule!

September 18, 2016

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Five of us cleared three areas of Fremont Older open space preserve of stinkwort, all of it that we could find. The day was bright and sunny, but started out cool and gray, with wonderful condensation patterns on the cobwebs and indeed, on their proprietors.

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Garden spider season, and no mistake.

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Speaking of which, it’s also getting on into the time of year when the tarantulas come out. Do you suppose, if I go trail patrolling in the open grasslands, I’ll find one? So I drove up Page Mill road and hiked a loop through Montebello, Coal Creek, Russian Ridge and Skyline Ridge open space preserves.

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No tarantuli, but I did find two gopher snakes and a garter snake. That’s three-up from the usual count.

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Only recently did I learn that the forked tongue is actually a stereo sensor, able to differentiate the taste of the air left to right and help the snake locate smelly things such as, well, me.

A spare the air day here, not much breeze, highs estimated at 90 in San Jose, 100 in Livermore. Maybe a bit cooler on the ridge over the ocean, but still a hot day. Glad I have water.

A week ago, Ellen, Tom and I scoured Mindego Hill for purple star thistle. It was part of my hiking plan anyway, so I took along a trash bag and scoured it a second time. If we got 90% of it last week, and I got 90% of what was left today, we’re down to 1% remainders. Hard to estimate these numbers, of course, but I think they’re not too far off.

This left me with a trash bag to carry out. I tied it to the back of my backpack, where it probably looked silly, but didn’t get in my way. Dropped it off at the Midpen Skyline Field Office (always known, confusingly, as SFO), where I talked with Ranger Frances for a few minutes.

I used up all of my water before I got there, but I was able to tank up again at Alpine Pond. A life-saver, and no mistake. Too bad there are so few sources of drinking water up there, but that’s how it is.

As to big spiders, the season is yet young, and I’ll be out there looking for them next week, and the next and the next.

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Good days to be outdoors

June 12, 2016

Sunday, 12 July 2016

When she has no formal projects planned, volunteer coordinator Ellen is available for ad hoc projects. We met on Saturday to work on broom along Razorback Ridge trail at Windy Hill. Pleasant day, and we made a dent, but there is so much that it was only a dent. It will need to be sprayed next season.

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I talk a lot about broom. Here’s a broom in bloom. This one is Spanish broom, rather than the more common French, and far more difficult to uproot. This one is above Horseshoe lake, a reminder to someone with a big weed wrench some day. Or maybe a pickaxe.

I was on the trail by 7 Sunday morning, up through Los Trancos, Montebello, Coal Creek, Russian Ridge and Skyline Ridge preserves. Pleasantly cool in the breeze, nice day. I should have gone to Mindego summit, but I wasn’t sure how much I had committed myself to, so I skipped it today. Next time: it turned out to be less than 16 miles, even with several little extra side excursions.

One of the side excursions was around Fir Knoll at Skyline Ridge. This is a trail that adds an extra 0.6 miles with no utilitarian purpose whatever; its only justification for existence is that it runs through a very pretty forest. Well, what more could we ask!

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And Ellen told me yesterday that there were still wildflowers on the walk around Horseshoe Lake. There are still wildflowers everywhere, but that’s a route I rarely take, so it was a good opportunity.

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I don’t think I had previously noticed the wild columbine turning up their sex organs for all to enjoy!

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Flowers are to enjoy, right? Small animals in just about every one, enjoying.

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Well, maybe not this one. It’s about a sixteenth of an inch across.

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To those who know better: yes, some of these pictures came from later, but I put them in pictorial order here.

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The eye spots on the dragonfly make it look as if it has a real face.

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And I presume the presence of the nymph is purely coincidental, nothing to do with the adult’s presence. I continue to boggle at the fact that the leading edges of their wings are open.

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Ellen said there was larkspur on the Horseshoe lake circuit, one of the reasons I wanted to do it. Maybe what she said, or what she meant, was: there is even a light smattering of larkspur. Certainly nothing like a rich growth.

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I never noticed these little guys before. Tom tells me it’s Fitches spikeweed, and pretty unusual around here.

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I like its compound flowers.

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Well, I mentioned earlier that every flower has its small animals, not all of which are vegetarian. The Mariposa lilies are especially rich in photo ops. Above, we see a spider that has caught a little bee of some sort, while meanwhile, lunch goes on across the way. (Side comment: I think there are far more Mariposa lilies this year than usual, especially in comparison with California poppies.)

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Here’s a hungry spider, and below a good-sized carnivorous insect.

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Saving the best for last, I was delighted with this picture. No sooner do you start eating lunch than you find that you are lunch!

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Last killer hike of spring

June 20, 2015

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Two weeks since I had any serious exercise (the Aachener Wald last Sunday was a nice walk of maybe 15 miles, but not very vertical). Can I handle a killer hike today? Parked at Los Trancos entrance well down Page Mill road, and hiked 21.75 miles, 3600 vertical feet, on a sticky, muggy day. Not as much fun as it might have been, and I ran out of water, but that’s what happens. For the locals: down Canyon trail, up Table Mountain, to Saratoga gap, back on the west side of Skyline.

Someone at Saratoga gap had let his front wheels come forward off the pavement down three or four inches onto the dirt, and didn’t have enough traction (front wheel drive car) to get back up onto the pavement. Three mountain bikies and I teamed up to lift and push the car onto the pavement. Our good deed for the day.

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Since last I was here, the green of spring has faded completely. The open areas are California golden, chest high dry grass. The pretty areas are in the woods and along the streams. Above: Peters Creek. There are a few ponds here and there, with newts lazing on the bottom, sometimes swimming desultorily around. Notice the one below exposing his butt to the coolth of the air.

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Also a day to find insects, busy drinking syrup from the flowers.

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Hard work today, but I get a beer as a reward. Well, I would have had a beer anyway, but today I earned it!

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.

Mellow

January 2, 2015

Friday, 2 January 2015

Yesterday I went to Purisima open space preserve and put in five hours searching and destroying broom. Also exploring one or two informal trails and ancient logging roads. Today, I hiked what might be thought of as the four corners, the open space preserves surrounding Page Mill and Skyline roads.

I didn’t want to do a killer hike today, because I’m meeting a friend tomorrow to visit Grant Ranch. Still, I ought to make the hike long enough to justify driving up the hill. So I decorated the basic loop with a few extras (14 miles, 2000 vertical feet). For example, there is a closed gate where the official trail ends at Alder Springs, in Russian Ridge, but the trail goes on, and there is no Keep Out sign. New country for me, down the Mindego creek watershed to a point above some private homes where it really is a closed area.

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Along Hawk ridge trail, a really beautiful rock.

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Cold this morning — crunchy mud, better than squidgy mud — but I was down to shirtsleeves (two layers!) by late morning. There was no commitment to wonderful weather over the holidays, but that is certainly how it has turned out.

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This is the redwood railing over the bridge that spans Lambert creek, the drainage from Horseshoe lake in Skyline ridge preserve. Nice to look at, but I wouldn’t run my hand along there!

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More decorations of the basic hike: a detour down Lambert creek trail as far as a fallen tree, which wasn’t worth my time trying to work around. Then there was the official Bay trail, which goes over Fir Knoll, despite the availability of a 90% shortcut. But the Fir Knoll trail is really pretty, and the right thing to do.

Back in Montebello, several fallen trees to report for a visit by the chainsaw crew. None of them were problems, and when I met a couple with a stroller, I didn’t see any reason to warn them about fallen trees: they would need to lift the stroller over, but it wouldn’t be the slightest problem. The woman greeted me, “Another perfect day in paradise.” Right.

I had almost used up the plastic tape with which I flag fallen trees, so I stopped at the open space district office in Mountain View when I got down the hill. They had been open today, but had closed at 2. Fortunately, someone was still around, and gave me enough tape to keep me going for a while. Then I stopped at REI to indulge my hobby of acquiring trail maps, and called it a day.

Being thankful

November 27, 2014

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Happy thanksgiving. Naturally, this is a day to be outdoors. How about a little killer hike, maybe the 20 mile loop from Montebello parking to Saratoga summit and back!

A cool, pleasant day that turned out to be very quiet in terms of trail traffic. A fair bit of deadfall to remove, and one deadfallen madrone that was too big to move, so I reported it for someone with a chainsaw.

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Horseshoe lake, mid-afternoon. The coots spash around chasing each other, but otherwise the place is deserted.

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Home by 4 or so, happy to have a brew.

I bought a leg of lamb early in the week, and we’ve been working on it ever since. This evening, I cut up some of the scraps and made moussaka, of which we could only eat about half. There is still enough for a round of, say, lamb vindaloo, but I put it in the freezer so we can take a break for a few days before resuming the battle. Good stuff, but it turns out to be a major commitment!

Completing more anvil trails

August 30, 2014

Saturday, 30 August 2014

The anvil award goes to those who patrol all of the open space district trails. For today’s increment, I started just after 7 on Page Mill road at the head of Montebello road, and completed my remaining trails in Montebello with a hike of a bit less than 5 miles.

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Then I drove to the Horseshoe lake parking area at Skyline ridge, and with a bit less than 7 miles, completed the set of trails there. Fir knoll trail, very pretty, and from the high point on Butano ridge trail, a look back at Montebello ridge. I started this morning on the left, at the top of that ridge, and hiked to a point just beyond the communications towers.

In the nearground, the tree farm, and in between, Stevens Canyon, along which runs the San Andreas fault.

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From the Ipawa trail, an overlook view that goes on forever. Butano ridge in the background (well, Pacific ocean really in the background), and any number of creeklets that, if it were ever to rain again, would ultimately deliver water to Pescadero creek, thence to the sea.

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Some of the oaks are amazingly large, not so much in trunk size as in sheer span. It is not surprising that branches come crashing down every now and again.

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As far as I know, oaks live until something kills them. Disease, I suppose. Elegant in death, and they give the woodpeckers something to do.

From Skyline ridge, I went to Long ridge, where I invested another 5 miles of hike in the northerly trails. I’ll need to come back once more to complete the trails here, but I can probably combine that visit with the Saratoga gap trails.

Historically, I have tried to hike the biggest loop I could construct on the map, or failing that, killer out and back routes. By committing to hike all of the trails, I discover any number of really pretty little fill-in choices that I have either never hiked before or have forgotten over the course of the years. Glad I’m doing this!

It has been three weeks since I finished my yellow-star thistle project at Windy hill. I know it’s impossible to get them all, and the seeds continue to germinate, even in the absence of rain. So I stopped to have a look. The yellow star thistle was fairly minimal; I did a good job. But I also attacked a small colony of purple star thistle, which filled my bucket to overflowing, likewise the garbage can when I took it home. Overall, I’m pretty happy with that project.

17 miles, 3200 feet of climb. I earned my beer.

And as it nears its second birthday, my car turned over 10 000 miles on the way home. Being mostly a telecommuter now, I don’t need to drive all that much. Nice.

Top o’ the Page Mill to ye

August 16, 2014

Saturday, 16 August 2014

I was on the job at Los Trancos open space preserve a few minutes before 7, Dave the volunteer, ready to attack the yellow star thistle along Page Mill trail.

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But first, I check out a tiny moth, which was itself checking out one of the flowers.

I have two buckets for YST, and spent two hours filling them, without getting out of sight of my car. There’s a lot of that stuff around. Tramping through tall grass trying to find it. Many of the stalks have faded to a reddish yellow, so they’re harder to spot; many of the flower heads have already fallen off, and many others fell off just from being waved around when I uprooted them. In this particular microclimate, I think the season for picking them is over.

Which is fine. It gets pretty old.

After dumping the dregs into a covered compost heap, I hiked most of the remaining trails in Montebello open space preserve, and crossed Skyline into Skyline Ridge open space preserve, where I hiked as far south as the stand where they will sell chestnuts in a few months. There are a few picnic tables nearby, one of which was in the shade, a nice place to soak up some calories.

On the way back, I hiked all of the grid of trails that runs through the christmas tree farm, and around Horseshoe lake (below).

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Skid Road trail returns on the Montebello side, where a family of wild turkeys crossed the trail ahead of me. The turkey chick is as big as a full-grown chicken.

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I have mentioned previously that, to hike all of a given set of trails, it is very often necessary to hike a given segment twice, not unusual to do it three times, and sometimes four times. My route took me up the White Oaks trail, past the parking lot (where I tanked up with water that I had left in the car), then back down along some of the trails I had already done this morning.

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Back on Canyon trail, where a former lake is now a marsh and will be a meadow on of these years. Beautiful pure white skeleton of a tree across the way that might have drowned in the lake (assuming the lake was created by a dam).

There were more trails I could have hiked, but I drained the last of my water as I got back to the parking lot, so I said 14.5 miles, 1900 feet of climb, was enough for today.

Where hath summer gone?

August 11, 2013

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Before talking about today’s hike, I thought it would be fun to post a picture Jacky took with her phone when we were in downtown Palo Alto the other evening.

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I don’t know exactly what I would do with one free shoe, but I suppose they are aiming at the market of three-footed people that like to ski.

On Saturday, I volunteered at the open space district’s Deer Hollow Farm. Helped build some benches for the 4-year olds to sit on during the ranger talks.

Sunday, I left the car at Foothills park, hiked up the hill to Los Trancos open space preserve, then to Montebello, Alpine road, Russian ridge, Skyline ridge and back through Montebello. Almost 19 miles, almost 4000 vertical feet. Not quite a killer hike, but then, it has been several weeks since I did a really serious hike.

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Only the middle of August, but it’s definitely getting late in summer. Admittedly, poison oak starts turning red very early, but there’s at least as much red as green now. Interesting how it changes. Above, for example, we see one leaf that has been thrown under the bus while its erstwhile buddies busy themselves rearranging the deck chairs.

Some leaves fade uniformly, some go blotchy red and green.

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It’s also quite common to see the skeleton of the leaf remaining green, while the web turns red. I thought I had seen one with a red skeleton and green web, but that makes no sense, so I must have imagined it.

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I saw two tarantula wasps. One of these days, I’ll see a tarantula. Then we’ll know it’s fall, for sure.

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Some pretty late-summer vegetation, seeds and fluff.

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The view toward the coast from the top of Borel hill, with Mindego hill to the right of the picture. It is not unusual to see fog lying over the ocean, but the brown fog on the left half of the picture suggests there is a wildfire down there somewhere in the Pescadero-Butano area.

The view 180 degrees away, over the bay, was similar. It’s not unusual to see bad air pushed by the prevailing winds into the south end of the valley over San Jose, but San Jose’s air looked pretty good today, brown air further north.

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I stopped at Alpine pond to soak up calories and refill the water bottle. Nice flowers!

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Back across Skyline, in Montebello OSP, I saw this butterfly limping — I can think of no other description — across the trail. It was not obviously damaged or injured. When I get it up on the big screen, I see it’s wet. I think it must have just emerged from its cocoon, and was hoping to survive Dave’s boots until its wings stiffened up and it could learn to fly.

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The stream was so dry that it only drip-drip-dripped, enough to keep the surface of this little pond constantly agitated. The water striders take it all in stride.

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A dead oak lending majesty to a marshy pond at the top of Canyon trail, near Page Mill road.

I like summer, but I certainly had no complaints about today.