|Cumulative climbing:||340 feet|
Low Tide Beach Walk, February 19, 2023 - Three years had passed since I had joined Ron Bobb and Alice Mestemacher on their annual low-tide beach walk along New Brighton State Beach. Years ago we had started at Rio del Mar and walked north to Capitola, then returned, making for a walk of about five miles. But, today we started at New Brighton Beach proper, walked to Capitola returned, continuing south for some extra distance before returning to our origin.
The beach had been closed recently following severe winter storms, but today most of the debris had been removed from the beach, although the beach at Capitola still held a fair amount of mostly wood debris that had washed down from the mountains.
The walk beneath the cliffs below Park Ave. was easier than I remembered it ever being. It appears that much of the sand from Seacliff and New Brighton Beaches was shifted northward, landing below these cliffs. Today we had beach sand to walk upon the entire way, while before we had to scramble over wet rocks. Some parts of the cliff had collapsed, and an occasional sign would warn visitors not to explore or linger at the base of a cliff.
We turned around half-way to Seacliff Beach less from fatigue and more because the sun had set. Without the sun's rays the air was turning cold. Upon returning to our cars, we drove over to Dharma's for a hearty dinner before going our separate ways.
It was good to see everyone after a long absence.
|Cumulative climbing:||520 feet|
Low Tide Beach Walk, December 22, 2019 - I almost did not do this event. The forecast was for rain, and I was comfortable at my desk working through my "to do" list when I received an email from Anna Lynch offering to carpool over the hill if I could get myself to her mother's house where she was spending the weekend. The idea of driving over the hill myself during a storm was not appealing, but Anna's invitation was just enough to prompt me to action.
I called Anna to confirm that I would join her and her mom in the carpool, and then got my hiking things together. Then just as I got out the door a wet shower passed overhead, and it poured rain. "Well, it will be an adventure," I thought.
When we arrived at New Brighton Beach, the roads were dry, and Alice and Ron were right behind us. Shortly after we arrived, Dave, Paula, and Delton arrived, and then Karen, John, and Mac.
We started with the exciting part, the low-tide walk at the base of the cliffs. Today's low tide was only barely below average, leaving little dry land between the sea and the cliff. More than once we found ourselves scrambling for higher rocks as the surf roared in, and in several spots we had to time the wave action to get past an obstacle.
Near the start while crossing Tannery Creek the group got separated from Anna and Katie, who was having trouble crossing the stream either by jumping across a narrow but swiftly-moving channel or by balancing herself on partially-submerged rocks in the stream slightly uphill. Katie also hadn't changed into shoes more appropriate for walking on uneven terrain.
Anna and Katie would return to their car to get better shoes and to find a support stick that would make traversing the cliff bottom easier. I regretted that I hadn't brought my own hiking sticks that I knew would make this part of the hike easier.
Following a brief discussion we decided to return along the cliff top rather than hazard the return trip at the base of the cliff. I called Anna's phone and left a message not to expect to see us returning the same way and to return with her mom the way they had come if they weren't yet half-way to Capitola.
A couple minutes later as we were starting toward the Capitola Stairs, my phone rang. Anna and Katie were about 10 minutes from Capitola, so we decided to wait for them back at the benches. Ten minutes was a tad optimistic, but soon we were all together.
We took a second group photo with everyone before starting again for the Capitola Stairs. From the top of the stairs we walked along Grand Avenue and would have taken the footpath that continues between Oakland and Hollister Avenues if the path itself hadn't already been partially-claimed by the sea. We took neighborhood streets eventually to Escalona Drive where Dave had recalled a footpath leading to the railroad tracks on the opposite side of Escalona Creek.
We eventually found the footpath and made our way across the muddy channel to Grove Lane and then onto a trail that was perched at the edge of the cliff top. We stopped for a final group photo before continuing along the muddy, crumbling cliff top, then along the railroad tracks for a short distance before dropping down to the parking area for New Brighton Beach.
After saying our goodbyes to Dave and Paula the rest of us continued on a short out-and-back beach walk as far as Borregas Creek to the south. Borregas Creek had cut a channel directly between the pilings of the last two houses on Los Olas Drive. As we returned north along the beach we were treated to a beautiful sunset behind the clouds to the west.
After our walk we enjoyed a hearty dinner at Dharma's before returning home.
|Cumulative climbing:||1950 feet|
Sunol Regional Wilderness, August 10, 2019 - Our primary goal for the day was to traverse the approximately one-mile segment of the W-Tree Rock Scramble between Jacobs Valley on Camp Ohlone Road and McCorkle Trail.
We started from the main trailhead of this East Bay Regional Park off Geary Road, then started on the Canyon View Trail that quickly climbed a few hundred feet above the canyon, offering a nice view of the canyon. Along this trail we encountered several parties of hikers.
After cresting a ridge the Canyon View Trail descended gradually to Camp Ohlone Road, losing little elevation as it headed southeast. Eventually we came out onto the road and continued a short distance before encountering the aptly-named W-Tree, marking the start of our scramble.
At first a well-worn use trail started up the west bank of the seasonal creek bed, now dry. But, a short distance from the W-Tree the trail disappeared into the creek bed, and our scramble began.
The scramble was like a dry creek-walk. Most of the way was Class 2. At a few spots one required some care to avoid poison oak, and at a few other spots we paused to consider the easiest way over or around a taller obstacle. In a few places some Class 3 moves were required.
Where a large leap was required there was usually a way around that allowed for smaller steps. Since this was our first scramble of the year our bodies were not accustomed to the muscle workout required to pull us up over boulders and past chock-stones. So we usually sought the easiest path past an obstacle rather than the most challenging. None of us wished to tire quickly and weaken to the point where we might not be able to continue.
Progress was slow, but we enjoyed the route-finding puzzle and the adventure of finding a new problem to solve around the next bend of the creek-bed. Temperatures were warm but somewhat humid, making some of the more extreme moves uncomfortable because our pants were sticking to our legs.
About half-way up we encountered cow-patties in the dry creek-bed, and I noticed a cattle trail heading up the east bank. I made a mental note of this, should we be forced to retreat. We could probably exit the creek-bed at this point and make our way cross-country to the nearest parallel trail, the Backpack Road about 0.4km to the east, saving ourselves the time and trouble of scrambling all the way down to Camp Ohlone Road.
All was going pleasantly until we got about 3/4 of the way up the scramble only to encounter a 20-foot high dry waterfall. At first there appeared to be no easy way past this wall.
While I was busy examining the water course for possible hand and foot holds, Stella found a way up one of the boulders that got her most of the way up the east side of the waterfall. The west side was a high cliff that looked impossible.
Frank followed her up the boulder to search for a route around the waterfall. Two or three routes looked possible. The first of these squeezed through an opening beneath a small chockstone. It would require removing our packs. But according to Frank the opening was tight. The second involved climbing atop a pointed boulder behind the lower one Frank and Stella had climbed from the bottom of the waterfall. Frank was unsure he could down-climb this second boulder should we find the way blocked further up stream, so he didn't attempt the maneuver. The third involved climbing smaller steps over some penstemon plants that were growing on a narrow flake next to the waterfall itself. This last route appeared to be the easiest technically, but a slip could send one tumbling down the face of the waterfall.
We decided not to risk either of these on this trip as we were all getting weary. So, we retreated to the spot I had seen the cow-patties, then climbed out of the canyon, following a cattle trail over a ridge just north of a volcanic pinnacle (that might itself make for an interesting climb on a future trip) and down to the Backpack Road.
We hiked up Backpack Road to McCorkle Trail and then paused for a late lunch where the trail crossed the W-Tree Rock Scramble creek bed. After lunch we decided to explore the upper end of the scramble below McCorkle Trail that we had missed.
We started down the scramble, encountering a few Class 3 problems, but nothing too challenging. It wasn't long before we arrived at the top of the waterfall. From this upper vantage point I could see that the "tunnel" route under the chockstone Frank proposed earlier was indeed quite a squeeze. I imagined myself getting stuck in the narrow opening. The chockstone looked small enough to be removed to enlarge the opening. But, that sort of "route gardening" is frowned-upon in wilderness areas. The climb up the backside of the pointy boulder did not appear to have good hand/foot holds, but the climb up the flake next to the waterfall looked do-able if scary. The hardest part of that route appeared to be mental: ignoring the sheer drop to one's left while climbing.
Our lunch break had given us some energy but not more time. We also felt that our muscles had enough to carry us back up the scramble to our lunch spot but not enough to try any of the extreme moves necessary to get us past the crux of this route either up or down, so we decided to save traversing it for another visit when we were fresher and in better shape for scrambling.
We were satisfied we had now seen the entire lower segment of the scramble, and we knew that the waterfall was The Crux of this route, there being no other major obstacles along the route.
We returned up the creek bed and soon found ourselves at our lunch spot. We turned left on McCorkle Trail and continued as far as Cerro Este Road onto which we turned right.
I hadn't studied the route profile in detail before our hike. Perhaps if I had not confused "Cerro" with "Caballo" I might have expected a relentless climb instead of the frequent passing of four-footed beasts.
When we arrived at Cerro Este Overlook, I was happy to find a commodious bench. We all sat there for several minutes to enjoy the view and the cool breeze. At this point due to weariness and the late hour we decided to return to the start via the shortest route rather than to continue our full planned route out to Vista Grande and Flag Hill.
We continued on Cave Rocks Road to Indian Joe Creek Trail that we descended as far as the trail that cuts over to Hayfield Road. We finished our descent on Hayfield Road that deposited us a near the trailhead.
That evening and the next day I reacquainted myself with Ibuprofen.
|Cumulative climbing:||30 feet|
Low-Tide Beach Walk, December 28, 2016 - Alice Mestemacher and Ron Bobb hosted a group of friends on a low-tide beach walk from Rio Del Mar to Capitola and back again. Since low tide was forecast to be at 1627, we started from Rio Del Mar at almost 1515, which had us returning in almost complete darkness but for the light of an occasional headlight. Temperatures were moderate in the afternoon sun, but cooled significantly after sunset.
Although we had had some decent rain storms come through earlier in the month, most of the streams that flow naturally over the beach into the ocean between Seacliff and New Brighton had gone underground. The beach appeared to have less sand than last year, the high tide mark falling near the upper side of the beach.
After we returned to Rio Del Mar we retired to Dharma's for a hearty meal.
|Cumulative climbing:||30 feet|
Low-Tide Beach Walk, December 26, 2015 - Alice Mestemacher and Ron Bobb hosted a group of friends (Ron, Alice, Bill, Marianne, Jules, Paula, Dave, Katie, and Anna) on a low-tide beach walk from Rio Del Mar to Capitola and back again. Since low tide was forecast to be at 1730, we started from Rio Del Mar at almost 1600, which had us returning in almost complete darkness but for the light of our flashlights and of the occasional streetlight that shone down from the neighborhoods atop the cliffs. We walked briskly to stay warm.
Although we had had some decent rain storms come through earlier in the month, all of the streams that flow naturally over the beach into the ocean between Seacliff and New Brighton had gone underground, such was the quantity of sand deposited on the beach by the recent storms. Even the rocky tidepools below the cliff near Capitola had been mostly filled in with sand, making the walking easy, even in the dark. Only one spot where a pine tree had fallen from the cliff, blocking most of the way, required us to time the waves to scoot past.
After we returned to Rio Del Mar we retired to Sawasdee Thai for a hearty meal that warmed both our bodies and our palates.
|Cumulative climbing:||1960 feet|
Purisima Creek Open Space Preserve, September 13, 2015 - Stella had come down with a cold, and Frank was fighting what he thought might be Stella's cold, so I was on my own today. Frank had proposed a few candidate loop hikes in Purisima Creek Open Space Preserve, and after mulling over the routes I settled on the mid-length route that traversed the center of the preserve. Near the end of the loop I would have the option of hiking the out-and-back down lower North Ridge Trail.
When I arrived at the North Ridge Parking area, the lot was packed due to a running event that appeared to be finishing nearby, and cars were parked tightly along Skyline Blvd. I drove through the lot in case a space had opened up, but I found none. I found a place to park a couple tenths of a mile north on Skyline Blvd. at a nice, wide siding alongside the road. The extra distance was not too great but neither was it insignificant.
I started down North Ridge Trail that descends steeply to a junction with Harkins Ridge Trail. I turned left and continued on Harkins Ridge Trail. The temperature was warm, slightly humid, and the air still. As I descended into the forest the temperature cooled slightly but was still warm enough to be comfortable walking downhill in short sleeves.
As I looked northwest I could see that the higher layer of overcast was smoke, presumably from wildfires burning elsewhere in the state. Sunlight filtered through brownish clouds, casting a yellowish light. The top of Montara Mountain poked into the smoke, suggesting that the bottom of the smoke layer was around 1800 feet. As I descended into the preserve I could no longer smell smoke.
On a nice Sunday I was not surprised that I did not have the trails to myself. The exception was during one half-hour stretch mid-way along the Craig Britton Trail where I saw no one. The Craig Britton Trail descends from Harkins Ridge through a series of switchbacks on a tree-less hillside before plunging into a cool redwood forest.
At the Craig Britton Bench I stopped to sit for a few minutes and listen to the sounds of the forest. I heard those, but I couldn't find the freedom from manmade noise that I have experienced along Butano Ridge. It must have been a busy day for landings at SFO.
At the lower end of Craig Britton Trail where it connects with Purisima Creek Trail, two guys were looking at the trail sign and discussing where to go. They had hiked down from Skyline Blvd. and looked unprepared for a long hike--no water or packs--so I stopped to chat with them, showed them my map, and suggested they hike a ways out on the Craig Britton Trail, the most scenic section.
I continued down Purisima Creek Trail, passing other hikers every few minutes hiking uphill. The big leaf maples in the canyon were in color early this year, perhaps due to dryness from the drought.
I took a quick break at the lower Higgins-Purisima Trailhead before starting up Whittemore Gulch Trail. Whittemore Gulch Trail climbs steeply high above the creek below. It was on this section of trail I encountered the only biker I saw all day in the preserve.
As the trail zig-zagged its way up the north wall of the gulch I noticed myself slowing down. I didn't feel hungry, but I suspected I was running out of breakfast energy. Yet I pressed on at a slower pace, not finding a comfortable place to sit and eat lunch. I planned then to eat lunch at the end of the hike.
When I arrived at North Ridge Trail I felt tired and decided to leave exploration of lower North Ridge Trail for another visit. If I had eaten lunch earlier I might have felt like adding the extra miles, but I was starting to feel a little bonky. I hiked slowly up a particularly steep section of North Ridge Trail before arriving at the top of Whittemore Gulch Trail that climbed more gradually in parallel with North Ridge Trail.
From this point North Ridge Trail remained nearly level for the next half-mile back to the junction with Harkins Ridge Trail. Just before this junction I found a nice log to sit upon and rest and eat a late lunch.
Since I had just eaten I opted to climb the more gradual grade of the hiker's trail back to the North Ridge parking area, where I arrived shortly before 1500.
Visiting Len in Santa Cruz, September 8, 2015 - I spent a hot afternoon visiting with Len Scoggin, an old friend from my undergraduate days at UC Santa Cruz, who was himself visiting from his home in Lowell, Massachusetts, family and friends who live in Santa Cruz and the area.
We met at the Hinds House, a nicely-restored Victorian that has been pressed into service as an 11-room lodging facility with more charm than a typical motel or hotel (and at significantly lower price) that offers rooms with shared bath on a nightly or weekly basis.
On our way back from lunch we did a little grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, put the groceries in the common refrigerator, then went to visit with his mom, Analydia, and sister, Sandy, who had just driven down from Oakland.
After another hour or so Len and I took a short mostly driving tour through the quiet UCSC campus, being waylaid at Stevenson College for a few minutes by a curious turkey hen who found my van irresistible.
Upon returning to his mom's house, we found both Sandy and Analydia gone. They had left a message on Len's phone to meet them at The Crepe Place for dinner. We arrived just as Sandy was wheeling her mom into the restaurant.
|Cumulative climbing:||3550 feet|
Black Mountain, September 6, 2015 - The air was warm and still at the small parking lot at the Rhus Ridge Trailhead a short distance off Moody Road. Frank Paysen and I climbed up the steep trail to the top of Rhus Ridge at an even pace, neither too fast nor too slow.
Our relief upon arriving at the pass that leads to the Windmill Pasture was brief. We continued to the right onto the Black Mountain Trail without pausing.
On the traverse of Rhus Ridge we passed a couple of other parties hiking down the hill, and a large hiking party came out of Hidden Villa just as we started up the main part of the climb. We started up hill, maintaining the maximum pace that still allowed us to hold a conversation. As we climbed the air cooled and a slight breeze kept us from overheating.
When the trail broke into the open on the wider upper Black Mountain Trail that doubled duty as a PG&E access road, the grade steepened, yet we continued almost at the same pace, or so it felt.
When we arrived at the group of sharp rocks that mark the summit of Black Mountain we found a small crowd of people from three different hiking or biking parties all claiming the more comfortable rocks to sit upon. Never before had I seen so many people atop Black Mountain, but then it was a holiday weekend with nice weather. In addition we enjoyed remarkably clear air with views extending far north into Sonoma County. I imagined I could see the Sierras to the east through a gap in the east bay hills near Sunol, but I suspect it was merely haze over the Central Valley.
As we descended I suggested to Frank that we return through Rancho San Antonio, which meant taking the Quarry Trail and the zig-zagging route back to Rhus Ridge instead of the direct route we had climbed. After looking at the map I could see that it would add about 3.5 miles. We had made good time on the climb and had more than enough time to finish the hike before evening.
Frank did not express an abundance of enthusiasm for my proposal, yet neither did he voice an objection. When we got to the junction of the Quarry Trail he led the way with grim determination, neither pausing nor discussing the matter further. In fact, we did not stop again for rest, not even at the comfy bench with a view beneath the PG&E tower until we arrived back at the Rhus Ridge Trailhead, by which time I was quite tired. I suspect Frank wanted me to suffer a bit for suggesting this longer option, and if so, he succeeded.
Although the summit of Black Mountain enjoyed a cooling breeze, the canyons had become hot and still as the day wore on. Our climb up the Chamise Trail was hot and stifling under a full sun.
But, overall it was a good training hike on familiar trails for our upcoming Mammoth trip.
|Cumulative climbing:||3140 feet|
Sunol Wilderness Regional Park, August 30, 2015 - Although weather was expected to be no hotter than "warm", no one (other than the principals) showed any interest in joining us on this hike.
We got a slightly late start onto the trail at about 1000, but we made up for lost time by keeping ourselves moving as much as possible, pausing only briefly for photos or to take care of other necessary functions.
Our first goal of the day was to surmount Flag Hill, the impressive plateau that rises north of the park headquarters area, named, I suppose, for the striations capping its summit that bear a faint resemblance to stripes of a well-known flag.
The trail to Flag Hill rises quickly to the summit. The high point of Flag Hill, its east summit, stands behind us in this photo. The middle summit of Flag Hill is capped by a rock pinnacle that is easy to climb but makes for a dizzying perch. The south side of the pinnacle enjoys a sheer drop of 30-50 feet. I only stood atop the rock long enough for Frank to snap this photo.
A less-dizzying but equally dramatic summit lies to the west at the high point of a cliff band that extends for some distance north. The west summit is what one sees from Calaveras Road that winds up the slope on the opposite side of the valley.
After enjoying our first goal we pressed on down the Flag Hill Loop Trail and then the Welch - Flag Hill Trail, a gradual descent through varying terrain of steep slopes, wooded riparian corridors, and broad meadows, terminating at the lower reach of Welch Creek Road.
We then climbed up Welch Creek Road where traffic was unexpectedly heavy for such a narrow not-through road.
Our plan had been to take Lower Maguire Peaks Trail toward Maguire Peaks, but a sign warned that the trail was closed due to storm damage. We considered pressing on that way in spite of the sign, but further discussion raised concern that the way really was blocked, forcing a retreat. Not knowing what we'd find, we opted to continue up Welch Creek Road to the next access point to Maguire Peaks area, Maguire Peaks Trail.
Since we'd be hiking the entire loop around Maguire Peaks we decided to go counter-clockwise as doing so would allow us to climb on the shadier side of the mountain.
As we moved to the north side of the Peaks, a vista appeared of San Antonio Reservoir and Mt. Diablo beyond. At the top of the Loop Trail a bench had been installed allowing hikers to rest while enjoying this view. Behind the bench a narrow foot path climbed to west Maguire Peak, the higher of the two peaks.
Without pausing at the bench we pressed on up the steep footpath, stopping occasionally to snap a photok or to catch our breath. When we arrived at the summit I found some comfy rocks to sit upon on the southeast side of the peak. Here we ate lunch.
After lunch we retraced our steps down to the bench, then continued our circuit of the Peaks until we arrived back at Maguire Peaks Trail. We exited the Maguire Peaks area by taking Upper Maguire Peaks Trail back to Welch Creek Road.
At this point we discussed how to proceed. Frank had planned our route to include a climb up Vista Grande, but we had already hiked extra distance due to our forced detour. While a path straight back to the car was seen as too short, we decided to keep our options open by starting on the short route, then decide at High Valley Camp whether we had it in us to add back any distance.
We started down Welch Creek Rd. to High Valley Trail that took us to High Valley Camp, where we found water, toilets, trash bins, and other minor comforts. A nearby picnic table was pressed into service as a relatively comfortable napping bed.
After our break we chose to extend our hike slightly by traversing to Indian Joe Creek Trail that we descended back to the park headquarters, where we arrived at about 1630.
|Cumulative climbing:||1140 feet|
Meadow View Peak, August 22, 2015 - My cousin, Bo, invited his California relatives for a weekend at his country refuge (that he calls "Church of Pi" or "Pi" for short) in northeastern California in the Diamond Mountains, north of Truckee and northwest of Reno, a remote area that is nominally within the Sierra Nevada range. While I was there, I took a half-day hike with the goal of climbing Meadow View Peak.
Meadow View Peak was close enough to Pi that I could reach it on foot, and it offered a decent view from its summit but was not so far away that I'd be out for more than half the day.
At first David wanted to join me, but I suggested that the distance would be longer than he'd be comfortable, and that if he did come along, he wouldn't have energy or time afterward to socialize with the rest of the family. We set up the two-way radios, and Bo gave me a pilot's SOS beacon that I could activate in the unlikely event I should need an air evacuation to a hospital. The SOS beacon also updated my location via satellite to a central server so that Bo and others could observe my progress in between my periodic updates by radio. I also carried two cell phones. It was in this state of maximum connectedness that I departed Pi.
I started from Pi by heading down Bloomer Lake Road to Frenchman Road that I took north through Little Last Chance Valley. The road rose gradually with minor undulations, and I made quick progress in the cool morning air.
Sugarloaf, the nearest peak to Pi of many in this volcanic region, passed by on my right as I quickly walked north. I thought of climbing it, but decided to defer a decision until after I had summited Meadow View Peak. The western approach to Sugarloaf looked to involve a bit of bushwhacking and maybe some class 3 terrain near the summit. I was leery of getting into class 3 terrain when hiking alone, and I didn't want to wear myself out bushwhacking before achieving the summit of Meadow View Peak. Maybe the eastern side had an easier approach.
At the junction with Doyle Grade Road I turned right and walked another mile until I came upon the Meadow View Campground. Two or three parties had set up camp at the small campground. It was here that I first encountered a couple of other vehicles on the road.
Just past the campground was the shuttered forest service station. And, just past the field in front of the office I turned left onto the four-wheel-drive road that would take me to the top of the ridge connecting Meadow View Peak to the large plateau to its west.
I climbed steadily, noticing the moderate altitude for the first time (about 6000 feet), as I tried to hold pace. The road deteriorated as I climbed, almost fading into the vegetation a couple of times. It was clear this road was seldom driven upon.
At first the walking was easy over mostly stable jumbles of volcanic rock and dry brush. About half way from the road it became clear that I was heading for the lower south summit that was mostly clear of higher brush. The true north summit was obscured by scraggly juniper pines with pointy branches at about eye height. Meanwhile the terrain became steeper and more difficult to walk, the rocks tilting as I stepped on them.
I carefully picked a path through the trees and over the "klinkers" and found myself within sight of what appeared to be the summit marker, a tall cairn at the high point.
Before long I found myself at the summit. I stopped to take a selfie, a 360-degree panorama, and a zoomed shot back toward Pi. The air was hazy and somewhat smoky from the wildfires burning in northern California, although smoke was never thick enough to smell. The view would be better on a clear winter day, no doubt.
Radio contact with Pi was a little noisy, but usable, the VHF signal refracting over the ridge to the north of Pi. I updated them with my progress and planned descent route, which after observing the terrain around the summit pinnacle, I decided would be easiest to the east, a direct descent through grass and sage to the road on the eastern side of the peak.
I was correct about the terrain. While I saved myself the risk of injury from a twisted ankle or a poked eye, I hadn't considered that the grassy slope would be filled with foxtails and other small sharp debris that found their way into my shoes.
When I got to the eastern road I found a shady spot under one of the few trees and spent the next half-hour picking sharp debris out of both socks and shoes. While I was stopped three parties drove by on the road, staring at what must have been an unusual sight, a lone person with wide-brimmed hat, sitting on a rock in the middle of nowhere, smiling at passers-by. One of them stopped to ask if I was alright.
With shoes and socks picked clean I began the trek back to Pi. The break had been refreshing.
Yet, when I got back onto Doyle Grade Road and started to retrace my steps back to Pi, I felt the heat of the day bearing down on me. At this point I dismissed the idea of climbing Sugarloaf. It would have to wait for another visit. No longer did I feel the slight breeze I enjoyed earlier higher on the slopes of Meadow View Peak. Yet with a conscious effort I managed to maintain a quick walking pace.
A couple of vehicles passed me on Frenchman Road, the last approaching from the south carried two people, the driver of which looked like my sister, Laura, with a larger man on the back who even from a distance didn't quite look like her partner, Michael. I stared as they approached, my brain attempting to resolve the cognitive dissonance. As they drew closer I could see that the driver was definitely not Laura. They stopped to ask if I was OK, to which I replied, "I'm OK. I'm OK. Thanks.", the repetition, so I thought afterward, likely giving the impression that I might be a bit off. The sight of someone walking on these remote roads appears to be unusual and a matter of concern to passers-by.
I pressed on, stopping only a couple of times under the sparse shade along the road and arrived back at Pi at about 1430, just as the heat of the day reached its maximum.
|Cumulative climbing:||2470 feet|
Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve, August 16, 2015 - Frank had urged me more than once to put this hike on this year's schedule, and I, too, wanted to hike this preserve. I had only visited the area once before in 2002 when Ron Bobb and I rode up Penitencia Creek Canyon on Alum Rock Falls Road as far as the gate to Blue Oak Ranch. Upon our return into Alum Rock Park we got scolded by a bleary-eyed park ranger who appeared to be more upset at having his routine disturbed, no doubt, by some officious person who had espied us riding upon the road. For obscure reasons the public are proscribed from traveling on this road but for a short segment within Sierra Vista Open Space.
This time Frank planned and led the hike. After a bit of hand-wringing over whether we should even do this hike during a heat wave, we settled on a plan to start the hike as planned but to start earlier than usual to beat the worst of the heat, perhaps to cut the hike to the minimum distance, and to finish around lunchtime.
We managed to get ourselves on the trail by about 0830 where the sun had already been beating down on the exposed hillside for a couple of hours. The air was warm (low-80s F), still, and slightly smoky from the forest fires burning in the northern part of the state. We were already sweating profusely. This part of the trail, a steep slope with southern exposure, would surely feel hotter as we climbed back to the trailhead later in the day.
The route started with a 1000-foot dip to Penitencia Creek before climbing slightly further to a minor summit at the southern end of the preserve. Our planned return route was much the same, although we reserved the option to explore the Upper Calaveras Fault Trail if we felt comfortable doing so upon our return.
The Sierra Vista Trail descends gradually along a steep slope that plunges into Penitencia Creek Canyon. After the first mile, the trail becomes a fire road that descends through an old ranch near the bottom of the canyon. We continued onto Alum Rock Falls Road for a short distance before turning left onto Lower Calaveras Fault Trail that descended briefly to a bridge over Penitencia Creek before climbing atop a ridge that led to our summit goal.
Frank reached the forlorn picnic table atop the summit where we stopped to enjoy the smoky view. A slight breeze made sitting in the full sun bearable, although we did not linger long. A small herd of cattle were sensibly taking shelter in the shade of some oak and eucalyptus a short distance from the summit.
After climbing back through the old ranch we decided to take the longer Upper Calaveras Fault Trail that led to another trailhead along Sierra Road where I considered returning along the flatter road instead of the trail that dipped about 300 feet back into the canyon before climbing up to the car park. I was starting to feel the heat and noticed that the skin on my arms was no longer glistening with sweat. In spite of that I decided to continue on the trail back to the trailhead.
After we returned to the car Frank pressed on and hiked the Aquila Loop Trail north of Sierra Road while Stella and I waited for him by the car and sipped on Gatorade that Frank had had the foresight to pack in a cooler. It was a good thing I had stopped when I did as my 3-liter bladder went dry as I took one last sip from it.
|Cumulative climbing:||1760 feet|
Los Trancos Loop, August 8, 2015 - David Bushnell (Dad), Ron Bobb, and I hiked counter-clockwise, the short version of the Los Trancos Loop at Foothills Park, Palo Alto.
Weather was warm but comfortable. A breeze on the sunny and usually hot northwest side of the loop made for pleasant hiking.
We were surprised to see running water along some sections of Los Trancos Creek. At the Torin Bench, the creek held enough water for David to scoop up a hat's worth of cold water and dump it over his head.
The Anniversary Bench was occupied when we arrived at the summit, but we waited just out of earshot for its occupants to move on and allow us to take a brief seated break. We could see smoke hovering along Skyline Ridge, but a stiff southwest breeze kept it from our location, and we could not smell any smoke.
Our walk down the hill to the car proceeded without incident.
|Cumulative climbing:||180 feet|
Franklin Point, August 1, 2015 - David Bushnell (Dad) and I hiked a loop along the San Mateo County coast that we had never hiked before.
We started at a small, two-car parking area just south of the CA1 Brewery at Gazos Creek, then walked down to the southern end of Gazos Creek Beach.
Weather was sunny and warm with a breeze from the northwest, but neither a cold nor strong breeze. It felt hot out of the wind.
We hiked south on the beach toward Franklin Point. We encountered a few other intrepid beach-goers, one larger party with chairs and umbrellas, and a few surfers enjoying the gentle waves.
I'm glad I had researched the tides ahead of time and knew that the tide would be going out during our hike. The beach had topography that suggested it might be completely inundated as far as the edge of the dunes at high tide. The sand was highest just short of the surf, but sloped down away from the shore. The sand "barked" as our feet plowed into it and showed evidence of having recently dried, suggesting that the most recent peak tide had reached far inland.
At the southern end of Gazos Creek Beach we climbed up the dune immediately behind Franklin Point, then walked out to the large bench that had been constructed near the point itself. Signs instructed visitors not to stray from the trail to minimize erosion and to protect other features.
After we enjoyed the view from Franklin Point that swept from Point Año Nuevo at the south to Pigeon Point, we continued along the Atkinson Bluff Trail. At first the trail tediously climbed and descended a couple of dunes in deep sand, climbing that is not reflected in the statistic above. Then the trail followed along the edge of the bluff, past various pools and inlets, including Smuggler's Cove, where we stopped to admire an unusually ornate sandstone feature.
Pressing on we came upon a veritable crowd of beach-goers enjoying a narrow patch of Whitehouse Creek Beach, including what appeared to be preparations for a wedding.
After climbing back onto the Bluff we continued on the trail toward Cascade Creek Beach. This southern end of the trail was less interesting, traveling most of its distance tediously across a flat coastal plain with a couple of zig-zags to avoid ravines, and one ravine crossing. The trail appeared to be making for two tall cypress trees that I've noticed many times while riding my bike south on CA1.
South of the cypress trees, the trail continued a short distance before depositing visitors on the beach into the now dry outflow of Cascade Creek. Unlike Gazos Creek Beach Cascade Creek Beach was almost level from the high tide surf line to the dunes. Yet fresh kelp deposited on the beach gave evidence that the highest tide did indeed reach almost to the base of the dunes. We hiked south along this empty beach on firm sand and saw only three surfers enjoying the waves at the southern end of the beach.
A large flat rock, Table Rock, marks the southern end of Cascade Creek Beach. We climbed up the low sandstone wall to the top of a ledge that took us around a point to a swampy inlet. David stopped there while I continued across the inlet to the other side, only to encounter the edge of the Natural Preserve area and a sign forbidding further progress south.
As we had already hiked 3.7 miles, the prospect of turning back was not too disappointing.
We returned the way we had come, opting to hike the tedious trail across the plain rather than along CA1. In hindsight we probably could have continued on the beach as the tide was low enough to allow dry passage.
When we arrived back at Whitehouse Creek Beach, the wedding preparations were further underway. Well-dressed guests had begun to arrive, and someone had placed temporary plastic steps on the tall steps down to the beach to lessen their height.
After climbing out on the north side of the beach we decided to return through the Costanoa Resort rather than hike the soft trail over the dunes again. We crossed CA1 then walked up a busy Rossi Road. Slow-moving cars and campers, some with long trailers were a nearly continuous stream on the narrow road. It was a busy weekend at the Resort.
We continued through the resort past the vegetable garden at the rear, then onto a remnant of the old coast highway for another half mile until the parked van and its upholstered seats came into view.
|Cumulative climbing:||60 feet|
Palo Alto Baylands, July 25, 2015 - David Bushnell (Dad) and I hiked a short loop at the Palo Alto Baylands. This was my first hike of the season, and my first season in many with new shoes that needed to be broken in.
We started at Byxbee Park and proceeded around the levee loop in the clockwise direction. We enjoyed a strong tailwind blowing from the northwest on the outer levee. On the paved path between Shoreline Park and East Frontage Road we encountered a fledgling seagull walking quickly down the middle of the path as if out for some exercise. We thought it might be ill as it did not appear to be visibly injured.
On our return trip we climbed to the top of the Byxbee Park Hills, a section of the park that has been reclaimed from the old Palo Alto Landfill that had recently opened with new trails. The view from the top of the hill was expansive since nothing else in the area gains such elevation.
After the hike I had one incipient blister on my right foot's small toe, and my legs felt shredded as I hadn't done any hiking in several months. My leg muscles took about a week to heal, but after they healed, I felt stronger. I was surprised that I felt no heel discomfort as my new shoes were mid-height with better ankle support than I had with my old shoes. I usually found mid-rise shoes to rub uncomfortably at my heel or ankle until I could break them in.
Fathers Day in Santa Cruz, June 21, 2015 - Kay, David, Laura, Michael, Bill, Kumba, and Jack met at Laura's place in Santa Cruz where Laura had prepared a bag of goodies for David (Dad). We (Laura, Bill, Kay, David, and Kumba) then walked the two miles from Laura's place along East Cliff Drive and through Capitola to Dharma's Restaurant, where we enjoyed an outdoor Fathers Day brunch. After lunch we walked back much the same way, stopping for a few photos and to watch the surfers on the mild swell.
Run to Dharma's, April 12, 2015 - I took a break from my loop bike ride to Santa Cruz and back, meeting Laura at her Santa Cruz house. She and Jack ran to Dharma's, while I rode alongside.
Jack acted crazy as I rode alongside. He howled, barked, and pulled hard on the leash (even with his prong collar), and even tried to grab me through the fairing. Laura thought maybe Jack believed I had been seized by the Big Yellow Beast, and he was trying to "rescue" me.
I took a few photos as Laura and Jack ran alongside.
Laura told me later, "Everyone was looking at us!" I'm so accustomed to being stared at while I ride my bikes, that I hardly notice it any longer.
|Cumulative climbing:||0 feet|
Low Tide Beach Walk, December 20, 2014 - The weather had been wet the prior week, and while the skies were expected to slowly clear over the weekend, showers were expected in the Santa Cruz area the day of our low tide walk. We got sprinkled upon in the first fifteen minutes, but then we had no further precipitation for the rest of the afternoon.
Ron Bobb and Alice Mestemacher organize this annual low-tide beach walk with friends around the new year. We met as usual at the Rio del Mar Beach. Parking was easy to find in the lot before the beach, unlike most years, probably due to the gloomy weather. Most years we brave cold temperatures on this hike, but this year the air was balmy.
We walked north along Seacliff and New Brighton State Beaches, then below the sheer cliffs to Capitola Beach before returning along the same route.
Due to the recent heavy rains, a couple of streams flowed swiftly across the beach, requiring a bit of care to cross. I was glad I had brought my hiking sticks.
Logs had been conveniently laid across Borregas Creek, and the tippy stones in Tannery Creek offered adequate footing for the careful. We also enjoyed a seasonal waterfall at the end of Escalona Creek.
While the tide was low, the sea seemed more roiled than usual. Occasional sneaker waves almost caught our feet as we skirted along the bottom of the cliffs.
Abundant tide pool sea life could be seen, including mussels, sea anemones, a large redwood driftwood, and one not-very-well-hidden octopus. I thought of moving it back into the water so that it wouldn't be trodden upon, but then considered that the creature may mistake my good deed as the action of a predator or that my moving it may cause injury.
|Cumulative climbing:||2050 feet|
LKHC: Miwok and Marincello, November 22, 2014 - Due to the changing weather it was not until earlier that morning that Frank Paysen and I arranged to carpool from the south bay to Marin to participate in the penultimate Low-Key event of the year, the self-timed climbs of Miwok and Marincello Trails in the Marin Headlands.
While roads were mostly dry on the way up to Marin, we did get sprinkled on a few times. But it was not enough to keep us indoors.
We agreed to start at the Rodeo Beach parking area for several reasons, one of which was that it allowed both of us a reasonable warm-up before starting the climb up Miwok, and because it would encourage me to complete a figure-8 loop that had me finishing on the dramatic Coastal Trail, provided that Frank would not be kept waiting for too long after his ride.
After setting up our radios (so that we could keep in touch while separated) and our equipment, we were off, I on foot, and Frank on his cross bike. The walk from Rodeo Beach to the base of Miwok would be sufficient warm-up for me. Frank wanted more than that, so he climbed Bobcat Trail to its junction with Marincello as a warm-up. Near the top he encountered Dan Connelly riding the opposite direction who shouted, "You're going the wrong way!", apparently unaware that Frank was still warming up.
Meanwhile I had started up Miwok.
For several days prior (and several days hence) I had a seized muscle in my upper back that made carrying a pack and using walking sticks sharply painful at times. My muscles loosened up somewhat with the warm-up, but I would still get a twinge with each step. I wondered if the pain would worsen if I continued. It didn't.
I encountered a few Low-Key'ers descending Miwok and one who zipped past me uphill who bore a resemblance to David Collet.
One guy on a mountain bike was climbing only slightly faster than I was walking. I figured he wasn't riding for time.
I continued over the ridge and down Old Spring Trail, encountering only a couple of joggers and a couple of mountain bikers near the stables at the bottom who were not doing the Low-Key event.
After exiting the stables area I continued up Marincello with minimal delay, stopping only to tighten the laces on my shoes.
My idea was to hike these fast, lengthening my stride (preferably) and/or shortening my period (less-preferred) as necessary to saturate my aerobic ability. The grade up Marincello was just steep enough that I could get close to my anaerobic threshold without breaking into a running gait. The grade up Miwok varied more, and at times the grade was too shallow to make use of my aerobic capacity while walking.
Although I saw a couple of mountain bikers and hikers descending Marincello, no one passed me going uphill. In fact since being passed by someone who looked like David Collet I hadn't been passed by any Low-Key'ers on bikes or foot. I had expected to see Frank by now, but I had been unable to raise him by radio the last couple times I checked. We were probably on opposite sides of a ridge, so I didn't worry too much.
At the top of Marincello I waited for several minutes, and tried to call Frank again. No answer. I decided to continue up Bobcat Trail to the top of Peak 1041, the high point of the day. Unfortunately, this part of Bobcat Trail is closed to bikes, so Frank would not be able to follow me. On the other hand, climbing to or near the top of a Peak would give me good radio coverage to raise Frank, wherever he might be.
For the first quarter mile up from Marincello, Bobcat Trail climbs along a bluff just above the upper reach of Marincello. From here I could see some distance down Marincello, and while stopped I noticed figures moving quickly uphill on Marincello.
"Perhaps it was Frank or other Low-Key'ers,", I thought.
I waited until they drew closer, then snapped a few photos as they rode by below. Paul McKenzie, Bruce Gardner, Sarah Schroer, Amy Cameron, Dan Connelly, Jennie Phillips and Gary Gellin each rode past, but no Frank. A large group was gathering at the top of Marincello.
I thought of walking back down the hill to meet them, but then I considered that doing so would reduce the likelihood of my having time to complete my planned figure-8 loop along the Coastal Trail without making Frank wait too long at the car. After several more came by below and after seeing that there were no more about to arrive, I continued up Bobcat Trail to the summit, catching a glimpse of a well-fed coyote along the way.
When I reached the top my radio crackled to life. Frank had just finished descending the Old Springs Trail and was about to start up Marincello. He wanted to meet me at the top of Marincello so I could photograph him, but I told him I was already beyond that point. I suggested that we might get a better photo of him on the Coastal Trail, and that I might have time to meet him there without his having to wait too long if I continued without delay. He agreed.
I descended from Peak 1041 and was just starting on Wolf Ridge Trail when my radio crackled to life again. Frank had reached the top of Marincello. No Low-Key'ers were there—they must have descended already. Frank would descend to the car and meet me at the bottom of the Coastal Trail.
When I reached the top of Hill 88 I radioed Frank again. He had already arrived at the car and hoped I would descend before the sun set. I suggested he ride part way up the Coastal Trail that is mostly an old paved road to old military installations and bunkers on the hills.
I started down the Coastal Trail, walking as quickly as my legs allowed.
Along the way I saw children taking turns shadow-boxing atop one of the peaks in silhouette. At first I wasn't sure if I was seeing a human figure, a sign post, or another monument. But, then the figure moved and jumped.
I met Frank about 1/3 of the way up from Rodeo Beach. It was a fitting scene for the end of our day at the Headlands. Afterward we descended and then joined the heavy motor traffic back to the south bay.
|Cumulative climbing:||1800 feet|
Los Trancos Trail, November 16, 2014 - David and I hiked the Los Trancos Trail loop at Foothills Park counter-clockwise. Since I was training to get back into hiking shape to hike next week's Low-Key Hill Climb in the Marin Headlands, I planned to walk quickly, as fast as I could while maintaining a walking gait. So, I sent David on ahead on the slightly shorter climb up Steep Hollow Trail while I took the longer Los Trancos Trail across from the park HQ building and practiced my fast walk on the climb. We kept in touch by radio.
David called me when he reached the top of the ridge as I was crossing the fire road about a mile up from the bottom. On my way down the hill toward Los Trancos Creek I could see him ahead on the other side of the meadow. Rather than catch up to him, I held back a bit and let him stay ahead. I've found that he walks faster if he knows I'm behind him.
I stopped for a while to photograph the brilliant color of the big leaf maples that grow along the creek. We met up at the Torin Bench where the trail leaves the creek.
Again since he had been resting for a couple of minutes and the air temperature was not warm, he decided to continue on while I waited for several more minutes at the bench. When I started I again walked fast up the hill. I caught up to David at the top of the climb, and we walked together to Kay's bench atop Trapper's Ridge where we enjoyed the view in unusually clear air for about ten minutes before heading down to the trailhead.
|Cumulative climbing:||3710 feet|
Mount Diablo: Three Summits, September 7, 2014 - Normally I would have chosen to hike this route in the springtime as I did in 2012 when everything was green and the wildflowers were blooming. But, I am seldom in good enough hiking shape that time of year to complete the loop without paying dearly afterward. So instead we chose a weekend when temperatures were expected to be cooler than average for the time of year.
Frank Paysen, Stella Hackell, and I carpooled to one of the minor entrances to Mount Diablo State Park at Regency Drive in Clayton, CA. The Regency gate stood at the head of Donner and Back Creek Canyons. Our route today was the reverse of the route our group took in 2012. We'd first climb to Eagle Peak, then traverse the rough Bald Ridge Trail to Prospectors Gap between the main peak and North Peak, climb to North Peak, then descend by way of Mount Olympia.
By the time we started on the trail it was 1100, yet we would still have time to finish the hike in daylight.
We started by warming up zig-zagging through the meadows at the base of the hills, making our way eventually to the start of Eagle Peak Trail.
Eagle Peak Trail wasted no time climbing up the steep northeast flank of Eagle Peak. After a short but steep and relentless climb we achieved the ridge line near Twin Peaks. The trail continued to the left up the spine of the ridge, surmounting or circumnavigating rock pinnacles jutting from the ridge. Then the trail plunged into the scratchy chamise while it ascended two switchbacks before finally topping out just below the north summit of Eagle Peak (2369ft).
Frank and I took each others' photos on the north summit, (1, 2) while we waited for Stella. When she arrived we took photos at the actual summit, but we didn't rest for long before starting the descent off the southeast side of the peak.
The trail descends steeply in sections down the rocky ridge, a little less than 400 feet of descending to a saddle before ascending 300 feet atop a broad, chamise-covered ridge to Murchio Gap and the first of our bail-out options.
We were all game to continue to Prospectors Gap on Bald Ridge Trail. At first Bald Ridge Trail climbs across a ridge covered intermittently with meadows, but as it passes onto the flank of Mount Diablo itself, the trail becomes diabolically inconsistent, climbing steeply for a while, then descending for a shorter distance but just as steeply, and repeating the pattern the rest of the way to Prospectors Gap. The map shows the trail climbing gradually across the contours.
Somewhere along Bald Ridge Trail Stella realized she hadn't been eating enough for the effort and time that had passed. She was starting to bonk. Frank hung back for Stella, while I pressed ahead for a while. But, I stopped 0.1 mile short of Prospectors Gap at a nice view spot on the trail and enjoyed a rest and a snack from a rock where I could see a ways back and watch their progress as they emerged briefly into a clearing among the trees. When Frank and Stella arrived at the view spot they stopped to enjoy a rest break, too. The three of us then proceeded to Prospectors Gap.
At Prospectors Gap we encountered another party who were looking for Bald Ridge Trail. I directed them to the trail from which we had just emerged. As they spoke English with an accent I thought to ask them what their native language was, but I thought that might be a tad forward. In recent years I find a significant number of the hikers I encounter on the trails are non-native English speakers, especially in parks more frequented by tourists. I often try to guess their native language based on their accent. I thought they might be Israeli, but Frank thought they might be French. Neither of us was confident given the short exposure.
From Prospectors Gap we resumed climbing on North Peak Road toward North Peak. In spite of having eaten a snack at the recent view spot on Bald Ridge Trail, Stella was still flagging. Frank and I waited for her next to the grumpy old man on the tank which happened to be at the junction with the North Peak Trail, our descent route off North Peak. She found a nice shady spot behind the shed below the watchful gaze of the grumpy old man to eat lunch and to regain her strength while Frank and I proceeded up to the summit of North Peak.
The last of the climbing up North Peak Road is so steep I am always amazed that crews could haul equipment and material to the summit to build and service all the transmitter buildings and antennas around the summit. Since my last visit in 2012 someone had distributed ballast rock on the lower half of the steep part. The upper half was so steep that ballast rock would have made traction worse.
Once we got to the summit we took the obligatory summit photos. We also tried to see if Stella was still seated next to the old man, but our naked eyes were not sharp enough, and Frank's monocular could not focus properly at infinity. But, the camera answered our question. I thought Stella might have started after us if she had recovered and rested a while, and if so we would have remained at the summit a while longer to await her arrival. Since we couldn't tell if she was there or not, we assumed she was and proceeded to descend.
Although North Peak (3557ft) was the high point of the hike, it is probably the summit that is most worth skipping on account of the development atop its summit. Guy wires, poles, masts, and antennas spoil the view. The summit rock feels crowded by antennas mounted close enough to be head-bumping hazards.
When we got back down to Stella, Frank and I sat down and ate lunch. We remained in this spot of relative comfort for about a half-hour, our longest single break of the day. By the time we stood and prepared to descend, our spirits were revived by food and rest.
North Peak Trail descends from North Peak Road near the summit of North Peak. The trail descends steeply as it traverses the rugged northwest face of North Peak in the direction of Mount Olympia, a lesser summit of less than 200 feet of prominence on the north ridge of North Peak.
North Peak Trail ends at Mount Olympia Road about 50 paces from the summit of Mount Olympia (2946ft). There was no point in skipping this summit. The summit of Mount Olympia offers a dramatic view of Clayton, the Black Diamond Hills, and Marsh Creek Road and is worthy of its name as long as one faces away from the higher North Peak.
After Mount Olympia our route descended in earnest, first on the East Olympia Trail (a.k.a. Zippe Trail), then on Mount Olympia Road. Just before Mount Olympia Road reached the park boundary we turned left onto an unmarked trail that connects to Cardinet Oaks Road, the trail itself appearing to have been constructed to provide a route connecting these two roads within the state park boundary.
When we emerged onto Cardinet Oaks Road we took our last sit-down break in some shade and enjoyed a snack. At this point the sun was noticeably lower in the sky, casting longer shadows and a more orange glow as it settled toward the west.
Cardinet Oaks Road descended steeply to a crossing of Donner Creek before rising briefly to a junction with Median Ridge Road and Donner Canyon Road. Our return route to the trailhead was at this point entirely on Donner Canyon Road.
I made a short detour to examine the foundations of the old Donner Cabin poking up through the grass. There was neither much to see nor to photograph.
The walk back to the trailhead went quickly, and soon we were taking our end of hike photo, then cleaning up back at the van where we saw a family of wild turkey strut out of the meadow and onto the sidewalk not far from where we had parked.
On our way home we stopped to reinvigorate ourselves with a hearty dinner at Plearn Thai Palace in Walnut Creek, where we had dined after our hike in 2012.
|Cumulative climbing:||2870 feet|
Butano Ridge, August 30, 2014 - Frank Paysen, Stella Hackell, and I carpooled to Portola State Park, from where we staged our loop hike of Butano Ridge. Portola State Park was quiet on this Saturday, the first day of Labor Day weekend. Normally, the place would be buzzing with day visitors and campers, but water was turned off in the park due to the drought. Only the campground host remained at the closed campground. We saw a few other visitors and a couple of very young park rangers who looked not a day over 18 years old standing in front of the shuttered park headquarters building. We deposited our parking stub into the iron ranger and continued a short distance to the parking area closest to the trailhead.
Weather felt just right for an all-day hike if slightly warm and still at times. But it was never stifling to the point of having flies buzzing about our faces and it was never so hot that we dripped sweat into our eyes. A light breeze was blowing high on Butano Ridge, but in the valley the air was still.
We started by walking south on the paved service road toward Old Haul Road. As we passed the trail junction to Tip Toe Falls I suggested we take it across Pescadero Creek instead of the road upon which we would be returning later in the day.
The water level had been reduced to a few standing pools in Pescadero Creek, making the crossing easy. We skipped the spur visiting a dry Tip Toe Falls and zig-zagged a bit uphill before emerging onto Old Haul Road a few tenths of a mile west of the main access road from Portola State Park.
After discussing the options we agreed to hike the loop counter-clockwise. This would have us warming up with a somewhat long walk on Old Haul Road followed by the western climb to Butano Ridge at Dark Gulch rather than finishing with the long slog on Old Haul Road at the end of the hike.
A few minutes after we started down Old Haul Road we saw the only other party of entire day, three ladies hiking in the opposite direction so engrossed in their conversation they barely noticed us as we passed. We had the place to ourselves otherwise. I was surprised to see no bikers on Old Haul Road this holiday weekend.
When we got to the bottom of Dark Gulch we posed for a group photo, then started upward toward the light. Frank took the lead on the climb as is his wont, Stella followed next, and I took up the rear, stopping to take an occasional photo.
After what seemed like more climbing and switchbacks than reasonable for 1200 feet of climbing, the trail arrived at the Butano Ridge Trail. Frank had already found a comfy place to sit and eat a snack, and Stella had just joined him. I took another group photo, then joined them for a snack.
The last time we had visited Butano Ridge we ate lunch at a comfortable log that was lying across the road. I could not remember the exact location along the ridge, but it seemed like a reasonable spot to aim for as a lunch site. After passing a couple spots that looked like our old lunch spot, I concluded that the logs must have been moved off the road. I suggested a spot on the road where stones in the left bank might make comfortable benches.
Butano is the brooding ridge that runs from the top of China Grade Road in a northwesterly arc immediately south of Pescadero Creek, gradually descending to Cloverdale Road. The ridge is most visible to the south from Russian Ridge, Alpine Road (west), or high on Haskins Hill along Pescadero Road. The Butano Ridge Trail starts at the top of China Grade at Gate 12, runs through Redtree Redwoods property to Pescadero Creek County Park, then passes west out of the park and eventually through two houses built atop the old fire road having been renamed Ranch Road West that continues to Cloverdale Road just south of Butano Cutoff Road.
Today's hike was long but without any noteworthy summit or sweeping vista. The forest itself and its remote location in the Santa Cruz Mountains are its main features. I have always liked the fact that between occasional overflights of small planes, one hears no motors or other signs of human activity on most of this hike. The forest of redwood, fir, tanoak and madrone is mostly second and third growth, although a few old redwoods remain. Most of these contain some flaw such as a burned out core, multiple trunks ("arms"), or burls that would have made cutting, hauling, and/or milling difficult or uneconomic when the area was clear cut in the first half of the 20th Century.
Near the highest point on the hike our route took us off the top of Butano Ridge and onto a single track trail that traversed the north side of the ridge not far below its summit. The single track trail took us past some interesting sandstone formations: an ear, a cave, and a moss-covered wall.
Not far from these we arrived at the Basin Trail Junction and the start of our descent from Butano Ridge, our route back to the start.
This time I took the lead. I never thought of myself as a fast descender on foot, but Frank and Stella must have thought they'd be slower. David who has recently retired from hiking in the hills (unless cajoled or dragooned) was always the fastest down the hill as even within the last few years he would occasionally jog on some of the downhills. Although I stopped a few times to snap photos of filtered sunlight through the trees or of an enormous redwood burl, I managed to stay ahead.
We informally regrouped at a spot where a dome web spider had constructed a dome web near the trail, and the sunlight was shining on it just right. Frank tried to take a closeup photo, but the wind was gusting a bit too strongly. Also, the spider herself was too shy to pose within her creation and had scurried off to some unseen anchor under a leaf.
|Cumulative climbing:||2100 feet|
Irish Ridge, August 24, 2014 - Frank Paysen, Stella Hackell, and I carpooled to Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Gate PC04, our trailhead for today's hike. Our plan was to explore Bald Knob, Irish Ridge, and the Lobitos Creek forest, while traversing all mapped trails in this seldom-visited corner of Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve.
We started by heading down Grabtown Gulch and Borden Hatch Mill Trails before veering off onto the Bald Knob Trail. The Bald Knob Trail climbs gradually through a tanoak, douglas fir, and madrone forest.
As it traverses across the south face of Bald Knob, the trail passed through as wet a micro-climate in the Santa Cruz Mountains as I've ever seen. Even late in the summer of a multi-year drought, the trail was damp as if from a fresh rain, reminding me a bit of Koke'e State Park high on Kaua'i, minus the slick Kaua'i mud. In this temperate rain forest ferns, moss, lichen, and an occasional banana slug or salamander clung to any semi-permanent surface, even to the verges of the trail. Sitting some distance west of Skyline Blvd. and Kings Mountain at 2100 feet elevation with about 450 feet of prominence, Bald Knob collects abundant fog-driven moisture every evening.
It may have been foggy the night before, but today the fog had burned off, giving us a bright blue sky, the high contrast making for difficult photography conditions. I had more work than usual post-processing the photos from this collection, but I think the results made the effort worthwhile.
When we got to a four-way junction on the western shoulder of Bald Knob, we started our first out-and-back to the summit on an old unmaintained road that had become a use trail, approaching the knob's twin summits from the west. Some minor bushwhacking was necessary to reach the top, but the trail was obvious as far as the lower eastern summit "knob". East of that an old overgrown road appeared to descend, but it was too overgrown for us to consider hiking further that way. Besides that, it would be taking us back toward the trailhead, not the direction we wanted to go at this time.
It's clear that Bald Knob must have been named during in the first half of the 20th century, a time of rampant clear-cutting in the area. Today the summit is forested with fir, tanoak, and madrone, many covered with moss. Only a fleeting view of Kings Mountain to the northeast was visible through the trees, the views in other directions being completely obscured.
We returned to the four-way junction and decided to postpone exploring the short out-and-back to the west and head south and down Irish Ridge, deeper into the Lobitos Creek watershed.
Irish Ridge Trail descended steeply past the best viewspot of the day, where we stopped to take a short snack and photography break. The San Mateo County coastline from Pescadero Point in the south to Lobitos in the north could be seen.
We continued down Irish Ridge past a giant "one-armed" redwood that had been left to stand, no doubt due to the difficulty of cutting, transporting, and milling such an awkwardly-shaped tree. We would see another such tree lower in the forest.
At the junction with Lobitos Creek Trail we continued a short distance further to the preserve boundary, where I took a photo of myself, using the gate as a tripod. Frank, who was beginning to get cross with me for stopping too often for photos, waited for me some distance up the trail. Stella waited with him.
After I rejoined them we started down Lobitos Creek Trail, passing the second "one-armed" giant redwood a short distance beyond the junction. Lobitos Creek Trail descended steeply into the redwood forest. We took the short out-and-back to the left about 0.5 mile from the junction. The out-and-back was on an old road bed that had only a faint use trail now. We turned around in less than 0.2 miles when the use trail became more bushwhack and less trail.
We continued down Lobitos Creek Trail, passing a final sign mounted to a temporary barricade advising, "Trail not maintained beyond this point." Beyond that was a deep pit in the old road bed, and the trail quickly became overgrown as we descended and then climbed again where it became difficult to differentiate a trail from less-dense brush.
Frank, who had wanted to get more of a workout on today's hike, had pressed ahead further than I might have been inclined on my own, through low trees, branches, brambles, and an occasional branch of poison oak. He stopped in a small clearing that was so thick all around that I didn't notice him through the surrounding brush until he called out. At this point we all agreed we had explored to the nethermost end of Lobitos Creek Trail.
I stopped to reset my GPS device while Frank and Stella returned up the trail. Fortunately, we each carried radios that worked well in the area, so we kept track of each other. When I returned to the junction of Irish Ridge and Lobitos Creek Trails, I found Stella and Frank enjoying their lunch. I sat down and joined the meal.
Following lunch we climbed back up Irish Ridge to the four-way junction below Bald Knob. We then agreed to explore this short out-and-back that went down the west ridge from Bald Knob. There wasn't much to see other than a curiously-shaped branch of a madrone tree near the end of the easily-navigated use trail that disappeared into a thicket of poison oak.
Once back on the Bald Knob Trail we hiked quickly and with fewer delays back to Borden Hatch Mill and Grabtown Gulch Trails, arriving at the trailhead at a reasonable hour. I did stop to photograph a wall of cracked and layered sandstone that looked as if it had been constructed.
Due to the late hour and our having gotten enough exercise for the day, we skipped the loop down to Purissima Creek and back that would have lengthened our hike to 12 miles. I found myself more tired than I expected given the distance, the bushwhacking having taken more time and energy than I expected.
|Cumulative climbing:||2850 feet|
Mount Tamalpais Circuit, August 17, 2014 - Frank Paysen, Stella Hackell, and I carpooled to Marin County from my house, arriving at our trailhead near Mountain Home Inn shortly before 1100. I had planned a loop up and around Mt. Tamalpais, including a dip into Muir Woods, that I thought was about 10 miles. But, I discovered that the trails drawn on the maps didn't show all the zig-zags, and so my distance estimate was quite a bit off in the end, even for the truncated loop that bypassed Muir Woods.
Our first goal of the day was East Peak, the highest summit on Mt. Tamalpais, and the summit with the Gardner Lookout tower. We climbed a direct route from the car on Hogback Fire Road, Hoo-Koo-E-Koo, Vic Haun, and Temalpa Trails, finished with a partial circuit of the Verna Dunshee trail and the steep, rocky trail to the Gardner Lookout tower at the top. Hoo-Koo-E-Koo and Verna Dunshee were relatively flat and easy; the rest were steep and hot, especially the Temalpa Trail, where the sun beat down on us mercilessly as we climbed. We could see occasionally that the old trail, now closed off, took a steeper, more direct climb up the southeastern flank of the peak.
After examining a refurbished Gravity Car and the new waterfall relief map of Mt. Tamalpais on display at the base of the East Peak, we spent a good deal of time at the summit enjoying the views and scrambling around the tower. I was surprised to see that the tower is staffed, probably one of the few in the state that remain staffed or left standing.
We descended from the East Peak on the old summit trail that was closed off at the bottom but not at the top. The old trail is steep and rocky but no more difficult than the new trail that is not as steep but longer and just as rocky.
After our descent we hiked down to the saddle between East Peak and Middle Peak and took Lakeview Trail around the north side of Middle Peak, detouring to the summit of Middle Peak to examine the "flying saucer" transmitter building atop Middle Peak's northern summit. Perched atop this green dome is what I fancied from East Peak to be a statue of a balding Father Junipero Serra in his Franciscan robe, arms bent and unseen hands clasped in prayer, facing the sea. Upon closer inspection I discovered a beacon and/or antenna of some sort--still not sure what it is. Of course it would make little sense to perch a statue on a transmitter building, but the brain plays tricks.
After our brief inspection of Middle Peak--not much to see that can't be seen at the East Peak other than antenna towers, transmitter shacks, and fenced-off areas, the exception being the near alignment of East Peak and distant Mount Diablo--we continued down Lakeview Trail to the saddle between Middle and West Peaks. We walked a short distance along the road before veering off to the north side of West Peak on International Trail.
International Trail descended to Upper Northside Trail that we hiked to Rifle Camp. By the time we got to Rifle Camp we were all ready for another sit-down break and a snack. The day was warm, the air was still, and flies buzzed around our faces. We did not rest long.
Our route took us up Arturo Trail to Mountaintop Trail that passes through an abandoned air force base atop the ridge that lies to the west of West Peak that is completely fenced off. The view from the old air force base is magnificent, but only the foundations of the buildings remain, except for one large concrete box at the west end of the compound. I speculated that this box may have housed a radar system of the kind that existed on Mt. Umunhum.
After our short rest we continued down the zig-zagging Bootjack Trail and crossed Panoramic Highway at Bootjack Campground. At this point Stella decided she had hiked enough, so she returned to the Bootjack campground to rest and wait for us to collect her in the van.
Meanwhile Frank and I continued downhill toward Muir Woods, but due to the late hour, the distance we had already hiked (10+ miles at that point), and that Stella was waiting for us at Bootjack Campground, we decided to cut the loop short and take Troop 80 trail that headed more directly back to the van at a turnout near Mountain Home Inn.
As we descended into redwoods the air cooled, and we crossed a few streams with running water. Troop 80 trail makes a rolling descent as it heads east, never far from Panoramic Highway, but always below it. The trail makes one final plunge to Camp Eastwood Road. Once we were on the road we climbed back up to Panoramic Highway. While we were walking back along the highway to the van, we saw two crows sunning themselves.
|Cumulative climbing:||1870 feet|
Buzzard's Roost, August 10, 2014 - Frank Paysen, Stella Hackell, Ron Bobb, Christine Holmes, and I met in front of the Big Basin State Park HQ, where we began our hike.
The park was busy on a beautiful Sunday in summer. Tourists, families, motorcyclists, a few bicyclists, and hikers such as ourselves were out enjoying the day. It felt good to get away from the crowds, the noise, the tailpipe exhaust, and the long queues for the toilets, and to start out on the trail.
We backtracked a few hundred yards to the edge of the Big Basin Grove west of the highway before starting our trek to the Pine Mountain Trail. At first we walked parallel to the highway, CA236, but shortly we turned right on Hihn Hammond Road, then not long after, left onto Pine Mountain Trail.
Pine Mountain Trail winds its way relentlessly up the northern flank of Pine Mountain. A couple of spots required use of hands and feet to surmount a rock feature directly upon the trail. The name of the trail is curious as the trail does not go to the actual summit of Pine Mountain, but stops short at Buzzard's Roost, a hundred feet lower than the high point on Pine Mountain that is covered with trees and offers no view. An old use trail to the true summit had been blocked off by the park service, and a sign was erected to indicate that the area was under restoration.
Only a compulsive peak-bagger would feel deprived. Buzzard's Roost and its slightly lower but equally interesting castle-like eastern summit a couple tenths of a mile to the east offer sharp sandstone pinnacles that one can explore. Views from either summit are unusually broad and dramatic as summits go in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
We spent 15-20 minutes at Buzzard's Roost and after taking a short use trail that required much ducking to connect to Buzzard's Roost Spur road, we took another half-hour to attempt a climb to the top of the east summit. We got within 10 feet of the east summit, but the crux of that climb felt a little too exposed given the tiny hand/foot holds. Frank made a good effort and managed to get half-way up the steep rock before backing down.
Instead of returning down the same trail, we descended Buzzard's Roost Spur road, a steep road with asphalt surface covered mostly with mulch, toward Little Basin. Frank got ahead of us on the steep descent and ended up turning right on the Tanbark Loop Trail, descending into Little Basin itself. The rest of us continued straight onto the Tanbark Loop Trail, climbing steeply and briefly to the east ridge before turning right and east. We would meet Frank again near the outermost restroom building at Little Basin.
Our plan was to descend to the north off the ridge and down to Blooms Creek, but we could not find the road/trail that went that way. Fearing that we may have passed the junction as we descended the Tanbark Loop Trail, I hiked a quarter mile back along the trail and discovered an old fire road heading in the right direction. I radioed to the others to join me, then I took a sit-down break and ate my lunch while I waited.
The fire road that descended to Blooms Creek must not have been graded in many years, and at first I was not certain this was a road I saw on my map. Trees had fallen across it, and the surface was deep in tanoak leaves and branches, some of which had the annoying habit of rolling under foot. Fortunately, the descent was not long, and we were soon standing at a junction with another trail leading left toward the west that I suspected was the trail that would join with the East Ridge Trail. Just to be sure, Frank went on ahead to explore and reported back that he found an amphitheater. Christine remarked that that must be where sacrifices are made of those who ignore the warning sign of sticks stacked neatly in a hexagon on the trail.
We turned left and walked along what appeared to be a trail that followed a line of telephone poles. Shortly we found ourselves on East Ridge Trail and some distance later we stopped to take a sit-down break at an empty camp site in the Blooms Creek Campground.
After our short break we continued out of the campground, crossed CA236, and returned to the park HQ on Sempervirens Trail, passing under an arched tree and near two redwood trees locked in perpetual argument.
|Cumulative climbing:||1680 feet|
Los Trancos Trail, August 2, 2014 - Frank Paysen, Stella Hackell, David Bushnell, and I met at the Park 'n' Ride at Arastradero and Page Mill Roads. We carpooled to Foothills Park.
David started up the trail before us, gaining a 1/4-mile advantage on the climb up to the high point at the Anniversary Bench. Stella and I were both amused as Frank reported his position, "I am at Bridge #4.", whereupon David would immediately report, "I am at Bridge #5." Several minutes would pass and Frank and David would again report their locations still one bridge apart.
We rested together for 18 minutes at the Anniversary Bench before continuing. Frank, Stella, and I continued on the loop while David decided he had worked hard enough to climb up to the bench and remained at the bench a while longer before heading directly down to the trailhead. We would be out of radio contact for the next hour and a half.
We saw a few other hikers/runners on the trail and one group of two couples and a child who appeared to have set up camp at the Torin bench by the creek. We pressed on down the trail alongside the creek.
The trail along Los Trancos Creek has always been somewhat treacherous. Steeply-graded and slippery with sharp dropoffs, often at the same spots. The steps that had been carved into the slide last year to aid traction had all but worn away. We took care on the tricky bits and managed to stay on our feet.
We stopped again and for a longer 35-minute rest at a low point on the hike where the trail leaves Los Trancos Creek to begin the long, meandering climb back to Trapper's Ridge. The air was hot and still in the shade, and flies buzzed about our faces.
The tedious mile and a half of trail that wound through one ravine after another was the hottest part of the hike. Some of the spots had no shade and must have been in the mid-90's F.
The climb up to Trapper's Ridge is neither long nor high, but the sun beat down upon us as we climbed. I tried to raise David on the radio when we achieved the summit, but I got no reply. A minute later I tried again at the junction with the Steep Hollow Trail, and I was able to raise him. He had been resting at one of the picnic tables near the trailhead. I advised that we would be at the bottom in about 20 minutes.
The day after the hike my legs were quite sore, this being the first hilly hike I had done since last fall.
|Cumulative climbing:||0 feet|
Mallard Slough, July 26, 2014 - Frank Paysen, Stella Hackell, David Bushnell, and I met at the parking lot of the Environmental Education Center at the end of Grand Ave. in Alviso for a hike on the levee around Mallard Slough and to an observation area of the ghost-town Drawbridge on the north side of Coyote Creek.
We started off under a bright sun accompanied by a stiff wind blowing off the bay, the absence of which would have made the hike unbearably hot and stifling. We began our hike by walking the boardwalk across the New Chicago Slough and then west toward the railroad tracks.
As we hiked north alongside the tracks a Capitol Corridor train roared south into San Jose. After the train passed I explored a couple of non-sanctioned crossings of the tracks to the levee road on the opposite side. These were easily made in July, during the dry season.
We pressed northward to the Drawbridge observation bench and beyond a short distance to the cut through the old levee that Frank and I had explored from the other side last May.
We then hiked back to the Environmental Education Center where we spent a short time looking at the exhibits and climbing up into the observation tower for a last look at the tidal flats before departing.
Jack Visits, June 2014 - Jack spent about a week with me while Laura was traveling. Since Jack has matured in the last year and has lost some of his bad puppy habits, I gave him run of the house (under supervision). At first he seemed to understand that I was granting him a new privilege as he wagged his tail while exploring every nook and cranny, sniffing all the while.
Although I let him into the rest of the house, he spent most of his time in my office where I spent most of my time during the days. The rest of the time I gave him run of the back yard, and he had fun chasing off squirrels and an occasional kittykat or two.
At night he slept in his crate, but I left his crate next to the rear patio door, and since the nights were not cold, he had only the screen door between him and the outdoors, sort of like camping out. Several times during the night he would awaken to bark and growl at some creature moving slowly and deliberately through the rear garden. I noticed that while he was in residence no raccoon poop could be found in the yard.
|Cumulative climbing:||0 feet|
Mallard Slough, May 7, 2014 - Frank Paysen and I met at the parking lot of the Environmental Education Center at the end of Grand Ave. in Alviso for a hike on the levee around Mallard Slough and an unnamed pool to its north that bordered on Coyote Creek.
We started off under hazy but clear skies and no wind. Somewhere between 1 and 2 miles from the start we veered off the main levee onto an old levee that was gradually returning to the swamp. At intervals of less than a couple hundred yards we climbed over 8-10 foot high mounds, a couple dozen or so altogether, that had been piled atop the levee. Or perhaps these mounds were all that remained of the original levee, the valleys in between having been cleared to allow the pool within its circle to become more easily flooded. Some valleys were completely overgrown or flooded, but we always managed to find a dry way through or around. Fortunately, the tide was low.
When we got to the far northern end of this circuit across Coyote Creek from the ghost town of Drawbridge we understood why this levee had been allowed to fall into disrepair. When planning our route Frank had neglected to check the aerial view of the area, the street map showing the trail completing the loop and showing no breach in the levee.
Not wishing to swim the muddy channel we turned around and hiked back over the now tedious mounds and returned to the maintained trail around Mallard Slough, continuing our circuit of the slough. By now the wind had picked up as if someone had turned on a 30-mph fan. We walked first into the wind, then at the northern end of the circuit we turned south with the wind at our backs.
Before we started the second half of the circuit of Mallard Slough, we watched a Capitol Corridor train whiz past on the nearby tracks.
We finished up our walk with a short detour onto the boardwalk in front of the Environmental Education Center. By now the wind was gale-force over the water, and more than once I felt that the wind might have been strong enough to nudge me into the drink had I been a little tipsy.
|Cumulative climbing:||1920 feet|
De Anza Trail/Old Stage Road, March 14, 2014 - An hour south of home in San Juan Bautista I met Ron Bobb and Alice Mestemacher for a mid-day hike over a section of the De Anza Trail known as Old Stage Road. We carpooled the short distance from the Windmill Market to the trailhead.
Ron and I had ridden our bikes over Old Stage Road in 2006, but today we would be hiking from the trailhead to the gate on the Salinas side of the ridge, a low crossing at the northern end of the Gabilan Range that lies east of Salinas.
We saw a few other trail-users, mostly hikers and people walking their dogs. On our return trip we encountered two ladies on horseback.
The air was clean but somewhat hazy with high ice clouds in the sky. Temperature was just right: a little cool in the morning, sunny and warm in the still spots, and a little breezy on the return trip. Short-sleeve weather the whole way, but only just. Any cooler and I would have donned another layer.
The recent rains left the hills green, but the grass coverage was thin and short for this time of year. No wildflowers were seen.
After our hike we stopped in town at Vertigo Cafe for refreshment before returning home.
|Cumulative climbing:||950 feet|
Lake Chabot Circuit, January 11, 2014 - Ron and Alice were camping in their trailer for the weekend, and while Alice was busy elsewhere for the day, Ron and I hiked a circuit around Lake Chabot on what was one of the few rainy days we've seen this season.
After a short tour of Ron's Nash trailer, Ron and I started down the Quail Trail to the Columbine Trail. Neither quail nor columbine were seen. In spite of the damp day, the land was parched and brown everywhere.
When we reached Columbine Trail we turned right and hiked a counter-clockwise loop around the lake. The trail was not busy, but we never felt like we had the place to ourselves. This was no surprise as Chabot Park sits just behind Oakland, San Leandro, and Castro Valley and sees many visitors.
From the Dam to the upper end of Honker Bay the trail is paved and more crowded. We stopped near the marina for a brief lunch, but when mist turned to drizzle we decided to keep moving in case the rain was going to settle in for a good soak.
The bridge across the flood plain at Honker Bay is barely wide enough for one large person to cross. When we arrived at the south end, two ladies were on the bridge, so we waited for them to cross before starting onto the bridge ourselves.
Since the season has been dry this year, the flood plain was also dry and would have been an easier crossing, especially if we had been riding bikes.
From the north side of the bridge we turned left on Honker Bay Trail and then climbed Huck's Trail back to the campground on the ridge.
Although we were never more than about a mile from Ron and Alice's camp site, the loop around the lake was over nine miles long. The route is not entirely flat, but the climbs are short, the climb up Huck's Trail being the longest at about 500 feet.
|Cumulative climbing:||10 feet|
Low-Tide Beach Walk, December 29, 2013 - In what has become an annual tradition, Alice Mestemacher hosts a walk on the beach for friends and family near the beginning/end of the year. A day on which a super-low tide occurs is chosen, and the route starts at Rio Del Mar Beach and goes north across Seacliff and New Brighton Beaches, then beneath the cliffs of Capitola to the center of town where we stop briefly before turning around and hiking back the other way.
This year we hiked in daylight, watching the sun set just as we finished the hike. The beach was more crowded than usual, probably due to the sunny, warm weather we were enjoying that day.
After our walk we retired to Dharma's Restaurant and enjoyed hearty meals.
Jack and his Lure, November 2013 - I kept Jack for Thanksgiving weekend while Laura and Michael spent the holiday in Paris. I discovered that Jack's favorite activity was to chase the lure. We spent over an hour one day with the lure. I'd twirl it in a circle and try to keep Jack from catching it. But, try as I might I couldn't hold him off for more than a couple minutes before I got tired, dizzy, or careless, or he got lucky. When he caught the lure he didn't want to let it escape.
Even when we weren't playing with the lure, he'd go to the spot where I had stored it, with the lure on the roof of the garage (so he couldn't jump up and get it—he can jump and grab things 6-7 feet high), he'd stare up at it, then at me.
After an hour of play, he would get thirsty, then take a nap on his bed in front of the garage door.
|Cumulative climbing:||2500 feet|
|Link to:||Low-Key Hill Climb Results|
LKHC: Montara Mountain, November 23, 2013 - Frank Paysen and I carpooled to Montara for today's climb.
Since I was planning to go on foot, we decided that Frank would drop me off at the trailhead on CA1, then he would go back and find a place to park, do a warm-up ride, then the timed climb. Meanwhile I would do a short warm-up on the road into McNee Ranch under the old Monterey Pines, then start my climb forthwith.
I ended up needing more warm-up than that, and the short walk up Old San Pedro Mountain Road to the restroom gave me just enough extra. Here at the bottom of the hill winds were gusting with enough strength that I worried it might be very windy at the summit. Fortunately, the winds abated as the sun rose.
Gary Gellin had come out the day before to mark the start and finish and every 1/2 mile to the finish line. So, I knew exactly where the clock would start. I especially appreciated the markings nearest the finish line.
I started at a brisk walking pace. When I got to the point that the road pitched upward, I realized I had forgotten to apply some sunscreen lip balm and to put on my knee strap. I tried to do these while walking, but it became too much of a hassle to carry all the crap I had while carrying out this minor operation and to maintain a good speed on the trail. So, I stopped, got everything taken care of, then resumed. That cost me about 30-45 seconds. I tried to compensate by pushing a little bit more than I might have otherwise on the first climb.
I found I could keep about 3-4 mph, maybe 5 mph if I made big strides, the latter only possible on low grades. On the steep stuff I didn't lose too much speed due to legs as heart and lungs became the limiting factor.
Half-way up I paused to chat with and to photograph Lisa Penzel who was on her way down after checking out the route. That cost me about 15 seconds, but the pause allowed for some recovery.
I saw a couple other hikers on the trail who appeared to be climbing too sedately to be motivated by a clock, and a few other cyclists descending who may or may not have been doing the Low-Key climb.
Near the top of the middle steep section between miles 2 and 1.5, where the road runs atop graded granite, my legs and lungs both protested. The feeling was similar to that felt when I start too hard on a climb at high altitude. Legs felt like mush and I just wanted to sit down.
I paused once again nearer the finish at a spot with a nice view to the northwest to shoot a panorama. That cost me another 10-15 seconds that may have been partially offset by the effect of recovering.
By this point I would have been happy to finish in under an hour, and I knew that unless I was lucky enough to be the only participant on foot today, my score would be a "discard" in the overall accounting. My true goal for the day was some unfinished business from my last hike up Montara Mountain, to get to the summit of South Peak.
When I saw the finish line in sight about 50 yards away, I broke into a clumsy jog where anything with concentrated mass attached to me bounced and pulled in all directions. I was glad no one was around to witness my awkward finish.
I crossed the line and kept going at a recovery pace. The trail to South Peak leaves the main road across from the spur road leading to North Peak. This unmarked trail allows linemen access to the power lines running through the valley between North and South Peaks.
Last spring I had tried walking this trail and found it too overgrown with juicy poison oak. Today the poison oak was mostly dormant, and what had been overgrowing the trail had been cut down no higher than a few inches. Someone had done some serious pruning. The way was easier today.
The trail descends 250 feet, then climbs just as much up the ridge to the south. At the power pole closest to South Peak the trail continues along the power line, but my route up South Peak diverged.
I would have to bush-whack my way to the summit. But first I had to traverse a slippy-slidy section. Climbing was easier, and I felt greater confidence placing my feet to avoid a slip. While descending I grabbed some sturdier branches of the nearby bushes to help belay me should my shoe grip fail.
Once past the slide area I had to boulder-hop through knee/waist-high oak plants. A hint of a use trail led through the bushes. I took it in the hope that it might have offered the easiest passage through.
When I got to the high point, a large boulder with a rusty screw drilled into it, I could see some sort of marker about 20 yards further through the bushes, but lower. I decided I had reached the high point, then rested for a while and snapped some photos.
As I descended the valley between South and North Peaks, Frank called me on the radio to report that he had arrived at the top. We met atop North Peak, where I took his summit photo.
We then went back to the finish line where a small crowd had gathered to watch the finishers. I took a bunch of finishing photos. Then, when there was a lull in activity I hiked up to the top of West Peak, then back again.
A few more finished, then I started down. I might have waited longer and photographed more finishers, but that would keep Frank waiting an unreasonably long time. He was on his bike and would be waiting at the bottom for about an hour while I plodded down on foot. Expressing an abundance of caution Lisa Penzel joined me on foot as she did not feel comfortable descending the steep upper summit road. A few steep spots on the descent had me mincing my steps to reduce my risk of slipping.
I tried to photograph as many climbers as I could on the way down, although I missed a few when I couldn't get my camera out of its bag quickly enough.
When we got to asphalt surface on Old San Pedro Mountain Road Lisa decided to ride down the rest of the way. I tried to contact Frank by radio but got no reply. So, I picked up my pace, arriving at the bottom shortly after noon. I found Frank in the parking area on CA1 a couple tenths of a mile south of the McNee Ranch entrance.
|Cumulative climbing:||1960 feet|
Michael's Summit Loop and Kings Creek Truck Trail, October 7, 2013 - David and I had hiked last August 4th up the Saratoga Toll Road from its southern reach, then down to the San Lorenzo River and along and old logging road/trail next to the river and back to the trailhead. At that time I had alternatively considered Michael's Summit Loop, but when we chose to hike the Saratoga Toll Road I put Michael's Summit Loop on my short list to do in the future.
So, today we got around to hiking it.
We started off by hiking a few tenths of a mile up the Saratoga Toll Road, then turning right on an unmarked road that descends to the River and up the opposite side. This unmarked road is the start of the Kings Creek Truck Trail.
Kings Creek Truck Trail climbs through redwoods, tanoaks, and big leaf maples up to the ridge to the east. After turning and running south along the ridge for a few tenths of a mile it descends to the east down to Kings Creek. At the top of the descent to Kings Creek Michael's Summit Loop meets Kings Creek Truck Trail.
Our original plan had been to hike only the loop, but I was curious to explore the section of Kings Creek Truck Trail down to Kings Creek. It would, in effect, "close the loop" for me as this was the only section of Kings Creek Truck Trail that I had not yet explored.
I suggested that David wait for me here at the top of the ridge or to continue on and wait for me at Michael's Summit so that he wouldn't find the hike too taxing. But, in spite of our ability to stay in contact by radio David didn't want us to separate. He offered to accompany me down to Kings Creek provided I didn't get impatient with him on the climb back out.
So we continued down Kings Creek Truck Trail. Not far down the hill we reached a gate, the state park boundary. The gate was ajar, and it looked as if a lock was missing or had been cut off. We continued down and shortly reached a junction.
We first explored the branch to the right. It did not go far until we reached an open gate with a sign warning us off. In spite of the warning not to park here, an abandoned car had been defiantly parked in dried mud next to the gate.
We turned around and took the left fork. This road zig-zagged down through the forest, past encampments, piles of scrap metal and other junk, trailers that appeared to have been abandoned, and other assorted scrap and post-industrial detritus. The place felt like a time warp. Although no one was about, David was certain that we would be unwelcome had the keeper of the junk discovered us poking around. We observed from the road.
On one side of the road the junk's owner appeared to have an affinity for mannequins and other life-sized figurines. On the other side a more substantial collection of scrap metal had been cast into various piles.
A 1950's era diesel bus from the Santa Clara County Transit District fleet with 1970s paint scheme had been converted into a dwelling, although it looked barely habitable now. All along the road rusted and most-likely non-operation pickup trucks from the 1950s and 1960s had been parked. Lower down a trailer appeared to be uninhabited and abandoned, based on my quick glance through the windows.
At one point we heard a motorcycle coming up the road ahead of us. We stood aside. It's rider swept around a corner and then turned left into a driveway immediately before of us. Either he did not notice us on the road or he paid us no mind. We continued on.
A long hike back to the van would have been to head down Kings Creek Road, then up CA9, about 9-10 miles altogether. But, going back up the Truck Trail would be easier, even with the extra climbing.
So, we headed back up past the encampments and junk piles. A low moan of machinery could be heard out of sight up the driveway the motorcyclist had driven. We continued on and saw no one.
When we got to the state park gate, I attempted to close it, but the gate had shifted over time relative to its post and the bar would not clear it. I jammed it in so that it would stick and not swing open. The chain would have to remain dangling as there was no lock or hook with which to secure it. We then pressed on up to the ridge.
Less than a minute after we had left the gate, we heard a pickup truck climbing up the road below. It was driving slowly as if its driver was looking for something (or more likely taking care not to hit too deep a rut or too high an obstacle). The truck paused when it reached the road heading into the state park. I could see the blue roof of the cab.
The truck continued up toward the gate in front of which stood the abandoned station wagon stuck in the dried mud.
I entertained the notion that we had been reported and someone had been dispatched to investigate, to look for us. But, it was more likely the pickup truck driver was just searching for the address at the end of the road.
When we reached the ridge we turned left and started up Michael's Summit Loop trail. The trail signs were facing traffic going the other direction, and since the trail was difficult to follow in places, we had to proceed with deliberation.
The trail itself was covered with leaves, duff, branches, and other debris as if a storm had just blown through and was only just distinguishable from the surrounding ground. Clearly this trail was infrequently traveled and not maintained to the same standard as other trails within the park. I would not have wanted to try hiking it in the dark, at least not on my first visit.
The trail climbed steeply then leveled off, then climbed steeply again. David complained that I was getting too far ahead of him and that he couldn't find the trail. I waited for him.
Shortly we arrived at the high point on the ridge and not long after we arrived at a clearing encircled by several half-cut logs set up as benches. A narrow view of Ben Lomond Mountain could be seen through the trees.
We stopped here to rest and to eat our late lunch.
After lunch we continued on Michael's Summit Loop trail, descending the western side of the ridge into a forest of many tanoaks and an occasional clump of redwoods, the latter more densely found near the now-dry watercourses. The late afternoon sun cast a pleasing glow on the forest.
By the time we got near the bottom of the trail David was starting to think of little more than the upholstered seat in the van, and our remaining hike back to the van went without incident.
Lee 'Fuzzy' Mitchell Memorial, September 29, 2013 - I attended Lee 'Fuzzy' Mitchell's Memorial with Ron Bobb and Zach Kaplan. It had been a few years since I had seen Lee, and it has been even longer since I have ridden a formal bike event or double century. Fortunately, I never needed his help on the road, but he always had a friendly wave or word of encouragement and was always recognizable in his Bike Van as he patrolled the course looking for cyclists in need.
Visiting Leonard, September 5, 2013 - I spent the afternoon visiting friends from my days at UCSC, Leonard Scoggin and his mom. Len was visiting for a week from Boston. The trip was on short-notice when a room in his mom's house opened up and was vacant between the end of summer and the start of the UCSC school term.
We stopped at the local credit union and did some shopping for his mom. Then we enjoyed lunch at Saturn Cafe, capping it off by splitting a Chocolate Madness.
After dropping off the groceries we drove up into campus and toured some of our old stomping grounds, including a stop at the Music Center (built after we graduated in 1989) where we ducked into an open practice room where Len warmed up his chops on a well-used upright, playing from memory through movements from a couple of Beethoven's sonatas and Debussy's Clair de Lune.
We then went back to his mom's house where we waited for Nicholas Mitchell to pick up Len for dinner and to watch while Nicholas did his evening radio show at KUSP. While we waited, Len's mom told us about her life in Batista's Cuba in the 1950s, of meeting Fidel Castro, coming to the United States as a student (University of Louisiana), and coming home once during college after the revolution when she was advised by her family to stay in the US and not to return to Cuba.
|Cumulative climbing:||3320 feet|
El Sombroso, September 4, 2013 - Frank Paysen and I hiked to El Sombroso and back via the Limekiln, Priest Rock, Kennedy, and Woods Trails.
We started our climb on the mostly shady lower reach of the Limekiln Trail. The morning air was comfortably cool, although we both sweated heavily as we climbed the steep trail.
After climbing what seemed like a long time beside a noisy quarry operation we finally broke out into the open and could look down into the quarry and across the canyon. A short distance from here we arrived at the crossing of the Priest Rock and Limekiln Trails.
We turned right and continued on "Rollercoaster Ridge", the upper part of Kennedy Trail that rises and falls, not gaining much altitude between the top of Priest Rock Trail and Limekiln Trail.
From the junction with Limekiln Trail we continued on Woods Trail until we got to the dual-track access road to the PG&E towers on the summit of El Sombroso. We walked this access road to its end just over the top of El Sombroso, where we paused to enjoy the view to the southeast.
After our break we returned up the PG&E access road to Woods Trail, retraced our steps to the junction with Limekiln Trail and descended Limekiln Trail.
The upper part of Limekiln Trail descends the ridge north of Soda Spring Canyon, then falls off to the north side of this ridge, crosses two creeks that fall into Soda Spring Canyon, then climbs a short distance to the top of Priest Rock Ridge where it crosses Priest Rock Trail.
We turned left and climbed some distance on Priest Rock Trail, looked for the trail's namesake--we found a modest rock almost obscured by vegetation but fenced off, so we thought that might be it--, stopped under a transmission tower to take another break and to enjoy the view, then descended to Alma Bridge Road.
Not too far from the bottom we saw the only wildlife on our hike. A garter snake that had been sunning itself on the trail, slithered off to the side, then froze. We stood over it and took photos while it eyed us suspiciously. After a few minutes we moved on and let it continue with its life.
It was a tough hike but good training for our upcoming Mammoth trip. We saw few other trail users, and most of those we saw were on the lower reach of Priest Rock Trail toward the end of our hike.
|Cumulative climbing:||2150 feet|
Sanborn County Park, August 28, 2013 - Frank Paysen, Bogdan Marian, and I met in downtown Saratoga, then carpooled to Sanborn County Park for a hike. Weather was sunny and warm but not hot.
My initial plan was to hike a loop of approximately 8 miles, hitting The Peak (3000+ ft) and Sunnyvale Mountain (2840+ ft). But, Frank had counted on a longer, more intense workout.
We climbed the Sanborn Trail as a loose group, stopping to take photos (Bogdan and I) or getting a good workout (Frank). When we got to the Skyline Trail, I suggested to Frank that he head over to Summit Rock for a 12+ mile loop while Bogdan and I took a more leisurely pace, then meet back at the car or at the Sanborn Trail.
So, Frank headed over to Summit Rock while Bogdan and I went southeast over The Peak, where we found two "married" trees as near to the summit of The Peak as we could tell, then on to Sunnyvale Mountain where only a young Douglas fir tree marks the summit.
No views can be seen from either summit. In fact, few viewspots exist anywhere in Sanborn Park, the hills and ridges being thickly covered by forest.
On the agenda for the day was to explore a fire road, marked "1.2 mi" on our map, that descends to a viewspot at the park boundary, then continues on Gaetti Road through a residential area that eventually connects to Sanborn Road below.
The fire road descends to a clearing, then passes a sign, "Not A Through Trail", before descending steeply for another mile. We were both hoping that we would be able to continue through rather than return up this road. On the way down we saw evidence of a new trail cut heading back uphill to the left. We would explore that if we were forced to return this way.
After a few more zig-zags, the road passed what looked like an old building site where only a partially-diassembled electric panel remained. The trail leveled off just before we arrived at the viewspot that offered a narrow view of the south bay and Mount Diablo to the north. We stopped here to enjoy lunch for twenty minutes. Then we proceeded past the gate and down to Gaetti Road, on the way passing another potential home site with a view of El Sereno Ridge and the upper reach of Bohlman Road.
Gaetti Road is a paved one-lane road that passes a few old buildings, a couple of unbuilt home sites, and a few houses that appeared to be occupied.
We did not take Gaetti Road all the way down to Sanborn Road, although in hindsight that might have been easier in spite of the extra distance required. My old topo maps show a road that heads northwest and downhill from Gaetti Road where it crosses the ridge. The only evidence of the old road is the right-of-way carved into the hillside that has been neglected for many years and is washed out (near the top) and overgrown (all the way down). We called this "Bushwhack Road", and although the going would be slow, I knew we had only 1/2 mile to go on it and that the trailhead was close enough to be in shouting distance below through the trees.
We pressed down Bushwhack Road, climbing over fallen trees and limbs, crawling under branches and dry poison oak vines, and forging our way through knee-high brambles. In less than a half-hour of this we emerged onto the road through the walk-in campground.
We investigated some of the walk-in camp sites before heading down to the trailhead to await Frank's return.
The Raccoons Ate Well, August 28, 2013 - Unless the weather is unusually cold or wet in the summertime, I sleep with my bedroom windows wide open. This gives me fresh air through the night. It also allows me to enjoy (or not) all of the sounds of nature and man that occur during the nighttime hours.
Last night I witnessed nature's less pleasant sounds.
Out of a sound sleep I was awakened by the sound of something heavy scrabbling slowly up my backyard redwood tree. Squirrels move faster and more erratically, but this sound was slower as if made by a heavier creature moving with deliberation.
The redwood is about 50 feet from my bedroom window, but due to the way my casement windows open, the sound is amplified and reflected as if I'm listening through a megaphone with the small end placed over my ear. So, backyard sounds are heard as if they're right outside of my window.
I tend to be somewhat alert for sounds that are stealthy, and these were stealthy sounds. In addition I could hear some soft chattering, but I couldn't make out the words. I woke up from my semi-dream state and listened for a while before realizing I was hearing one or more animals.
Then, the most awful high-pitched shriek pierced the night air, louder than any jay or mockingbird. The shriek repeated in desperation for about five or six seconds before it went silent.
Something was going on in my redwood tree. I got out of bed, put on my glasses, went into my office, and grabbed my headlamp and camera in case I might be able to photograph something interesting.
I aimed my headlamp at the top of the tree. Clustered near the center of the tree's crown four sets of glowing eyes languidly peered down at me. Raccoons! That much was clear.
I could see a smaller creature moving restlessly on the end of a limb at the top of the tree then jump to an adjacent limb. That was a squirrel. Half way down the tree another raccoon stood guard, and a second squirrel was frozen, clinging to the trunk about six feet from the ground. At the base of the tree, one of the neighborhood feral cats stood looking up the trunk, but it ran off as soon as I pointed my light at it.
I watched for a while, but nothing other than occasional raccoon chatter could be heard. I went back to bed, only to be awakened twice more, spaced about 20 minutes apart, each time by a similar panicked shriek as I had first heard. It was a sound that would be difficult to sleep through.
The next morning I was unable to climb the tree to investigate what had attracted the raccoons to its crown, and although I did not see any evidence on the ground, I suspect that a raccoon family had raided a squirrel's nest and had eaten the baby squirrels, plucking them from their nest one by one before tearing them apart and devouring them while the parents were helpless to do anything other than to keep their distance lest they be attacked themselves.
The raccoons ate well last night. Sleep well that night, I did not.
|Cumulative climbing:||3160 feet|
Black Mountain, August 21, 2013 - Frank Paysen and I started from Rancho San Antonio County Park and hiked up the PG&E Trail from its start to the bench under the uppermost transmission tower.
After taking a short rest we decided we had enough time and energy to press on up the steep Quarry Trail to the Black Mountain Trail and continue again up to the summit of Black Mountain, where we stopped for a lunch break.
The air temperature was cool to warm, but we were sweating hard most of the way due to lack of a breeze. Even at the summit of Black Mountain there was no breeze, and many flies landed on us (and were swatted off).
We returned the way we had come on the Black Mountain and Quarry Trails, then we proceeded to descend the High Meadow Trail.
Frank wanted to descend the Rogue Valley Trail while I continued down the High Meadow Trail, stopping to enjoy the bench at the viewpoint along that trail to make up for Frank's slightly longer route. We kept in touch by radio a few times. Although we were not often separated by line of sight, we got reasonably good reception using operating in simplex (direct, radio to radio, not using a repeater) on a VHF band.
We regrouped near Deer Hollow Farm and then took the Coyote Trail to bypass the farm and the road and returned to the start.
Overall it was a long hike and tough for me as I hadn't been hiking as much lately as I ought to be, nor at what was today often a fast walking pace.
|Cumulative climbing:||0 feet|
Seacliff Beach, August 15, 2013 - Ron Bobb and I took a short walk from Rio del Mar north along a surprisingly busy Seacliff Beach to the end of the RV park where a wall that separates the RV park from a residential community has become an erstwhile memorial wall.
On our way back to Rio del Mar we walked out to the end of the pier leading to the Cement Ship (that is no longer accessible to the public). As we stood at the end of the pier I noticed that it swayed slightly as if enduring a continuous earthquake. Since winds were calm I assumed it was the surf beating against its support pillars that moved the pier.
|Cumulative climbing:||1990 feet|
Mount Madonna County Park, August 11, 2013 - Ron Bobb and I hiked a loop through Mount Madonna County Park.
We started from the Sprig Recreation Area trailhead on CA152 by climbing the Sprig Lake Trail. The trail climbed steeply up a hillside covered by redwood forest and then traversed along the edge of the campgrounds for the next mile until we reached Pole Line Road.
We crossed Pole Line Road and continued on the Sprig Lake Trail to the Bayview Trail. We turned right and continued up through a cool redwood forest, stopping for several minutes at a particularly nice glade before turning right on the Redwood Trail.
The Redwood Trail took us back across Pole Line Road to the Rock Springs Trail that we climbed up to the Hilltop picnic area near the enclosure holding the White Fallow Deer.
We stopped to examine a living male specimen of these unusual white deer and then took an extended break to eat lunch at a nice picnic table positioned under one of the few redwood trees growing in the large meadow nearby.
After lunch we hiked over to the Henry Miller Summer House to examine its ruins. The one wall left standing exhibited a curious contrast of building style and quality: the left side of the wall showed careful detailed stonework, but the right side appeared rough and uneven as if hastily thrown up or of having experienced severe weathering and/or subsidence.
After examining the Miller House we started our descent to the Merry Go Round Trail. Shortly before we reached the latter I realized I had left my sticks leaning against the lone redwood shading our picnic table at lunch, so Ron and I hiked back up the hill to retreive them.
With my hiking sticks in hands we continued down the Merry Go Round Trail, transitioning abruptly from cool redwoods and tan oaks to the hotter climate of chamise, manzanita, madrone, and toyon. With the lifting of the forest canopy we enjoyed some views as we descended. Further down we ran across a texting man and dog lying under the shade of an oak tree.
We explored the out-and-back on the Old Mine Trail, discovering that the trail ended short of anything interesting at all. We figured the mine must have been inside the impenetrable thicket that marked the end of the trail. Off to our right we could see an interesting lake, but the area was fenced off with barbed wire, and at this point of the hike neither of us felt like crawling through the barbs to get a closer look.
We continued down the Merry Go Round Trail, first on the ridgetop, then in a cool canyon shaded by bays and oaks. The trail descended with a steepness greater than I expected given the altitude loss shown on the map. Eventually we found ourselves back at Sprig Recreation Area and were happy to find that the car we had parked in the sun was now in the shade.
|Cumulative climbing:||1640 feet|
San Lorenzo River, August 4, 2013 - David and Bill started near the northernmost crossing of the San Lorenzo River along CA9. We walked a short distance along the CA9 to Saratoga Toll Road where we discovered the road sign had been removed, although the post was still standing.
We hiked up the evenly-graded Toll Road as far as Beekhuis Road, where we turned right and headed down Beekhuis Road and the steep unmaintained trail that runs along its right-of-way below the PG&E power lines to the bank of the San Lorenzo River, where we stopped for an extended break for lunch and to enjoy the quietude of nature.
Only the distant sound of an airplane and an occasional noisy motorcycle on CA9 far above could be heard. Occasionally, I thought I heard other voices, but we saw no one. In fact, we didn't see anyone on the entire hike once we left CA9.
After lunch we crossed the river and continued on the unmaintained use trail that ran down the center of an old overgrown logging road. This trail gradually turned into a road that was less overgrown the further downstream we walked.
Along the way we noticed numbers on posts next to the trail, although it wasn't clear to what the numbers were intended to draw the visitor's attention, if anything. We thought they might be distance markers, but they were placed too frequently for hundredths of miles or kilometers.
We crossed the river again at a paved ford before rejoining the Toll Road and returning to the car parked alongside CA9 on the same path we had come earlier in the morning.
|Cumulative climbing:||1170 feet|
Stevens Canyon County Park, July 31, 2013 - Frank Paysen and I hiked a loop in Stevens Canyon County Park and Fremont Older Open Space Preserve.
We started on Stevens Creek Road near the southern end of the Reservoir and hiked up the Lookout Trail before crossing into Fremont Older Preserve. We then took the Vista Loop Trail and Fern Trail before heading down Coyote Ridge Trail to the bottom of the Dam.
Without stopping we hiked back up the Tony Look Trail, taking a slightly adventurous detour along the bank of the reservoir where we stopped for a short lunch. We continued up a narrow, steep ridge, and through thickets of chamise and oak on an overgrown use trail that had us crawling a short section on hands and knees before rejoining the Tony Look Trail that we took back to the car.
|Cumulative climbing:||1610 feet|
Butano State Park, June 23, 2013 - David and Bill Bushnell hiked a loop in Butano State Park. We started up the Little Butano Creek Trail, then climbed Goat Hill Trail to Olmo Trail that we climbed eastward before descending (mostly) on the Gazos Trail. We then took an out-and-back route down the Candelabra Trail to gaze upon the threatening spikes of the Candelabra Tree, like something out of a Harry Potter film, before returning to the car by way of Goat Hill Trail and Olmo Trail.
Travel from Boston to Home, June 18, 2013 - This is a small collection of photos I took while I was en-route home from a family reunion on Cape Cod.
Visiting Len, June 17, 2013 - On my way back from visiting family in Chatham, MA, I stopped for the afternoon at the Boston Museum of Science where Len, an old college friend of mine, works. We saw the Dead Sea Scrolls and a number of the permanent exhibits. I found the Mathematics room the most interesting and wished I had had more time to spend there and at the other exhibits, but alas, the museum closed at 1700 that day.
|Cumulative climbing:||40 feet|
Harbor Coves, June 16, 2013 - I walked around the point in the clockwise direction along the tide line. This time I had the company of family members: Janice, Camille, Lily, Ed, Natalie, Heather, Bob, Pam, and Pippin.
|Cumulative climbing:||40 feet|
Chatham Beach, June 15, 2013 - Laura and I walked to the beach to join Ed, Janice, Heather, and their families, who were already there. Then the two of us, Linda, and Ryanne walked down the beach for about a mile before returning the same way. I detoured to explore a driftwood monument that appeared to have been built at the high point of the sand dune separating the Atlantic Ocean from Morris Island.
|Cumulative climbing:||40 feet|
Harbor Coves, June 14, 2013 - I walked from Aunt Pam's house in Chatham along the tide line to the small beach that belongs to the local homeowner's association, then walked back to her house on the road.
Travel from Enfield, CT to Chatham, MA, June 13, 2013 - The second leg of my travel from home to a family reunion on Cape Cod was a drizzly half-day's drive through the Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachussetts countryside, taking neither highways nor toll roads, until I got impatient with traffic on US44 near Taunton.
Travel from Home to Enfield, CT, June 12, 2013 - I took a few photos on the first leg of travel from home enroute to a family reunion on Cape Cod. This first leg was from home to Enfield, CT where I spent the night at a clean but spartan Red Roof Inn.
|Cumulative climbing:||0 feet|
Palo Alto Baylands, June 9, 2013 - David and Bill Bushnell took a short walk on the levees at the Palo Alto Baylands. We started by visiting the windsurfer launch area, then walked out past the end of the Palo Alto Municipal Airport runways, watching a few planes take off and land in the gusty cross-winds, including one WWII restoration whose pilot gave us a good show by taking off fast and low. We finished by walking out the boardwalk to the observation deck at the edge of the marsh, where the Bay actually begins.
|Cumulative climbing:||2050 feet|
Portola State Park, June 1, 2013 - David and Bill Bushnell, Frank Paysen, and Bogdan Marian met on a warm day at the Park 'n' Ride at Page Mill Road and I-280 where we carpooled to the Tarwater Trailhead in Pescadero Creek County Park to hike a loop through the cool forest.
We started our hike by heading mostly downhill on the Upper Coyote Ridge Trail and then down Coyote Ridge Trail into Portola State Park, crossing Peters Creek and then hiking through the campground. Along the way we stopped many times to capture interesting scenes to photograph, although some photos would have looked better later in the day with a less-overhead sun.
We then took the park maintenance road south to its crossing of Pescadero Creek, detouring briefly on a footpath that went through a small old growth forest near the creek's banks.
After climbing the short hill up to Old Haul Road we crossed the road and continued up the Portola Trail, climbing roughly half-way up Butano Ridge. Along the way we stopped to admire a small flowing brook and waterfall. On the way down Butano Loop Trail we passed a pair of horseback riders who must have turned around not long after we passed them as we saw them again down at Pescadero Creek.
Because we had stopped many times Frank got ahead of us and scouted out a good place to take our lunch break by the edge of Pescadero Creek below the Bridge Trail Bailey bridge. We ate lunch while watching the water bugs create ripples on the still surface of the creek. We also spied a crayfish moving slowly along the bottom of the deepest section of the creek
While we were there the horseback riders returned, bringing their horses down to the creek to get water. The horses drank enthusiastically. One of them knelt in the cool water, much to the alarm of its rider.
After lunch we climbed up to the bridge, hiked across, and then turned right on Tarwater Trail. We climbed Tarwater Trail up through a moist redwood forest carpeted with oxalis before starting a gradual climb back to the trailhead. About a half-mile from the end we passed the enormous castle-like Tarwater Tree that also looks like a great organ high upon the wall of the forest cathedral.
As one approaches the Tarwater Tree from below, one enters a small redwood forest after walking through mostly madrone and fir. Then one comes upon the Tarwater Tree. But, above the Tarwater Tree the forest returns suddenly to madrone, fir, and oak.
|Cumulative climbing:||2290 feet|
Monument Peak, May 23, 2013 - We (David and Bill Bushnell) started from the Tularcitos Trailhead in Ed Levin County Park in Milpitas for a hike up Monument Peak. We took the standard trail route up, Tularcitos, Aqua Caliente, Monument Peak trail, and then took the Monument Peak Road, Aqua Caliente, and Tularcitos Trails down afterward.
Except for a few spots in the shade of the trees, the grass had all but gone completely brown. On the way up we encountered a tail without its squirrel, a cricket, and two black bulls lounging on the trail, leaving us no option but to encourage them gently to move so that we could proceed. We herded the beasts some distance down the trail before they bounded off the trail down the slope where the incline was more gradual. We didn't want to try passing them on the trail.
When we got to the summit area we explored the tall KICU-TV antenna and one of its massive guy-wire anchors. Then we hiked the road a couple tenths of a mile further to Monument Peak itself, where we stopped for summit photos (1, 2), and to enjoy lunch in the lee of some rocks. A cool breeze was blowing at about 20 knots over the summit.
Near the summit we investigated an alien-looking bell-shaped device anchored to the ridge. A thick cable attached to it led off toward one of the transmitter bunkers. I thought it might be an omnidirectional high-frequency antenna of some sort since most every other piece of equipment anchored to the ground in the area is an antenna or its support hardware.
From Monument Peak (2594ft) itself one can see most of the major peaks around the bay, especially to the south. San Jose and the Sierra Azul to the south were barely visible through the thick haze. On the same ridge looking north one can see Mt. Allison (2658ft), but Mission Peak (2517), the lowest named peak is hidden behind Mt. Allison.
An unnamed peak immediately to our north, "Peak 2600+", higher than Monument Peak, appears to have been leveled to allow construction of a radio transmitter that was never built or had been dismantled. I wondered why Monument Peak was named when Peak 2600+ would have had greater prominence before its leveling. We did not visit Peak 2600+ on this trip, but I did visit its summit on my last trip to the area in 2006.
After lunch we headed down the road, climbing over one gate that was locked closed at the Mission Peak Preserve/Ed Levin Park boundary, and stepping gingerly over a cattle grate with a bar spacing wide enough to trap the leg of a careless hiker. I can see now why the park encourages visitors to use the trail and not the road.
We took the road mainly for the change of scenery and to enjoy a more consistent and gradual down-grade. The trail had some very steep uphill sections.
The entire day we saw only five people on the trail: two hikers descending the final tenth of a mile as we were starting, two people in a car that had been visiting one of the remote transmitters on the mountain, and one man hiking up the road with his young high-strung Vizsla female that "woofed" and yipped at us as we stood passively on the trail talking with her owner.
At one of the shady stream-crossings we stopped to take a break and have a snack. As we sat on some logs near the crossing some cows with yearling calves came down the trail from the other direction looking for a drink from the creek. They weren't quite comfortable enough with our presence to take a drink, but one cow approched the creek closely and stared at us for a long time, its ears pricked forward. As we got up to leave, then walked up the trail, the beasts climbed up the slope to join others in the herd.
Overall it was a nice cool, breezy day for this hike that has almost no shade over its entire distance. Fortunately, several comfortable spots are available on the summit to sit and enjoy the view out of the wind.
|Cumulative climbing:||2410 feet|
Montara Mountain, May 11, 2013 - David and Bill Bushnell hiked to the summits of Montara Mountain from San Pedro Valley County Park in Pacifica.
Our hike started up the Trout Farm Loop Trail alongside Brooks Creek through a lush forest of eucalyptus, wild raspberry, fiddlehead fern, houndstongue, and other water-loving shrubs. In some places the forest was overrun with vines and other lush vegetation that reminded me of hiking in Hawaii, though about 10 deg. F cooler.
We turned left at Brooks Creek Trail and pressed on up to the top of the ridge where we joined the Montara Mountain Trail. On our way up Brooks Creek Trail we passed under some large manzanita that reminded me of the manzanita in Henry Coe State Park, and passing an open spot where we could see across the canyon a gap in the vegetation on the mountainside where Brooks Falls makes its appearance in wetter years.
When we got to the ridge top we found a nice bench standing at the junction, but it was occupied. We continued a short distance further and found an unoccupied bench where we stopped to enjoy the view of Pacifica.
After our rest we continued up the Montara Mountain trail as it zig-zagged at an easy grade up the surprisingly steep terrain. We passed a trail crew hard at work clearing overgrowth and improving drainage. It looked like hot dusty work as we were already above the fog layer, and here the temperature was well into the 80s F.
At Montara Mountain Road we turned left and continued up to the summit area. Each time we rounded a false summit we could see the road climb further. Sun beat down on the rocky road, turning it into a solar oven, or so it felt.
We headed directly for the North Peak, the highest of the summits on the ridge, standing at 1898 feet. We were only partially successful finding a shady spot to sit and enjoy our lunches and the view. The best we could do was to shelter under a few threadbare branches of a moss-covered shrub while flies swarmed us.
As is often the case, the actual summit of a mountain can have calm air while the nearby slopes get wind. Although not much of a breeze had been blowing, what little breeze there was died completely at the summit.
Still, we enjoyed the views to the north and east, especially. The view to the south and west was partially blocked by the antenna farm at the summit.
On our way down, we explored a use trail that led down the south slope of the peak toward South Peak, the southernmost summit of the mountain. At first the use trail was easy to follow, if steep and slippery with gravel in places. David waited for me in the hot sun at the top of one such steep pitch while I explored the faint trail as it pushed through waist-high vegetation beneath an electric line, the trail having originally been used by PG&E to service the line.
I saw that I'd have to bushwhack through some juicy poison oak to continue. I thought briefly of continuing without David and asking him to wait for me, but there was no comfortable place for him to sit in the shade. In fact there was very little shade to be had anywhere in the summit area. To avoid the tedium of standing in the hot sun he would probably try to follow me down the steep slippery section of trail and might injure himself. So I chose to turn back and leave this bit of exploration for another trip, perhaps when the poison oak was less juicy I could forge a path through and gain the summit of South Peak.
Applying a dose of moderate effort and willpower we climbed back up to the road. Then we detoured up Middle Peak where we found a large peace sign formed by large stones. I took a panorama shot to the northeast and contacted Frank again by radio where I had a clear shot to the repeater on Mt. Allison above Fremont.
After exploring Middle Peak we headed over to the westernmost summit of Montara Mountain unimaginatively and redundantly called "Peak Mountain". The use trail to Peak Mountain was easy to follow. I stopped to examine a shallow cave on its northeast face, then pressed on up to its summit. David followed a few minutes later when I relayed back to him that climbing up was worth the effort.
The view from Peak Mountain was more satisfying than the other peaks we reached, mostly because this peak had no antenna farms. We had unobstructed views north, west and south. Only our view to the east was obscured slightly by the higher Middle and North Peaks. It was also while we stood atop Peak Mountain that the weather cooled slightly but significantly. A breath of cooler air could be felt, and it was a welcome relief from the hot dry and still desert-like air and unrelenting sun we had experienced for the last couple of hours on the mountain.
After taking more photos we hiked back to the road and descended to the trailhead, stopping again at the bench at which we had rested on our ascent. We then took Montara Mountain Trail the rest of the way down, winding our way through a thick grove of eucalyptus near the bottom. By the time we arrived back at the trailhead, fog was blowing in over Linda Mar.
|Cumulative climbing:||2270 feet|
Eagle Rock and Little Basin, May 1, 2013 - David and Bill Bushnell spent the better part of a day exploring the newest addition to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, the area around Eagle Rock and Little Basin.
In the summer of 1988 while I was a student at UCSC I made my first trip up to the then-staffed USFS lookout tower at Eagle Rock, commanding a view over all of Big Basin Redwoods State Park from the northwestern end of Ben Lomond Ridge. On that occasion I had ridden the short distance in from Empire Grade Road near the Lockheed Santa Cruz Facility. Later in 1992 I rode up Eagle Rock Road from Little Basin. But, I hadn't been back to this spot since then.
Our hike started at the bottom of the Eagle Rock Trail at the small turnout near the Little Basin entrance sign. The trail started steeply uphill, then descended to cross a creek before climbing gradually through a quiet forest of mostly tanoak with an occasional redwood or douglas fir. After we had hiked about half the distance from the car the trail climbed steeply up the remaining hill, crossed a rickety arch bridge, and passed a couple of nice view spots, the second of which was 0.15 miles off the trail but worth the extra distance and climbing as it offered a bench in the shade and a sweeping view to the north and east.
After enjoying this second view spot for several minutes while eating lunch we pressed on up to the top of the ridge where the trail ends at a road. We turned left and continued up to the old, abandoned, and now vandalized lookout tower, long since left to decay.
Due to the tower's proximity to Empire Grade Road, it has attracted vandals, graffiti artists, and partiers leaving broken beer bottles strewn about its interior. We poked around the tower, went inside and up to the middle level. There was no way to reach the top level. The last flight of stairs appeared to have been on the outside of the tower and had been removed. I'm not sure the upper walkway around the tower would have been safe to stand upon in any case.
Then, after a quick visit to the nearby outhouse, we climbed to the south summit, Eagle Rock itself, a short distance from the lower north summit on which the tower had been constructed.
While David enjoyed the sweeping view from this surprisingly precipitous perch--the east side of the rock being a nearly sheer drop of 100 feet or more--, I updated Frank Paysen by radio on our progress. From Eagle Rock I was able to reach many nearby repeaters and a few in the east and north bay area. My signal must have been able to diffract over the tops of the mountain ridges to the north.
Since the summit of Eagle Rock offers no shade and since the day was warm, we did not linger for too long. Our route down from Eagle Rock took the road toward Empire Grade. But, before we reached Empire Grade Road we turned right on Eagle Rock Road and descended a wide, well-graded and apparently (judging by the wear and tear) little used road that descended down to Little Basin. It was this road I rode up on my bike in 1992.
When we got to Little Basin we stopped near the headwaters of Scott Creek for a short snack break and then hiked the short Tanbark Loop Trail, taking the Pig Ridge Cutoff, around Little Basin. We stopped to catch the view of Buzzard's Roost and the Eagle Rock Lookout in the distance and once again to enjoy a snack before heading down into Little Basin and back out its main access road to the waiting car and the comfort of its upholstered seats.
Overall, this was an excellent hike in a quiet corner of the mountains. The only downside was the long drive from home. I plan to return again this year and include a hike to Buzzard's Roost.
|Cumulative climbing:||30 feet|
Baylands Walk with the Dogs, April 19, 2013 - David and Bill Bushnell took a short walk in the Palo Alto Baylands with Laura's dogs, Kumba and Jack.
Kumba had walked many times at the baylands with David and was accustomed to enjoying the entire rear seat of the car. Today with Jack taking half the seat, Kumba was not happy.
We hiked about a mile and a half out the trail alongside the bay, taking the footpaths near the water to allow the dogs to sniff, before turning back and returning to the car.
|Cumulative climbing:||2440 feet|
Windy Hill Open Space Preserve, April 13, 2013 - Bogdan Marian, recovering from a class 3 separation in his right shoulder after suffering an unfortunate spill from his bike, and his girlfriend, Pauline Henry, joined us (Bill and David Bushnell) at Alpine Road and Willowbrook Road for a hike in Windy Hill Open Space Preserve.
We started on the Hamms Gulch Trail, then continued alongside Corte Madera Creek on the Eagle Trail until we reached Razorback Ridge Trail. We climbed the Razorback Ridge Trail for the next hour, rising into cooler and windier conditions.
The sound of the wind hissing through the fir trees was a pleasant sound that evoked clean mountain air. We climbed in short sleeves, our exercise only just enough to keep us comfortably warm as the air was cool with a touch of dampness.
I had forgotten how many switchbacks we had to climb and near the top twice incorrectly predicted our imminent arrival at the junction with the Lost Trail. Near the top the trail passes through several thick sections of western houndstongue (Cynoglossum occidentale) that were not as spectacularly blooming as they had been last year.
After taking a short break while I added a pad to my heel and contacted Frank Paysen by radio who was sitting at home recovering from an illness but would have joined us if he had been well, we continued north along the Lost Trail.
We passed the junction with Hamms Gulch Trail and continued up to the summits of Windy Hill (1905 and 1920+ ft) where the wind was slightly less strong than a short distance down the slope.
After taking a few photos and doing another radio check with Frank to update him on our progress (including a direct contact on VHF between our two handhelds at 0.5 watts--Frank was near downtown San Jose, about 15 miles distant) we headed down the Spring Ridge Trail on the direct path back to the starting point.
|Cumulative climbing:||1810 feet|
Los Trancos Trail, April 5, 2013 - David and Bill Bushnell hiked the Los Trancos Trail, short loop, clockwise. We started with most of the climbing, then descended alongside Los Trancos Creek before returning over the lower ridge and down the Steep Hollow Trail to the trailhead at Oak Glen picnic area.
Although we brought Microspikes for our shoes, we did not need them. The use trail over the recent slide had been repaired a few days earlier. Steps were carved into the earth. These will last until the next wetter-than-normal season or earthquake. Still, we did not complain this time.
Weather was slightly cooler than last week, but still warm enough to hike in short sleeves, although we did not stop to rest anywhere along the way, except for a short pause at the summit to enjoy the view in the clear air and interesting clouds. A steady cool wind was blowing at the top of Trapper's Ridge, but no where else.
After we got home we both discovered one tick on each of our bodies. Unlike most other trails that get more traffic, the Los Trancos Trail is somewhat overgrown in places, creating opportunities for ticks to latch onto hikers passing through. Fortunately, neither of us was bitten.
|Cumulative climbing:||2120 feet|
Los Trancos Trail, March 30, 2013 - David and Bill Bushnell hiked the short version of the Los Trancos Trail loop at Foothills Park. The short version takes the Steep Hollow Trail from the Oak Glen area rather than the Los Trancos Trail from across from the Park headquarters building.
In spite of the light rains this winter everything was green and lush, though not as thickly lush as it normally is. Grass was less than a foot high in most places, and wildflowers were much more sparse than in a usual year.
The weather was warm and humid, uncharacteristically so for California. In fact it felt more like the weather we had last October in Hawaii.
Our only adventure was a bit of Class 2 scrambling along Los Trancos Creek where the trail had slid out, probably last November or December when most of our rain fell. I can't recall the last time we had to do a scramble on this trail.
The bypass was steep enough to require steps for easy travel. I managed to scramble up with some effort--the footholds were poor and the handholds tiny. David had trouble. There was some risk of slipping down the big slope into the creek, a slide that could end with something broken, so he backed off. I returned down the bypass and the two of us found a detour along the creekbed that both of us could manage under our own power.
The bypass was easier in the downhill direction, so if I were hiking the loop clockwise I'd stay on the trail. Later near the end of our hike David had a word with a ranger about the trail. The ranger told us he was planning to hike out there during the week to work on it.
Overall we had a good time with more adventure than we had bargained for on this normally quiet, moderately easy hike.
|Cumulative climbing:||1560 feet|
Almaden Quicksilver County Park, March 19, 2013 - Frank Paysen, Gino Cetani, and Bill Bushnell hiked a loop from the McAbee Creek trailhead. We hiked up the Senador Mine Trail and continued alongside Guadalupe Creek on the Guadalupe Trail. Then we climbed up to the dam at Guadalupe Reservoir and walked across the top of the dam, looking for an easy access to Hicks Road.
A path to Hicks Road looked possible, but the obvious route would require a dry spillway and a walk or crawl down the face of the dam that had been painted with glossy paint, presumably to cover graffiti. something we might hazard if we were more desperate to get across. We turned back and continued our hike up Guadalupe Trail to Mine Hill Trail.
After further climbing I started to feel the bonk coming on, but I figured we'd reach a nice picnic table or bench at Providencia Pond, so I soldiered on. A short distance further we turned off the inclined Mine Hill Trail and took the level Providencia Trail and then descended Enriquita Trail to Providencia Pond where no picnic table was to be found even though a symbol for one was indicated on the park map.
Frank wanted to explore to the end of Enriquita Trail, but by that point I was really starting to bonk, so I picked a spot in the shade where a stream running down the trail had carved a now dry trench deep enough to offer a place to sit comfortably. I ate a sandwich and an energy bar while Gino and Frank pressed on to the bitter end where Frank reported some old structures and other artifacts of minor interest. By the time they returned to where I had stopped to eat, I had finished eating and was catching up on email.
On the hike back up past Providencia Pond and continuing up Providencia Trail to Mine Hill Trail I felt much better. In fact, it was like night and day. Once we got back onto Mine Hill Trail we headed back downhill toward Guadalupe Reservoir where we could see and hear a large flock of seagulls busy squawking on the surface of the water.
At Guadalupe Trail we veered right and continued down Mine Hill Trail, then steeply down Cinnabar Trail to New Almaden Trail that we took through the cool forest all the way back to Senador Trail and then downhill, back to the trailhead.
Overall it was a good hike with greater distance than I had expected, but I felt less sore at the end than I had felt after last week's hike.
Thanks, Frank, for organizing this outing.
|Cumulative climbing:||1670 feet|
Almaden Quicksilver County Park, March 13, 2013 - Frank Paysen, Gino Cetani, and Bill Bushnell met at the Mockingbird Hill entrance of Almaden Quicksilver County Park for a hike of about seven miles in length.
As Frank who was the most familiar with the park and its trails created the route. We climbed the steep Hacienda Trail, then zig-zagged up Mine Hill on the Randol, Day Tunnel, Great Eastern, April, and Mine Hill Trails.
When we got to the top of the ridge we headed east on the Castillero Trail, detouring to climb to the summit of Mine Hill where we ate lunch and took more photos, then descended through English Camp and down the Mine Trail and back to the trailhead the way we had come.
Weather was warm but not too hot. Everything was still green and as lush as could be expected given the paltry amount of rain we've had so far this year.
|Cumulative climbing:||980 feet|
Fremont Older Open Space, March 1, 2013 - Frank and I hiked two short circuits in Fremont Older Open Space. Since I wanted to hike a shorter distance than Frank, I parked at the Regnart Road trailhead while Frank started at Stevens Creek Reservoir.
We kept in touch by two-way radio until we met on Hayfield Trail. We then proceeded to the summit of Hunter's Point, then hiked the Seven Springs Loop Trail, our circuit around the northern part of Fremont Older.
Once back at Hayfield Trail we traversed across to the southern section and took Toyon and Bayview Trails. Frank wanted extra distance so he took a longer loop on Toyon and Vista Loop Trails while I headed straight for the summit of Maisie's Peak and found a place to sit to enjoy the view. The summit would be more inviting if a bench were available.
Once Frank arrived at the peak we began the hike back to our respective trailheads.
This was a short hike of about the right length for me as I haven't hiked since November. Weather was warm and slightly humid.
|Cumulative climbing:||40 feet|
Low-Tide Beach Walk, January 12, 2013 - In what has become an annual tradition, Alice Mestemacher hosts a walk on the beach for friends and family. A day on which a super-low tide occurs is chosen, and the route starts at Rio Del Mar Beach and goes north across Seacliff and New Brighton Beaches, then beneath the cliffs of Capitola to the center of town where we stop briefly before turning around and hiking back the other way. Usually the last 1/4 of the hike is in darkness. This time I brought my headlamp, although we could have managed without it.
Today we enjoyed the company of Alice Mestemacher, Ron Bobb, David Bushnell, Laura Bushnell, Bill Bushnell, Michael Thompson, John, Karen, Judy, Anna, Glenn, Jules, and for part of the walk, Einar, Anne, and Aurora.
All photos were taken hand-held except for the last shot of the moon where the camera was placed on a fixed object.
Jack Visits, January 2013 - I took care of Jack, Laura's 6-month old puppy (ridge-less) Ridgeback for four days. Aside from sleeping, eating, and pooping, Jack played with his toys, took walks, and especially enjoyed playing with brooms.
I discovered his interest in brooms when I was trying to sweep some debris off the driveway with the push broom. Jack wouldn't stay away and kept attacking the business end. I think the motion and the hissing sound of the broom being swept across the pavement must have activated his chase instinct.
So that the my push broom wouldn't get trashed from his biting and gnawing, I found an old whisk broom that had been sitting in my closet and let him play with that.
Low-Key Party, December 11, 2012 - Pat Parseghian organized this year's Low-Key gathering at Sports Basement Sunnyvale. In spite of the free food, empty chairs attest to turnout that wasn't as numerous as in prior years. The photo was taken at the start of the proceedings while Ron Brunner was discussing his video. A few more folks filtered in later during Dan's presentation.
Jack Visits, November 2012 - Over the Thanksgiving holiday I took care of Jack while Laura was out of town. We spent a few days together taking walks, running around the yard, chasing balls and brooms, chewing on toys and rotten pomelos, and sitting in the warm sun. I gave him the run of the back yard, and he seemed to enjoy himself.
These photos and videos are snapshots of his activity over the three-day visit.
|Cumulative climbing:||2130 feet|
Kennedy Trail, November 17, 2012 - Frank Paysen and I hiked up Kennedy Trail from its trailhead to its junction with Priest Rock Trail. I did a fast-walk in an attempt to log a semi-respectable time on the self-timed Low-Key Hill Climb, but I did not run or jog. I'm not sure I would have been faster running or jogging as my heart rate was about as high as I could take it for an hour's climb, around 145 bpm—max is approximately 160 bpm. Frank was happier walking at a slower pace, so on the climb we kept in touch occasionally with two-way radios.
On the way up I saw a number of cyclists descending, some of them seen at past Low-Key Hill Climbs including Stephen Fong, Han Wen, Clark Foy, Rich Hill, Paul McKenzie, and others.
I probably would not have chosen this day to do this climb but for the fact that I had never been on Kennedy Trail before, either on foot or bike, we had a brief window of good weather, the self-timed Low-Key Hill Climb was going the same day, and I was ready to get some exercise before the next few days of rain set in.
After I got to the top, I found a sunny place to sit next to the trail sign while I waited for Frank. Frank arrived at the top just before I would have started down as I was getting cold in the wind, even with all of my clothes on. While we descended the trail I managed to get a few photos of cyclists (Clark Foy, David Collet, and Carl Nielson) climbing up at this late hour and of the sun setting on clouds over the eastern hills. The air was unusually clear. We used headlamps on the last 1/2-mile of the trail where tree cover attenuated the already dim twilight, rendering muddy spots on the trail invisible.
|Cumulative climbing:||2810 feet|
Black Mountain, October 18, 2012 - David and Bill Bushnell hiked to the summit of Black Mountain from the Rhus Ridge Trailhead and returned the same way afterward. Along the way we noticed that the Quarry Trail that connects the PG&E Trail in Rancho San Antonio to the Black Mountain Trail in Montebello Open Space was officially open with new trail signs marking the way.
Conditions were hot and stifling (high 80s F) at the trailhead but the temperature dropped as we climbed and the wind speed increased. At the summit of Black Mountain the temperature dropped to about 73F and the wind was blowing steady at about 30mph with gusts to 40mph.
As we hiked back down the trail the wind followed us part way, blowing the tops of the oak trees on the ridge but remaining calm under the trees. As we made the final descent to the trailhead, the wind died, the flies came out, and the air became stifling again.
This was the first fair-weather hike up Black Mountain I can recall where weather was so different at the summit from the trailhead.
|Cumulative climbing:||1790 feet|
Mount Tamalpais, September 30, 2012 - David and Bill Bushnell began their hike at Pantoll Ranger Station in Mt. Tamalpais State Park. Our goal was to hike a loop through the park and the Marin Water District Land, including the West Peak of Mt. Tamalpais.
After I discovered to my horror that I had forgotten my camera and would be reduced to using my cellphone camera on this day, we started up Old Stage Road and the Easy Grade Trail to the Mountain Theater, where we paused to inspect the outdoor theater with its stone benches.
We continued on Rock Spring Road and the Mountain Top Trail that took us to the shoulder (2460ft) of West Peak where we found a number of old foundations from the old Air Force buildings that had been abandoned.
From West Peak we could see in all directions but east-northeast, where our view was blocked by the true West Peak (2560ft) that we learned later would have required squeezing through or under a chain link fence to get inside the still-active FAA radar station, although it appears from the small hole in the fence that this had been done before.
After exploring some of the old buildings and facilities of the base (e.g. ball court and bowling alley), we descended Arturo Trail steeply to Rifle Camp on the north side of the peak. From Rifle Camp we turned westward, hiking through Potrero Meadow to Potrero Camp, where we stopped to eat a snack.
At Potrero Camp we discovered picnic tables and a coat and hat rack permanently anchored in the ground. The old-time picnickers must have found a use for something so quaint.
After our snack we pressed up Laurel Dell Road past the turnoff for Barth's Retreat and detoured onto Old Stove Trail down to Laurel Dell picnic area. We continued through the picnic area, that was surprisingly crowded with picnickers, on Cataract Trail as far as Cataract Falls. Since water was low in the creek there was nothing to see, although we could hear water splashing around somewhere down in the rocks.
After viewing what would have been the Falls at another time of year, we retraced our steps back to Laurel Dell and then continued up Cataract Trail as far as the cutoff to Laurel Dell Road that we climbed to Ridgecrest Road.
At Ridgecrest Road we crossed to the west side of the ridge that was no cooler on this hot day. We descended briefly on Willow Camp Trail to Coastal Trail that we took, heading southwest toward Pantoll Ranger Station.
Coastal Trail was quite dramatic with its view of the Pacific Ocean far below. The trail was narrow, uncomfortably so for passing hikers going the opposite way, and pock-marked with gopher holes, requiring one's full attention, lest one should stumble and tumble down the hill. The slope of the hillside was quite steep, and the dry grass made the surface slick such that a tumble might send one for some distance before coming to a stop. Might not be the best trail for individuals affected by vertigo.
After a countless number of twists and turns we reached the junction with the Matt Davis Trail that runs between Pantoll and Stinson Beach. We continued toward Pantoll, meeting many groups of hikers on this section. I stopped at a small hill a short distance off the trail to see how many bay area repeaters I could ping (about 70-80 altogether, most of them with 1 watt).
The Matt Davis Trail entered the forest shortly and continued gradually downhill to Pantoll Ranger Station, where the van with its upholstered seats was a welcome sight.
|Cumulative climbing:||2740 feet|
Big Basin: Chalk Mountain and West Ridge, September 2, 2012 - Bill Bushnell, David Bushnell, and Frank Paysen met at Waddell Creek Beach shortly after 1000. Our plan was for the three of us to drive in one car to the Whitehouse Canyon trailhead for Whitehouse Ridge Trail. We got into Frank's car and began the short shuttle north to Whitehouse Canyon.
When we turned off onto Whitehouse Canyon Road, we were immediately met with a washboard dirt road that we drove slowly for three miles to the trailhead.
At the trailhead we made our final preparations and set off on the steep Whitehouse Ridge Trail toward Chalk Mountain.
The trail did not look well-used, there being many unbroken leaves, twigs, and needles covering the trail, although the trail was easy to follow. We made good time on the first half-mile, climbing steeply on singletrack mostly, but occasionally along an old logging road alignment through a forest of mixed redwood and douglas fir.
At the sign for the lower vista point we detoured the short distance to enjoy the view for a brief moment. After returning to the trail we continued the steep climb up the shady side of the ridge before arriving at a bench where a sign suggested we explore the upper vista point. Since we weren't planning to come this way again for a while we made the best of it by taking these detours to points of interest along the way.
This upper vista point required more walking than the lower, the trail passing by a small view spot but continuing another tenth of a mile down the ridge to a wider view, complete with bench and plaque. We rested here to enjoy the view and to debate whether the rushing noise we could hear from the coast was the sound of distant surf or the sound of automobile tires rolling on tarmac.
After several minutes we rose and plodded back up the ridge to rejoin the main trail. We then continued toward Chalk Mountain Road, but before we reached the road we left the cool forest for a drier manzanita-covered sun-bleached terrain, crushed sandstone shining white and hot in the sun, what no doubt gave Chalk Mountain its name.
In exchange for enduring the sweltering heat we enjoyed an expansive view of Whitehouse Canyon and Old Woman Ridge to the north.
The trail dipped then rose again before joining Chalk Mountain Road. We turned left, uphill and trudged steadily up the hot road toward Chalk Mountain.
At the first junction we detoured to what I call the western summit of Chalk Mountain. I had visited this summit six years ago by bike when two sheet metal sheds were standing. This time only one shed remained, apparently in service of a CDF radio repeater. A relatively new solar array at been erected to keep the system powered at night.
My memory was a bit off as I had recalled a wide open view from this summit unobstructed by sheds. As it turns out my memory was partially correct, as the view is unobstructed south of the shed. This visit found one of the sheds dismantled and lying in a scrap heap next to the CDF shed.
We lingered here long enough to take a panorama photo before heading off to the higher eastern summit of Chalk Mountain, where the view was less good due to the abundant vegetation surrounding the summit.
At the eastern summit we lingered longer, stopping to eat lunch, test ping a variety of near and not-so-near HAM repeaters, and to compose an email--I had 3G service. We also saw one mountain biker ride up to the summit and leave a minute later without saying a word. I'm not even sure he noticed us sitting nearby in the only shady spot with comfortable seating on the summit. We were quiet.
After eating lunch we walked down to the start of Westridge Trail. Westridge Trail runs from Chalk Mountain down the undulating West Ridge of Big Basin State Park, through the Waddell Creek Wilderness Area, eventually connecting to Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, and to Waddell Creek Beach, where we had left my van.
We initially descended over chalk rock to the south of the summit but shortly entered a cool forest before breaking out into the sun again and continuing down a steep descent on what appeared to be an old overgrown fire road.
The trail was quite steep and we were all hoping that there wasn't too much of this and, more importantly, that we would not be forced to return the same way.
From the summit of Chalk Mountain at 1609ft, we had descended in barely a mile to about 900 feet elevation, a local minimum along the ridge before climbing almost as steep a trail to a summit along the ridge at 1096 feet, then down again before climbing again, sometimes steeply, but often more gradually through a pleasant forest, to 1390 feet.
While climbing through this forest we all three took an impromptu sit-down break on the soft pine and redwood needles covering the verge of the trail, taking care not to sit upon one of the many spider webs woven into the duff.
As we continued the trail climbed past the summit, then down again, sometimes steeply. The trail was often trenched, a condition I had seen more often many years ago due to frequent horse travel. Fewer people ride horseback these days on the longer more remote trails than hike or bike, so trails are less trenched.
As we descended yet again we saw ahead another tall summit along the ridge and not so secretly hoped that we would reach the junction with Clark Connection Trail before we had to surmount it.
Our wish was granted, but only after we had climbed part way back up. We paused briefly at the junction to enjoy the ridge view one last time before plunging down off the east side on Clark Connection Trail toward Waddell Creek.
Clark Connection Trail descended steeply almost without pause. Near the bottom we stopped to rest our descent-weary knees at a convenient log that was just large enough to accommodate our three butts.
After several minutes we continued a short distance to the junction with Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail where we encountered our first humans since the summit of Chalk Mountain.
Our route now took us less than two miles along Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail that for the first mile and a half stubbornly insisted on ascending as it got closer to the sea before abruptly descending to CA1 and the waiting van with its upholstered seats.
We encountered several parties hiking the other way. As they did not appear to be equipped for the 10-mile hike to Big Basin's headquarters, or as the vandalized trail signs indicated, "BIG BASIN HO", we assumed they must be returning to their campsites at one of the campgrounds up Waddell Creek.
When we got to CA1, we could see that every parking place at the beach and alongside the road was taken. The place was packed with beach-goers, hikers, surfers, and kite-surfers.
After we left to drive Frank to the Whitehouse Canyon Trailhead to pick up his car, our parking spot was immediately taken by someone else arriving.
This hike reminded me most of our North Butano Ridge hike last year. Both hikes required car shuttles, although the North Butano car shuttle was so long that it was impractical to hike as one group, forcing us to break into two groups hiking in opposition, meeting only once for lunch at the midway point. Both hikes took seldom-used trails through some of the most remote areas in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The views were better from Chalk Mountain and West Ridge than from North Butano, but both shared the characteristic that one felt far from civilization.
|Cumulative climbing:||2670 feet|
Pinnacles National Monument, August 26, 2012 - Frank Paysen, Stella Hackell, Ron Bobb, David Bushnell, and Bill Bushnell gathered at the Bear Gulch Day Use trailhead for a day-hike in and around the pinnacles at Pinnacles National Monument.
After getting our gear together and using the restrooms we started up Condor Gulch Trail that ascends directly from the parking area.
The day was forecast to be cool for the season, but this meant it would be warm by Bay Area standards. Temperatures in the mid-80s F were expected, and the sun was getting a head start in Condor Gulch. A slight breeze blowing up-canyon made sure that the apparent wind over our skin was zero.
Half-way up the trail we paused briefly at Observation Point where we had a good view back down the canyon to the parking area. As we continued Frank and Stella got a short distance ahead of us on the trail. At one point when I called for Frank or Stella on our two-way UHF radios a strange-sounding woman replied (who I later learned was Stella), relaying the message to Frank. They had hiked around to the other side of the ridge we were climbing and were out of direct contact.
As we got to the top of the ridge we saw Frank and Stella getting ready to split off on their longer loop. Their plan was to hike down to Old Pinnacles on the High Peaks Trail, then go northwest on Old Pinnacles Trail along North Chalone Creek and through Balconies Caves before passing by Chaparral parking area on the west side of the park and climbing back up to the high peaks area, where we would be waiting for them.
After exchanging photos, me of them, and Frank of us, they headed off down the ridge toward Old Pinnacles. David, Ron, and I continued in the opposite direction up High Peaks Trail where before long we began to pass through pinnacle gardens. At one point I scrambled a short distance off the trail to be photographed near one of the larger pinnacles.
Frank and I did not frequently attempt radio contact, but when we did we found that the VHF frequency worked better when we were not directly line-of-sight separated. We even managed to hold a decent conversation on VHF (quality=5 or 6 at 5 watts) when Frank and Stella were deep in the canyon alongside North Chalone Creek as long as we were both stationary. I suspect that the sparse vegetation and rock formations in the area bounce the radio signals without attenuating them too much or that the 2m band diffracts around the ridge a little better than the 70cm UHF band.
From the high peaks area I was able to raise repeaters on Mt. Toro, in nearby Bear Valley, a few in the Felton/Ben Lomond area, and Loma Prieta, even though I could not see the summit of the latter.
We (Ron, David, and I) continued on High Peaks Trail as it began its more technical section, starting with a climb up two steep stairways cut into the rock (1 and 2) and a low-clearance traverse that led to the high point along the trail where we enjoyed a sweeping view of Bear Valley and points south and east.
This would have been a perfect lunch spot had we been here a couple hours later. Unfortunately, hot sun was beating down and the complete absence of shade or wind made this spot stifling. We pressed on and arrived at another similar spot where a large overhanging rock offered abundant shade.
I suggested we stop for lunch, but Ron believed that the area closer to the high peaks rest room was better, so we continued another couple tenths of a mile where we found a freestanding bench on the ridge baking in the sun. Fortunately a large rock offered some shade on its southeast side, but the shrubbery blocked any view. The rest room was nearby but not unpleasantly close.
We ate lunch here and were entertained by a handsome scrub jay as it picked up several spilled peanuts, eating some, and hiding others in the ground, placing a small stone over each hiding spot as if it had been trained to do so. As the jay collected its nuts it twittered and purred softly, a sound I had not heard a jay make before now.
While David and Ron were still enjoying their luncheon I walked a few steps back to the bench standing in the hot sun and attempted to raise Frank on the radio. The timing was good as he and Stella had only a short time ago emerged from Balconies Cave and were trying to raise me on the radio.
We got a decent signal at first on VHF at 5 watts. But as they came around the bend near the parking lot and were within line of sight--I could actually see them through my binoculars on the trail visible to the right of the parking lot--we switched back to UHF at 1 watt and were able to get full quieting (signal quality=9 or 10).
They would be climbing up Juniper Canyon Trail 1.2 miles under the hot sun. Our plan was for me to meet them where Juniper Canyon Trail meets the lower end of Tunnel Trail, 0.6 miles below the ridge. Meanwhile David and Ron planned to backtrack to the shady spot under the rock but with a nice view on High Peaks Trail and wait for us (Frank, Stella, and me) to join them after traversing High Peaks Trail.
As I hiked down Juniper Canyon Trail from the ridge, the wind died, and the sun beat down fiercely. It felt like an oven, and I was only walking downhill.
I arrived at the trail junction. There wasn't much shade, but I did manage to find a rock to sit upon where the shrubs offered just enough shade for comfort. Frank and Stella had made good time and were not too far down the hill. Within ten minutes of my arrival at the junction I could hear their voices through the air. I tried unsuccessfully to contact David by radio on VHF. Too much mountain in the way, and no good opportunities to get a reflected or refracted signal to them. When Frank and Stella arrived they both looked hot and tired. We rested for another five minutes before starting up Tunnel Trail.
Tunnel Trail enters an interesting area of steep terrain and sharp, jutting pinnacles. At one point the trail passes through a tunnel bored through one of the larger pinnacles, then continues zig-zagging its way up to the junction with High Peaks Trail. This time I was able to successfully contact David to update him on our location and progress.
When we got to High Peaks Trail we retraced the route I had already hiked with David and Ron, up and over the stone stairway, then down again. Before long we were a group of five again. We all paused and ate a second lunch at this shady spot with a nice view on High Peaks Trail before continuing.
When we reached the bench in the sun we paused briefly while some of us used the rest room before commencing our descent toward Bear Gulch. Halfway down to the bottom the trail entered an open area with a sweeping view of pinnacles and a lava flow, including a curious-looking hoodoo.
Frank and Stella descended quickly, getting ahead of us while we stopped to take some photos. Our initial plan was to take Rim Trail to Bear Gulch Reservoir and then return through Bear Gulch Caves, but when we arrived at the junction Frank, Stella, and David had had enough for one day and voted to skip the caves this time and take the shortest way back to the car.
So, we all skipped the caves and continued down to the road, then through the picnic areas and to the car, arriving at about 1800. Unfortunately, the car was still in the sun.
Kumba and Jack, August 25, 2012 - Laura brought the dogs over to romp and play in my back yard for the afternoon. Activities included lying on cool grass, playing with each other, chasing the lure, and getting nails clipped. (Ouch!)
|Cumulative climbing:||2100 feet|
El Corte de Madera Open Space Preserve, August 15, 2012 - Frank Paysen and I exchanged Skype chats the night before and settled on a loop hike at El Corte de Madera Open Space. Last year we had hiked a loop on the western side of the preserve, so this hike would explore the eastern side.
At first it was to be the two of us, but at the last minute I thought to put out an announcement to my short distribution list of folks who might be available on a Wednesday to do this hike, a good day to go hiking as we were unlikely to run into many or any mountain bikers who are the primary visitors to this preserve.
To my surprise I got two affirmative replies, and David Bushnell and Steve Prothero joined us.
We carpooled to the trailhead and were on the trail before 1100. We took the Gordon Mill Trail from Skyline Blvd. down into the depths of the preserve.
Starting a loop hike with a long descent feels a little like going into debt. But Gorden Mill Trail was pretty and the forest quiet. In fact we did not see any other visitors on any of the trails during our entire visit.
At Virginia Mill Trail we descended a short steep section, then continued to a surprisingly wide bridge over Lawrence Creek before which a sign had been posted warning that the bridge would not support a motor vehicle, nevermind how one would get a motor vehicle onto the bridge from its singletrack approaches.
The bridge was the topographical low point of the day. From here it was uphill back to the car for David and a bit more than that for the rest of us.
Virginia Mill Trail climbed gently to a junction with Lawrence Creek Trail. We turned left and started up a mostly ascending trail. A quick glance at the map did not immediately reveal that the trail climbed almost continuously. I had last ridden my bike on it many years ago, and my memory of it was a trail that was mostly rolling until it crossed the creek again further upstream.
We stopped once for a rest break on the climb, and we stopped again a few tenths of a mile further for a longer lunch break where David who is temporarily on a liquid diet tried a Clif Shot energy gel and liked it.
After lunch we continued uphill, stopping to photograph a pretty spider web, until we reached Blue Blossom Trail. At this point after a brief conference, David decided he wanted to take the most direct way back to the car, so he continued on Lawrence Creek Trail to Bear Gulch Road, then walked the road back to Skyline and to the waiting car.
The rest of us, myself, Frank, and Steve, pressed on down the Blue Blossom Trail that mostly descended back into the canyon. The trail was a pretty meandering singletrack that was neither too steep nor too rough. Some of us considered coming back to try it on a bike someday.
When we got to Springboard Trail we continued straight and slightly downhill to the junction with the Steam Donkey Trail.
We turned right and began our climb back to Skyline with a sharp incline followed by several sharp ascents and descents, a root-bound section, a trenched section, and plenty of steep stuff, mostly uphill. David would not have been happy to climb this tough trail at the end of a hike, so we were thinking it was good that he bailed out when he did.
Eventually we arrived at the gate at Skyline Blvd., and after a short walk back along the road we arrived at the van where David had set up a makeshift encampment to dry out his sweat-soaked shirts, much to the apparent consternation–we were told–of the woman who lived in the nearby house.
|Cumulative climbing:||2820 feet|
Big Basin Waterfalls, August 12, 2012 - Stella Hackell, Frank Paysen, and Bill Bushnell carpooled to Big Basin State Park and hiked a loop out to Berry Creek and back from the park headquarters to enjoy the waterfalls. The weather was hot for most of the day, a good day to do a waterfall hike.
Since we arrived late we had to park up North Escape Road, adding a few tenths of a mile to our day. We started on Dool Trail, then took Sunset Trail west over several ridges to Berry Creek Falls Trail five miles and two hours later in stifling heat that was relieved only while we were moving. Not a breath of wind to cool us, so we had to keep moving to stay cool. Cool air was not to be found, even low in the canyons.
As we started down Berry Creek Falls Trail we could hear splashing water and many voices. We stopped for lunch below Golden Cascade as a large Filipino family were leaving. While we ate lunch several other parties came by. One of them drew drinking water from the creek (and through a filter) into their water bottles.
After lunch we continued down Berry Creek Falls Trail, past the precipitous brink of Silver Falls, down through the narrow canyon of Berry Creek and past the observation deck for Berry Creek Falls. We saw many park visitors exploring along the creek, bathing, or otherwise relaxing near the flowing water.
The creek still had enough water in it to give a pleasing display at the three waterfalls: Golden Cascade, Silver Falls, and Berry Creek Falls. I had expected only a trickle given the early rain season we had had this year.
When we reached the junction of Berry Creek Falls Trail and Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, we sat down to discuss our return strategy. After some consideration we decided to split up. Frank wanted to hike back the long way on the ridge, and Bill and Stella preferred to take the shorter route back up the cool canyon. We would remain in contact using our two-way radios.
Frank set off first toward Waddell Beach before turning left onto the Howard King Trail to return over McAbee Mountain. Stella and I lingered near the junction while we had good radio contact with Frank so that we could be sure Frank found the left turn for the Howard King Trail.
It turns out he missed it while he was hiking south on Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail and had to backtrack a hundred yards. Once he was safely on his way up Howard King Trail we knew we'd end up at the same place, eventually. Stella and I then started our hike up the canyon on Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail.
We passed another observation deck for Berry Creek Falls that could be seen through a parting of the trees. We then continued up alongside Waddell Creek (west fork), crossing the creek, climbing up some standstone steps, checking out the view atop of a sandstone cliff, and passing many old growth redwoods.
At one point we chose to branch off the main trail onto Alternate Trail. The longer Alternate Trail crossed Kelly Creek and a few others, one on a bridge that looked ready to give way at any moment.
Before long we were back on the main trail, and shortly after that we began the main climb up to Middle Ridge, the last climb of the day for us.
On our way up to Middle Ridge we passed and were passed by several parties of hikers. We were seldom alone on this part of the hike, unlike the Sunset Trail, where we saw other hikers once every half-hour or so. The dusty surface of the trail gave hint that it was more heavily-traveled than the less-dusty Sunset Trail.
We made sporadic contact with Frank over our two-way radios. At first we tried using a UHF frequency, but once we were no longer separated line-of-sight through the trees we switched to a VHF frequency and had better signal quality, often full-quieting. VHF worked much better when one of us was just out of line-of-sight, around a corner, or over the brow of a ridge. But even VHF and "high" power wasn't enough to overcome conditions where one of us was deep in the canyon or on the opposite side of a ridge.
When Stella and I reached the junction with Middle Ridge Trail we found a comfortable place to sit away from the frequent crowds that gathered at this junction. I hiked a short distance up Howard King Trail to look for a log, rock, or some other comfortable object to sit upon, but when I didn't find anything within a tenth of a mile of the junction I returned and we found a couple of low rocks to sit upon while we waited.
We didn't have to wait long. Frank's route was about a mile and a half longer than ours, with 400 feet more climbing, and Stella and I had lingered in a few spots taking photos. We were able to contact Frank by radio and to assess his progress when we arrived at the junction--he wasn't far away. Ten minutes later he said he could hear our voices through the trees, and then he appeared from around the corner.
We all three rested for a few more minutes then started down the last leg of our hike toward the park headquarters. We reached the car just before 1800, our hike duration approximately 6:30 altogether.
|Cumulative climbing:||2690 feet|
Huddart Park to Wunderlich Park, August 5, 2012 - Bill Bushnell, Stella Hackell, and Frank Paysen met at the Page Mill Park 'n' Ride, then continued as a caravan to Wunderlich Park where we found the main parking area overflowing onto CA84. I managed to park off the highway on a soft shoulder, then changed my shoes and hopped into Frank and Stella's car where the three of us continued in their car to Huddart Park.
We paid our fee, entered the park, and found the Miwok picnic area empty of people. We parked across from the start of the Archery Fire Road, where we started our hike.
After making our final preparations and visits to the loo we started up Archery Fire Road, the shortest and also steepest climb to the Skyline Trail, about 1.3 miles of steep uphill.
We saw no other hikers on the trail, but we did see other hikers at its junctions with other trails as well as at the Archery Range near the top of our climb. Since this road climbs adjacent to Kings Mountain Road, essentially cutting off the switchbacks of the latter, we saw many cyclists climbing and descending the road.
Not much time passed before our sweaty bodies reached the Skyline Trail junction. We turned left and descended a short distance to cross Kings Mountain Road.
As Squealer Gulch deepened between the trail and Kings Mountain Road, we began a quiet part of the hike, out of earshot of Skyline Blvd. and other traffic noise. At this point the Skyline Trail we were hiking upon (also called the Bay Area Ridge Trail) crosses a corner of Teague Hill Open Space and then runs along a narrow easement between Skyline Blvd. (Caltrans) or private landowners on the uphill side and California Water property around Bear Creek on the downhill side.
Along here we saw the only other hiker (runner, actually) we would see between Huddart and Wunderlich Parks coming from the opposite direction.
The Skyline Trail zigged and zagged a number of times as it rounded a ridge or gully. The trail was well-graded and mostly smooth. There was some evidence of horse passage: random piles of day-old horse poop and on the verge of the trail an occasional hoof depression of the sort that when stepped in by the unwary can cause a twisted ankle.
After the first two miles we were within earshot of Skyline Blvd. for the next three miles, and while we could hear the occasional loud PUTT-PUTT-PUTT of Harleys cruising by above, traffic noise was not soo frequent as to cancel out all of our pleasure.
At one point I stopped at the Clara May Lazarus bench to take a quick break off my feet and to enjoy the silence of the forest. Frank and Stella continued on ahead, although I informed them of my pause over the radio.
A mile later Stella requested we look for a good lunch stop spot. I had just passed a bunch of cut logs by the trail that appeared to offer some seating comfort, so we stopped there for about 20 minutes to eat our luncheons and to study our maps (1, 2). We concluded that we were at about the half-way point on the hike.
After eating we pressed on the trail much as before. But, before long the trail encountered a large unihabited house built in a clearing. It was clear that the builders had cleared some of the trees so that the occupants of the house could enjoy a sweeping view. The trail descended below the property and at the same time passed above another house that also appeared to be unoccupied, given the thick layer of pine needles on its roof and driveway, and its dark windows staring blankly back at us.
The trail climbed briefly before crossing Bear Gulch Road (east), a road similar in profile to Old La Honda Road, that in 1978 had been refurbished at public expense and essentially given (formally abandoned) to the owners of the attached properties by a corrupt San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. Of course the road is closed to public travel now.
After crossing Bear Gulch Road (east) we climbed a short distance further before arriving at the top of Wunderlich Park. We paused for a photo then began our descent of the Alambique Trail that zigs and zags around several ridges and gullies before arriving at The Crossroads where we paused again for an extended break on the comfortable bench that had been conveniently installed.
After our break we continued on the Alambique Trail, then took the Bear Gulch Trail across The Meadows then continued down to the parking lot at the bottom. We saw many other hikers on the last four miles of our hike in Wunderlich Park. It would appear that Wunderlich gets many more visitors than Huddart. I can't help but think that the parking fee at Huddart Park and the lack of one at Wunderlich creates the incentive.
After we got down to my van, we drove back into Huddart Park so that Frank and Stella could pick up their car.
Overall it was a good hike on relatively easy-to-walk trails. The main downside is that it requires a short car-shuttle.
|Cumulative climbing:||1560 feet|
Henry Cowell State Park, July 29, 2012 - After much back-and-forth email and Skype messaging, Frank Paysen, Stella, and I finally settled on a nice, cool loop hike through the redwoods of Henry Cowell State Park.
Sunday mid-morning we (Frank, Stella, Bill, and David Bushnell) carpooled down to Santa Cruz, then backtracked up CA9 to the Rincon Trailhead where we started our hike.
The hike started with a nice walk through a redwood forest and down into the San Lorenzo River Canyon. Our planned route took us on the Diversion Dam Trail, making a crossing of the San Lorenzo River at its most upstream crossing for trails in the southern end of the park.
When we got to Frisbee Beach, a small spit of sand in the river, we saw that the crossing was a deep green pool that David called "zoo water". At its deepest it looked to be five feet or so. I'd get wet up to my chest, and Stella would have to swim. Scratch that.
Frank and Stella explored on a little bit, looking for an easier crossing upstream on a use trail, and on our way back to the Rincon Trail I detoured a couple of times to the river's edge, looking for an alternate crossing. If we had found such it was not certain there would be an easy path on the opposite shore.
When we got back to Rincon Trail we headed down to the river and came upon a small beach where a couple of families were playing and wading. When I last crossed here in 1988 I recall water only ankle-deep and sand on both sides. The crossing here looked uncomfortably deep in a few spots and mostly rocky on the bottom. We could not distinctly see the trail on the other side, but it looked easier to cross than the zoo-water pool on the Diversion Dam Trail.
I volunteered to go first and explore so that others could judge the depth and then decide whether to continue or not. But, Frank was first out of his shoes and ventured in first. The deepest water was up to Frank's crotch, so this looked do-able. Stella would get a bit more wet. Resigning herself to a "wet pants" hike, she was game to give it a try.
Frank, David, and I crossed downstream from the narrow rock dam that had been erected to create a pool in front of the beach. For some reason Stella decided to cross behind this dam rather than in front of it. Perhaps the bottom looked smoother and easier to walk, or the dam gave her a feeling of security.
Her trip across started O.K., but mid-way she stumbled and found herself going a bit deeper than she expected. After she got wet her manner suggested that she would not be dissuaded from pressing on.
We spent some time drying off on the opposite shore. The radio she was carrying got dunked and had stopped working–Frank removed the battery and put it in a mesh pocket in his pack.
After another ten minutes of assessing our condition and putting on our shoes and socks, we started the steep climb up Rincon Trail, passing the junction of the Diversion Dam Trail about 1/3 of the way up to the top of the ridge.
At Cathedral Redwoods we saw three women on horseback, and not far behind them a couple of women on unicycles.
Our route took us up the Ridge Trail into the drier and sandier terrain surrounding the Observation Deck where we stopped to eat lunch and to enjoy the view in the warm breeze. We shared the one picnic table on the Observation Deck with a couple from Colorado who had ridden mountain bikes up the hill.
After finishing our lunch we hiked down the Powder Mill Trail that could have been named aptly the "Powder Trail" on account of the sandy and dusty trail surface. We continued on the Powder Mill Fire Road until we reached Pipeline Road.
This crossing has two parts: the first is a crossing of a smaller branch of the river. Last time we hiked this way we were able to cross this on the stones and branch that had been placed over the stream. I decided to go barefoot for this first part, but I regretted my decision while hiking through the sharp rocks and horse poop on the short trail to the second part, the longer crossing.
At this point Frank and Stella made preparations to cross, while David caught up to us. I started across first. The water did not look any deeper than it had been two years ago, and indeed it was not. But, the rocks felt sharper and less friendly. Perhaps it was my extra hike in bare feet that exhausted my tolerance for walking barefoot. My delicate feet were being tortured with a thousand points of pain.
David saved himself the trouble of taking off his boots and simply rolled up his pants and strode into the water fully-shod.
Stella gave her sticks to David. She didn't want to use the sticks, but when she got halfway across, she stumbled again, almost but not quite taking another dunking, and decided to accept her sticks back from David.
Frank, who had already crossed, and had not yet put his shoes back on offered to walk part way back out to hand David my sticks as he began to look unsteady without them.
At the third crossing David was on the other side before we started to take our shoes off. The third crossing was the easiest of the four.
I had hoped to find the remnants of the Buckeye Trail that heads straight down the canyon to join the Rincon Trail, saving us an extra 400 feet of climbing and descending and an extra mile of distance. But, I only found a use trail that led to the Big Rock Hole trail that climbs the ridge, and a potential fourth crossing of the river. We decided as a group to go with the devil we knew rather than explore the devil we didn't. Also, it was getting late.
So, we hiked back up to the Rincon Trail near Cathedral Redwoods before descending again to the fourth and final crossing, the same as our first crossing. This time everyone made it across in style.
On our way back up Rincon Trail to the trailhead I detoured briefly to explore the southern end of Buckeye Trail. The trail did not go far before either crossing the river or turning into a rough deer trail that required climbing over fallen trees or scrambling directly up steep hillsides. Perhaps it was a good decision not to try to press through from the other side.
At the end of the hike we changed out of our wet shoes and clothes as much as we could before joining heavy traffic heading back over the hill from Santa Cruz.
|Cumulative climbing:||1850 feet|
Almaden Quicksilver County Park, July 18, 2012 - David and Bill Bushnell hiked a loop at Almaden Quicksilver County Park.
We started at the Mockingbird Hill trailhead with its vast parking lot that I suspect is rarely filled anywhere near capacity.
We started on the Hacienda Trail, hiking up grades that reached over 30% in places. We stopped to enjoy the view at a bench that had been installed at one of the high points on the trail with a clear view of San Jose.
Following our brief rest we continued down then up, then down to the junction with the Capehorn Pass Trail where we turned right and hiked the short connector to the Mine Hill Trail. At the Mine Hill Trail we turned right and continued our climb up.
We saw one cyclist climbing and descending we encountered a park ranger and sheriff's deputy walking downhill in a liesurely manner, an extraordinary sight. They looked fresh as if they hadn't been walking far, yet they were not near a vehicle. This is the first time I've seen a ranger on foot inside a park anywhere. They were out of sight by the time I thought to ask them if something was going on (e.g. missing person search, etc.) in the park.
At the Castillero Trail we turned left and climbed the short hill up to English Camp and its collection of building ruins and historical artifacts. We stopped to read the plaque describing the old school before continuing up to a clearing at a high point where a picnic table had been placed conveniently in the shade.
We stopped here to eat a late lunch and to enjoy the views of Mt. Hamilton toward the northeast and Mt. Umunhum closer by to the west.
After lunch we continued along the Castillero Trail where I noticed a trail leading off to the right and uphill. Perhaps it was a trail to the summit of Mine Hill. We were both curious, so we explored it.
This faint use trail climbed up alongside a drainage ditch for an old quarry that had been cut into the top of Mine Hill. The top of the drainage ditch was a large level area filling the old quarry. The summit of Mine Hill was visible atop the quarry wall, and after a brief examination we found a use trail leading up the wall that we could climb with some effort.
Taking care to avoid a slip we managed to surmount the quarry wall and then walk up to the summit of Mine Hill that had been marked with a screwdriver driven into the ground.
The view from the summit wasn't quite 360 degrees because of vegetation to the west and north, but we did have a sweeping view of Loma Prieta and Mt. Umunhum.
We tried to find an alternate route down that did not involve scaling the quarry wall. First we tried hiking west along the wall until the faint use trail petered out in a thicket of tall Scotch Broom. There did not appear to be any way to avoid a great deal of bushwhacking that way.
We returned to the summit and saw another use trail heading down a different part of the quarry wall that I had not noticed earlier. So, we went that way. The trail got a little steep in slippery toward the bottom and appeared to leave one "cliffed out" about six feet from the bottom, but once I got there I could see that a trail worked its way down without having to do any downclimbing.
To get back to the Castillero Trail we took an indirect service road that made for a comfortable walk. Our adventurous diversion to climb to the summit of Mine Hill (1728ft) was worthwhile. Once back on the Castillero Trail we headed northwest and mostly downhill.
We stopped again for a snack and to enjoy the shade at the picnic table at Bull Run, where again we had a sweeping view of Loma Ridge to the south and west.
Our hike then took us down Mine Hill Road, but not before we detoured again to visit the collapsed Catherine Tunnel and to briefly enjoy a sweeping view of San Jose where a picnic table had been conveniently installed. Seems that all the good view spots in the park, except for the summit of Mine Hill itself, have benches or picnic tables.
We continued down Mine Hill Road at a good clip on an easy downgrade, stopping to examine the workmanship of a funnel web spider and at a bench overlooking Guadalupe Reservoir near the junction with the Randol Trail.
Our hike back to the trailhead would take us mostly on the Randol and New Almaden Trails, trails that appeared on the map to be mostly level, following the contour lines. I had estimated the day's climbing at 1400 feet after an examination of the official park contour map.
As it turns out these trails were anything but level. The Randol Trail was never steep, but it was always climbing or descending, within a contour interval or two. Fortunately, the shade of the trees made these mild climbs more pleasant.
When we arrived at the junction with the Prospect Trail we found another sweeping view of south San Jose and (of course) a picnic table. So, we stopped to rest for a few minutes to enjoy the view and eat a snack before continuing down the Prospect Trail that started level, then plunged steeply down the grassy ridge before it struck the New Almaden Trail.
We turned right and began the final couple miles of our hike, climbing and descending, but never hiking on the level. Although the effort was greater than we expected, even considering we had already hiked eight miles and were getting tired, the New Almaden Trail offered a few interesting things to see: fall colors in the poison oak leaves, many stream crossings, some on new bridges, and a small grove of large manzanita trees that approached (but did not exceed) the size of those we encountered on Middle Ridge in Henry Coe State Park earlier in the summer.
At the crossing of Randol Creek we encountered another picnic table in a glade, this one looking rather sad. We were not far from the trailhead at this point, so we did not stop to sit. Only one side of the table was usable, the opposite bench having been broken.
After one final climb and short descent we arrived back at the trailhead. David was looking forward to sitting on an upholstered seat, and I was happy to be finished with a hike that had been tougher than we expected.
|Cumulative climbing:||1670 feet|
Huddart Park Loop, June 29, 2012 - David Bushnell and Bill Bushnell hiked a loop at Huddart Park.
We started from the Zwierlein trailhead where the temperature was warm, in the upper 70's F, taking the Cystal Springs Trail to Richards Road, climbing Richards Road through the Toyon Group Campground and beyond to the Summit Springs Trail. We then hiked the Summit Springs Trail to Skyline Trail and then to Chinquapin Trail that we descended into McGarvey Gulch. We switched over to the Dean Trail for the final descent back to the trailhead.
Richards Road climbs the ridge along the northern boundary of Huddart Park and does not bother with switchbacks, climbing up the gradient most of the way. Fortunately most of the climb is in the shade, and today a wind was blowing over the ridge from the coast, keeping us comfortable as we worked.
It took us little more than an hour to reach the Summit Springs Trail that traverses across the head of McGarvey Gulch and climbs further to a high point across the street from Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve.
Our descent took us down the Chinquapin Trail that we had never before hiked and the Dean Trail that we had climbed last year. David's favorite trail was the Chinquapin Trail with its good surface, even grade, and shade.
Dean Trail was not quite as nice a descent as the trail had been trenched slightly, probably from more frequent horseback use.
We had planned to take a slightly longer route that had us climbing a short distance on the Dean Trail to the Crystal Springs Trail that we would then descend to the trailhead, but we decided that the shorter route was enough.
On the Chinquapin Trail the forest has a remarkably open understory. Not much undergrowth and clutter, allowing us to appreciate the contours of the hills and to see the larger trees (mostly redwoods, douglas fir, and madrone) some distance from the trail. We were also able to see a buck that stood frozen some distance from us, probably thinking that he was far enough away not to be noticed or to be in any danger.
Overall it was a good hike that had us returning home well before sunset.
|Cumulative climbing:||2670 feet|
Henry Coe State Park, Western Zone Loop, June 24, 2012 - David Bushnell, Bill Bushnell, and Bill Preucel carpooled to Henry Coe State Park for an adventurous day hike through the Western Zone of Henry Coe.
Since this was our first hike in the park—even though I had ridden my bike to the park HQ several times I had never hiked or ridden past the end of the pavement inside the park—we stopped at the visitor's center to speak with one of the park docents who gave us a thorough description and routes recommendation for our hike.
For a variety of reasons we didn't get started until after 1100. Fortunately, the weather was expected to be no warmer than mid-70's all day we did not worry about the usual heat this time of year, nor were we too concerned with running short of water.
Our route took us first up the monument trail to the top of Pine Ridge. We walked out to Eric's Bench that sits under a large Ponderosa Pine atop the ridge. It was too cool and early in the hike to sit there for long, so we returned to the junction with the Monument Trail where we happened to run into Mike Ahern and his friend, Tanya, who were walking their bikes up Monument Trail (with the blessing of the park ranger) and were starting their own hike/bike adventure on a route similar to ours.
After parting ways with Mike and Tanya we hiked over to the Henry Coe monument, then looked for the spot where we were supposed to be able to see the Sierras in the distance. We didn't find any place with sweeping view, and when we could see past the trees, the Sierras were obscured by haze, so we didn't try too hard to find the spot.
We hiked cross-country back to Hobbs Road and continued north along Pine Ridge, descending gradually, then steeply to Little Coyote Creek. We turned right and proceeded up the Frog Lake Trail to Frog Lake where we heard twittering red-wing blackbirds and an acorn woodpecker working on an old snag standing in the lake, then continued gradually uphill to the top of Middle Ridge just below its high point.
We then turned southeast on Middle Ridge, mostly downhill through now-dry grasslands and oaks. As we descended the ridge we hiked through groves of big-berry manzanita trees that grow to over 20 feet tall. Many of these had burned in a recent fire that had swept the area a few years ago.
Less than a mile from the junction the trail dipped sharply to a low point on the ridge then climbed back up a couple hundred steep feet before resuming it's gradual downward slope to the southeast.
We stopped for a lunch break at a sunny spot with downed logs that offered moderately comfortable places to sit while we rested.
After lunch we continued down the ridge, soon reaching the junction with the Fish Trail. This was the first decision point: shall we cut the hike short and take the Fish Trail back to the car, or shall we continue down Middle Ridge Trail to Coyote Creek?
We all decided to continue.
The Middle Ridge Trail continued gradually downhill on the ridge, passing from groves of burned manzanita to grassy meadows and oaks, the grass growing six feet tall in places.
As the trail prepared to plunge down the northeast side of the ridge we stopped to get one last view to the southwest, then headed into the shade off the northeast side.
The trail was a harder hike on this lower section, plunging steeply downhill with a loose, slippery surface, then descending pleasantly or even climbing a bit. David hated this roller-coaster of steep-level-up-down trail, but we had little choice short of returning uphill to the Fish Trail, and no one wanted to do that.
Just as David was reaching the end of his patience, we broke out of the trees into a small meadow, beyond which we could see the confluence of two large creeks. Bill P. had walked on ahead out of sight and may already have scouted out the best spot for another lunch break.
When we reached the creeks at the bottom we found Bill P. resting in the shade on the other side of a dry Little Coyote Creek, next to a large stone cairn.
We discussed at some length whether to return to the car by the shortest route on the Poverty Flat Road or to press on to the Creekside Trail to China Hole before climbing back up Pine Ridge.
After a snack of gorp, David felt more like continuing, although Bill P. was worried about how much time it might take. We finally agreed to try the Creekside Trail and to turn around if the trail was less trail and more creek-walk with boulder/talus-hopping.
The Creekside Trail was narrow, but easy to follow over most of its distance to China Hole. In a couple of spots the trail climbed up above the flood plain and became more like a deer trail: narrow with sharp drop-offs. These obstacles weren't quite enough to force a retreat, but if it had been like that the whole way we might have turned back.
Finally we reached China Hole where we encounted a couple of hikers who had hiked a loop over Mt. Sizer that day and were on their return trip, having come along the footpath through The Narrows and were now planning to take the same route as we on the China Hole Trail.
As time was advancing and we were now on the return trip, we did not stop at China Hole to rest but continued up the trail. David got a second wind, "smelled the barn", and the trail was well-graded and easy to hike compared to Middle Ridge Trail. He got ahead of us on the climb up to Manzanita Point.
When Bill P. and I arrived at Manzanita Point, David was resting, waiting for us in one of the few shady spots under some chamise. At this point I hand him one of the HTs I had been carrying all day for just this occasion, so that he could walk ahead at his own pace and report in to me at each junction rather than wait for us.
We met up with David again at the Manzanita Group Camp area when he was unsure of the route.
We hiked together for a bit, but when Bill P. and I slowed to have a closer look at something along the Forest Trail David continued on ahead.
We regrouped again at the major trail junction of the Fish, Frog Lake, Corral, Springs Trails and Poverty Flat Road at a picnic table under a magnificent valley oak where we had our last snack before the final push back to the car on the Corral Trail.
We finished our hike just as the sun was getting ready to set and had already set on the Corral Trail. On our way out of the park we took a few more photos of the light of dusk on the hills and of the sunset over Anderson Reservoir.
|Cumulative climbing:||30 feet|
Walk to Dharma's, June 17, 2012 - Laura Bushnell and Bill Bushnell walked to Dharma's Restaurant. David and Kay joined us part way, then returned to the car to drive the rest of the way. Laura and I walked back, while David and Kay drove.
|Cumulative climbing:||2650 feet|
Rancho San Antonio Loop, June 13, 2012 - David and Bill Bushnell hiked a loop in Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve. Our original plan had been to hike in a cooler area, but a cool weather forecast encouraged us to change our plan to hike in a warmer area. Turns out the weather wasn't at all cool. In fact, it was quite hot.
We started at the Rhus Ridge Trailhead and hiked up the steep Rhus Ridge Trail. When we got to the pass at the top we turned left and hiked the Chamise Trail down the ridge toward Rancho San Antonio. Even with the downhill the air was still, and the sun beating down on the ground created an oven effect.
When we got down to Rogue Valley we sought the shelter of some shade and enjoyed the hike a little more, even though we were climbing uphill slightly.
The route up Black Mountain through Rogue Valley crosses a couple ridges and zig-zags quite a bit. On the climb up to the High Meadow Trail the Rogue Valley Trail zigs east as it climbs the ridge, then the High Meadow Trail zags west again.
At some point we expected some relief from the heat in the form of a breeze, but the breezes never came, at least on the climb. We stopped to rest in the shade a few times, and each time we were beset by flies. David got bitten by horseflies twice.
When we got to the PG&E Bench, the view and the comfort of sitting on something designed to be sat upon compensated for the lack of shade. A very slight breeze helped.
But, we didn't sit long before moving on. The next segment of our hike was on a trail signed only with "Please Bury Human Waste and Toilet Paper". As the trailwork was new I suspect a more appropriate name will be assigned when the trail is officially dedicated.
This trail has existed for many years as a use trail. I recall taking it two or three times in the 1980s. But, back then we had to do some bushwacking: poison oak on the lower section, and scratchy chamise along the ridge. It was a trail to take during the winter months when a jacket could be worn and when the poison oak was dormant.
Unfortunately, on this day there was no relief from the heat, the still air, and the resultant flies that inevitably sought our sweat and flesh. We stopped a few times to rest in the shade to enjoy the view behind us of the Lehigh Quarry tailings, upper Permanente Creek, and San Jose in the distance.
When we reached the Black Mountain Trail we decided to skip the hot, steep out-and-back trail to the summit.
As soon as we started downhill a cool breeze started. Lower down the Black Mountain Trail is mostly on the shady side of the ridge in the afternoon, only poking out into the sun on the flat portion before the plunge down from Rhus Ridge.
When we got to the bottom of Rhus Ridge we decided that this had been the hardest hike we had done this year, mainly due to the hot weather.
|Cumulative climbing:||2460 feet|
Stevens Canyon and Long Ridge, June 6, 2012 - David and Bill Bushnell set off from the Grizzly Flat Trailhead to hike a loop through Stevens Canyon and Long Ridge.
We started down the Grizzly Flat South trail that descends steeply for a mile before joining the lower Grizzly Flat Trail that descends more gradually to Stevens Creek.
A short distance before we got to Stevens Creek we found the faint use trail marked on our map and thought that it might lead us alongside Stevens Creek to the Table Mountain Trail, cutting off about a half-mile of extra hiking.
We followed this trail as far as we could, crossing Stevens Creek twice, before it ended abruptly amongst many fallen trees. While it might have been possible to press on, climbing over fallen trees, pushing through poison oak, and wading through the creek, doing so would have been more arduous than returning to the established trails and hiking the longer distance. So, we turned around and retraced our steps to the Grizzly Flat Trail.
Stevens Canyon is not a straightfoward canyon as it lies atop the San Andreas Fault. The Fault has pushed up hills and created sag ponds or dry depressions in the middle of the canyon and has altered the course of streams flowing down from the ridges on either side. The Canyon Trail actually follows one of these "false canyons" for some distance before returning to the main canyon. It is through one of these false canyons that we hiked while traversing from the Grizzly Flat Trail to the Table Mountain Trail.
We crossed the creek one more time before beginning a long climb to Skyline. The Lower Table Mountain Trail climbs steeply over many roots for the first mile, then the grade becomes more even near its junction with Charcoal Road, about 1/3 of the way to the top.
The Upper Table Mountain Trail starts off level to downhill before beginning its climb, sometimes steeply, up the ridge to the north of Charcoal Ridge.
Near the top we encountered a couple of guys on mountain bikes riding down who immediately dismounted and walked their bikes past us with utmost deference. Maybe they thought I looked like a ranger with my wide-brimmed hat. We exchanged pleasantries.
The trail is off-limits to bikes, but I can understand that bikers would want to ride down this trail and then ride up Charcoal Road as the latter is uphill-only for bikes. One is less likely to get caught riding on Upper Table Mountain Trail than riding down Charcoal Road as the rangers tend to patrol from their trucks and would likely only be found on the roads, not on the trails.
On the other hand I can also see why the trail is off-limits to biking. Many parts are eroded, especially where the trail is steeply graded. Other parts have become "trenched", places where the trail is sloped to a center water channel, making for uncomfortable walking. David complained several times about these sections.
We stopped a few times to rest and to eat a snack on our way up the trail, but we did finally reach the Charcoal Road trailhead. A short distance later we crossed Skyline Blvd. into Long Ridge Open Space Preserve where the vegetation was different: fewer trees and more meadows and open vistas.
We hiked the short distance to the high point in the preserve and rested for several minutes at the bench perched atop the knoll. When we finished we continued down the Hickory Oaks Trail, following signs for Grizzly Flat Parking.
We stopped again at the Leonard L. Schiff* Bench along a busy section of singletrack shared by hikers and bikers where a group of four bikers passed, led by someone who whistled to alert us to his presence and who bore a resemblance to Boris Foelsch.
We continued to the Long Ridge Trail and pressed on, stopping once more to enjoy the view from the Wallace Stegner Bench before continuing into the forest on the dark side of the ridge, eventually winding our way down an increasingly steep grade to the upper reach of Peters Creek and then up the short distance to the Grizzly Flat Trailhead.
*Schiff was one of David's college professors.
|Cumulative climbing:||2100 feet|
Saratoga Gap Loop, May 30, 2012 - Bill Preucel, David Bushnell, and Bill Bushnell hiked a loop starting from Saratoga Gap. We started down through Indian Rock Ranch on the Indian Trail, a paved road that serves the residences in the area. Near the bottom of this road we missed the turnoff for the trail into Castle Rock State Park and continued steeply to the top of a local hill before we realized our error. Upon retracing our steps we found the trail we had missed earlier and resumed the correct course.
We descended to a stream crossing before climbing up to Frog Flat and then to the Castle Rock Trail Camp where we stopped for a break.
After our break we continued south to the Ridge Trail, climbing it to Russell Point where we enjoyed the view of the San Lorenzo River Watershed. We continued up Ridge Trail, then cut over to Saratoga Gap Trail and headed back downhill, enjoying the dramatic view from this rocky trail that winds its way down a steep slope back to the Trail Camp where we stopped again for a shorter break.
The mosquitos had found us and were biting, so we didn't sit for long. Our hike back to Saratoga Gap took us up the Loghry Woods Trail to Skyline Blvd., then along the Skyline Trail that runs parallel to Skyline Blvd., arriving at the parking lot at Saratoga Gap.
The weekday meant that we had the park to ourselves. We saw only one other couple out hiking the entire day. We also heard no motorcycles put-putting on the far ridge along CA9, and the Los Altos Rod and Gun Club was blessedly silent.
|Cumulative climbing:||1500 feet|
Windy Hill Open Space Loop, May 9, 2012 - Bill Bushnell, David Bushnell, and Steve Prothero hiked a loop in Windy Hill Open Space Preserve. We started at the Alpine Road trailhead and hiked up the Hamms Gulch Trail, traversed on the Lost Trail, and descended the Razorback Ridge Trail. On the last mile of the hike we took the Eagle Trail alongside Corte Madera Creek, and hiked down a short section of Alpine Road to avoid extra up and down that we had hiked earlier.
Weather was perfect for hiking: warm at the start, especially in the sun, but cooling as we climbed to the ridge top, then reversing the temperature change on the way down.
We saw several different types of flowering plants, a large fungus, and a couple of interesting animals going about their lives.
|Cumulative climbing:||1500 feet|
Los Trancos Trail, Long Loop, May 2, 2012 - David and Bill Bushnell hiked the long version of the Los Trancos Loop at Foothills Park. Once we got away from the trailhead we saw no one else on the trail that day. It was a perfect day for hiking. Cool enough to stay comfortable on the climbs, yet not too cold for the descents. Flowers were out, probably about as good as we can expect this year with the dry rainy season. Trail was overgrown in many places, forcing us to duck. Poison oak and ticks were also at their peak. Fortunately, we managed to avoid them.
|Cumulative climbing:||3720 feet|
Mount Diablo Northern Circuit, April 22, 2012 - I almost canceled this hike due to a persistent sharp pain in my upper back (that is still present in my right shoulder as I write this), but I'm glad I stuck to the plan.
Four of us, Piaw Na, his wife, Xiaoqin Ma, Bill Preucel, and I, met at my house in Sunnyvale at 0830 and carpooled in Piaw's surprisingly capacious Honda Fit--I could sit comfortably in the rear seat--to Clayton. We parked at the end of Mountaire Parkway near the Donner Canyon Trailhead in Mount Diablo State Park.
After changing shoes, socks, packing water, and making other preparations we descended the short steep use trail to the official trailhead where we took the "photo at the beginning of the hike".
Donner Canyon Road started pleasantly through oak-studded meadows, still green from spring rain. Not many wildflowers could be seen. But before long the road made its first steep upward push, a hint of what lay before us.
At the junction with the Cardinet Oaks Trail, we headed down to Donner Creek, crossing the ford on the stones and log. Xiaoqin wanted to stop for a bite to eat, but Bill P. had already crossed the creek and had continued up the road on the other side. I crossed and arranged with Piaw that we'd meet five switchbacks up the hill, a spot where wildflowers were still offering a nice display of color.
The four of us continued past the junction with the Falls Trail until we reached a gate and the junction with the Olympia Trail that allows a connection within the state park to the Mt. Olympia Road.
The trail was narrow and felt overgrown. Poison oak was abundant but avoidable with care. I was happy to be wearing long pants. In the distance we could hear a helicopter circling over Donner Creek near where we had crossed it earlier. The beating rotor of the helicopter could be heard as it continued to circle the area for the next half hour before it eventually flew off.
Before long we emerged from the underbrush and stopped to enjoy the sweeping view from a rock next to the trail. A short while later we found ourselves walking along an old road right-of-way that was now covered with meadow grass, poppies, but mostly blooming euryops. All of the meadows on the north slope of Mt. Olympia had pleasing wildflower displays.
Where the Olympia Trail joined Mt. Olympia Road we stopped to eat lunch and enjoy the view. I exchanged a couple of Skype messages with Frank, who was still at home recovering from the flu or he would have joined us today. As I tried to send him an "instant photo", my phone crashed and rebooted, and in my rush I did not restart my GPS tracking until later on the hike.
From our lunch spot we continued up Mt. Olympia Road as it entered a broad meadow at the saddle between Mt. Olympia (2946ft) and a lesser, unnamed peak to the west. As we rounded the bend we could see the road steepen considerably as it made the final push for the summit.
The discomfort of climbing the steep road was made more pleasant by the color of the flora and, when we stopped to look back, the view. I also noticed a cumin-like scent, but could not identify which plant was producing it.
Xiaoqin and Piaw left the summit of Mt. Olympia several minutes before us, heading up the North Peak Trail. Bill P. and I did not catch up to them until just before we reached the North Peak Road, where we were greeted by the "water tank man". My theory is that if the slower hikers are in the front of the group, they go faster.
We knew the distance to North Peak was not long from here, and the road toward the peak did not look difficult yet, so we all four decided to continue up North Peak. The hardest part of the hike had been just out of view, for around the next corner the road pitched upward at a grade that makes one wonder how they got construction vehicles to the summit to build the antennas, transmitter buildings, and other services.
While the summit of North Peak (3557ft) was the highest point on our hike, it was also the least-satisfying summit on account of the large antenna arrays standing within arm's length of the true summit, their guy wires spoiling the panoramic view. Three of us managed to squeeze onto the summit rock for a cramped group photo.
We decided here that Piaw and Xiaoqin would descend the most direct route to the Donner Canyon Trailhead, while Bill P. and I would continue on the Bald Ridge and Eagle Peak Trails. If all went well we expected to meet at the car at the same time. We last saw Piaw and Xiaoqin descending The Wall on North Peak.
From North Peak we could clearly see the observation deck on the summit of Mt. Diablo (3849ft). But, we would not be hiking to the summit today as it would have made the hike too long and we had already visited that summit many times by bicycle.
When we got to Prospectors Gap, the saddle between Mt. Diablo and North Peak, we stopped briefly to check out the plaque on the history of mining at Mt. Diablo, then continued on the Bald Ridge Trail.
On the map the Bald Ridge Trail appears to descend gradually along the slope below Ransome Point, emerging on a tree-less ridge that descends to Murchio Gap. The first part of this trail did nothing but climb and descend steeply. I was beginning to think this was going to be a long, hard day when the trail finally settled into the gradually-descending grade that I had expected.
We stopped several times along Bald Ridge to photograph Bill P.'s favorite flowering ceanothus, clumps of California poppies, more euryops, a few juicy stands of poison oak and poison ivy, a plant one doesn't often see on the west coast, an occasional indian paintbrush, and to take in the sweeping view of the rugged northern slope North Peak, across which we had hiked earlier.
At Murchio Gap we could choose to head more directly down Median Ridge Road or Back Creek Trail, or we could continue on Eagle Peak Trail over the summit of Eagle Peak (2369ft).
I tried calling Piaw several times and got through on the last try. He was descending what he thought was Median Ridge Road at 2000ft elevation. Bill P. and I thought we'd have just enough time to take the longer route over Eagle Peak if we kept moving, but we would look occasionally for two figures in light-colored clothing on the exposed Median Ridge.
So we started off on the Eagle Peak Trail. Out of sight to us earlier was the ridge connecting to Eagle Peak that descends about 400 feet before making the final push to the summit. We stopped and almost turned back, thinking this might take too long after all, but since we had come this far, we decided to press on.
The descent seemed to go on longer than it ought to have, but the climb up to Eagle Peak did not take as long as I expected. We stopped to enjoy the view for a short time. I took a 360-degree panorama. Then we began the long descent to the trailhead.
The trail was narrow and rough in places. The overgrowth was just low enough to be a nuisance for a tall person, but the occasional glimpses of scenery made this inconvenience worthwhile.
At one point Bill P. and I discovered a split in the trail. I took the left branch, and Bill P. the right, but we discovered that they rejoined a short distance later. Bill P.'s branch was the more scenic, mine the more overgrown.
Just before we dropped off the ridge Bill P. discovered a Blainesville (or Coast) horned lizard basking in the sun on the trail. I was able photograph it before it scooted off into the underbrush.
Once off the ridge we continued quickly down to the big meadow near the trailhead, arriving at the car at about 1745. In the distance I could see the car and had thought I could see people moving nearby, but when we got there, Piaw and Xiaoqin were nowhere to be found, and we had never seen them on Median Ridge.
I called Piaw and learned that they had taken a wrong turn, sending them the long way around the Falls Trail and back down Cardinet Oaks Trail, the way we had ascended. They were out of water. I had a few ounces left, but I had no way to get it to them. I estimated that it would take them another 45 minutes, perhaps longer, to finish. They arrived about an hour later, and in spite of their ordeal, they looked pleased to be done.
|Cumulative climbing:||1400 feet|
Los Trancos Trail, Short Loop, April 12, 2012 - David and Bill Bushnell hiked the short version of the Los Trancos Trail loop starting and ending at Orchard Glen picnic area.
We started by climbing the Steep Hollow Trail to Trappers Ridge, then continued on the Los Trancos Trail into the Los Trancos Creek watershed. After climbing alongside the creek we stopped briefly for a rest at the bench before beginning the last push to cross Trappers Ridge again near its high point.
Conditions were cool and windy, especially atop the ridge. Dark clouds from the storm bearing down on the bay area could could be seen streaming over Skyline Ridge.
We saw some wildflowers, including Indian Warrior, Indian Paintbrush, Forget-Me-Nots, and others, but not as much variety or density as we saw last year.
|Cumulative climbing:||1050 feet|
Foothills Park Northern Circuit, April 9, 2012 - David Bushnell, Bill Bushnell, and Steve Prothero hiked a short circuit at Foothills Park near Los Altos Hills, California. Our route started at the Orchard Glen Trailhead. We hiked a roughly clockwise circuit around the northern side of the park on the Coyote, Panorama, Chamise, and Toyon Trails with detours to Madera Point, Bobcat Point, and around the island in Boronda Lake.
Weather was cool to warm and somewhat humid. While we hiked a pre-storm wind picked up and blew strongly at the exposed points on our route.
The rains this year have been light and late. While the meadows were green, the grass was not at its usual height for the time of year, and the wildflowers were less abundant than they were last year. Bees could be heard buzzing nearby for most of the hike, and at one point a sign on the trail warned of bees that had, fortunately, moved on by the time we passed.
Photo Albums from Trip to Vermont, March/April 2012 - David, Bill, and Laura Bushnell traveled to Pawlet, Vermont by way of Boston, Massachussetts, primarily to visit with David's brother, (and Bill and Laura's Uncle) Rob, who was commencing a terminal phase of illness. We also enjoyed our visit with Uncle Rob's family, some of whom (Bob, Janice, Camille, and Natalie) were present during our visit.
|Cumulative climbing:||710 feet|
Arastradero Preserve, March 23, 2012 - David and Bill Bushnell hiked a loop around Arastradero Preserve.
We started from the parking lot and hiked the perimeter of the northern section between Arastradero Road and I-280 before crossing Arastradero Road and hiking up the western side of the preserve on the Meadowlark, Woodland Star, and Bowl Loop Trails. We hiked down the meadow on the Meadowlark and San Juan Bautista De Anza Trails.
The sky started out blue and sunny, but by the end a high layer of gray clouds had rolled in covering the sun and the sky. Wind was strong on the entire hike, but especially on the exposed meadows of the northern section. The meadows were mostly green, although the grass was half as high as it should normally be this time of year. Wildflowers were starting, especially pockets of poppies.
|Cumulative climbing:||20 feet|
Palo Alto Baylands, March 18, 2012 - David and Bill Bushnell hiked their usual loop around the Palo Alto Baylands (Renzel Wetlands) starting and end at Byxbee Park at the end of Embarcadero Road.
The day was blustery and showery. We got rained on and hailed on near the start. Winds were blowing fiercely from the northwest, the air was clear, and the sky interesting. We could see much snow on Day Ridge and Mt. Hamilton and some to the south. A hint of snow could be seen on the meadows near the top of Black Mountain.
We saw few birds. Only some seagulls braved the strong winds, and on the water or near the shore of the slough we saw mallards, shovellers, coots, and Canada Geese.
|Cumulative climbing:||1600 feet|
Rancho San Antonio, January 5, 2012 - David and Bill Bushnell hiked a loop at Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve. We started near the rest rooms and hiked up the road to the Coyote Hill Trail, then continued up the PG&E Trail to its high point at a vista point, where we stopped to enjoy the view for about ten minutes. We continued down the High Meadow Trail to Deer Hollow Farm, and then walked the road back to the parking lot along with everyone else out for a walk that afternoon.
Sanborn Park, December 29, 2011 - David and Bill Bushnell hiked the Skyline Trail at Sanborn Park. We started from the north trailhead on Skyline Blvd. across the road from the Los Gatos Rod and Gun Club, from which echoed the rapid reports of gunfire that sounded like a battle being fought in the forest nearby. We hiked south past the entrance to Castle Rock State Park and continued down to the junction with the Sanborn Trail. We turned around and returned about one mile on the trail before cutting over to Skyline Blvd.
We hiked Skyline Blvd. over the summit and then made a short detour into Castle Rock State Park to see if any apples remained on the trees in an abandoned apple orchard on the southwestern flank of Mt. Bielawksi. We saw a couple of ripe persimmons high on the lone persimmon tree, but the apple trees were bare. They had probably given up all of their fruit earlier in the fall.
We retraced our steps back to Skyline Blvd. and walked along the road past the trailhead parking before cutting over to the Skyline Trail where we detoured again on the Summit Loop Trail.
The Summit Loop Trail descends the north side of the ridge into a cool, shady canyon, at the bottom of which grows another small group of apple trees. These trees being on the cool side of the ridge fruit later in the season. We saw a few apples high on the tree, and a careful inspection in the grass around the base of each tree yielded a couple of apples that had recently fallen from these high branches.
We finished the hike by climbing the Summit Rock side of the canyon and returning to the trailhead as the fog and mist was closing in on the forest.
Distance: 7 miles; Climbing: 800 feet
Beach Walk, December 26, 2011 - David and I met Ron Bobb and Alice Mestemacher at Rio Del Mar Beach near Aptos for a walk north on the beach at low tide. We met up with friends of Ron and Alice: John, Karen, Anna, Jules, and Marianne. We walked north on Seacliff and New Brighton Beaches and continued beneath the Capitola Cliffs to Capitola before returning the same way after sunset.
By the time we arrived back at Rio Del Mar, the beach was quite dark--there was little moonlight, but the walking was easy once we got past the rocks beneath the cliffs.
After our walk we all met at Sawasda Thai in Soquel for a hearty dinner.
Distance: 5.2 miles; Climbing: 0 feet
Wunderlich Park, December 20, 2011 - David and Bill Bushnell hiked the long loop at Wunderlich Park. We started at the trailhead off CA84, hiked up the Alambique Trail to Skyline Blvd. at Bear Gulch Road. We then returned down the Skyline Trail, Alambique Trail, Oak Trail, Meadow Trail, and Alambique Trail.
Temperature started cool at the bottom and got colder as we climbed. At Skyline Blvd. a cold breeze was blowing, and our extremities were chilled. But, the sun felt good where it managed to shine through the trees. The effect on this day, one of the shortest days of the year, was like that of perpetual sunset.
While this was a long hike for this time of year, the trail was an easy walk. Grades were even, about 6% the whole time, and the surface of the trail/road was mostly smooth. Also, no ticks or poison oak.
Distance: 10 miles; Climbing: 1800 feet
Trimming the Redwood Tree, December 5, 2011 - These photos show the trimming of my backyard redwood tree. One can also see the change in the row of Carolina Cherry trees along the back fence.
Kumba Hikes the Los Trancos Trail, November 30, 2011 - David Bushnell, Bill Bushnell, and Kumba hiked the Los Trancos Trail at Foothills Park. We hiked the loop in the clockwise direction that does most of the climbing early in the hike.
49-Mile Drive, November 21, 2011 - Leonard Scoggin and his wife, Lisa, visited the San Francisco area over Thanksgiving week and had a day to do some sight-seeing. After some discussion we decided that I'd drive up to their hotel in San Francisco and the three of us would attempt to drive the 49-mile drive.
We started late, about 1300, but managed to get through most of the route, truncating it toward the end due to the setting sun, although we did stop at the top of Twin Peaks to enjoy the city lights at night.
For dinner we stopped at Loving Hut before I dropped them off at their hotel at 2100.
North Butano Ridge, September 3, 2011 - Stella Hackell and Frank Paysen drove my car to the Hoffman Creek Trailhead (near Memorial Park), while Bill and David Bushnell drove Stella and Frank's car to the China Grade Trailhead (just off the bottom of the map).
We hiked the day in opposite directions, keeping in contact by way of FM radios. We were able to maintain contact over the entire distance through a local repeater on the oppposite ridge, although our signals at times were only just readable.
We met for lunch near the red "1.9 mi" distance label on the Butano Ridge Loop Trail.
Even though the hike spends much time on North Butano Ridge there are few spots with views, and even they are only partial. The most notable characteristic of this hike is its remoteness. It is one of the few places in the Santa Cruz Mountains were no motors or other man-made noises can be heard (aside from the occasional overflying plane).
Distance: 9 miles; Climbing: 800 feet for David and Bill, 2800 feet for Frank and Stella
Black Mountain, August 28, 2011 - Five of us (Bill Bushnell, David Bushnell, Steve Prothero, Stella Hackell, and Frank Paysen) hiked up Black Mountain from the Rhus Ridge trailhead off Moody Road. The day was warm to hot, especially while climbing the steep upper section of the trail. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch break at the summit before hiking back down the way we had come up.
Distance: 9.8 miles; Climbing: 2500 feet
Coal Mine Ridge, August 13, 2011 - Three of us, Bill Bushnell, David Bushnell, and Steve Prothero, set out to hike a circuit at Coal Mine Ridge, a set of trails between Portola Valley and Los Trancos Woods. Our route took us from the "P" at Willowbrook and Alpine up the hill to the south and along the Toyon Trail. We hiked south to the Lake Trail, stopping to take photos at the Lake, a sag pond.
We then hiked north on Old Spanish Trail, then cut off on Sunrise Trail, taking it down to the Buck Meadow Trail. Then we took Buck Meadow Trail to Blue Oak Trail, and returned up Valley Oak St. to Arroyo Trail, that we climbed all the way back to Old Spanish Trail, where we enjoyed a rest on a convenient bench. We then took Coalmine Trail down to Old Spanish Trail again, and returned to the starting point.
Distance: 8.3 miles; Climbing: 1500 feet
Fall Creek Redwoods State Park, August 7, 2011 - We started at the southern end of the park at the Bennett Creek Trailhead, hiking down the Bennett Creek Trail, then up the Fall Creek Trail to the first junction with the Lime Kiln Trail. We turned left and climbed a short distance upstream to the old Lime Kilns. We continued up the Cape Horn Trail past the Powder Magazine to the unmarked junction with the Lost Empire Trail where the major climbing began.
We climbed steeply uphill for some distance before the trail leveled-off, stopping briefly at the Lost Camp, where there was not much to be seen, and pressing upward again to the Big Ben Tree where we stopped for lunch.
After lunch we descended the Big Ben Trail to the north and joined the Fall Creek Trail, where Steve got stung by a yellowjacket. We started to explore the Fall Creek Trail upstream, but fallen trees blocked our way, so we started the long, gradual descent down Fall Creek, passing many old mudslides, sunny glades created when multiple trees fell, babbling springs, and rushing cascades. Fall Creek was running voluminously.
We paused for a while at the Barrel Mill, started to explore an unmarked trail that seemed to climb up to the Ridge Trail north of Fall Creek (where poor Steve got stung again on the back--probably the same yellowjacket that had been trapped in his shirt), and crossed Fall Creek itself several times before reaching the southern end of the park again and the short climb up Bennett Creek Trail to the trailhead.
Distance: 7.6 miles; Climbing: 1800 feet
San Bruno Mountain, July 31, 2011 - Our San Bruno Mountain hike started with dropping Frank Paysen at SFO for his flight to Frankfurt (and then to Berlin). We managed to get him to the curb at the terminal by 1145, giving us enough time to get to the rendezvous point in Brisbane by noon. We arrived at the latter by 1155.
After driving up to the park entrance at the top of Guadalupe Parkway and depositing our money in the slot we pulled into the small parking area at the trailhead for San Bruno Mountain to begin our hike. Today our group consisted of Bill Bushnell, David Bushnell, Cara Coburn, and Dan Connelly.
We started up the Summit Loop Trail, taking the clockwise direction on the loop that would get us to the ridge more directly. About a mile from the bottom we reached the junction with the Ridge Trail where we headed east below the actual summit of San Bruno Mountain, nestled amongst several radio towers.
We continued east on the Ridge Trail, now a rocky and steep fire road, along the undulating ridge, reaching the end of the Southeast Ridge by about 1400. We paused in a slightly wind-sheltered depression on the north side of the ridge to eat lunch and to enjoy a 270 degree view.
One minor objective of the day was to witness the take-off of Frank's plane from SFO, with the hope that we might see each other, us on the ridge, and he at his window, before his plane disappeared into the clouds.
We had done our research. Frank was sitting in seat 59J, second-to-last row, right-side window. His plane was the third United Airlines 747-400 to take off at about that time. I figured it might be possible for him to see us, and with binoculars that I had brought with me, that I might be able to see his face peering through the tiny window.
Unfortunately, our research was incomplete. Had I looked at a map of the area and confirmed something that I should have known if I'd thought about it, that SFO was at least three miles' distant from our perch on the end of the Southeast Ridge of San Bruno Mountain, I would have realized the futility of the exercise. I could not even through my binoculars see the windows of the planes taking off. My last memory of watching planes take off from SFO was during a bike ride several years ago when I rode past the north end of the runway (28R) on McDonnell Rd. Somehow the extra three miles of distance to our present location didn't figure into my memory or planning.
Yet, we did wait while the jumbo jets, one after another took off. The first two flying to Asia and loaded with fuel lifted off more slowly. Frank's plane lifted off more quickly. After his plane had disappeared into the thickening fog, we got up from our wind-protected depression and began the trek back along the ridge.
While we had lunched and enjoyed the view, the fog had begun its steady advance over the peninsula, blocking the sun most of the time, and blowing fiercely through the lower gaps in the ridge. But there were moments of calm, such as when we traversed beneath the summit of the mountain. After we had crossed over to the west side of the ridge we were wholly within the fog.
When we arrived again at the junction with the Summit Loop Trail, Cara decided to head back to the trailhead the same way we had climbed earlier as she wanted to stop by her office nearby before going home. Dan, David, and I turned left and planned to take the long way 'round the Summit Loop back to the trailhead. We crossed the ridge and descended to Bunker Road 59 where we came upon a sign warning that the trail was closed 1 mile ahead. So, we hiked down Radio Rd. to the trailhead, arriving at the same time as Cara.
After getting into the car and out of the wind, I felt like taking a nap. Being in the wind all day was exhausting.
Distance: 7.3 miles; Climbing: 1270 feet
Dan's Strava recording of our route can be seen here.
Castle Rock State Park, July 24, 2011 - David Bushnell, Bill Bushnell, Stella Hackell, and Frank Paysen met at Saratoga Gap for a hike in Castle Rock State Park. We swapped cars. David and Bill drove Stella and Frank's car to the main entrance of Castle Rock State Park while Stella and Frank drove Bill's van to the Beekhuis Trail head on CA9.
Our two parties hiked the route in opposite directions, meeting for lunch roughly in the middle at the Castle Rock Trail Camp where there was a nice picnic table. Along the way we kept in touch with our FM radios, using one of two repeaters in the Ben Lomond or Bonny Doon area when we were not able to communicate directly due to the rough terrain. (If we hadn't made a programming error in our radios we may have been able to use the Castle Rock Ridge repeater that was much closer, although I suspect it was on the southeast side of the ridge--we were on the southwest side.)
Highlights of the hike included the uppermost two miles of the Saratoga Gap Trail that traverses a steep, rocky ridge with many fine views to the south and west.
What had been a relatively crowded trail on the eastern half of the route became quiet and peaceful (except for the distant artillery of the Los Altos Gun Club shooting range)--we saw only one other hiker on the trail after lunch; Stella and Frank reported seeing many on their climb up Saratoga Gap Trail.
Distance: 6.5 miles; Climbing: 600 feet (1800 for Stella and Frank)
Tarwater Loop, July 17, 2011 - Frank Paysen, David Bushnell, and Bill Bushnell headed over the hill to Pescadero Creek County Park for a cool hike in the redwoods. The hike started overcast and damp. With the damp grasses and shrubs overgrowing Coyote Ridge Trail our pants were soon wet below the knees.
We continued down Coyote Ridge through the mixed fir and oak forest. As we got closer to Pescadero Creek the redwoods replaced fir trees. We detoured down to the banks of Pescadero Creek to enjoy lunch by the water.
Our return hike took is up alongside Tarwater Creek where we again detoured to the crossing of the creek to watch the natural oil seep (heavy tar) float on the surface of the creek and spin tarballs in the current.
The last leg of our hike took us up the Tarwater Loop Trail, through the meadow with the abandoned shed, past the last of the spring's wildflowers, mostly Farewell to Spring, and back to the Tarwater Trailhead.
Distance: 6.2 miles; Climbing: 1000 feet
Phleger Estate, July 4, 2011 - We started at the lower picnic area of Huddart Park. Then we hiked up the Dean Trail and the Crystal Springs Trail to Richards Road. After reaching Skyline we took the Lonely Trail into the Phleger Estate, then the Raymundo Trail, and the Miramontes Trail back to Richards Road. We hiked a short distance down Richards Road to Raymundo Road, then hiked back up to the trailhead.
Distance: 9.5 miles; Climbing: 2000 feet
Pescadero Creek Redwoods: Brook Trail Loop, June 26, 2011 - Stella Hackell, Frank Paysen, David Bushnell, and Bill Bushnell carpooled to the Heritage Grove Trailhead and hiked up to the Sierra Club Hiker's Hut and then hiked a modified version of the Brook Trail Loop.
David and Bill hiked the loop mostly as planned, only varying from the trail by taking Towne Fire Road down to Pomponio Trail. Stella and Frank added to the loop by detouring on Bravo Fire Road and Pomponio Trail and later by detouring into Sam McDonald Park and returning to the Heritage Grove on the Heritage Grove Trail.
Distance (David and Bill): 7.5 miles; Climbing: 1700 feet
Distance (Frank and Stella): 10 miles; Climbing: 2200 feet
El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve, June 21, 2011 - Frank Paysen, David Bushnell, and I hiked a loop at El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve. We tried to hit all of the highlights of the preserve, including the tafoni sandstone formation, Vista Point, search for Resolution wreckage (that we did not find), a giant salamander, and an old growth redwood.
David was not feeling energetic and decided at the end of El Corte de Madera Creek Trail to return to the trailhead by way of the paved roads (less climbing altogether and easier to see the trail surface). He saved himself about 2 miles of hiking and beat us back to the car by 50 minutes.
Temperatures were warm in the shade and hot in the sun, but not so hot as to make the hike an ordeal. We saw three hikers and one mountain biker the entire day.
Distance: 8.5 miles; Climbing: 1800 feet
Fathers Day in Capitola, June 18, 2011 - Actually, the day before Fathers Day. These are photos from a family gathering in Capitola. We walked from Laura's place down to the center of town, sat at the beach for a while to watch people come up and pet Kumba, then climbed up to Grand Ave. to see the view, then back across town for a late lunch/early dinner at Dharma's. We then walked back to Laura's place.
Distance: 5 miles; Climbing: 250 feet
Windy Hill Preserve, June 15, 2011 - David and Bill hiked a loop on the south side of the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve. The day was warm but the hike in the shade. We didn't have many views, but we did see many wildflowers and some wildlife. Everything was still green.
Distance: 8.5 miles; Climbing: 1500 feet
Wildflowers on Los Trancos Trail, June, 2011 - David and I went out over a couple of afternoons a week apart to take our weekly hike on Foothills Park's Los Trancos Trail. In this album I experimented with taking photos of wildflowers. The viewer is invited to fill in the missing names or to make corrections.
Almaden Quicksilver County Park, April 19, 2011 - Frank Paysen and I took a moderate hike through Almaden Quicksilver County Park on a balmy spring day. We hiked up the Deep Gulch Trail, visited the Hidalgo Cemetary, and returned to the trailhead by way of the Castillero and Mine Hill Trails.
Distance: 7.1 miles; Climbing: 1450 feet
Beach Walk, December 31, 2010 - David Bushnell and Bill Bushnell joined Ron Bobb, Alice Mestemacher and their friends, Glen and Jules for a walk from Rio Del Mar north to Capitola and back again along the beach and below the cliffs during an ultra-low tide.
Distance: 5.2 miles; Climbing: 0 feet
Roof Rat Caught, July 9, 2004 - After a few nights of hearing what sounded like someone trying to break into my house in the wee hours of the morning, I discovered small holes in the vent screens that allow the crawlspace under my house to breathe. I plugged the vent holes, but the next night I discovered a new hold had been gnawed in the weak screen that covered my crawlspace access door.
I left that hole un-patched for a few days while I procured a humane trap and primed it with some loganberry jam on toast. The jam was a special jam designed as bait and smelled so strong it must have been perfumed.
I placed the trap. The next day the jam and bread was gone, but the trap was still primed. Clever rat!
I placed the trap again, and this time I awoke in the night to the sound of rattling metal under the house. The next morning I went out to check, and I found my rat.
I released the rat at the Sunnyvale Baylands. After I released the rat I was surprise how quickly it took off, jumping several feet at a time.
Chris and Colleen's Wedding, September 27, 1998 - I got dressed up and flew down to Orange County to attend Chris and Colleen's wedding at the Surf & Sand Hotel in Laguna Beach. Weather was beautiful.
The trip was marred only by my neglecting to put my new driver's license in my wallet that morning, so the rental car agency wouldn't rent me a car, and I had to take a van shuttle to the hotel. Fortunately, I was able to get a ride back to the airport from Veronica, one of Colleen's close friends, who was returning home at about the same time.
These photos were all scanned from prints because I could not find the negatives.
Christopher's Burial, February 9, 1997 - Kay and I found Christopher one day during the summer of 1987. We saw him pecking seeds that had fallen in the crack between the car windshield and the wiper. He didn't look like a wild bird or that he would survive long as a wild bird. Clearly he was an escapee.
He flew up into a tree when we tried to catch him. So, we brought out a small plate of oats and fruit cut into bird-sized pieces and set it on the car. We walked away. He immediately came down to eat. He was hungry. We slowly approached the plate and carried it with him on it into the house.
Fortunately, we had a bird cage we could put him in, and he seemed to adapt to captivity gladly. For the next several days we let him sleep and eat, and we put vitamins in his water. We nursed him back to health and kept him for another 10 years. He was a pretty bird with beautiful plumage.
Over the course of his life we found two other parakeets so that he would have companionship: Greta first, and after Greta died, Jacques. Unfortunately both Greta and Jacques were cranky birds and often returned Christopher's affection with a "bite and twist".
In his last days Christopher's kidneys failed, and on his last day he was unable to perch. I don't know how old he was, but he was at least 10 years old when he died, possibly 11 or 12, but probably not much older.
Death Valley and Eastern Sierras, April 1978 - David, Kay, Laura, and Bill Bushnell took a trip to Death Valley and the Eastern Sierras during spring break. Winter extended into April in the mountains, so we had some interesting weather, not at all hot and desert-like in Death Valley. The Eastern Sierras were cold, snowy, and magnificent as viewed from Owens Valley.
We started our trip by flying from SFO to Bakersfield--they flew 737s in those pre-deregulation days--, then driving to Death Valley in a rented Ford Fairmont.
We spent two days in Death Valley, staying at the Furnace Creek Inn, which in those days required all men to be properly attired at dinner. I carried or wore an old dinner jacket, a rumpled white jacket with thin green/blue vertical stripes that was borrowed from the hotel office, apparently for the use of guests who forgot to bring one of their own. On one occasion a gentleman exiting the dining room, upon seeing that I was not wearing a jacket, handed me the hotel loaner as I entered.
Our stay at the then-Fred Harvey hotel was on the "American Plan", which meant that meals were included in the price of the room. I don't recall much about the food except for desserts that were served from a large, heavy multi-level dessert cart with baroque decorations that staff rolled with some difficulty over the plush carpeting when a guest expressed an interest in one of the desserts. Mom and Dad thought the desserts on the cart looked "tired", whether from being on display throughout the dinner hour or from being wheeled from table to table in the dining room to be sniffed over by the guests, I don't remember. I did order a piece of chocolate cake at one dinner.
Laura and I spent quite a bit of time exploring the gardens and tunnels under the hotel and riding up and down in the old elevator with manually-operated doors, the elevator attendant having been dismissed long ago.
We visited Artist's Palette, Zabriskie Point, and Mosaic Canyon. We may have visited other spots, but we took no photos.
Upon leaving Death Valley we returned to Owens Valley and drove north to Mammoth Lakes. The next day we took the gondola to the top of Mammoth Mountain to enjoy the view. Then we drove north on US-395, spending the night in Carson City at the Ormsby House.
On the last day we drove to Reno to inquire about flying back to the bay area, but decided in the end to drive home. I'm sure driving an already-paid-for rental car cost much less than buying four airplane tickets.
Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, August 1977 - David, Bill, and Jim McLeod spent the better part of a week in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. We visited Vernal and Nevada Falls, Glacier Point, both at the end of the day and at sunrise the next day, Taft Point, Wawona Grove, and in Sequoia National Park, the giant sequoias, Little Baldy, and Moro Rock. On our way home spent the night in Paso Robles before touring the Hearst Castle in San Simeon the next day and driving up the Big Sur coast.
Viewers may be amused to see me wearing flood pants long before the style became trendy. In fact, I was frequently teased about it. Viewers may also notice a calculator (TI-30) hanging from my belt, a style that never became trendy.
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