Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Last Weekend's Hikes

Last weekend I went on two hikes: Pogonip in Santa Cruz and Pinnacles just east of Soledad.

The Pogonip hike was with Gay and Lesbian Sierrans. Only three of us showed up and all of us were hike leaders so we decided to make it an unofficial trip and do a route that was slightly more adventurous. At the start of the hike, the others told me that the Pogonip name stands for POlo, GOlf, and NIP as in have a nip of a drink. Pogonip used to be the home of a golf course, a polo course, and a clubhouse with a bar. We hiked past the old clubhouse which was abandoned but looked like it might be fixed up at a later date. After passing the club house we were surprised to see several people playing bike polo on an old tennis court. Alas we did not see anyone playing any kind of golf but we did see an overgrown field that was probably part of the old golf course. We continued our hike to the other end of Pogonip and left the park to wander back to our cars through the university of Santa Cruz. Its a beautiful campus and we managed to stay mostly away from the roadways but not away from the asphault. Still it was nice to see UCSC. We saw a swim meet going on and saw students with banana slug sweatshirts. The banana slug is UCSC's mascot. After the athletic fields we paused to check out the map on the GPS to figure out how to get back to Pogonip and the cars. We figured it out quick and made our way back to the cars in about 5 minutes. After the hike we had a nice lunch at a place called The River. I had a delicious turkey, bacon, avocado sandwich. It was a very pleasant mellow hike.

Sunday was Pinnacles. I went hiking with my hiking buddy, L. We left at 8 a.m. and made it to the western entrance by 10:30 a.m. We headed up the Juniper Canyon trail. There were many purplish magenta flowers that neither of us could identify. There was lots of very healthy looking poison oak too but all of it easy to avoid. The trail switched back and forth uphill to the high peaks. I was happy to be in good condition and not feel like I was gasping for breath as we climbed. At the high peaks we talked to the ranger there and a field biologist who studies condors. There had been a condor chick born at Pinnacles but they had to remove the chick from the nest last week as it had high levels of lead in its blood stream. The chick is now being raised in captivity at an LA zoo. We had a fascinating conversation with the field biologist (who L knew well) all about condors. Well at least L. did. I must confess to listening for a while and then wandering off to look at the old nest and enjoy the high peaks. After chatting with the field biologist and ranger we headed off to explore the high peaks and hike on the cool part of the trail where steps were blasted from the rock and poles have been installed on steep sections. Its an incredible feat of trail creation. We found a nice shady spot at high peaks and had our lunch there enjoying the view of the green hillsides from on high. After lunch we descended back to the Juniper Canyon trail on the tunnel trail. It had been ages since I had been that way and it was fun to see the tunnel again. We got back to the parking lot around 2 p.m. It was quite a glorious day at Pinnacles. The weather was cool for May which made the hiking super comfortable. We got back to San Jose around 4 p.m. and I was home and in a hot shower by 5 p.m.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Palo Alto Baylands

Palo Alto Baylands is sort of my home park. Its just a five minute drive from my condo. When my hiking buddy, L, cancelled on the Pinnacles hike we planned today, I decided to go on a solo hike at the Baylands. I had a blast.

When I started the hike rain arrived, but it didn't last that long. I got just a bit damp but not soaked. The sky views were incredible all day long as the clouds and blue sky and rain rolled in and out. Gnats were abundant at times and seemed to come in clouds. I saw the usual small airplanes landing and taking off from the Palo Alto airport and I saw some jets way up in the air on their way to and from the SF airport or the SJ airport. I saw the usual assortment of sea birds: ducks, geese, pelicans, coots, gulls, herons, egrets, and more whose names don't roll off my tongue. I saw one hare disappearing into the bushes but that was my only wild mammal sighting of the day. I did see quite a few dogs being walked and of course human beings enjoying the park as I was. I saw quite a few snails.

I made it to the nature center around 10 a.m. I always enjoy walking out the board walk and seeing the San Francisco bay, the Coyote Hills, and the Dumbarton bridge. On the way back I stopped by at the duck pond and took some pictures of the Bird Migration Sanctuary that I never really knew was there before. Discovering new stuff on a hike you have been on lots of times is fun. I then hiked back to the small dam and crossed it and headed back to the cars while watching some very dark clouds approach. About a mile away from the end of the hike the wind picked up and ripples covered the water and then the rain just came pouring down. I was poured on for about 5 to 10 minutes and it was wet wet wet and cold cold cold. Phew! But before I knew it, it was over and heading off across the bay to the east bay. I kept up a very fast pace to stay warm as I hadn't really worn the proper cloths to stay warm when wet. I was somewhat amazed though that before I ever got back to the car, the blue sky returned and the sun came out. Wow. What a fast fierce storm! I reached the car at 11:30 a.m. and headed home for a nice hot shower. It was a fun hike and it felt very adventurous to have been poured on so vigorously.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

El Corte De Madera Hike

I went on a delightful hike at El Corte De Madera open space preserve today. We met at the Woodside park-n-ride lot and I managed to get the last available space. One person had to park on a side road nearby and the other person volunteered to do the driving so we were all set. We were surprised on our drive up 84 that there were not that many bikes. We reached Skegg's Point parking and there were still plenty of parking spaces there. We parked and headed off on our hike. One note: there is no bathroom (not even an outhouse) at Skegg's point. I had to make a visit to the woods a bit into our hike instead.

It was a very mellow hike with only three of us. I enjoyed that this park is not so popular so we didn't have to share it with lots of people. We mostly ran into mountain bikers but fortunately all the bikers were polite respectful bikers not the kind that go too fast and nearly run over hikers. Wild flowers are still wonderful and we saw lots of forget me nots and some others that none of us could identify but all of us enjoyed! This was a hike through the woods. We saw madrones and maybe second growth redwoods and oaks. I enjoyed that feeling of being surrounded by the woods. We didn't see any wildlife of significance. I'm sure wildlife was there but we just didn't see it.

I mooched a wonderful lunch at our lunch stop vista point. I forgot my lunch and was planning on just enjoying the conversation while others ate but both my companions offered me food. I got half of a delicious cheese sandwich, half of a banana, and a quarter of an apple. Pretty good mooching, eh? After lunch, we reached Skegg's point pretty quickly. We were done with the hike around noon. It was just 5 miles but it was a beautiful five miles.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Hiking at St Joseph Hill park in Los Gatos

As summer approaches and the days get longer, its time to hike in the evenings again! Tonight I'm hiking at St Joseph Hill with GLS. We are going to do a 4 mile round trip hike up the hill and back. I have been on this hike many times but its a great way to spend an evening just steps from Silicon Valley!

The hike was great. There was a nice blue sky and sun for most of the hike. We saw deer, a bob cat, a rabbit, California poppies, and Lupin among other things. We also saw lots of bikers and other hikers at this popular Los Gatos park but not so many towards sunset. Here is a picture of the bobcat