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Category: Walks and hikes (page 1 of 7)

I Used to Live Here

Last weekend I was up in the East Bay to attend the artists’ reception at Collector Art Shop in Berkeley, where I am in a group show (which will be on display through January 28, in case you’re inclined to check it out). I also had a few appointments, which left odd gaps of time in my days. So I took advantage of the situation and visited some of my favorite spots.

Friday morning I went to Brown Sugar Kitchen for my favorite fried chicken and waffles breakfast. This restaurant is right around the corner from where I used to live in West Oakland, and I miss having it near. Best chicken and waffles ever! Across the street there was a new set of murals on the recycling center.

New mural in Oakland

Nice textures when you’re close up.

Mural colors and textures

After which I went down to Middle Harbor Shorline Park down by the Port of Oakland, and had fun taking photos and watching the intricate dance of trucks, containers, and cranes.

A tall set of streetlights take on an alien aspect when seen through a fence.

Alien-looking light fixtures

Evil lurks. A small rusty sign on a fence.

Evil lurks

A rusty float just offshore.

A rusty float

Watch out for the soft mud! (Have I ever mentioned that I love hazard graphics? I think it would be a fun job to create them.)

Soft mud warning sign

A dredge at work.

A dredge at work

A goose among the cranes.

A goose and cranes

A study in contrasts: a rusty fence against a concrete wall.

A rusty fence in front of a concrete wall

The park butts right against the port, and gives a great opportunity to watch all the goings-on there. I couldn’t help but think of all that stuff coming in and out – a supreme example of rampant consumerism and capitalism in all its glory. How much of all this is really necessary???

A very busy place

Still, the port is a fascinating place with its own type of beauty.

Giant crane at the Port of Oakland

Star Creek Adventure!

Last Saturday I had the wonderful opportunity to hike in a remote property in the Pajaro Hills, thanks to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. The Land Trust purchased Star Creek Ranch a couple of years ago, and because the way in is only a one-lane dirt road, largely privately owned, access is limited to only one or two days a year, and then just to members.

Driving in. Don’t worry; I stopped the car while taking the picture.
Driving in to Star Creek Ranch.

We were greeted with tents, maps, sunscreen in case we had forgotten (I had), water, and shuttle vans. There are some 15 miles of trails and fire roads on the property, so we had lots of choices.
The greeting area.

I decided to do a loop of the Black Canyon Trail, the (something) Cutoff Road, and High Point Road. Good signage helped me find the way.
Trail signs

The Black Canyon Trail descended into a redwood forest and followed a creek. It was cool and lovely on a hot day. On the way down I passed some dogwood blossoms.
Dogwood blossoms.

Old signs remained from previous owners and uses.
Old boundary sign.

There were quite a few cars in the parking lot when I arrived, and lots of hikers and mountain bikers on the trails. I had assumed that many people, like myself, would choose to take the more remote and wild paths, but I was wrong. I didn’t see anyone else on Black Canyon Trail, and only once saw a human footprint. But I did see a motion-activated camera attached to one of the redwoods.
Motion-activated camera.

Wait a minute… the Land Trust often posts photos of mountain lions that trigger the cameras on their land. Now which trail was it? Was it the one I was on? Oh yes. Here, from their website, is a photo of mountain lions in right about the same spot I was standing.
Mountain lions.

Alrighty then! I kept going, like Macbeth thinking I had gone so far already I might as well plunge ahead, but I made sure I sang and made noise and looked big and scary as I walked. And I nixed the plan I had to sit and draw during my hike. Sitting quietly while absorbed in a task didn’t sound like the best idea at this point.

But still, it was a lovely hike. Looking up through the canopy.
Looking up through the canopy.

After following the creek bed for quite a while, the trail ascended. Here is a clearing full of horsetails.
A lot of horsetails.

Lots of banana slugs in the damp areas. Here is one next to my foot for scale.
Banana slug.

A hillside full of columbines, which would not stand still for my picture.
Columbine along the trail.

The trail got really steep before hitting the cutoff road, and yet it got steeper still afterwards. (Caution! Extreme! said the signpost) I decided to be relatively sane and turned onto the cutoff, which proved to be utterly delightful.
A lovely trail.

Exposed roots make an interesting pattern.
Exposed roots.

Iris along the trail.
Iris.

By now I had ascended quite a bit, and had gone from redwood forest to oak, with wide vistas visible between the trees.
Oak trees.

And more reminders of those who had used this property before. Yes, I tried the swing. It worked just fine. :)
A swing.

Up here in the more open and accessible areas there were more hikers.
Hikers at Star Creek Ranch.

I enjoyed lunch in this meadow.
Wildflowers in the meadow.

While I was sitting eating my lunch, I noticed a big fat bumblebee making its rounds from flower to flower, which made me happy – until I realized there was just one bee. One bee. In this whole meadow. One. A sad reminder that bees are in trouble. (And a nod to Emily Dickinson.)

TO make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,—
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.

All in all, it was a fine outing, and I’m looking forward to returning next year for another Star Creek Ranch Adventure.

Leaving Star Creek Ranch.

Back Again!

I promised in my last post that I would return to hike more of the DeAnza trail, which is turning out to be one of my favorites. It reminds me a lot of Briones in the East Bay, with its cloud-brushing climbs and views of surrounding rolling hills.

For anyone planning on checking it out, here is what the trailhead looks like. It’s just outside of San Juan Bautista, and pretty easy to find.
DeAnza trailhead

A welcome sign, and there were brochures in a box just behind this. The DeAnza trail, as you can see, travels all the way from Mexico through Arizona and California, ending at San Francisco. Not all of it is hikeable, but there is a lot of interest in trying to make it so.
DeAnza welcome sign

It’s just a little over a month since my last visit, but there have been changes. Signs of spring abound!
New growth

A view up the valley. The dirt in the foreground is a corral, and a group of four cowboys was practicing calf roping. Later, a class was practicing turning their horses in tight circles. I should mention that at this point I’d only been hiking around 10 minutes, and had started out at about the same level as the ranch – yet it didn’t feel all that steep.
The view up the valley

It does get steeper here and there.
Up up and away

This is cattle country, and there are barbed wire fences on either side of the trail. I love the road in the background of this photo – it winds its way up and over the hills, and looks like it would be a blast to drive, and makes me wish I still had my motorcycle.
Fence and distant road

The way the road curved, and the green and roll of the hills, and the farm nestled in the valley, reminded me of paintings by Grant Wood. This one is titled Rural Scene.
Grant Wood Rural Scene

More barbed wire.
DeAnza trailhead

A gate, with distant cattle.
A gate leads to rolling hills

Downhill fence.
Downhill fence

This fence made me think of Maynard Dixon’s painting, No Place to Go.
Maynard Dixon No Place to Go

The shapes of the hills and trees against the sky! The lines created by the wire fence! The blue! The green!
Designs in nature

The trail is mostly open, but occasionally goes through stands of oak and pine.
Going in to the light

A tenacious tree.
Tenacious tree roots

This is the point at which the trail finally begins its downward course, and the point at which I turned around. In the distance, Watsonville and eventually the Pacific. Lessons learned: either don’t stop at home and pause to check email etc. before going on an afternoon hike, because you will suddenly lose an hour or two; or, don’t go for a hike on a day when you have dinner plans with friends. And especially don’t do both.
Towards Watsonville

On the way back to the car, I saw that the moon had been caught in a fence.
Moon in the fence

Winter Solstice 2014

Sarah-Hope is up in Napa helping her folks prepare for Christmas, so I decided to take a bit of a road trip on my solo Sunday. Which also happens to be the shortest day of the year – so it needs to be spent outdoors. Next stop: San Juan Bautista!

We were thrilled when we realized San Juan is closer to us than is Santa Cruz. I love love love the rolling California hills, with their textures and shapes and lonely oaks silhouetted against the sky. And San Juan is set in the middle of some of the prettiest rolling hills you’ll see.

Oak tree at the trailhead

First stop, a short hike on a bit of the De Anza trail. I only walked up to the first fence, having forgotten my water bottle and wanting to get back home to do some art. But it was a lovely climb, steep enough to feel it, not so steep that you think you’re going to die.

First, a field with cows. Well, on the other side of the trail there was a field. These two cows thought the trees offered better snacking.

Cows in the trees

This tree practically glowed, and the spiral cow paths surrounding it gave it a cosmic feel.

Cosmic tree

Looking behind me at the path I’ve climbed, with a view out over San Juan Bautista and the surrounding hills. As someone who grew up on the East Coast, it’s still odd to have bright green hills in the midst of winter, and dry brown hills in the summer.

Looking back down the trail

I reached a point where I could look out over the other side of the ridge, towards Hollister. At first I could only hear the breeze and the birds, but I soon realized there must be a rifle range on this side, and the rest of my walk was accompanied by the sounds of multiple shots ringing out. (Way too many for hunters, and including what must have been a semi-automatic gun. Ick.)

Looking out towards Hollister

Some laurel berries along the way.

California Laurel with berries

Some scenic views.

Oak trees and barbed wire fence

Oak tree and landscape

As I mentioned, I only hiked a portion of the trail; I will definitely be back to complete it! I hear there’s some interesting geological features, and even better views.

I followed my walk with brunch in San Juan Bautista, where I found a small Basque restaurant that serves Spanish-style tortillas with potatoes, followed by the lightest, tastiest flan ever. So good!

Basque restaurant in San Juan Bautista

Walking the Watsonville Sloughs

It was a gorgeous early afternoon, and, while I wanted to get some work done in the garden, I also wanted to take some time for a walk. The solution: a quick urban hike at the Watsonville sloughs.

First, let me say that I love that we have sloughs in California. A slough is defined as marshy or reedy pool, pond, inlet, backwater, or the like. Back east, we called these things a marsh. Calling a marsh a slough always makes me think of Pilgrim’s Progress, and trudging through the Slough of Despond, and therefore entertains me greatly.

And Watsonville is cut through with sloughs. We have Watsonville Slough, Struve Slough, Harkins Slough, and Gallighan Slough, while just down the road a ways is the larger Elkhorn Slough. Today’s walk took me around Struve Slough.

I started my walk at the small nature center that’s hidden behind the giant complex of stores that includes Ross and Target, on Harkins Slough Road. A quick duck through a walkway under the road took me directly to the path that borders the slough. Even though most of the slough and its pathways are bordered by large complexes of new houses or light industry, the sounds of city life immediately disappeared, and (except for the occasional small plane heading for Watsonville airport) all I could hear was the wind in the reeds and the birds rustling in the undergrowth.

As I approached Ohlone Parkway, I saw two large tubes which I assumed were for drainage. No! They were built to assist small animals in crossing the road.
Tubes for animal crossing

Closer to the pipes. You can see the houses along the path. Also, speaking of pilgrims, note that one could interpret the pattern on the trash can as scallop shells, the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. (You know I just had to go there…)
Three points in one photo

The paths are well-maintained and well marked, with maps posted at each junction.
The path

Some late berries along the way.
Late blackberries

To cross the slough, I had to climb up to the street. Another lovely Watsonville bridge! The sign indicates which slough, and the end post is decorated with a bas-relief of a frog.
Slough sign and art

Plus each upright along the bridge had either a heron or a cat-tail relief.
Heron bas-relief

Reeds and open water. There were some birds congregating there, mostly Canada geese and coots.
Reeds and open water

I had hoped to circumnavigate the slough. The maps posted along the path indicated that this was possible, but no. The maps indicate a bridge or some crossing where I’m pointing, but there’s nothing there. I later found that the printed maps available at the nature center say that this is a proposed pathway. Ah well. I prefer a loop track, but backtracking is fine, too.
No such path

On the way back, I saw these seeds about to take off.
Seeds about to fly off

And Faust was here! I kept an eye out for him, and for Mephistopheles as well.
Faust writes graffitti

Perhaps this large spider is Mephistopheles in disguise???
Large hairy spider

And back again to the nature center, which is just around the corner from this last bit of slough. All told, this was about an hour’s walk. It’s a lovely getaway right in the middle of commercial Watsonville, well worth exploring. For the less adventuresome, the nature center gives guided walks at 1:30 each Saturday and Sunday.
A lovely bit of slough

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