August 24, 2023

Point Lobos

Oddly, I have biked past the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve more often than I have visited. My last visit was in January, 2013. Even in winter, the Reserve was over capacity that Saturday; on our bicycles, we had cruised past the line of vehicles waiting for their chance to enter.
On a weekday, with schools back in session, I was surprised to find a few cars ahead of me. I was even more surprised that I passed three parking areas before I found an open space, which thus anchored my hike.
I headed south along the South Shore Trail, to the Bird Island Overlook. Inland, the sky was blue. Toward the sea: gray.

Of course I stopped to capture this view (without realizing how canonical it is). You can see why.

I spied a red wrapper in the brush, and naturally I could not leave it there. I didn't realize that a gentleman in a motorized chair was watching me. “Thank you,” he said. I smiled. “Of course!” In all, I picked up (and properly disposed of) at least six pieces of trash, including a disposable coffee cup (with its plastic lid!) tucked into a rock seam at the water’s edge. [People ...!]

I hunt litter; birds hunt lunch. The first time I passed this Great Blue Heron (trailside), it caught a lizard. Unbothered by the quiet hiker just a few feet away, the bird was fixated on the ground at its feet. Suddenly it dipped its head, shook its rump back and forth, and plucked the reptile from the brush.

Returning along the same trail, I came upon the bird again. When I saw the same behavior, I knew what was about to happen. This time, it speared an unlucky vole—which it swallowed, whole.

I hiked north to the Cypress Grove Trail, fully circling the grove.

I explored more of Point Lobos today than ever before, meandering slowly on a trek of five miles, give or take.

The hunting heron was the clear highlight of my visit to Point Lobos; the snow globe jelly (Modeeria rotunda) was the highlight of this trip's visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Such wondrous things to behold! Get out there and explore the world.

August 23, 2023

Asilomar State Beach

Not that I need an excuse to visit the Monterey area, but when I decided to attend an event at the Aquarium I opted to spend a couple of days down there. With a new adventure in mind, I scored a State Parks Pass again at my local library and headed south.
This sign made me chuckle. Wile E. Coyote! At home, it's not unusual for neighbors to report coyote sightings, time and again. [Get over it. They live here. And keep your cats indoors.]
As it was a clear evening, it dawned on me [ha] that I could catch the sunset.
Why not? I was near the beach at Asilomar.
And so the sun set on another day.

August 21, 2023

Redwoods in the Mist

I was only vaguely aware of the Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, still harboring a belief that it was a closed area. And this year it was closed—temporarily—until a few weeks ago. Heavy damage from last winter's storms (to Bear Creek Road, as well as in the Preserve) had finally been addressed.
My friends had hiked here many times in prior years; evidently it's been open to the public since 2019.

I scouted the parking lot last week. My friends had warned me that parking could be an issue, even on a weekday with schools back in session. There were only a couple of vehicles, but it was later in the day. Would we find the lot empty, because people weren't yet aware that the Preserve had re-opened? Or would it be packed with hikers eager for access after months of closure?

As it turned out, we nearly had the place to ourselves. And it was magical, today.
The fog thickenend and swirled around us, the higher we climbed. We followed the Alma Trail to the Redwood Springs Trail, completing a loop of some 5.3 miles. Given the fog, we opted not to extend our route to the Bear Creek Summit.

Save that for next time ...

August 19, 2023

B is for Bob

The last time I saw Bob, he needled me (as he was wont to do) about retiring. Little did we imagine that the door would close on my professional life four days later, or that he would be gone in less than four months.

Bob had retired before I'd met him, and he was a poster child for early retirement. From my perspective, he was unambiguously making the most of his time on this planet.

It was a fluke that our paths crossed. Back in 2005, I started chatting with three cyclists at a rest stop during the I Care Classic. I'd been tailing them, as we were riding at a similar pace. The very next week, I was surprised to find them at the Foothill Century and we exchanged contact information. Thanks to those encounters, I was drawn into a circle of East Bay cycling friends that included Bob's wife.

In 2011, Bob and Pat persuaded me to join them on one of their frequent European cycling tours. We summited the Stelvio, Gavia, and Mortirolo passes in the Italian Alps, and I was hooked. I would go on to share more adventures with them in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland.
Before we gathered to pay tribute to Bob today, a group assembled to honor his memory with a bike ride. (I'll note that the route, intentionally or not, traced the outline of the letter B.)

There was a thread in the stories people told at our celebration of Bob's life: “I'm not sure Bob liked me, but ... ” was the common lead-in to some thoughtful or kind thing that Bob had done. He could be gruff, but ... yes, he liked you.

Bob's brother shared a sentiment that hit home: Your life isn't about how much time you live, it's about how you live your time.

You lived your time well Bob, and you deserved more of it. We miss you.

August 14, 2023

Rancho San Antonio

As close as it is, I had never hiked in Rancho San Antonio. Many years ago I'd biked through on the road, on group rides, which gave me a limited (distorted) perspective on what the park might have to offer. [Besides too many people.]

Unlike other county parks, admission is free—which likely contributes to its popularity. Even on a weekday, with schools back in session, we carpooled to improve our chances of finding parking spaces. Conveniently bordered by residential neighborhoods, evidently many people will drop in for a quick jog.

Near the little farm area, a curious cycle-mobile was hitched to a bike rack. (Front wheel drive.)

Technically, most of the acreage is the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, adjacent to the county park; and there's much more of it than I'd imagined.

We climbed high enough to enjoy a view clear across the valley to Moffett Field, San Francisco Bay, and beyond.

Three of us kicked back at a picnic table for more conversation (and, our lunch) after completing our loop. Having traversed more than six miles, I covered a bit more ground stalking and chasing a determined squirrel that expected a handout. Why forage when all those park visitors feed you?

Time to learn that this visitor is not like the others ...

August 7, 2023

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

I've made good use of the county parks pass I bought this year; by removing the friction of paying per visit, I have found myself eager to visit more of our parks. But a state parks pass? I just wouldn't use that often enough to break even.

Yet, I haven't been to a state park in years. We are blessed with so many beautiful places to hike that the price of admission discouraged me.

Then I learned that my library card allows me to borrow a pass that gives me free entry to most California State Parks. What a deal!

I've hiked in the Fall Creek section of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park several times, but never gave any thought to visiting the main part of the park. Why not, today?

I didn't find an explanation for these carefully-arranged piles of sticks.

The redwood grove, near the visitor center, is the main attraction. One family included a backpack-wearing little girl whose demeanor suggested a scientist/naturalist/park ranger in the making. (Unlike the rest of her peers, who were mostly running around.)

Beyond the old growth trees of the grove, vestiges of logging remind us of what we have lost. Luckily, the CZU fires of 2020 spared this area; I still have not mustered the courage to approach Big Basin.
I made my way to the Observation Deck, where (in addition to the great views) I found a picnic table to enjoy my lunch. This turned out to be an unexpected bird-watching spot: a drinking fountain with a small reservoir of water attracted a robin and a goldfinch while I was there.
The deck offered a clear view in all directions, high enough to see the Pacific (no marine layer, today).
Happy to escape the heat on the other side of the hill, I spent the day meandering slowly along a route I'd mapped out (six miles, more or less). I chose well.

August 5, 2023

Feel the Bernal

It was warmer than I thought it would be. The first hill was harder than I thought it would be. I will skip the second hill, I thought.

But I've been pedaling too much within my comfort zone, rarely climbing any hills.

I'd cooled down by the time I reached the base of Bernal. [Just ... do it.]

There was the evidence of a recent controlled burn in Santa Teresa County Park, and a slight breeze at the picnic table where I paused to enjoy my snack (in the shade).

I uprooted some invasive star thistle and picked up many pieces of litter. [People. There is a trash can. Right. There.]

Twenty-nine miles and some 1,200 feet of climbing. (I took the flat route home.)