Koko Head Trail : Tuesday Photo Challenge – Height

This week’s Tuesday Photo Challenge prompt from Frank  is  “Height“.

My entry for this week is from my trip to Hawaii last year. This photo was taken on my hike up the Koko Head trail.  The trail is about 1.5 miles round trip from the parking lot, 1200 feet high ( ~ 1000 feet elevation gain) and up nearly vertical and  steep 1048 steps of abandoned railway steps.  But the trip was also memorable to me as providence, in the guise of my beloved wife, saved me from near death ( or at least a broken body as I slipped during my return trip.  I do not know where she got the strength ( I weigh roughly 1.5X her weight ) to hold on to my shirt without herself slipping and stopping me from rolling down steep 500 feet.

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Koko Head Trail, Oahu, Hawaii – September 2017.  Last 500 steps up is really steep.  As per veloviewer.com statistics, average grade is 39.8% with a maximum grade of 85.8% (https://veloviewer.com/segment/1577261/Koko+Head+Trail+Climb).

As I promised Frank, below is my photo from Capilano Suspension Bridge taken during my trip to Vancouver, BC in December, 2004.

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Of April Fools Day, Good Friday and Easter

Yesterday was April Fools Day as well as Easter.  I was thinking of posting this yesterday but then one thing rolled into another and before I knew it it was past midnight. So here it is.

Thirty five years ago, it was another April Fools Day.  I will always remember that day.  That was the day my elder brother, my sister-in-law and my younger brother were going to see my future wife.  Ours was an arranged marriage and I had not met her till that time.  It was early morning, around 9:00 AM when my family members were about to go to my bride to be house when my younger brother said, “Hope this not turn out to be an April Fool joke.”  My elder brother stopped in his track, looked towards me and said, ” Well, it is also Good Friday and the good will surely overcome the bad.” We are not Christians and Good Friday did not carry much importance to us in India except that it was a holiday.  To make a long story short, it definitely did not turn out to be an April Fool’s joke. In another month and eight days, it will be our thirty fifth anniversary and I must have been blessed by someone high up on that Good Friday.

Move forward thirty five years and to April Fools Day and Easter.  Leader of our hiking group had sent a message for a hike up Mount Umunhum, a 3486 feet peak in Santa Clara county, California.  The trail leading up to the summit was opened to the public in September of 2017.  We had been to the grand opening and was fortunate to be part of a group to hike down.  There are three parking lots for this trail, one at the entrance to the park at bottom, one somewhat in the middle and one near the summit.  Hiking up from the bottom lot is nearly a day long affair.  The trail that was opened last year starts from the parking lot in the middle (Bald Mountain) and goes up about 3.7 miles to the top parking lot.  There is another trail leading up to the summit and an alternate path is to climb up 159 steps and walk a small distance.  Bald Mountain parking lot is quite small and fills up very quickly on weekends and holidays.  On my last three attempts, I was not able to find a parking and was forced to drive to the top parking lot.  So I had never completed the round trip of the trail as it is harder to hike down and then hike up and had returned from about half way down the trail.  This time I was determined to complete the round trip so I told my group to be at the parking lot as early as possible.  I was at the bottom parking lot before 7:30 AM and was greeted by the wonderful sight of the moon setting on the western sky over the mountain.

Moonset over Mt UmMount Umunhum with old radar station on the left and the setting moon on the right.

I had to wait for about fifteen minutes before my friends arrived.  I left my car in the bottom parking lot and four of us drove up to the Bald Mountain parking lot.

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Mount Umunhum in early morning light

Being early had its reward as there were still few parking spaces available.  We parked our car and started our hike.  The trail is a designer trail with very decent grading and switch backs with lots of shade.  Trail is about 3.7 miles long from the Bald Mountain parking lot to the parking lot at the summit.  It was a perfect hiking weather, sunny but cool with a light breeze.  We had a very pleasant hike, wandering around from time to time, exploring.  Completed our hike of nine miles with an elevation gain of about 1300 feet in three hours and forty five minutes with many stops along the way to enjoy the vistas.  So another happy April Fools Day and the blessings of Easter.  I am sure I won’t be here for next thirty five years to tell another April Fool story.  But as long as I live, I will remember these two April Fools Day.  They were perfect.

View of the valley from Guadalupe River Watershed Vista Point on the left and Doppler weather radar on Mount Umunhum on the right

One Tree Hill

Today’s Tuesday Photo Challenge prompt by Frank is Hills.  This is a topic near and dear to my heart.

Readers of my blog by now must be familiar with the featured image of my home page. It is a photo of Dana Peak (13000 ft) in the high Sierras taken by me in September of 2014 hiking down Gaylor Peak (11000 ft).  But I am not going to talk about it today.MtDana_1.jpg

My current residence is in a valley (Almaden Valley) inside a valley (Santa Clara Valley / Silicon Valley). As such we are surrounded by hills.  Mount Umunhum (3300 ft) to our west hovers over us and can be viewed from our front and back yard.  But I am not going to talk about it today.MtUm1The white cube seen on top of Mount Umunhum was a radar station in the air force base that was closed nearly forty years ago.  During its heyday it used to keep tab on all flights coming in from the east over the Pacific Ocean. The radar station is still off limits to public due to asbestos hazards, but Mount Um was opened to the public in fall of 2017.  It’s a gorgeous hike up there and on clear days one can see past San Francisco to Mt Tamalpais ( about 75 miles north) to the north and Monterey to the south and whole of Silicon Valley to the east.
MtUm2Mount Umunhum as seen from my back yard.

Now that I have gotten these out of my way, let me come back to the main topic of today.  Near our house is a small hillock (or a knoll ) hardly a couple of hundred feet tall.  The landscape changes with the season.  It is verdant in winter, slowly turning to golden brown with advent of spring.  On top of the hill there are three oak trees.  Looking from the bottom, only one oak tree is seen at a time.  I think that’s where it got its name, One Tree Hill.  Generations of kids have grown up swinging on homemade swings attached to its branches.  Many graduating high school seniors use the plateau on top with the oak tree as a background for their high school graduating yearbook photos. I use the hike up the hill as my excuse for exercise but mainly to let my dog Skooby run around freely on the few soccer field size flat top.  He enjoys the freedom, absolute lack of traffic and gallops, canters or sprints as he feels like.  It’s pure joy to see him enjoying the freedom.
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OakTree1Oak2     Alas, as spring comes the hills will slowly turn golden brown.
This enchanting hill can become dangerous fire hazard if some idiots drop their cigarette butts on those golden brown grass as can be seen from a photo taken couple of years back.
Thank God (and quick responding fire fighters) that no one was harmed and no property was damaged.

Yesterday it rained here, just sparingly.  As the news channels said, it was just teaser rain (Flirtatious Rain Clouds) , harbinger of more rains to come in the next few days.  God knows we need as much rain as we can get.  But there was a forecast of snow at higher elevations.  So come morning, I along with my best friend, Skooby, trudged up One Tree Hill.  It was a gorgeous morning, cool,crisp and clear.  And what a sight it was.  Mount Hamilton (4300 feet) to the east of us was covered with snow.  It was difficult to get a good photograph as the mountain was to my east and the sun shining bright in the morning.

I know I have gone completely overboard with this post.  But as I mentioned at the beginning of my post today, this prompt is very near and dear to my heart. I wish I could have just given you a birds eye view as seen by the falcon flying over my head today.


All photographs by the author.

 

 

 

Summer of 2017 – Part 5- Independence Day

Continued from previous post : http://wp.me/p73yZZ-3qq

On Independence Day, July 4th, my dog Skooby and I decided to be little independent and go for a morning hike at Almaden Quicksilver County Park.  The park is just a stone’s throw from my house and  one of the several park entrances is a walkable distance.  With Skooby I did not want to walk on the main road although major portions of the road did have a footpath.

PART 5: July 4, 2017 : Tuesday: Independence Day
The day started off well, sunny but cool with a nice breeze.  Skooby, being a good dog, decided to do his morning ritual at the start of the trail, thereby releasing me from the burden of carrying his load throughout the hike.  Starting of the trail had a steep gradient, but the path to the next junction was short and shaded.

I had in mind a short hike, about an hour and half up and half an hour down. But Skooby had different ideas. He wanted to have some side trips. I had to keep him on a tight leash as I heard a rattler (rattlesnake) about half a mile into my hike. This was a first in this trail in many years of hiking. Another hiker who was coming down the trail told me that he had also heard one when going up the trail. I was cautious after that. But when we came to creek with flowing water, it was difficult for me to stop Skooby. He had to explore and being a good, conscientious dog, he decided to add to the water volume of the creek. As per his request I did not photograph him on the act, though the gently flowing creek with soothing, gurgling sound assured me that it did not mind Skooby’s indiscretion. There was Skooby on the bottom right of the photo on the right, happily exploring.

Skooby’s act was for good measures as after this creek with flowing water, we were greeted by one dry creek after another.  A disappointed Skooby searching for water on the photo at bottom.

As we were climbing up, it was becoming humid and Skooby was panting. He was still game but seemed to be getting tired.  At eight and half years of age, the heat and the steep grading must have been tiresome for him.  In previous hikes he would always try to go in front of me trying to explore every bush.  Today he was just content to walk by my side or follow me.  I just may have missed a turn on the trail but the trail I took rewarded us with great vistas.

Reason for making this hike a short one was that we had a lunch invitation to attend to. But somewhere during one of Skooby’s side trips, I must have taken a wrong turn. It was getting warmer and I had to make a few stops to ensure that Skooby drank enough water. It was getting much longer than I anticipated. But every cloud has a silver lining. Longer hike resulted in a roaring appetite to do justice for the ensuing lunch party. Also the view of our lovely valley from the hilltop was fantastic.

By the time we were back to the parking lot, it became a ~ six miles hike, 1200 ft elevation and a good three hours of hiking.

A hike can’t be complete without a selfie. So here it is (just to prove that Skooby did not hike alone).
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May be continued as summer unfolds.

©All photographs in this post were taken by the author.  Readers are free to use with proper acknowledgement to the author.

Hiking Amongst Wildflowers

I wish I could have written Wordsworth’s famous line ” I wandered lonely as a cloud”. What to do, there was hardly any clouds to be seen on the azure sky.  No daffodils, but flowers aplenty. It was a beautiful morning, perfect for1000864 hiking. Bright, sunny morning with a cool breeze.  A morning when you don’t feel the necessity of sunscreen to keep the sun away from your face, but rather want the golden rays to kiss your face to warm you up. Neither I was lonely, rather enjoying the company of my better half and our lovely, four legged companion, Skooby.  Three’s Company, indeed.

Skooby was straining at the leash, begging me with his doleful eyes to let him be relieved of the undue constraint.  But trail rules are strict, dog on leash at all time.  So, rather reluctantly, I had to restrain Skooby from his enthusiastic endeavour of running after the butterflies and bumblebees.

Ah! the butterflies and bumblebees. The hills were ablaze with wildflowers.  A good rainy season after five long years of drought and mother nature resplendent on her most regal beauties. Alas, this bonanza is not going to be long lasting.  1000842As spring will slowly make its way to summer and the landscape will start to become golden brown, lovely wildflowers will give way to dried grass. Better to enjoy when I can.

Try as I might, I could not take a photo of any butterflies.  They were so lovely, with the 1000843luminescent, fluttering wings catching the sun rays.  I think they also must have realized how short lived nature’s bounty is going to be.  I tried to emulate their example and enjoy nature as much as I can.  But from time to time, I could not restrain myself from trying to capture the abundance all around me in the confines of my 1000853digital camera.  What a waste of time and futile attempt to confine the panoramic canvas in a few megapixels of digital memory.  Try as I may, I could not do justice to what my eyes had seen in my photographs.  I will never be Wordsworth and I realized that I am a lousy photographer of nature.1000872

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Hiking in Almaden QuickSilver County Parks

 

Weekend Warriors:Week 14 of My Fifty Two Weeks Journey with “W”

Due to increased workload and unplanned changes in my schedule, suddenly I find myself with less time to indulge in my passion. I am at serious peril of defaulting in my commitment to keep up with my weekly Wednesday schedule of writing a poem starting with the word “W”. When one is tired and the body just wants to be in a horizontal position, it is difficult to  focus and write anything meaningful. I know the drill. First it will slip by a day, then a couple of days. Days will turn to weeks and soon the flow will dry up. I will have to drag myself to do the unthinkable. That is to think and write something beforehand and schedule it  to be posted on Wednesday. Ugh! soon I will be one of those heinous weekend warriors.  God have mercy on me.  Till I can rearrange my life around my new schedule, I do not see any other way of continuing with my commitment.

I am kind of a weekend warrior as far as exercise is concerned. However exercise was never one of my passion. Only because it is difficult to see my toes when I stand up, due the ever increasing waistline, grudgingly I do some exercise to keep myself mobile. I enjoy hiking and every Sunday morning, with a few friends, I hike the hills around our area. We average around six miles every weekend. Good company, nice sceneries and friendly discussions are obviously added incentives.  Look forward to the weekend hiking. That may not qualify me to be a weekend warrior but it may be close enough.  Slowly I will graduate to be a weekend blogging warrior or a weekend blogarrior.

That being settled, I am now left to find a word that starts with the word “W” to write a poem for week fourteen of my journey with “W”. My tired brain refuses to think too much. I will go with the title of this post, both words that start with “W”. If only I had some more energy left to write a poem either with “weekend” or with “warrior”. Somewhere  in the world, it must be Wednesday, but where I live it is still 11:00PM, so I have twenty five more hours to complete my mission. Till then I can sleep over it.


This post is in response to WRITE ANYTHING WEDNESDAY (A LITTLE LATE) – MAY 4TH, 2016, Daily Post Community Event, organized by  Writerish Ramblings