Hiking Stile Ranch Trail : A hike during the stay at home, May Day, 2020

Today is May Day, International Workers’ Day or Labor Day all over the world except in a handful of countries including USA.  However due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, large percentage of the population in the world is in some form of stay at home or lockdown with many activities curtailed.

In our home state of California, stay at home is extended till end of May with certain exemptions like walking, hiking, biking, jogging etc., maintaining proper social distancing etiquette.  However I had a much more pressing need for getting out of the house.  I have not even started my car in last month or so and I was afraid that when I need it, it won’t start.

I started the car today after exactly a month. The twenty year old faithful started in one try with a nice hum. I drove around for about two and a half mile to the trailhead of Stiles Ranch. It was past 11:00 AM when I arrived at the small gravel patch of land that can accommodate about ten cars. Luckily there were a couple of spots left. On the other side of the main road, the developed parking lot of Calero County Park was nearly full with few cars parked by the side of the road. Normally I always come here just after the rains when the poppies bloom covering the hillside with blazingas golden yellow color.  I have attached the link below from my previous post of last year.  I was not expecting the same this year and was fearful that I may not find any poppy. The rains had gone long back and it was dry for a few weeks now. My heart sank as I could not see anything except tall grass swaying gently with the breeze. As my eyes got accustomed to the strong sun, here and there I could see some colors peeking their heads through the dancing grass. And then I realized what happened. As it did not rain very much this season and had stopped now for a few weeks; poppies, though blooming in large numbers still, were much smaller in size. I decided to go up the hill and see. Glad that I did not allow my first impression to deter me from hiking up. Even though the sun was very strong and blinding, a soothing breeze made it a pleasant hike. I also needed to ensure that I was not rusted from the month and a half stay at home regimen. Glad to report that the old engine is still humming nicely. The hike up was, pun intended, a breeze. Met only a few hardy hikers daring the mid-day sun and a couple of mountain bikers. It’s the bikers I was most afraid of regarding social distancing. The trail being quite narrow, there is not much space to keep the six feet social distancing when a bike suddenly comes down the hill. It was one of the reason I started late. I was hoping that Friday being a weekday WFH and the late morning would naturally result in less people out on the trail. It turned out to be true . I saw a young couple cuddling and kissing beneath a tree, well hidden by the rocks. Nature had provided them quite a romantic getaway and terrific weather to be out of the restraints of stay at home. Once I arrived at the top of the ridge with the old heart beating a nice rhythm, it was time to head back home. The honey pot was calling.

Though the poppies were smaller in size due to less nourishment and were hidden by tall grass, it was still a worthwhile hike.  The hardy wildflowers along with the abundant poppies were a sight to behold.

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I also realized that even with maximum brightness setting, cell phone screen in bright sunlight is nearly useless to take good photo/s.  I was clicking blindly with the hope that I shall get a few worthwhile photos to share.  I am disappointed at myself with the result.

Hiking Stile Ranch Trails : A morning with poppies

California Poppy- Local Flora – Stay at home stroll – 2

The state flower of the Golden State, California, is aptly California Poppy heralding the advent of spring. Luckily its enchanting beauty is intoxicating for the eyes and heart and not the source of the drug opium. As the rainy season tapers down and the temperature warms up, roadsides and hills get covered with blooming poppies, opening their hearts to the sun.  In my blog I had written before the enchanting sight of hillside in Santa Teresa County Park completely covered by blooming poppies.  However this season, due to the restrictions I have not gone hiking on the trails of Santa Teresa County Park and had to satisfy myself with local blooms by the roadsides and creeksides.  Though California poppies are planted in gardens, I find them more beautiful in the wild.California poppy (2)

Graceful you are

The California State flower

Enchanting but not addictive

Brighten the hearts of nature lovers


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A Rose is a rose

 

Hiking Stile Ranch Trail : Part 2 – Fortini Loop

It was a gorgeous morning today, sunny but cool.  A perfect hiking weather.  Tax preparation was finished yesterday.  As I have to pay some, I decided to postpone filing till later and mail the checks to IRS and franchise tax board on April 15, Tax Day.  To reward myself decided to go hiking.  Hiking is my usual stress reliever.  Couple of weeks back when I had gone hiking up Stile Ranch Trail and taken photos of poppy blooms, my wife wanted to go to the trail.  So off we went, me, my wife and my companion, Skooby.

Fortunately for us, the rain had stopped last week, the trail was not muddy and more wild flowers had bloomed after the rains.  This time I had my dslr with me as Skooby was handled by my wife and I had my hand free for most of the time.  We decided to complete Fortini Loop this time and was rewarded by majestic vistas, hillside ablaze with wildflowers, running creeks and floating birds of prey.  Sharing a few photos from our hike today.

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Mount Umunhum to the west of Stile Ranch
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Mount Hamilton with Lick Observatory visible at top to the west of Stile Ranch
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Big Blue-IBM Almaden Research Center.  IBM had given access to the Stile Ranch easement to Santa Clara County Park and Recreation.

Ah, I had forgotten about the wildflowers.  So without much ado, here are the flowers.

Fortunate to call this beautiful place home for last thirty years.  However we all need to be vigilant that, for the generations to come, we nurture what we enjoy and leave this earth a better place than we found.  Today while hiking, I found a mother with her young daughter hiking the trail from the opposite direction.  In the mother’s hand I found a small bottle with water and a few varieties of wildflowers in the bottle.  For a moment I thought of just passing by, but my conscience won’t let me go .  I stopped and told the mother that she was not supposed to do that.  Specifically picking wildflowers from state and county lands without authorization in California is a misdemeanor.  The lady told me that she found it so beautiful and she picked only a few.  I told her that if everyone started picking only a few, there will be none left for people to enjoy.  My wife was not pleased with me but I reasoned that it was my civic duty and I did not do anything wrong.  As it turned out, we met again after an hour or so on the trail ( it was a loop) and I had a pleasant chat with the lady and was happy to find out that she saw that my point of view was correct.

Soar high my friends.  Spring is in the air.

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Note: All photos taken by author on April 13, 2019. Please ask or cite source for reproduction.


 

Hiking Stile Ranch Trail :Part 1 –  A morning with Poppies

This weekend was supposed to be a hike to view wildflowers but by Saturday night very few group members signed up for any one of the two hikes suggested.  At the last moment it was changed to St. Joseph Trail hike in Los Gatos.  My mind already set to view wildflowers, I decided to skip the hike and instead hit the Stile Ranch Trail on my extended backyard.  The trailhead of  Stile Ranch Trail is couple of miles from my home.  After a good rainy season, the hills are always ablaze with poppy flowers along with other wildflowers.  This trial was opened in September of 1991 and I hiked this trail nearly every year after that, specially during the d3988b0f-ee68-4449-aae0-c23c61710bdcpoppy blooming season.  Last few years were a disappointment due to paucity of rain.  This year we had very good rains during February and March and I was hopeful that this would be a boom season.  I was not disappointed.  

My dog, Skooby, loves this trail and he lovesb6dffa56-b1db-4127-91ca-68f63a0a2360_RS the flowers ( I think he likes to chase the bees).  He had been hiking this trail every year for last nine years with me.  By the time I started, it was already mid morning and it was getting warm.

 

The trail itself is not a hard one.  From the trailhead to the crest is less than three hundred feet elevation gain but is shared by hikers, bikers and equestrians.  Though46904f4e-fb61-4cba-95b0-3f9a30adad2d_RS I did not see any horses yesterday morning, there were many bikers as usual.  The rail had cut deep gullies on the middle of trail making it difficult for the bikers to navigate.  With Skooby I had to be extra careful to ensure that he was not in the path of oncoming bikes coming down hill. 

After spending a few hours among the lovely flowers and fresh air, Skooby and I left for home for a warm lunch.  Till next year and hoping for a good rainy season.

Note: All photos taken by author on March 31, 2019. Please ask or cite source for reproduction.

 

Hiking Stile Ranch Trail : A morning with Poppies

 

This weekend was supposed to be a hike to view wildflowers but by Saturday night very few group members signed up for any one of the two hikes suggested.  At the last moment it was changed to St. Joseph Trail hike in Los Gatos.  My mind already set to view wildflowers, I decided to skip the hike and instead hit the Stile Ranch Trail on my extended backyard.  The trailhead of  Stile Ranch Trail is couple of miles from my home.  After a good rainy season, the hills are always ablaze with poppy flowers along with other wildflowers.  This trial was opened in September of 1991 and I hiked this trail nearly every year after that, specially during the d3988b0f-ee68-4449-aae0-c23c61710bdcpoppy blooming season.  Last few years were a disappointment due to paucity of rain.  This year we had very good rains during February and March and I was hopeful that this would be a boom season.  I was not disappointed.  

My dog, Skooby, loves this trail and he lovesb6dffa56-b1db-4127-91ca-68f63a0a2360_RS the flowers ( I think he likes to chase the bees).  He had been hiking this trail every year for last nine years with me.  By the time I started, it was already mid morning and it was getting warm.

 

The trail itself is not a hard one.  From the trailhead to the crest is less than three hundred feet elevation gain but is shared by hikers, bikers and equestrians.  Though46904f4e-fb61-4cba-95b0-3f9a30adad2d_RS I did not see any horses yesterday morning, there were many bikers as usual.  The rail had cut deep gullies on the middle of trail making it difficult for the bikers to navigate.  With Skooby I had to be extra careful to ensure that he was not in the path of oncoming bikes coming down hill. 

After spending a few hours among the lovely flowers and fresh air, Skooby and I left for home for a warm lunch.  Till next year and hoping for a good rainy season.

Note: All photos taken by author on March 31, 2019. Please ask or cite source for reproduction.

 

Hiking Yosemite- Half Dome from a different angle : Tuesday Photo Challenge – “ROCK”

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

Hiking Yesomite

Hiking in Yosemite, June 2017.  In right hand corner Half Dome can be seen at a distance. The rocks show the signs of continuous erosion from wind, rain, snow and sun.

 

 

 

Hiking Calero County Park : An Afternoon Hike

 

Weather permitting, Sunday morning normally is reserved for hiking. For the last few years, with a group of friends, I had been hiking nearby county and state parks when I am in town. However this year had been an exception. For pretty much of twenty nineteen, nearly every Sunday morning it had rained.  A couple of Sundays that may have been rain free, the hilly trails were not ideal for hiking, being soft and muddy due to heavy rains during the week.  This Sunday was supposed to be good hiking weather and as I was leaving for a dinner invitation on Saturday evening, I saw an email in my inbox regarding Sunday morning hike in Castle Rock State Park to view the rain fed waterfalls. But by the time we came back home after the dinner, it was past One AM (welcome to Indian social gatherings). Obviously I was not up early on Sunday morning to go with the group and missed the hike. By lunch time I was feeling lethargic and thought of taking an afternoon nap. The beautiful weather outside though kept tugging at me to hit the trails.

At last the trails won and I went to Calero County Park about a mile and half from my caleroparkresizedhome. This entrance to the park was opened only last year, the old entrance being  about four miles from my home. The trail from one entrance to the other over the hills is about eight miles one way. By the time I hit the trails, it was already around two thirty pm and  I knew that I won’t be able to cover the full trail. A sixteen mile round trip is nearly a day long hike and not even advisable to hike alone in the hills for such a long hike. 

This was my first solo afternoon, after lunch hike of the year. I ended up hiking round trip of 6.6 miles. Gorgeous hiking day. The trail goes up fast then flattens out once it gains about 600 ft elevation from parking lot. A canal pumping water from Almaden Reservoir to canelresized.lpgCalero Reservoir meanders along keeping company till it empties out cascading into Calero Reservoir in a man made waterfalls. There were wildflowers but not that it lit up the hills. wildflower1

Hills were verdant though.

There was a sign  at the entrance to the trail saying that the trail was closed to bikers and equestrians but either bikers ignored it or they were illiterate as there were many mountain bikers making a mess of the damp trail on many places (small streams crossing the trail). Welcome to civilized society where laws are applicable to others only. 

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Note: All photos taken by author on March 2, 2019. Please ask or cite source for reproduction.

 

Hiking Uvas Canyon County Park : 2019’s First Hike

 

This was the first sunny weekend in 2019 in Santa Clara County.  Yesterday, Saturday, was a gorgeous 75F and today was going to be same.  Our weekend hiking group had not done any real hiking this year.  So when the forecast was for a sunny weekend we decided on Uvas Canyon County Park for the simple reason that after a good rain, Swanson Creek flowing through the park was always a sight to behold.  When contacting our hiking buddies, came to know that parking needs to be reserved online as onsite parking is limited.  I had hiked this park many times before and though spring and summer weekends needed parking tickets, it could always be purchased onsite with credit cards.  Parking tickets were sold at hourly slots and we decided to reserve for the first slot of 8 AM to 9 AM to avoid traffic.  We were nine all together but coming from different areas of the county. So we had to reserve for three cars.  Morning was cool and as we parked our cars, we could hear the roaring creek.  We hiked mainly around the Waterfalls Trail Loop with side excursions to nearby falls.  It was simply beautiful with Swanson Creek cascading down the mountain producing many waterfalls.

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Note: All photos taken by author on March 17, 2019. Please ask or cite source for reproduction.

 

A Walk along Los Alamitos Creek

I did a 8 mile walk along Los Alamitos Creek today.  It had been raining here continuously for last few days. Even as I am writing this post, the house windows are being rattled by gusts of wind. The constant drip drip sound of the rain on the roof is putting me to sleep.

Los Alamitos Creek is about eight miles long, originating in the Santa Cruz Mountains and flowing along the eastern side of Almaden Valley.  The creek joins the Guadalupe River after Almaden Lake. Los Alamitos Creek Trail along the creek is about ten miles long.  The creek becomes a trickle during summer but swells after winter rains.  I wanted to see the creek after the rains and was not disappointed.

As I started from my home, it was cloudy with the sun trying to come out from behind the clouds .28e63dac-bd6b-436e-816f-d5a6c5d0b956 The hills including Mount Umunhum in the west were hazy, covered in rain clouds.  The trail itself is well paved for bicycles, hikers and joggers with small detours that lead from the paved trail to the creek banks in many areas.  I entered the trail after walking about a mile from my home.

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Winter rains had turned the meadows near the creek bed verdant green. Trees, bare naked in winter, against the green meadows and a darkening sky was a sight to behold.c46fbf2c-d2cf-40ff-b804-80e8365237e1_resize

 

The creek becomes a trickle during summer but swells after winter rains.  I wanted to see the creek after the rains and was not disappointed. It was full with gushing waters and looked like a small river.5a7199c0-bb35-46d4-916f-d872776fe193_resize

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As I was about to return, the rains started. It was a slow drizzle at first but became a driving rain by the time I was about a mile from home. Then just as suddenly a huge gust of wind blew the rain away though I could still see the heavy rains on the hills.  I hurried home as fast as I could praying my tired legs would not slip on the wet pavements.  Though I was extremely tired after the long walk, my heart was full and satisfied.

Vacation Time: Day Six – Winter Wonderland

Our plan was to hike in Bryce Canyon National Park and also to catch sunrise and sunset there on December 27.

The day started with snow flurries in Bryce. While it was great to look at from inside the warmth of the hotel breakfast room, it also became quite clear that viewing a Bryce Canyon magical sunrise was not in our destiny in this trip. By around noon it was clear that the flurries were not going to end and we decided to brave it. On driving down to the visitor’s center, we came to know that thanks to the partial government shutdown, only a small portion of the park was open, mainly due to financial help of the state government of Utah. Big thanks to UTAH.

Completely covered from head to toe due to the cold with temperatures in low 10 (F) and with wind chill around 4F and blowing snow flurries, hiking was not easy. My glasses fogged within few minutes and I had to take it off. Fingers were getting cold inside gloves but technology helped in this case. My eldest son had got some hand warmer packages. These little packages worked so well that I was able to take off my right hand gloves that helped immensely in using the camera.

I am thankful that we decided to hike though my wife was quite apprehensive due to the slippery trail conditions. Using crampons under shoes helped in hiking. What amazing vista’s. Though we were deprived of the colorful display of sunlight firing up various sand stone formations, we were rewarded amply by the display of the magical winter wonderland of Bryce Canyon National Park.

We arrived the Sunset point after about three and half hours of hiking hoping to see sunset but a grey sky and falling snow flurries dashed our hope.

Hopefully will be able to see sunrise tomorrow and then drive to Zion.

Hiking QuickSilver County Park : Tuesday Photo Challenge – Scene

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

After a long time, I went hiking solo up the hilly trails of QuickSilver County Park near my home.  Now a days I rarely go hiking solo as my better half  is worried that I will die up on the hills and no one will know.  As far as I am concerned, nothing can be better than that.  As one is about to leave this world, sun shining on the face and nature surrounding you, what more can any one ask for.  Anyway, that is for another day.  After a seven and half miles ( approximately twelve and half kilometers) hike up and down the hills and many photo stops in between, here is what I have for Frank’s Tuesday Photo Challenge.

Note: All photos taken by author on August 22, 2018. Please ask or cite source for reproduction.