Spanish Broom- Local Flora – Stay at home stroll – 15

This is a series about the neighborhood flowers and flowering trees that I saw and enjoyed on my walk in the neighborhood during the stay at home months.  Many of the flowers I don’t know much about and depend on Google lens to get a name.  If there are mistakes, apologize for my ignorance.

This may feel like cheating for three reasons.  First, it was not exactly a stroll, it was more of a drive. Second, it was not in the neighborhood, unless I could claim seventeen miles south from my house as neighborhood. And third and last, it’s not exactly a local flora.  This is an invasive species in California.  However these flowers captivated me so much along with the scenery that I hope my dear readers would forgive my transgressions.

Due to the stay at home restrictions we had been driving our cars very little now a days, using it mainly for grocery shopping once in two weeks.  Unfortunately one of the car’s battery died prematurely yesterday.  After a call to CSAA (California State Automobile Association) and getting a jump start, I was advised to take it for a long drive to charge the battery.  I chose to take a back road south of our home through the countryside.  Glad I decided to do that.  The two lane road goes through some low rolling hills and wooded areas with a few reservoirs by the roadside and couple of county parks.  Some seventeen miles south of our home, the beautiful vista near Uvas Reservoir County Park with its tranquil beauty was glistening in the afternoon sunlight.  I was afraid to turn off the engine, fearing that the car may not start again, and decided against a walk.  That did not stop me from enjoying the scenery from the roadside and nearly empty parking lot at the entrance to the park.

Can anyone imagine using these beautiful flowers as brooms?  Whoever gave that name must have a weird sense of humor.  Not the Spanish, I hope.

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tranquil and serene

lies the placid waters of the lake  

spanish beauties serenade

the entrance to take


A Rose is a rose

 

 

 

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.

SR11

 

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 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. 

calero

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Spring is in the air II

Spring is in the air

Last week I had share with you some photos from our neighborhood basking in spring. Today I persuaded a few of my friends, who are my weekend hiking buddies, to accompany me for a hike at Uvas Canyon County Park. The park is few miles south of my home. Swanson Creek that runs through the park swells up with winter rain and many small water falls can be seen during the hike.  Best time to visit the park is just after some sustained rain.  The creek nearly runs dry during the summer months. During the summer, morning is the best time to hike but during winter and early spring, from sunrise to sunset, it is a very pleasant hike.  The park is very peaceful, not very crowded and today being Easter Sunday, we had the trails nearly to ourselves. Sharing some photos from the hike today. Flower on the right lower corner is periwinkle that has started blooming. Color is normally blue or purple. My cell phone photo did not do justice to the photo.

UvasCanyonCollage

Orange trees on my backyard has started blooming with the advent of spring. The sweet20160327_130943
smell of orange blossoms is mesmerizing. For the last few years, it has been a spring ritual for us to see our dog, Skooby, being busy hunting bees and bumble bees that are attracted by the blooming flowers.  Not sure how successful he is in hunting but it is a treat to see his focus and concentration trying to catch a bee.  Of course I had to pay dearly to treat him for bee sting couple of times. Nothing in life comes free.


All photographs are taken by author.