Friday, May 30, 2014

Organized cacophony

SMS band concert last night.  This one is for you grandparents.

Spot the little Nim head among the music stands if you can:

Mini-backpacking trip in Portola Redwoods

We decided to go backpacking over Memorial Day weekend, but not until the last minute, so local options were somewhat limited -- nothing available for Saturday night, but one potentially lovely spot at the Slate Creek Trail camp in Portola Redwoods for Sunday night.   We're still working the kiddo up to this, so a one-night short trip wasn't necessarily a bad thing (plus it meant we could all go to the climbing gym on Saturday).  I'll let the pictures do the talking:

Before we started.  The kiddo got my pack since it could be adjusted to fit her, and my good heavyweight hiking boots.  They're narrower than I like anyway. (I had one of Chad's packs and a softer pair of boots.)

For the record: 15 lb for kiddo, 25 lb for me, and 30 lb for Chad.

From behind Nim looked like a backpack with legs.

The trail snaked gently up through the redwoods for about 3 miles, going up maybe six to eight hundred feet.  Nim was pretty cheery, except when hungry.  We still forget just how often she has to eat.

Our camp site was nestled in between the trees, in dappled sunshine.  

It was a good place for eating,


and napping.  Poor Chad had a nasty cold.

We saw a few critters, including cyanide-exuding yellow-spotted millipedes

banana slugs (including slug tracks on the outside of our tent in the morning),

and a rubber snake that Chad found in the campsite.

We saw no evidence of the ravenous raccoon the ranger warned us about, but we did hang the food overnight nonetheless.  Better safe than sorry.

There were a few wildflowers out, including a couple I don't normally see.
Redwood sorrel

Tolmie Star-Tulip

Also one of the historic mill sites.  Page apparently operated a couple of shingle mills in these parts, selectively cutting the trees with straight enough grain for shingles.  This one, apparently, was too twisty.

There are definitely some enormous trees about.  We took a detour on the way out to see the "Old Tree", which the small one deemed very large.

 Happy holiday weekend :)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Top of Umunhum

I've stared at the high point on the ridge to the west of us -- Mt. Umunhum -- both on maps and in person for years. Not only is it the local high point, promising views of both the Bay Area and Monterey, but it also has a distinctive five-story concrete cube standing on its summit. The building is both a relic of the cold war era (radar detection of incoming hostile aircraft) and a local landmark that's been a part of the ridge skyline for decades. Unfortunately, the summit has been inaccessible to the public for decades as well.

This is changing. Recently, the MROSD (the local open space district who owns the land) has been pushing forward a project to open it up. Demolition of the old air force station buildings has been completed, and they are actively working on building a new trail. However, at last check, it looked like the earliest the general public can get up there is still a few years off, in 2017.

Grrr. I really really really want to ride my bike up there. One can ride up neighboring Mt. El Sombroso and look toward Umunhum, and one can ride up Mt. Umunhum road to a similar elevation (about 3000 ft), but those last 400 ft of elevation just aren't allowed. Frustrating.
view of Umunhum from El Sombroso earlier this month

However, sometimes you get lucky.  In this case, I managed to score a ride with a ranger up to the summit to look around.  Not only did I get to enjoy the view, but the ranger was full of interesting stories about the history of the area.  Yippee!

As we drove up, we went through several gates

past security cameras

and up to the top.  The old radar tower is the last building standing while they decide what to do with it, as there is a debate between those who want to restore the site completely to its natural state, and those (including me) who see it as both a landmark and an interesting historic site.

From below, the old radar edifice looks like a cube; I was surprised to see that it is actually quite rectangular.

Despite the fog, the views all around were pretty amazing.  One really feels on top of the world.  What made it even more entertaining is the fact that I've poked around so much of the area by bike, and seeing familiar places from this different vantage point was pretty cool.

View down towards San Jose with Mt. Hamilton on the horizon

View down onto Mt. El Sombroso.  Those dirt roads you see don't look so steep, but trust me, they are!

View looking down the ridge that Soda Springs Road comes up.  This road would connect in if it weren't for some private property.

View off towards Monterey.  You can just make out the ridge that curves around Monterey Bay over the edge of the fog.  This area is apparently where the old commissary, bowling alley, and other service buildings were.  Not a bad place to be stationed, I would think!

A piece of the old swimming pool.  This was the only remnant left of all the buildings that used to be here, aside from the cube itself.  I do hope that there is eventually some interpretive material with the history of the site put up here, for the benefit of those not lucky enough to explore with a knowledgeable ranger.
In case you are wondering, all the wood chips on the ground are remnants of the old buildings that they shredded and scattered to decompose.  You can't really tell from the photos, but little plants and wildflowers are already starting to poke through the chips even just a few months after demolition, so I suspect it won't take long to start looking like a more natural surface.

Damage to the tower from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  Given solidity of the building, it must have shaken pretty hard up here.  Of course, it's also quite close to where the epicenter was.

After exploring the top of the mountain, I got to walk the portion of the new trail that is currently under construction since the ranger wanted to see how it was progressing.

It's just a lovely trail so far, well-graded with good sight lines, gently switchbacking up the mountain under the edge of the tree canopy.  I would not have thought that one could route a trail up this peak that was mostly shaded, but they seem to be managing it!  And the grade is really quite reasonable, especially given the ruggedness of the surrounding terrain.  It's clearly a lot of work to put in, so I can see why they think it may be a while before it is all ready for use.

Another nice feature of the trail is that there are many and varied views of the summit as you ascend.  I can't until they finish the whole thing.  It's supposed to be a multi-use trail, and the nice routing they are choosing is not so evil that Nim couldn't ride it too :)

Wait, wait, wait.  Once they open this first trail, there will be more wait, wait waiting for connections to be made to locations on the other side so one can make loops-- but at least it appears that things are moving in the right direction!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Obligatory concert post

For you grandparents who missed it:
Here's Nimue's favorite piece that her choir did at their recent concert.  Bootleg recording as usual given the group's evil policies...
Bob Chilcott's "A Little Jazz Mass"

(If it doesn't work, let me know -- there's some weird new security certificate stuff, at least with my browser, and I had to click a little box saying it's ok to get the file off our server to make it work here. The pop up window with the click box may be hiding behind your main browser window)

I also snuck into the "closed" rehearsal and took a few pictures.  The church they sang in (First United Methodist in Palo Alto) was visually interesting, with lots of small trapezoidal colored windows, and I guess Nimue was amused by the maze of rooms down underneath.
See if you can spot the Nim (blurry given that I had to sneak the picture -- i.e. no flash!)

This will be the last one of these for a while, as Nim has decided to not sing with the group next year.  They do quite a lot in terms of good music education, but the main conductor -- who runs the groups for the older kids -- is not a very fun person to work with.  Not unexpected, and it will give Nim time to  try some other activities next year.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mellow spectating at the Tour of California

This year, there was only one local stage of the Tour of California.  It went up and over Mt. Hamilton, so naturally Chad and I had to ride up to watch it there.

Despite a predicted high of 94F.  The timing was such that I convinced myself that all the hotness would occur on the descent.


Thank goodness for the soda machine in the observatory at the top.

After inhaling a cold beverage, I climbed through the fence to sit on the edge of the lip of the pavement to survey the landscape below.  Quite a comfy spot, and we were joined by some other folks that Chad knew from NASA, as well as some other spectators.  It was blessedly not crowded, as all the crazies were over on Mt. Diablo for the stage finish.

 The view, while waiting.  We weren't right on the edge of the course, but we could see quite a bit of the road as it snaked up to the summit.
 The early-morning break (eight guys), who were six minutes ahead of the bunch at this point came into view on a switchback below
and eventually whooshed by on the road just below us.
 Then came the peloton, all strung out, followed by a long caravan of cars.
 The riders were more bunched up as they came right below us, given that this point was about 200 meters before the summit.
 I was, as always, amused by the broom wagon bringing up the rear of the train.
Chad clearly enjoyed taking the day off of work.  It's good to have an excuse.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Five Feet, One and One Half Inches

Large kid, likely taller than at least one grandma.  Over 100 lb.  Size 7.5-8 shoe.  Clothing rule of thumb is adult, only one size smaller than me, both top and bottom.  Giant kid.  Still eating a lot, so more sprouting to come.  Enough said.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

More California wildflowers

I took a hike at Russian Ridge earlier in the week to see what the wildflowers were like.  They're late this year, since the rain came late, but better late than never!



As a side note, all these pictures were taken with the spooky new phone (Nexus 5) that Chad got me for my birthday.  I still prefer to use the indestructible camera (given my habits), but it's good to know the phone will take a halfway decent picture in a pinch.