Walk on the Wild Side

By Carol at 9:04 pm on Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cranberry Bog Trail

The sun came out for our wonderful walk in the Greenwood Conservancy. The colors of autumn are fading fast, but the beeches are still golden here in Harwick, NY.

fall stream

We passed ponds, bogs and streams populated by beavers, river otters, blue herons, ospreys and eagles.

rocky stream

Our group ate lunch on this bridge, where we had a good view of the beaver dam, holding back the pond.

waiting for lunch

The beaver dam, one in a series, in front of the diners:

beaver dam

heron's nest

In the center of the photo above, is a tree, topped by a great blue heron’s nest.

fallen trees

Fallen trees and beaver dams along the path.

beaver dams

spruce forest

Near the end of our journey, we passed through this ethereal spruce forest - the end of a perfect hike.

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Indoor Nature

By Carol at 4:59 pm on Thursday, September 29, 2011

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San Francisco’s Academy of Sciences is inviting, even on an overcast day. This was our third visit to see the reptile collection, the aquarium, the rainforest, the planetarium, and the excellent indoor/outdoor cafeteria restaurant ( I recommend the veggie spring rolls).

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The living roof offers a great view of the city and the feeling of visiting tele-tubby land. The surface is planted with natives that host butterflies and other beneficial insects.

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The indoor rainforest is home to several species of birds, butterflies and amphibians. The interior is kept warm and humid, equipped with entrance and exit chambers to prevent the accidental escape of the inhabitants.

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Brightly colored frogs hide in the tropical foliage.

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This frog stares right back at visitors parading by his enclosure.

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Tender tropicals bloom in profusion, encouraged by warmth and humidity.

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Aquarium waters are visible below the column of rainforest.

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Look who’s here: a tiny poisonous frog rests on the coil of a large snake.

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The Academy is home to a large collection of reptiles.

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King of the water garden.

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Ghost fishes.

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A collection of carefully displayed jellies mesmerizes the viewer.

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Native giant kelp from nearby Pacific waters.

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Beauty and poise!

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Autumn in Our Neck of the Woods

By Carol at 2:27 pm on Monday, October 18, 2010

Strawberry Fields
Yesterday we hiked to the top of our mountain for a view down the valley.

Colleen and Zena in Strawberry Fields

Colleen and Zena survey the view from Strawberry Fields.

A late wooly bear on the mountain.
A wooly bear crosses the path.

stream in the forest
One of many small streams in the woods above our cottage.

the curve

Walking back to our house.

Back in the woodland garden.

The back of the house from the woodland garden.

garden path

The garden path in the lower woods.

autumn in the lower garden

Hostas, dogwoods and doublefile viburnums in fall shades.

ligularias

Ligularias by the pond are going to seed.

mossy stump

The moss has covered a logged stump.

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Biking to the Garden of Eden

By Carol at 10:00 am on Thursday, October 7, 2010

Imagine a barnyard where all species of animals are affectionate with one another and show interest and affinity for human visitors. One of our “rail to trail” bike trips led us to just such a discovery.

equine friends

Two barnyard friends act in unison.

always together

triplets in the barnyard

Three calves share the yard with horses, pigs, goats, chickens and sheep, guarded by the barn cats, and a shy mastiff.

barn cat

Like the other animals, this barn cat welcomed us.

stormy weather
The bike trail recedes into the distance under stormy skies.

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Biking in Montreal

By Carol at 1:04 am on Monday, September 27, 2010

Larry locks the bikes

We’ve just returned from a five-day biking trip to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Above, Larry is securing our bikes in a mini-park in Old Montreal.

Rue St. Denis

Our lodgings were on Rue St. Denis, in the Quartier Latin. There were lots of great restaurants near by to choose from, and convenient bike paths leading to the St. Lawrence.

Italian veggies
A nearby Italian Restaurant grew some of its own veggies and herbs in this tiny sidewalk garden.

Terrace

Our room was next to this terrace - handy for wine and cheese before dinner, and offering secure bike storage.

Grape arbor

A French style grape arbor provides shade for the terrace.

Biking

The first day of biking took us out to Parc René-Lévesque, an outdoor sculpture museum. Our navigators keep us from getting lost, as we traverse trail systems through the city, over bridges, under highways and out to islands in the St. Lawrence.

Stonehenge?

One of the 22 sculptures, in the park, had a familiar Celtic feel.

bike trails
On our return to the old town, we encountered other bike tourists and many bicycling commuters.

After lunch at the Atwater Market, we locked up our bikes near the Place Jacques-Cartier and walked the streets of the old town.

old town scenes

old town

restored building

Charming, restored buildings line the streets.

plants en las Place

shop window

A shop window on Rue de la Commune.

ice cream stop

Time for an ice cream break.

Other highlights included Underground Montreal, the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History Pointe-à-Callière, the Parc du Mont-Royal, and Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mont-Royal. From our convenient hotel, all of these attractions could be easily accessed on foot, by bicycle, bus, or metro. Our car remained in a parking garage for the five day visit.

cruise ship

The Old Port is full of docked cruise ships and cargo vessels.

cargo vessels

Montreal Biosphere

On our last day in Montreal, we biked to the Biosphere, an environmental museum on Ile Sainte-Helene.
There we toured a solar home, listened to a presentation on the scarcity of water on earth, and viewed some exhibits.

habitat 67

On our way to the Biosphere we saw, up close, Habitat 67. It is a housing complex and landmark, built for the 1967 Expo, and located on the Marc-Drouin Quay on the Saint Lawrence River.

We enjoyed several wonderful meals - generous hotel breakfasts, crepes and tartines at lunch, and dinners both French and fusion.

Le Grand Balcon

Our last evening meal in Montreal was at Le Grand Balcon, on Rue St. Denis. The food and service were superb. Seated in the bay window, we could watch some of the street life as we enjoyed our meal, culminating in a presentation of crepes Suzette.

Visiting Montreal is a little like visiting Paris - but most residents seem to speak English, as well as French, and the atmosphere is lively and youthful. Viva Canada!

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Sunol Hike

By Carol at 9:30 pm on Thursday, March 25, 2010

green hills

Our hike in Sunol Park was gentle, under threatening skies - perfect temperature for hiking.

blue stone in the creek

We followed the trail along the creek to the falls and water hole with this distinctive blue stone.

trees in stream

Trees, just leafing out, march down the center of the stream bed, inundated by the ample rains.

knarled veteran

Gnarled stream-side dwellers.

oak over stream

looking down on the road

Below is the road where our hike began.

stream through a meadow

A stream meanders across the meadow.

fallen tree still growing

This fallen tree is still rooted and beginning to leaf out.

tiny wildflowers

Tiny wildflowers at the trail edge.

butter and eggs

Clusters of “butter and eggs”.

meadow of buttercups and one owl's clover

A meadow full of buttercups and one owl’s clover blossom.

butterfly and buttercups

A butterfly in the buttercups.

bluebird on his house

A blue bird surveys the meadow from the top of his home. A telephoto lens would reveal his orange belly and blue back feathers.

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A Visit to Yerba Buena Nursery

By Carol at 11:57 pm on Thursday, March 18, 2010

Yerba Buena Charlie

After our Los Trancos hike, we visited Yerba Buena Nursery, just off Skyline Boulevard in Woodside. The friendly fellow above is Charlie, who presides over nursery operations, greets guests, and hobnobs with the resident cats.

frmontia
The nursery sells a remarkable collection of California native plants, like this yellow flowered fremontia,

ribes sanguineum

this ribes sanguineum “Claremont”, a wild currant,

ceanothus

this ceanothus,

hawthorne
and this native western hawthorne (crataegus douglasii), still harboring last fall’s colors.

The nursery has expanded its inventory since we last visited, and appears to be doing well with the new trend toward xeriscapes and natural gardens.

Yes, I succumbed to temptation - we came home with a white St. Catherine’s lace buckwheat, a matilija poppy, a native Dutchman’s pipe, wild ginger, and a white thalictrum - always room for one more fabulous plant!

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Los Trancos Open Space Preserve

By Carol at 10:30 pm on Thursday, March 18, 2010

miner's letuce
Today, our hikers took to the trails of Los Trancos Preserve, with reports of mountain lion sitings. The predators eluded us, but the views over the coastal range were spectacular, and some of the wildflowers were blooming. In shady spots there were thick stands of miner’s lettuce, pictured above.

trillium
There were a few trillium,

buttercups
some buttercups,

red warrior
many red warriors,

white-flowered currants
white-flowered currants,

white wild lilac
fragrant white wild lilac,

blue ceanothus with bee
blue ceanothus,

hound's tongue
blooming hound’s tongue,

shooting stars
shooting stars,

dainty chickweed
and this dainty little chickweed.

cow parsnip
Leaves of cow parsnip were unfurling in damp, sunny areas,

banana slug
and banana slugs were resting in moist, shady edges of the trail.

All the precursors of spring made today’s hike rewarding, despite the challenges of hilly terrain.

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Almaden Quicksilver Regional Park

By Carol at 8:11 am on Sunday, November 22, 2009

Guadalupe Reservoir

We traveled about 45 minutes to this historic mercury mining area to view the old mine sites, and the valleys below from challenging but well maintained trails - lots of ups and downs.

Guadalupe Reservoir, above, is low after three years of drought. The new grass needs the rain predicted for tomorrow, to sustain its growth.

monumental rock

The rock in this area contains cinnabar, the ore from which mercury is extracted.

old mercury mines

Some of the structures involved with the mining processes are still standing, but off limits in their currently dilapidated state. They are infested with rodents that carry the potentially deadly hantavirus.

miners' cemetery

And speaking of deadly, above is the old cemetery where miners and their families are buried. Not a single headstone was in view, but the picket fence and rows of ancient evergreens remain to mark the graveyard.

silicon valley from Jacques Ridge

In the far distance is Cupertino and Silicon Valley.

Mt. Ummunum

Mt. Umunhum, which means “resting place of the hummngbird” in the Ohlone Indian tongue, is visible in the distance, a part of the Sierra Azul Open Space. It is topped by a weather station, but was formerly an early warning radar site.

mountain lion

As we approach the parking lot at the end of the hike, we see the warning signs for the predators that are an important part of this ecosystem. So far, our only siting of a cougar has been the kitten that crossed the road in front of our car near Pescadero, last year at this time. We have seen bobcats, which are not quite as shy.

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Portola Valley Ranch

By Carol at 8:23 pm on Friday, November 13, 2009

Toyon trail view

The rain did not materialize on our hike through the trails at Portola Valley Ranch. We started on the Toyon Trail, hiking to the end. We ate lunch between two ponds, one fresh and blue, barely visible from the trail. The other was murky and green, good frog habitat, but not appealing.

murky pond

toyon berries

Toyon berries are ripening along the trails.

Larry swinging

Larry swings out, over the ravine.

large mushroom

This large mushroom is the first we have seen in the woods this year.

spanish moss

Spanish moss on the Old Spanish Trail.

Skyoine view

A view from Old Spanish Trail, back towards the summit of the coastal range.

bay view from trail

San Francisco Bay, viewed across Portola Valley, from the Old Spanish Trail.

the middle group

Our Middle Group taking a water break on a bridge.

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