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

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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Alum Rock State Park

By Carol at 11:53 pm on Friday, November 6, 2009

stone bridge

The hike today took us to the eastern foothills of Silicon Valley, to the oldest municipal park in California, Alum Rock Park.

Nature has caused some changes to the park in recent years. In 2000, severe storms caused a landslide, resulting in the closure of the original Alum Rock Avenue entrance. Then in 2007, a 5.6 earthquake, with an epicenter just five miles from the park, at the convergence of the Hayward and Calaveras faults, caused a dried up spring to begin running once again.

As we entered the park, old railroad supports and other structures made of stone were visible alongside the road.

Our trail starts at this old stone bridge.

Alum Rock Creek

There was a surprising amount of water and fish in Penitencia Creek, for the beginning of the rainy season.

top of hill Alum Rock
View from the summit, across the valley, overlooking a buckeye tree growing orange lichens.

green trail

Shaded areas are very wet and green after recent heavy rains.

Hollow log

A magical hollow stump, potential home for forest creatures.

buckeye nuts
The leafless buckeyes are covered with mature nuts.

big leaf maple

Fall color was limited to the yellow big leaf maples, and the red poison oak.

sycamore bark

Native sycamores flourish along the stream. The bark is blotched with grey and white.

new trails

A newly opened trail system criss-crosses the steep terrain across the valley. New grasses are just emerging through the brown remnants of last years grass crop.

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New York in Autumn

By Carol at 8:33 am on Friday, November 6, 2009

autumn leaves

Fall colors were a little more diluted than usual this year in New York State, following a wet and relatively cold summer in the Northeast.

Autumn farm and hills

Fall foliage near Treadwell, New York.

Pie in the Sky

Pumpkins for sale at Pie In The Sky barn, Otsego, New York.

first fall hike

Our first fall hike was a steep walk on a snowmobile trail in Otego. Here is the group on top of the hill, ready for a well-earned picnic lunch.

Narrow Notch sign

Our second hike started at this juncture, providing another steep walk.

yellow trees

Narrow notch in the sun

dead end

This time we had a guide who knew the history of the area. At the end of the trail we piled into our cars and headed for lunch at the home of a local family.

Otsego Lake

The sun did come out for our trip to Cooperstown during Brenda’s visit. Otsego Lake was at its best, viewed from the Fenimore Art Museum, currently showing the iconic photographs of Walker Evans, from the 1930’s.

Walker Evans Photo

Photo on exhibit at the Fenimore Art Museum.

Otesaga Hotel

We lunched at the Hawk Eye Bar and Grill, at the Otesaga Hotel on Otsego Lake in Cooperstown.

from the Otesaga

After lunch, we walked through the hotel grounds, adjacent to the Cooperstown golf course. We continued down the road to visit the Farmers’ Museum, where a village has been constructed with period buildings manned by reinactors. Representative farm animals are kept for demonstrations for visitors.

Farmers Museum Entrance

Entrance to the museum.

Apothecary's house

A reconstructed building in the museum village.

Farmers Museum

The village lane.


Actors preparing a meal in the farmhouse kitchen.

Farmers Museum Window

The farm house kitchen window.

cosmos and bee small

Cosmos in the garden.

Tom turkey

Tom turkey awaits his fate, in a pen fashioned by twigs.

Brenda and Sabrina

Brenda is a great second grandma! The three photos that follow are hers.

Franklin windows

The Episcopal Church in Franklin, New York.

field near Franklin

Fields and forest outside the Village of Franklin, New York.

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