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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By Carol at 5:22 am on Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Flowers of Rose Cottage

Flowers from Rose Cottage garden.

Tea on the proch.

Tea on the porch.

Froglets from the pond at Rose Cottage

Froglets from the pond at Rose Cottage.

Edible gardens

Edible gardens of Silicon Valley.

Sunflowers and poppies

Sunflowers and poppies.

The butterfly forest.

The Butterfly Forest.

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Butterfly Conservatory

By Carol at 6:35 am on Monday, August 17, 2009

Here are some macro shots taken at the Joseph L. Popp, Jr. butterfly conservatory in Upstate New York.

Largest moth

Said to be one of the world’s largest moth species.

walking stick

An exotic walking stick.

leaf and frog

Tiny tree frog observing the butterflies from his leaf.

Insectivore plant

An insect-eating pitcher plant.

chameleon's tail

The chameleon’s tail has just turned yellow.

chameleon in green

Chameleon in green.

tattered butterfly

A tattered butterfly.

drinking nectar

Drinking nectar at the feeder.

ating pair

A mating pair.

mourning coat

Mourning coat.

green butterfly

Green on green.

resident hummer

Resident hummingbird pausing at the nectar stop.

black and red

Black and red.

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The Big Apple

By Carol at 5:51 am on Monday, August 17, 2009

Manhattan skyline

Lower Manhattan

On July 3, we took a one day trip to New York City, by train, from Elizabethtown, PA. Upon arrival at Penn Station, we took a Line 1 local train to the tip of Manhattan, where we boarded the free Staten Island Ferry. The round-trip ride offered a nice view of Lady Liberty and Ellis Island, as well as the skyline of lower Manhattan.

Lady Liberty

Statue of Liberty viewed from the Staten Island Ferry

After the boat ride, we walked north to Ground Zero. The void, where the Twin Towers used to stand, is now filled with the bustle and noise of construction, but the hole, in the skyline and in New York’s heart, remains. The absence of the towers feels very strange – both poignant and frightening.

Ground Zero

Cloud reflections above the hole in New York’s heart.

From Ground Zero and the World Financial Center, we walked east and hopped on the subway line which took us directly to the Museum of Natural History. We would need at least a week to see the whole museum, but we took an hour to do a quick tour and to see the special exhibit of frogs, born and bred by museum scientists.

Museum steps

At the entrance of the Museum of Natural History.

golden frog

A tiny poisonous frog in the Chorus of Colors exhibit at the NYC Museum of Natural History.

It was a beautiful day for a walk in Central Park, starting just outside the museum. We admired lakes full of turtles and snakes (and boaters), lush native plantings, and thousands of New Yorkers out for a stroll.

Central Park

Pointing out the fauna (baby alligators?) in the lake in Central Park.

Since our day was short, we continued our walk south, through the theater district and Times Square, where crowds were preparing for July 4th festivities, and back to Penn Station.

Times Square

Times Square, looking good on a warm summer day.

We caught our train but were kicked off when we arrived in Philadelphia, because of a ticketing snafu. That gave us time for a perfect Parisian dinner at the Parc Bistro and Cafe on Rittenhouse Square, before catching the last train home.

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Edible Gardens

By Carol at 4:37 am on Monday, August 17, 2009

Common Ground, a Palo Alto organization dedicated to organic gardening, helped sponsor a tour of local organic home gardens. We spent a leisurely day, touring eleven gardens, from modest to lavish. Three were large – the rest shared small to moderate city lots with average-sized homes. Each was inspiring in a special way.

J Cool Artichoke

An artichoke bloom in the garden of Jesse Cool, a local restauranteur.

Mortgage lifter

The famous Mortgage Lifter tomato, ready to pick.

Adobe Garden

Flowers among the vegetables and fruit trees in the garden of a co-founder of Adobe Systems.

Garden spirit

Taking the path less traveled.

Hot, very hot!

Hot, very HOT!

matilija poppy

Matilija poppy, a showy native, featured in a remodeled garden.


Always my favorites.



Heirloom tomatoes

Heirlooms, producing well in a fabulous Los Altos Hills terraced garden.

Flpeating flowers

Reflections at the end of an inspiring day.

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Cooperstown to Franklin

By Carol at 4:52 pm on Monday, May 25, 2009

Misty Forest

We began our hike on this cloudy trail to Star Field, near Cooperstown, NY. The scars from recent logging operations had left the trail muddy and slippery.

Red eft

Red efts were numerous.

silvery moss

Silvery moss growing near the trail.

When it started to rain, we headed for the car and brunch at the Bee Hive Restaurant, in Franklin, NY. Following a sign for “Botanicals”, we also discovered a secret garden, its venerable lilacs, and welcoming owners.

lilacs in Franklin


A swallowtail had just emerged from its chrysalis and was drying out in the sun.


The perennial collection included alliums and lush ferns.


gypsy wagon

A gypsy wagon decorates the neighbor’s lawn.

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West Kill River at Deep Notch

By Carol at 12:42 am on Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Shortly after our arrival in New York, I started a two-week intensive Digital Landscape Photography class at State University College at Oneonta. My classmates include five other seniors (all of us auditing), and about fifteen young college students, who are taking the class for credit. Our professor, Sven, describes the location of our first shoot:

“On Tuesday we will start off with a beautiful hike into the Deep Notch area along the West Kill. Our destination is a 15 foot waterfall and cascades along a creek with moss covered stones and newly leafed out vegetation. The trail is a steady slow climb and is less than a mile one way. Water and bug juice are recommended. This is truly a gem of the Catskills and we will probably have it all to ourselves. ………………. will want to set up her pinhole camera and park here and practice yoga while contemplating peace, for the next month. Make sure you have some bug spray because there are some black flies. I was there Friday May 15th without any bug juice and the bugs were not very bad, I did not however stop to set up a camera and tripod so they had a much more difficult moving target.” – Sven Anderson, Professor of Digital Photography, SUCO, Oneonta

Foam flower on the trail

Foam flower growing along the trail.

The stream

White water.

Purple trillium

Purple trillium.

Little falls

Little falls.

Heaven on earth

A little bit of heaven on earth.

Trailside vegetation.

Hobblebush (viburnum alnifolium) is an understory shrub, resembling lacecap hydrangea.

viburnum alnifolium

Broad falls

More falls.

Pink and white trillium

Painted trillium (trillium undulatum) is listed as “exploitably vulnerable” in New York State.

Deep Notch Falls

Deep Notch Falls.

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An Urban Hike on Stevens Creek Trail

By Carol at 11:06 pm on Thursday, March 5, 2009

The trail

Another rainy day…we chose to walk the Stevens Creek Trail, on the segment leading to the San Francisco Bay. Starting on Yuba Street, in Mountain View, we followed the creek, full of run-off and waterfalls. On parts of the trail, we crossed two freeways and one expressway, followed major power lines, and observed new sections of the trail under construction. We ate lunch at a mini-amphitheater between some Microsoft Offices and the old Moffat Field military base. The trail is heavily used by hikers, runners, bikers, strollers and walkers of all ages.

The creek bed is full

A full creekbed is edged with trees and shrubs just leafing out.

Jim and Larry stop on the bridge.

Jim and Larry pause on a bridge.


Looking downstream at the widening waters.

Enjoying the redbuds.

Western redbuds have been planted along the trail.

More spring green

This trail is a hidden treasure that wends its way through the urban landscape, near major tech corporations of Silicon Valley.

Currants in bloom

Wild currants in early spring bloom along the path.

Freeway art

Freeway art on part of the new connection between highways 85 and 101, framed by redwood trees.


The number of waterfalls increases as we come closer to the Bay.

Central Expressway

Crossing Central Expressway on a pedestrian overpass, we overlook the train and light-rail tracks.

over the bridge

The way home: once again, most of the rain stayed in the clouds until we finished our hike.

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Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve Revisited

By Carol at 11:00 pm on Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Last week we had good luck on a rainy day, hiking at Rancho San Antonio, above Cupertino, where Apple and Netflix headquarters reside. Only a few raindrops fell on us after we entered the preserve under highway 280, and headed up the hill toward Deer Hollow Farm and High Meadow Trail. We were too early for the spring display of lupine, but we observed scattered clumps of toadshade, lots of moss and waterfalls fed by winter rains. We reached the summit of High Meadow Trail in time for a leisurely lunch. Pedometers read in excess of six miles when we ended our hike at 2PM.

along the stream at San Antonio

Hiking upstream, we see lots of waterfalls and wildflowers beginning to bloom.

trillium with purple splotches

We spotted a lovely toadshade (trillium), with purple splotched foliage.

expansive view at San Antonio

Expansive view toward San Jose, from the top of High Meadow Trail.

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