Sunday, 3 April 2016
Mid-Peninsula open space district formally opened the new Mindego hill trail this week, so of course that was my destination today. I was here on a volunteer trail-building project a couple years ago, but it was long enough ago that today was new. Mid-Pen makes a big deal of Mindego hill, and it’s justified.
I parked at the Los Trancos gate on Page Mill road, where I talked with ranger Frances, who had arrived to unlock the gates for the day. I told her I was planning to visit Mindego hill. “You know there are closer parking places than this,” she said.
“Of course, but why would I want to do that?” She agreed — she knows me.
So it was a few hours later by the time I got there.
Yesterday I had swapped my folding saw for a different one; the new one has a spring steel blade, or something similar, considerably sharper than the previous one. I did well on a deadfall with branches maybe four inches in diameter, where two or maybe three inches was about the max for the old saw. Nice.
I also opportunistically removed bull thistle, trying, not always successfully, to take only the big ones near the trail and not get sucked into taking out all the neighbors as well. I could spend all day and not make it to Mindego hill.
The first stop was the little side trail to what is called Council circle, a stone disk with a bench around about a third of it, from which we get a wonderful view of Mindego meadow and pond.
The pond is off limits. The volunteer project I was on went there, where we talked with a grad student who was doing a research project on endangered species. I believe the San Francisco garter snake was one of the species of interest.
And then the hike to the top. I have to agree with the district that this is pretty special. Almost perfect — almost, I say, because there was just a bit of haze on the ocean, and I couldn’t be more than 99% sure that the irregularity I saw out there really was the Farallon islands.
Lots of people out. For many, this is a difficult hike (4.6 miles round trip, about a thousand vertical feet). I met a number of families heading down from the Alpine Road parking area, with kids from 0 to maybe 6 or 8. It would be safe to predict a number of tired, sore, cranky kids (parents, too) by the time they made it back up to the parking area later.
Well, and of course Mindego hill was not the only interesting thing I saw today. First garter snake of the season. Jacky and I have just watched David Attenborough’s Cold Blood series about reptiles and amphibians. Very good; one of the things we learned is that the forks of a snake’s tongue are differentially sensitive, so the snake can turn toward, or away from, an intersting scent.
I even saw a ringneck snake later, also the first of the season, but there wasn’t enough light in the deep forest to get a picture worth keeping.
As I approached the Daniels nature center, an opportunity to refill the water bottle, a little insect landed on the grip of my hiking stick. I feel as if I ought to be able to put a name to this little guy, but it doesn’t come to me. [Update: it’s a snakefly. I forgive myself for not instantly knowing that.]
Another interesting bit of nature, these little red spiky guys. No idea what they are.
Of course, this was a trail patrol, so I had to do a little trail patrolling as well as sightseeing and taking pictures.
Here’s a fallen tree across White Oak trail in Montebello preserve. Hikers had worked their way around to the right, but even that detour was pretty difficult. So I pulled and sawed and had at it for a while. Eventually, a couple of mountain bikies came down the trail toward me. In trail patrol mode, I told them this trail was closed to bikes in winter, but of course as a volunteer, I can do nothing more than convey a possibly interesting fact. (As a libertarian, I probably wouldn’t write very many citations, even if I had the authority.)
Their car was on beyond, so they weren’t eager to turn back. They decided to help me clear the deadfall.
Big difference. They were bigger and stronger than I, and especially with the three of us working together, we moved some big branches. From their accents, I asked whether they were German; turned out they were from eastern Austria. Nice.
As I thanked them, I suggested that, if they met a ranger, they might (or might not) get out of jail free by explaining how they had helped me.
The result, above. There is still one large log to step across; a chainsaw crew will need to clear it. Backed with lots of vegetation, the log in the right foreground blocks off the previous detour.
These hikes turn out not to be all that many miles or all that many vertical feet, but there is a fair bit of work involved anyway.