Sunday, May 07, 2017

A Few Photos From the Stormy Months

This looks like a California Newt emerging from a creek, but in reality it's just crossing a trail. Over the last couple of months, I've joked about how it seems that all of the rain withheld during the multiple-year California drought was unleashed over the course of this winter. In any event, the swiftly saturated ground couldn't handle the deluge, so runoff swamped many of the trails, either due to culverts being blocked or simply because the water had nowhere else to go. It made hiking an adventure.

Speaking of creeks, this is what Todd Creek in Sanborn Park looked like after a landslide dumped some extra trees, rock, and soil into it. For over a month, I was actually a bit nervous letting kids near the water, let alone hiking up the creek. Now, from the vantage point of Spring, things are more or less back to normal, although due to the flooding and sliding, in some places it's a new normal.

Just past Todd Creek there is an old landslide that took away a section of trail back in the nineties. The rangers put up a fence so hikers wouldn't march off the new cliff and die, and a single track detour trail eventually allowed access to where the main trail picked up on the other side. This winter, as one can see from the precarious condition of the fence, more earth slid away. Sometime after this photo was taken, the fence succumbed to gravity. It now lies broken at the bottom of the newly scoured ravine. Most of the trees that started growing after the original slide now lie shattered downhill somewhere. In addition to this, the detour trail is simply gone, like a giant took an ice cream scoop to the hillside.

Lastly, here's a photo taken up Todd Creek Road, showing one of several slides that temporarily blocked access. The only people who ever drive up this road are park rangers and camp maintenance staff, but we routinely hike groups of kids up and down it. It's a good thing we're flexible. Many plans were changed on the fly this winter.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Still Here

I'm looking out the window at bright blue sky. A breeze so gentle as to be almost nonexistent ruffles the foliage. It has been around two months since I've written here, and this will only be my second post of 2017. Two months is a long time to be silent. During this silence, a rainy Winter has given way to Spring, we have gone on a couple of trips (one to Orlando, and one to London), and the political situation in this country has continued to fester.

The trail pictured in the previous post is still closed, and the road to camp has sustained enough damage that we've had to shuttle kids up it using vans. Buses exceed the new weight limit and it is apparently against regulations to bus kids up compromised roads (as it should be). We have added several vans to our fleet though, and it is now part of the routine.

I'm using Willow's laptop now. Mine is barely functional. It's a good thing Willow has two.

My long silence is partially due to my laptop getting more difficult to use, and once I got out of the habit of posting regularly, the days just slipped by even after I switched laptops. I'm going to try to get back into the swing of things, so hopefully more posts will emerge over the forthcoming days. I realize that I'm mostly speaking into the void anyway, since I don't imagine many people read this (and nor should they, since these posts are usually unfocused personal ramblings). I continue to write just to keep in practice.

Perhaps it's time to rethink my approach.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

A Month Off For No Good Reason

So it seems I've taken a month off from writing here. It wasn't planned, and there is no real reason behind the decision. I just haven't felt like writing.

The most significant thing to happen during January was the beginning of a new political era, one that is certain to end poorly for everybody. Some enterprising souls are taking notes on the slow motion train wreck here. Tensions run high. Rioting has occurred. Various scummy fringe groups suddenly feel empowered. Innocent people are already suffering.

Of greater personal significance was the sudden death of my friend, Jim Kaiser. Jim played music with my brother. I'll write about him over on my music blog soon, as it seems the more appropriate place to post about him.

Locally, we have gotten a truckload of rain. At work, I've seen water in places where I've never seen it before. Creeks have jumped banks, power lines have come down. Creeks that are normally mere trickles or dry washes have suddenly become raging, frothy torrents. Most significantly, the trail to the reservoir was subject to a landslide, and is going to be closed for months.

Here's what the John Nicholas Trail leading up to Lake Ranch Reservoir currently looks like.

Here are a couple of the trails in Sanborn Park.

We got a foggy day too:

The picture below was taken in a spot where this in normally no surface water.

Sometime over the holiday break, the deer carcass near the driveway in Sanborn Park was reduced to a pile of scattered bones.

There were a few chilly nights too.

The only noteworthy excursion (not counting musical ones, which are reported elsewhere) of the month was a short trip to Hacienda Cemetery to find the grave containing an arm (the owner of which is buried in another cemetery, but that will be a trip for another time). We succeeded. It was a nice little spot.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Final Post of the Year

I suppose I could have gone somewhere or done something noteworthy over the break, but I chose to stick close to home. I didn't even go hiking. The closest thing to that was the walk to downtown that Jeanine and I did yesterday. That said, I guess I walked around Berkeley a bit too, when Jeanine and I went to meet up with Greg, my cousin Peter with his twins (recently turned 4), and aunt Marilyn. This is the first time Marilyn has been out to California since before I was born, and Peter has been showing her around. We managed to cross paths twice while she was here, once at home, and then in Berkeley, where we spent most of the visit in bookstores.

Christmas came and went. Greg ventured down. Presents were exchanged and food was consumed. Eva's present arrived just in the nick of time, and one of Willow's is still not here. If it shows up, she'll be getting it for her birthday instead.

I got Eva a colony of Dermestid beetles, which are mostly used for cleaning animal skulls. Come to think of it, I might borrow them from her if I find anything interesting at work. So far, the beetles have only eaten cat food, but a couple of days ago I found a dead rat on the lawn, so we'll see how that goes...

Oh, we might have a new cat. A couple of days ago, I spotted a fluffy, white cat in the yard. It was too busy watching the chickens to take notice of much else. Jeanine went out and brought it in. She took it to the vet to see if it had a chip, and it does, but the chip was never registered, which essentially makes it useless, meaning we have no efficient way of finding the owner. So far, no bites on Craig's List or the local community forum either.

This will undoubtedly be my final post of the year. Willow is here this weekend, and we don't plan on going out anywhere tonight. Jeanine has a couple of gigs, but should be home well before midnight. Tomorrow, I plan on going to Gilman for the first part of the Lookouting festival, which is spread out over this weekend and the next. Eva was there last night and her friend's car got broken into, so she lost her phone and an expensive make-up kit. A parting kick from 2016? I guess that neighborhood has never been the best, but I always felt perfectly safe parking there. Until now. Jeanine had the foresight to insure Eva's phone though, so a replacement is already on the way.

But I ramble...

Willow has a plan to try going vegetarian, at least for the month of January. Today, she wants to go out and have a burger though. I'd laugh, but I spent yesterday buying a crapload of music online in preparation for my plan to buy none during January. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I guess...

2016 definitely had some lowlights, none of which I'll recap here. One highlight for me was that 2016 was the year that I finally started to learn how to play guitar. It's also the year that I ended my time as the night supervisor at camp and went back to being a field instructor. We got a new boss too, and she's a breath of fresh air after the interim director we were briefly saddled with.

Politically, I despair. Personally, I'll keep doing what I do. Yeah, I have some so-called resolutions in mind. Maybe some of them will stick this year. In addition to my annual attempt to cut down on my unsustainable music spending habits, I'm going to try and severely limit my time online at the start of the year, at least when it comes to Facebook and such. Recently, Willow actually voluntarily deleted some of her social media apps, so she has finally (independently) come to the conclusion that she spends to much time on social media as well. This way, we'll be able to benefit from mutual support.

Here's to the coming year. Let it be a good one.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Final Week of Work for the Year...

We only had around 70 kids attending the final week of science camp for 2016, which made camp seem kind of empty. My hiking group was composed of 17 campers and one cabin leader. We only had two volunteer cabin leaders this week, with two staff members filling in as cabin leaders for the other two cabins (we usually have 11 cabins full of kids). Thursday brought a deluge, and the road to camp was briefly blocked when a large Madrone tree fell across some power lines. It was still there when I drove out, looming ominously above the asphalt, propped up by nearly nothing. I'm not sure why the utility people were allowing us through at that time, but probably because they'd turned the power off.

On Wednesday, I took the kids on my favorite winter route for the all day hike. The forest is beautiful when the weather is rainy and foggy.

During the rainstorm, on a whim, I had the kids dig around an old Mountain Lion kill site (without telling them what it was) to see what they could find. This is all that remained:

Below is a photo taken the first time I visited the remains a couple of years ago. It was pointed out to me a day or two ago that felines will usually go for the brains and hearts first because they contain high levels of taurine, which feline bodies don't produce. Canines, on the other hand, will eat the stomachs because they can benefit from the plant nutrients but don't have the enzymes to break down the cell walls of plants. Due to this, a girl in my group actually stepped on the stomach the first time we visited the carcass. If coyotes had been about, she wouldn't have.

This weekend, my cousin Peter's twin daughters celebrated their fourth birthdays. I went over and celebrated with them, and then headed up to the city for a Neurosis show, which was excellent, as usual.

Willow was out with her girl scout troupe this weekend, having a sleepover. Jeanine has been busy with work, and Eva has been out with friends (she rarely seems to be around on the weekends at all these days). I have two weeks off now. I usually have all sorts of plans to get things done, but end up not accomplishing much. Will this year be different? Time will tell...

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Suddenly December

The weather has gotten colder and rainier over the last couple of weeks, with mushrooms burgeoning into colorful existence along the forest paths. I spent one week at our second site, which is primarily oak woodland, and this week at our main site among the redwoods.

The Death Caps seem to be everywhere this year. I've seen them at both sites.

At our second site, the ground is alight with Jack O'Lantern mushrooms, which are also poisonous, but not quite at the level of the Death Cap. I read that eating one will make a person "open up at both ends", but at least one will live to tell the tale. The other interesting thing about this mushroom is that the gills of fresh ones are faintly bioluminescent. I have yet to see this though.

The wet weather also inspires the newts to be out and about. I don't often photograph them these days, but when I find one in an interesting location, I can't help myself.

I got my car back in the middle of the first of the two weeks chronicled above. The fuel pump was under warranty, so I didn't have to pay much. Last weekend, I took part in a craft boutique masterminded by my friend Bat. Awhile back (years ago, actually), I had the inspiration to make some cards out of some of my old photographs. At the same time, Willow drew some cards as well. More recently, I carved some rubber stamps, so I quickly made some cards using those too. Jeanine, of course, had a stash of Christmas-themed cards that she had made, so I added them to the pile. Between the three of us, we made a whopping $24.00. I also traded some cards for a nice collage made by my co-worker, Acorn, who was selling them at the table next to mine.

Oh yeah, it was my birthday last weekend. Jeanine arranged a set of clues for me to follow in order to find my presents. One was even in the chicken coop. It made me smile.

Putting a damper on the day was the news of the Oakland Ghostship fire, which claimed the lives of 36 people, and obviously exponentially affected the lives of many, many more. In addition to the immediate tragedy, the fallout from this has arrived in the form of the shutting down of DIY art spaces. Being an artist, especially one who (rightly) steers well clear of the mainstream, is hard when it comes to finances and basic survival in the world we find ourselves in. Being one in an area that is rapidly being gentrified is even harder. Moving out to the country isn't an option either. Can you imagine trying to attempt anything provocative in a red state? It's a catch 22. It's hard to live where you can thrive, and you can't thrive where you can afford to live. People are forced to live illegally in spaces that aren't zoned for habitation.

As for the immediate tragedy, my brother lost a friend, and so did a lot of my other friends. I'll share what I wrote on Facebook in reaction to all of this:

I find myself spending my birthday reflecting upon the Oakland Ghostship fire, and the people who headed out to the show without realizing that their journeys were almost done. A good night out quickly became something other. For me, this magnifies my usual birthday thoughts about mortality. We celebrate our beginnings, but never know where it all ends. The clear conclusion is to not put off those things we plan to do. Don't wait until tomorrow. Live. Celebrate lives. Tell people you love them. Be kind. My heart goes out to those who are left behind. I don't think I knew anybody who went to the show, or if I did, they were people I might have met briefly, but ultimately, it makes no difference. A lot of people are never coming home from the show. Sure, this kind of thing happens every day around the globe. People die in great numbers, either by accident or by design, but I feel like these were my people - many of them, although I didn't know them, were in my network of friends, attending the kind of show that I might have attended (I didn't know the artists involved, but I've been to plenty of shows like this one). We pick up the pieces as best we can. Love to all.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Week Off With No Car

It has rained a couple of times this week, but I don't pay as much attention to the weather when I'm not out in it. I've had the week off due to the Thanksgiving holiday, and I've spent an inordinate amount of time inside, mostly because, on Tuesday, my car stopped functioning. After waiting around 2 and a half hours for the tow truck, getting my car towed to the nearest service station, getting told the next day that it was a fuel pump problem that was under warranty from the dealer, waiting another hour and change (this time with Jeanine) for another tow truck to get my car towed to the dealer, and finally hearing from the dealer that they'd ordered a pump from Tennessee (was the really the closest one?) and that my car probably wouldn't be ready until Wednesday or Thursday of next week, I've more or less adjusted to the sudden lack of mobility that being a one car family entails.

Greg came down for Thanksgiving, which we celebrated on Friday instead of Thursday due to Willow being a two family kid and Friday working better for Greg anyway. Jeanine did all of the cooking, and I did all of the driving (using Jeanine's car, of course) to get Willow and Greg. Dinner was yummy. Jeanine pressure cooked an imitation meat roast with stuffing for the vegetarians (Greg and I), while everybody else (including Eva and her friend Michelle) ate more meaty fare.

On Friday morning, I went with Jeanine to the San Jose Harvest Festival, which has become sort of a tradition. The guy she buys her tie-dyed dresses from is always at the festival. I figure that, despite it being "buy nothing day", it's okay to buy things directly from the people who make them. I ended up buying a flute from this guy and a couple of candles.

I've been listening to a lot of records, both trying to catch up on music I haven't listened to and continuing my quest to re-listen to everything I own. At this rate, it's going to take awhile. I also finished reading a book called "White Trash", which is a 400 year history of class problems in the U.S. It didn't tell me much I didn't already know, but it shaded in the blank areas a bit and reminded me that there have always been assholes in the world. Too bad not everybody reads history, because I don't think Trump would have been elected if more people did. As they've done for more that 400 years, people like Trump prey on the uneducated poor with promises that most of us can see for the lies they are. It's interesting to me that he is already backing away from some of his more outrageous statements, and people actually seem surprised by this. Are memories really that short? During the election, his whole persona was calculated to get racists, rednecks, and frustrated idiots to like him, and it worked perfectly.

I go back to work on Tuesday. I'm still not sure how I'm going to get home the first couple of work days this week, because Jeanine is working in the evening. I've got at least a couple of options though.