Friday, August 26, 2016

Hike at Santa Teresa County Park

In a way, I feel like I'm wasting my time off. I've never been that good at planning things, and when I don't plan things, I revert to my default position of reading and listening to music. So, if nothing else, I'm getting a lot of reading and music listening done.

I went on another walk yesterday, and in an attempt to go somewhere new I decided to pick a hike out of the second edition of the "Healthy Trails" pamphlet produced by the Santa Clara County Parks and the Public Health Department. I ended up at Santa Teresa County Park on a hazy day. It wasn't that hot for late August, and there was a breeze, which was fortunate because there was very little shade on the loop hike I selected. The pamphlet places the hike in the "strenuous" category, and informs the reader that there is a 655' elevation gain. My fitbit tells me that there was a 1010' elevation gain, probably because it counts every little up and down, rather than simply subtracting the lowest point from the highest point.

I didn't see any animals other than fence lizards and vultures, and one small hawk way up high.

In the middle photo below, my car sits alone in the distant parking lot. I didn't pass a single hiker on the 5 mile loop. I did see couple of people in the distance though.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Time Off

A week and a half into my two and a half weeks off, and the only thing of note that I've accomplished was upgrading our internet connection. Now, my only limitation is my aging laptop.

I've also been reading, watching movies, and listening to lots of music. As I type, Youtube is providing a background of British folk rock in the form of Pentangle and Fairport Convention. This is probably my least favorite way to listen to things, but it suffices for background sound.

I went for a walk through the hazy hills of Almaden Quicksilver park yesterday, and through downtown Campbell today. Yesterday, I wondered to myself why I didn't go on more hikes, and today I bought books and tea.

Here are photos from yesterday's hike. One trail was closed due to a restoration project. I'm interested to see what the end results of the restoration will be.

Here's a pair of lizards. The fence lizard quickly darted away on urgent lizard business, but the alligator lizard was so relaxed that it didn't move when I took a picture from two inches away.

The deer were out and about as well.

The distance, as always, was compelling. Where does the trail go? What is around the next corner? Or over the next hill?

That said, this was a trail that I've walked countless times in a park where I've walked every trail. I need to branch out a bit. This park just happens to be relatively nearby.

I haven't been able to bring Jeanine along on walks lately due to her mom's declining health. She has a neurological disorder that makes it increasingly hard for her to do things for herself. Right now, Jeanine is looking into assisted living facilities, since her mom is getting to the point where she needs care that we can't provide.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Summer Wrap-Up

The dust from the last week of 2016 summer camp has settled, most of it on my car. I should probably wash it.

The last week of Trailblazers was an easy one, with well-behaved campers, competent Leaders In Training, seasoned mentors, and the usual stellar staff. Following that, the final week of summer camp was full of the usual types of fun. About a quarter of my group of 23 had been already been Trailblazers this summer, although none of them had actually been in one of my groups. A bunch of the counselors for the final week had been involved with the Trailblazers as well, one as a staff member, and the rest through their roles as L.I.T. mentors, so it's safe to say the the last week of summer was an all-star week.

The week also coincided with the annual Perseid meteor shower, so the Thursday night sleepover was speckled with brilliant bits of detritus flashing through the upper layers of atmosphere. Some of them were quite bright. I saw the first one as we started the night hike. I was pointing out Mars and Saturn near the moon, when a meteor flashed toward the horizon past the moon and between the two planets. Perfect timing.

Here are a few photos. There are always photos, aren't there?

This Great Blue Heron lives up at Lake Ranch Reservoir, and only shows up when I don't have a zoom lens with me.

This is the final Trailblazers mandala.

At the beginning of last week, just as we were getting ready to put the campers on the bus at the end of the day, my coworker Superfly told me that there was a rattlesnake stretched across the trail that leads to the ropes course. I checked it out, and sure enough:

Nearby was a wood rat on its last legs, hobbling away from the snake. The flies were already starting to notice. I'm pretty sure that it had just been bitten by the snake, and was hobbling off to die as the snake bided its time, waiting for its meal to be ready to swallow. My photography interrupted this, but I have no doubt that the moment I left, the slow process resumed.

The last few weeks, the only snakes I've seen have been rattlesnakes. I have to laugh when I think about the mom who, at the beginning of the week, pulled me aside to voice her concerns about mountain lions. I told her that, although they live in the region, I hadn't seen one around camp in the entire 12 years I've worked there. It's a good thing that she didn't ask about rattlesnakes. I'm always honest, so I would have had to tell her that I see those nearly every day. Not that they're a big danger. You'd really have to do something stupid to get bitten by one, and then stupidly not seek medical attention for the bite to kill you.

Here's a few more pictures from last week.

This is a mandala made on Monday afternoon. Later in the week, a girl started a mandala with some pretty red leaves, not realizing they were poison oak leaves. So much for paying attention when poison oak is pointed out at the beginning of the week.

In the middle of the week, a counselor brought a baby opossum in a box. The poor little critter was found by the side of the road. There is this impression that I always know what to do with animals, but in this case, my advice was to take it to a wildlife rehabilitation center. The counselor had already tried several animal hospitals, only to find that they don't take wild animals, and she ended up calling her mom to drive the sad little marsupial to someplace that would take care of it. I hope it survived.

Speaking of wayward animals, this is the sight that greeted me on Thursday night. This time the culprit was Weasel's mom, who had collected some sand dollars unaware that one of them was alive and contained a passenger. The sand dollar died, leaving the living barnacle on its own, and Weasel brought it to work knowing that several staff members live near the beach. Long story short - it was returned to the ocean.

I also saw my first water scorpion down at the pond. One of the campers fished it out. Being insects, these aren't true scorpions. They get their named from a slight resemblance to scorpions. I don't really see it.

In closing, here's a photo of one of the two new vinegaroons I picked up at the San Jose reptile show. I was also tempted by a beautiful Baron's Racer and some cute little Beaded Lizards, but I resisted.

Willow just got home from Hawaii, where she had a good time and got sunburned. She and Eva both start school tomorrow, which is too early. It's only mid-August! I have slightly over two weeks off before I have to go back to work. I have no real plans beyond getting stuff done around the house. At least this year I don't have to adjust my sleep schedule when I go back to work.