Sunday, May 3, 2009

May Drizzle

Strange little rainy system that came in for this weekend. Not much actual rain, but plenty of lingering drizzle and accompanying grey skies. Another detour in the spring warming trend. If you’re a seasoned hiker, and inclined to see the proverbial glass half full, you have to be thinking; “this will encourage others to stay indoors”. “We’ll have the trails virtually all to ourselves”. True enough as the saying goes. In my experience this has proven this to be dependable. The temps will be cool, and the air cleansed. On the other hand, this type of weather does not bode well for long range views, or for wild flowers, except for species that prefer to be protected from direct sunlight anyway. Weighing the balance, and factoring in our loath to waste the weekend by staying indoors, Sue and I will predictably decide to go on a hike. We might spend extra time analyzing weather reports, choosing gear, and juggling our regular activities a bit, but outdoors and away from the city “buzz” is where we always want to be.

We did sleep in a bit, and not wanting to go on a long drive, we decided on one of our usual “go to” venues called Rancho Cañada Del Oro. Driving in along Case Loma Road we stopped to avoid some male ring-necked pheasants that were hanging around in the middle of the road. They almost seemed to be deranged or something, but perhaps it was some kind of mating thing. There were no females around that we could see. Usually any bird species will flee from a moving vehicle. Turkeys are kind of slow and stupid, so you have to watch out for them, but these silly pheasants wouldn’t budge for some reason. All males. My camera was in my pack in the trunk, so I couldn’t get pictures. I was getting a little nervous about being stopped near a curve, so I slowly and incredulously slalomed around them. I don’t know if that is some expected behavior for them or not. If so, I am amazed we don’t see more road-kill of that species.

As expected, when we arrived at the parking lot there were no other cars there. There was a lot of Lupine and Winter Vetch blooming in the field adjacent to the parking area splashing the green grasses with swathes of purple. Donning our Go-Lite umbrellas, we headed up the Serpentine loop to the Catamount trail, climbing up to Bald peaks in the light drizzle. We were able to enjoy lots of wild flowers despite the wet and grey conditions. I was amazed at how many globe lilies (a.k.a. fairy lanterns) were coming out. I am used to seeing them, but not in such numbers. I think most people tend to not notice them because they do not possess the kind of striking colors that usually draw all the attention. This year I am also seeing a lot more Pom-pom Onions for some reason. We also saw lots of Blue dicks, Checker bloom, Winter Vetch, and others. The open conditions up on the ridge top was chilling prompting us to layer for wind. We walked right past Bald peaks without even thinking about having a view. No chance! Longwall Canyon got us back down into the woods. The trail tread was just wet enough to get sandy, muddy, buildup in our boot waffles which prompted frequent stops to clear it as best we could. On Mayfair Ranch trail we found lots of Wind poppies, and a few Chinese houses. The information at the kiosk said that Giant trilliums were out, but I never spotted any. By the time we reached the picnic table strategically placed at a high clearing, the showers had stopped, and some of the clouds had cleared away providing a view. There were some grazing cattle along part of this trail, but not many. We didn’t see any other hikers all day. This was a short loop, but proved to be satisfying. Cañada Del Oro never fails to be a pleasant hike. Not far away, but secluded enough to enjoy the day.

Click here to see the photos on flickr

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