Thursday, August 12, 2010

In the Cool Cool Summer

When I left work one day this week, near the wetlands of the bay, my car’s thermometer read 68 degrees. That’s so unbelievably cool for August in the south bay, I just had to pause and reflect a little bit. This has been one of the coolest summers on record so far, and frankly, I’ve been enjoying it every minute of it. It's really nice when the air stays fairly clear without having the glaring sun baking all the photochemical soup that blows down the channel of the bay, to be trapped by the mountains. We’ve been getting marine layers in from the ocean every evening, pouring over the coastal ridges, which really cools down the atmosphere overnight. Leaving the windows open is just like having an air conditioner running, but without the energy consumption. On hot nights I would likely be lying half awake at night contemplating turning on the air, but resisting that grievous carbon sin. Close the windows before the sun is up, and the house stays cool all day without using a single dirty watt. In hot weather I would normally be spending time indoors at my health club to get my daily fitness fix working, even though I really prefer doing some outside activity. One of the reasons I joined up about 10 years ago was because I find it really hard to get into a good hard workout in the heat. But lately I’ve been able to vary my routine well, taking full advantage of the strangely moderate climate.

I used to do a lot of bike riding, but lately I’ve been getting more into trail running when I don’t have time for an extended hike or bike ride, like on weekdays after work. Sometimes I use a jogging route around our neighborhood, but that’s mostly on pavement. There aren’t many unpaved trails around here, and concrete is hard on the joints. Plus the air quality suffers near noisy city streets. But several years ago I discovered a nice little oasis of naturalism not far away from our door, which is a great little retreat for some quick trail running. Guadalupe Oak Grove Park is said to protect one of the city of San Jose’s last remaining groves of heritage oaks. Like almost all of this area, it was once home to the Ohlone. Unlike most city parks where you tend to find cultivated grass needing lots of maintenance, and hundreds of gallons of water per day, along with a few non-native trees; this place is refreshingly different. It is maintained in a very natural state, and even serves as a wildlife sanctuary. Check out this really interesting birding site that I found, which highlights this park. I have not spotted any owls or hawks, but have seen some burrows both in the ground and in trees. It seems the squirrels and lizards like to lye about sunning in the open trails, then scurry about as you run past. This is not a place to go on a full day hike, or a long bike ride, but the trails are perfect for evening or morning fitness activity. Most of the trail sections are at least partially shaded, and there’s even some moderate elevation change, highlighted by some fairly nice long range views from the hilltops. As you breathe you imbue the fragrance of oak trees and grasses rather than health intrusive carbon monoxide and noise pollution, and the natural surface is great to run on. The park has limited shaded parking, and has water and bathrooms available, even though I always bring my own filtered water. It really helps to beat the monotony of running when the trails are interesting and the mild terrain changes provide a more balanced activity. Sometimes I use an MP3 player which can really help me get detached from my day. And trust me; some of my days need that.

Click here to see some photos

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