Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oak Protection Project Update

I happened to put in some trail miles at LosTrancos recently and spotted some of the results of the oak protection project that I reported on in my post of November 16th. The grant funded project, the latest of it’s type undertaken by MidPen and the CCC, was initiated to protect heritage oaks by removing California bay trees in an attempt to arrest the spread of SOD (Sudden Oak Death). There’s a lot more detail in my November 16th post, but the bay trees act as unwitting hosts of SOD spreading the spores in wind and rain. The bay trees can pose a significant risk to vulnerable oak species if they are located within 15 feet. The photos below show some areas near the Fault Trail where bay trees have been cut and the stumps treated to prevent re-growth. Even the bay leaves have removed from the ground, as the leaves are where the spores reside in effected trees. The down wood has been bucked up and mostly removed as well. The photos also show some of the mossy old oak trees that the project is intended to protect.

Table Mountain

View from the upper trail
Most of my hikes so far this winter have been rather unremarkable. There’s been so little rain this season that most of the parks and open space lands seem barren, dry, and tired. Normally this time of year there are already subtle signs of emerging regrowth, green grasses just beginning to shoot out in meadows, a few fledgling wildflowers popping out for reconnaissance, and the creeks should be beginning to pick up. Instead, everything just seems kind of dead. I don’t really want to think about what this could mean if the trend continues, so I decided to back post one of my hikes from last fall that I never got around to. Hopefully it will be a really wet spring.

Stevens Creek
One of the hikes we took to explore the fall season was this nice little loop route around Table Mountain in Upper Stevens Creek County Park (Santa Clara County). We began at the Grizzly Flat trail head along highway 35 about 3 miles north from the junction with highway 9. Regional maps are available at trail heads for free. The Grizzly Flat Trail is a winding 2.0 mile downhill from the trail head along the highway at 2274 feet descending to the creek bed at about 1293 feet at the bottom of the canyon. Along the way you will be treated to thick stands of oaks, maples, madrones, alders, and Douglas fir providing shade on sunny days, and subtle rich colors in autumn. The trail has the quality of an old dirt road until you reach the first little creek bed, and is open to bicycle traffic in both directions. This trail also makes a nice connector between Upper Stevens Creek and Long Ridge; so many different route variations are possible. You will make two creek crossings before reaching Canyon Trail at the bottom and turning back to the south. Along this trail you can spot strange little “benches” and what look like pressure ridges created by the historic seismic activity along the San Andreas fault which passes right under your feet.

BART section in Long Ridge
After crossing the creek again, we took the junction to Table Mountain Trail to begin climbing back up. There are no footbridges, so these creek crossings would probably be more difficult in rainy weather, but not bad in fall. This trail and Charcoal Road are uphill only for bicycles, so at least you don’t have to expect bikes screaming downhill. Above Table Mountain, there is a section of single track trail which is designated “hiking only”. It doesn’t have a name on the map, so assumedly it’s just an extension of the Table Mountain Trail. This single track section had lots of poison oak which is much more difficult to identify when the leaves are gone, so I recommend being careful not to inadvertently brush against any type of suspect stalks. When you reach Table Mountain there is an optional short loop trail, but don’t expect to see much. The elevation is only about 1800 feet and the ridge to the east blocks any long range view opportunities, plus there’s lots of over growth and tall trees. As you hike up higher on the single track and begin to get close to the highway again, there are some nice view opportunities from the trail. The photo at the top is from that section of trail. When you get back to Skyline, you can cross the highway and into Long Ridge to head back to the north. We followed the BART route back to the junction with Grizzly Flat Trail and back to the trail head. After enjoying the views to the west along a rolling open section, the Peter’s creek trail runs along a beautiful riparian section and a serene pond alongside a private Zen center. A nice little 10.6 mile loop, the route has about 2260 feet to total elevation gain. I have a track log and some photos uploaded to Every Trail.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mt Umunhum Project Update

Mount Umunhum viewed from Mt El Sombroso
  Sometimes when the concept of something seems like an exceedingly great idea to you in theory and you really want that something to happen, it can seem like an eternity when the reality of the situation presents seemingly insurmountable circumstances. Thus has been the case with this project. Although long and arduous, the project to restore Mt Umunhum and Mt Thayer to open space is still underway and taking shape nicely. After years of delays and wrangling over who should take responsibility for the cost of the toxic material cleanup, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District published the Project Schedule and Implementation Phasing Plan in May of 2010. The latest of a series of public hearings will be the next bullet point in that plan. Set to take place on the evening of January 18th 2012, the hearing will be to provide comment on the environmental impact analysis. "The (DEIR) Draft Environmental Impact Report is to evaluate potential environmental impacts that could result from the demolition of the former Almaden Air Force Station at Mount Umunhum, and creation of open space access facilities including trails, bathrooms, and parking lots". The hearing is open to the public. For more information visit the Mt Umunhum Project page on MidPen’s website. The cleanup and demolition is expected to cost in the neighborhood of 13 million dollars and is still not expected to be completed until sometime beyond 2015. The project page also contains lost of interesting content including pictures, videos, maps, PDF documents, and historical information. Also check out the video below which aired on KQED last July called "Mount Umunhum: Return to the Summit". This mountain was a holy place to the Ohlone people. Restoring it to a natural state would be a really great way to pay tribute to it's history.