Da Bridge! Da Bridge! Thursday, 4/28/16

Thursday's sunny morning was far different from the rainy day before.  It didn't even seem too windy, which was good for our plans.  We checked out of Cow Hollow Inn, packing our stuff in the Prius, and drove to and parked at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center, San Fran side.  Today we're walking the entire distance across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco to Marin County.  Not an especially big deal, but it's something we wanted to do.  And today is a stellar day to do it.  

Dressed in layers against the chill morning, here we stand near the welcome center.
Lucky us, there's nary a cloud in the robin's egg blue sky.

Below this end of the bridge is Fort Point, a Civil War fortress.
Surfers wait for the big ones in the white water.

It's a nice three-and-a-half-mile scenic hike from end to end.

This "toy" helicopter flew UNDER the bridge; very strange to see!  It wasn't a toy!
Not often a real helicopter flies below you.

Jimmy is standing at a viewpoint on the bridge.
High rises in the City of San Francisco are visible left, center.

Lime Point Lighthouse sits at land's end on the northern side of the bay.
Built in 1883, but I don't know if it's still operating.  It was off limits.

Hooray, we made it to the other side!  The bridge wasn't too crowded, either.
What a great walk, and now we get to turn around and go back where we started from!

Both sides of the bridge approaches are being seismically retrofitted.
Ongoing work includes new support towers. 

Did not know a thing about Angel Island, but now we do.  The entire island is a state park (1962), accessible by private boat or public ferry.  In the mid-19th Century it was used for cattle ranching.  Later in the 19th Century, Fort McDowell was established.  From 1910 to 1940 it was used as an immigration station, processing approximately one million Asian immigrants into the US.  It has an active lighthouse at Point Blunt.  Tourist activities, biking and hiking and even limited camping are what's happening these days.  Oh boy, another new place to explore.

 Telephoto of Alcatraz Island, stuck out in the middle of that cold bay!

At Vista Point, some guy sidled up to us, took my camera in hand, and said, "Have some fun with those pictures!  Here, hold your hands like this, and like this."  And he moved back and clicked the shutter!  The Marin County side of the bridge has a much bigger parking lot, and it was chock-a-block full of cars and buses and crowded with people.  More restrooms, too.  I think I heard every language spoken on earth at this spot.  That's how famous this bridge is.  Both ends of the bridge touch the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, but on the Marin side, the NRA extends a long way.  More fun in the works!

Back on the SF side.

Of course, it took us much longer than we intended, as we stop often to gawk or study something, but we weren't in a hurry.  This was what we wanted to do -- so be it.  I can tell you that Tues-Wed-Thurs were high counts on the ol' fitbit.  Yesterday we put in over 19,000 steps (yep, we were in bed early). So, we enjoyed our brief SF outing.  We ate pizza one evening and ate in Chinatown the next evening at R & G Lounge -- love their spicy eggplant.  We took the #30 bus to Union Square (that actually was a lot of fun and a lot easier than driving and looking for a parking place) where we shopped at Uniqlo and bought a few things.

Transamerica Pyramid from Chinatown.

We finished our bridge walk around Noon, and headed for home, with a stop first at Ikea, and then a short visit with Matt and Jen in Sacramento. They're redoing their front yard landscaping with drought resistant plants, and it was beginning to take shape, looking very nice, very professional.  We finally got home around 7pm.

Time for a cute pic.  Our friend, Fran, handed us this goofy toy to give to either Sophie or Maggie (Matt and Jen's doggies), tho I'm here to tell you that no way, NO WAY, was Sophie going to move with that "monkey on her back!!"


Muir Woods, at long last! Wednesday, 4/27/16

Funny how things work out.  Jimmy and I postponed our little San Francisco getaway several times because weather forecasts weren't good; in fact, they were cool and rainy.  We finally settled on a few days in late April (4/26-28) to celebrate our 15-year anniversary ... and because long-term predictions showed a nice round sun.  Till the week before, then Wednesday's picture evolved into raindrops!  Well, nuts!  Forget about it, no more canceling; we don't melt into puddles and we have rain jackets and umbrellas.  So, off we went to SF and Cow Hollow Inn in our Prius, a mere three hours away.

Two things topped our want-to-do list, and the first was a visit to Muir Woods National Monument, one of the last stands of old-growth redwood forests on earth, which is maybe a half hour north of San Francisco.  We love being in the natural beauty of a magnificent ancient redwood forest, but altho it's fairly close to where we live now, we'd never made it there.  This is one of those places "I've always wanted to see," and hopefully today is the time, rain or shine.  It'll probably be one of those awe-inspiring places we'll want to see again and again.

Sure enough, Wednesday morning was cloudy and misty and turned into full-fledged rain on our way to the woods.  Phooey.  Rain gear in tow, we set off.

Still dripping, but NOT pouring!

Oh yea!  The sky began to clear, and soon the sun peeked through the clouds! 

And while drops continued to fall on our heads from the foliage, the rain stopped altogether.

Summer fog and winter rains are what keep the redwoods growing here.  Many of the trees in this forest are over 600 years old.  Rotting logs support life, too.

At the VC, the ranger recommended we walk the scenic two-mile Redwood Creek/Hillside trail, which took us into three beautiful redwood groves:  Founders Grove, Cathedral Grove (above) and Bohemian Grove.  The trail follows meandering Redwood Creek, which originates in Mt Tamalpais and bisects the park.  We were surprised to learn threatened steelhead and endangered coho salmon spawn in this small bubbling creek.  Plus, of course, there's salamanders and other critters. 

Above Jimmy leans against part of a redwood "root."  Below is a close-up of it ... kinda gnarly.

Shade-loving undergrowth thrives below the redwood canopy in this moist climate.  Sword ferns, mosses and redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregana) grace the forest floor.  Look how green everything is!  I envision a primitive age when I look at these pictures, as in the dinosaur age.  Much of what we saw, horsetails, lichens, and ferns, might have been apart of that earlier time.

This is what retirement is all about for us ... to be able to spend time walking along an exquisite path such as this, relishing the quiet nature and cathedral-like beauty; how fortunate we are. 

And this, too.  Off the Redwood Creek trail, we hiked uphill thru lush woods to Camp Alice Eastwood, a tranquil complex (at least today) with group camping, picnic tables and restrooms.  Not sure about exact trail length (1.3 mile we think), but we enjoyed the entire thing by ourselves, just walkin' along.

A temporary loss of our trail led us to this point, but we managed.
Don't like to use the word "lost." 

Not too many spots of color, but Andrew's clintonia (Clintonia andrewsiana) was a standout.
The only bird we caught a brief glimpse of was a winter wren as it hopped about the ground cover.

New redwood growth is really pretty. 

A different view as we travel The Hillside trail on our way back to the VC.  We stopped in at the cafe for a cuppa coffee (yes, there's even a cafe!) before we left.  I bought a Muir Woods sweatshirt at the gift shop that should get a lot of wear over the years.  

We're so happy to have experienced even a little bit of this national monument, and plan to return in the fall.  There's lots more to see and more trails to cover.  Summers will be very crowded, I'm sure, but autumn should be gorgeous.

One more thing you may find as interesting as I did.  From the brochure:  In 1905, William and Elizabeth Kent purchased the forest and opened it as a park.  After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, developers sought condemnation of the area to build a reservoir.  Using the nation's first preservation law, the Antiquities Act of 1906, William and Elizabeth Kent donated the land to the people of the United Sates in December 1907.  On January 9, 1008, President Theodore Roosevelt designated Muir Woods a America's tenth national monument.

John Muir wrote eloquently about the Kents' gift, calling the new park "the best tree-lover's monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world."  We concur.

Next up?  Thing Two!


A nice spring stroll ... Sunday, 4/24/16

This was one of those days when Jimmy and I looked at each other and said, "What would YOU like to do today?"  Neither of us had a specific agenda; our yard waste bin was full-to-overflowing, so no yard work was in the works.  That's when we both agreed to a hike (actually it's just a long walk) on the upper canal trail; it would be just what we wanted (or needed).  

Nevada City (indeed, most of NorCal) rec'd a healthy dose of rain on Friday (about an inch-and-a-half here, hooray!), so we had to dodge a few large puddles.  Temp was in the mid-50's when we started out and it may have maxed at 58.  The sky was on/off clouds ... one of those zip/unzip the down vest as we were in/out of the warm sun.  A fresh little breeze lent a bit of nip to the air.  Kinda nice hiking weather.

Some slugs make it across the path.  The really slow ones lay in a squished oozy mess.

In all the times we've walked these canal trails, we've never seen ducks on the water.  Fish in the water, yes, and dogs, too, but seeing Mr and Mrs Mallard was a first.  We surprised each other.

I find it fascinating that delicate Starflowers (Trientalis latifolia) we saw trailside today we also encountered along trails in Newfoundland a few years ago, thousands of miles away. Lovely to see many wildflowers blooming by the path right now.

Wow!  We've never seen so much water here.  Looks like there's no crossing this stream without boots, unless you want a soaker.  We chose the high road.  Nice hearing rushing water as you walk.

I saw several of these:  Spearleaf Agoseris (Agoseris retrorsa) (interesting name).   When I looked it up in my wildflower book, the comment was:  "Some men can identify with the leaves of this plant, which start out hairy, but tend to lose most of their hair with age."  Hah!

With the rain two days ago and the winter rain preceding, green was definitely the predominant color, especially these vibrant spring greens!  Good news -- no dust on the path today! 

Fragrant California Lilac was covered in bees and flies.

I don't believe I've ever seen a Scarlet Fritillary (Fritillaria recurva) before and this was the only one visible today.  Funny how you can walk three miles in one direction, then turn around and walk three miles back on the same path in the other direction and see totally different or all new things.  It's like a whole new world! 

Yellow Cat's Ear (Calochortus monophyllus).  So pretty!

When my sister and I (and Jimmy) walked near the South Yuba River last fall, we remarked on the gorgeous yellow leaf color of trees we didn't instantly recognize, tho we guessed maple family.  They were Bigleaf Maple or Oregon Maple (Acer macrophyllum), a deciduous, kinda stumpy tree.  Look, Nannie -- here it is in spring!  In flower!

Sierra Iris (Iris hartwegii) -- little bloomers.

Draping over the canal is a new raspberry cane.  Quite a few grow near the water and some produce sweet berries.  I hope I'm around when the fruit ripens and the bears don't beat me to the pickins'!

We were hungry and after six miles, our feet were tired when we got home (2 o'clock).  I forgot the granola bars and they were still on the counter, right where I left them.  (Hey, I can't remember everything!)  But, it's an easy path to be on, relatively flat, and you can set your own pace.  We greeted several bikers and met a few walkers, even runners, today.  One of the guys riding a bike called out, "Hey, it's a good day to be doing anything today, except to be inside!"  He was right.


Spring is in the air! April 2016

You can tell it's still Spring by the vivid colors in the neighborhood.  On our morning walks, I usually take my camera because you never know what you'll see, beauty or beast, and I always spot something.  This post is a conglomeration of a couple of weeks, in different areas and with lots going on.  A little bit of this; a little bit of that.

I wish I could tell you this outstanding tulip display was in my yard, but it'd be a lie. 

Above is a five-inch cutie (I named it Knute) I spied while Jimmy and I were out walking one morning near an old mining road.  We rescued its even cuter li'l pardner, below, from the center of the roadway where it most certainly would've been squished flat as cardboard.  We saw quite a number of California Newts Out and About in this area, and wondered if perhaps love was in the air?

Pinks, yellows, lavender, white, red, but I believe my favorite is the Pink Dogwood.

We decided to buy a new fridge after our water/icemaker conked out and we were tired of listening to the old thing run-run-run.  After checking online and several big box stores (and even a couple of little box stores), we chose a Sears Kenmore -- basically a carbon copy of what we had, only new and more efficient.  One of the reasons we picked this model was the low Energy Guide rating noted on the tag (below) hanging inside the store fridge.

After the driveway set up and kitchen installation, we were handed all the paperwork and, boy howdy, we were disappointed to find this Energy Guide tag (below) included! Bait-and-switch?  Misrepresentation?  We want to get a hold of Sears to complain, but have you ever tried to contact Sears?  What a pain!  Not sure how we'll handle the situation, but this just isn't right.  I'd hate to have to start all over ... any suggestions?

* * * * * * * *

On a happier note, Laurie Brown and I wanted to hike along the North Fork of the American River in Auburn again this spring before the days got too hot and before we dispersed on various trips elsewhere.  As it was, the only day available for everyone to get together was Sunday, a very popular hiking day!  No matter, we arranged to meet at 9:30, hoping to "beat the crowd."  It's a wild river this time of year, cold and tumultuous, with a lot more water surging down toward the confluence than we've ever seen.  Really something to see, but nothing I'd want to get too near!

Laurie and Odel, Rosanna and Frank, and me and Jimmy started out in morning shade on a near-five mile hike to Lake Clementine.  Rosanna is Laurie's cousin and Frank is her BiL.  The six of us met in Feb 2015 for the same hike.  After a cool start, the temp warmed to low 80's by afternoon.  Above, Laurie and Rosanna are ahead, walkin' and talkin'. As people do, we kept changing it up, so we all had an opportunity to visit with one another.  Nice to be Out and About with this congenial group!

Da guys.

Look at all this runoff spilling over Lake Clementine dam.  It seemed like so much more than last year (our fourth year in extreme drought). We've had a decent amount of rain/snow this winter, which accounts for us hearing the water's roar long before we saw the dam.  So impressive!

White water, wild river; be careful.  Everything was so lush and green along the trail, especially when compared to last year.  We saw fewer wildflowers; the season seemed to be lagging from last year's hike.  But the world was bathed in fifty shades of green.

Forest Hill Bridge.

None of us was in a hurry.  We had lunch reservations for 12:30 at Awful Annie's in Auburn (talk about crowded!) and we ate and talked and talked and laughed and enjoyed ourselves. What a fun day.  In fact, we're hoping to get in one more (different) hike after Laurie and Odel get back from a week in Louisiana and before we pack up Tergel for our trek to the East Coast.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed!