Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Tug Tour along the coast to LA

We've been on-the-go for several weeks, now I'm finally calming down, catching up, planning for the rest of this year (one of my favorite activities).

As part of catching up - here's "what we did on our Christmas vacation"... we got the truck out of storage and headed down the California coast.

Starting at Monterey and the harbor for a bit of animal watching.  An adorable otter was swimming around under the pier:

In fact, he attracted some attention as he found something (a clam?) that needed breaking into, so he floated on his back and started whacking at it.  This photo doesn't do it justice:

But I also got a video!  One of my better catches - because the otter ALSO came up with a rock to use for pounding the clam open (at least as long as it could balance the rock on its stomach).  We've never seen anything quite like this:

More wildlife, possibly a California sea lion (I need to get better at my marine animal ID'ing):

Cute houseboat!  I wonder if someone lives here:

We drove around town to check out the surf and shoreline in a couple spots:

Dolphins were leaping around in the bay (this really is a great place to bring binoculars), and I actually caught one on camera... sorta:

I love a big surf day when exploring the coast, several reminders of Hawaii during our drive:

A memorial to John Denver - we had no idea his plane crashed near Monterey:


Attempting to sightsee through the fog... ah well, the day's almost over and we need to get to our campsite at Big Sur anyway.

Big Sur has a lovely, quiet campground, perfect for sleeping in the truck a couple nights.  The weather was much improved the next day, yay!  We did a bit of exploring in the campground:

And there was a mountain to climb, so of course (bummer that John's ankle kept him from joining me):

Quite a pretty trail heading up the valley:

Someone put some work into this trail cut into the hillside:

The mountains beyond:

There was some thick vegetation up there, always nice to have a good trail cut right through it:

Here's an obstacle (John would have been up here with a saw if he could) - I tried going around to the right and ended up thrashing around a bit, but I eventually found the trail on the other side.  Going around to the left would have worked a lot better - I figured this out later on the way back down.

The last climb up toward the Mount Manuel ridge:

It seemed like the top, but there were higher points beyond and the trail kept going, so I had to follow it... down and up and down and up, no obvious summit.  It's not the first time I've climbed a mountain and couldn't figure out where the actual top was located.

At least there were great views of the ocean along the way:

I finally found the end of that section of ridge, said "enough of that!" and came back to the original most obvious place to call it good.  I debated trying to set up an FKT for this route up Mount Manuel, but without a definitive end point I'm not sure I'll pursue that thought.

The next day, back on the road and heading south.  Wonderful views and plenty of places to pull over to check them out (it helps to not be in a hurry):

More waves on the rocks:

All kinds of colors on the beach:

Working on my "photography skills" and no, I didn't stage this:

I could sit here all day:

Kelpien tangle:

Lovely place for a midday picnic.  John could sleep here:

Elephant seals!  I scanned the ocean for whales the whole trip, didn't see any, but we sure found plenty of other marine life.

This one had dragged itself onto the beach and lay there mostly inert, except for an occasional flick of sand onto its back:

In the water the elephant seals are much more mobile, popping up their heads and making displays, occasionally challenging each other.  Neat to watch:

One last look up the shoreline before we head inland:

Now for something different - since we were passing through LA, it seemed like a good time to swing by a couple presidential libraries.  The Reagan library was super popular, that was unexpected.  We parked lower down and had a nice walk up the hill.

Ronald and Nancy's grave site:

It's a beautiful spot with views all around, and it was neat to see another piece of the Berlin Wall (tear down this wall!):

Nice bronze statue:

It's almost like we aren't close to a big city:

We got to visit with some relatives that evening, then the next day we continued the theme with a stop at the Nixon library.  Merry Christmas  :)

There were several model trains on display in the lobby, and the more we looked at the intricate details, the more enchanted we were.  The designer/artist was there to talk about them and answer questions, very cool.

Everyone loves skiing, including Santa and the dog:

Even nomads get a visit from Santa:

I think the kid liked it too:

Christmas at the White House:

Christmas in southern California:

Patricia and Richard Nixon:

And one last bit of Christmas cheer - happy holidays!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Bay to Ridge Trail FKT

Another new Bay Area FKT!  I hadn't meant to do this (create another one), but I happened upon an actual trail with a name, and it's an interesting route.  I kind of couldn't help myself.  Kudos to Peter and Buzz from for inspiring me to do this.  It really is a fun and motivating way to go exploring.

This trail connects the Bay Trail (flat bike paths along the water) with the Bay Area Ridge Trail (not even close to flat, around the ridges above the bay).  Funny thing, it seems like the FKT routes in this area are just calling to be linked we just need the whole Bay Area Ridge Trail as an FKT!  Yeah, sure...

The page for this route on the FKT site:

Link to my GPS track; note that I missed a couple turns - I initially passed up the turn onto Park Blvd in downtown Palo Alto, and I got ahead of myself on the map while on Los Trancos Trail so I cut over to Pony Tracks Fire Road too soon and had to backtrack (more details with the photos below):

The start/finish at the Baylands Sailing Station, photo taken on a scouting day (quite a lovely spot in a pretty little park):

On my FKT run day, I arrived just as it was starting to get light.  I took a minute to admire the wonderful pre-dawn colors:

You can kind of see my face, standing next to one of the poles on the dock:

It was a cool, quiet morning, perfect for the start of a long run.  I made my way on trails through the park.  When I ran the FKT the trails were dry; however, during my scouting mission I found one section flooded (probably tidal?).  In that case, stay on the road past the Eco Center (across from the Duck Pond):

The split in the trail where I went right to cut over to Embarcadero heading west:

No sign of the "Bay to Ridge" trail - in fact, I found very few markings for it beyond what I've highlighted further down.

I stopped briefly at the car (parked outside the gates since the park wasn't open yet) to swap clothes for a water bottle.  Time for some sidewalk running.

Daydreaming already, I almost missed the turn onto Faber Place.  A bike trail starts at the end of the street, then there's a turn to the right (at this spot) to cut over to Bayshore Road:

The short, pleasant connector trail:

Across Bayshore and onto another bike path, this one specifically for crossing over the 101:

The "tunnel" path that goes up and over the highway:

And down the other side:

I was paying more attention by this point - turn right onto Greer Road:

And left on California Ave, for an excellent view of sunrise on the trees:

The quick left/right to continue to follow California Ave:

Double Tesla!

Still in the holiday spirit:

I enjoy railroad underpasses, so cool that people prioritize bikes/pedestrian traffic around here:

Art in the underpass:

I briefly passed up Park Blvd, but there is a sign if you're looking for it (well, the sign is there even if you aren't looking for it, to be technical about it):

The reason I at first rejected this street - "Not a through street" but it is the right way to go:

The roundabout where you turn left onto Stanford Ave, and some more lovely early morning sunshine on trees:

Crossing Bowdoin to find the excellent bike path paralleling Stanford Ave:

Very pretty:

The southern end of Stanford Ave, looking across to the Stanford Dish area (where hopefully a connector trail can eventually be added to this route):

Cross Junipero Serra and head left on the bike path:

I briefly followed Page Mill Road before diverting onto Old Page Mill.  It's a much nicer choice, quiet and mostly empty of cars:

Coming back out onto Page Mill, about to cross to the other side and go under I-280:

This next section is very short but slightly confusing so I put extra photos.  Here's the little path above Page Mill Road:

It passes a sign for "Los Altos Hills" and then turns away from the road, but continue to follow the path:

The path between the creek and a fence:

Popping out onto Baleri Ranch Road where you cut back over to Page Mill and then cross over to follow Arastradero Road:

Heading up Arastradero Road on the "PATH":

Arastradero Preserve has a parking lot with bathrooms; it's a short detour over to it.  On the way out I chose to take the detour to get some water, crossing the road and following the trail along the field:

Very nice facilities:

Returning and crossing back over Arastradero Road to join Juan Bautista de Anza Trail:

The park map, with the Bay to Ridge route highlighted, starting at the parking lot:

Happy to switch to trails for a while:

The left turn just after the lake is unsigned - I hadn't been here in a couple years and had to get out the map to verify, yep, I need to go left:

Following the trail as it climbs to the little ridge and the boundary with Foothills Park:

The gate at the pedestrian entrance to Foothills Park:

Notable because this is the sign that had me asking "Bay to Ridge Trail?  What is that?"

Foothills map with the Bay to Ridge route highlighted:

Coming down the paved road to the Foothills Interpretive Center; I stopped here to use the bathroom and mix some Spiz:

Through the Foothills valley:

The start of the Fern Loop Trail:

Fern Loop splits and makes a small loop; either side of the split will work just fine (same distance):

Nice steps leading up the left split:

Reminiscent of the Big Dog trail:

At the top of the Fern Loop, continue on Costanoan Trail heading further up the hill... and I just realized why I have been calling it "Coastanoan"... that's how it is written on the signs in the park (I believe "Costanoan" is correct, as spelled on the maps):

Neat tree shapes:

A view!  Looking across the bay toward Mount Diablo:

Taking a left onto Los Trancos Trail to continue uphill:

What a wonderful spot for a bench!

The excellent view from the bench:

I was apparently distracted by the bench and the view and the little break that I took in that spot, because I turned left from there onto Trapper's Fire Road.  The next intersection and the sight of Page Mill Road confused me, then I realized I had switched to the next map too quickly.

Oops, it wasn't time to turn left yet.  Here's the (very obvious) trail across from the bench that I was supposed to take.  I'm a bit annoyed that I messed up the GPS track for the FKT route.  Back on track!

Fun trail through the bushes:

Crossing Shotgun Fire Road:

Hey, there is an actual "Bay to Ridge Trail" marker!  I wonder why there aren't more of these all along the route?

Also, that's where the left turn is located, onto Pony Tracks Road:

Then a quick right - and another Bay to Ridge marker!

The trail leading over to Los Trancos Open Space Preserve:

NOW it's time for the next map...

Los Trancos map with the Bay to Ridge route highlighted:

Back into the woods we go - the next couple miles were in and out of the woods, winding around drainages, and slowly climbing while still being very runnable.

One minor obstacle:

Following Page Mill Trail:

An occasional view toward the top of the ridge:

It's almost spring, maybe?

Staying left on Page Mill Trail (to the right there's a nice trail system including the Franciscan Loop):

A brief glimpse of Page Mill Road:

Page Mill Trail is mostly well signed:

Except the next intersection - this is a view looking back at it.  Coming uphill, stay left (the right turn is labeled, the left turn is not):

Almost to the end of Page Mill Trail, at least the Bay to Ridge portion:

Turn left to exit onto Page Mill Road at this spot:

The view looking across Page Mill Road toward Canyon Trail:

From this location, there is a water fountain up the road to the left (about 0.2 miles one way); the water was turned on when I ran this FKT, but I read reports that it wasn't running last summer.  So rely on it at your own risk.

I ran up to the fountain on my outbound trip to fill my bottle.  Apparently I was in a hurry to get the detour over with, because I forgot to take a picture of the fountain.  It's on the right at a gate, and it's obvious.

Now back to Canyon Trail...

Los Trancos plus Monte Bello map (last one!) with the Bay to Ridge route highlighted:

After a short way along the Canyon Trail there's a turn to the right, aiming for Stevens Creek Nature Trail:

Ignore this little path to the left:

The trail across the high hills:

One of many signs to read, if you were inclined to take the time (I do like checking out the raptors):

Stevens Creek Trail goes to the left here:

More lovely dirt road on a lovely day:

Here there's a bench behind me, no time to sit, time to take the left split and run downhill for the last valley crossing before the turnaround:

Hmm... I don't think this tree grew up in this spot:

One of several bridges across side drainages, heading down through the woods:

An excellent bridge at the bottom:

One final trail to follow up the hill, Skid Road to the right:

Continuing up the wide Skid Road:

And there it is!  Skyline Boulevard and the top end of the Bay to Ridge Trail:

Very cool.  Seems like a good place to turn around:

Starting back the other way, to repeat the valley down-and-up:

I really enjoyed climbing up through these woods:

Hey, there's Mount Um in the distance!  It's getting so I'll recognize it from a lot of different angles (hard to see in this photo though):

Crossing Page Mill Road (skipping the detour to the fountain this time):

A lovely downhill run on singletrack:

Following Page Mill Trail back down:

Woods - field - woods - field...

Turkeys!  They were shy so I didn't get a good shot of the whole lot of them when I first came around the corner:

Shadow directions:

Back to Foothills Park:

Coming back to Pony Tracks:

And the quick right turn onto Los Trancos Trail:

Bay to Ridge Trail - I approve:

Live long and prosper:

Taking in the view from the bench again:

I had to get a photo of this strange tree:

The turn onto Costanoan Trail to head down some switchbacks:

Back to the top of Fern Loop, this time I took the other split:

Back to the road through the Foothills valley:

And back at the Interpretive Center:

Good spot for a water refill:

The gate leading back to Arastradero:

I enjoyed the run down through Arastradero, last section of dirt before hitting the pavement again:

The bridge to Arastradero Road (I skipped the detour to the bathroom/water fountain on the way back):

"PATH" along the road:

Back to the slightly-confusing trail from Baleri Ranch Road back over to Page Mill Road:

The nice bike path along Stanford Bowl:

Happy to still have plenty of daylight, heading back up Stanford Ave:

I do enjoy this bike path along Stanford:

Art at the Palo Alto train station, just before the underpass:

More art in the underpass:

California Ave to Greer to Oregon... and then the overpass at highway 101:

Happy I'm not on the highway... oh wait, I'm about to be driving home...

Shadow running:

A nice bike path along Embarcadero:

I seem to be running east this afternoon:

A plane landing at the little airport nearby (it's always fun having the little planes flying around during a run):

The Eco Center at Baylands Park - seems like the trail goes across the back porch, as far as I can tell:

Looks like low tide:

And I'm back!

Definitely low tide!  I think my run had an overall elevation drop of a couple of feet:

Total time = 9:19:05

That was great fun!  Not too long or challenging, lots of variety, an excellent discovery.  Now go run it yourself!

More info, for anyone interested in running this route:

Water availability
- Start/finish parking lot
- Arastradero parking lot bathrooms
- Foothills Interpretive Center
- Along Page Mill Road via 0.4-mile (round-trip distance) detour; water is at the gate on the right (previously has been reported to be turned off, was working in early January 2019)

Route details
Start at Baylands Sailing Station on the bay (at the water) - parking available (see park hours, be aware of the gate so your car doesn't get stuck there overnight)

Trail along Embarcadero, past the Duck Pond; during high tide you might need to take the road past the Ranger Station because the trail tends to flood between there and the EcoCenter

Cut over on the trail to cross the street and continue on sidewalk, follow Embarcadero along the south side of the airport

Left on Faber Place to the end of the street and onto the trail

Take the first trail to the right toward Bayshore Road

Jog right across Bayshore onto the pedestrian bridge over the 101

Continue on Oregon Ave

Right on Greer, left on California

T's at Middlefield, jog left to stay on California

Just before Alma take the underpass (east side of California) to the CalTrain station on the other side

Take the first right on Park (signed as "Not a Through Street")

Left on Stanford Ave (at Peers Park)

Cross El Camino (Valero, Starbucks), continue SW on Stanford Ave

Past Bowdoin, continue SW on the bike path along the west side of Stanford Ave

Stanford ends at Junipero Serra Blvd, cross and go left on the bike path on the south side

Right on Page Mill (sidewalk)

Veer right onto Old Page Mill, narrow but quiet road

Comes out at Page Mill again

Cross to the east side of Page Mill to gain the sidewalk

Cross under I-280

Continue to follow Page Mill; just past the Park and Ride, climb slightly to gain the path that now parallels Page Mill

The path goes slightly away from the road along a fence and comes out on Baleri Ranch Rd where you cross the little creek and return to Page Mill Rd

Cross Page Mill onto Arastradero Road

Follow Arastradero Road to Arastradero Park

Optional detour to the visitor center for bathrooms and water fountain if needed; then return on trail toward Arastradero Road, cross the road and continue on Juan Bautista de Anza Trail

If skipping the detour, access the park on the south side of Arastradero Road at the first trail entrance

Just past Arastradero Lake turn left onto Arastradero Creek Trail (unsigned)

Stay on Arastradero Creek Trail all of the way to the Foothills Park gate

At the Foothills park gate, go through the gate and then turn right on the paved road

Follow the road to the Interpretive Center (water available inside and outside)

Just past the building the road ends at a "T". Turn left and follow the paved road through the picnic area, then turn right at the first paved road (don't cut across the grass)

Pass through a gate and continue on the road (Wild Horse Fire Road)

Turn right onto Fern Loop Trail

Fern Loop diverges; either split will work

At the top end of Fern Loop, continue climbing on Costanoan Trail

At the top of Costanoan Trail, turn left onto the Los Trancos Trail

Follow Los Trancos Trail across Trappers and Shotgun Fire Roads

Turn left on Pony Tracks Fire road and follow it for 500 feet

Turn right onto the singletrack Page Mill Trail. After another 500 feet you will enter Los Trancos Open Space Preserve

Continue on the Page Mill Trail for the next 2.6 miles

(Note - after the first 1.5 miles, cross a bridge and turn left at the trail junction to continue on Page Mill Trail)

(Note - stay left on Page Mill Trail at the first junction with the Franciscan Loop Trail; it is unsigned in the direction of Page Mill Trail)

Where the trail passes very close to Page Mill Road, go left to the road

If you need water, turn left (east) on Page Mill Road and run along the road for 0.2 miles where will see a water fountain on the right side.  After getting water, return along Page Mill Road.  Watch for cars.

Enter Monte Bello Open Space Preserve and pass through a gate onto Canyon Trail

After 0.1 miles, take the first road to the right (toward Stevens Creek Nature Trail)

Stay right at the bend - do not take the small, unmarked trail to the left

Go left at the next intersection (toward Stevens Creek Nature Trail)

At the next intersection, go left onto Stevens Creek Nature Trail and follow it downhill

At the bottom, go right on Skid Road Trail

Stay left on Skid Road and follow it up to Skyline Blvd.  Stop or turn around at the gate at Skyline Blvd