Unwelcome Guest

You start by dropping subtle hints. “Boy, I sure hope the septic system doesn’t explode today.” Or, “I wonder if giving those Mexican cartel guys my address was a bad idea?” If your guest doesn’t start packing, the next step is to assemble a potpourri of utensils and first aid supplies; tin snips, boning knife, a small chefs blow torch, a red-hot poker for cauterizing wounds, Bactine (no sting formula of course), and two small band-aids. No, I’m not talking about removal of those pesky in-laws. It’s the season for our outdoor friends – the relative of the arachnid family called Ixodidae. Otherwise known as the common tick.

While showering a couple of days ago (side note, I subscribe to the French method – bathe once a week, needed or not!) I noticed a new mole on the backside of my calf. Aside from ruining the photogenic qualities of my massive cycling gastrocnemius muscle, I wasn’t too worried about it. That is, until I examined it more closely and realized it was a freakish goblin sucking my life fluid from my body.

Eventually I contained my panic and the neighbors convinced me to go back inside. Everyone gets a little sensitive these days about naked guy in a tree covered with shampoo. I was fully prepared to lose the leg. They’re doing amazing work these days with prosthetic limbs, so I was pretty sure my long-term prospects were good. Fortunately just prior to slicing open my calf and slapping hot iron on the wound I remembered I’d purchased a tick key a while back.

 This cool little tool makes it super easy to remove the suckers. Just slide it over them and they pop right off. What’s not so easy is replacing all my clothes after the fire. I was going to wash what I’d worn hiking, but then I started thinking that I’d just have clean ticks in my basement. Logically it made sense to burn the contaminated clothes. Unfortunately those clothes had been thrown in the laundry basket… which of course was in the closet with all the other clothes.

Let’s just say that the fire and police departments didn’t appreciate the frenzy of lighter fluid and resulting bonfire in the backyard so soon after the naked tree incident. Lesson learned. On a positive note, it’s probably good my disco outfits went into the fire. Seeing how polyester and rayon burn was a little disconcerting.


Mt. El Sombroso Photos

The Sierra Azul (“Blue Range”) is an open space preserve in the South Bay region of Santa Clara County. At 18,400 acres, it’s the largest preserve in the district. The area is dominated by Mt. Umunhum, a 3,486 foot peak capped by the “blue cube” the former Almaden Air Force Station. This station was part of the early warning radar network of the 1950’s. Now closed and abandoned the entire are around Umunhum is unfortunately closed to the public. Due to the closure the next best peak is Umunhum’s sister peak, Mt. El Sombroso.

The summit of Mt. El Sombroso at 2,999 feet is a 12.3 mile round trip hike. Primarily fire road, it meanders through deep forest cover for much of the hike. The last few miles of the hike you’ll earn your summit – the gradient turns steep, covered in loose shale, and most of it is spent in direct sun. Hot and tired you’re rewarded with sweeping views of San Jose and the entire South Bay basin. If you have a clear day you’ll be able to spot Mt. Hamilton across the valley.

Almaden Air Force Station

Sierra Azul Open Space

Mt. El Sombroso

Harvey Bear Photos

A few photos from the most recent mountain bike ride at Harvey Bear county park. It’s an interesting park in the south bay I never knew existed until we moved out to Morgan Hill. It seems to be primarily used by equestrians and cows. I’d classify it as more of a fitness ride on the bike. A good mix of hills and some fun downhill. Worth a visit on a bike or hike.

Yo, Pay Attention

So I’m out on a mountain bike ride yesterday. A good climb up and over a ridgeline that drops down into a valley. At about the halfway point it’s fairly isolated. Probably six miles from the parking lot. Singletrack and semi-wooded. Later in the day and the sun is dropping below the ridge and shadows are creeping in. Zipping along having a blast I spotted a hiker up ahead on the trail. Female, young-ish, alone. I slowed down, skidded my tires a bit, cleared my throat, tried to make some noise so I wouldn’t startle her. Clearly she didn’t hear me, so at about 20 yards I said “good afternoon – coming around on your left”.

This poor girl jumped about 5 feet and looked like someone just set a firecracker off at her feet. I’d clearly scared the hell out of her. She wasn’t wearing headphones or talking on the phone. Just meandering along in her own world, completely oblivious to everything around her. It amazes me how clueless people can be. I have no problem with doing stuff solo, but for gods sake have a little situational awareness! I’m certainly not advocating that folks need to practice military type tactics when hiking or jogging, but take a second and think about your situation. Look behind you from time to time, don’t wear headphones if you’re alone in an isolated area, look around the parking lot before you walk to your car, etc…

I love seeing people getting outside and enjoying nature. Everyone should take a risk once in a while and get of the paved walking path at the neighborhood park. Head out somewhere away from people. We’ve become a society too conditioned to everything being sanitized and safe. Just be aware of your current situation and what’s around you. Besides, when you’re paying attention you have a better chance of spotting wildlife.

I, of course, am a hyper-vigilant person. For a very good reason. Snakes. I’m petrified of ’em. I spend my biking and hiking time avoiding sticks and shadows, convinced it’s a snake. I pull my earbuds out for much of the time when I’m running for fear of not hearing the rattle of the giant fifteen foot diamondback waiting for me around the corner. The worse part of my fear is that I’m a frigg’n snake magnet for some reason. They’re usually just garter snakes, but I’m convinced those are just the advanced scouts for the bigger snakes.

Sigh… it’s exhausting being me sometimes.