December 6, 2009 Sunnyvale

December 6th, 2009

The announcement

We’re doing a dead easy hike. About 4 to 5 miles total, with a mere few feet of total climb, not including any elevation climbing up on Santa’s lap.

Show up at our house around 6 or 6:30. We may play a bit of cards if you show up at the earlier end of that range (let us know if you’re coming at the early end for cards). And we’ll probably have some mulled cider and tea available. Around 6:45, we’ll head up towards the downtown Caltrain station for the Holiday train. There is a toy collection that begins at 7:35. If you have something to share, bring it along. You can even hand it to one of the handsome, uniformed Marines at the station. At 8:05, Santa arrives on the train. We’ll hoop. We’ll holler. The guys will cavort with Santa’s feminine helpers. The girls will probably still be cuddling the Marines.

From there, we’ll wend our way back along various streets looking for Christmas lights, ending up with the humongous display a block behind our house. Then it’s back for more warm drink.

Singing will be encouraged. We may even stop at Monica’s along the way and cheer her up. Maybe even Kristen’s house. Of course, we hope Kirsten will be with us, but we can sing at her empty house. We find that we get less things thrown at us from doorways when we sing at empty houses, anyway.

Oh, and back at our house, we’ll have a potluck dessert thing going. If you have something interesting to share along with the hot drinks, bring it along. If not, that’s fine, too. We usually have more food than eaters, anyway.

The hike

What a weekend. Tree decorating, dessert overeating, puzzle unpuzzling, dodging bullets.

Well, we didn’t do any bullet dodging ourselves, but apparently Donna’s neighbors did. You’ll have to ask her about that when you see her next. But ask politely. Very, very politely.

Our first holiday light outing was cold and damp. It began with the weirdest game of Hearts I’ve every played. Grey was winning, which should give you a clue as to just how weird the game was. When it looked inevitable that he was going to win, we quit the game and made our walk up to the holiday choo choo. The girls hung around the Marines, the guys hung around Santa’s female “helpers”. We walked to Monica’s and blew her mind with our abbreviated rendition of Handel’s “Messiah”, in 8-part harmony. We watched the big Severex light show, for all of 13 seconds before we sledded back to the house exactly in time for the arrival of pizza. We ate dessert. Then had some dessert after the dessert. Then we exchanged traditional holiday gifts of cases of water.

November 29, 2009 Rancho Canada del Oro

November 29th, 2009

The announcement

Tthis week’s hike will be at Rancho Canada del Oro in southern San Jose, nearly to Uvas. The advantage of this place is there are two excellent hike options: an easier option to the “picnic table in the middle of nowhere”, and the harder option up to Ol’ Baldy. I plan on doing the easier option and giving my knees yet another week to heal, but I might change my mind. As you know, we always try to adapt the hike to those that show up.

The hike

For a time, Rancho Canada del Oro was a private hiking place for Kathy and myself. Oh, some knew of the Bald Mountain trail, but it seemed like almost no one knew of the little side trail we took. And it still looks that way. We’re lucky if we see two people when we take this trail, and that was just about what we saw last weekend.

Some of that might have to do with Peggy L. When we arrived, she was roaming around near the parking lot with a big whip in her hand, slashing it back and forth. I think there were maybe 6 carloads of hikers that showed up, saw her with her whip, and just turned around and left again.

Don’t every piss Peggy off. Just so you know.


June 28, 2009 Hidden Villa

June 28th, 2009

The announcement

Kathy cannot join us for the hike this Sunday, and I don’t feel like a long drive, so we’ll do a local favorite again—Hidden Villa, probably a double loop.

And, to maximize the potential for Kathy joining us after the hike, to get a different perspective of the park under different lighting, and to give Donna time to sleep in (yea, let’s blame it on Donna), we’ll be leaving here at (gasp) 10 AM. That’s an hour after 9. Do not show up at my house at 9. If you show up at 9, you’ll be greeted by what I sleep in, and nobody wants to see that. Not even on a bet.

We leave here at 10 and begin the hike around 10:30. This is only about 6 miles if we do a double loop, about 3 if we only do the first part of the hike. The trails are almost totally covered, narrow, with encroaching poison oak likely. If Kevin shows up with no obvious poison oak on him, we’ll shove him to the front of the pack to clear the trail. If he is covered in poison oak, we’ll shove him to the front anyway so that he’ll be able to hear all the snarky remarks we make about him.

We’ll try to drag the hike out to about 1:30 or so, so this will be a leisurely pace. It should be somewhat toasty, so this should be the right pace anyway. And I’m hoping to lunch with Kathy after the hike, so I hope that slow will result in a less smelly Mike than a faster pace might engender. [ Charlie, that’s under ‘E’ in the dictionary. ]

Who is in for a leisurely stroll and poison oak inspection? Maybe we’ll find a few more bones from the secret deer-cache location.

June 21, 2009 Portola Redwoods State Park

June 21st, 2009

The announcement

Sunday’s hike will be much easier. We’ll leave here at 9, the usual time, and head up over Highway 35 and down the ocean side along Alpine, across from Page Mill, to Portola Redwoods State Park.

This is part of our mad dash to leave our indelible mark on as many of the state parks that are about to be closed as we can before Da Terminator terminates our access. Laura has given us the handy link,, which tells us that we need to be wearing green, or a green ribbon this weekend in support of our parks. Green where we cannot see is only worth a half credit. We’ll let Grey do the usual group picture honors that we’ll post to their web site, so make sure you warsh (not just wash) your face before you come.

This is a moderate to upper-end moderate hike, taken at a leisurely pace (everyone stays together), up the hill behind the ranger station, then down a fire road, looking for thimbleberries and huckleberries all the way. Perhaps Tom will make another unannounced visit to join us, like last year. I’m always amazed we even catch up to him when he does this.

After the hike, well be having a picnic. Yea!

We’ll have a small cooler with us, but your should plan on bringing your own if you can, if you have something that needs, well, cooling. The way this works is that you bring food and drink for yourself and, if you feel up to it, bring along something extra to share. Like a salad, or chips, or your signature dish, etc.

We’ll gather at one of the many picnic tables, engorge ourselves, see if we can convince Ronnie G to show us his special bird-attracting dance he did last year, and I’ll see if I can avoid getting lectured to by the Ranger again.

The hike is pretty much all enclosed. Plan on 2 to 3 hours for the hike and an hour for the picnic. Towards the end of the hike, we’ll be near the creek and we may try to find the elusive Tiptoe Falls. And, yes, there will be pictures taken along the way.

The hike
Fifteen people—we’re still getting some good sized crowds for the hikes. And why not? Especially when you get to wait to see who is going to report getting poison oak in the next day or two. Bets are on Grey, Charlie, and (most likely) Kevin. Kevin who grabbed hold of a furry, urushiol-oozing limb of significant dimensions and with the subtle grunt of a trained weight lifter, hove his weight in poison oak timber aside of the trail.

It was a toss up in percentage of reaction between admiration of the mighty slayer of fetid flora, and the repugnance of needing to be sure to stay well out of range of Kevin’s touch for the rest of the day. Add to that the curious sight of Grey leading the pack in the hike. Or Charlie’s fashion competition with Grey. Or Jan’s cajoling or daring the back group to keep up with her. Of wondering about the state of Dave’s nether regions when I jumped off my end of the giant see-saw and hearing the loud oomph of Dave hitting solid ground on his end.

Those were just a few of the many tales that day. The weather was ideal. The berries were mostly unripe. The climb eventually ended. But oh boy, the picnic. Salads. Brownies. Chips. Dips. Exotics foods which I can’t spell. Beer. Wine. Fizzy drinks. Sandwiches. Fruit. And that was just in front of my position on the picnic bench.
There was a whole giggling gaggle at the other end of the bench.

There was no bird-flying lesson. No lecture from the ranger. No visitation of jaunty jays.

Pictures are HERE.

June 14, 2009 Rancho San Antonio

June 14th, 2009

The announcement

Hi All – I’m the stuckee, er, stand-in, for Mike/Kathy this weekend.

The hike is on Sunday, June 14, 9:00 a.m. We’ll take a walk through Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve.

The meeting place is the parking lot at Montclaire Elementary School in Los Altos (1160 Saint Joseph Avenue, see link to map below). We can walk to Rancho San Antonio from the school – it’s about a 1/2 mile walk to a side entrance of the park. Please be at the school parking lot by 9:00 a.m. We’re all meeting at the school; we’re not meeting at Mike and Kathy’s house.

It sounds like you had a murderous hike last weekend, so we’ll take it easy on this one – it’ll be approximately 6 miles with about 800 feet total elevation gain.

Be sure to bring water.

The hike

Well, we saw lots of baby quails with their moms and dads, and several bunnies with white cotton tails. No snakes, no turkeys, no coyotes, no deer, no bobcats – all of which I have seen from time to time at Rancho, but not this time.

We walked about 6 miles – went up on the Rogue Valley trail, and came down along the creek and over the bridges in Wild Cat Canyon. There is still water running in the creek. The bay trees arch over the path and keep it nice and cool.

Then we had lunch at Hobees – Paul and Jan graciously joined us for lunch:)

It was no problem parking at the school and walking into the park through the side entrance.



So I understand that temporary dictator Judy (a.k.a. the Marathoner) pushed the hikers on a grueling 10 km or better hike, through rodent-infested fens and past poison oak infested aviaries filled with mother birds out to protect their young at any cost. She set a grueling pace that was possible only by sticking close to stream beds filled with cool, rushing water. With some of their wits and most of their body parts intact, they managed to limp into a restaurant and refresh their depleted stores before a customer uprising was able to form and ask them to take their dusty, smelly selves elsewhere.

At least that’s what I think I heard Judy say.

June 7, 2009 Henry Coe State Park

June 7th, 2009

The announcement

This Sunday looks to offer a real likelihood for another adventure. We’re off to the wilds of Henry Coe since the weather should be cool this weekend and we had to punt during our last attempt at this hike when the weather was too hot.

Plan A is to do an 8-mile, hard hike, which many of you have done before. Plan B is a shorter hike over Monument hill/mountain/peak to Frog Pond and back. We’ll see how energetic we feel at the start. We’ll eat lunch on the trail and probably have a meal afterwards as well. Dress for ticks, poison oak, sun, cold, damp and dry. Bring rubber gloves in case we have to play with something greasy.

We leave here Sunday at 8:30 — that’s half-past 8, so you’ll be calling between 7:30 and 8. The hike should start around 10, by my reckoning. Plan on 4 to 5 hours of hiking, depending on which plan we do. Look to past blogs on for previous descriptions of this hike.

The hike

Brain borrowing worms, tenacious ticks, poisonous spiders, deadly snakes, slippery slopes, heartbreaking hills and heatstroke temperatures—Henry Coe has all the things you want for a fine hike. And we experienced several of them last weekend.

I see I still need to string us together with bungee chord to keep the group together. We had a couple of hikers that decided that the normal trail wasn’t hard enough so they extended it with more distance and climb. And a couple people that I barely saw all day. I may just have to let the air out of their sneakers to solve the problem.

Still, it was a great hike. Kinda. Sorta. I think it was more than a few people wanted, or indeed thought they would ever do. Just remember that you are stronger than you think you are.

You’ve got to be really proud of making it through the hike. It earns you 90 minutes of bragging rights on any hike in the next 3 months. Feel free to just roll your eyes when someone not on this hike begins complaining about hard hard some other hike is. Then, without even waiting for them to finish their whining, begin your story with, say, “Oh, puh-leeze! You want to know what a hard hike is?” And let them have it.

That 90 minutes doesn’t have to be taken all at once. You can use 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there. You cannot use another person’s minutes though. If you run out, just grab someone else who was on the hike and say, “Here, you tell them about Henry Coe”.

On the plus side, the wildflowers were much better than I expected—not great, except for the Mariposa lillies all around—but better than I expected for mid June. And the ticks were non-existent. And the weather was pleasant. And the company was great.

We especially had a great time at the meal afterwards, and I really enjoyed the chat with Charlie and Kristen after that. They are just fascinating people.


Pictures are HERE.

May 30, 2009 Golden Gate Park

May 30th, 2009

The announcement

This Saturday, the “real” Memorial Day, is also my birthday. Can I get an amen from the congregation? To celebrate (well, party number 1), we’ll be hiking Golden Gate Park. No surprise to you who came on last week’s hike. For Grey’s benefit, it Saturday, Saturday, not Sunday, it’s Saturday, the day after Friday. Don’t make me have to call you up 🙂

We’ll leave here at 9 and park near the 9th Street entrance on Lincoln Way. We’ll start the hike around 10 or a bit before. I plan on going to Stowe Lake where I might rent a row boat and do a lap, or maybe try a tandem bike. But more likely I’ll climb the hill in the center and take lots of pictures. I’ll have to go by the Buffalo pen, by the Tai Chi practitioners, past the model boats, to the Greek temple, back amongst the squirrel gang areas, and up to the Conservatory of Flowers where I plan on taking a whole lot of pictures. I’ll visit the Rose garden, and maybe swing by the lawn bowling, the Shakespeare Garden and end at the arboretum/botanical gardens.

This will be about 6 to 8 miles of hiking, taking 4 hours or a bit more. I’ll choose the place of lunch, at least for myself and Kathy, but I’m open to suggestions. “Plan B” is to go back to the Russian cafe for Kavas and food.

The hike

“How about we rent a surrey for all of us?”, Grey asked. And thus began another FOMFOK adventure.

After a birthday lunch, the cool breezes tempered our recent climb to Stowe Mountain and the temperature dropped more as we gathered at the rental station. Pink popcorn and cotton candy flecked the choppy lake where a recent Russian college graduate rowed his future fiance into the center of the lake to make his dramatic proposal, which was causing a crowd to form along the bank. Tiny ducklings formed a symbolic bridal veil in the wake of the rowboat, an omen for a good marriage.

Seven of us climbed into a surrey designed for six, but which was built with steel only strong enough for four adults. There were six pedaling stations and we kept Jan in reserve for the long uphill that we would encounter at the end, coming back. Kathy sat in the steering position, wheel in one hand and a monstrous brake handle in the other, peering down the long hill at a narrow gate in the distance.

Champing at the bit, four of us grunted on the pedals, not knowing Kathy still held on the brake. Then, without warning, she let go of the handle and we were off like a shot. Ok, I tell a lie. Four of us grunted and groaned as we gradually built up speed, like a shay locomotive leaving the station. You remember that there were six pedalers, right? Kathy and Joanne were spinning like hamsters on a sugar high. It was a truly odd sight, if any of us bothered to notice, but our grunting soon paid off and we were heading at an all too frightening speed at the tiny gate down the hill.

The surrey was 7 feet, 3 inches wide and the opening in the gate was 7 feet, 7 inches at the narrowest. Grey and I, providing the big pistons at the back of the surrey, were bedecked in cameras with loose straps, hats, open jackets, GPS units and various doodads hanging outside of the protective frame of the surrey. We were perhaps a bit ashen as we went with undiminished speed towards the gate as Kathy was shouting, “Quit pedalling”. Judy, up front, was steering to beat the band on the other steering wheel, which would have helped if it were actually connected to anything. Joanne and Gary were ready to try dragging their feet and, if necessary, dive out of the surrey if it would help save the rest of us. Jan we kept in reserve, still. I think Jan was taking the reserved position seriously as she apparently was trying to rest. At least I saw she had her hands over her eyes.

With only a few yards to go, the surrey ground to a halt with room to spare. We inched past the gate and began the slow grunt of speed buildup again. With a stop and a turn only a short distance ahead, though, Kathy and Joanne were not pedaling. At the stop, out of the protective enclosure of the hill, the wind began to build. The fog which had dogged us all day began ghosting across the road. The mist began to build into a dull rain.

Kathy and Joanne were spinning like a presidential press secretary while the other four of us were grunting up to ramming speed. Jan’s hands were at least not covering her eyes now. Still the wind built. The road was supposed to be closed to cars, yet were were constantly threatened by large cars and rescue vehicles to our left. Directly in front of us and to our right, dogs, kids and portly moms with sports utility carriages continually blocked our path. A light snow began to fall.

A stop sign ahead had us all shouting to Kathy, “Don’t stop” as she wrestled the brake lever as if she were braking a semi. When she relented and let up again, our now sore knees wailed to get back up to speed. Except that Joanne and Kathy where merrily spinning as if we were skiing on a gentle, bunny-slope downhill.

We rolled through the second stop sign as the four grunters began wondering how it was the Joanne and Kathy were pedaling so easily. Kathy said that something was obviously wrong, so we decided to stop and check out the chain drive. When we were nearly stopped, someone shouted, “Don’t stop until we hit the crest of the hill”. So we grunted again and rolled a bit further.

As we all got off the surrey, Jan, totally fresh, grabbed the several hundred pound surrey as if it were a feather pillow and tilted it up on its side while Grey stuck his fingers in the gears and chains. Three curses and a yelp later, Grey suggested we try moving the pedals again. The chain linking Kathy and Joanne’s pedals to the rest of us was off the gears and Grey’s machinations cause it to drop down between the rings. We were really screwed now.

We tried moving the pedals. Forward, reverse, nothing. Some more cursing convinced Grey that we just needed one good oomph to get the chain to pop up in the right position and link all the pedals. We oomphed, and the chain popped up like an ad for male enhancement in your favorite browser and broke. Now we were really, really screwed.

And so we began the relay for life back to the rental station. Two people would push, four pedaled and one steered as we headed back in the blizzard, dodging ambulances, garbage trucks, truculent mamas and kids tossing snowballs at us. Every few minutes, we did a Chinese Fire Drill to swap positions. When Grey had his turn at the useless- steering wheel position, he tried warning away the trail blockers ahead of us by wailing on the bell. Except that with his first wail, the bell (you guessed it) broke.

Chain, bell, blizzard, sumo soccer moms, sore knees, it was not going well.

As we rose up the hill, the weather abated. We scraped by the gate and approached the unsuspecting guy who rented us this wreck. Grey and I were ready to do battle, with five people breathing like dragons and with evil eyes focused in the cowering rental agent, ready to back us up.

There was no question of an argument, and no question of us wanting to get a replacement. He quickly refunded our fee. The agent even laughed and said that the chains broke all the time, and that the surreys were a disaster.

And yet he didn’t mention any of this before we started.

At least Jan had her first official adventure on her very first FOMFOK hike. Usually, you have to wait months before getting entrapped, I mean privileged to participate in a FOMFOK adventure.

Thanks to all who wished me a happy birthday or who participated in my special, party adventure.

Pictures are HERE

May 24, 2009 Castle Rock

May 24th, 2009

The announcement

Fifteen people for a non night hike—a new record. We even had one hiker who crawled from the parking lot on a broken leg, with a sprained shoulder, wheeling a flat tire on a bent rim. Well, I’d elaborate, but Judy never believes my stories anyway. Still, I’m impressed with Leo’s determination to see the super secret goldfish pond. I only wish he could have participated in the full round of annual FOMFOK games before that as well instead of just entering in the live goldfish eating contest.

This week we’re doing a moderate hike at Castle Rock. Now, here comes the important bit.

The hike is on Sunday. We leave here at 9 AM. The hike begins at 9:45. It will last about 3 to 4 hours. It will likely be cool to start, very warm on the ridgeline, and comfortable once we’re off the ridgeline.

Ok, you can stop reading now.

For those with insomnia, you might want to know that we’ll go by Castle Rock itself, down to the waterfall, out to the ridgeline, up to the backpack camp, then the long up back to Goat Rock. Those who want a hike that’s nearly an hour shorter will have the option of taking a shortcut about half way through. Redwood Sorrel (Oxalis oregana) leaves contain a mildly toxic acid. The trails are about 30% exposed and the rest covered. The book title, Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson, is a play on a book title mentioned by H.P. Lovecraft.

The trails are mostly single track, with poison oak intrusions, so watch your legs, especially your socks. The word “stockings” comes from the word “stock” which used to refer to the bottom “stump” part of the body, since they used to cover the bottom half of the body. We’ll stop for lunch or a snack at the backpack camp. If you need a backpack, Tom Mangan is a big fan of Gregory Mountain Products, such as the Gregory G weekend pack.

You should also look out for ticks for the rest of the summer. Ticks primarily feed on deer and cattle. The bite can be notoriously painful for humans.

The hike

Castle Rock was probably more of a hike than a lot of people wanted last Saturday. I always forget how long that slog from the backpack camp to goat rock is. Still, there are always a few who think it’s not sloggy enough, namely those few who decided to descent to the Abyss of Doom and hike yet another mile uphill black to the car. As opposed the the Party Hearty Gang that took the easier route, singing and dancing all the way. I think our polka on the highway was the most fun dance we did.

Pictures are HERE

May 16, 2009 Fall Creek

May 16th, 2009

The announcement

If it’s going to be close to 100 degrees on Sunday, we might change to Fall Creek. Be ready for last minute changes. If we go to Fall Creek, we still leave at 8 as it’s still going to be hot. And Fall Creek, about half way up the mountain, gets warm. Just not scorching like Henry Coe.

This is a hard hike, 10 to 12 miles, all under cover with glorious views along the creek, which is the last half of the hike. There are few parking places, so try to carpool.

No sneakers–hiking shoes required. Poles are suggested.

The hike
Fifteen people for a non night hike—a new record. We even had one hiker who crawled from the parking lot on a broken leg, with a sprained shoulder, wheeling a flat tire on a bent rim. Well, I’d elaborate, but Judy never believes my stories anyway. Still, I’m impressed with Leo’s determination to see the super secret goldfish pond. I only wish he could have participated in the full round of annual FOMFOK games before that as well instead of just entering in the live goldfish eating contest.
Pictures are HERE

May 9, 2009 Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve

May 9th, 2009

The announcement

I’m just about fully recovered form a 48-hour bug I had, so it’s back to hiking. Being of lazy mind and mostly sound body, let’s just go and do the Russian Ridge hike. Leave here at 9, hike starts around 9:45. Plan on 2 to 3 hours of hike or a bit more. Lunch on the trail at the “hidden patio in the forest”. Possible excursion for post-hike nibbles. With luck, Peggy will join us and we can begin her debriefing (related to info about here Bhutan hike—get your minds our of the gutter). We’ll expect a full slide show, dance recreations, gossip and such when Peggy has had more time to recover from her trip.

The hike

Ok, let me say right off the back for Grey’s sake that we’re back to Sunday hiking 😉 You got to love picking on Grey.

I hope last week’s Russian RIdge hike was not the last hurrah for wildflowers. The grasses at Grant were high up on the ridge line, and Russian RIdge grasses were even higher. How high? Well, at least 3 of our hikers were out of view most of the time. I had to keep climbing trees to make sure they were still behind me. Maybe this week I’ll bring along some flag poles to duct tape on some of the hikers. You know who you are.

If you were willing to look between the stalks, though, the reward was rather good. Probably the second or third best crop of flowers I’ve seen at Russian Ridge.

Pictures are HERE