Locomotoring

Spending our time untethering the mind, getting the fidgets out, exploring the in-between ideas, and learning kintsugi.

Palo Alto Baylands, Jan 2023

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Benches every quarter mile and plenty bird watching opportunity at this time of the year

This is a six mile hike starting at Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve Trailhead. We walked to South Adobe Creek Loop Trailhead on to Adobe Creek Trail, past the bowl, almost all the way to North Adobe Creek Loop Trailhead and back. We did take a minor detour through the Byxbee Park art installations, the pole field and wind wave. The park is beautiful and located on a sanitary landfill. Apparently, due to the nature of the land and sensitive habitat, there are no impermeable surfaces and all paths are of crushed oyster shells. There are no trees whose roots might pierce the clay cap. There is no irrigation so only native grasses are used! This Bay trail offers a longer walk, a lot more people as well as bird species compared to Bair Island.

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January 10, 2023 at 7:25 am

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Episode 3, Listening to the stars

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Episode 3 of our podcast, Archy and I, is now out. It is titled “No two blackholes sound alike“.

Night sky in Joshua Tree National Park, Same time last year, we were in Joshua Tree National Park. Having spent much of our lives in well lit cities and suburbs, any opportunity to watch the stars is precious.

This episode is an ode to the universe and the amazing human species that lives on this “mote of dust” that we call home. Universe is brilliant, whether we live or die. But the fact that we can explore the universe makes us ultra special. This episode has been swirling in our head for nearly a lifetime, but was made possible during the pandemic years.

First we see a blackhole and then we hear one. And it takes hard work of thousands of amazing scientists to see and hear something that we have theorized mathematically for almost a century. Isn’t that the most wonderful thing! In the coming years, we will see and hear a lot more blackholes. No two of them will be alike. I expect that the frequency of their discoveries will be a bit like the discovery timeline of exoplanets – first there was one, and soon there were many and last year, we surpassed seeing 5000. It is a bit like walking. Once you learn how to walk, you don’t stop, do you? And in the case of blackholes, there are 40 quintillion of them, that is 40 billion billion, waiting to be seen and heard.

The extra good thing in this episode is not one but two items, one is the Universe of Sound project for visually impaired and the second is System Sounds, a sci-art outreach project that translates the rhythm and harmony of the cosmos into music and sound. The common theme between the two is a human, Matt Russo, an astrophysicist and a musician.

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January 4, 2023 at 11:39 am

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Starting 2023 with a hike

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A lovely cluster of manzanitas

The year started with a glorious day, it was clear blue sky between the passage of two atmospheric rivers. We went for a short 2 mile hike with a friend on Skyline Ridge trail near Teague Hill. This section of Skyline appears to have a higher than normal density of manzanitas.

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January 3, 2023 at 12:29 am

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2022, the year we took on our first 52 hikes challenge!

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The dogwood bloomed for over a month this year, 3 times its baseline!

After two years of being home bound, we started going out this year. Inertia had kicked in, so it took a lot more effort to get out. And we have a big reason to celebrate. We had decided to hike more frequently this year with a goal to hike new trails and explore new parks. Part way through the year, we realized that we could take on the 52 hikes challenge. And we did!

Highlights of our 52 hikes challenge: 

- Median number of hikes in any month: 3

- Maximum number of hikes in any month: 10 (in Dec)

- Total miles: >200 

- Median number of miles per hike: 4

- Median number of stairs per hike: 30

- Park visited most often: Edgewood (8 times!)

- Number of unique parks visited: >30
Rancho Canada del Oro was perfection itself.

While much has stayed the same – we started a few new habits, and improved upon some old ones. We adapted locomotoring tagline as it turned 16 this year. We added an audio blog (“Archy and I“) that explores and celebrates sounds. We hope that 2023 allows us to live with greater appreciation for good things in an increasingly complex world.

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December 31, 2022 at 7:58 am

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Bair Island in rain and shine, Dec 2022

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Bair Island on a sunny winter day
Bair Island on a rainy day
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December 28, 2022 at 10:32 am

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Immersed in blue on Ravenswood Trail, Dec 2022

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Marshes next to the Dumbarton Bridge in Don Edwards SF Bay National Wildlife Refuge

I bet it happens to you often enough that you see something for years, but you don’t really see it. The Don Edwards San Francisco National Wildlife Refuge protects the bay marshes, it has a number of trails and locations including Bair Island and Alviso. The trail we have been seeing for two decades is the Ravenswood Point by Dumbarton Bridge near Menlo Park. We finally walked this 3.3 mile trail. It was a morning hike, the sky was clear, the winds were low and the Bay tranquil. The sound from Dumbarton Bridge carries as there are no trees to absorb the sound. The noise isn’t enough to distract, but this trail isn’t a quiet spot. The noise doesn’t seem to distract the birds. By the time you get to the north most point of the trail, the cars sound more like ocean waves. We found someone fishing there. The trail is wide, well maintained, flat and easy to walk on. There were footprints of birds, humans, dogs, bikes and vehicles.

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December 25, 2022 at 8:40 pm

Water Dog Lake Open Space, Dec 2022

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The Water Dog Lake Open Space sits between San Carlos and Belmont and provides expansive views of San Mateo county.

Our 3 mile neighborhood hike took us to Water Dog Open Space. The park is also known as Hidden Canyon Park. We parked at the Upper Creek Trailhead on Hastings Drive. Our route took us to Finch Trail, Ramber Trail, followed by the Elevator Trail, then Canyon Creek trail back to the trailhead. While the net elevation change could not have been more than 200-300 ft, short stretches of the trail are steep. Rambler skirts the back of San Carlos and Belmont homes and it does feel a little strange walking through someone else back alley. The park appears to be popular with bikers. This park made me feel as if I was elsewhere in California, perhaps because there were no noticeable poison oak.

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December 25, 2022 at 9:47 am

Laurelwood (or is it Sugarloaf) Park, Dec 2022

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At one end of the Sugarloaf-Spur trail

Another short hike with spectacular view through Laurelwood Park in San Mateo. The park seems to be around Sugarloaf mountain, it is more of a small 400 ft tall hill. Some of the trails are very steep or had very steep sections. We couldn’t find a trail map and used Google maps instead. The total hike was about 2 miles. Starting at the San Juan Canyon fire road, we went up the Gravity trail to Sugarloaf-Spur trail, then all the way to the east point of Sugarloaf peak to gaze at the Bay views, then back to Laurelwood Park trail and down the Saddle trail to Salson trail to San Juan Canyon fire road to complete the loop. We met a few dog walkers but otherwise had the park to ourselves on a weekday.

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December 24, 2022 at 9:50 pm

Eaton Park, Dec 2022

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Upper view near Loma Road

Eaton Park in San Carlos is a neighborhood miniature open space (~58 acres) and the Eaton Trail is a cute as a button trail with Bay views, tiny stairs, tiny bridges, and benches galore. We clocked about 2 miles and an estimated elevation change of 200 ft. From Loma Road entrance, to Hawk Hill trail to Eaton trail all the way to Brittan Avenue, up back, to 4 Bridges trail to Vista Trail to Canyon View Trail to Eaton trail back to start. It was a weekday and there wasn’t a crowd.

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December 23, 2022 at 9:05 pm

Trails of Russian Ridge, Dec 2022

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Highest point of mid Santa Cruz mountain. The view includes the big fat Mt Diablo.

Over last weekend, we completed two hikes. The first one started from the charming Mindego Hill trail parking by the Audrey Rust commemorative site. We traversed the relatively flat Ancient Oaks Trail, went down Charquin Trail and then climbed up the steep Mindego Hill Trail. Earlier in the spring, we had hiked along Ancient Oaks trail and it was covered with poppies. Last time, we had been on Mindego Hill trail, it was under fog cover and had very little visibility. The second hike started by the main parking lot and we did an out and back on the Ridge trail.

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December 23, 2022 at 8:09 pm

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Locomotoring turns 16!

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When we started, in 2006, world was inhabited by 7 billion people. We started with the tagline and during the 16 years, it continued to be “Seven continents, seven seas, seven billion people and seven thousand good eats …“. Many people think of the number seven as the lucky number. Did you know that seven is a mathematical Happy Number? In fact, it is the smallest Happy Number after the number 1.

Start with the square of the number:
7**2 = 49

Then take each digit of this number, square them and add them together:
4**2 + 9**2 = 16 + 81 = 97

and repeat:
9**2 + 7**2 = 81 + 49 = 130
1**2 + 3**2 + 0**2 = 1 + 9 = 10
1**2 + 0**2 = 1

The starting number that ends in 1 is a Happy Number. 

4 on the other hand is not a happy number (it is a Sad or an Unhappy number!): 
4**2 = 16
1**2 + 6**2 = 1 + 36 = 37
3**2 + 7**2 = 9 + 49 = 58
5**2+8**2 = 25 + 64 = 89
8**2 + 9**2 = 64 + 81 = 145
1**2 + 4**2 + 5**2 = 1+16 + 25 = 42
4**2 + 2**2 = 16 + 4 = 20
2**2+ 0**2 = 4

and so the process continues in an infinite cycle without ever reaching 1. 

So much has happened in last 16 years. The Webb telescope happened. The pandemic happened. The m-RNA vaccines and CRISPR gene editing are fast tracking eradication of some seriously nasty diseases. AirBnB changed how we travel. Podcasts and streaming videos gave us many new artists we now adore. Estimated world population hit 8 billion. The smart phones and social networks have made the world a cozier space.

We also grew a little wiser. We have started appreciating untethering, freeing the mind from strings, and boundaries. We have started appreciating the in-between ideas, the ones that are nebulous, and hard to decode. We have started appreciating the stillness, the lack of fidgets, and the silences. We started appreciating the art of kintsugi, the mindful repairs that embrace the damage. We started appreciating time, a dimension that operates non-linearly, and runs away faster than we notice.

We hope our new tagline reflects who we are today. “Spending our time untethering the mind, getting the fidgets out, exploring the in-between ideas, and learning kintsugi.”

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December 17, 2022 at 6:03 am

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Episode 2, Archy presents the melody of human voices

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Episode 2 of our newly minted podcast, Archy and I, is now available. It is titled “Melody is in the ears of the listener“.

DECEMBER 28
Happy Inspirations

"excuse me if my
writing is out of alignment i
fell into a bowl of
egg nog the other
day at the restaurant down
the street which the doctor
says he is glad to
hear you are keeping away
from and when i
emerged i was full of happy
inspirations alas they
vanished ere the break of 
day i am sure they
were the most brilliant and
witty things that ever
emanated from the mind of
man or cockroach or poet ..."

Page 61, The annotated Archy and Mehitabel, 
Don Marquis
Produced by DALL-E to the instruction, “Draw a line drawing, in the style of Gary Larson, where a cockroach is listening to a man playing a piano”.

Earlier this year, we heard the podcast, The 11th. It left an impact. You may remember, Dear Reader, that we took the concept of Exhausting a Place and applied to a photo in the blogpost “An attempt at exhausting a photo“. Another episode that blew our mind was the The Happiness Project, we heard it in March this year. That was the inspiration behind our second episode. We want to experience all conversations like Charles Spearin does in his Happiness Project. There, we said it. Charles says that all of the melodies from this project are the melodies of every day life. To listen to all of the songs from this 2009 album, visit Charles, founding member of Broken Social Scene and Do Make Say Think.

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December 15, 2022 at 6:42 pm

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Episode 1, Introducing my co-host Archy

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Episode one of our new podcast, Archy and I, is now available. It is titled, “Archy, the poet, reincarnate has moved in my ear“.

SEPTEMBER 6
Butting These Keys With My Head

say boss its a good
thing for you
that you don't bay me any wages for
the stuff i write
for you if you did
i would have to have them raised all
these strikes are getting
me feverish and excited one of
my long pieces in your column
often costs me twelve or 
fifteen hours of steady
labor and i am drowsy
all the next day butting these
keys with my head is no snap boss
anything i got for it would
be underpaying me i wish you would
buy a pear and leave it under the
metal typewriter case where the rats
can't get to it

Page 42, The annotated Archy and Mehitabel, 
Don Marquis
Archy moved from a newspaper office in New York City to a suburb in sunny California and has since settled in comfortably … this is their sit-think-reflect-write space. Photo credit: Ms Mikiko Kikuyama

Borrowing a term from Ottolenghi’s Test Kitchen, the extra good thing in this episode in Dr. Susan David. She speaks to grief differently . Here is a link to the Ted talk that made me realize that there are alternate narratives to “glass half full or glass half empty” one.

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December 14, 2022 at 9:44 pm

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A new type of journey, one that celebrates sounds

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“Untitled” by Mrs Rajni Ahuja, my other mother. During the pandemic, she took up water coloring on her iPad. She leaves it to our imagination to interpret her art. We have been hiking this year and in this work of art, we experience meditation in the woods.

I am on a new kind of journey, one that celebrates sounds. The medium is podcast. We created a new page on our locomotoring website to share these auditory adventures with you.

You may wonder if this journey is yet another outcome of the pandemic? Perhaps it is. Or perhaps it was a long time coming, two dozen years, give or take a few. This year, I rolled up my pajama bottoms and decided to learn the skills of podcasting. I was inspired by my birth mother, Ratnabali. She is a writer and she has been writing audio plays for her local Durga Pujo. More on her latest tour de force play at a later time. Suffice to say that she inspired me. With help of Kelsey, my teacher from the continuing studies program at Stanford, I started exploring. The introduction to the podcast was a class homework and my very first exercise in creating two minutes of audio content. The Creative Commons community helped me build. My significant other, Sachin, had seeded the idea of jugalbandhi between Archy and I. My personal coach, Antonia, gave me the courage to show up to this jugalbandhi. My other mother, Rajni, is contributing to the cover art (she doesn’t know yet, but she will know soon). In summary, it has taken a number of strangers, friends and family to start this journey.

We are not on podcatchers yet – we are merely learning to put one step in front of other before we break into a run. We hope that we will be able to do so before long.

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December 14, 2022 at 3:33 am

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A brief excursion to Chandni Chowk

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A beautiful old door on near Gali Anar

Sunday is quieter at the Chandni Chowk. Mind, quieter is a relative term. It is still the largest market of India. Most shops take the day off. Only the food shops are open. The chor bazaar is open as well. We walked the mile of Chandni Chowk, recently made a pedestrian thoroughfare with allowances for cycle rickshaws. Our destination was Kake di Hatti where we had a sit down meal on Chur chur naan, Amritsari naan and Amritsari chole (chickpea stew). On our way, we sampled fresh baked crispy nankhatai on Parathewali Gali, cauliflower samosa, and bedmi puri with curried chole on the main Chandi Chowk road. Kake the Hatti is located next to the spice market on Khari Baoli road and I found myself looking longingly at massive bags of puffed lotus seeds. Post meal, we hopped on a rickshaw and made our way back to Parathewali Gali and meandered about the narrow alleys.

Narrow is relative too. Sometimes, when you look up, the buildings on two sides touch and you can’t see the sky. It is cool and quiet. The narrow Gali Anar, translated “pomegranate alley”, leading to Haveli Dharampura could not be wider than 3 ft. Some of the old buildings of the haveli complexes were empty, one abandoned courtyard was overrun by young peepul trees. On some of these narrow alleys, you could have stepped into 17th century were it not for the overhead tangle of cables.

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Written by Som

November 29, 2022 at 12:13 am

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Zoppé Circus in Redwood City

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They are on the library lot this year, a photo from this Thanksgiving weekend

I am really glad that the Zoppé Italian Family Circus has been coming to Redwood City since 2008. It is charming and old school. The photos below are from 2017 when they performed at the Red Morton Community Park.

This and remaining images are from Oct 2017
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November 28, 2022 at 1:14 pm

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Finding new in the familiar, Edgewood, Oct 2022

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A temporary rock arrangement near trail marker 9, it lasted one weekend, it disappeared as surprisingly as it had appeared

I wouldn’t recognize a Blueschist or Franciscan greenstone or Greywacke or Serpentinite, but Edgewood has them. I can only see colors and shapes in a rock pile. The blues and greens and sparkles of minerals do look beautiful, don’t they?

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November 7, 2022 at 9:01 pm

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Alambique Trail in Wunderlich, Sep 2022

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An old growth redwood along the Alambique trail

The Alambique Trail is a 4.7 mile service road that starts near the main parking lot and climbs 1400 ft to the Skyline Blvd. We had covered the first 0.7 miles of Alambique trail in April. Last weekend, we had traversed 1.7 miles of the upper end of the Alambique. This warm weekend, we were lucky to find a parking spot at this popular Folger stable. We met at least a dozen other diverse groups on the trail, a few solitary runners, groups of octogenarians on a slow and steady climb, a group of girls on horses and a few young families pushing baby prams.

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September 28, 2022 at 7:08 pm

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Upper Wunderlich trails, Sep 2022

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Skyline ridge is a service road in Wunderlich

We had intended to hike the Alambique trail, but Wunderlich parking lot was full. So, we decided to hike the Skyline ridge and Alambique loop starting at the lower end of Skyline trail at the intersection of Ranch/Stadler Roads. The trailhead is in a residential area outside the boundaries of the park, so there was no formal parking lot, nor crowd. The first intersection is the crossroads from where we walked the skyline trail service road to the trailhead intersection on Highway 35 and then walked back on Alambique. It was about 5 miles with a gentle grade, perhaps 200-300 ft of climb.

The entire five miles is almost entirely shaded, and occasionally, the clearings through trees offer views of the Bay. The skyline portion of the trail has the aroma of bay leaves. Alambique nearer the skyline intersection catches fog drip and presents an understory of ferns. These portions of Skyline ridge and Alambique trails are service roads and therefore, wide and easy to walk on. A few sections on skyline offer hairpin switchbacks and steep mountain sides, adding to the visual interest. While there was a big crowd at the base of the park, the trails here were quiet. We came across no more than half a dozen hikers along the way. You do hear the traffic noise from Highway 35 from time to time.

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September 18, 2022 at 6:41 pm

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Skyline Ridge trail in Sanborn County Park, Sep 2022

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The trail hugs Hwy 35 throughout, but it is easy to immerse yourself in the forest walk

Starting from Sunnyvale Mountain trailhead, this portion of Skyline trail goes to Indian Rock trail and back. Estimated length is approximately 6 miles. For most of the hike, the trail hugs Highway 35 but it wasn’t particularly noisy this particular weekend. We had just come off a major heat wave during the Labor Day weekend. The trail is almost entirely shaded and this particular day, it was rather windy. The treetops danced around creating a gush of sound, but the forest floor was not windy. The trail is mostly packed dirt but stretches of it are quite rocky. One does need to share the trail with bikers. The short Indian Rock trail portion is totally worth it and yes, it is an excellent spot to picnic while watching climbers. On our way back, heavy fog rolled in and we enjoyed the occasional fog drip, after the heat wave, it felt particularly soothing.

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Written by Sachin

September 11, 2022 at 8:56 pm

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Skyline Ridge OSP, a trail through two ponds, Aug 2022

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Light and shadow under the live oak trees, a bench on horseshoe loop trail

From Russian Ridge parking lot on Alpine Road, this 4 mile hike starts by the Alpine pond, takes the Ipiwa trail at David Daniels Nature Center, to Sunny Jim trail, to Horseshoe Loop trail around the Horseshoe Lake to Sunny Jim trail and back on the Ipiwa trail. Had read about the hike, thanks to Jane Huber. The trail is along top of the ridge at about 2200 ft, but the climb and descent is only a couple of hundred feet. Much of the Ipiwa trail needs attention, it is a bit rocky and exposed and the spectacular west views are giddying at times. When the fog lifts, you can see the Pacific Ocean. We noticed deer, turkey and rabbits. The Horseshoe loop between Lambert Creek trail and Tree Farm trail is pretty as a picture. During right times of the year, the ponds offer migratory bird watching opportunities. There are a lot of trail intersections and all well marked.

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Written by Sachin

August 29, 2022 at 6:47 am

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Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Aug 2022

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A redwood tree when standing is a majestic sight, it lives for a thousand years and then when it falls, it continues to nourish the forest floor for another few hundred years. This one lies in the founders grove.

A heat wave passed by during our time in the Humboldt county. Myer’s Flat clocked over 100F. We thought we would spend the hot day walking under the redwood giants. We stopped by the visitor center to pick up a map. We had intended a 8 mile hike through alluvial flats starting from Rockefeller grove – Bull Creek flats south to Big Trees Trail to Bull Creek flats north. First, we nearly missed Rockefeller Grove. Later, after crossing the Bull Creek footbridge, we got off the trail early on, meandered around the forest floor for a mile, hit a dead end and headed back out. On our way back, we stopped by Founder’s Grove. The 2.5 mile walkabout under the redwoods – Rockefeller and Founder’s Grove – had registered 90F.

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August 19, 2022 at 5:57 am

Lost Coast Trail South, Aug 2022

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Lost Coast Trail on Chemise Mountain. It is dry, the manzanitas are stunted and gnarly, the lower branches of the conifers are devoid of leaves, the floor is a thick pile of dry leaves.

This was a total of five mile hike, out and back, and a climb of 800-1000 feet. The hike is part of the Lost Coast Trail South. We started from Wailaki campground, climbed up Chemise Mountain to Lost Coast trail, walked half a mile past the Chinquapin Trail junction. The entire day at Shelter Cove was foggy, but the fog didn’t get to the Chemise mountain top. This was also our last hike this trip and the most spectacular one. We had originally intended to start this hike at the Hidden Valley interpretative tail, but eventually chose the Wailaki campground for the ease of parking. The drive on Chemise Mountain road from Shelter Cove Road to Wailaki campground is exceedingly pretty. And again, like the Hidden Valley interpretive trail, we had this trail to ourselves.

We have been hiking frequently in Bay Area this year and a typical Bay Area hike is through the chaparrals, manzanitas, coastal oak, and madrone. The hiking paths are commonly trod upon, the signs are plentiful and the trail is a shared space with many others. The air smells sweet from California Bay. Here on the lost coast, the tree species is shifted towards the conifers but otherwise familiar. What is noticeable is the fact that the trails are far less trod upon and far less friendly to inexpert hikers. Shoes scrunch and slip on piles of dry leaves. Under the leaves lay gnarly roots that can make your footing unsteady. The sense of isolation is made even more complete when loud bird cries fill the air and the air smells of nothing.

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August 19, 2022 at 5:21 am

Hidden Valley Interpretive Trail, Aug 2022

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A surprising little mountain prairie

According to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) map of King Range Conservation Area, Hidden Valley was the homestead of one of Shelter Cove’s first white settler, Frank McKee. Frank bought 160 acres from US government in 1876 and BLM purchased the land in 1981. The Hidden Valley Interpretive Trail, at the intersection of Shelter Cove Road and Chemise Mountain Road, is approximately 1.8 miles, and provides a surprising view of a mountain valley prairie. There is a gentle climb up, about two hundred feet. We were the only visitor on the trail that afternoon.

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August 19, 2022 at 5:01 am

Black Sands Beach, Aug 2022

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Black Sands Beach in Shelter Cove, part of Lost Coast Trail

We drove up from Bay Area to Shelter Cove for a few days to catch the ocean and the night sky. We binge watched the Great British Baking show, watched the Pacific Ocean from the comfort of the living room of our AirBnB and hiked a few hikes in the Humboldt County. The first one had to be part of the Lost Coast trail by the beach.

We started from Black Sands Beach trailhead near us, and walked up north to where Horse Mountain Creek runs to the beach. It is only about a couple of miles from the trailhead and protected from the rise of tides. Thankfully, the fog was minimal that morning which we later realized wasn’t to be taken for granted, the rest of our days were shrouded in fog. The sand is indeed black, the stones are black and they eventually grind down to the black sand. The ocean waves are strong and the white foam of the crashing waves dazzle against the black sand. Our going was slow, no more than 2 miles an hour, our boots sank in the sand or clattered on the rocks. It is monotonously beautiful meeting of ocean, rocks and sky. Sounds of crashing waves and sea gulls filled the air. The sea air filled our lungs and where there was sea weed left behind by waves, the smell grew stronger. Our monotonous view was broken a few times by creeks coming down the mountain, these formed small waterfalls before disappearing into the sand and leaving behind colorful green, yellow and orange algae in their path.

Periodically, we sat down on a bleached driftwood and shook out the sand and pebbles from our shoes. We met a few other hikers on our way, a couple of day hikers going south to north like us and a handful of back packers were wrapping up their north to south lost coast pilgrimage.

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August 19, 2022 at 4:40 am