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After Work Hike: Russian Ridge OSP

June 25, 2009

Russian Ridge OSP on Skyline Blvd is the quintessential after work hiking area. It’s a 20 minute drive from the intersection of 280 and Page Mill Road so it’s quick to get to and it has more than a half dozen loops of varying length that can be done, ranging from the Ancient Oaks Loop, the best 1-mile loop on the Peninsula, to a longer 3.5 mile tour of the preserve, which is the hike I did last night.

About the Preserve: Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve is located at the intersection of Page Mill Road and Skyline Blvd in the hills above Palo Alto. Technically Page Mill Road turns into Alpine Road on that side of Skyline but most people will be coming from the Valley so I’m using that as the reference. The preserve is located across the street from Skyline Ridge OSP, which is home to a nature center and the main office for the rangers and open space technicians of the MROSD. What this means is that this is ground-zero for rangers and enforcement, you’re in their back yard. Plan to play nicely and obey all regulations, this is a heavily trafficked preserve and the rangers and volunteers are aggressive at patrolling it. If you go on the weekend plan to be accosted by at least one volunteer trail patroller who will assume you’re a fool who is lost and needs direction, no matter where you encounter them. Just put up with them and move on, as long as you stay on the trails and obey the regulations you’ll be fine. Bikers should be aware that the rangers frequently set up radar guns on the main trails and will ticket you if you’re over 15 mph. This is a ridiculous limit, IMO, but I advise you to obey it nonetheless, the tickets are expensive. Make sure you either print out the map to the preserve or pick one up at the main parking lot, this is a trail-dense preserve and getting more so. If you’re doing this during the heat of the day be sure to have some water, the ridgelines are exposed and can be very hot in the summer. Also, although I frequently hike alone this is one place that I would really advise you to have a partner. This is mountain lion country and they come out at sunset.

Getting to the Trailhead: To do this hike you will not be parking in the main lot at Page Mill and Skyline, you’ll be going into the preserve from the back door. From the main parking lot at PageMill/Skyline drive roughly westward on Alpine Road about 3/4 mile. Watch for a little unmarked gate on the right, this is the Ancient oaks Trailhead and you should park here if you can. If there are already cars here you can usually park in one of the other pullouts in the area. If you go a little farther on Alpine Road you’ll come to the marked RR02 gate, there’s a small space to park here as well but it’s tricky. Try to park off the road so you don’t get a ticket and then walk back to the Ancient Oaks Trailhead.

Doing the hike: From the Ancient Oaks Trailhead walk a few feet uphill to the beginning of the Ancient Oaks Trail. Turn left on this trail and you’ll be on a rolling singletrack with great views of Portola State Park and Pescadero Creek County Park to the west. Closer in is the new Mindego Ridge property that MROSD will be adding to its stable of preserves in the future. After 0.3 miles you’ll come to a wooded section of, well, ancient oaks. There’s a singletrack trail coming in from your right, if you only have 30 minutes or so to walk take this trail. It’ll lead you to the Ridge trail and you can do a short 1.1 mile loop that’ll take you back to your car. I highly recommend this hike for a later day.

For folks who have a bit more time, though, continue straight on Ancient Oaks following the sign towards the Mindego Trail. The trail will meander downwards through a mixed oak and Douglas Fir woods. There’s some poison oak in the neighborhood so be cautious about touching any plants you can’t identify. When you reach the wide Mindego trail continue straight/turn right and follow Mindego as it winds along below the ridgeline of Russian Ridge. This is an old ranch road and is patrol-width. It’s also a nice cool spot on a hot day. At various points you’ll hear some funny sounds off the side of the trail, mostly this is water trickling through culverts but you’ll also be enjoying the sounds of lots of birds and small critters. It’s a great soundtrack.

After about 0.3 miles on Mindego there’ll be a big wide fireroad coming down from your right. If you’re short on time you can turn right on this and head back but really you should continue straight on mindego all the way to the Hawk trail, a small singletrack that will come in form the right after another 0.4 miles. Turn right on hawk trail and wind your way up to the top of the ridge. This is a premier trail for mountain bikes so keep your ears open for approaching cyclists and give them the right of way if you can, you’ve got more options than they do on this trail.

As you climb Hawk check out the big hill to the West. It’s sort of rounded on the Southern side and has a big scoop out of the northeastern side. the scoop is filled with green trees and shrubs. This, I believe, is the long extinct Mindego volcano. And was the source for a lot of the big rocks you see scattered around the ridge you’re climbing.

At the top of Hawk Trail turn right on the Ridge trail and begin your return to where you began. You’ll follow Ridge for about 0.6 miles and you’ll come to that shortcut fireroad that was mentioned earlier. Continue straight on Ridge for 100 yards and there’ll be a singletrack trail coming in from your right, take this trail. This is the singletrack portion of the Ridge trail and it’s my favorite trail to ride my bike on. it’s twisty, just bumpy enough to keep you honest and has killer views. After 0.5 miles you’ll re-encounter the arm of Ancient Oaks the forms the short loop on your right. You can return on this but I’ll advise that you continue past it and rejoin the fireroad portion of ridge in another 100 yards.

Once on the fireroad turn left and go back the way you came. You’ll see a high point on your right and a steep little trail leading to the top. Go up there and enjoy the view from the top of the preserve. You can see Moffet Field and all of Silicon Valley. See all that nasty brown air hanging in the Valley? That’s why I’m a bumpkin living on the Coastside. For you geocachers, there’s a USGS marker at the top of this hill.

Return to the Ridge Trail and walk in the southeastern direction. After about 0.2 miles there’ll be another fireroad coming in from your right, that’s your return path that will lead you back to the Ancient Oaks Trailhead and your car. In all you will have done about 3.7 miles. Walking at a medium pace this will take you a little less than 2 hours.


Big Family, Part 2

October 10, 2007

Usually when I tell people how big my family is they ask a few FAQs. So to forestall that, here are some of the answers.

1. No, my parents were, and are, not rich. We grew up pretty broke all the time. 14 kids will do that to you. We all wore a lot of hand-me-downs.

2. Yes, they are my real brothers and sisters. No, I do not feel any different about the kids depending on whether they are related to me biologically or not.

3. No, none of them has chosen to investigate their biological parents.

4. My Mom had two washers and two driers and there was rarely a day when she didn’t do 8-10 loads of wash.

5. We went through 2 gallons of milk each day.

6. Yes, some of them still live at home though nearly all are moved out. We’re trying to get the last couple moved out so they’ll be on their own.

7. Yes, the racial thing caused problems but only with stupid people, not inside the family. We just grew up with family members who were different colors and that was just part of the family. We older boys did corner one kid and beat the living heck out of him when he dared to use a racial epithet when referring to my sister, tho. I’d do it again but I’d feel bad about it.

8. Yes, we have had several newspaper stories and evening newscast stories done about us. They always get stuff wrong.

There, did that cover your questions?

14 kids, 13 grandkids, my parents

October 10, 2007

I come from a large family. So when people express surprise when I tell them that we have 4 kids I always think that their horizons are a little limited.

When my parents had their third child the doctors informed my mom that she should stop having kids since all three of her children had been delivered by caesarian. Back in the day the c-section method was a lot harder on moms and the uterine wall and having more kids would have been pushing their luck, according to the docs.

My folks always wanted a large family and Mom particularly wanted a daughter or two. All of their kids were boys so both the limited number and gender mix were a bit of a disappointment to them. They solved that problem by going the route of adopting more children to fill out our family to its current size.

My folks have raised 14 children, three of them home made, 11 adopted. I’m the second oldest. The current age-span is 44 to 22 years of age. All of the adopted kids were adopted as infants, except Adam, who came home from an orphanage in Vietnam at the age of 2. My adopted brothers and sisters are from mixed races, several from outside of the country and some with physical challenges. So my family has black kids, korean kids, vietnamese kids, phillipino kids and some we’re just not sure about.

When you have 8 or more kids and want to adopt more the adoption agencies will mostly offer you special needs kids, some with severe physical challenges. The foreign adoption agencies began to suspect we were using the kids for child-labor and Mom and Dad had to find references to attest that they were not mis-using the kids.

We always knew when Mom was going to get the itch to add a new kid to our family, it was about the time when the youngest started to stop being a baby. The real surprises were when, through weird issues with adoption agencies, we would end up with two kids the same age at the same time. So we had the  experience of raising pseudo-twins with a couple of my sisters and with a pair of my brothers.

Growing up in a very-mixed-race family of 14 kids probably isn’t much different from growing up in any other family. I wouldn’t really know, though,  I only know about my family. We always had enough people for a snowball fight or building snow tunnels in the back yard. Heck, we had enough people for two full basketball teams, with referees, substitutes and cheerleaders, even before the friends came over. Sometimes people would stare or make unkind comments but that’s probably not unusual. One of our best stories is when we went out to dinner and the restaurant manager made a point of telling Mom that they usually asked youth groups to call ahead before they came in.

Mom and Dad stopped adopting kids about the time that grandkids became imminent. They currently have 13 grandkids provided by 4 of their kids, as near as I can figure. Do the math and that tells you that when we sit down to to a meal there are 29 of us. Add in 10 or 12 friends and roomates who usually show up and you can understand why Mom cooks two turkeys and a prime rib for Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m not sure if we’ll be able to make it home for the big family Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, things are pretty crazy here in California right now. I like doing the small family gatherings with just the Honey and the kids but I miss the crowds and crazyness, too.

Pre-Christmas funeral and surgery

December 28, 2006

It seems like our family has a funeral or some medical crisis every year around Christmas. This year was no different.

My grandmother died on Thursday Dec 14 and her funeral was on Sunday Dec 17. Grandma died at home in Lost Nation, Iowa, of complications due to pancreatic cancer. She had declined rapidly after the cancer was diagnosed and had been visited recently by all of her children and many of her grandchildren. Most notably she got to enjoy the huge family reunion in July where about 80 of us got together to reconnect and catch up.

I flew out to Iowa on Saturday and we spent a good bit of Saturday at a visitation for Grandma and then we went back to her house to do some cleanup of the house. The state had helped out with Grandma’s bills in the last few years and in return they have a lien on her house so the house will be sold and my mom and her siblings wanted to settle the matter of distributing some of Grandma’s mementos to the grandkids while we were all there. While cleaning out the drawer that contained Grandma’s needlework I knelt down on the carpet and managed to drive a sewing needle into my knee. The needle then snapped off, leaving about an inch of the needle in my knee joint.

I went to the emergency room a couple hours later and the ER doc and an orthopedic surgeon spent a couple hours digging around inside my knee trying to get the needle out. Just for the record, I don’t advise going through that if you have a choice. Eventually, with the aid of a fluoroscope, the were able to extract the needle but they also determined that the needle had been inside the joint so they were worried about the risk of infection. Because there is little to no blood flow inside the joint just taking antibiotics wasn’t likely to be effective. So at 7 AM Sunday I went in for arthroscopic knee surgery and they ran 5 liters of antibiotic solution through my knee joint and made some minor repairs where the needle had torn things up. They kicked me loose from the hospital at noon and the funeral was at 2 so I didn’t have to miss the service.

I only had to use one crutch so managed to not make too much of a scene at Grandma’s funeral. Most of the family had not heard what had happened when I showed up walking with the crutch so we just told everyone I “banged up my knee” without giving details until later.

I flew back to the Bay Area Monday afternoon. Had some of the usual mish-mosh at the airport, such as the airline giving away my aisle seat which was a little bit of a problem because I couldn’t bend my knee to a 90 degree angle and sit in the middle. But all in all everything worked out okay and I beat the storms that shut down Denver a couple days later. Everything is more or less back to normal now except that I still can’t put any weight directly on my knee so kneeling down to wrap Christmas presents and water the tree have been a little comical to watch. I figure I’ll be able to do pony rides again in a week or so.

Painting Pumpkins

December 12, 2006

We live in pumpkin-growing country and we still had some uncarved pumpkins/gourds sitting around the house being decorative. This weekend we started putting out the Christmas decorations and it was time for the pumpkins to go. Bad move, big tears erupted from the Big Girl. So that was how I discovered that despite my misgivings you *can* spraypaint pumpkins red and green and turn them into Christmas pumpkins. They even look pretty neat when it’s all done. Go figure.

Date night desperation

October 10, 2006

This weekend is the Half moon Bay Pumpkin Festival. Over Saturday and Sunday more than 500,000 people will come to our little town that normally has fewer than 30,000 residents for a massive craft fair and some pumpkin memorabilia. And one kick butt pumpkin parade.

The festivities are fun but they also serve to point out to us that it’s been quite a while since my wife and I had an adults-only date. The last time was back in July when we were at our folks’ homes in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The grandparents were happy to watch the kids but it’s been quite a while since July.

We had a sitter whom we liked quite a lot but she’s moved in with her fiance across the San Francisco Bay. So she’s not really an option and so far our attempts to find someone we could leave 4 kids under the age of 7 with have failed. So we’re going to try something a little different. We’re going to try to do a kid-swap.

We have some good family friends who have 2 kids who are exactly the same age as our two oldest kids. And they’ve not found a sitter they feel comfortable leaving their kids with either. So we’re going to watch their kids while they have a date and then they’ll watch our kids while we get some time. It has the upside that we know they’re good with the kids and the kids will be entertained with playmates rather than watching tv. And it’s certainly cheaper than paying a sitter $14 per hour.

I’m not sure it’ll work on a regular basis but hopefully it’ll work once in a while. If we can make it work this weekend maybe my wife and I can go kayaking. Or go walk around the craft fair with a couple hundred thousand realyl swell folks.

Left meets right

October 10, 2006

I gew up in Iowa and I consider myself to have a pretty solid set of traditional midwestern values, along with a severe case of Latent Midwest Envy Syndrome. California is a pretty place but the weather is boring and some of the natives are downright odd.

This weekend my traditional Christian conservative values collided with a big chunk of extremely liberal California in our back yard, during my daughter’s birthday party. One of the guests was the mother of my daughter’s new best friend at kindergarten, let’s call her Hannah. Hannah lives about 1/4 mile from us and in a whole different universe. You see, they’re hippies. Actual dirty-footed, birkenstock-wearing, peace march-demonstrating, power-to-the-people hippies.

In the world of Hannah and her parents the new principal at the local school is a fascist for enforcing the no parking zone in the parking lot. Apparently many things in their world are fascist because when Hannah wanted someone to play with her Hannah’s mom told her that the other kids didn’t have to follow Hannah’s directions and asked her “What are you, some kind of fascist?” Mind you, Hannah is 5 and her mom is calling her a fascist. That should work out well later in life.

In their world the new principal is brainwashing the kids to swear allegiance to the current administration’s policies when she reads the Pledge of Allegiance over the PA, right after reading the lunch menu. And what’s worse is that the principal doesn’t have “the decency to remove that offensive line.” I think we can guess which line is being referred to.

Hannah and her parents are vegetarians. They’d be vegans but Hannah’s mom refuses to give up cheesecake. This leaves Hannah’s mom with an overriding fear that keeps her up at night. She lives in terror that when Hannah’s grandparents take Hannah for the day they might take her to McDonald’s and feed her meat. This, she explained, would be the worst thing that could happen to their family.

Mind you, I was munching on a chicken salad sandwich while she was telling me this. We didn’t really respond to her rants but I think she knew we didn’t exactly see eye to eye.

But whether we agree or not our girls seem to like to play together. So we’re going to try some playdates. I think they’d be more comfortable if the paydate was at their house and I know I’d rather it happen at our house but I suppose we’re both going to have to let go a little. Our girl will probably learn about how to go limp when the police cuff you at a demonstration. Maybe we’ll teach Hannah how to pray.

On the busy social life of a 6 year old

October 6, 2006

One of the things that no one tells you when you start having kids is that they start to develop a busy social life about the age of three and somewhere around 5-6 the pace of that social life really takes off. I’m not talking about things like soccer, teeball or swimming lessons, those are things that we volunteered for. I’m talking about birthday parties.

Now you might think that since everyone more or less has only one birthday a year such birthday parties would be relatively rare. Certainly that’s what *I* thought until a year or two ago. What I failed to take into account is that if your child has , say, 6 friends, that’s 7 birthdays each year. Now if you have 2 or more kids, you’re looking at 7 birthday parties EACH every year. And once they start going to preschool and elementary school it’s common for a child to invite a significant percentage of the kids in their class to their party. And before you can say “pinch to grow and inch” you’ve got 30-40 birthday parties to attend every year and the last time I checked there are only 52 weeks in the year. That’s right, a birthday party nearly every weekend.

I mention this because this weekend is my oldest daughter’s birthday party, in celebration of her turning 5. This weekend actually isn’t her birthday but it’s pretty close and next weekend is the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival and you’d be a fool to try to do anything that competed with Pumpkin Fest.

In addition to the party that we’re hosting our oldest son has a Superman-themed birthday party on Saturday. Last week we were at a Princess-Ladybug-Superhero-Pirate party. I think I’m going to start boycotting birthdays. (big sigh) Don’t get me started on all the playdates.

Dads do it different

October 5, 2006

Moms and Dads do childcare differently. I’m not talking about Michael Keaton being incompetent in “Mr. Mom” or those three goofballs in “Three Men and a Baby“. Dads are competent and we love our kids but we *do* the tasks of childcare differently than Moms do.

Take tonight, for instance. Tonight my wife is at a Board meeting for the Coastside Mother’s Club and I’m watching the three oldest kids. Little Eeya is with her at the meeting because she took pity on me. The kids’ swimming lessons last until 5:00 on Thursdays so we got home late and decided it was pizza and a movie night. After a cheese pizza, teeth brushing and bathroom breaks we settled down to watch Curious George, easily the best movie for small kids in quite a few years. (Way better than the horrible job Ron Howard did with the Polar Express, he should be flogged for that mess).

When my my wife is doing the bedtime routine on her own she usually snuggles with the kids on the couch and reads books until everyone is drowsy. That’s a good system and I like to read with the kids, too. But when we do movie night we don’t snuggle on the couch. We dance to the musical scenes, we stick our tongues out and waggle them around when George and the Man in the Yellow Hat do likewise. We goof around. So when Mama and Eeya came in the front door a little while ago the kids and I were money-dancing and giggling to the closing credits before bedtime. Now, a few minutes after the big ones got in bed, Eeya is playing on the floor and the Honey is asking how I got them to go to bed after getting them riled up moments earlier. The short answer is that Dads parent different than Moms and the kids behave differently with me than they do with her.

Probably the best example of this is seen at the Dads and Kids Campouts that our church sponsors every summer. Take 40-some Dads and roughly 80-90 Kids and plunk them down in a campsite with a dozen picnic tables, 4 grills, 2 toilets and no Moms. The kids get to watch their dads share cooking duties with other dads and the dads get a concentrated dose of watching their kids play. The dads and kids get concentrated time together and the dads get a chance to talk to other dads.
We do 4 of these campouts every summer and they’re huge fun. It’s a given that the moms would be displeased (horrified?) at some of the parenting practices that the dads use but so far we haven’t had any serious problems. For instance, the dads generally establish boundaries for the kids and letting them run semi-wild within those boundaries. By contrast, when the Coastside Mother’s Club does their family (moms, dads and kids) campouts the kids are generally closely supervised.

Moms and Dads do it different but we both get the job done … unless you’re talking about breastfeeding. That’s still pretty much mom-thing.

Wo Wo Girl

October 4, 2006

I don’t think I’ve mentioned our youngest two kids before. We have 4 kids, two boys, two girls. The boys came first and last, the middle two are the girls. Our second youngest daughter is Wo Wo, pronounced like “Woe” or “Whoa”, twice. She’s about 2.5 years old now and got her name when she was singing one day when she was about 18 months. She was wandering around the house singing “wo wo wo wo wo wo” over and over. I asked her if she was “Wo Wo Girl”. She said yes and from that time on she has insisted that her name was Wo Wo. My wife seems to have adjusted to this but I’m not sure you could say she was exactly pleased at the development.

In our house, Wo Wo definitely gets a raw deal. The two older kids go to school and have friends that come over for playdates. Our youngest child, whom Wo Wo has named “Eyaa”, is 11 months old and he gets carried around all the time. So that leaves Wo Wo in the middle and now that she’s (recently) started talking she has been asking us “Why not me, Mama/Daddy? Why not me?”.

She says this when the big kids get to go to a friend’s house for a playdate or when they get to come on the soccer field and she has to be a spectator. At soccer games she tells me “Me want to help you” and I carry her with me during the older boys games. Now that she’s gotten older she’s moved to a new room in Sunday school and has lost her favorite teacher and she’s telling us that she wants to stay with us at church.

So basically Wo Wo gets a raw deal and we’ve been trying to fix that. Last night after soccer practice we sent everyone else into the house and Wo Wo and I stayed outside for a bit. We looked at the mountains and she spotted the 3/4 moon that had come out. Then she asked where the sun was and I told her it had gone down behind the ocean (it was dusk). So we walked down to the end of the street to a spot where we could overlook the ocean and watch the big ships go by in the distance. We could see the glow of the sunset at the horizon but she didn’t seem to accept that was where the sun had gone.

So we spent some time watching the sea and then she told me that it was time to go home to see Mama and Eeka, and Unnen and Eyaa (her names for the kids). After all, they had pasta and how could I compete with that?