Caturday: Botanical garden at Tilden Regional Park

I wanted to post this last week, but power outages and other assorted things got in the way. We managed a return trip to the botanical garden at Tilden Regional Park. I’m really glad we got there when we did as we had lovely cool fog hugging the hilltops and everything was still very green. We’ve experienced a heatwave or two since then and the hills are already turning to their summer tan. It’s still beautiful, but I already miss the green color.

First though, it’s time for the pointy-eared people and the floppy-eared one to shine.

Tito and a sunbeam
Miss Jenny doing a sexy dead bug
Titanescu bird watching
Miss Pepi: I’m a good girl!

When we went off to the botanical garden, the hills were still bright green and we had a bit of fog.

View looking back over San Pablo Reservoir (foreground) and the Briones Reservoir, just visible above and beyond it.

The botanical garden preserves and exhibits the native plants of California. According the park website:

Notable among the many specimens that have been brought in from all corners of the state are representatives of nearly all the state’s conifers and oaks, and probably the most complete collections of California manzanitas to be found anywhere. There are also extensive collections of California native bunchgrasses, bulbs, aquatic plants, and representatives of about 300 taxa that are classified in the California Native Plant Society’s landmark study, “Inventory of Rare and Endangered Vascular Plants of California.”

I must inject a quick note. After that trip, we found a beer that got our attention, so we tried it. It was made by a local brewery called Fort Point Beer Company. It was called “Manzanita”.

This beer was amazing and was the perfect beverage to go with grilling.

Anyhow, back to the botanical garden… There were plenty of things to see. We even saw a beautiful butterfly.

Swallowtail
Western Azalea – very aromatic
Pretty yellow blooms

I put the rest in a slideshow

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Caturday: Clouds, wind and fur people

Yes everyone, we’re back. I was going to post last weekend until I remembered that we had to do our semi-annual move-out-move-back-in thing. At least the weather was nice. Lastech took last week off so that he could help and have a bit of extra time off to boot. After we were back in place, we took a day trip up Diablo to go cloud watching.

First it’s time for the fur kids to shine.

Mister Tito
The delightful Miss Jenny
Comrade Titanescu
Miss Pepi the dumpster dog (where she was found)

I never get tired of watching clouds. The rainy season is pretty much over, so I enjoy any clouds that appear. This week, the heat has arrived and the hills will start turning back to their summer tan. It’s also dry and windy and that will accelerate the process.

Pretty fluffy clouds

As you can see, the hills are still green. It won’t last long now.

Green hills and clouds

The turkeys were out too. It’s fun to be driving along with the window open and suddenly hear a chorus of gobbling bursting out of the tall grasses. Turkey gobbles always make me smile.

Turkey on alert for danger

Here’s the slideshow for the rest of the photos.

We made another trip last week to the Tilden Botanic Garden. This is just one of many pics. I’ll save those for next week. 🙂

Tilden Botanic Garden
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Caturday: Playing in the snow

Ok, we didn’t quite play in it, we did manage to hike in it. While there has been plenty of snow in the Sierra Mtns., the snow level rarely drops enough for it to cover the top of Mt. Diablo. Last weekend, it was cold enough. I was afraid it would be rained away Sunday night, but nope. It was still there on Monday, so off we went. We had a snow day. I know many of you live in snow country and are probably rolling your eyes. 🙂 This was the first time I touched snow since January of 2002.

I’ll post more but right now it’s time for the stars of the show. In light of the fact that this last week highlighted International Women’s Day and A Day Without a Woman, Miss Jenny gets to lead off the show.

OMG! WHAT IN HECK ARE YOU DOING!
Tito: Me? I’m just watching the neighbors
Titanescu: I do nothing. I see nothing
Pepi: What? I didn’t do anything! I swear!

Back to the snow day. We lit out before noon. It was a beautiful day. We were careful to dress for the cold though as we knew it would be cold and wet at the top.

At the foot of the mountain, the hills are bright green
The birds were out having snackies

The road to the top was closed to cars at the Diablo Valley view point, so we parked and hiked from there. We decided to take the hiking trail up instead of the road. Lots of people were there along with their kids. We decided that some people are just stupid. I mean really stupid. The temps were nice at the base of the mountain. However, it was cold and wet at the top. Idiots were wearing shorts and sandals. Oh well.

As we climbed, we could see sparse bits of snow
The higher we got, the more snow there was. We were also in the clouds, so visibility was low
We finally made it to the top. It was a bit under two miles and a climb of about 950 feet.
This is a view from the top

Out of view on the left side of that last photo, there was a microwave tower. It was mostly hidden in the clouds, but there was no doubt about where it was. Chunks of ice could be heard falling though the structure with very loud crashing noises. After taking the trail up, we decided to hike back down via the road. The upper part of the trail was very steep and icy and while we managed it without a fall, we didn’t feel that going down that way would be as lucky. All in all, it was a 4 mile round trip and I’m so glad we got to do it. I’ve included the rest of the pics in a slide show.


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Caturday: We can haz flood?

Yep, mother nature is wreaking havoc and a flood is a very real possibility. We’re fine where we are. However, many of the burn areas are subject to mudslides, and some major rivers are expected to overflow their banks. We may not flood here, but it’s likely elsewhere. In addition to flooding, the winds will be high so I’m sure there will be plenty of trees going down, and yes, we’re safe from those too. Pepi won’t like having to go outside to do her business in horizontal rain. Ugh!

I hope everyone had a great New Year. It was quiet here and Lastech had to work. Even so, it wasn’t too crazy even for him. There are far less fireworks to terrorize the fur kids here in Concord, which is nice. Pepi doesn’t get fearful either, thank goodness. She’ll snarl at trash bags and tree stumps, but fireworks are ok. Go figure.

Speaking of the pointy eared people and floppy eared one… We had a cold spell. It was down in the 30s, which isn’t bad considering the temps elsewhere. However, our little trailer wasn’t built for winter, so it gets cold. We have two oil-filled radiators and they are much loved.

Titanescu as a purrito
Miss Jenny and those beautiful blue peepers
Tito on Pepi’s blanket snuggling up to the heater
Pepi dragged her blanket to the heater.

Yes, the heaters are loved.

We’ve managed two trips to Mt. Diablo in the last few weeks. It was in the low 30s and rather nippy both times.

Photo by Lastech
Tree in fog, by Lastech
The bay, by Lastech
Wild turkeys by Rudha-an
Tree by Rudha-an
Turkey vultures by Rudha-an

Here’s a slideshow with the rest of the photos.


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Caturday: Fear and loathing

Fear and loathing of garbage bags, check. Fear and loathing of hollow tree trunks, check.

Pepi’s fear and loathing…hackles
Fear and loathing…of tree trunks. Go figure

Pepi’s neuroses are her own, just as Titanescu’s taste for water from a dish placed in the tub is his own. He will not drink from the communal bowl, he will have his own dish, and he needs it available whether a human is in the bathroom or not. Maybe especially if a human’s in there.

Titanescu’s empty dish stinkeye

After this latest round of rains, the temperature has dropped to near freezing. Tonight, we sleep in cats. The furrbutts will be clawing to get under covers and fight epic battles for territory in there. In her crate, Pepi will burrow under her blankets with her squeaky chicken toy. At some point, Tito is bound to go apeshit and run all over the furniture, although hopefully not because a turd is chasing him. He and Jenny might fight over real estate at the foot of the bed, but Jenny’ll find a spot to curl up. It’s gonna be so cold, I’d almost wish she’d fart to warm things up.
Meanwhile, Titan will sleep undisturbed. Or else.

Tito on his corner of the bed.
Miss Jenny napping in a warm spot on the bed
Miss Pepi says the answer is 42

Rudha-an here: Lastech and I (but mostly Lastech) managed to get some pretty pics of the colors at the arboretum.

Photo by Lastech
Woodpecker by Lastech
Photo by Lastech
don’t believe in trouble
I don’t believe in pain
I don’t believe there’s nothing left
but running here again
I believe! I believe!
Photo by Lastech
Photo by Rudha-an
Photo by Rudha-an
Photo by Rudha-an

When you can’t wake em, join em


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Caturday: Furbutts, storms and a succulent exhibition

Well, summer went with a bang and now we have storms. Hooray! Ok, I’m hoping for no flooding or wind damage, but I love the storms. I’m not sure the pointy eared people are all that thrilled, but as long as the air conditioner isn’t on, they’re happy.

Anyhow, earlier in the week we made a rare trip to the city to see the succulent exhibit at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. Before we get to that however, it’s time for the stars of this show to make their appearance.

Tito lounging in a sunbeam
Tito lounging in a sunbeam
Miss Jenny
Miss Jenny
Titanescu
Titanescu
Miss Pepi
Miss Pepi

Here is miss Pepi doing her pirate imitation again.

The almost constant game of slappy paws. Arrrrggghhhh! Arrrrgggghhhhh!
The almost constant game of slappy paws. Arrrrggghhhh! Arrrrgggghhhhh!

Here’s another hummingbird

oct-hummer

The rest of the post is on the other side.

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Caturday: Kitties, a dog, and an hour in a wonderful garden

It was an interesting week. We wound up waiting on a guy to show up with a tow truck. The appointment was for the afternoon, but he never showed up. He finally showed up at noon the next day. That effectively killed most of our weekend (for us, it’s Monday and Tuesday). We made it to Tilden Regional Botanical Garden, but could only spend about an hour there. It was still worth it and we’ll go back. We’ll get to that later.

The kitties have been happier with the air conditioning off most of the time now and we might even get some rain later next week. The bird watching has been intense. Very intense. Today though, the neighbor has been outside working Tito and Titanescu have been on alert and Miss Jenny has been growling. Miss Pepi has been a good doggie. No barking or growling from her. That’s good because her volume level is set way too high. 🙂

Miss Jenny watching the birdies. There's a shrub about two feet away from the window that is full of sparrows every evening.
Miss Jenny watching the birdies. There’s a shrub about two feet away from the window that is full of sparrows every evening.
Miss Jenny looking quite lovely
Miss Jenny looking quite lovely
Snoozing Tito
Snoozing Tito
Titanescu owning his sunbeam
Titanescu owning his sunbeam
Pepi was watching the hummingbirds with me
Pepi was watching the hummingbirds with me

This was a camera test. I liked it.

Hummingbird
Hummingbird

Onward to the Tilden Regional Botanical Garden. With the tow truck driver effectively shredding our weekend, we didn’t get to spend much time there. However, it’s not far away, so we’ll go back. The friends of the garden describe it best.

The Regional Parks Botanic Garden is a naturally beautiful and tranquil living museum of California native plants. Located within Tilden Park in the hills above Berkeley, California, this enchanting 10-acre garden is a sanctuary for many of the state’s rare and endangered plants and a place for visitors to wander among trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses from plant communities throughout the state.

View across the garden from the visitor center
View across the garden from the visitor center

It’s located in Tilden Park in the hills above Berkeley, which is WSW of Concord.

Seeds, photo by Lastech
Seeds, photo by Lastech
Cholla, photo by Lastech
Cholla, photo by Lastech
Teeny lizard. It was only about two inches nose to the tip of the tail.
Teeny lizard. It was only about two inches nose to the tip of the tail.

I put the rest of the pictures in a slide show.


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Caturday: contented cats and a hot dog

Happy Caturday everyone. The last week has gone from highs in the 80s to a high of 60. Of course, we decided to go hike when it was in the 80s. We went back to Briones and picked a trail that wasn’t strenuous. The dog wasn’t amused. Pepi was hot. She let us know she was hot. She flopped in the middle of the trail and looked at us with her tongue hanging out and with a look that said “Dammit! I’m HOT”. We were fine. Pepi wasn’t. We gave her plenty of water and headed back to the car after we were a mere half mile in. The hike wasn’t a total wash though, as you’ll see below.

The pointy eared people on the other hand, are contented. They’re happy to lay around in the trailer watching the birds, planes and neighbors go by.

Miss Jenny
Miss Jenny
Titanescu watching over his domain
Titanescu watching over his domain
Tito
Tito

As for that hike, we went to Briones. It’s a regional park that is located about 6 miles West of us. It was really warm, but not miserable. We chose a nice fairly level trail. It was beautiful. We did remember to watch for snakes as the weather was perfect for them and there has already been a rattlesnake bite at Lime Ridge where we like to walk Pepi. It pays to be careful. Here are a few pics that Lastech took.

Looking to the East
Looking to the East
Looking to the West
Looking to the West
A panoramic shot looking East. Mount Diablo is visible in the background.
A panoramic shot looking East. Mount Diablo is visible in the background.

Once we reached the area where Lastech took the panoramic shot, Pepi decided she was pooped. She flopped in the dirt with her tongue hanging out and didn’t want to get up. We gave her water.

Pepi the hot dog
Pepi the hot dog

We got her back up and headed back. We stopped in the shade a few times, to make sure she drank water.

She went from a hot dog to a wet dog. We poured some water over her and she liked it.
She went from a hot dog to a wet dog. We poured some water over her and she liked it.
Big ole northern Pacific Rattlesnake wandering across the trail. It was about 5 feet long and healthy.
Big ole northern Pacific Rattlesnake wandering across the trail. It was about 5 feet long and healthy.

Poor Pepi was so pooped that she never saw the snake. Lastech kept her out of range while I took pictures. This is why she is never off leash and why I keep her out of tall grass. When we got back to the car, she flopped in my lap and went to sleep.

Trivia bit: Adult California ground squirrels are resistant to rattlesnake venom.

Now for a hummingbird rescue


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The Markham arboretum in glorious Spring colors

What a difference a few storms made at the Markham arboretum, now wearing its vibrant Spring blues, greens and reds from blade of grass to treetop. The Galindo Creek meandering through the gardens remains a few feet at its deepest, hummingbirds have begun their courtships, but the countdown to summer has already begun.

Markham Arboretum
Markham Arboretum

The following photos were all taken yesterday during the course of a single walk through, taking advantage of the blooms we waited months to see. There were over twenty of them, so we decided to arrange them in a slide show for convenience. Below, that, you’ll find a short video of Anna’s hummingbirds courting.


The female hummingbird perched at the very top of a tree, is being buzzed by a male. The chirping sound you hear as he passes by is made by fanning out his tail feathers.


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Mount Diablo: rock of Doom

They say Mount Diablo got its name from a WTF moment in local lore, dating back from the early 19th century. In 1805, a small contingent of Spanish troops encircled a group of Native Americans, who managed to disappear without a trace using their evidently superior knowledge of the land. It’s only natural that the people who brought us the Inquisition decided the Devil was at play, and so they named the place Monte del Diablo, which some translate as Thicket of the Devil. Later, monte was mistakenly translated as mount and thus the mountain gained its current name.

As the crow flies, we now live about five miles or so from Mount Diablo, which makes it a semi-regular destination for us. On weekdays, when most folks are at work, the drive to the top is fairly relaxed and fun. I say fairly relaxed because you still have to pay close attention to other traffic, bicyclists in particular, especially near blind curves. As well, along some stretches, the road drops off abruptly, which causes fearful drivers to wander across the median dangerously.

The fun comes from spotting wildlife and the play of light on distant hills, which offers quite a spectacle on overcast and stormy days. On the drive to the top, there are many spots where to pull over and take in the sights, some with tables, benches and grills, even. From there, it is easy to see how much concealment the terrain offers wildlife or the unfortunate injured hiker at times. As close to “civilization” as Mount Diablo is, and as unimposing its elevation may appear at 3849 feet, the park’s 20.000 acres is deceptively smooth and tranquil. But just as Mount Tamalpais and its potentially treacherous Cascade Falls trail has risks, so does Diablo. And this is due in large part to both traffic and complacency.

Some of the photos in this blog post were taken as a storm system was moving through the area, giving you a sense of the textures the park offers and why it has become one of our favorites. It never fails to remind me of “Picnic at Hanging Rock”…


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