Saturday, June 28, 2014

Veggie Patch on Central and Lexington

I enjoy walking around my neighborhood with Kelsey. This morning as I walked pass Central and Lexington, I noticed this little vegetable patch right on the side walk. Despite of its small size, it has a combination of vegetables growing in it, and everything is as big as it can possibly get. I recognized my favorite eggplants in the middle immediately. There are also green onions, chili peppers, shungiku (garland chrysanthemum), Swiss chard, etc. 

I was just amazed at how many different edible plants could fit in that little patch of soil. You can make a good meal out of these vegetables. This patch is located just a block from El Cerrito Plaza BART station, so I think the local deer don't travel to this area; otherwise, I am sure these vegetables would be consumed by deer already.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Free Friday Night Concert

I got a text message two nights ago asking me whether I'd like to go see Blind Melon in Santa Cruz. I immediately responded with YES!  We used to go to the Boardwalk every summer when I lived in the Silicon Valley. That was our tradition. We have seen Eddie Monkey, John Waite, Survivor, Tiffany, Starship, and many other musicians on the beach under the stars. The Boardwalk is very special to me. It's where The Lost Boys (1987) was filmed. While all the actors in the film have aged over the years, the Boardwalk itself seems to be frozen in time. Whenever I am at the Boardwalk, it brings me back memories of my high school days, college days, dotcom days, and the memories just keep adding up!

The parking meters on the streets still take only quarters (plus dollar coins but who carry those?) and are enforced until 8 p.m. The rides are still the same.  The food choices are pretty much the same although I am sure the prices have gone up over the years. I always get a giant corn dog. After the concert, we always stop by Marianne's Ice Cream. The ice cream shop has been there for over 50 years, and it's another place that looks like it has been there for 50 years. It's a coastal amusement park that seems to be a time trap that takes people back in time.

I hope to go there again this summer.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Camping in Samuel P. Taylor State Park

My camp site #51

I have been looking forward to spending more time in the woods with Kelsey.  Finally the school is out and my weekend in Samuel P. Taylor S.P. has arrived. People rave about this park. It has 4 stars out of 5 on Yelp reviews. The place is fairly close and easy to get to for me.  I checked in shortly after 2 p.m. Kelsey was just as excited, and she immediately checked out the camp site.  My site, #51, is pretty cozy. Since I camp solo, it's good. I just set up my tent right between the picnic table and the wooden storage. 

The park is magnificent but a bit over crowded with people with their children and their fancy camping gear and RVs. A bunch of young boys decided to play frisbee right in front of my camp site. They were making quite a bit of noise with their loud talking and yelling and constantly throwing the frisbee into my camp site. Kelsey had already claimed her temporary territory, so she started barking and attempted to run after them. So much for wanting some peace and quiet.

After I set up the tent, I took Kelsey away for a hike to get away from all the noise makers.

Secrets of Survival!  Is Kelsey trying to tell me something?

The evening was quiet after some more yelling between people who tried to back in their RVs and trailers.  There were many warning signs about raccoons. I was pretty sure no raccoons would be visiting my site since I didn't really cook anything.  I had a burrito from my favorite taco truck right before going to the camp site, so I wasn't hungry at all!

In the middle of the night, I suddenly heard some animal's hissing and a man's scream. It sounded like someone had a surprise visitor.

Kelsey is so tired after the 2 hour hike

On the next morning, I was starving. I got up early so I could have more time to enjoy the quietness in the woods. Since I was camping solo, I didn't bother to make a fire to cook my food. Not long ago I bought a portable gas stove from Ranch 99 when it was on sale. It was the best $11 I have spent!  The stove is light weight and so convenient. I also got 4 cans of Butane canisters for something like $4. I use it for camping, picnicking, and I can also use it for hotpot meals in the winter.

After the breakfast, I took Kelsey on a 2 hour hike. It was so peaceful!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Miller Knox Regional Shoreline

Going straight up the hill from Old Country Trail

I went to Crockett Hills Regional Park again last weekend. Although it was another good hike, I found 2 small ticks on Kelsey's face as I wiped her face after the hike. They weren't biting Kelsey at the time, so I was able to remove them quickly with the doggie wet wipe. On the next morning, I found another tick in my car. I guess I won't be going to Crockett Hills Regional Park until I put Kelsey on some kind of tick medication. This morning I decided to pay a second visit to Miller Knox. According to my "The Dog's Lover Companion Guide", there is a large undeveloped area to hike at Miller Knox, which I did not see last time. 

As I drove down Dornan Drive, I noticed trails on the hill side of the street (see photo above). After parking my car in one of the parking lots, I went back to the trail with Kelsey and started going up the hill. It's quite steep. Before reaching to the more leveled ground, I used my 2 front legs to help me get a better balance. I wished that I wore my hiking boots instead of my hiking shoes with worn out traction.

It didn't take long to reach top of the hill, but it was a good workout. Kelsey was visibly overheated from the sun. This would be a great place to come during the winter since much of the trails are exposed without any shade. The views are excellent from the top. We were enjoying some rare solitude moments on top of the hill. I thought I would take a short 360 degree video from top of the hill while nobody was around. Little did I know that someone always showed up before I could complete a 50 second clip. 

I made 3 attempts and couldn't even have one full minute to myself and Kelsey.  You will see in the video below that a family with children were quite noisy as they trekked down the trail (0:24).  Nevertheless, it was a good hike. I plan on going back there again in my boots and earlier during the day to avoid noisy people and children. There are quite a few trails all over the hill. The entire loop is almost 3 miles and take up to half day. Next time I will also bring some water and snack with me.

Monday, June 2, 2014

My First Morel Hunt

One of the very first morels I spotted

It has been at least 2 years since I went on a mushroom hunt. The job at the school has been a social life killer.  I often felt too tired to go on a group foray. Lately my energy level must has gone up with all the hiking I have been doing. I am also feeling more relaxed with school operation in general. Last week I spontaneously decided to respond to a fellow MSSF's member's invitation to join a group morel hunt up north (Sorry, I am not going to share the location). We decided to leave at 5:30 am on Saturday morning for an early start, spend a night camping out, then continue hunting on Sunday.

My first morel jackpot

I had a pretty good idea what morels look like, but after a two year hiatus, I needed some time to get my mushroom hunting eyes back. The couple I hitched a ride with were super sweet. They pointed out several morels, so I could get a really good image in my head. Pretty soon I was spotting them all over the place between the pine needles. We were all walking, looking down, bending down, and cutting a lot. I made sure to shove morels to Kelsey's nose and kept telling her to go look for them. On the second, she was walking around sniffing next to tree trunks and the ground. I actually found a good size flattened morel in front of her paw!

Kelsey snoozing with a big bag of morels above her

For dinner we sauteed some fresh morels in butter in addition to some awesome home made spicy chili and fresh tortilla. For second dinner (we were all hobbits for one night), we had pasta in habanero pasta sauce. Just by coincidence, we were all hot heads! Kelsey had a lot of fun hanging out with the other dogs in the group.  At the end of our grand morel hunt, we have picked at least 10 pounds of morels, and we each got a share.  More photos from are on the Wild Mushrooms photo album. I can't wait to do it again!

Another big find