MOUNTAIN TRAVEL can present an occasional suprise. While traveling north on highway 89 we encountered a paving project on a narrow two lane portion. As we followed the pilot vehicle through the construction site, we got a close-up view of the entire operation. In just a 12 foot roadway width the crew was able to grind the old asphalt, remix it with fresh oil, and redistribute it on the road surface.

Pavement renewal jobs are "slick" - with many benefits especially in the mountains. Recycled asphalt mix is cheaper with a short contruction time, less exposure to work zone hazards, longer pavement life, and a reduced environmental footprint. That's win-win situation, and worth the minor traffic delay during our vacation trip.  Well done!

Posted
AuthorRich Monroe
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FOR COOL SUMMER HIKES why not visit Huddart Park snuggled on the Skyline Ridge near Woodside? Grassy meadows and numerous hiking trails make this is an ideal place to relax, picnic, and explore the redwoods -- and escape the summer heat. So -- like characters in a fairy tale -- we set off for an adventure into the woods. What surprises await there?

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The blue sky disappears above us as the trees close ranks to block the sun.  We meander along developed trails through ancient groves, humbled by giant redwoods while reassessing our own importance in the grand scheme of life.  Time is suspended and scale is different here in the woods.

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Forest wildlife ranges from lions to lizards (mountain lions to fence lizards, that is!)  Personally, I prefer an encounter with the occasional lizard -- much less stressful!

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Speaking of encounters, we sometimes come upon an equestrian party on the trail.  After all, the Woodside paddocks and stables aren't far away.  It's very clear who has the right of way here, so we just smile politely and step aside.

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Passing deeper into the forest we enjoy the cool shade, the sweet pine smell, and recognize signs of nature's cycle of life: birth and growth, death and decay.  In good conditions redwoods grow more than a foot per year.  Coast redwoods can live incredibly long (up to 2,000 years) growing taller than any other tree in the world, only exceeded by the giant sequoias and bristlecone pines in the high Sierras.  Amazing!

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Of course, the survival of this giant living garden relies on sunlight and moisture from fog and rains, decaying nutrients on the forest floor, and the constant attention of bugs and critters like the lowly banana slug who process natural ingredients that redwoods can readily absorb.  So we watch for and carefully avoid stepping on these brightly colored mollusks.  The redwoods depend on it!

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Posted
AuthorRich Monroe
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ZUCCHINI is one summer vegetable that grows abundantly in our garden, and we've been dutifully harvesting them to keep oversized fruits from developing under the plant leaves.  Now it appears that the neighborhood squirrels are joining in. 

STOP THAT!  We used prescious water to raise those puppies and want to enjoy every single one that grows!

Posted
AuthorRich Monroe
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EGADS! Do they grow up fast!  We returned home from a week vacation to discover the baby wrens had grown into young fledglings.  The nest became crowded with fluffy bodies and only the continuous "cheeping" noise continued whenever the parents returned with food.

Teens ready to leave

Teens ready to leave

Those helpless chicks were now large wing-flapping teenagers, crowding for precious space within the security of the woven twigs. Their eyes brightened as fur tufts were replaced by feathers. They were very active, hopped about, and wobbled precariously on the nest edge. It was only a matter of time...

Last remaining chick

Last remaining chick

Next thing we noticed was the nest was abandoned by the two first-born chicks and only a third remained a few days longer until it decided to leave.  

Where are my brothers? 

Where are my brothers? 

We didn't see the actual departures, but we're certain their inaugural flights were successful -- because there were no feathers on the ground as Ella our cat kept a watchful eye on the chick's development!

Cactus blossom celebration

Cactus blossom celebration

Once the cactus plant was abandoned, it celebrated by throwing forth some gorgeous flower blossoms.  Possibly it was relieved that the pot was once again back to normal.

Back to normal

Back to normal

And, of course, our local humming bird arrived to inspect the scene. The two month wren occupancy was finally over, the nest was indeed empty, and we now can return to a normal routine...

Posted
AuthorRich Monroe
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JUST TWO WEEKS after a pair of finches set up housekeeping in the hanging flower pot outside our kitchen window, we've sighted a pair of hatchlings with a third chick on its way. Our view is limited to big eyes, bright beaks, and fuzzy heads. At first, the number of chicks was uncertain but now it's easy to count those hungry mouths.

Momma and fledgling

Momma and fledgling

It's great to watch the adult finches being such good parents -- building and tidying the nest, guarding the eggs from predators, and tending the needs of their new offspring. And now it's constant fetching and feeding as the little ones demand attention. Both parents take turns with the chores and the nest is rarely unattended.

Proud papa

Proud papa

The nest building continues as family grows.  What began as a few twigs and leaves supporting tiny eggs, has now become an impressive home for the growing chicks.  So far we've watched those fuzzy heads bobbing above the sides, but hopefully we'll see more of the newborns before they develop feathers and fly away.

Posted
AuthorRich Monroe