On Saturday D. and I returned to Arastradero Preserve to hike through and enter Foothills Park in neighboring Palo Alto. Now that the rains are over and the weather is warming up, we will have to begin avoiding hot grasslands in favor of cooler forests for our outings. So this was sort of a last hurrah in Arastradero for the next several months. Along the way I took these pics.
The Meadowlark Trail rises before us.
The grasses are noticeably browner than last week, a sign summer is just around the corner.
The canopy of a valley oak provides a little bit of welcome shade.
Stanford University's Big Dish radio-telescope is visible on the ridge to the north.
The green peaks of Windy Hill Open Space preserve are visible to the west.
And we see there has been a bit of trouble since our visit last week as well.
We don't have a dog, so we can go where we like.
Bellardia is at the peak of its blooming period.
Pale Flax is thought to be the ancestor of our contemporary cultivated flax, from which we get linseed oil and linen.
Purple Clarkia is also known as Winecup Clarkia.
A Lesser Goldfinch serenades us as we walk along the Bowl Loop Trail.
The Diablo Range is visible through the haze across San Francisco Bay.
Owl's Clover has little to do with owls and is not a true clover.
A look back and ahead on the Bowl Loop Trail.
California poppy, the official State Flower.
The Bowl Loop Trail wends through grasslands, providing a view of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Blow-wives, a dandelion relative.
The hills are losing their last bits of green as summer approaches and the annual grasses die off.
A sunny log = lizards.
"Hey babe, come here often?"
"Another day, another 30,000 ants."
We take an indistinct trail going off into the brush where a ranch house once stood in a clearing. We are surprised to see a young oak tree circled by a ring of stones, and a memorial marker for someone still missing without a trace.
Green Everlasting is also known as cudweed and ladies' tobacco.
This bee is busy gathering nectar from a thistle on the Woodrat Trail.
California manroot, or wild cucumber, has a forbiddingly spiny seed capsule.
Ookow blossoms seem to float above a sunlit glade like little amethyst jewels.
California Ringlet butterfly males patrol above the tops of grasses with a bouncy flight when seeking to mate.
Bee flies (Bombyliidae) have elongated, beak-like mouthparts used for drinking nectar while hovering over flowers, to avoid capture by such predators as crab spiders that lurk within blossoms.
An Ash-throated Flycatcher pauses in its search for bugs to eat.
The brilliant red Cardinal Meadowhawk rests on an arroyo willow at Sobey Pond.
Cow Parsnip blossoms reach out into the sunshine along the Arastradero Creek Trail.
This is a tarantula hawk or other kind of spider wasp, dragging a small tarantula. Females seek out tarantula burrows, paralyze the spider and bury it in a burrow, laying a single egg. The larvae feed on the paralyzed spider.
Arastradero Creek Trail.
Shortstem Morning Glory, a.k.a. Hillside False Bindweed and Hill Morning Glory.
We cross over into Foothills Park and find the Bay to Ridge Trail is a nicely paved road.
(Fortunately, it applies only to motor vehicles, not hikers.)
Golden Yarrow and Coyote mint.
One of many Variable Checkerspot butterflies we see along the trail.
As the trail rises we catch another view of the ridge to the west.
Whew, what a climb!
The hilltop has several viewing stations with compass alignments set into the ground. Magnetic north has its own separate designation.
Steampunk dalek? No, one of several viewing scopes around the hilltop pointed toward local landmarks; in this case, the San Mateo Bridge.
Here's some of the views from Vista Hill.
An American Lady butterfly comes to visit one of the viewing stations on the hilltop.
The afternoon grows late, and the shadows creep closer. It's time to head back.
Views from the Bay to Ridge Trail.
A black-tailed deer browses in the woods off the Arastradero Creek Trail.
Common Yellow Monkeyflower likes to grow in wet areas. This one is near Sobey Pond.
California Towhee on the Woodrat Trail.
The late afternoon sun glimmers in the long dry grass, and the fog crouches at the edge of the ridge.